Howl of the Carrion King – Chapter Forty-five

Chapter Forty-five
The Fate of Felliped

They continued their search of the manor but found little else of interest. It was clear that the gnolls had been living here at least part of the time, though they always seemed to be hiding their tracks. They were likely guards who had been shirking their duties. If they weren’t already dead they would certainly have regretted their inattentiveness.

Bree was happy to find herself back out in the sun. The upper floors of the manor had stunk like wet dog. She gripped Tempest tightly in her hands. It kept her cool. Helped her focus.

The next building they came to had a broken sign swinging out front and a large, half-collapsed stable attached to its back. It probably used to be Kelmarane’s Inn. It looked barren, but Bree was cautious just the same. They searched around the perimeter.

“No one’s been in here,” Santon complained. “Let’s just go.”

Kelestair shook his head. “Tracking is not my specialty. I cannot be sure.”

Bree nodded. “Kelestair’s right. We’d better check it out.”

Santon groaned and cast another wistful look up the cliffside to Upper Kelmarane. Was he still pining for that harpy? He’d better snap out of it soon. His recklessness could get them all killed.

They entered the building as they had all the others, though Santon soon lagged behind, falling to the back of the line, leaving Bree to lead. With little room to fly, Husk lurched after them in his awkward, hopping gait.

The inside of the inn proved to be much nicer than the outer facade had suggested. What Bree had thought was the building collapsing was simply the outer layer of tiles, bricks and decorations. From the inside it was easy to tell the building itself was not only still whole, but also still stable. The inn was, as they had expected, empty.

They moved into the stables. Bree heard heavy breathing from somewhere ahead, but couldn’t pinpoint its location. She raised her hand, signaling everyone to stop. She strained her hearing, trying to locate the noise. It was breathing, alright. Heavy. Fast. Panicked, even. It was scared, whatever it was. Cautiously, Bree moved towards the sound. “Show yourself.” “Y-y-you’re p-p-eeeeeople?” the voice asked. “N-n-n-not gnolls?”

Bree nodded. “Yes, we’re human. We’re here to help.”

A shape in the darkness ahead shifted, and then threw itself at Bree’s feet. She tensed, but didn’t move.

“Oh, p-p-praise the gods!” the man stuttered. He was wounded and obviously terrified. Though some of the wounds marring his pale skin looked to be from combat, many more appeared to be the result of torture. He wore a dented helmet upon his head, a torn and near useless leather shirt, and clutched a rusted spear in his shaking hands. “Take me aw-w-w-way from here! Quick before – “

“Greetings, Felliped.”

The man’s eyes widened. “K-k-k-kelestair? Oh! I- I would have come b-b-b-back for you, of c-c-course!”

Kelestair made no reaction and Felliped continued to stammer out an apology.

“I w-w-w-won’t say annnn-y anything! Didn’t! Didn’t say anything! Ab-b-bout you to anyone. To the gnoooooolls, I mean!”

Kelestair nodded once. “I am certain you would not have revealed any of our comrades secrets or history to the gnolls. You are far too smart for that, are you not, my friend?”

Felliped nodded vigorously.

“I am sure that you would have returned for Oxvard and I, as I have returned for you, Felliped. Do not fear my retribution.”

Felliped continued to nod. “Did you b-b-b-bring back Elsbeth?”

Kelestair froze. “Elsbeth died, Felliped. She could not be saved.”

“Y-yes, but did you b-b-bring her back?”

“She is gone, Felliped,” Kelestair said through gritted teeth. “There would not be much left for you to bury.”

Bree frowned. Poor Felliped was obviously traumatized. He was having trouble letting go and Kelestair was finding it difficult to talk about his deceased friends. Bree could understand. She found it hard to even think of Nes, never mind to speak of him…

Felliped nodded again. “Yes, but…”

“Enough on this topic, Felliped. Do not speak of it. She is gone. I cannot change that. Pray to your devil god if you wish her returned to you.”

Felliped fell silent. Bree froze.

His devil god? Felliped worshipped Asmodeus? Of course, he did. How could she be so foolish? Kelestair had said that he and his comrades were pathfinders from Cheliax. Everyone there worshipped the Devil Lord Asmodeus.

With shaking hands, Bree opened her eyes, and widened her sight, taking in the auras around her. She sighed in relief. Despite his evil patron, Felliped was not evil himself. His devil-god’s taint had not suffused his soul.

Bree blinked, allowing the auras to slip away. She offered her hand out to Felliped. “Come on. Let’s get you someplace safe.”

To her surprise, Kelestair shook his head. “We should continue on while the light is on our side.”

“Yes,” said Santon. “Hand the man some new gear and give him directions back to the monastery.”

“What? You want to send him back alone?”

Santon nodded. “The way is clear. He’ll make it.”

“No!” Bree growled.

“He could wait here for us, if you are opposed to his traveling alone,” Kelestair said somberly.

“I can’t believe you two!” Bree looked at Kelestair. “This man is your friend and you’re more worried about the light?” She shook her head in disappointment. Kelestair did not shrink under her gaze. She turned her gaze to Santon. “And you’re just worried about how long it will take you to kill Karsdwann and get back to your harpy whore!”

Kelestair shook his head and Santon glared right back at her.

“I was simply looking out for the entire group’s best interests,” Kelestair said calmly. “We do not know when the gnolls will discover us and attack the monastery. Our time must be used wisely.”

“Do what you want, Bree,” Santon spat. “But don’t talk about what you don’t know. Kardswann is not my only concern.”

Bree frowned. “Come on, Felliped. I’ll take you to safety.”

Felliped reached up a quivering hand. “Thank you,” he whispered.

Bree clutched his hand and pulled him to his feet. To her relief, neither Kelestair, nor Santon made any further complaints. She led Felliped out of the inn, past the harpy’s lair, across the river and out of Kelmarane with her comrades following silently behind.

Felliped smiled when he passed the town’s eastern boundary, and straightened up slightly. Bree smiled in turn. This was the right thing to do. The gnolls could wait. The entire journey Felliped’s smile never faltered. When the monastery drifted into sight, he cried in relief.

Her comrades remained silent the whole trip.

Bree shrugged. They would get over it.

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