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The elf is stunned - couldn't the dwarf see that he was terribly wounded? He had an arrow in his leg, for goodness' sake, and his chest felt like it was a single gigantic bruise that was also on fire! But then the magician sees that the dwarf is similarly wounded in his leg, and the indignation fades. Indrys, always a quick hand at composing himself, does so. He nods his head and struggles to disengage himself from the saddle. "O-of course, sir Glaffin. Please f-forgive me; I was panicked. I'll be fine for now." He winces when the head of the arrow grazes against bone, but the adrenaline surging through his blood helps to dull the pain to a dull, persistent ache rather than a searing agony. When he's safely on the ground, he hobbles to the dwarf and tries to smile. It is thin, and pale, but serviceable. "H-how can I help, Glaffin? Direct me, and I'll offer whatever aid that I can." It's then that he sees Tallhelm, who looks to be unconscious, or... or... "Oh, no," he whispers. "No, no!" Without Tallhelm, there was no caravan. If there was no caravan, then there was no gold. If there was no gold... "We have to help him!" he insists.
With a feral grin, Thorus shakes his head. "I think they've got it covered. 'sides, even if they don't, I think those bandits'll think long an' hard 'bout whether they wanna tangle with us again." He begins wiping the gore from his morningstar, feeling his bloodlust fade, and then he dismounts and begins helping people however he can, though his lack of medical knowledge hinders that somewhat. His mighty and, as he hopes, inspiring posture never diminishes.
Thorus hangs around the wounded long enough for his aura to heal them to half health.
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
Distantly, one of the guards shouted as the first of the two fleeing bandits dropped to the ground. The storm of bolts from the wagons was unrelenting; Tallhelm's guards weren't any more keen on having escapees than anyone else. Another victory cry a few moments later heralded the death of the last remaining bandit. It was a fine shot, at that range, and likely one the man who fired it would never be able to duplicate again.
Closer to home, Glaffin's rope found its way into the hands of the guard. "Yessir, master Dwarf." The man set about binding the last living bandit, being none too forgiving about the tightness of the rope's coils. "How long d'you think he'll stay out for? Indrys? Was your spell blasted this one."
Glaffin was already back to work. Thorus helped, though more thanks to the limited magic of his aura than any special skill at healing. The people he stood near found the worst of their wounds closing of their own accord, and it wasn't long before Cecily woke up, the pain of her injuries slowly receding. He couldn't fix everything, though, and many of the cuts, scrapes and bruises remained to trouble their owners. While the magic did its work, Thorus assisted Glaffin in moving the wounded to one location, near the lead wagon. With everybody in one place, it would take less time overall to tend them.
Alec, meanwhile, had stayed by the man he killed. Dead men had no need for possessions, and the pirate wanted to know how many of them this particular dead man had owned. The suit of armour would need some repair, but was otherwise functional, and the crossbow had been kept in good working order. There was a small quiver, with five of the black-fletched barbed bolts, the knife, a short sword similar to Alec's own and, surprisingly, a finely made pair of boots. They were probably stolen, given the man's former profession. There was also a little pouch attached to his belt, the top flap tied securely. It jingled when Alec shook it. Obviously where the bandit had kept his personal wealth, the pouch proved to contain a handful of little gold coins, each stamped with the seal of the mint where it had been made.
Back by the dead bandit, Alec carefully gets to the ground, first kneeling, then using both hands to steady himself as he sits. He’s next wracked by a sudden, violent cough; it bends him towards the dirt with a deep grimace. He turns his head when it passes and spits a pink glob. Yet strangely, he feels just a little better than he did a minute earlier, before he spoke to Thorus. What an odd coincidence.
”My friend, for a time I thought you’d be the one to send me off instead,“ he says to the corpse. The pirate’s smile is almost welcoming—and almost sad. ”Had you been a bit quicker, or I a bit slower, I’d have to hope you knew the Rites.“ Leaning in closer, he speaks more softly: ”The priest over there would offer me his, I’m sure, but that isn’t much good for the likes of us.“
Alec, in sharp contrast to his cheerful attitude, ruffles through the man’s pockets briefly. He’s pleased to find more gold than he expected and liberates it, along with both blades and, after some consideration, the boots. The crossbow and ammunition he looks at with an odd expression; after a glance to his friends, he sets that weapon to one side. Now, he turns more solemn, more formal, yet his eyes and the tilt of his lips keep a sense of hopeful camaraderie. He prepares some improvised funeral sacraments from what he can find on him, clears his throat, and begins.
”I, Alec Dandelen, have condemned you to the Cold Lands. I took the life you could not protect. Feel no shame, but rather opportunity: the First World’s lessons were insufficient, and so I send you to a place of higher learning. When I also fail my final test, as I someday will, then we’ll walk there together, across the ice sheets and through the untamable jungles and over the mountains of ash until the Laughing God gives us new names, or his shades feast upon our souls. Find comfort in peaceful oblivion, if you fail. Find joy in rebirth, if you prove your strength and wit.
“Though I stole the breath from your lungs, as is my right, I give you gifts for your long journey. No coins for your eyes: you must see clearly. No tokens from those who loved you: those bonds are severed. Instead, I give you a knife to fight the specters, to cut the vines, to hold at bay the beasts that crave your blood…” If Alec were a proper priest, or if he just had the luxury of throwing away a good weapon, he’d leave the bandit’s dagger (or, better yet, leave his own and take the trophy he earned). But it’s just a symbol, so he takes one of the crossbow bolts, snaps the shaft a few inches below the head, and places that sharp half on his victim’s chest.
”…A rope to climb the cliffs, to bind your enemies, to use as the moment demands, for as the Secondborn said, ‘Listen up, ye poor, dumb bastards, don’t ye know there ‘tisn’t such a thing as too much rope?’…“ His faint smile turns into a quick, full grin. Again, if he could afford to he’d leave his silk coil, or at least a foot of it; instead, Alec uses three pieces of intertwined thread from the edge of his shirt. They go beside the crossbow head.
”…A torch to light your way, to push back the fog, to scorch those who stand against you…“ The pattern continues; Alec doesn’t even have a torch, so regardless of whether or not he feels generous, he has to improvise. Several tightly wrapped blades of grass get the point across.
”…And courage, all that I can spare, to steady your hands, to steel your heart, to keep you warm when no fire can.“ This, at least, he can do correctly. Alec kisses his first knuckle, thumps his fist to his chest, and touches his closed hand to the bandit’s diaphragm.
Finally, he repeats the phrase he said at the beginning of the battle, this time with more success: ”Darkness take your soul.“
Standing up turns out to be a serious job, but the pirate eventually manages it, still feeling woozy at the end of the process. He collects his modest treasure and leaves the body where it is. Buried, burned, or left for the crows, it doesn’t matter now. Not by his code, anyway.
In a humorous transition given what he’s just done, Alec heads for Glaffin. By now, the priest has probably had time to finish at least his magical healing; if he’s still at work, Alec waits for his attention.
”We can give you a good portion of the credit for our success, I’d say,“ he grins. ”I know I wouldn’t be here without your help, and it looks like many others can say the same.“ The pirate holds out his hand to shake Glaffin’s—and then he holds out the crossbow.
”To show my thanks,“ Alec explains. ”It nearly took my life, and you returned that to me, so I think you’ve earned it. Besides, it’s had a taste of me, and I’d rather make sure it was in the hands of a friend from here on.“
Glaffin is glad for the bolstering presence at least, even if Thorus and Indrys are unable to lend him much aid. He'll first pull Cecily safely off her horse before she falls off, and ask Indrys to watch over her, then head over to do the same with Tallhelm. When there, he spots Dayne's body lying unmoving, and curses under his breath.
"There's another one back here! Looks to be in the worst shape of us all." Without much left to do in terms of magical healing thanks to Thorus, it's time for the unpleasant part.
"Anyone struck with an arrow has two options, since they're barbed. Someone can try to cut around the head and get it out cleanly, or we can drive it straight through the leg or arm and pull it out the other side. Either way, it'll hurt, and the second one isn't an option if you're hit in the middle." Which would be why most people prefer magical healing to good old fashioned surgery. Glaffin is no doctor, but he's worked with members of his family and watched their techniques before healing their patients of what he could. It was certainly a rough experience, and after the time required of him he spent very little near those particular cousins. He still healed for them, but watching their practices made him ill.
Dayne looks to be in serious condition, and is far from Thorus and the rest, so Glaffin lays his hands on the man's brow and utters a prayer of forgiveness and strength to bolster him. Hopefully it will be enough.
Expending my last 1st level for a CLW's on Dayne
Then he comes back to the rest of the wounded, and presumably finds them in much better health than he left them, with Cecily and Tallhelm being roused from unconsciousness and Indrys looking much heartier. He seems confused at first, but after stepping closer to Thorus and feeling... something, his curiosity is replaced with mild suspicion, and then simple gratitude. If there was more to the scarily capable warrior than was first visible, he'd just be glad it worked out in their favor this time. He nods his head in thanks to Thorus, and then is intercepted by Alec.
He takes the crossbow and immediately sets about looking down the sights, testing the draw with a finger, and looking for any rust or pitting in the trigger mechanism and arms. Wouldn't be hard to fix it up a bit, replace some things and oil the joints. With a bit of care, he could turn this into a workable alternative to the brutality of melee combat he's clearly unsuited for.
"It's a fine piece of work, probably better than a bandit could've afforded themselves. Just hold on a second now." Glaffin turns to a nearby bandit corpse, the one that stuck him in the leg with an arrow, which he felled in turn. He picks up the shortbow the man had held, and holds it out in exchange. "From a man who nearly sent me into the same state I pulled you out of. His failed attempt to kill me saved us both, so take it and we'll both be better off on the road ahead." It may be nowhere near as complicated as the crossbow, but it was a similar gesture, and just because he couldn't understand the sailor's traditions didn't mean he wouldn't respect them.
"Now, let's get this unconscious fellow stripped of weapons before he surprises us." Always a sound plan. Glaffin, unless stopped by anyone else, will begin by unbuckling the armor the man is wearing, to check for weapons slipped under the hardened leather.
The dwarf earns a grateful grin with a bit of surprise to it, and Alec taps one end of the bow to his forehead in an informal salute. He very much needs something to open future battles with, before he goes running in like a fool.
He watches the search of their prisoner momentarily before wandering off and ending up near Indrys. Having seen part of his reaction at the end of the skirmish, Alec meant to give him some encouragement.
"You look like you'll survive," he jests. Then, quieter and closer, he adds, "It might not be fun earning them, but a good king needs some scars. I have a feeling you'll take on more before our bargain comes to a head--and more still when it does." He puts one hand on Indrys's shoulder. "Someday you'll lead armies from the back of a horse, or a dragon, or from the flagship of an armada, and you'll be glad for experiences like this."
The elf gets two friendly taps of Alec's new shortbow to the top of his head. "All the same, next time remember your bow and keep a bit more distance. Let us grunts do most of the bleeding."
Indrys is seated, relaxing his leg and responding to the guard's query when Alex arrives. "It shouldn't take too much longer for him to become conscious," the pirate hears him saying. "The spell should only have a short-term affect on its subjects. I would actually expect him to be awake already." When Alec approaches, the elf looks up and noticeable brightens. "Alec," he says. "How are you?" And then, after the human has his say, the elf nods. "Yes, I'll be fine. Having the projectile removed from my leg was worse than having it go in... and needing to have my pants cut off to facilitate it was humiliating. Luckily I had spares in my trunk, or I'd be looking a much sorrier state than I do now." He breathes deeply, enjoying the affects of Thorus' magic aura. "The wound started to seal itself closed the moment the barb was removed. If it does scar, it will be a faint one." The truth be told, if it did scar, the elf would look to have it magically removed at the earliest opportunity. Anyway... "Thank you, for your vote of confidence, and for your bravery in battle. They'll sing songs about it, I'm sure."
Then he grins. "And next time, I'll bring my bow with me."
"If this is all it takes to get your own song, the bards of my generation have lowered their standards," he believes dryly. He sits down too and watches Glaffin work. "Then again, there's something to be said for gratuitous dishonesty. If we'd overcome a legion of bandits, no, the dark army of that archmage who fled, and saved this whole region..." He whistles through his smile at the mock-idea.
Indrys laughs. "By the time we reach town, the bandits won't be bandits anymore; they'll have been gnolls, or an orcish raiding party." It's at that point he notices the boots. "Ah, those are nice. Did you get them from a bandit? Best to clean them out before wearing them, then; vagabonds aren't known for their cleanliness. Do you plan to keep them?"
Glaffin scoffs, even though he's apparently the only one aiding the guard in disarming the sole living bandit, he finds Alec and Indrys' back and forth amusing.
"Why don't you ask Cecily to compose you a melody then once you're done slapping each other on the back?" Once the armor is off of the bandit, Glaffin will go through the man's pockets and pouches, trying to find any weapons, or anything else he has on him. Appropriating whatever this man had before he chose to attack them is the job he's the most focused on. Anything he can't get hold of, he can't use against them if things go sour.
"If anyone deserves to be immortalized in song, Glaffin, it's you. There are quite a few of us that would no longer be breathing if it weren't for your efforts." He nods his head respectfully towards the dwarf. "Your magic was much more useful than mine, this day. I still have much that I need to learn, it seems." With that, he turns his attentions back towards Alex and his shiny new boots. Without much fanfare he reaches into a pouch and withdraws the necessary components. After a quick incantation he uses the magic to investigate the boots for any sort of mystical resonance that may reside within them.
Standard Action: Indrys is going to cast Detect Magic on the boots.
"True, true," Alec agrees with the praise, but he's distracted, his attention on a rare chance to see magic close up. It doesn't look as flashy as he expected, at least not yet. He leans in closer to the boots, squinting at them as though waiting for them to start dancing.
The boots, unfortunately, proved to be completely ordinary to Indrys' spell. Something else, however, tugged at the back of his mind, near the fallen bandit leader. Some of the guards had begun searching the dead, turning out their pockets and looking for anything that might have some value. They had already collected a small pile of coin pouches and purses, and one was in the process of stripping the armour off the fallen men. Amongst the items so far removed were a pair of small vials. Those were the things tripping the elf's magic sensing spell. The bandit leader, actually, seemed to have a number of valuable items. Aside from the obviously fine workmanship of his sword and armour, Cecily had picked out the telltale glint of a ring on his left hand. Whatever else they were, the bandits seemed to have been successful until now.
The living bandit had been shifted over near the wounded, in order to keep him near Thorus. The combination of the healing aura and Glaffin's magic had put everyone back on their feet by now, and Tallhelm was proving to be quite impossible to keep still.
"No, no, let me up," he was saying, practically shouting. "I demand to see the battlefield. Did we win? We must have won. A glorious charge to break their strength, was it? I want to count the spoils, there have to have been spoils. We can sell their weapons in town."
Pulling himself down from his seat, and paying little heed to his freshly closed wounds, the caravan owner hobbled over towards the hill. "This will make a fine story, I tell you. Tallhelm's Caravan, making the roads safe for travellers. I won't have any bandits on my route, no sir. Gave these ones what for, and I'll show off any more of them myself."
It didn't seem to occur to him that he had spent the entire fight trying to stop the horses from running away, failing, and getting shot in the chest. Nor did it matter that he was just a merchant, no formal training with weapons to speak of. In his mind, he was already the hero. Indrys could only imagine the tales he'd be telling from now on, in every tavern they came to. Maybe it would convince people to buy things from him, at least.
"Someone shut him up," Mumbled Dayne, the younger man having made the much more sensible decision to stay still. Glaffin's magic had done wonders, but he'd still lost a good deal of blood. "Where'd my horse go?"
Tallhelm, of course, completely ignored the remark, if he had even heard it. The merchant was picking over the remains, inspecting the swords and bows and armour. "Did we lose anyone? Yes? No?" His answer came a moment later, as he found the body of the outrider who had been shot from his saddle. "Ah, that's unfortunate. No battle without loss, is there? Well, we'll have to make sure he recieves a proper burial. Perhaps our priest could do the service. Dayne! Tell Glaffin we need funeral rites for this man!" His torrent of words unabated, Willam started to direct the guards stripping the bodies where they should pile the armour and weapons.
Behind all the chaos, back near the caravan, the unconcious bandit was finally waking up. Thorus noticed it first; a slight flickering of the man's eyelids, as he regained his senses and noticed where he was. "Can't see," the man muttered, trying to move and discovering the ropes. "Dammit."
Untrained Use Rope test for the guard who tied this one up. +2 for the silk rope. (1d20+2)
Cecily, when she had awoken, had been a bit withdrawn from the others. She's quite obviously shaken by the fight, and the painful wound she suffered. She sticks her fingers through the hole in her dress to touch what will soon be a scar for what must be the hundredth time. Or at least it seems that way.
The bard wanders aimless, and soon comes before the corpse of the bandit leader. She stares at the lifeless body for a long moment before the ring catches her eye. Cecily crouches to get a closer look. Well, that is a pretty little thing. It wouldn't be the first time she's taken from a corpse, though she expects it'd never stop being so... unsettling. She slips it off his finger and onto her own, standing as she does so.
"If anyone deserves praise, it's the man who felled more of these bandits than any other. Let's give thanks to our resident spirit of vengeance before we shower adulation on the poor healer who's out of spells and feeling woozy now." Glaffin sincerely means that. Thorus really stood out as the only combat trained man among them, and it showed.
And then Tallhelm finally begins running his mouth off at the seams, and if Glaffin thought his stories tedious before, it's nothing compared to how grating he is now, puffed up and full of pride for a victory he did not win.
The just now waking bandit's pockets full of silver distract the dwarf though, as he runs the coins through his hands. The armor will be put to more proper use, but the silver...
"If each of these bandits was so armed and provisioned, there'll be quite a bit of money to go around. I propose we pool it, and a share of it each goes to each fighting man here, and double shares for everyone wounded." That's the most fair way he can think to divide the spoils without causing a fight.
"Armor and weapons should go to those that need it before we consider selling anything sir Tallhelm. If we're better equipped, we aren't going to need to worry as much if there are more bandits out there." And he doesn't doubt there are more of them out there. They might be few, but that won't mean they won't be bold.
"And there's still the matter of the prisoner Indrys was so thoughtful to provide. With luck, he'll get us a bit more information about things in exchange for an unmarred hide." He can't believe he just uttered those words, but if he can make the bandit fear for his safety, perhaps he'll be a bit more free with information before they have to resort to less savory methods.
From the back of the wagon train, where she had been staying as a rearguard, comes Laelaer. Her face was set in a grim expression as she walks through the carnage that was left in the wake of the battle. "Is everyone alive?" She asks, obviously not counting the bandits in 'everyone'.
The reappearance of the head merchant draws Alec's attention away from even the spell, and he starts to get up without waiting for a verdict. "If you like them, I'll give you a better price than I hear in town," he offers to Indrys. "Look them over, try them on if you want. I've got something to attend to.
"Just as you do, it looks like," he says to Glaffin, and points with his new bow at the sole corpse Tallhelm mentioned. "Though I don't think he's going anywhere. Then again, neither is this one." The bow-tip shifts to the last bandit, and Alec shrugs. Both jobs have more suitable undertakers here than him; he isn't much for interrogation, and he suspects that the caravan as a whole would rather that its fallen member had Glaffin's rites than his.
Alec has other business anyway. Dayne in particular might be relieved when he draws Tallhelm's focus to himself, like a soldier diving on a live grenade. With a flick of his wrist, Alec draws the spare short sword he pilfered from his corpse and presents it to their employer, held out flat with his fingertips under the pommel and the tip of the blade.
"It's an old custom to give a gift of the spoils to the commander after such bloody business as this. I hope you won't sell it; keep it as a personal trophy. You'd have taken your own, I'm sure, if you hadn't had to keep the wagon train in order. If we'd fallen to chaos in the battle, there's no telling what could've happened."
The pirate'll never hear the end of this, he's sure, the story repeated over and over and over, but he wants to earn a little good grace from the other man before he makes his upcoming recommendation.
"Somethin' that doesn't kill ya can only make ya stronger," says Thorus, to nobody in particular but rather the collective wounded, though he does look at Indrys and Cecily while saying this. He then sets about aiding the scavenging of the corpses, though in stark contrast to Alec and Glaffin he shows remarkably little respect for the dead; he recites no rites and extracts weapons or valuables without regard to how he has to finagle the corpse to do so.
He finds one of the stray crossbows and examines it carefully. He didn't actually know how they worked before, but looking at the mechanism it seemed to be a pretty straightforward contraption. Satisfied it wasn't obviously broken or malfunctioning, he looks for a quiver and a fair number of stray bolts, which he then straps to his belt. You never know when you might want to hit somebody, but are too far away to do so.
He then finds two knives and tests them for balance. He mimes throwing one of them without letting go of it, and then tucks them into his belt alongside his current one.
He scavenges a crossbow and quiver (with a decent number of bolts - however many you're willing to give), 2 daggers and his share of the gold from the bandits.
At Glaffin's praise, Thorus looks almost sheepish for a fraction of a second, then regains his composure. He straightens his back and says "Thanks, though someone ta stitch up the deep wounds ain't ever a bad thing." He sniffles from the dust and thumbs his nose. "Ain't exactly complainin', but if I'm honest I'm not sure why I can patch people up just by standin' near 'em. I ain't a priest, just a guy who knows how ta take a man apart, not put 'im together."
Noticing the prisoner awaking, and Glaffin's words regarding getting him to talk, Thorus pipes up again, making sure he speaks loudly enough that the bandit can hear him. "I can mar his hide for ya, if he doesn't cooperate." More for the sake of scaring the prisoner than anything.
Just in case it's needed:
Thorus switches his active aura to presence: +1 bonus to Bluff, Diplomacy and Intimidate.
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
"Well, while you're watching him, I'll see to our fallen friend. Make sure his ropes are good and tight, and if he tries to run, use your best judgement. The information isn't worth his hide." Glaffin nods his thanks for the reprieve, and then trudges over to the deceased guardsman, waving over someone nearby to help him lift the body and place it off by the side of the road. He could do it on his own with some effort, but it's best to be respectful of the peaceful dead. Laelaer should be able to get the answer to her question just based on his bearing, and somber countenance.
Then he takes a shovel from the back of a supply cart, and begins to dig. He'll be at it a while, even if all he can provide is a shallow grave. Unlike the bandits, he'll permit no looting to be done here.
"Did anyone know this man's name? It should be on the ledgers, if nothing else." The dwarf wipes at his brow with his shirtsleeve, going over the rites in his head as he speaks. It won't be the burial the man would have received had he died at home in his bed, but a dwarven ritual, slightly adapted, will hopefully ease him along past his lingering suffering.
"Yes, yes, quite so." Tallhelm looked over at the small pile of coin purses, which by now had ceased growing larger. "It's a good plan, I think. We'll divide up the money to pay the men who fought here today, a noble sentiment. As for the armour, well, it might fetch a bit of coin, but it's no use to... most of my men. They've been outfitted with similar. I regret I had no chances to get any of you some proper armour, though, so you're welcome to take any if it suits you. I may keep a suit myself, for that matter. It shall need to be adjusted of course, but that's why I hired a smith, isn't it?" Ever self-satisifed, the merchant hurried off to find his ledgers.
He was interrupted along his way by Alec, and the pirate's offering of a sword. The expression he made, there was no doubt Alec's worst fears were correct. He would never, ever, hear the end of this one. Willam took the blade, careful not to touch the edges. "Thank you very much, my friend. I'll wear this with pride, I assure you. We all have our own battles." His chest was puffed out, and to be honest he looked more than a little absurd, but he took no notice. "I would have had at some of those bandits myself, but you're right, I had to stay with the caravan. It was a near thing, it was, and my poor horses! Someone will have to go after the one that ran, actually."
Tallhelm looked like he was about to go shouting after Dayne again. If the pirate planned to say more, he'd have to be quick about it.
"Most of us," a voice told Laelaer. Erne, the old guard, had come up next to her to look at the battlefield. He was still clutching his crossbow, as though he were afraid it might vanish into nothing if he didn't keep hold of it. "Corb there, he didn't make it. Damned fool, charging in on that horse. Suppose he thought he were being heroic." The older man shook his head. "Never be a hero, miss. Only get you killed."
That was the man's name known, at least. It likely wasn't much consolation for him, but at least Erne had remembered who he was.
The last bandit, seated near Thorus, was listening to the back and forth-discussion with an increasingly worried expression. His vision seemed to have come back now, and he recognised the ex-soldier as the one who had rode in and killed his boss in one blow. Thorus' words didn't make him any more inclined to be friendly, it seemed.
"You, you stay back!" he said, struggling and failing to free himself from the rope. "I ain't talking to you. You shouldn't even damn well be alive right now." Slowly realising, perhaps, why that state of affairs was the current one, the man raised his head to stare at Thorus, then glanced back and forth to see if anyone else was listening. Satisfied that they weren't, he lowered his voice. "Look, what're they paying you? I saw you fight, you can do better than this."
"Heroes are for stories." The drowess replies. "And they fall, more often than not." At least, that was how the tales she heard as a child always went. Her people had more of a taste for tragedy, rather than something that might inspire. It was better to learn lessons from.
Laelaer scanned what remained on the battlefield, looking for spoils that another scavenging soul might have missed. She wasn't going to try to claim riches, having been out of the fight, but if something useful was left, why shouldn't she pick it up? Her orange eyes alight upon a fallen archer, or more particularly, his bow. With a polite nod to old Erne, she leaves him behind and picks up the item, examining it for damage. Laelaer smiles, satisfied that the weapon was serviceable and then, slinging the bow across her back, searches for a quiver and whatever arrows it might contain.
Cecily leaves the bandit and gradually makes her way toward Glaffin. She stops a couple times on the way, once to pick up a shortbow. The bard is not keen on putting herself in a position where she's in the reach of enemy weapons. At least this way if it comes to it she can duck behind some cover.
When she does stop by her friend and the dead man, she doesn't say anything. She stays respectfully silent until Glaffin is finished.
"I'd say you have the rights to the highwayman horses too, if we can catch them." It can't be that hard to appeal to a successful merchant's greed.
Alec waves off that comment before it has a chance to steal Tallhelm's focus. He puts his hand on the other man's shoulder and keeps him walking as he was before; going for the ledgers should give them a bit of privacy. Their discussion isn't meant to be a secret, precisely. Alec just doesn't want anyone helpfully pitching in an opinion.
"But with your permission, I'll borrow some of the guards and go see how many of them we can find. The bandit mounts might've just gone home. We should find and search that base anyway; there's still the matter of the hostages. Which leads me to something we should talk about: the boy we caught. I've given that some thought."
He sighs, probably a little more dramatically than necessary, but he wants to make sure Tallhelm notices. The merchant doesn't seem like the most perceptive man. "You may be surprised to hear that I got into my fair share of trouble as a child, so I know about this sort of thing. Once you start down the wrong road, if you don't have guidance to put you back to right, only a god can say where you'll end up. That boy in the wagon made some serious mistakes this afternoon. It's our duty to set him straight, even if he might not appreciate it now."
All honestly spoken. All completely misleading. Alec's definitions of wrong road, guidance, serious mistakes, and straight are between 160-180 degrees from the average person's, and a keen listener might feel a nagging doubt about how he didn't say which god he meant.
For a pirate, Alec has never been a good liar, and he knows it. The closest he can come is telling empty truths.
"Trying to steal from you was the least of it--" his personal problem being trying; the kid did a lousy job. "And I needn't mention how he worked for the bandits. The arrow you took says it better than I can, and dead Corb says it better still. He had his friends to think of, sure, but the lives of us strangers are worth the same as theirs--" very little. "More than that, he should've had the sense to get our help from the start." That, finally, means just as Alec says.
"The point I hope to make is that he did a great deal of wrong. He won't learn from his mistakes if he isn't made to. Men have laws for a good reason. We also have punishment. When we get to Seabreak, the proper thing to do would be to turn him over to the authorities. Prison for theft and aiding murderous robbers is a harsh price to pay, but not as harsh in the long run as thinking he can get away with business like this."
There's a pause, and then Alec raises one finger as though he's just had a thought. "That is one option, but I sense that you're a merciful man. I can suggest something kinder that'll still do what needs doing: bring the boy into the caravan. Have him work off his crimes. He'll get food and shelter, a chance to see more of the world than he might otherwise, and a good, moral education." Maybe it's still his slightly aching head, but Alec almost thinks he hears a distant, mad cackle at that phrase. He shakes it off. "He could, say, make one of your route rotations, then end his sentence right back here, assuming he and you both don't want to continue the arrangement with pay, you being as good an employer as you are. Of course, you can't force him by law, but if the choice is either your service or hard labor and a small cell, I think he'll make the smart decision."
Upon catching wind of the hero discussion, Thorus mentions "What matters is if you get the job done or not. If doin' so makes you a hero, then all the better. If ya gotta die to pull it off, well, might be worth reconsiderin'."
Seeing nobody else go for the well-crafted armor the leader was wearing, he decides to lay claim to it. When the captured bandit starts talking, Thorus stops and rumbles with gravelly laughter. "Well, that depends. If people like you and your friends keep showin' up, beatin' that offer's a tall order." He grins and jingles his plundered coin pouch. "On tha other hand, if you got more you ain't tellin' us about, both of us'll have a better time extractin' it."
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan
Glaffin nods briefly when he catches the man's name, and begins his intonation. It will be a short one, meant for use on the battlefields of war in times when all you could do was shut the man's eyes and leave his corpse in the muck.
"Bless you to the earth Corb, and bless your earth to the stone. Let your body be the foundations on which our children build upon, and let the creations you support reach until they touch the sky. Though you may now walk the endless steppes, let this blessing reach you from beyond the horizons, and ease the weariness in your feet, wipe the sweat from your brow, and bring a song to your heart." The dwarf reaches down and touches the man's brow, expending the last minute trace of healing magic left to him into the guard's body. To ease his passage beyond.
Then he turns to Cecily, eyes narrowed against the sorrow he's feeling, "Do you think you can sing him something for me, while I find some rock to cover him with? I don't want the animals disturbing him once they've had their fill of the rest." Glaffin scans the hills for any large rocks he can drag over to lay on the corpse. He may be another half hour at this, if he's to do it on his own.
"Generally, cowardice is not considered heroic, Thorus." Laelaer replies. "However, I cannot say the same of prudence. A hero should not go looking to die." Although she had head plenty of such stories as well. The drowess thought it was impractical. What good would dying do anyone?
Her piece said, Laelaer moves on to help Glaffin collect rocks for the bier. The dead had to be respected and cared for, lest they return, vengeful. Of course, they couldn't take their time to bury all of the dead here. But those men chose their path, to risk their lives for coin, where failure meant death away from family and friends. She doubted, if any other bandits still roamed the hills, that they would bother to give their former companions any final respects.
"That they do," Erne agreed, slowly making his way over to the gravesite where Glaffin was digging. The old guard listened through the brief eulogy, the mouth behind his beard kept firmly shut.
"I'll help you find a few stones," he said once Glaffin had finished. There were plenty of those around, scattered by the side of the road and trailing off towards the ocean. Most of them were embedded in the grass and dirt, but a few looked like they would be easy to free, if one did not mind getting one's hands a little dirty. A few of the other guards were following the older man's example, which would make the work go a lot quicker. It wouldn't be long before there were enough stones for a small cairn.
By the Wagons
Over by Tallhelm, Alec was making his pitch. The merchant kept interrupting, replying to each individual proposal before Alec had completely finished. "Yes," he would say. "That's a good idea. I don't know if you'll be able to bring them back, there's no telling where they've gone, but I could certainly use some new horses, and perhaps we could sell one in town. Good horses can go for a lot of money, you know."
"Of course, upbringing is important. Impressionable minds, need some appreciation for good, hard work drilled into them. What I always say, and I've proven it myself. Look at everything I have, up from my start as a miller. Most men would say it's too hard for them, but not me, no sir. Willam Tallhelm takes command of his own destiny."
At least he seemed to be listening to the Pirate, and actively considering what he said. "You make a convincing argument, sir, but how am I to know he won't make off with some of my goods the first chance he gets, eh? We put some proper fear into him, no mistake, but I don't especially like the idea of a known thief lurking about my wagons." The irony, of course, was lost to him.
"Still, it's a good point. I don't think prison would be too hard for him, but then honest work has a way of knocking a man's head straight. For that matter, an extra set of hands is naught to frown at. I'm a good judge of people, I am, never wrong. Thought the moment I saw that one 'he's trouble now, but with the right hand on his shoulder he'd go far.' So, I'll tell you how this can go. If you can guarantee he'll leave the goods alone, and he won't cause any trouble or try to run off, I'd consider letting him stay. You seem a good man to me, bringing this up." They were back to the lead wagon now, and Tallhelm was alternating between running off at the mouth and getting the ledgers out from the box he kept them in. "Now don't be humble, it's obvious you're concerned for his welfare. Concerned hand is the best hand to steer the wheel, am I right?"
By the Wounded
Once again, the bandit by Thorus looked around to check if anyone was paying close attention to their conversation. He wasn't bad at subterfuge; Thorus only saw his eyes shifting because he was standing so close.
"It's not here," he said carefully. "That many coins, it gets heavy, see? So we kept a few locked chests, for storing the extra. Maybe I know where we kept 'em."
"Right indeed." Alec looks off for a bit, only halfway thinking about where Tallhelm keeps his paperwork. For once, the merchant is onto something. He just might've missed some details. And there's that old saying about details and the devil...
"I cannot promise he won't run off, with or without something of yours, unfortunately. But I can promise that I'll take responsibility for it if he does." 100% honest, too. "Starting now, in fact, if you'll let me get him from the wagon. I'll take a walk to explain things, maybe take him along with the others to collect his friends and anything else at the camp, depending on how he seems. By now I wager Thorus has gotten that last highwayman to tell him where they stayed, what they've got, who his childhood love was, his nickname, favorite color, and everything else that he's watched flash before his eyes. While we're gone, you might want to move the caravan a bit up the road to somewhere less gruesome and maybe settle down for the evening, to let everyone recover. Then we could hit Seabreak tomorrow and dazzle them all with stories of your victory."
Thorus leans in, doing his best to be inconspicuous, although the hulking warrior is not nearly as adept at it as the bandit. "And where might this cache be? I reckon it's in both of our best interests that you tell me. Wouldn't want somethin' bad to happen to ya, after all..." He cracks his knuckles quietly.
Intimidate check: (1d20+7)
"The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it, but the way those atoms are put together." - Carl Sagan