–Dark of the Moon, ch. 2–
In which the companions fight off a pack of wolves, many of which think Danath is their leader.
They sat at the bar sipping their drinks. Nadarr had exchanged his weak beer for a pina colada, much to the chagrin of Malric, the bartender. The Dragonborn kept his mouth shut when the fruity drink was delivered in a stein without a little umbrella. In the meantime, Elendithas’s mouth was anything but shut.
“I’m from Thousand Spires you know, the daughter of a noble family. I was bored with my studies so I stowed away on – get this – on a pirate ship bound for who knows where! The pirates found me and just as I was heading for the plank, I…”
“Really? Pirates this far north. I don’t think so, lass.” The dwarf Malric stared at her, while he absent-mindedly cleaned the already spotless bar.
“Oh, all right. My father promised me to some old nobleman for marriage and I ran away. I did get to Cold Harbor by boat, but it wasn’t a pirate ship. And I’m not really a world famous bard either. Not yet anyway.”
Elendithas sulked into her wine glass.
“I got here by boat, too,” said Norros, attempting to find a point of contact with the tipsy Elend.
“Of course you got here by boat,” said Malric, rubbing the bar more vigorously with his towel. “We’re on an island.”
“Speaking of the island,” said Nadarr. “Is there anything to do around here. I suddenly find myself lacking employment.”
The bartender flipped the towel onto his shoulder and started pouring Danath and Norros another round. “Well, there’s the university next door. Always some party or other going on there. Don’t go to the Narrows. Nasty place, that. Word around the tavern of late was a bloody vicious attack happened at a farm south of here. We don’t usually have a lot of violence on Hourglass Island. Tis a small place full of generally decent people.”
“What kind of attack?”
“Don’t rightly know what did it. But the whole of Darif’s flock was slaughtered in one night. Dozens and dozens of sheep just lying there dead on the ground.”
“Is there coin involved in helping figure out what did this?” said Norros, sitting up with interest.
“I’m just the owner of this tavern, lad. You’d have to go to the governor’s mansion if you want to get all official with payment and the like.”
“Let’s sleep on it,” said Elendithas, yawning into her now empty glass. “I’m tired.”
They parted ways for the evening: Danath to his campsite in the woods, Elend and Norros to rooms above the tavern, and Nadarr to the streets of Cold Harbor looking for more activity.
Late the next morning, they met at the Wheel. “Why are you wearing a toga?” asked Norros, as Nadarr shuffled wearily into view.
“Long story,” said Nadarr. “Party at the college.”
“Apparently not that long,” said Danath.
“Come on, let’s go see if we can get some money for investigating this farm incident.” Norros began herding them toward the governor’s mansion.
“What’s it with you and money?” asked Elendithas.
“Only people with more than enough money ask questions like that.”
When they arrived at the mansion, Elendithas did her best impression of the noblewoman she actually was to bluff them inside, and after (reluctantly) surrendering their weapons, they were met by a Halfling scurrying toward them down the hall.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my. I’m so sorry, but ah… my schedule must be in error, for I don’t have you on the list and the governor is not here right now, for she is campaigning on the south coast of Hourglass. I’m so sorry, oh my, oh my. Perhaps you might consent to talk to me. I’m Femi Ren, the governor’s assistant, a poor replacement to be sure, but – dear, dear – desperate times and all that…”
“Yes, Mr. Ren, that would do nicely,” said Elendithas. “Thank you for making time. We heard about an attack on a farm nearby, and we’d like to go investigate.”
“You’re investigators?” asked Ren, and he clapped his hands together, causing the big stack of papers to slip through his arms and scatter across the floor. “Usually we’d have to apply to Torniel-by-the-Sea to send someone to deal with this nasty business, but the paperwork is dreadful. How do I know you can do the job?”
“We just solved the mystery of Runcel’s death at the excavation site yesterday.”
“Runcel, the archaeologist is dead! Oh my, oh my, oh my.”
“We killed the ghoul who killed him, along with a whole army of giant rats,” said Elendithas.
“Army of giant rats?” said Danath, but Elend stepped on his foot and he wisely shut up.
“We dropped his body at the University morgue last night,” she continued.
“Oh my, oh my, oh my,” was all Femi Ren could manage.
“So that’s settled then,” said Elendithas. “We’ll head to the farm straightaway.”
“There’s just the matter of payment,” interrupted Norros.
“I’m sure we can arrange something,” said the frazzled Halfling.
The sun was setting as they came upon the Darif farm south of Cold Harbor. The odor of the dead sheep hit them before they could see the field of carnage spread before them. Danath knelt by the nearest carcass and examined it. “Wolves, no doubt about it.”
“Course it were wolves,” came a voice behind them. “Great big lot of `em two nights ago, howlin’ up a storm.”
Danath stood up and the four adventurers approached the speaker. “Name’s Jerol Darif. I am the proprietor of this here farmstead.” The way Mr. Darif said the word “proprietor” made it sound like he had practiced it. “Come on in the house over yonder and we’ll tell you the whole story.”
The party entered the thatched-roof farmhouse and made their introductions. Jerol’s wife Bela plied them with bitterroot tea, which only Elendithas and Nadarr were polite enough to accept. Nadarr took one sip and spit it out. Elendithas, with practiced refinery, put her mug to her mouth several times without taking in more than the first sip.
“Twere two nights ago. Me and Bela were in bed a’sleeping when we heard a racket fit to wake the moon. A dozen howls or more. We stayed snugged under them covers ‘til it were over.”
“You didn’t see the wolves, though?” asked Norros.
“Didn’t need to see `em. Could hear `em right enough. Last several weeks, hearing them howls every night. Must be the moons. Something strange going on. When’d it start, dearie?”
Bela sipped her tea thoughtfully. “You know, come to think of it, I `member hearing the first howls about the day the town crier came through carrying on about Duke Esris dying. Must a’ been three weeks ago.”
“Arlan Esris, Duke of Torniel?” asked Norros.
“That’s the one. Don’t know how he died. Crier just said he died.”
“Are the two connected?” asked Elendithas.
“Couldn’t say,” said Jerol. “Don’t seem likely, though, do it. Dead Duke a hundred miles away and a wolf attack on our poor farm.”
Just as Jerol finished saying “wolf,” a howl rent the air. The sun was down and thick twilight had settled over the farm. Another howl and another, and soon a chorus of them called to the moons.
“Oh no, here they comes again. They must’ve tracked you to the farm. What do they want with us? All the sheep’re dead.” Jerol took Bela by the hand and dashed into the bedroom, slamming the door behind them.
“Four. No, make that five of them,” said Danath, as he strung his longbow by the open window. “Barricade the door.”
“Let me out first,” said Nadarr. “I’m not use in the house.”
“You’re no use dead, either,” said Norros. Nadarr stared daggers at the rogue, hefted his battleaxe, and went outside.
Norros was putting arrow to bow as Danath’s first shaft flew. It took the lead wolf in the shoulder, and Norros’s own finished it off. Two more were on Nadarr in the work of a moment, but the paladin’s chain mail shrugged off their bites. Elendithas swore out the windows at the wolves, but they took no notice. Then the biggest wolf Elend had ever seen dashed up the path and slammed into the door of the farmhouse. A cracking sound told her the door wasn’t long for this world. The dire wolf backed away ready to spring again. Two more arrows flew from the Half-Elves, one streaking off into the cornfield, the other burying deep in the haunch of a wolf. The injured wolf slunk around the side of the house licking its wound.
As a sixth wolf came racing up the path, Nadarr turned to the dire wolf and released a cloud of poison gas from his mouth. The dire wolf yelped and backed away, its fur singed and nose blistered. But as Nadarr turned back to face the oncoming wolf, it pounced and got hold of the Dragonborn’s neck above his armor. A second wolf attacked too, and Nadarr was soon in the dirt, unconscious and bleeding.
Slam. The door buckled again. Thinking quickly, Danath put down his bow, placed both hands in a cone around his mouth, and howled. It was bloodcurdlingly accurate. The two wolves worrying Nadarr’s unconscious form put their tails between their legs, stepped up to the windowsill below Danath, and sat down. The injured wolf leapt through the far window in an attempt to get to this new alpha. Elendithas dispatched it with her rapier as it walked past.
“Who knew that would work?” said Danath with a grin. “Well, almost. That big one wasn’t fooled.”
Just then, Elendithas dove out the window. Keeping her distance from the big wolf outside, she strummed her lyre, and a wave of healing energy lit Nadarr’s body. He stirred and sat up, feeling for his battleaxe in the semi-darkness. Elendithas looked at the dire wolf and insulted it before clambering back in the window.
The dire wolf did not take kindly to her words. Leaving the door, the wolf followed her through the window, but it misjudged the height and landed awkwardly on the kitchen floor. Norros seized his chance with a precise blow from his shortsword which left the dire wolf bleeding from the neck. It’s yelp of pain was answered by another howl from the cornfield.
“We’ve got more company,” said Danath as he swung his bow around and leveled an arrow at the invading dire wolf. The arrow took the wolf through the ear and pinned it to the wall, where it bled out from the neck wound Norros had administered.
“Guys, this one’s really big,” said Elendithas as the new dire wolf launched itself into the house. It landed better than the first and knocked down Elendithas in the process. Outside, Nadarr cleaved one of the remaining wolves in half before the other tucked tail and ran. Not wanting it to warn the rest of the pack, Danath took aim and brought it down.
Looking back to the kitchen, Danath watched the new dire wolf take a chunk out of Elend’s torso right after she had put her rapier through its shoulder. She slumped down and knew no more. “Nadarr, we need you,” called Danath as he let fly an arrow at the big wolf.
The Dragonborn leapt through the open window, knocking down Danath in the process and charged the dire wolf. As he did so, the wolf opened up the artery in Norros’s leg and he fell, spurting blood. Nadarr got in in one good hack before he too fell victim to the wolf’s jaws.
The dire wolf stared at Danath across the house. It had Elend’s rapier, Norros’s shortsword, and one of Danath’s own arrows sticking from it, but it was still standing. Danath nocked an arrow and drew it back, whispering to the fletching. The wolf leaned back on its hind legs ready to lunge. Danath exhaled slowly and released. The arrow took the wolf in the ear like the last one and pinned it next to its fellow on the wall. The wolf’s open wounds did the rest.
“Mr. and Mrs. Darif,” yelled Danath. “I need you. The wolves are dead. Help me!”
Bela Darif, a midwife by trade, poured bitterroot tea in Elendithas’s mouth who came to spluttering. “Thank you, ma’am,” she said. “Help Nadarr, too.”
As Bela shifted to the Dragonborn, Elend sat up and strummed a healing song on her lyre. Norros stirred, got up, and walked to the two dire wolves hanging from the wall like hunting trophies. He pulled a knife from his boot and sliced an ear off the bigger wolf. “You earned this,” he said, handing it to his fellow Half-Elf.
Just then, a hacking cough came from Nadarr.
“If you didn’t like my tea before,” said Bela, “here’s bettin’ you do now.”
“What’s it made of,” said Nadarr.
“Bitterroot,” she said, pointing to the ceiling.
Danath looked up and laughed. “It’s Athelas. Best healing properties in all Sularil.”
“How about you give us a jug to go,” said Nadarr.
Written by Adam Thomas, Dungeonmaster
Jarrod Antkowiak as Norros Arborshade
Allissa Leonard as Nadarr Kasdann
Jack Leonard as Danath Errandir
Leah Thomas as Elendithas Day