Racing at top speed over the mud coated volcanic rocks, cracked by twisting jungle roots, wasn’t one of Frank’s specialties. He took off as fast as he could which put him immediately behind the others and before he even started he was on his own. Now to keep up, he tried to jump over rock piles and ferns in the equivalent of a man sized cooking pot. Again, not a specialized skill set he possessed. It didn’t take him long to land on his breastplate and skid to a halt at the base of a mangrove tree. The only place he wasn’t covered in metal, his forearms, were now ripped open by the slashing rock which lay secretly under the mud coating of the isle’s runoff.
With a groan of intense pain, Frank stood and placed a hand on the worst of his wounds. A stream of what looked like molten silver flowed over the injury, mending the flesh.
Frank tried to remember what he was doing, and concentrate. I am chasing my friends to find the ship. Why? Because the devil of a rogue is in some kind of trouble. Finding his way now without them wasn’t a specialty either, and before he knew it he realized he was turned around. Palm fronds draping over him, he rotated this way and that. This was not the time to be lost. Something was going on with the ship. Areia was in trouble if she lit her flare. “Where in the darkness are you?!!”
“FRANK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” It was Iricah. “Frank, we need you!!!!!”
“I’m coming! I’m coming darkness take the lot of you!” Frank shouted and he turned to run through bramble and ferns and a spider web so thick it nearly caused him to trip because it wouldn’t let go of the trees which it was connected to. “I’m coming!!!!” He shouted once more and brought his legs up as high as they would go through the foliage doing all he could not to wind up in a mud hole somewhere before he could reach his friends and the shore, and in his wildness he didn’t realize he was standing on the sand. He had made it to the beach.
Now stopped, he had a moment to feel the spider web which clung to his breastplate. He looked down in the grey of the early night to see a large hairy thing the size of a grapefruit was starting to unfold itself. It clung to his chest by eight wicked legs, it’s abdomen throbbing. It stared at him with large black eyes.
Whack! A claw reached out with lightning speed and snatched it off of him. Frank, started again, turned to see Thrak popping the thing into his jaws and pointed to a place on the beach that Frank couldn’t see well. “Oververe,” he garbled, long hairy legs like twigs sticking out of his mouth in between his fangs. Crunch, crunch. A lean back, and the beast slid down into Thrak’s throat.
Frank rushed over to the spot Thrak had pointed towards and saw Zy’an, and Iricah bent over two little objects on the ground. Above them, in the background loomed the ship, it’s sails furled. Behind that, the red glow of Areia’s flare was slowing falling back into the sea. “What happened?” Frank asked breathlessly.
“Areia’s gone. So are the others. We found these two lying on the sand, wailing and gasping. Now they’ve gone still.”
“Is that, is that the two little…”
“Brownies,” said Iricah. “Frank, can you bring them back?”
Thrak came up from behind them. “I’ve never sssseen them so ssssstill. I think it’s an improvement, really.”
“I think that’s because they are dead,” said the bard. “They won’t respond to any of my healing. Frank. We need you!”
Frank came to rest a knee over the little figures. They laid on the sand, on their backs. Both did not appear to breathe. Do they breathe, he wondered. I mean, how much do we know about these little creatures?
As if reading his mind, Zy’an, ever the pragmatic one spoke in his matter of fact way. “Are we sure we even wish to attempt to save them, I mean these two have been trouble from the start, and….”
“They will know what happened to Areia,” said Iricah. That was an answer no one could argue with, so no one did.
Frank, decided, had already begun to call the flame. Bring them back to us, he prayed. Let the light return to them, let the shadow depart. He spread his hands over the little figures, one at a time. Ding, they had never noticed had a little goatee. Dong, who usually wore a little pointy hat, was bald.
“They are like little men,” said Iricah. “Little tiny…”
She was interrupted by a great sigh. This sound they had often heard. It was Frank’s frustrated sigh. “Dead,” sighed Frank. “They will not be brought back. They cannot be raised.” He slumped his shoulders over. He took these failures personally. First he had failed to bring back Thrak. Of course, that had been a miracle of some other kind, but still Frank took it as a failure he himself could not guide him back to the flame. Then, he had watched helplessly as Ulua was carried away. Now, even though these two little beasts had driven them all nuts, it was what he did. Frank was a healer. But here, and now, he couldn’t do that which he was supposed to do.
And it frustrated him to his core. For underneath all that armor, underneath the warrior, Frank was a healer. He had always known he would be one. It wasn’t about the healing. It was the selfless act of aiding another. It had always been a part of who Frank was.
“Well, there issss ssssome good news, the little bastardsssss that Bolvist gave us are gone,” gnarled the lizardman.
“Let’s be respectful Thrak. Sure these two were little miscreants, but they meant no harm. It’s in their nature.”
“Well my nature would have led me to kill them myself,” said Zy’an. He reached out to pick up Ding, and gently wrapped his fingers from both hands under the little man’s back and legs. A faint little sound like a chirp came from the body. They all stared at the face. Eyes were closed. Lips pressed together, tongue was hanging out to one side. It almost looked…staged. What the… exclaimed the monk. He pulled a hand back, extended a single finger and pressed it on the little man’s chest.
The lips separated lightly in the corner of his mouth and the tongue quivered. Presently, a noise like “helelelelele” sputtered out through the side in between the tongue and the lips.
Zy’an watched the little body twitch. “Well,” he spoke slowly and in a louder voice, “These two little fellows are clearly dead. Since we are on an island. I see no reason to try and bury their bodies, so let’s use them for bait. We can catch our dinner tonight. I’m hoping for Dread Sea Shark. I haven’t had that in ages. Anyone got a large hook, we can gut these two and dangle them in the water overnight. We’ll be sure to land something…..”
Dong’s head and shoulders shot up, followed quickly by his feet. Ding’s eyes instantly opened, and his tongue which had been lolling out of his mouth for the last several minutes, shot back into his mouth. His eyes grew three times in size and he attempted to scramble out of the monk’s grip. But Zy’an held him firm. “You little scoundrels!!! What is the meaning of this?!!! Where is Areia?!!”
“What in the Ketian night?” cried Iricah. “You two are alive?”
“Dong!!! Make a run for….,” Ding tried to squeal the rest of whatever he was trying to say to his stinky little partner in crime but he couldn’t finish. Zy’an’s hands were closed over his tiny mouth. Dong, wasting no time to try and escape for them both, leapt backwards in a sommersalt, twirled in the air towards Frank’s knee guards and landed like a tree frog sideways. Then, he bounded off like a grasshopper. The little fairie shot upwards in an arc and behind the others in an effort to make his way out into the jungle. However, in mid flight Frank’s mace swung out and caught him square,thwak, and he fell to the sand with a thwump.
“Hypocrites,” sighed Frank. “Such hypocrites, these two.” He picked up the little man who groaned and wailed about his head.
“Someone bring me something to put this little villain in, he’s trying to bite me and…,” Zy’an grimaced and looked thoroughly revolted, “He’s also…farting.”
Iricah bent towards Dong, now in Frank’s gauntlet. She yelled at him and blew his moustache hairs around his face. “Why did you try and deceive us you…..you…. where is Areia? WHERE IS AREIA??!!!”
“Don’t tell her Dong!” Yelped Ding. Zy’an squeezed a bit harder.
Just then, a sound of feet came from the treeline. “We’ve got company,” whispered Zy’an. “Be ready.”
While they turned, half expecting to see more beasts from the monastery, or more foes from the jungle, two of the ship’s sailing crew emerged from the treeline Both held rapiers out, as if they were ready to attack. But seeing the familiar outline of their lords, they ran towards the others on the beach. One of them, a man named Grindle spoke first, “My Lords! We had gone looking for you. She’s gone.”
“Areia?” asked Iricah.
“Aye my lord. It’s taken her.”
“It?” asked Frank, staring at the little beast in his hand. Dong’s eyes, like his buddy Ding’s grew wide. “How did It take her?”
Grindle fell to his knees, a full grown man, he seemed to be shaking all over. Frank recognized the tell tale fear, the bone melting dread that he himself had felt once. In the presence of only one other beast.
“It, my lord, flew away with her.”