Ride For the Passage Lakes

Glancing at the others, already mounted and ready to ride, you sigh deeply and turn back to the psalmist. "I just don't know, Joref. Remember last spring, when you thought the OverLord was telling you to forget being a Psalmist and to be an Animal Master instead? That bear nearly ripped your head off! I think we need to stick to our plan, take the road to the Passage Lakes, and get moving before another hour is lost. That is the way every other raid team takes and the way the OverLord has given us to enter the dark lands. Why should we go any other way?"

Moving over to your horse, you begin to mount. "Now are you coming or aren't you? We really can't afford to lose any more time!"

"Amen." Kale agrees, turning his horse and leading the way to the main road that leads to the Passage Lakes.

One by one the others follow and reluctantly Joref moves to his horse and mounts beside you. "We're making a mistake." he states simply, and spurs his horse toward the road, leaving you to wonder if perhaps you should have at least prayed about it as a group before making the decision to ignore one of your comrades' feelings. It is obvious that Joref has been hurt by your apparent lack of trust in him. Suddenly Valen's words from a few moments earlier echo through your mind, and you feel your stomach sink. "We're not even out of the Academy stable yard yet."

You know you can't change your mind now. That would definitely show the others that you are indecisive, so taking a deep breath, you turn your horse to follow the others toward the Passage Lake road.

Two days journey later, you approach the small outpost in the Vale of the Passage Lakes located at the base of the Peaks of New Beginning. This is the last outpost of friendly faces before Light Raiders enter the Dragon Lands. You are greeted by the outpost stableman and his stable-hands who assist you in unloading your gear from the horses and then lead the noble animals off to be groomed and rested.

It is late in the day and your party, though anxious to get into the Dragon Lands and on with the mission, decides to stay one last night in the safety of the Liberated Lands. Though you have only eight days remaining to complete your mission, you agree that it would be best to start off first thing in the morning, refreshed and ready for whatever challenges face you. Gathering your gear, you check into the outpost inn and prepare to settle in for a relaxing night.

Later, as you enjoy the companionship of your friends and a good hot meal, you are startled by a sudden commotion from outside. Several people are gathering around a bedraggled lightraider who is dragging a small figure out of the waters of one of the passage lakes. The figure is motionless and his skin is pale. You all jump up and run out to help, only to discover that it is too late. The motionless figure is already dead!

You soon discover that the man dragging him out of the water is not a LightRaider at all, but a Salt Warrior - those who choose to live in the Dragon Lands as permanent witnesses and secret contacts for travelling Light Raiders - named Arlen Lamplighter. Arlen shares the terrible news that the dead man beside him was a forsaken street bum in the small town of Safety's End who had been knifed the morning before by some thugs whom he had offended during a drunken party the night before. It had been the celebration of the Night of the Scarlet Moon, a terrible holiday in the Dragon Lands where dragon slaves engaged in all manner of sinful behavior. This particular unfortunate had drank too much himself and stolen from the wrong people and had payed for it with his life. Arlen explains that he had been witnessing to the man for several days and had tried to bring him back to the Liberated Lands for healing after he'd been attacked, but was too late.

Each of you look at one another, recognizing the name of the town as the place where your mission was to begin and wondering what this news could mean for your quest. The servants of the outpost sadly begin the task of caring for the body of the poor unfortunate soul, while others assist the Salt Warrior to a room and medical care. As they wrap the body and begin to carry it away, you overhear one of them ask the name of the deceased man. Arlen stops and takes one last look at the man he tried so hard to save and then gives a name that chills your heart...

"The town folk of Safety's End called him Mort the Short."

This was the man you were supposed to meet who would "bend your ear" with the information you needed to complete your mission! As if to voice your own thoughts, Joref speaks a line from Brother Perethan's word of instruction: "Meet him early, don't be late."

Mort the Short is dead! You did not reach him in time and maybe that was why! Maybe you could have saved him if you had gotten there sooner, and surely you could have at least spoken with him before it was too late. Now it appears as if your mission is over before it has even begun.

Could it be that you missed a quicker path by ignoring Joref's advice? In the awful silence of the moment, you somehow know it to be true...

Fortunately you can
start over and make a better decision next time.

The End

0 comments about this story Feed