Skrie and Theren inspected the items the party recovered from the tower while Malusk and Garrick slept. They sorted everything into two groups, items embedded with magic and mundane objects. Placing the everyday things in a sack, the pair turned their attention to identifying those imbued with magic. They smelled all the vials, even the ones given them by Geordo all those days past. At least four of the vials smelled like the healing potions the cleric had used at the temple.
While Theren prepared his ritual to identify the magical items, Skrie scouted the area around the cave and hunted for small game to add to the stew pot. Some two furlongs from their hiding place, the halfling spotted the tracks of at least four humans, some with the shambling gait of the undead, traveling toward the village. Tracks pointed north and south along the trails, not venturing further west toward the ravine where the party had set up camp. Two rabbits and a squirrel later, the cleric returned to the shelter to find Theren excited about his discoveries.
“You will not believe what this horn does,” the mage said, his voice raising an octave in his zeal. “Watch this,” he said as he lifted the horn to his lips, then quietly said, “Garrick, you’ve slept long enough.”
“Wha??” The man sat up, blinking, still wrapped in his bedroll, “Did someone call me?”
“I didn’t hear a thing,” said Skrie, glancing at Theren, who gave her a big wink.
By this time, Malusk was awake.
“So,” began the mage, “while you two were in dreamland, we,” he pointed to himself and the halfling, “figured out what the horn does.”
“Do tell,” said Garrick when the elf just looked at them, an arched eyebrow raised.
“I thought you’d never ask,” said the mage with a wink. “This,” he held up the horn, “is the Horn of Anahla.” Pointing to the inscription, he read, “‘speak a name, and they will hear my call.’ I tested it on Garrick,” he turned to the man, “I said your name and told you it was time to get up. If I recall my history correctly, the Horn of Anahla was used by ancient elves to coordinate battles. It does have limited uses, though it recharges when it is not used.”
“That could come in handy when we get split up,” said Skrie, dropping chunks of rabbit and squirrel meat into the stew pot. “We also figured out what’s in some of the vials. We have a few healing potions if we need them. And I think one is poison.”
“I cain’t jes’ sit ‘round this cave all day,” said Malusk. “We need t’ find out what’s goin’ on in th’ village if’n we’s gonna get this stuff back in it’s proper place, like the wraith said.”
“Indeed,” said Theren.
“They came close,” said Skrie. “I saw some tracks a couple of furlongs out, but they didn’t venture into the woods.”
Making a quick meal of their rations, they banked the fire and set the covered pot next to the coals while they left to scout the village and see what changes had been made since the cultists fired the buildings. Finding a small hillock from which to observe the ruins, they watched for a candle or so, finally seeing a cultist lead four walking corpses toward the ruins.
The cultist stopped the string of shambling undead near the entrance to the ruin, gave them a command, then disappeared into the stone edifice. Some two hundred heartbeats later, he returned and led the grisly procession south and east past the ruins. The party waited to see if the cultist returned before moving to a new hilltop nearer the temple.
From their new vantage, the party could see that the entire village had not been decimated by the fire, just the buildings that the party knew had been homes for the villagers. Skrie was sure the villagers wouldn’t return to Nemeademore if what Garrick told them was true.
After a time, Skrie realized it was futile to figure out how many cultists remained. They needed to get on with it if they were going to scout the ruin.
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