Hero’s Tale VYA – Part 15

The story continues! It’s a larger entry to make up for the delay. As usual, click on Vote Your Adventure up at the top to read previous entries. I won’t keep you waiting any longer. Time to see why the shaman wants to see Bardulf:

“If I’m going to be helping your people, I shouldn’t anger your shaman. How will we get into the village?”

With a small shake of his head, Burnum replied. “Her hut close, at edge of village. You go, not me. Shaman ask for you, no more.”

Bardulf frowned. “But how will I understand her?”

“She speaker of tongues,” Burnum answered with a grin. “You understand.” He gestured to the others. “We begin plan of attack while you gone.”

Bardulf pulled the hood of his cloak over his head and nodded. “Good. I won’t keep her waiting, then. I’ll be back soon.”

The only light he had that night was the moon. He walked through the forest in silence, and Bardulf wondered again what they were up against. How many more men had come into the mountains to enslave these people? These people had 5 years to gather an army. He had ten days.

A dim light from the doorway of a small hut cut through the darkness. A short figure stood there, watching the forest. Upon seeing Bardulf, the person motioned for him to enter, and then disappeared into the hut. Bardulf scanned the area before approaching and entering the hut.

The figure was revealed to be a short old woman. She gave him a smile, and closed the door behind him. Her gray hair was bundled in a braid that reached to her waist. She didn’t speak, but moved around the small room putting food in a bowl and getting drinks. Bardulf looked around while she did so.

The interior was warm and comfortable, warmed by a fire in the hearth. A black pot hung over the flames. The smells made Bardulf’s mouth water. Herbs and other oddments hung drying nearby. It was eerily like the apothecary that he had visited a few weeks ago, he realized with a shiver.

“Sit, eat.”

Bardulf turned, and started to ask a question. The shaman interrupted him with a hand. “Eat first, then talk,” she said firmly.

He paused and frowned, but sat and ate after a moment. The woman sat across from him and watched, not eating anything. She had prepared a stew for him. The flavors brought back memories of his grandmother’s food.

The silence was almost suffocating as he ate. “You aren’t eating?” he finally asked.

The shaman shook her head. Bardulf wondered if this was a custom, and to ask Burnum. The stew was finished in silence.

He finished his drink, and set the cup down. The shaman smiled. “Good, now we can talk. Welcome, Bardulf Sylvani. I am the shaman of this tribe. The spirits have told me about you and your quest. You are facing a terrible enemy.”

Bardulf stumbled over words as a multitude of questions arose. “Aren’t they your enemy as well?” he finally asked. “Your people are enslaved.”

“Yes. But you will decide our fate. Your actions will either free us, or destroy us.”

“I don’t want to destroy you.”

“Yet that possibility is there.”

An awkward silence filled the hut. The thought that he could destroy unintentionally these people weighed heavily on Bardulf’s mind, and pushed all other questions out of his mind. “Will we have enough warriors to win?”

“The enemy does not have a large number of warriors, but they are experienced. They will be able to defend the city with what they have. The bigger problem are the quetzcal.”

“How can I kill them? I know there are two.”

The shaman closed her eyes. “Their skin is hard, like steel.” She opened her eyes, and pointed to a spear. “Take it. You will have need of it soon.”

Bardulf frowned, and took the spear. The wood was crooked and worn smooth. The head was honed to a sharpness that could allow him to shave with it. “What do you mean soon?”

“It is time to leave, Ranger. Battle brews.”

“I don’t understand.”

The old woman closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “The spirits give me pieces of what will be, no more.” She opened her eyes and gave Bardulf a sad smile. “You will understand.”

With confusion, Bardulf nodded his head in thanks, and stepped out.

He began heading back to the cave through the darkness. Bardulf wondered why the shaman had given him the spear. As sane as she sounded, he wondered if she really was. He was so deep in thought that he only paid enough attention to know where he was going, not to his surroundings.

“What’s this, a Ranger caught off his guard?”

The masculine voice came from his left, and brought Bardulf back to his senses. He cursed silently. A figure stepped out of the trees. The man wore a simple robe. In the moonlight, Bardulf could see him smile.

“I go out hunting, and this is what I find.” He rubbed his hands together. “Calyn will be disappointed that I got to you first. He told us to watch for you.” He glanced back towards the shaman’s hut. “I guess I’ll need to do something about her. She always was a pain. Better to be rid of her, no matter what the boss says.”

Bardulf grimaced. “How do you think you will defeat me. You have no weapons.” He readied the spear for a quick attack.

“I am a weapon.”

The man closed his eyes, and Bardulf took the moment of hesitation and threw the spear. It was swatted away in an instant, and Bardulf was stunned to see a tail. The robe fell away, and the man grew into a large serpent. This was the second quetzcal. He was not as large as the other, and his wings were small enough to be useless. But he was still a head taller than Bardulf.

Yellow eyes fixed on Bardulf in the moonlight. The creature reared back and struck at Bardulf, who anticipated the attack and leapt to the side, retrieving the spear in the process.

“I already fought Calyn,” Bardulf growled. Even though his ribs were healed, a dull ache throbbed through them and his arm. “I bested him, and he’s bigger and faster than you.”

The quetzcal coiled and watched, giving Bardulf a moment to take heed of the surroundings. They were near the village which would confine the creature somewhat. But he didn’t want to destroy the village. The best option might be to draw it away, but that would give it more room to fight.

Inventory: hatchet, flint & steel, traveling cloak, heart necklace, 80 coins in a pouch, spear
Health: broken left arm (mostly healed)

Where should Bardulf fight the quetzcal?
A) Here where it will be confined
B) Move away to minimize damage