The horror that is the hedge opened up before me. We pitiful few stood along a path, though I hardly dared call it such. The fact that a large group had so recently passed through was very evident. Jarrod, feeling that our group would slow him down, set off on a narrow side path. There was no way we would be able to follow, so we took the path laid before us.
We trekked for a short while when a sharp hiss drew my attention upwards. The fates drove my sword into my hand and I slashed up into the descending claws of a vile bird, filth encrusting its sharp talons. As it fell to the ground, the clubs of my companions turned it into a bloody wreck.
I had but a moment to relish victory when agony tore at my back. We were being ambushed. I whirled upon my new attacker, and battered it heavily with my blade, my back burning with the filth no doubt infecting my blood. This abomination of a harpy spat and clawed at me, raking against my cheek, the burning filling my senses again. Blood blurred my vision as I pierced its foul heart.
As I turned to the continued sound of battle, I saw my oath brother Don fall, blood pouring from three ragged rips in his chest and throat. Hurling myself across the path, I joined Keyleth in the defense of Don’s crippled body. Moments later there lay five bodies upon the path; four foul harpies and Don.
I saw Ryze search for the medical kit in Don’s pack. His fingers fumbled and while he seemed to know something about medicine, it was clear he was no doctor and this was beyond his skill. I drew from the threads of fate and demanded they honor his task with success. Moments later, Ryze looked up, startled that he had managed to staunch the bleeding.
Ryze then sterilized and bandaged my wounds as well while I formulated my idea. I looked to a bloodied Ryze and terrified Keyleth, and sighed. “Ryze, please take my oath brother back from the hedge and get him seen to. His life is in your care. Keyleth, you are not bound to me, and your choice is your own. You may continue with me or you may return with them. I understand in either case.”
They looked to me, confused. Ryze stammered, “You mean to go after Hound alone? That’s suicide. Let us go with you.”
“No, you are barely standing, and he will die if he doesn’t get seen to by a doctor. You need to return.”
Kayleth, resolutely gripped her wooden bat, and I could almost feel the cold determination emanating from her. “I’ll go with you. I’m no fighter, but you shouldn’t have to face him alone.”
Ryze made to argue, but could think of nothing to say. With a defeated sigh, he picked up Don and made back down the path. As we watched them disappear around a bend, Kayleth looked to me. “How are the two of us expected to stop him?”
From nowhere we heard a familiar voice. “Well, we could help! Who are we stopping?”
I turned to face Tic-Tock and Frank, appearing as usual in the most bizarre of times and places. I wiped more blood from my face and filled them in. Tic, in his usual manner, led us down a path to a shortcut that only he could see. When we emerged, we stood before the Hound and his contingent.
“Hound, I’m here to put a stop to this. You’ll go no further.” I called, trying to sound more sure than my weakened state would allow. I drew my blade from it’s sheath and stood barring the path.
The Hound looked at me exasperated. “I made a deal. These here are mine.”
“I made no deal. I’m not bound to any deal, and I am free to stop you.”
“Aye, bucko, but you don’t seem to be to strongly in a position to stop me, what with your few buddies there all quakin’ in fear, and you covered in blood and bandages. But I’ll do you a solid since you went and stood up to me so nice-like. I’m in a bit of a strong position here, since I’m a mere fifteen steps from my destination.” He nodded behind me.
Tic leaned close to me and winced, “Uh, you need to take a look.”
I slowly turned and saw I was on the outskirts of a teeming goblin market, the likes of which I’d only heard in rumor. There stood enough of the Hound’s cronies to make a decent scrap of a fight, and now we were surrounded.
“Yeah, so you see, these here aren’t my property. I’ve been bound to deliver them to their owner in the market. But seeing as you’re a delightful kind of guy, I’ll let you tag along and you can see about making an arrangement with their new owner. How’s that sound.”
I weighed my options. I knew that I would gladly give my life to save my people from slavery, but this would not be so. It would be a pointless suicide and accomplish nothing. My heart grew heavy as I put away my weapon and followed the scum into the pit.