Rise and Shine
Chapter Eight, Part One
Barely clearing Percy’s head, Otto circles above the party. While they prepared to leave the volcano, he berated them for getting too late a start, but since then he remained quiet.
“It is starting to get light out; I can almost see,” Percy says in hushed tones.
“Just keep looking up and you can make out the silhouette of the Talking Owl. He’ll lead us to his old party,” Orjulun tells Percy.
Red marches along, keeping pace with the rest of the group as best she can. Her eyes constantly dart around for the entire hour until they reach the sarcophagus. By then, the sun is up, and everyone can clearly see the large, finely decorated coffin sitting outside the mouth of a cave.
As Percy easily pulls off the heavy top of the sarcophagus, revealing six bodies piled within, Otto hovers nearby.
“That one,” Otto says, as he lands on the upturned lid and pokes his beak out at a dead woman.
Melias reaches in and grabs the woman by the wrist, pulling her up out of the coffin and free of the other dead bodies. “There’s nothing worse than waking up in bed with a bunch of corpses,” he mutters, as he lays the woman on the soft ground beneath a sandalwood tree. “SeLiem, do your trick,” he says, motioning to the Priest’s new scroll. “Wait!” He looks at Otto, as he remembers how Percy had gotten so quiet when his sister was posing in his guise. Otto had said two words since the cave, but perhaps she could disguise her voice for such a small exchange. She certainly wouldn’t be able to answer specific questions. He asks, “Tell me about this woman, Otto. What’s her name? Why did you select her over the others?”
“What a nice way to go out. Heroes of The Realms and they end up in a mass grave,” Arturus says, then turns and spits. Notching an arrow, he steps away to stand guard.
Otto answers Melias’ question. “That was Lilith Forestdweller, a Half-Elf from the forests south of The Nation; we called her Lil. You are wearing her armor. She was a talented Druid. I think she has the best chance of surviving in the wilderness. Plus, I doubt the Orcs found one of her better scrolls – one that will assist greatly. Before she returns to the living, I’ll need one of you to fetch it for me. She may be too weak after the stress of returning to life to pull it out herself. It’s in her . . . she hid it . . . in a body cavity.”
SeLiem blinks hard. “How could she breath with a scroll in her mouth? It makes perfect sense to me that we’d want to remove it first.” He opens the woman’s mouth and peers within, finding nothing in the dark area beyond her teeth.
Melias and Percy simultaneously take a step back.
“Yes, I had a feeling it wasn’t in that body cavity. I say another woman should do it,” Arturus says. “I assume it is a cavity unique to women?”
“What a bunch of ninnies!” Red grumbles. She drops down next to the dead woman and plunges her arm under the woman’s robe. After making a few awkward faces as she feels around, she pulls out a tiny, heavily folded paper and tosses it onto the dead woman’s chest.
Percy turns away during the whole ordeal, but Rastorn seems fascinated. He says, “All these corpses are very fresh, I would love to – “
He stops mid-sentence, when Percy steps in front of him and looks as though he is ready to beat the Necromancer.
“Peace, brother. I said, ‘I would like to’, not ‘I will’,” Rastorn rasps. When Percy turns his back again, Rastorn’s eyebrows furrow and he grits his teeth tightly behind his thin lips.
“Now all we need is to grow the scroll back to normal size, so it is usable,” Otto announces. “Where is the magical sheet of size alteration – the Sheet of Smallness?”
When everyone looks at him puzzled, Otto says, in his most whistling voice, “Oh my, I must have over-looked it! Perhaps the Orcs did not find it. Search the bodies. We are looking for a piece of cloth – like a tablecloth – with larger patterns on one side.”
Red, Rastorn, and Percy pull the other bodies out and begin searching. Soon, Red holds up a folded cloth matching the description.
“Yes, yes, that is it. Unfold it and wrap it over the scroll and within minutes the scroll will be full size again,” Otto explains.
Percy takes a stick and knocks the scroll off Lil’s chest.
Red rolls her eyes, hands the sheet to Rastorn, picks up the scroll, and unfolds it. Rastorn shakes the sheet open, checks to see which side is large print and he and Red wrap the scroll in the sheet. Then, they set it down and wait. Within two minutes the lump in the sheet has grown twice as large.
Rastorn looks to the Owl, who nods, then he unwraps the scroll. It is now full size, although still smaller than most scrolls. Rastorn folds the sheet back up and sticks it in one of the pockets of his robe.
Looking down at the open scroll, SeLiem learns he can read the strangely worded prayer written upon it. One spell: Chariot of Sustarre, a Druidical spell of the highest level, which calls forth a magical flaming chariot pulled by two magical flying steeds. He had properly prepared the body for the Raise Dead spell, while the Druid scroll was being reverted to normal size and was now ready to read the Raise Dead spell.
Melias notes the remains of the bears off to the side. So far, the Owl’s story checked out. It looked as though the Orcs or some other carnivore that came around may have taken some of the bear meat for food. Looking down at the dead Half-Elf, he can see she is not armored, just covered in a loose robe. The Orcs could have easily lifted her robe, unfastened the armor, and pulled it off. Since she was mostly covered in the coffin, they must have used the top and bottom of the robe to carry her around and toss her in. Regardless, the armor he is wearing was hers, since it is too small to fit anyone else who was in the sarcophagus. That explains why it fits too loosely in the chest, too.
The Raise Dead spell is intricate and difficult, but – with the scroll – SeLiem completes it successfully. The dead body convulses once, then trembles for almost a full minute. Regular breathing follows soon after.
Lil opens her eyes slowly. She looks around without turning her head, finally focusing on Otto, who has perched on Percy’s head. A weak smile crosses her lips. She tries to move her arms, but she is too weak and they just flop back down, like puppet arms when the strings are cut.
His lips pursed and tapping his foot, Rastorn says, “There’s a cave right there. We know they cleared it out yesterday, so why don’t we stay here while she recovers, and the young Mage and I can study our new book for a few days.”
“Regardless of what we do, we can’t just leave her here in this condition,” Orjulun asserts.
“Or we could use that Heal spell on her and be done with it. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I really don’t want to hold up in a cave for days on end. Too many things can go wrong,” Arturus says, while still scanning the area. He glances briefly down at the woman on the ground and feels extremely sorry for her. She died alongside the rest of her companions and she alone was brought back while they remained dead. The guilt she would probably have for the rest of her life was sure to be an incredible load to bear.
“I wouldn’t mind having another day to heal up before we continue our perilous journey,” Melias says, “and I wouldn’t feel right just leaving this poor lady to fend for herself in her condition.” He kneels beside the weakened Druidess and says, “Forgive our trespasses,” as he places the scroll beside her. “I assure you; we respected your privacy as much as we could to retrieve that.” He sighs and places his hand on hers. “You should know, all of your friends have died. Their fate from here on rests with you.”
Red pushes her way to Arturus, slaps him on the rear, and says, “Now ye are making sense Arturus. If SeLiem can cast Heal on the lass, she’ll be up and ready to cast in no time. Being that it was her friend’s scroll in the first place . . . ” she stops and looks around to see if anyone else supports her view.
Orjulun nods his support then says, “I agree. That would be the right thing to do. Then we could leave it up to her whether she would feel comfortable with us staying, or not.”
“If no one else wants to stay with her – I will,” Percy states flatly.
“I think you are all missing the obvious,” Rastorn interjected, “Whatever is on that scroll is likely powerful enough to protect her. Why else would she shove it up her-“
Percy cuts Rastorn off mid-sentence. “Well, that’s easy enough to find out. Red, SeLiem: what does that scroll do?”
“Maybe it could help all of us in some way,” Rastorn suggests, while staring at Otto.
With that, Otto swoops down and snatches the scroll from Lil’s side, taking it up with him to a branch high up in a nearby eucalyptus tree. “I will just keep this safe, until she is ready to cast. It is a Druidical scroll, so it may not work for these Clerics.”
Orjulun looks at SeLiem and says, “Why don’t you just cast the Heal spell on her, then we can ask her what she would prefer. She won’t be able to talk in her current condition and she has already passed out.” He points down at the previously dead female. She is sleeping soundly.
Percy begins placing the bodies back into the sarcophagus. He is more than strong enough to do it without aid.
After taking a big, slow breath, SeLiem says, “It’s worth a shot.” He unravels the Raise Dead scroll and sits next to the unconscious woman. He tries to work out the spell and discovers it is just as difficult to read as the last advanced spell he cast from a scroll. The words slip from his tongue as he asks his god to grant him strength to heal someone fully. He doesn’t dare a look to see how the spell is turning out; all full concentration is on the scroll.
Melias looks at the corpses as Percy piles them in. “Percy,” he says, “did you ever hear of a High Priest Ifon back at Goodmanville?”
“Of course,” Percy answers, “he ran Goodmanville for The Queen Mother. He was just unseated when his name was connected to the criminals who unearthed The Cube of Power. It is a pity, for he was a good man and had just saved both Goodmanville and likely Homeland when he went out with a group to destroy a rash of Undead that had been roaming the countryside.”
As Percy carefully returns the other five bodies to the large, stone casket, Melias tilts his head to the side, then catches Otto’s eye and asks, “Otto, my wise Talking Owl, you told us a little bit about your friends here, and Lilith over there. I’m presuming that one of these is Mergie, another is Brachon, and a third Hermando. But you never mentioned the other two. They are part of your party as well, yes?”
Otto’s attention is on Lil, but he answers Melias, “Yes. I only mentioned those whose valuable belongings were taken by the Orcs.”
Melias nods, then shrugs.
Once more SeLiem struggles, but is able to cast a complex spell from a scroll.
Lil wakes instantly and rises to a sitting position. She reflexively moves her left hand to her right hip, then pauses when she discovers her weapon belt is missing.
“Lil, it is I, Otto, you are safe,” Otto tells her, as he flies down with the scroll.
“I dreamed we all died, and I was told I must bring my friends back to life,” she says in a voice as silky smooth and feminine as anyone present had ever heard. She glances at her surroundings, then asks, “Who are these people?”
“They are the people who brought you back from the dead. It was not a dream, my friend. If you are well enough, you can start your quest to pull your friends back to the living right away.”
“Your friends have indeed all perished, but you have the power to bring them all back. Hurry. The chariot can take you where you need to go.”
“But what will I . . . how can I take them with me? I don’t know how long it will take. I can’t just tote around five corpses.”
“A solution is evident, young Half-Elf.”
Tipping her head side-ways, Lil stares at Otto, then down at the ground. She softly bites her upper lip, as she rises and takes stock of the strangers surrounding her and attempts to logically ascertain which one of them might have the solution she seeks.
Melias nods in agreeance, “I should say, she may be all peppy again, but she’s going to be hard pressed to tug all that dead weight about. No pun intended.” He rubs his chin thoughtfully for a short while, then questions aloud, “The scroll . . . that thing was pretty tiny before we used that magical sheet on it. I am not sure I get just how that works, but could it work on people, too? I mean, could it shrink them down? Then you could stick them in your pouch until you can find a High Priest or someone else to bring them back to life. Barring that, I’m sure Percy and I will be willing to help you give them a decent burial.”
As Percy leans his hip on the sarcophagus, Lil cringes, having spotted it for the first time.
Melias suddenly realizes Lil must have recognized that he is wearing her armor. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other and says, “Um, yeah, I found this leather on one of the Orcs that attacked you and took it as my own, but I suppose you could have it back . . . if you really want it. Otto said it came from you, so I have no doubt it was yours at one time.” He blushes and kicks a stone, admitting, “I’m just a little sick of getting nailed every time we wander into a battle. I might as well just paint a big target over my chest.”
Lil looks from Melias to Otto and back to Melias again. “If this were a month ago, I would have asked for my armor back, but I’ve learned a lot since then. You should keep it. I’d be food for the scavengers if you hadn’t brought me back.” She wiggles her lips side to side and rolls her eyes, weighing what to say, then blurts out, “As reward for helping me, keep whatever you have collected from us so far. We are even. Agree?” Without waiting for an answer, she continues, “The sheet does not work on non-magical things.” She pauses and looks at Otto.
Otto nods slightly.
Lil says, “I have a scroll which allows me to bring forth a magical flying chariot. It can carry me and seven others. I could take the bodies of my friends, but then I wouldn’t be able to really haul them around with me once the chariot dispels. Do any of you have any suggestions?”
Rastorn begins, “Well, you could-“
Otto interrupts and speaks over Rastorn. “Now think for yourself Lil! You are wise beyond your years. All you need to do is focus your thoughts.” He looks deep into her eyes. “Think. Analyze. What other solutions are there?”
Blushing, Lil closes her eyes for a while and stands completely still. When she reopens them, she shouts, “I could take these seven people with me to the . . .” She pauses to reword what she was about to say, then continues, “to the Allied Sellers Union! It is a two-day ride on horseback – when stopping to eat and sleep – so flying the chariot would get us there before the spell ran out! I wouldn’t be alone or unprotected if I took them with me and I could just ask for any extra armor or weapons they had in exchange for the ride.”
“And then . . .?” Otto coaxes.
“And then I could . . . obtain what I would need to bring my friends back to life!”
“And you may be able to get Teleported back here with a Priest,” Otto adds.
Her beautiful face is made more lovely by a joyous smile, but it disappears just as quickly.
“But how will I know something won’t happen to the bodies of my friends while I’m gone?”
“Don’t you worry about that, young lady,” Otto says. “I will stay here and make certain they are not disturbed.”
“Oh, Otto – you are magnificent!”
“Me? Why, it was you who came up with this plan, my Half-Elven friend.”
After he was interrupted, Rastorn’s frown was not well-hidden, but he smiles and nods once the conversation is over and makes an additional suggestion. “Young lady, if you require assistance in gaining what you need to get your dear friends brought back to life, we would be more than happy to assist you in that endeavor as well.”
“No, she must do that alone,” Otto says firmly.
Lil looks into the eyes of each of the party members in turn, then, with pleading eyes, softly asks, “What say you, my saviors? Is this acceptable to you all?”
Melias draws a long and concerned look at Rastorn and with a feigned appearance of confusion asks, “Who are you, and what have you done with Rastorn?” Approaching Lil, he nods in agreement. “Absolutely. It sounds like a great deal to me. We have some items we no longer need. You could have my old leather, if you don’t mind it smelling a little like Stirge droppings. I’ve got a mace and short sword on me. There were several clubs left up at the cave, as well as a set of chain mail. Does anyone want to go with me to collect the items we left up there? A safer, shorter trip to a place where we can get some answers would be beneficial to us.”
In response to Melias’ comment, Rastorn smiles a very forced smile.
“Oh, so you’re the leader of this group. I wondered. I’m thrilled you accept my proposal! Once I get the chariot up, we can take it to get the items in the cave. It will be much quicker,” Lil answers Melias.
“Leader . . . ” Rastorn says under his breath.
“Oh, no, I’m not a leader. Well, I used to be in politics back in The Nation, so maybe that’s why I seem so forward. Honestly, it’s a democracy here. We work as a group. We decide as a group.” He looks to the others and says, “I humbly apologize if I assumed too much authority.” Turning back to Lil, Melias further clarifies his point. “You see, we’ve been through so much as a group within such a short period of time that I feel I can accurately guess their consent. I’m sorry for the misconception.”
“I’d love the chance to ride on your magical chariot,” a smiling Orjulun gushes, before his excited expression sobers and he says, “I don’t feel right keeping these bracers.” He holds them out to her. “They rightfully belong to one of your party members . . . one who fights the same fight we do. My reward from this experience shall be that I have several new friends, and that is quite enough for me.”
Percy joins Red in smiling with admiration at Orjulun, then he tells Lil, “I was going to take this extra chain mail and sell it, but you can have it.”
Lil looks to Otto, who avoids her glance, then answers Orjulun, “The agreement has already been made, noble one. I want you to have them. We want you to have them. I will not take ‘no’ for an answer.” She looks down at his feet as they shuffle side to side, then says, “They served us well in our moment of glory, it is fate that you have them now for your own future great quest. Returning the balance between light and dark now falls to you – I am certain of it.” She glances around at the rest of the party and says, “All of you.”
Otto nods, then says, “You must go now, so as not to waste the daylight.”
Lil pulls forth the scroll and studies it, preparing for the casting.
Arturus shrugs. He didn’t get anything from the dead party, so he has nothing to offer back or be appreciative of. However, he really didn’t like the idea of a flying, flaming chariot. He believes an Elf’s feet should stay planted on the ground. If he were meant to fly, he’d have wings. “I have a bunch of stuff I can give over. It’ll cost you, though,” he says with a smirk.
A slight smile crosses Lil’s lips, but she does not look up from the scroll.
With a jerk of his head, Melias signals Arturus to assist him in searching for brush and branches to camouflage the sarcophagus. While they are away, he whispers, “What gives with Rastorn? That’s totally unlike him. ‘Young lady, if you require assistance in gaining what you need to get your dear friends brought back to life, we would be more than happy to assist you in that endeavor as well.'” Melias mimics in a mocking ‘Rastorn voice’.
“I know. It’s like he’s trying for a Lord Nice Guy title or something. I’m not sure, but I think I liked him better when he was like he was before. At least that was fitting for a Necromancer.”
“He’s planning something, I know it. I’ll bet his mind is on the prize. As soon as we find those mind-hoppers, he’ll show his true colors. It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t just give him the boot before it’s too late?”
“That’s not a bad idea, but how do we get rid of him without being so forward about it?”
“Who cares about being forward? What’s wrong with just saying, ‘Hit the road’? Look, we’re heading into ASU shortly. We’ll split everyone up to do various errands, and then tell Rastorn to meet us someplace across town. When he doesn’t show up where everyone else meets up, we assume he’s left us and drive on with our mission. ASU has to be too big for him to find us easily.”
As soon as Arturus and Melias walk away, Rastorn pulled Orjulun to the side. Once they are out of earshot, he says, “Listen Orjulun, my friend, I know you will forever be haunted when you wear those bracers. Perhaps it is the nature of Necromantic magic, but studying it and using it has made me someone numb to death. I would not have an issue wearing the bracers. I let you keep the wand and you have the scroll, too. I think it is in your best interest, and only fair besides, to let me have the bracers. Think of it,” he rasps, “with the wand, you will be the team’s offense – as an Invoker should be – and I, with the Bracers of Defense, will be the team’s magical defense – which better suits a Necromancer. What say you? Is your generosity only held for strangers?”
Red watches the casting of the chariot spell with great interest. This is Clerical magic of the highest order and will always be beyond her skill, so it amazes and excites her. She sits on a rock, reverently watching the entire time.
Continued in Chapter 8.2 next week!
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