And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Welcome to Part 23, the second part of the finale. Stick around, I have a few closing thoughts at the end. But until then, please enjoy.
Bardulf dressed, and strapped his equipment on. When he put on the heart necklace, he placed a hand on the charm. I’ll be home soon.
He returned to Thom, and helped him up. They supported each other as Thom led the way out of the cavernous building.
The silence that greeted them outside unnerved Bardulf. Just hours earlier, the sound of battle echoed through the valley. He shielded his eyes as they adjusted to the light, and scanned the area. The sun peeked out from behind the mountains as it set. Then a roar echoed around the stone buildings, breaking the tranquility.
Both jumped, but Bardulf readied the staff for a fight. In his ears, it was a warning. He was not surprised when three quetzal came out of hiding.
The head quetzal leaned forward and inspected the two men. It’s Bardulf!
Bardulf didn’t have patience for banter. “I’ll tell you right now that I can understand you. Who are you?” The runes on the staff began to shimmer.
The lead quetzal shifted, and Burnum stood before him with a confused look. “How you understand?”
The runes vanished as Bardulf relaxed, happy to see a friendly face. “I am a quetzal as well.”
Burnum did not seem surprised, and pointed at Thom. “What about him? He with them.”
“I came to find him. He has actually been trying to stop all this.”
Burnum stared at Thom for a bit longer and then nodded. He turned to the other two, and spoke to them in their native language. The two quetzal left. “They stay. We go to village.”
While they walked, Burnum explained that a few hours ago, all the Yul’aric suddenly turned into quetzal. The invaders were either dead or had escaped. Now they were now searching through the city to be sure there was no one left. Only a few of the Yul’aric remained quetzal, though. The others changed back and seem to have lost the ability.
Fires burned in the village, and the people were celebrating the victory. Food was passed to the newcomers. Bardulf soon found himself a storyteller, as the Yul’aric gathered around him to hear what happened.
When he finished, Burnum brought Bardulf the fang spear, and then sat down next to him. “What next?”
“I go home.”
“Then I go with you.”
Bardulf wanted to argue, but recognized the importance of honor in the Yul’aric culture. “I will help you honor your debt. But I need you to take care of Thom.” He pointed to the fire where the young man relaxed, watching the children play. “Help him recover, and escort him home. I leave in the morning to help his father. I’ll find you after you arrive.”
Burnum looked at Thom. “I will, but this not repay debt. Must be paid to you. Do this as friend. Thanks for what you have done for my people.”
“I know. Thank you.”
Bardulf moved over to Thom and explained what was going on.
“Will I be safe?”, Thom asked. “I doubt these people are fond of me, and I don’t blame them.”
“You will. The son of the chief owes me a debt,” Bardulf answered. “He will make sure nothing happens. I am returning to help your father in the morning. I can’t delay.”
“I would expect nothing else from you, Bardulf.”
The next morning, Bardulf visited Thom. Burnum asked the shaman and some of the women to check Thom’s injuries. Burnum stood watching nearby. “I’m under good care, Bardulf. Tell my father that I’ll see him soon.”
The shaman stood and gave a vial to Bardulf. “Here is the venom. I hope it helps.”
Bardulf placed it in the bags with the rest of his equipment, and then removed his clothes and packed them. He shifted and stretched his wings while the staff, spear, and bags were lashed to his serpentine body. With a growl and nod, he sprung into the sky. The Yul’aric gathered to see him off. Their voices echoed through the trees as he flew away.
The day passed quickly as he soared above the clouds, out of sight from those below. By early evening, Belmont Acres came into view. He landed in the forests outside the city, and walked the rest of the distance. Two hours later, he was in front of the manor of Lord Belmont.
The guards at the entrance crossed their spears. “We can’t let anyone in.”
“Does Lord Belmont still live?”
“Barely,” the other guard mumbled.
The first guard glared at his friend. “We are asking everyone to offer prayers for him.”
“I’m not too late, then. I am Bardulf Sylvanni, and have returned with a cure.”
The guards eyes widened, and they ushered him in immediately. He left his equipment with the guards, carrying only the vial and staff in.
The doctor looked up when Bardulf opened the door to Lord Belmont’s room. “You’re back?” the doctor asked as Bardulf approached the bed. Alain Belmont was pale, and his breathing was faint and shallow.
“I am.” Bardulf handed the doctor the vial. “Here is the venom. Do what you can to find a cure. Now, leave me with Lord Belmont. I do this alone.” The man reluctantly agreed.
Bardulf closed the doors behind the doctor. He took the staff, and placed a hand on Alain’s chest. A trickle of power flowed through the staff, and into Lord Belmont. The man arched his back briefly, and breathed out a green mist.
Color immediately returned to Lord Belmont’s skin. His face, which had been pained, relaxed. Moments later, he opened his eyes. “Bardulf…?”
“Yes, my lord.”
“Did you find Thom?”
“He will return in a few weeks. I hurried to cure you.”
“You are welcome, my lord. I’ll return tomorrow to check on you and tell you about the quest. Until then, please rest.”
Lord Belmont smiled. “I look forward to it. We will discuss your reward then.”
When Bardulf entered his home and called out, he found himself embraced by his wife. After a minute, he released her and took the necklace off. “You can have it back for now,” Bardulf said as he put it back around her neck.
She frowned. “For now?”
Bardulf nodded. “I am leaving in a few days to find an elf. We need to discuss the future of the Rangers.”
Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. I cannot express thanks enough.
For now, this is the end of the Tale. I have plans for this site as well as Bardulf’s stor, but it will be dormant for a while. I am going to do a Postmortem about my experience with all of this. In the mean time, please see what I’m up to at my personal site. And now for the moment I’ve been waiting for…