OOC: This is the final chapter of the 'Comet Saga!' Make sure you're caught up before reading this one!
The moongate opened just outside the Governor’s office in Skara Brae. Jepeth, Tejnik, and Threepwood emerged from it ready to find themselves in the middle of a battlefield but instead the town was as quiet as it ever was.
Jepeth looked around. Instead of heartened by the tranquility he was disquieted by everything around him. It wasn’t that late at night and people were still about. Children were with their parents. Horses were lashed to posts. People were talking and laughing in the distance.
“We need to raise the alarm,” he said. “Evacuate the children and elderly through the moongate first, then secure the perimeter and ferry.”
“Did the blasted eyeball tell ye anything of use?” asked Threepwood.
Jepeth shook his head and looked into the sky. While intellectually he knew the comet was not actually close he felt it bare down on his home as if it were inches away.
“Tejnik,” said Jepeth. “Get word to the King and the rest of the realm: the Paladins, the Jhelom Fighters, the rest of the Governors. Any aid that can be sent, send it now.”
“What of the plan?” asked Tejnik.
“Aye, enact the plan,” said Jepeth. “But first get the word out and then when ye can join me at the mainland ferry! Go!”
Tejnik nodded, fished a rune out of his satchel, closed his eyes and whispered a spell and was gone in a flash. Unlike his normal recall spell with its usual loud flash and bang, this casting was eerily silent.
“Huh,” said Threepwood.
“Aye,” shrugged Jepeth. “He can be quiet with his spells when he chooses to be.”
Jepeth turned and faced the one room building that was the city’s governor’s office. To the right of the structure firmly fixed in the ground was a large rusted, copper bell. Like most cities around the realm Skara Brae had possessed a town bell to be rung at great need (or great celebration) for years. Jepeth had recently had it relocated closer to his office for just this moment.
Threepwood looked down at the bell. “Not all that big, Cousin,” he said. “Will everyone hear it?”
“Let’s find out,” said Jepeth.
He drew his sword from its sheath. While the Gazer had said “tonight” and Jepeth had taken that warning with all urgency he stopped, closed his eyes, and knelt before the bell.
He prayed. He prayed as he had often before, as the Paladins taught him, as he saw the old soldiers do in Ilshenar. He prayed for his city, his community, his family, and friends. He prayed for courage in the coming battle, for the wisdom to know what to do, and for the love of his people to see him through this moment.
Threepwood stood there awkwardly with arms folded, but knew enough about his infuriatingly devout cousin to keep his mouth shut.
Finally Jepeth stood, turned the sword around in his grip, and struck the bell with the pommel.
A deep, sonorous chime went out through the city. Jepeth struck it again.
It seemed as if every lantern or candle in every room in the city was suddenly lit.
Threepwood saw the outlines of faces in windows. People opened their doors and leaned out.
Jepeth heard people scream. Heard them gasp. Heard them shout to each other.
A half-dressed man carrying a large hammer ran up to Jepeth and Threepwood.
“Here, Sire!” he panted. He was the one who lived closest to the bell. Whose role was worked out well in advance if this moment should come.
“Take over,” said Jepeth, smiling sadly.
The young man nodded, spit in his hands, and began swinging his hammer at the bell.
GONG GONG GONG, it rang.
After grabbing a helmet from inside, Jepeth and Threepwood rushed from his office towards the Shattered Skull where a crowd had already gathered. Weeks ago when Jepeth informed his community of the coming danger a plan had been worked out for what to do if the city fell under attack. He was heartened to see that the people had remembered their roles. On the way over he saw elderly men and women leading groups of children to the moongate, the way protected by the few uniformed guards the city could boast. They rushed through the public moongate and were whisked off to be safe within the thick walls of Trinsic. If the worst should happen and Trinsic’s gate was later either captured or destroyed Jepeth had gambled that the City of the Paladins would mount a prolonged defense of his people.
He arrived at the Tavern into a crowd of men and women. Some were armed for battle carrying maces, hammers, and swords. Some only carried pitch forks or butcher knives. All of them looked alarmed but resolute.
“What is it, Jep?” asked one woman carrying a large axe.
“Is it the undead horde?” yelled a man.
“It,” began Jepeth, but he stopped. He suddenly realized that the Gazer had only said the comet was here, not necessarily the other great danger he was charged with defending against.
“It is the danger that--” he said, but was suddenly cut off.
From a great distance away, over the loud racket of people yelling, of children crying as they were led past to the moongate, over the loud ring of the Bell of Skara Brae itself, came a scream. The loudest, cruelest, sharpest cry of pain and agony Jepeth had ever heard. Every living soul on Skara Brae island shrunk down instinctively in response.
“It is the horde,” said Jepeth. “It is here.”
The crowd around him murmured in panic.
“What do ye want, Gov?” yelled the same axe-wielding woman.
“Keep the evacuation going!” said Jepeth. “We must get those who cannot fight away from danger.”
“The water is shallowest between the ferry docks,” said Threepwood, quickly. “The horde will cross there.”
“Aye,” said Jepeth. “All of you to the docks! And send a scout across to see how close they are! We will attempt to stop them on the Fields of Corwyn. If they get into the city the fight will be much worse.”
Jepeth pointed his sword ahead towards the direction of the dock and the assembled crowd sped off as fast as they could.
As the crowd ran through the city more joined the group. Their number was still low, however, and he wondered how many Tejnik would be able to raise.
“Where are the bloody mages,” said Threepwood as he huffed and puffed alongside Jepeth.
“What?” Jepeth asked.
“They heard the same warning we did,” said Threepwood. “How long does it take to get a damn robe on?”
Jepeth made no reply. After the Gazer vanished Jepeth had commanded Tejnik to get them back to Skara Brae without saying a word to Jaanin.
They arrived at the docks and across the shallow channel between the island and the mainland they saw in the distance trees shaking, smoke rising, and the mainland Skara Braens flee. Some were swimming the channel itself while others frantically paddled boats away from the danger.
Jepeth came upon what must have been the very first people to arrive from the mainland gasping for air on the dock. They likely swam the entire distance without taking pause.
“What did ye see?” he asked one of them, a young man he recognized as one of the mainland farmers.
“A host,” he gasped. “A host of them coming from the east up from the mountain!”
“We’re cut off!” yelled another man. “They swarm towards us blocking our way to Britain or Yew!”
“We still have our moongate!” yelled Jepeth over the rising panic. “And the sea westward, fear not!”
Jepeth looked around trying to count the able-bodied around him. At the moment it was around thirty-five men and women.
“As soon as those last two ferries arrive,” he said pointing towards the boats heading towards the island. “We will load them up with as many as we might safely bring to the other dock! We shall hold it until more help arrives!”
“What help will arrive, Cousin?” asked Threepwood, doubtfully
“The Paladins will come,” said Jepeth to the crowd. “As will support from our allies around the realm! Quickly, prepare yourselves while the boats arrive!”
The crowd murmured but began to distribute some of the spare weapons to the willing who had fled the mainland, as well as bandages and other supplies. Jepeth walked over to his cousin and pulled him aside.
“Do NOT fear-monger, Cousin,” he hissed into Threepwood’s ear.
“I have already fought this battle and this foe,” he hissed back. “We barely won twenty-years ago and that was with a hardier stock of people than these Trammel-Dandys!”
“I have one battle before me,” Jepeth replied angrily. “Make ye-self useful and donnae’ add to my problems!”
Threepwood threw up his hands in surrender and joined the readying crowd.
“A sword or a drum or a drink,” he yelled to them as he walked away from Jepeth. “Which of ye Dandys have a spare?”
Two ferry boats had reached the dock, along with a good amount of swimmers, and a third was pulling up. Jepeth reached a hand out to help people disembark.
“They’ be up from Destard,” groaned an old woman Jepeth recognized as he helped her up. He knew her as one living on the edge of what is considered mainland Skara Brae and the nearby village of Nidaros. “They’ve turned out the entire cavern, Gov!”
Jepeth sighed and looked out across the water again. An angry, displaced number of dragons rampaging outward would explain the smoke he saw rising in the east.
“That cuts us off from heading southeast by land towards Trinsic,” he said, grimly.
Before leaving the Governor’s office and the bell he ran inside to grab a helmet. It, his armor, and the sword hanging from his belt felt heavier than they had ever before.
He shook his head and that moment of gloom away.
“Fill these boats!” he called to the crowd. “We must set up on the mainland! If they make it across the battle will be far bloodier!”
Trusting that his heavy plate armor wouldn’t bust right through the bottom of the skiff, he hopped down from the dock into the boat and then extended a hand upward to help others into it with him. When four more skiffs were loaded with as many able-bodied and armed people as they could fit the small convey paddled towards the mainland. The ‘Misty Channel’ between the mainland and the island is around 500 feet across and even at this distance Jepeth saw the enemy. He could see masses of figures writhing and stumbling along westward towards the island. He saw the dark, foggy shapes of wraiths and ghouls hovering across the fields. He, and everyone paddling towards them, saw what must have been every foul, undead foe across the whole of Britannia gathered together to bare down on Skara Brae. The horde must have numbered in the hundreds. There were only thirty-eight people currently in the boats.
“Paddle faster!” Jepeth called to everyone, as he put his back into his own oar.
The five small boats reached the mainland ferry dock, and the party assembled itself.
“Our lines begin here,” said Jepeth, tracing a path through the air with his sword. “We will hold the dock and send out sorties to test the lines of the--”
From out of the bush along the water came a shriek and the dark form of a wraith. The group raised their weapons in alarm as a fireball spell flew within inches of one of the people only armed with a farm tool. Jepeth shifted his weight on his back leg and jumped towards the wraith for an opening slash. But just as he came within feet of it an arrow landed true in the foggy, nebulous shadow of the wraith’s head, perhaps its only solid part. It wailed a sad cry and fell to the ground, its smokey form swirling around like dust.
Jepeth turned to find the shooter and saw the scout he had sent out earlier join the group, his quiver nearly empty of arrows. He had cuts and wounds across his hands and arms.
“It be dismal, Sire,” he said. “Thar be hundreds from here to the bringand fort north, Nidaros east, and Destard south.”
“Take a moment’s rest, Bereg,” said Jepeth. “Ye shall need--”
“There!” yelled someone. “Foes coming up the path!”
Jepeth turned around and spotted a mass of shapes shambling towards them. He pointed his sword at them.
“Advance!” he cried to his people.
The battle had begun.
“Quickly lads, quickly!” called the Paladin commander to his troops. The bell had been ringing in the barracks for the last fifteen minutes after the first elderly and children arrived from the moongate and made their way to the south entrance of Trinsic. His troops were buckling each other into their suits of plate armor, yelling at each other for this and that, and rushing to prepare. “Get thee to the gate as fast ye can, the realm needs us!” he cried.
The mage had just vanished using his recall spell. He had popped into the late dinner gathering of a few notable people, raised an alarm about the attack on Skara Brae, and then magically disappeared. “Gather as many as you can,” a woman said to the shocked people at the table. “Bring me my ‘mare!”
It had been around an hour or so since landing on the mainland of Skara Brae, but felt like much more. Jepeth and his people had managed to repel the first few waves of foes sent from the bulk of the force but had made no progress in driving towards them or threatening their position.
“They try and soften our resolve,” said a man to Jepeth during a brief lull. “To tire us!”
“It’s working,” sighed an exasperated Threepwood from nearby. His arms were stained red and green from the gore of enemies.
“Reinforcements from the island!” shouted someone. Jepeth plunged his sword downward through the clavicle and into the ribcage of a skeleton, and in a flash twisted around to both see what approached and split the creature apart. Two boats of hardy looking men and women carrying bows and quivers landed at the dock.
“Archers!” he cried happily. “Our friends in Yew have arrived!”
“Aye, sorry we had to take the long way!” one of them yelled to Jepeth. “The road south is treacherous!”
“I’ll gladly accept late or--” began Jepeth but he stopped. In the distance he heard a laugh that sent a shiver down his spine. The group of living defenders all beheld a towering figure wearing a grey robe stride towards them. It cackled madly while flames fell from its hands.
“Lich!” yelled Jepeth. “Bring it down!”
The archers didn’t wait. A half dozen of them ran forward, the first three taking a knee and the other three standing behind them. They fired a volley at the lich which threw a hand forward and from it a solid wall of stone was conjured. All six arrows bounced off it helplessly. With a wave of its other arm the wall disappeared and then it thrust both arms forward and a number of flaming rocks shot forth. The archers jumped out of the way as some of the flames hit a man in plain clothes who was instantly engulfed.
Jepeth ran forward towards the lich. He had his shield faced outward and his sword low behind him in a move practiced by the Paladins regularly. As expected a spell was shot towards him and he deflected it away from him back towards one of the lich’s undead compatriots. Using that momentum and the sudden shortening of distance between him and the lich he swung upward and one of the lich’s arms was severed. It still cackled and laughed but was confused as it tried to send a spell Jepeth’s way from an arm that was no longer attached to its body. Jepeth regained his footing and sliced his sword downward across the lich’s leg forcing it down to one knee. It reached down to try and heal the deep gash on its leg just as Jepeth hoped. With one arm gone and the other engaged the archers fired a volley and this time it couldn’t block the arrows. All six hit true and the lich fell over backwards dead.
Jepeth plunged his sword down into the lich’s corpse just to be on the safe side. From behind him he heard his people cry out: “Two more, Sire!”
He wheeled over and again, coming up the path were two tall, elongated figures laughing and cackling. Their mage robes molded and stained and the spark of humanity gone from their eyes.
Jepeth sighed and raised his sword in defense.
The battle was long and cruel. For the first few hours the abomination seemed to only throw waves of lesser undead at the defenders but in the abomination’s apparent restraint Jepeth realized his plan. He was indeed trying to weaken the resistance through attrition. The first deaths came when the liches entered the field engaging a now exhausted force. Despite being reinforced by paladins, archers, and more able-bodied Skara Braens they still only numbered under a hundred. And that number began to drop.
There were moments of small victory, though. Allies had appeared from across the land. Skara Braens had success in ferrying the wounded back to the island for treatment. Most fortunate of all so far it appeared that no foe had reached the island itself.
As he dispatched another lich Jepeth heard a great cry of fear go out from the men and women around him. Despite it being night moving fast across the sky he saw a dark shadow with out-stretched wings.
“Dragon,” he groaned, helplessly.
But the fear he and his people felt evaporated in an instant. Coming south through the trees atop a great black nightmare galloping at full speed was a woman wearing deep lavender. The black nightmare’s hooves pounded and thundered as it crushed foes in its path. She extended a fist forward and cried out as the dragon crashed into a wave of undead at her command.
“The beast-master!” the people shouted, excitedly. “Violet the beast-master of Vesper!”
Jepeth allowed himself a smile.
“Perhaps we’ll get through this, Cousin,” said a tired Threepwood.
Hundreds of feet of earth and water away back on the island uniformed guards surrounded the moongate of Skara Brae. The evacuation had concluded hours ago and now they held the gate to ensure that people arriving found their way to the battle quickly and to see the wounded who needed off the island made it through.
“How much longer before we can join them,” asked the guard to his commander for perhaps the eighth time in so many hours.
“The Governor commanded us to stay,” he replied. “We stay until our orders--”
It happened in an instant. The blue moongate crackled and fizzed with energy and to the shock of everyone present simply blinked out of existence. The light it had cast on the guards was gone dropping them into a deep darkness.
“--change,” the commander finished saying.
Jepeth swung his sword downward for perhaps the fifth time against this foe. It’s green, rotting body seemed to shrug off every hit and as it got closer and closer noxious ooze poured from the wounds. He put his shield forward and threw his weight into it in an attempt to knock the corpse off its feet but instead the foe pushed back. With an incredible amount of strength it pushed Jepeth over and he landed on his backside before the rotting monster.
He raised his shield back up to block the incoming blow when suddenly the monster stopped. Jepeth’s eyes connected with what remained of its eyes and for a moment he perceived the monster as feeling confused?
It exploded from within. A shower of green ooze and diseased body parts flew in all directions.
“Hullo Governor,” said Tejnik the Marvelous reaching his hand down to help Jepeth up.
“Where have ye been flunky!” shouted Threepwood angrily from some distance away.
Tejnik waved and smiled in his direction.
“Hail Tejnik,” sighed a weary Jepeth as he stood up. “Were ye successful?”
“Aye, for awhile,” he replied sadly. “Jaanin, the Council, and I kept the island moongate going as long as possible. It’s been extinguished.”
“We’re cut off,” Jepeth said.
“Aye, we are,” Tejnik replied. “They work to restore it. I came for the fight.”
“Ye’ll find plenty of it,” said Jepeth. “All though so far we’ve neither seen nor heard of--”
A terrible scream came from behind the lines of undead.
“Willibrord,” said Jepeth.
“He’s upon us!” said Tejnik, pointing. “There!”
Stomping through the waves of foes came the abomination. In one of its great, twisted arms he carried the red cutlass of Martin Bloodeye. In the other arm flames washed around its bone hands scorching the earth as he went.
The defenders of Skara Brae did not hesitate. Arrows and throwing weapons flew towards the abomination but it deflected all of them. It strode ever closer.
Tejnik breathed air deep into his lungs. He drew himself up to his full height and extended an arm into the air and the other forward in front of him.
“In Grav CORP” he cried.
Energy collected into the open palm above his head and was channeled out his other hand towards the abomination. The beam of energy struck the abomination and did seem to stagger him for a moment. It howled and cursed and pounded a fist onto the ground sending a shockwave towards Tejnik. It struck him and threw him off his feet.
Jepeth quickly took stock of the forces around him. The dragon and its handler were not in the immediate vicinity as he spied it some distance away flinging corpses around. Tejnik was staggered but would recover in a moment. The Paladins and archers were holding off the forces as they surged around their leader. His people were fighting with all they had.
He pointed his sword forward towards the Willibrord/Bloodeye abomination.
“It ends now, vile necromancer!” cried Jepeth.
The abomination laughed deeply.
“Come forth ye little dock-rat!” it yelled.
Finding a reserve of energy within him Jepeth burst into a sprint towards the abomination. He swung his blade over and over, connecting with the foe sometimes, sometimes missing. Chunks of bone and flesh flew off it in the melee. It shot spells at Jepeth, burning his cloak away, drawing blood from his shield arm. Jepeth ducked and parried. Struck and dodged. The abomination laughed and cursed and seemed heartened by the fight every moment it went on.
“Show me, matey!” the abomination howled happily. “Show me the might of fishmongers!”
It bore down on Jepeth with the red cutlass, who raised his sword blocking it. It had tremendous strength and Jepeth felt his knees buckle.
“Gah!” the abomination howled in pain. Threepwood had appeared behind the abomination and plunged a dagger into its back.
“HA!” called Threepwood, triumphantly.
It swung around and with its great blackened bone arm picked Threepwood up and flung him away. He landed in the waters of the Misty Channel with a splash.
The monster cackled and attempted to dig the dagger from its back. But in that moment Jepeth saw something strange. As it turned its great head to the side away from Jepeth he saw the face of Willibrord. He had a look of utter grief across his stretched, scarred face.
Jepeth realized that he, the Willibrord that was hanging off the side of this reeking undead hulk, was crying.
He raised his sword again.
“Ye shall pay,” Jepeth said. “For what ye have done to all, least of all for what ye did to the poor wretch within ye.”
“Ooh, laddie,” said the abomination. “He was so hurt. So betrayed. Maimed by ye dock-rat, tossed away by the twins and their Fellowship, disowned by his family o’ mages.”
The abomination laughed louder over Willibrord’s crying.
“We’ve made a bonnie crew” it yelled, thrusting the red sword into the air. “All thanks to ye!”
“Ye seem eager for this fight,” said Jepeth. He was trying to keep the abomination talking so as to regain some of his strength for a moment.
“Look around!” it called, extending both twisted arms outward. “See the beauty I bring to yer shore!”
With his sword still raised in defense Jepeth glanced around at the scene. The abomination's forces had clearly swelled and pushed the defenders back to the shore. The farm buildings and dwellings on the mainland were ablaze, as were the fields themselves. More of his people than he realized lay dead upon the singed grass.
He bellowed aloud and threw himself at the abomination again. His anger carried his sword to blow after blow but it didn’t seem to seriously phase or injure the abomination. In his rage he nearly left himself open to a thrust of the Bloodeye cutlass. It grazed his left leg superficially, even through his plate armor.
Jepeth fell to one knee and raised his shield to block the next blow but the abomination was struck by spells, and staggered backwards. Jepeth turned around and saw the visibly injured Tejnik firing off energy bolts as fast as he could.
“Now!” he called to the closest archers near him. Four of them ceased firing volleys into the line of undead and instead turned and fired four shots into the abomination. Each hit true, one even landing square in the dark bone eye socket of Bloodeye.
The monster staggered and hollered clawing at the arrow in its face. Jepeth saw his opening and ran behind the monster and slashed his sword laterally as hard as he could at one of its hideous, fleshy legs. He severed it from the beast and the abomination came crashing to the ground.
“Aye, show me!” it said, taunting Jepeth from the ground as it tried to right itself. “Show me the might of ye pitiful dock-rats! Show me the Paladin’s might-for-right ye showed Willibrord that eve’!”
“Put the sword to him, Cousin!” cried Threepwood.
“Now, Jepeth!” yelled Tejnik.
“I’ve fallen here before,” spat the abomination as Jepeth stood over him. “Many times! I shall be back again!”
Jepeth raised his sword high to plunge it into the monster’s head.
But he stopped.
Because he heard something:
Over the sound of the battle itself,
Over men and women fighting and dying,
Over foul undead monsters screaming,
Over liches cackling,
Over the encouragement of his friend and his family telling him to end it,
Over all that he heard Willibrord.
Willibrord was crying.
And in that moment it all made sense. Everything the Wisp said opened in his mind like the soft rustle of a sail unfurling in a breeze.
The Honorable Knight. He painfully tried to show Jepeth that he was blind to the greater danger. “Ye are quick to anger and quick to distract. Ye miss the obvious,” he had said on the bridge.
The Honest Aide. Only hours ago he tried, as he often did, to get Jepeth to put aside his mistrust of others. He believed in Jepeth’s capacity to change.
The Valorous Apprentice. Who rushed into battle before he was ready nearly to ruin. “I think ye shall live to swing the hammer again” Jepeth had told the boy to comfort him.
The Humbled King. His experiences changed him. “Humbled me to the council of others,” he said from the Throne of Britannia.
The Just Healer. He tried to help Jepeth find a different path. “How will you square your virtues with the bloody path you seem desperate to cut?” he had asked as Jepeth lay recovering from a senseless fight.
The Compassionate Guard. She had sympathy for a criminal, even when Jepeth didn’t. “We have a different method,” he had told her. “The Noble Sacrifice.”
His Spiritual Father. “Put it aside, son,” he begged Jepeth.
As this all cascaded through his mind he looked off into the distance. Past the fight, past the carnage, past the horror he saw him. The Gazer was on the edge of the scene watching.
He knew what to do. He remembered what the Wisp had said.
Jepeth sheathed his sword and knelt next to the gasping hulk. With his left hand he pulled its snarling head to the side revealing the face of Willibrord. It wept.
“Forgive me,” Jepeth said.
He closed his eyes and breathed in deep. He ignored the yells of confusion of those around him and laid a gloved hand over Willibrord’s forehead.
“Dium Prostra,” whispered Jepeth.
Tejnik saw a glow of orange light flare between Jepeth and the abomination. His silver armor reflected the light like a prism casting colors in all directions. It flared brighter and brighter as it engulfed the both of them. A high-pitched sound, like the shortest string of a harp, wailed outward as the energy shot out knocking everyone around over.
Tejnik looked up and Willibrord the man, not the monster, was left gasping on the ground. Around them all the undead fell to the ground lifeless.
The people of Skara Brae cheered, but Jepeth was gone.
“Find him!” whispered Threepwood in a panic. “Now!”
Tejnik shook his head in an effort to return to his senses. He outstretched his arms, closed his eyes and began chanting.
“Ah Mi Ko La So Lo Va..” whispered Tejnik, trying to control his own fear. “Ah Mi Ko La So Lo Vaa...”
The news circled the Kingdom fast.
In his castle Blackthorn was told by his secretary that the dangerous horde of undead was put down.
In the grand chamber of the Lycaeum Jaanin informed the rest of the council that the comet was confirmed to be moving off to parts unknown.
At the tavern in East Britain Harbottle heard of the victory in Skara Brae and of the death toll.
In the Court of Truth Maggie the Guard locked Willibrord in the deepest, darkest cell they had without complaint or protest.
In a secure hideout a woman read an intelligence dispatch to her brother, both not caring about the situation at all as their focus had turned elsewhere.
Weeks later at the Pirate’s Plunder in Buc’s Den a man sat alone at a table with a mug before him. He held his spinning, drunk head aloft as best he could and fought the urge to fall asleep or have another round. Behind him the door of the bar opened and closed and a tall man in a blue robe entered and sat down at his table.
“Flunky,” slurred Threepwood. “Haven’t I seen ye enough asoflate.”
“Hullo, scoundrel,” said Tejnik, smiling sadly.
“Go away,” Threepwood said and took another sip.
“I won’t stay long,” said Tejnik. “I came to check on you, as Jepeth would have--”
“Stop,” said Threepwood pounding a fist on the table. “Stop flunky or I will drown you in the bay so help me.”
Tejnik looked upon him with sympathy.
“I’m sorry,” Tejnik said.
“Ye should be,” Threepwood said angrily. “Tell me, are ye serving the next honorable stuffed shirt of our damn island?”
“I,” began Tejnik. “I do not yet know what they wish for me.”
“Off to another city then,” hiccuped Threepwood. “Or back to ye craven council.”
Tejnik shook his head. “I’m not sure,” he said. “I’m not convinced I should leave Skara Brae even if dismissed or reassigned.”
“Why?” said Threepwood.
“Because,” he began. “Because I’m not convinced Jepeth is dead.”
Threepwood gaped at him.
“He’s dead,” said Threepwood. “Ye chanted for an hour trying to bring him back.”
“I did,” said Tejnik. “But, I also looked at every corpse on that horrible battlefield.”
Threepwood made a face of disgust.
“Your cousin’s body wasn’t among them,” Tejnik said.
“The fool blew himself apart to save that mage,” said Threepwood angrily. “His damn virtues and that,” he pointed at Tejnik, “Damned. Bloody. Wisp got into his head and did him in.”
“This situation was different,” said Tejnik. “Willibrord, Bloodeye, what Jepeth did. It’s magic that is complex and possibly unique.”
“If he’s not dead then where the hell is he?” asked Threepwood.
The woods in this part of the forest were dense, but joyful. This strange land was always very alluring but the Healer had found himself coming this way for the last few days. Something inside him had told him he needed to be here today.
He walked as he had been trained to do with eyes open and spirit soaring. His teachers had explained that to do this kind of work one had to be ready at any moment to find the soul of those who wished to return. An open heart and a virtuous soul was key to this effort. This work greatly appealed to him and he was surprised how well he had taken to it.
Finally, he sensed it. A spirit had come upon him, or he came upon it, and it wanted to return and not fall into the Well of Souls.
He performed the ritual and first from a grey mist emerged the form of a man. That form solidified and became bone and flesh manifested from nothing. As the ritual ended the grey smoke around the form became a solid cloth wrapping the returned man as he gasped for air.
“Oh, thank you!” the man cried. He breathed deep and was glad of the air filling his newly reformed lungs.
The newly resurrected man had ashy, pale skin, dark hair, and pointed ears.
“I was trailing a ‘mare,” the elf said. “Up in the Kirin pass! It got the better of me as I tried to coax it to follow!”
“Welcome back,” said the healer in a thick Skara Braen accent.