The Whisperer in Darkness

Tarkus Perishing

The medics emerged from their makeshift infirmary with grave expressions, and ushered the Greil Mercenaries to meet Destel with them. In a deep, sombre voice, the chief healer relayed the news while the rest nodded or grunted along in assent. “He’s looking shit, I’m afraid. Serious head trauma, fractured skull, could even be bleeding into his addled brain”. He stopped to pick his nose and added a diplomatic “Poor sod” to make clear that, friendly insults aside, he really was concerned.

Greil looked pained, “So what can you do for him?” The chief blinked apologetically and replied, “Well… nothing. We don’t have the facilities to have a go at him here. And what’s more he’ll be dead if he doesn’t get treatment by the end of the day, and the only place near enough is Carvahall!” The other medics folded their arms at the mention of Carvahall, their lips rolled in resigned defeat. Even Destel dropped his eyes, looking troubled.

The commander frowned, “So how about we take him there, then. Put him on a wagon and go up the mountain. Destel, you already need to send men there to report the sunspeaker’s death” (At this Grimlock again displayed Nala’s severed head, something he had done at every mention of her for the last half hour) “Yes, I think they get the picture, Grimlock. They’ve all seen the head now, please put it away.” Grimlock scanned the group to make sure they had all understood that it was he who bore this trophy, then retied the gruesome object to his armour with glowing satisfaction.

Greil resumed, “Since this is the case, surely it’s entirely reasonable to lend us a wagon and some soldiers?” Destel shook his head reluctantly, “It’s not a smart move, Greil. Carvahall is at the top of the mountain, and with it raining as it is the terrain will be slippery as shit. Some nasty bastards out and about, too. Buggers would love a slow-moving pack of tired and wounded to snack on. Hell, they’ve eaten prime goliaths in days gone by!” As if to enforce the futility of the proposal, a heavy sheet of rain suddenly smacked into all present, heralding the arrival of a storm. Some eavesdropping soldiers barked harshly – it would just be foolhardy to go anywhere now.

For Destel this decided the matter, “No, I can’t allow it. You can do as you please, but my men stay where they are until the rain passes”. But Greil was persistent, arguing Tarkus’ case for several more minutes. After winning over the medics (who could certify the urgency of his condition and never liked to lose a patient), the diplomatic wizard eventually managed to talk his way into getting the wagon and two goliath volunteers to help guard it. This being so, the Mercenaries set out within the hour and were lost to sight within the great grey deluge.

The next hours were incredibly difficult, remembered later as glimpses of straining bodies illuminated by flashes of lightning, with all sound and scenery drowned out by the weight of the rain. Grimlock and the goliath soldiers took turns pulling the wagon up the steep hills and valleys leading ever up the mountain. Unaffected by the violent gale, Euven balanced adeptly on the wagon’s top, his eyes sharp enough to pick out foggy shapes through the storm’s great blanket. Greil walked alongside with Gregg and Ellana, the latter of whom had chosen to accompany the group up to Carvahall, much to Euven’s suspicion.

On the way back from the Kruthik cave, the young woman had explained a little about herself. She was a traveller from a village in Pescado to the north. Her father had taken her to live in Gerelden for several years, where she studied magic for a time. Eventually she had left. She claimed to have witnessed the crash of the dragon, but was captured by the Sunspeaker when she went to investigate. Nala had kept her in the cave, bound by her arcane power, draining magic from her at regular intervals until the bonds were broken during her battle with Grimlock and Tarkus. Now Elanna seemed eager to accompany the group, and Greil suspected that she might even want to join it. If not for her proximity to the dragon and sunspeaker, he may even have considered it – she seemed completely genuine.

The storm continued unabated, howling on for a drenching eternity. Fortunately, Tarkus’ unmoving body remained relatively dry, covered by a stretched leather sheet cut to fit the wagon – surprisingly, Euven’s idea. It held admirably against the weather, and thanks to the efforts of the party also suffered no abuse during an attack by a pack of small, ferocious, werewolf-like creatures. The goliath soldiers, Hann and Gilligan, proved to be of a useless sort, wetly choosing to stand guard at the safe side of the wagon while Elanna and the Mercenaries risked their necks nearby.

The battle ended well, with no significant injuries to the defenders despite numerous falls in liquid mud. As soon as the last of the attackers was dead, Euven asked permission to go look for a humanoid figure he had seen through the rain just before the attack. Commander Greil denied this request, considering the information that stood to be gained by sending one elf to hunt a shadow in a thunderstorm not to be worth the risk of the trouble it might bring. The wagon resumed its slow journey up the great mountain, ever finding there to be another peak atop each one scaled. Eventually a road was discovered, raising group morale for the last leg of the journey.

By the time Carvahall came into sight the rain had eased slightly, though this was due more to the lofty altitude than a change of weather. The party were filthy, sodden and exhausted, but took heart at the sight of fire and shelter. They arrived just before sunset. The stronghold was built into the flat side of a tall cliff, not far from the mountain’s peak, as is typical of goliath cities. Hann managed to run ahead to deliver Destel’s message while Gilligan guided the wagon to a reputable doctor’s clinic. Tarkus was deposited in capable hands, and Gilligan offered the Mercenaries the use of his home for the night. They gladly accepted and made their way there without delay.

Though certainly worried about the welfare of Tarkus, they knew they had done all they could. Greil prepared a large meal for all save Gregg (who cooked himself a monster egg on toast), then there was an angry disagreement between Greil, Ellana and Grimlock on whether Grimlock should be allowed to “ravage” Ellana. The dragonborn attempted to barge Greil out of the way, was knocked back by the wizard’s magic and then made to try again, leading Euven to draw his sword and Ellana to promise she’d blow him up if he came any closer. Skullfucker prolonged the tension for several moments before giving up and going to the pub to sulk.

As it happens, Euven visited the same establishment by chance an hour later. Choosing to ignore the dragonborn, the elf took a seat at the bar and ordered an ale. He received a pitcher of guhlayl, which to his refined palate still tasted like the runoff from cattle bedding, so he spent the following half hour taking pretend sips whilst pouring most of the drink onto the floor. He was just picking himself up to leave when he was hailed by a fellow patron – an extremely drunk Carvallian who wanted to talk business – mercenary business.

… but not until the morning, apparently. Right now he was too intoxicated to do much more than smile, laugh and sway. Euven agreed to meet the lumbering giant the next morning, then made for the pub’s exit without a backwards glance. Eventually even Grimlock returned to Gilligan’s house to sleep, by which time Greil and Euven were bunked outside the door to Elanna’s room – partly to make sure that Grimlock didn’t come knocking and partly because Euven still mistrusted her. Before going to sleep, the elf explained his suspicions to the Commander (what if she were the dragon’s rider?), but Greil trusted his instincts on the girl – she meant no harm.



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