A Welcome Surprise
After climbing for what felt like hours, we reached the shelter of the shallow cave. Inside was just larch enough to lay our bedrolls out around a small fire and so, exhausted and starving we sat down to a meal of neatly wrapped sandwiches and desserts from the train, which Rook had thought to bring along with him. We ate in silence for a while, giving me time to survey the landscape that lay before us. From the mouth of the shallow cave we could see for miles; the still burning Elvin camp to the East, and the wreck of the tram to the North, all glowing eerily in the moonlight. It was beautiful, in an odd way. Almost, unreal.
“I wonder” Rook said quietly from his perch at the edge of the cliff, his voice was back to it’s normal lilting songlike sound, though horse from the strain of screeching, “if I could ‘Iron Spike of Dis’ the rest of the little bastards from here.” he began to make the motion with his hands I had seen him make on the tram that would summon a swirling iron spike straight out of hell itself.
“Don’t even think about it Rook!” I yelled from the other side of the camp.
He stopped, and turned to look at me with a wicked little grin that told me he was only teasing when he said, “Oh come on Andraste. You’re no fun.” He winked at me and said, with a little more seriousness to his tone “Although it really is unlikely that they would have caught us. It’s pitch black and I don’t think they can see this far out.”
Though highly amused, I remained straight faced. His antics had me recalling a very dear old friend, and the more time I spent in his company the more pronounced the resemblance between the two men grew. All the more reason to remain aloof. I didn’t know if I could take another loss.
Artfully concealing the laughter in my voice, pinching the bridge of my nose, and looking down so that he couldn’t see the smile that was slowly creeping to my lips i said “Look, I don’t care if they couldn’t see us. We don’t need to cause any more trouble than is necessary. OK?” then remembering the conversation I had, had with Patches on the way up I added looking up “Besides, we might need them alive later. Right Patches?”
The minotaur looked up from cleaning his ax, and grunted in agreement.
“They may know something about the tram wreck.” Arc piped up, a smile on his lips, “The only way to find out, however, is to keep them alive and ask them ourselves.”
“An excellent plan my friend. But with one little hitch.” Rook signed, pinching the bridge of his nose in an exasperated manor “We just turned their entire camp into a gigantic pile of ash!! I don’t really think that they’ll be very keen on talking to us. Do you?”
Arc chuckled and, shaking his finger at Rook, said “Ah, correction my friend. They only ever saw you and me. They never saw Patches and Andraste.”
“But Andraste cast the wall of fire!! It’s not exactly inconspicuous you know!!!” Rook’s expression changed from confused, to exasperated, to furious, and back to confused in the small span of just a few seconds; sending me into a fit of silent giggles.
Arc, obviously fighting not to join in my amusement, said “Ah you are correct, but you see they probably don’t know that. Think about it. You, yourself were a ball of fire. Wouldn’t it be logical that you could have caused the wall as well? They never saw Andraste, even when she ran off. They were too preoccupied with the flames to notice anything else.”
Comprehension dawned on Rook’s face at last “So, what you’re saying” he said tentatively “is that we send Patches and Andraste in on a sort of recon mission?” Arc nodded and smiled as Rook continued on, “THAT’S BRILLIANT!! But what are we going to do?”
“I thought we could see what we can find out about that tram wreck ourselves, and maybe see what we can scavenge. Supplies are scarce you know, and we need to take what we can get. I guarantee you that absolutely nobody on that tram is alive, and if I know the Tristfall gaurds, they will have already cleared out the bodies and taken any survivors back to the city. They will send a crew out tomorrow or within the next week to start the cleanup and repairs. What I propose is that you and I go check that out while...”
“Patches and I go make nice with the elves.” I cut him off before he could ramble on anymore “I think he understands now Arc.” Opening his mouth as though to retort, Arc turned to me, and instantly closed it, nodding. I suppose my impatience to start planning must have shown. We spent the next hour going over possible scenarios, and eventually decided that we would depart out at dawn. I was to ride on Patches shoulder to save time. Rook and Arc go back to the tram to salvage any valuables, and find out what caused the wreck.
Arc would part, rather unwillingly, with one of his mechanical spiders that Patches and I could use as a bargaining tool if need be. We assumed they would want a replacement sacrifice for Arc.
By around three in the morning we had it all planned out. The sun would rise at around eight and we all had a long walk ahead of us, so we settled down to catch as much sleep as we could. Or in my case taking a fireproof pillow out of my bag and meditating for a couple hours on top of the warm embers from the fire. Due to this I was up before the others, and began packing everything away and readying our packs.
I was in the process of checking that my spell book was firmly secured to my hip, and clearing the ashes from our fire when I glanced out to the east. The Elves had begun packing up what was left of their charred camp. “Wonderful” I muttered, “We’re going to have to run.”
“I’ll say you are.” The sudden answer to my statement made me jump, and nearly fall off the edge of the clif. Rook was standing behind me, a sparkle in his eye that reminded me, yet again, of my old friend, and I briefly wondered how he was doing. I hadn’t seen him in almost 100 years. “You’re going to need to get Patches moving,” he began rummaging in his pack, “and lucky for you I know just how to do that.” he pulled out a rather large flask and held it out to me. “This, my dear, is the best way to get the big guy moving.”
“What is it?” I ask leaning back slightly, mildly appalled by the dirtiness of the flask.
He smiled, opened the flast, took a quick swig, and said, with a soft chuckle, “Mead. Patches is an alcoholic. His favorite drink? Mead. He’ll do anything for it. He has a flask on him at all times, but hang this in front of him while he’s running and he’ll forget all about it, and follow this. Oh, don’t look at me like that.” I had raised a disapproving eyebrow at him in response to the demeaning suggestion. “He’s the one that follows it. Not my fault.”
As if on que Patches began to talk in his sleep “Mead.” He grunted, cuddling his ax closer “Big Bertha” he said next. I looked at Rook confused.
“It’s the ax.” he said with a chuckle “That’s the ax he used to kill his brothers, and everyone else that has ever stood in his way. He’s rather attached to it.”
He handed me the flask, walked back over to his own bag, and began to rummage again, pulling out his jar of spiders. “Well I’ll be damned.” he chuckled holding the jar up to his eyes “The little bastards have started building a statue.” he held the jar out to me to see and I could hear little yells of “THE OVERLORD IS PLEASED!!! KEEP BUILDING!!!”
Arc woke just before sunrise, and the three of us flipped a coin to settle who would be the one to wake Patches. Unfortunately I lost, and was pushed towards the sleeping, battle ax wielding, Minotaur. I prayed to Bás that he was a morning person because I was rather fond of keeping my head on my shoulders. That’s when I got an idea. When I was in collage my friend Lucas, a very skilled assassin, had taught me how to turn myself invisible. He had meant it figuratively, but I figured out how to really do it. Looking back at Rook and Arc with a wink, I said the quick little incantation and walked back behind the sleeping Minotaur. “Patches” I whispered in his ear “Patches, wake up.” that had no effect so I covered his massive nose with my hand and heated it up just enough that smoke started to rise. He jolted awake and looked around swinging his ax, and barely missing me in the process.
Wanting to have a little more fun I started to whisper in his ear “Patches, do you know who I am? I’m your conscience Patches.” Rook burst out laughing, and I continued “It’s been quite some time since we last spoke Patches. That makes me sad.” by this point Rook was rolling on the floor of the cave, and Patches was fully awake.
“Andraste,” he growled, “I’m not stupid. Show yourself.” I did as he asked, we all had a good laugh, and soon we began to set the climbing gear and repel down, with me riding on Patches’ massive shoulder.
Rook reached the bottom first, and we were far enough up that I could have a little fun at his expense. I brought a small fireball to my fingertips, making it look like I was simply playing with it. Then, without warning, I threw it at his feet. He screamed so loud you would think that the elves would have heard, and I began to laugh. “Hey!!” He yelled up at me “Come on Lasair it hurts enough when I do that. It’s worse from an external source!!!”
“Lasier?” I muttered, only one person had ever called me Lasier.
Excitement, joy like I hadn’t felt in years filled my chest as I stared down at the smiling face below me. I finally recognized him. His spiked up hair, and deep set eyes. They had changed colors but they were still his eyes, and hair. The same long nose, and high cheekbones, the same scar across his neck. And there it was, once he saw the look on my face, the same crooked smile that had turned so many bad days into some of the best memories I would ever have. He had been here the whole time and I hadn’t seen it. My best friend in the whole world. My Lucas.