Hugh Entry 3
The encounter with the bandits was terrifying.
When we arrived at the camp, there was only one man crouched near the fire, stoking it with a stick. I heard a couple other men speaking in low voices in the nearer tent, but it still seemed like we outnumbered the brigands, so I only felt a sort of nervous tension. Faolan advanced and I called out to the man, imbuing the cry with power. I felt the curse stick, and my stomach clinched.
The brigands began to spill out of the tents, and swiftly the odds changed. We were outnumbered two to one, and the majority of our foes carried bows. Too startled at first to move, I felt a pair of arrows impact. Then I stumbled away while the shadows rose up to cloak me and hid behind a tree while reaching for the power I’d received from The Stranger.
A feeling like molten ice or frozen fire burned through my veins, and even just touching the eldritch might available to me clouded my senses with an oily wrongness. If only to rid myself of the taint, I released the energy at the man I’d cursed and saw the bolt strike truly. He staggered a step, and then something surprising broke through the haze of my senses.
Faolan charged the brigand I’d just blasted, and as he did his form melted from man to something like a demonic panther. The hellish creature pounced and slammed into the man with such force that its claws impaled him completely. His lifeless body flew back into the shallow pond, while the devil cat back-flipped off the corpse and sought new prey.
My mind recoiled in fear, and I cried out in alarm, but even Adara didn’t seem to be concerned by this new development. Imed, for his part, was doing all he could against multiple brigands engaging him in melee. He seemed outmatched, but the deva’s prayers seemed able to heal him almost as swiftly as he took injury. I continued to blast about me as quickly as possible, anything to rid myself of the awful feeling of holding the dark power within me.
And suddenly, the brigands fled. I only saw three bodies on the field, and one man standing firm despite his cohorts’ cowardice. I saw an opportunity to cow him into surrender and attempted it. Despite my bluster and my display of power, he ignored me. Somehow, Adara’s honeyed words succeeded where I had failed, and the man’s bow clattered to the ground.
Once he’d given up, he was interrogated. The wizard, Bargle by name, had coerced the men into service, and it was evident that this one was terrified of the man. Still and all, he had helped kill those in the Rivenshield’s caravan, and blubbered about sins still worse. I was for hanging this criminal, since that would be his likely fate should we turn him over to the authorities at the Keep.
Imed seemed conflicted on that point, and Faolan impatiently unconcerned, but Adara insisted that the man be given a second chance, an offer he claimed he would gladly take advantage of. I inferred that she was trying to draw an unspoken parallel between the man and me, but I don’t feel that I deserve this chance I’ve been given. In the end, the man ran off, presumably toward Andover to sin no more. I hated myself for not killing him when I’d had the chance.
. . .
According to the bandit, Bargle had taken Tolison to his lair somewhere in the Caves of Chaos. He’d cut a deal with a goblin tribe there for the space. We trudged in miserable silence for another few hours, bypassing the Keep in the hopes of getting there in time to be of some use. When we drew near the box canyon, we saw it riddled with cave entrances – any one of them could house the damned wizard.
And then we saw something unexpected. A beautiful woman sat on a large stone near one of the tunnel mouths praying. A large snake lay dead at her feet and it was clear that she had recently done battle. Introductions were made. This, as it turns out, was Aleena, the Chaplain of Kendal Keep who’d gone searching for Tolison as well.
She’d come straight to the Caves of Chaos because in a previous conversation, Tolison had mentioned an interest in seeking the Shrine to Chrysomer, something that excited Imed greatly, since he was a member of the Fellowship of the same name. Aleena had seen Tolison taken into the nearby cave, and had been about to follow when the snake attacked. She’d been forced to deal with the creature and was recovering from the battle when we came.
We joined forces and ventured forth, hoping we weren’t too late.