Another story take from my D&D campaign. This follows the last story entry I shared.
Arveldir crawled out of the magical hut he had cast the night before. He had hoped that the events of yesterday were nothing more than a nightmare but there in the harsh light of morning he saw that was not the case. Resting on the hastily put together cart lay Bree. Her blue eyes closed forever, blood staining her armor and skin. Arveldir couldn’t stand the sight of her like that. He crossed the room and carefully lifted her up into his arms.
Althea was already awake and preparing breakfast for everyone so Arveldir carried Bree’s body away to prepare her. He used some of their precious water to clean away the blood and filth from her face. Without the dirt, she looked years younger. Arveldir blinked rapidly, determined not to cry. He busied himself with casting prestidigitation on her armor. A minor cantrip it zapped away the dirt and blood instantly but only in a small section, so he cast it again and again until her armor gleamed. Odalin had silently joined him while he worked and added her magic to his, mending the dents in Bree’s armor and clothes until she looked unblemished, and like she was merely sleeping. She did it all without saying a word. Arveldir didn’t know the gnome was capable of being quiet, she had chattered ceaselessly since they had found her locked up the day before. Finished he nodded gravely to her, but carried Bree back to the cart by himself.
For a cart hastily assembled from junk parts, Arveldir had to admit the gnome did good work. The wheels were solid, scavenged from two separate broken down husks. She had mended the flooring so that there were no gaps on the base, and at his request had created a small lip around the baseboards. He rested Bree on the floor for a moment while he finished preparing what would serve as her bed for the next several weeks while they journeyed back to the Brightwood. He poured in the bucket of white scales he had been carrying since Waterdeep and added to it the blue scales he had freshly harvested.
Dúlamán aided him, also in silence. It was like no one in the party knew what to say to him. ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ seemed like a paltry sentiment when faced with the death of the woman he had considered his daughter. So his friends said nothing. Their consideration only made what he had to do harder. Once they had the scales smoothed out into a bed of blue and white, Lanmarrak colors, Arveldir lifted her up into the cart.
She gleamed in the bright sunlight that crept through the broken and crumbling walls of the building. She could have been sleeping. Arveldir smoothed down her dark hair. Upon her death the white hair she had been wearing for the past year had faded back to her natural brunette. Her dark lashes rested on her too pale cheeks, her freckles standing out in sharp relief. He had cast gentle repose on her, back inside the temple. She would never age, never wither, never rot. She would remain frozen in time, preserved as though in amber, until he could keep his promise.
The party was bustling around the campfire, Odalin entirely to bright and cheerful for his somber mood. “So where to next?” she asked. “I presume you are headed after Severin at the spine of the world?”
“I’m afraid I will not be joining you,” he intoned somberly. The timing seemed a little off but it was never going to get any easier to tell them. Everyone stopped putting up camp and stared at him stricken. “I must take Bree back to the Lanmarrak household, and I will stay there and help care for the rest of the family, as well as atone for Bree’s passing. If they’ll have me, of course. Her children will be especially distraught. I can only do what I can for them, and hope it is enough.”
“The death of a mother is no small thing,” Odalin said sadly, all mirth gone from her face. “Please take these with you.” She reached deep into her pack and handed Arveldir three small wooden toys. “This is all I have finished right now… I hope it is enough.”
“Gifts for her children? That is too kind.” Arveldir placed the toys in a pouch on his waist. He unstrapped his wooden staff from his back, holding it out to the tiny wizard. “Please, take this staff. I have no need for a second, and while useful, I always found it…. somewhat distasteful.”
Odalin took it from him with a small smile, “I will use it in good faith.” She stepped aside for the next person.
Althea spoke up in elvish “Nothing could ever make up for her death, but, here. I send this with you as a token of my respect for Bree in the short time we traveled together.” She too rooted around in her bag until she came up with a rather hefty bag that clinked and clanked as she handed it over. “Also for the bow, so it is no longer borrowed.”
Arveldir replied gravely in kind, giving her a small bow over the bag, “Thank you, Althea. I will remember our time together fondly.”
She clasped her hands together and made a low bow of parting and then she too stepped to the side.
Dúlamán stepped forward next and he too spoke in elvish. “Send her family my condolences and that I am sorry I could not repay the debt of honor my brothers and I owe to the Lanmarraks.”
He clasped Arveldir’s hand tightly but carefully in his own clawed ones then joined Althea.
Last up was Pharazon. There was more gray at his temples than there was at the start of the journey, but of course a lot had happened between now and then. They had slain three dragons and lost too many companions along the way.
The THACo office in Berdusk was small but cozy. Located above a farrier’s shop it always smelt faintly of horse, which the Office Captain combated by keeping fragrant wood burning in the fireplace. Arveldir and Bree had arrived in Berdusk a week earlier having served as protection to a caravan of orphans. Now they were cooling their heels in the THACo office waiting for their final party member for their new assignment. The dwarf.. Oblong? Seemed like a hardy enough fellow, not very talkative however. He had picked up a short job at a local forge. Nemia was plying her trade in taverns around town. Bree was always busy writing letters home, which left Arveldir to wait around in the office.
It was a small mission, bandits burning and raiding villages in Reddest, Greenville?… some small town that Arveldir had never heard of. Probably more than simple enough for a fighter, a paladin, a sorcerer, and a bard but THACo insisted on playing it safe, especially considering how green Bree was. So they waited for a healer to arrive. He was coming in on another trade caravan from somewhere in the south. He was due any day now, but a storm had spun up around the city turning all of the roads into giant muddy pits, which meant he would probably be delayed again.
So Arveldir waited.
The office door slammed open, water and wind swirling through it. Arveldir leapt up to shut it, cursing whoever had made the hinges that they had made them so weak. Surely THACo could afford better. That’s when he caught sight of the man behind the door. He was tall, taller than Arveldir his black cloak so mud spattered that he almost looked like a golem. As lightning flashed above them Arveldir could just barely make out a glint of gold along the edges. He leaned heavily upon a muddy branch of some sort. Disreputable, but those in dire need tended to look that way. Arveldir stepped aside to let the stranger into the warmth. The Office Captain had stepped out to fetch some supper from a nearby inn which left Arveldir in charge.
“Ah yes come in come in. In need of a contract then? I can go ahead and get one for you, however the Captain will have to go over the terms with you when he gets back. As long as he hasn’t been swept away that is.”
“Contract? Oh no, I already signed my contract.” He pushed his hood back and revealed a rather unremarkable human face. Brown hair and brown eyes, with a neatly trimmed brown beard. “I’m Pharazon, Cleric and member of THACo.” He fished his emblem from beneath his robes.
“Ah apologies! I am Arveldir, we’ve been waiting on you. I thought for sure this storm would hold you up.” Arveldir held out his hand and clasped the clammy wrist of the traveller.
“It almost did, the carts have all sunk up to their axels in the road, the animals are practically swimming out there. The merchants have all hunkered down till the storm passes. I chose to forge on ahead alone. And look where that got me.” He gestured ruefully to the mud that reached his waist.
“I cannot say I’m not glad that you risked it. We have been waiting for your arrival for nearly a week. We have a mission in Blueton.. No that’s not right either… GREENEST! That’s it Greenest. Knew I would get it eventually. Anyway, some bandits are harassing towns and the mayor of Greenest fears he’s next on the menu so he’s requested aid.”
“Sounds fun.” The cleric smiled at the elf. “Before that however I would love a good inn. Perhaps a you might know of where I could find one? One that runs a good poker game perhaps?”
“I don’t gamble with money much myself… only my life I’m afraid. But there is a very good inn closeby. Clean rooms, good food. Master suites already take of course, but I’m sure they have other rooms. Follow me.” Arveldir led the way back into the storm, making sure to shut the door securely behind them.
In Greenest they had faced their own mortality and their first dragon, though that one had not been a fight to the death. At Baldur’s Gate Nemia had taken her leave of the party. In the Graypeak mountains they had lost Oblong. And here they had lost Bree. They had gained some boon companions along the way, but none of it could make up for the vivacious young woman who lay in a makeshift cart. Arveldir was old, far to old. He would take her home and he would not, could not come back here.
Pharazon had a few more wrinkles, remnants of those he could not save. Would Bree leave a mark as well? He handed Arveldir a heavy sack. “5000 gold. To take care of any expensed along the way. Any that remains can go to her children.” Arveldir placed it in his own sack, weighed down by the blood gold.
“Thank you for trying dear friend.” Arveldir held his hand out.
Pharazon’s face tightened. “Would that I had succeeded. Goodbye my friend.” He took Arveldir’s hand in his own. Arveldir surprised him by pulling him in for a hug. Both men’s eyes glistened in the morning sun when they drew apart.
“Farewell, my friends. May the memories of our time together serve you well. And the magical treasures I crafted for you serve even moreso. Her clan will know that though she died far away from them, she was still among family.” He would carry their gifts with him as reminders of his time among them. Arveldir turned his back to them and lifted the handles of Bree’s cart. He would leave first. He did not look back, so they would not see the tears than ran unchecked down his cheeks.