Satchel No More
“We need to be a family.” - Saria
“We found it!” Narissa shouted as she reached the top of the stairs leading to the entrance hall.
For nearly a week they’d stayed cooped up in Shaunna’s house as the rain poured from the sky. Shaunna had insisted that her guest were not to help in the cleaning and repair of her home. The princesses had argued that they were practically family, and helped anyway. Taren spent most of his time in the armory casting metal rods and fixing the practice equipment. Parel and Narissa had set about the daunting task of figuring out how the intruder had entered the house in the first place.
Shaunna, Taren and Ellie descended the stairs, following the lead of the other two. Past the armoury, and down another flight of stairs and into a large, dark, room the group travelled at a quick pace. Ellie let out a short trumpet blast from her long nose causing the room to light up.
Irregular stacks of boxes indicated that they were in a storeroom of some sort. The seemingly random positioning of the boxes created labyrinthine passages throughout the cavernous room.
Oddly, the destruction that was so prevalent through the rest of the house was not found here.
Narissa led them through the boxes with unerring accuracy. Within minutes the group was inspecting a group of boxes stacked against the wall.
“Look.” Narrisa was excited as she pointed to deep grooves in the floor.
Taren and Shaunna crouched with their heads together as they examined the marks. It was clear that the passage was once used heavily, however a layer of dust indicated that some time had passed since the last use.
Taren stood to examine the stack. The boxes were attached to each other, probably to keep them from falling when they moved. The bottom of the stack sat on the metal plate that had scored the floor. It took him several minutes to find the hinges that were expertly concealed along the wall to the left of the pile.
Grabbing the pile of boxes, he pulled. He wasn’t really expecting anything to happen, so he wasn’t surprised when the boxes didn’t move.
“That would have been too easy.” He muttered. “There must be a switch around here somewhere?”
The others watched him in silence as he moved meticulously searched for the means to open the hidden door.
He thoughtfully ran his hand over everything with a light, masterful, touch. Searing pain shot though his hand, and up his arm. Blood began to drip from several holes that appeared on his hand. He swayed slightly as his vision began to blur and his limbs grew leaden.
Ellie hissed loudly, the fine fur all over her body standing on end. Power shone from her eyes as she dashed towards the box where Taren was now lying on the floor. AS eqach step carried her closer, her size increased, until she was the size of a large horse.
Crashing through the boxes, her trunk wrapped around something that only Parel could see. Sickly green scales dangled from beneath the large magic creature’s trunk. Something very reptile like, but Ellie was swinging it so much it was hard for Parel to get a good look at it.
A resounding crack echoed through the room, and the wild squealing came to an abrupt stop.
A pool of a bright green liquid pooled beneath Ellie’s feet as she shrank to her normal size.
“What just happened?” Shaunna asked.
Parel raised her hands to silence any speculation. “I think something is wrong. Look at her.” She gestured towards Ellie.
Ellie was nudging Taren’s hand with her forehead. When he didn’t move she would turn toward the group, whimper, and then do it all again.
“She is saying that Taren has been poisoned.” Tears began to leak from Parel’s eyes as she relayed Oran’s interpretation of the situation.
“HOPE!” Shaunna yelled, knowing full well that he wouldn’t be able to hear her. Grabbing Taren by the arms, she started to drag him toward the stairs. Parel grabbed his feet, in an attempt to help her.
They hadn’t gotten very far when Hope and Saria ran into the room.
“What happened?” Hope forced the words out while trying to catch his breath.
“Taren’s been poisoned.” Shaunna explained. “I think he was bitten by one of the magical creatures.”
Hope raised an eyebrow. “Really, Shaunna. I would expect such rubbish from you the least of anyone”
Taren’s hands slapped the floor as Shaunna released them. Grabbing Hope’s collar, she pinned him to the nearby wall. The others stepped back as she pinned the much larger Hope with great ease.
“Listen you pompous...” She stopped mid-insult. “Taren is dying. Either you help him, or you will join him. Am I making myself clear?”
Hope just nodded.
Shaunna release him, and he hurried to Taren’s side.
“What did this?”
Shaunna gestured to the green puddle. The green liquid continued to leak from on object located in the center, but it was still unseen. The disturbance in the middle of the pool the only indication that anything was there.
Ellie emitted a short blast from her trunk, and the creature came into sight.
A green, draconic, creature appeared. Green fur covered its lithe body, much like Ellie. Its head angled unnaturally where Taren’s protector had broken its neck. Green blood oozed from its mouth and nostrils. Massive fangs protruded from its upper jaw, the unnatural angle caused by the break caused the fangs to pierce it’s own chest.
Hope lifted Taren into his arms, sprinting up the stairs.
Shauuna ran to her room to grab her pouch. She didn’t stop moving as she grabbed the small leather purse, pushing her arm into it clear to the shoulder searching for her poison kit. She knew it was there, she just had to find it.
As she approached the dead creature, she pulled two beakers, some tongs, and a pair of thin leather gloves from the pouch. Without ceremony, she donned the gloves and set to work. Drawing two wood sticks from the pouch, she stooped and began to push as much green blood into the first beaker as she could. When she was satisfied, she stoppered the beaker and stuffed it into her bag.
Without hesitation she moved to the creature’s head. Careful to avoid contact with the blood, she dislodged the fangs from the feathery scaled chest. As she did so a cascade of green fluid poured onto the floor, enlarging the puddle that she was trying so hard to avoid. Her island of safety was dwindling as she began to stroke the poison gland of the dead creature. Thick crimson fluid flowed from the hollow fangs. She had no doubt that the poison would be deadly. It had incapacitated Taren in a matter of moments.
She only hoped that the healers could keep him alive until she finished.
The vial was only half full of the viscous liquid when she found herself lying on the floor outside of the bloody circle. Ellie emitted a short blast from her trunk directly in her face.
“I’m sorry.” She said, not exactly sure why she was apologizing.
Without a backward glance, Ellie turned and trotted from the room.
Gathering herself, and her pouch, she followed the small creature into the hall. She quickly traversed the distance to her room to continue her project.
“What really happened down there?” Hope asked. He’d seen the creature, but he just couldn’t bring himself to admit that his mother had been wrong about this. If she was wrong, if the creatures really did exist, what else had she been wrong about? The thought was just inconceivable.
“That creature must have bit him.” Parel answered. “After that, you really know just as much as the rest of us.”
“Hope, you have to come to the realization that there is much that your disbelief causes you to miss. I know how you felt about your mother. I was very fond of her as well. Her skepticism did wear thin at times.” Maxx softly chastised him. “I’ve told you before that the creatures are real. I have also mentioned that your mother was probably wrong about the connection between the children and the prophecy. I believe that Paron was probably correct.”
“Well, we need to save Taren, or it won’t matter who was wrong about what.” Hope snapped, drawing strange looks from Parel.
He carried Taren into his room, and laid him on the bed. “Where is the bite located?” He asked.
Parel lifted Taren’s right hand, showing Hope the puncture wounds.
Hope grabbed the hand, causing blue light to flow from his hands. The light changed, turning black. “I have never seen that happen before.” Hope murmured. “It usually turns red. This does not bode well” He gave Parel an ominous look.
He maintained the stream of healing light until his strength ebbed. He swayed dangerously as Saria entered the room.
“Let me take over.” She said, sliding into the seat next to him. Laying her staff in her lap, she removed his hands from her brother’s wound, replacing them with her own. The coloring of the light had not changed in the time that Hope had pumped the healing power into his king, and it was no different when Saria took charge of her sibling’s healing.
“It’s not healing him, but I think it has stanched the spread of the poison.” Hope commented wearily.
“Then we must rely on Shaunna.” Saria said.
“What...?” Hope started to ask, but stopped himself. He knew how much effort it took to maintain the constant flow of the light.
He hurried through the house as quickly as his tired body would let him. He heard worried muttering as he approached Shaunna’s room.
“Nothing is working. This doesn’t appear to work like dragon’s blood, but nothing is neutralizing its effects. There has to be something. There is no poison that does not have an antidote.”
Hope could tell that Shaunna’s project was not going well. He just hoped that Saria’s energy could hold out until the assassin figured it out.
Shaunna screamed as a loud crash sounded from the room.
“What are you doing? Oh, you beautiful beastie!” Seconds later, she rushed from the room, a vial of a soft blue liquid clutched in her hand.
Hope followed, his curiosity fueling his movements.
Shaunna burst into the room clasping a vial to her chest. “I think I found it.” She thrust her hand in front of her. “This should be the antidote.”
She carefully poured a couple of drops onto each of the fang marks on his hand. When she was satisfied that the injection site was covered, she forced the rest of the blue liquid down his throat.
The power in the magic’s venom combined with the healing light flowing from Saria’s hands, inked the affected areas with a deep blackness. The instant that the antidote touched the wounds on his hand, the black started to fade. The effect was immediately noticeable. The lightening spread from his hand into the rest of his body.
“I think it’s working.” Shaunna breathed a sigh of relief.
No sooner had the words left her mouth, than Taren’s body went rigid. The light that covered him went black, and his body relaxed.
“NOOO!” Saria screamed as the light ceased to flow from her hands. She began to beat on her brother’s chest, trying to restart the heart that had just stopped beating. “Don’t die, we just found each other again. We need to be a family.”
Shaunna just sat, staring at the spectacle before her in wide eyed horror. The macabre scene not fully registering to her conscious mind.
“Saria, he’s gone. You knew that the instant your light stopped.” Hope spoke softly, trying to console the hysterical elf. He knew that he was going to have to do that alot. He was dreading when Tarea found out.
“I... I don’t understand what happened. The poison’s advance slowed. Shaunna’s antidote was working. How did he...” Her voice cracked as the tears began to leak from her eyes.
Shaunna’s stared at Taren’s corpse. “I killed him.” The words came with no emotion. “What have I done?”
Hope wrapped Shaunna in a tight embrace as he sat next to her. “You didn’t kill him. I was watching his body. The antidote was, indeed, working. As Saria said, we slowed the poison. We didn’t stop it. The poison reached his heart before the antidote could purge it from his body. We were just too late.” He felt his shoulder grow wet from her tears.
Hope was not new to death. He’d faced her much too often throughout his nineteen years. He knew that he needed to stay strong for the others.
“Go tell the others, while I see to the body. I think we should give him a non-traditional dark elf burial.” Shaunna’s voice was strong, despite the tears that fell from her yes.
“You want to cremate him?”
Shaunna nodded. “His mother was a dark elf. The high priestess in fact. It only seems right that we honor that heritage.”
Hope just shrugged and led a still sobbing Saria from the room. The others would probably know by now. They would have heard Ethos’ anguished sobs as easily as he did. The new sword had not had a wielder for nearly long enough before he had to deal with the loss. Hope shook his head wishing there was something that he could do to lessen everyone’s pain. He shook his head as the last conversation that he’d had with Maxx came to mind. If the sword were right, the world could very well be damned, with no hope of redemption.