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This is the third part of a Vote Your Adventure story. More information is here. If you need to catch up, go read Part 1 and then Part 2 to see where we’ve been. Voting will close early Saturday, February 4, 2012. Enjoy the tale!
With the massive snake ready to strike, Bardulf made the biggest mistake he could have. He hesitated. In that split second of indecision, the serpent rammed him. He grunted in pain as he was knocked across the room.
All the commotion alerted them, and the guards rushed into the room with their spears ready. Bardulf had to give them credit, because neither delayed when they saw the creature. One was able to throw his spear, it bounced off the hide of the serpent and clattered to the ground. The other didn’t get a chance, as the snake swung its head into them. They crashed into the wall opposite Bardulf with sickening crunches. The other spear skittered near to Bardulf. With its spiked tail, the serpent swung at the doorway, and partially collapsed the entryway.
“You have ssslowed down over the yearsss.” The serpent drew close to Bardulf and scented the air. It seemed to laugh. “You have had sssomething to drink it ssseeemsss. Have the yearsss been that harsh that you have taken to sssspiritsss?”
Bardulf winced as he coughed, and felt his body. He grimaced when he touched his ribs. A few were broken. He needed to keep the snake talking while he formulated a plan. He had a dagger, and two spears for weapons. There might also be some stone where the doorway was he could make use of.
“Why didn’t you kill me? You said no witnesses.”
The slitted eyes narrowed as the head lowered to Bardulf’s height. “Thossse who know about the misssssion wesst need to be eliminated. We can’t have people sssspoiling our planss.” The tongue flicked out, almost touching Bardulf. “I thoughtss I would asssk you to join usss. We could ussse another Ranger.”
Bardulf paused, his plan stopping mid thought. “Another Ranger?” He frowned. “Calyn Solym is working with you?”
“Yesss.” The creature closed its eyes, affording Bardulf the chance to snatch the spear by him. “You won’t join, will youss?”
“No, I trained to kill abominations like you.”
The serpent’s eyes snapped open. “Then you die.”
As the serpent lunged forward, Bardulf brought the spear up, and caught the serpent in its mouth. It immediately jerked back, pulling the spear from Bardulf’s hands.
It shook its head, trying to dislodge the spear. Bardulf pulled out his dagger, and prepared to dodge the coming attack.
The spear flew across the room, and Bardulf watched it rear back, and then lunge forward. In that instant, he jumped to the left and sliced at the serpent’s head. He felt the dagger dig into flesh, and a roar of pain echoed in the room.
“Myss eye!” the serpent cried. As the creature writhed, Bardulf saw that he had cut the creature’s right eye, blinding it. The remaining eye turned its gaze to Bardulf, concentration evident. “You willsss pay. I willsss hunt you Sssyvani!”
It turned, and unfurled its wings as it slithered out the window. Bardulf rushed to the window, but it flew into the night with screams of pain.
The rest of the evening flew by. The ruined entrance didn’t stop anyone, just slowed them down. Guards and servants entered the study and helped clear things out, and then got Lord Alain and the injured guards taken to the infirmary. Bardulf went there as well, and had his wounds bandaged.
Only the steward of the house was allowed in to see Lord Alain. Bardulf was able to talk to Lord Alain through the steward. Lord Alain was surprised to find out that the creature was somehow linked to the mission. Bardulf told him that he would find out what happened, provided Lord Alain upheld his part of the bargain. The steward came out, “Lord Alain asks that you go see him. I will be back in a moment.”
Bardulf entered the room, and found Lord Alain lying in bed, covered in blankets. He was sweating from the venom in his system, and the location where he was bitten was a deep purple and swollen. “Come closer, Bardulf,” Lord Alain whispered. He closed his eyes to rest as they spoke.
“How do you feel, Lord Alain?”
“Everything hurts. My physician is doing what he can, but without the venom…”
“That monster has a vendetta against me now. I will get a sample when I meet it next. Please stay alive until I can return.”
Lord Alain smiled. “I intend to. Thank you for your service, Bardulf. For what you have done, this payment will be sufficient. My steward is getting the money right now, and I will instruct him to send servants to help on your farm. He is getting the map as well.” He took a slow breath. “I have one more request for you.”
“What is it?”
“If you are able, go through the village of Ruelinthal’s Edge. Ask for the blacksmith. He will be able to help you as you venture into the Wilds.”
“That should be the most direct route. I will do that, my lord.”
“Good. Before you leave, come kneel beside the bed.”
Bardulf frowned, but didn’t question the request. Lord Alain put a wavering hand on Bardulf’s head and began to pray in a quiet voice. “Holy King, please protect this man. Give him the strength he needs for the task ahead. Protect him.”
Inside his mind, Bardulf winced. A blessing like this was not just unneeded, but unwanted. Religion was for those with weak wills. He stood as Lord Alain removed his hand. “Thank you, my lord.”
The doctor stood just outside the door. “I heard you say you are going to find the creature that poisoned him?”
“Yes. How long does he have?”
The man wiped his hands on his robes. “It is hard to tell, as I have never seen this type of venom, I can’t do much. I have heard that there is an elf druid in Dawncrest, though. I sent a runner to request help in treating it, and finding an anti-venom. You know how the Fae are, though.”
Bardulf nodded. “I will be seeing that creature again. I’ll bring back the poison glands.” He looked at the frail man in the bed. “He is one of the few nobles I have met who is truly noble.”
He turned, and almost ran into the steward as the man approached. A pouch of coins and the map were in his hands. Bardulf took them. “Tell Lord Alain I will leave in the morning.” The steward nodded.
Bardulf told his wife of the events of the evening when he arrived home. She protested at first, which was expected. But as he explained everything she fell silent.
She poked his bandages, and watched at him as he winced in pain. “That is for what you will put me through while you are gone, Bardulf.” She smiled. “You have been restless farming all these years. If I could keep you safe here, I would. But, you are too reckless to be able to do that.” She took her necklace off, and gave it to him. “To remind you of me.”
The small silver heart in his hand was a gift to her after they were married. She always gave it to him on his journeys. He kissed her head. “I won’t be able to forget.”
In the morning, Bardulf gathered some blankets for a bedroll, his hatchet, and a traveling cloak. He also found his flint and steel. His bow was functional, but the string had broken. He was also running low on arrows. He would get some if the fletcher had a decent price. His wife gave him enough food to get him to Ruelinthal’s Edge. He saddled his horse, and stowed everything in its appropriate bag.
With a final goodbye, he ventured into the market to purchase the last few items. He payed 12 coins for a new bowstring. The arrows were too expensive, and Bardulf knew he would be able to make some as he traveled.
The general store was selling rope and grapples, which might be useful. They also had some travel rations. He had enough food until he hit the Wilds, and then he could find food as he went. But it would be nice to not have to.
The herbalist pulled out some medicinal herbs for him to look at, and they were relatively cheap. With his current injuries, they would be helpful.
The mapmaker was selling an older, but fully functional, compass. But the bigger find was a map of western Karathon. It even extended into the wilds some. “I can’t part with that for anything less than 125 coins,” the mapmaker said when Bardulf asked. He had made his own maps before, so Bardulf could respect the expensive price. When the mapmaker heard where Bardulf was going, he changed his mind. “Listen, traveling into the Wilds is rarely done, and I have heard you know how to make a map. If you promise to map more of the area as you travel, I will knock the price down to 50 coins. But when you return, I want that map. I will even pay you for your work.”
“A more detailed map than what I have, tempting. I’ll think about it.”
Bardulf didn’t want to spend all the money at once. The remaining 88 coin payment from Lord Alain needed to last. There was no guarantee that he could get more money as he traveled. He would have to pick what to buy carefully.
Inventory: bow, 4 quivered arrows, hatchet, dagger, flint & steel, traveling cloak, heart necklace, 88 coins in a pouch, food for traveling
Health: broken ribs
What should Bardulf purchase before he leaves (pick as many as you want, up to 88c worth)
A) Travel Rations – 5 days rations for 23c
B) Medicinal Herbs – 5 packets for 10c
C) Rope – 9c
D) Grapple – 17c
E) Compass – 22c
F) Map of western Karathon and the Wilds – 50c