It was a late mid-day morning for my companions and I, as we had been awake the past two days. Master Rukh was not feeling any worse, nor any better either, so I made a mental note to seek out the healer who had provided the herbal tea the day before; I feel as though it may have at least helped. My companions discussed their intended plans, and there was talk of going back into the wood, to track the wolves and find more dire wolves, if there were indeed any. I was strongly against the idea, as Master Rukh was still not well, and we had no proof there were more dire wolves, our task might have very well been complete. One of my companions, I have forgotten who, remarked we had no proof there were not more dire wolves either. I shook my head, the comment sounded foolish to me; how was I to disprove such a claim, by using the non-evidence? In any case, I saw a small boy come into the inn, and handed Rizoff, the innkeeper, a note. A few moments later, Rizoff came to our table and handed us the note that was apparently addressed to us. It was from Lord Stern, he invited us to the keep at three bells past noon. It seemed our plans had been made for us. Master Al’Der’eth asked if I would like to accompany him to the healer, and I agreed to join him, as I intended to visit her anyway. The rest of my companions decided to stay in, and we all agreed to meet at the keep entrance at a quarter of an hour before the third bell rang.
Master Al’Der’eth and I made our way through the busy city streets, not entirely sure of where to go. We knew the healer lived as far from the keep as was possible, so she had to be in one of the far corners of the city. We choose one of the two places she could be, and luckily we choose correctly. It was a home with some land to itself, which was unusual in that Coldwell was a quite crowded city, with most private residences stacked one on top of each other. There was an herbal garden growing out front, but she was not outside attending to it, she must have been inside. We knocked on the front door, and several moments later, she cracked open the door and recognized us. She opened the door fully and invited us in. As we entered, she offered us some tea, but we had little time to sit and chat. Master Al’Der’eth asked the woman, in the long-winded manner he usually does, about the tea she gave to Master Rukh, if she could tell us what magic she used. Of course, the tea was not magical at all; the old woman was simply an herbal healer. Master Al’Der’eth tried asking what the tea was composed of, but it was not a secret she was willing to give up.
I asked the old woman if she could perhaps give me some more of the tea, as I told her our companion had not yet fully recovered, although I felt the tea had certainly helped. I said I would be willing to pay her for it, but she replied as to what I would give her? I was confused, and she continued that what would an old woman with few visitors possible want? It was clear she did not need the gold, so I thought for a moment, and answered that in exchange for the medicinal tea, I promised to come by to sit and chat over plain tea with her. She smiled at this, and seemed to stand straighter and lose much of her old crone-ish looks. She was actually not terribly old, and appeared rather able for her age. She believed us to be good people, and that I did not actually have to visit her, for she had plenty of visitors already. She handed me a canvas bag with several kettlefuls of the tea Master Rukh would need. I thanked her, and she told me her name was ‘Sheldy’, as I was calling her ‘Mother Healer’ up until this point. Master Al’Der’eth asked if serving Master Rukh the tea in a silver teacup would increase its potency, and she answered she did not think so, but that a silver teakettle may help. Before leaving, I begged Mistress Sheldy one more question; did she have anything that would calm a wolf, so that perhaps I could gain its trust? She was curious at this, and I replied it was for a personal endeavor of mine. She thought for a bit, and answered that she did not have anything like that, but that I should be careful when around wolves. Of course I knew that, and she added she thought it would be possible to make a friend of a wolf. I was happy to hear to that, and we finally bid her farewell.
Master Al’Der’eth and I, before going to the keep, went in search of a silver teakettle, which we found and shared the cost of. When we arrived at the keep, our companions had already gathered, which was of little surprise seeing as we came all the way from the opposite side of the city. We handed a guard the invite given to us, and he led us to the council chamber. Lord Stern was present, as was Lord Jolar, and three other gentlemen I had not seen before. One of the men had a very large mustache, another with red beard, and the third was a younger gentleman, perhaps a few years younger than Lord Stern. The table they were sitting at was covered with half-empty wine bottles, it was clear they were all very drunk. Slurred in his speech, Lord Stern thanked us for coming, and that he and his fellow council members were celebrating the decision they had reached concerning the dire wolf, who was currently chained up in the keep’s dungeon. Lord Stern said it was to be executed, two days from now, at midday. I shook my head in surprise, was there to be no trial, no inquiry made as to the identity of the captured man-wolf? I tried to speak, but Master Gaervesk and Master Rukh were already asking questions of Lord Stern. They were trying to gain access to the creature, to question him themselves. Lord Stern would grant it, and a guard led them, along with Master Al’Der’eth, to the dungeon.
It was just Master Eisenheim and I with the council. Master Eisenheim was ready to negotiate the reward, but I had some things to say to Lord Stern first. I tried to propose that if the prisoner was indeed a man, then he deserved a trial, but it seemed no one was listening. I pleaded to Lord Stern to at least delay the execution, for was the identity of the creature of no concern to him? Lord Stern thought about this, but was interrupted by Lord Jolar, offering him more wine. Did no one care for this creature, did anyone even know if he was responsible for his actions? Was it he that even attacked the patrols? Frustrated and upset, I saw it was useless to continue, and I left the council chamber in search of the rest of my companions. I found them in the dungeon, just as the jailer was opening the door to the creature. He was chained to the wall by the neck, both wrists and ankles. It was clear that he was beaten, and I felt pity for him. The guard closing the door behind us, Master Gaervesk started questioning the wolf-man, but he would not or could not speak. Master Gaervesk felt a magical presence from the restraints, was it those that was preventing him from answering our questions?
Master Rukh tried to talk with the beast-like man, and through a long process of nods and shakes of his head, we learned the creature’s name was Klimb. I myself asked him if he had killed the patrols, and if he had done so of his own free will. He nodded his head to both of my questions. As to why he had done so, we did not learn. Interestingly, Lord Jolar had ordered the magical restraints be placed on him, was Lord Jolar trying to hide something? From outside the door, we heard the jailer approaching, and Master Rukh cut his hand, and wiped some of the blood on Klimb’s face and his own knuckles. He smacked his fist into his palm several times, and Klimb made the appropriate-sounding howls. The jailer opened the door, and Lord Stern entered the room, his fellow council members in tow. They had come to see what information we had managed to get out of the creature, and Master Rukh replied that the beast was mindless and bloodthirsty, and showed the lords his bloodied hand. We were invited back to the council hall, and we left Klimb to his cell, promising we would talk with Lord Stern on his behalf. We were still ascending stairs when we heard a commotion from the dungeon, and we rushed back down to investigate.
The jailer was face down on the table, his untouched meal before him. A guard was chastising a young human girl who had evidently served the food. I examined the jailer. He was not dead, but appeared to be poisoned. I stabilized his condition, and said we needed to get him to the keep infirmary. Master Rukh picked the man up and carried him up the winding staircase. Master Gaervesk took the little girl by the hand and brought her with us. Master Rukh, dropping the poisoned jailer off on an infirmary bed, left with the rest of my companions. I stayed with the doctor on duty, and explained what I thought was wrong with the ailing man. The doctor asked if I had any medical knowledge, apparently not noticing my robes or healing potion hanging from my belt, so I explained who I was. He deferred to my expertise and I suggested giving the man something that would purge the contents of his stomach, for if it was poison he was fed, then getting it out of him was most important before it’s effect became worse. He agreed, and I asked if there was anything else I could assist with. The ill jailer was the only patient he had at the moment, so I said if he needed me further, I would likely be here in the keep for some while. I said a short prayer before leaving.
I found Master Rukh in the council chambers. He whispered to me he was trying to speak with Lord Stern privately, but Lord Jolar was always too close to him, and asked me if I could distract Lord Jolar while he had his word with Lord Stern. I agreed to help him, and approached Lord Jolar. I tried keeping his attention, but I knew little of the man, and he seemed disinterested with my questions. Thankfully, Master Gaervesk arrived and took over keeping Lord Jolar busy; he was a far more skilled conversationalist than I. Lord Mustache, as I had thought of him, caught my attention and asked if I were a cleric of Pelor. I replied I was, and he asked if I could bless his crops on behalf of Pelor. Lord Redbeard and Lord Younger overheard and asked for the same favor. Not wanting to appear rude, I said I would be honored to bless all their land in Pelor’s name. Lord Mustache reminded me of Father just a bit, he the had sort of face that appeared friendly to all. Still, was this all I could do, pray for blessings to land and harvest?
Feeling useless and out of my element, I sat in the corner and thought about poor Klimb shackled in the dungeon, and pondered why the jailer had been poisoned, and by who? A moment or two later, Master Rukh approached and asked me to check on Master Eisenheim and Master Al’Der’eth, who were still in the dungeon with Klimb. So I was off again, to check on our two more mischievous companions. I was just descending the stairway when I ran into Master Al’Der’eth and… a cloaked wolf-man dressed in Master Eisenheim’s clothing. Master Eisenheim’s pet rabbit, Robert, was unconscious on the wolf-man’s shoulder. Words failed me; I looked back and forth at the two of them, uttering nonsense. Out of the wolf-man’s mouth, which did not open nor move, came words sounding like a bad impression of Master Eisenheim, “Hi, I’m Eisenheim.” It would have been very funny if the circumstances were different, and I remarked on Master Al’Der’eth’s poor attempt at magical ventriloquism, then told him to stay put until I could find another exit to the keep, as the main entrance would no doubt have several guards present. I went off wondering where Master Eisenheim was, if he were really naked somewhere within the keep.
I went to the servant’s quarters, and I heard a noise from inside one of the rooms. I opened the door and saw the young servant girl crying. I called her over and asked what was the matter. She answered between sobs that the cook had beaten her. I was aghast, as she could not have been more than ten or twelve years old. I would make sure to find this cook and let him know his wrongdoing, and to let Lord Stern would know as well. But right now, I needed the girl’s help. I told her I would set right what the cook had done, and asked if there was a way out of the keep that was not via the main entrance. She asked why, and I lied to the poor child, saying my companion had taken ill from eating Lord Stern’s food, and we did not wish to insult Lord Stern, thus wanted to bring our friend to a healer unseen. She agreed to help me, and we went back for my companions, still waiting by the dungeon staircase. I waved them to us, and as they approached, the little girl took note of Robert the dead-looking rabbit, then clearly saw Klimb’s face… and she let out a scream everyone in the keep must have heard. We were about to be in really big trouble.
I snatched up the little girl, trying my best to comfort her. I whispered to her not to cry, and told her that we were the ones who captured the beast locked up in the dungeon below, and that our companion had been cursed by the beast to turn into a werewolf. I told her he would not harm her, casting a glance back over my shoulder at Klimb as I said it. Thus, I asked if she would please lead us out of the keep in haste. Suddenly, Master Rukh appeared behind us halberd in hand, asking what was going on. Realizing Lord Stern or Lord Jolar may be close behind, I told him I had no time to explain, and Master Al’Der’eth told him to cover for us. Running while carrying the girl, she told us where to go; a series of long corridors to a small room with a door that led to the back of the keep. I put her down finally, thanked her for her help, and gave her a gold piece. She took it, and then ran away as fast as she could. I did not even have a chance to ask her name. She was no doubt still frightened by Klimb. I turned to Master Al’Der’eth, telling him to get to The Silver Dragon as fast as possible, stopping for nothing. I would not be going with him. He agreed, and went on his way. I hoped I did not make a mistake leaving Master Al’Der’eth with Klimb.
As I walked back to the hallway, I saw the little girl had run into a group of guards. I hailed them, appearing as calm as possible as I approached. One of the guards had her by the arm, as she struggled to get away. The guard asked me what was going on, as he had seen us running up the corridor. I told him my companion had taken ill and had to leave as quickly as possible. The girl exclaimed it was not true, that he was a wolf, but the guard was having none of it and did not believe her. He recognized her as the girl that served his cousin, the jailer, the poisoned food, and said he had a good beating for her. I was aghast, he was going to hit that small girl? I would not allow it, and said as much. The guard looked surprised, and asked what I was going to do about it. I asked him his name, and he answered ‘Lord’ Kirk, but it was obvious to me he was but a mere guard. However, stroking his ego, I addressed him as Lord Kirk and declared that it was I who had saved his cousin’s life, and if he would like to return a favor, I would like the girl handed over to me. He complained that beating the girl would be his evening’s entertainment, unless I had something for him to replace the girl. I understood his meaning, and held out a gold piece, asking if that would satisfy him. It appeared not, and I fished out a few more pieces for a total of five. That seemed enough, and he let the girl go. However, he said he had done a favor for me, and I would need to return a favor to him. He asked where I was staying, and rather than lie further, I admitted I had a room at The Silver Dragon. He knew of the place, and would call on me some evening. I hoped he would get good and drunk and forget all about it.
The guards walking off quite pleased, I knelt and placed my hands on the little girl’s shoulders. I had spared her a whipping, and asked her name, which she said was Channit. I told her not to cry, and I thanked her again for helping my companions and I. Recalling she had said she was beaten before, I asked who had done so, and she answered it was Lee, one of the cooks. I asked her to bring me to him, and holding her hand, she led me to the kitchen. I asked her to point out Lee, and she did so. Upon seeing him, I became furious and approached him with purpose, and he took notice. I slapped him across the face, calling him a brute, demanding to know how he could strike a child. He looked angry, and his hand closed into a fist, he punched me in return. Not hard enough to draw blood, he was perhaps pulling his punches seeing I was a girl. I told him Lord Stern would not appreciate his guests being struck, and he sneered at me that Lord Stern would not appreciate his staff being struck. He growled at me to get out as he had work to do. It was clear to me that this man was just a bully and a coward, beating on those he thought weaker than himself. I had half a mind to show him how wrong he was thinking I was a fragile elf, but my calmer side prevailed and I left wordlessly, telling myself Lord Stern would hear of this. I was wrong to strike him first, but I was angry at what he had done. As I took Channit’s hand, the cook Lee yelled at her that he would most certainly beat her later, and I threw an icy stare back at him. He did not seem to care, and I had to restrain myself from doing anything violent. I told Channit that we were going to see Lord Stern, as I could not imagine Lord Stern condoning the beating of servants, no matter how lowly.
As we headed to Lord Stern’s council chambers, we nearly bumped into my companions, save Master Al’Der’eth. Master Eisenheim was nude except for the undershorts he was wearing, and he had clumps of fur stuck to his face. Master Gaervesk had clearly been bloodied, and I healed his wounds. Lord Stern, a few guards, and the other council lords were also following. They were all in quite a hurry, and asked me to join them, and I did so, not knowing what was going on. I let go of Channit, promising we would resolve her plight a little later. As a group, we went down into the dungeon. I heard Lord Jolar screaming for help, and he was behind bars in a cell, looking slightly injured. Master Rukh and Lord Stern approached him. There were accusations back and forth as to who attacked whom first, and Lord Stern listened patiently to all of it. He decided to keep Lord Jolar in the cell, but he would need be shackled first, and the door was opened. With a roar, Lord Jolar became a large white wolf, and bounded out of the cell!
He attacked Master Gaervesk, sinking his jaws deep into my companion. I prayed for Pelor’s shield to protect my allies. Master Rukh stepped in front of Lord Stern to protect him and dealt a mighty blow to the beast Jolar. Master Gaervesk and Master Eisenheim followed with powerful spells of their own. I, for my part, prayed for Pelor’s lance strike the beast. The council lords left in a hurry, but the keep guards stayed to fight alongside us. With our combined strength, we quickly defeated beast Jolar, myself landing the final blow and knocking him unconscious. Master Rukh wasted no time stuffing a handful of silver pieces in his mouth to prevent any regeneration. I saw a shiny object in the cell, and went to inspect it. It appeared to be a shard of silver, was it this that Lord Jolar had used to prevent his self-healing when we arrived so he may appear innocent? Master Rukh asked to see the object, and giving it to him, he thrust it into beast Jolar, and he took back his silver coins. We dumped the beast back into the cell, and Lord Stern invited us back to the council chambers. Returning from the dungeon, hopefully for the last time, I saw no sign of Channit, but I would fulfill my promise to her.
We proceeded to Lord Stern’s chambers, and he thanked us for all we had done. Master Gaervesk appeared ill, had beast Jolar infected him with the same sickness as Master Rukh had? I said I would care for him, but unlike Master Rukh, Master Gaervesk was not amicable to being treated. Lord Stern said a healer would be called for him, but I still had several servings of the special tea Healer Sheldy had given me. I hoped it would be enough to cure both of my companions of their sickly condition. I caught Lord Stern’s attention, and asked for a word, and he acknowledged me but had other matters to attend to. Master Al’Der’eth arrived, appearing drunk, and was asked to relate his story. He told of running away through the keep with myself and Klimb, finding a key in a hole under a rock, opening a door, Klimb leading him into the woods, Klimb getting away… at this I was shocked, and I exclaimed that I told him to bring Klimb back to The Silver Dragon! He said it was not his fault, that Klimb was too fast for him to keep up. And to his credit, he did go to The Silver Dragon, where he ate a filling meal and took a bath with two women and a bard to serenade them while he did so. I bickered with him while the others spoke with Lord Stern. Al’Der’eth the Pious indeed! Soon after, Lord Stern dismissed us. He appeared distraught at the events that had unfolded, and I understood his feelings. After all, his most trusted advisor and friend was some sort of werewolf, and Klimb had escaped. There was as of yet no resolution to the mystery.
So we returned to The Silver Dragon. I insisted I help Master Gaervesk, but he did not want my help. He would be a difficult one to care for, and Master Rukh said he would assist me if need be. Arriving at the inn, I ordered something to eat for myself, and a steak, which I cut into cubes for Rufu. I brought it out to him, and pushed the cubes into the cage, and then dumped brown gravy onto them. Rufu looked at me, then licked the gravy off the meat before eating the steak cubes. I put my hand on the bars of the cage, and Rufu emitted a low growl, so I slowly retreated my hand. She was not comfortable with me yet, so I simply sat with her a while, before going inside. As I entered the inn and went upstairs, Master Rukh asked if I had gotten one, holding a piece of paper in his hand. I said I had not yet been to my room, and he handed me the paper. It was a letter, asking us to meet in the wood one bell past midnight. It was signed ‘K’, and I asked if he thought it was Klimb. He did, and we would be going to meet with him at the indicated time. Master Gaervesk, before going to his room, said if anyone woke him before midnight, he would turn them into a frozen statue. There was not enough time to treat his disease anyway, so I would not be disturbing him.
I asked Master Rukh if I could beg a favor of him, and saying I had not ever asked anything of him before, he agreed to help me. I asked if he could bring Rufu’s cage inside, up to my room for me. He would do so, and we went outside behind the inn. As Master Rukh lifted the cage, Rufu growled, and Master Rukh roared that Rufu had best not bite him, for he would bite back. Rufu cowered, and I admit I did a bit as well; Master Rukh was most fearsome when he wanted to be. Master Rukh had no trouble bringing the cage to my room, and I thanked him as he placed it down, explaining I was not strong enough to do this myself. He bid us good night, and left. I looked inside the cage, Rufu looked back at me, her tail wagging slightly. There was no progress to made leaving her locked up in a cage, and making sure the door to my room was securely shut, I swallowed deeply, I opened the cage door. She skittered out of the cage, running to the opposite side of the room, and taking a defensive posture. She did not look like she wanted to attack, and reaching into a pouch, I pulled out some of the food I had foraged from the forest, and put them on the ground in front of me. She did not seem interested, so I just looked at her, into her eyes. The direct eye contact seemed to make her agitated, so I shifted my gaze at her, but not into the eyes. She seemed to relax, and after a while laid down. I smiled, she was becoming comfortable with my presence.
I took the bedding out of the cage and put it down on the floor, so she would not have to sleep in the cage. I got up, and went to my bed, seeing the letter from Klimb lying on top of it. I did not open it for I know what it contains, and have it next to me on the writing desk. Much has happened today, and here I have been sitting, writing of all of it. Rufu is looking at me, curiously, and I feel I may just gain her trust. The next step is to have her approach me of her own freewill; perhaps I can tempt her with food. After that, I can possibly offer her food from my hand, and after that, I may risk touching her directly. It will be a slow process, I hope we will be staying in Coldwell a while longer. I will rest a bit before we head off into the wood once more. I cannot bring Rufu with me just yet, and I do not fear her attacking me while I sleep. I will pray for the good health of Master Rukh and Master Gaervesk, I hope I am able to relieve their affliction.