Friday, June 26, 2009

Berserker Part 22

Millienya found Seryan on the ground, back propped up against the wagon’s axle. Tyrel was kneeling next to him, unsure of what to do. She elbowed him aside and set to work, looking for blood, checking for broken bones. Tyrel pointed at the man’s left arm, a long cut had been scored from the side of his elbow to his wrist.

Millienya inspected the wound. “It’s too shallow to do this to him”, she said in puzzlement.
“Well, there’s nothing else that could do this”, Tyrel responded.

A soot stained Aniston walked over, carrying a blood gummed dagger. He handed it to Millienya.

“Smell”, he commanded.

She tentatively took a whiff, then tossed it to the ground in disgust.

“Poisoned”, she said. Now that she considered it she could see that the wound had become necrotic and veins along Seryans arm had turned a disconcerting purple.

“Will he die?”, asked Tyrel. A tinge of fear and anxiety had crept into his voice and demeanor.

“What do you care?”, challenged Lars, walking up to them.

“If he dies I won’t get paid!”, he cried, earning dirty looks all around. Lars was about to yell at him but Millienya quickly interrupted.

“For whatever reason, the poison hasn’t killed him outright.”, she stated. So either it’s slow acting or just watered down. If we can get him to an apothecary in time, there’s a good chance he’ll survive”.

“Well great!”, said Tyrel, throwing his hands up. “We’re in the middle of nowhere, lets just bury him now and save time!”

“Not exactly nowhere”, Anistons said as he stood up wincing when his knees cracked.

“What do you mean”, Millienya asked, impatience barely contained.

“There’s a tow---”. Aniston trailed off as he saw Jarn trudging toward them, a limp bundle in his arms. The grouped parted silently before him, he carefully laid the dead child alongside the dying man. They all stared down at the wretched little travesty of life with lowered heads and haggard expressions, reminded of the value of life and the suddenness in which it ends.

“We’ve already lost one”, murmured Karnar with tears brimming in his pain-maddened eyes. The group all came to the same at once.

“Where’s this town you were talking about?”, whispered Millienya

“Two days’ ride south I think”, said Aniston as he regained his composure.

Lars and Jarn both stepped forward to pick up Seryan’s limp form, balking slightly at the sight of the other, but deciding Seryan to be more important. Jarn picked him up by the shoulders and Lars took the legs. They hadn’t moved but half a step before Aniston’s sword came swooping down behind Jarn, making him drop his friend and roll forward. The ancient blade passed through a hairy hand clutching a dagger protruding from beneath the wagon. Their was a now-familiar howl of pain. Jarn quickly grasped the stump of the injured arm, hauling on it until he had disgorged the malnourished, misshapen form of a Gnoll.

Jarn recognized it as the one he had hit on the head, it completely slipped his mind that it was still alive.

“How did you know it was there?”, Jarn asked in bewilderment.

“I heard it crawling around under there since you got back”, replied the old man, wiping his blade in disgust. “It was probably going to hamstring you and I couldn’t get a decent stroke until it reached out for you”.

Jarn shuddered at the cold, dead tone in Aniston’s voice. He used to hear the blacksmith talk about the proper way to make steel in the same voice.

Tyrel stepped forward with knife in hand, ready to slit the cur’s throat. His hand was stayed from the murderous deed by Aniston. Tyrel glared at the old man with greed in his eyes.

“The leathers and jewelry that thing is wearing could be valuable”, he complained. When looked at, the gnolls wore furs and leathers over their own. And they had little pieces of gold and silver woven into their fur.

“Even if we can get Seryan to the apothecary in time, we need some idea of what kind of poison was used”, Aniston explained. “Are you willing to give up your pay for protecting him for a few second-hand clothes a beggar wouldn’t accept?”

The group broke up, each getting ready to leave as soon as possible. They got Seryan and their prisoner safely stored and secured, buried the poor dead child and what remains of the inhabitants of the lead wagon. The mules and horses had to be rounded up, they had broken their reigns when the cannons went off. The cannons were moved out of the rode and destroyed with the aid of a few well-placed hammerblows. With this done they continued forward hurriedly, anxious to be free of the constricting trees as soon as possible.

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