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Heroes of Mystara - Chapter 23

by Jesper Andersen

Searching for each other

It was daybreak when Petja woke up. He looked around and saw Wulfgar sitting next to the campfire examining an assortment of berries and fruits.

'Morning' the rogue said with a sleepy smile. 'What's for breakfast?'

'Not sure' the barbarian answered. 'I found this stuff in the forest nearby but I have never seen such berries before. They could be very tasty or they could be poisonous'.

'I'm starving' Petja said. 'Do you think we should try just a single one?'

'Well, if we don't eat something we'll never make it out of this jungle' Wulfgar replied. 'I figure it is at least a couple of days hike along the river to the village and maybe as much as four or five days in the other direction to the city'.

'And we don't know if the Iron Ring will be waiting for us, when we get there' Petja pointed out.

They ate a few of the berries that turned out to be very tasty and then agreed that it would be safest to try and hike to the village. Wulfgar laid out a few crude sticks on the ground - a signal to their friends should they still be alive and come looking for them.

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'Any sign of them?'

Thaminor looked inquisitively at Eveil who seemed to be communicating with her parrot, Pesh, who had just returned from the far riverbank.

'Pesh saw the remains of a campfire and some sticks laid out to point upriver' Eveil replied. 'They may yet be alive - both of them'.

It was just before noon and they were all sweaty and dirty from a long hike in the jungle along the river. Their knees were scraped and their hands stung from what felt like hundreds of tiny cuts and wounds from the vegetation. It might look pleasant and green but this jungle was anything but.

'By Rad! I will have a thing or two to say to those bandits when we catch up with them!' Ikaros sighed. He was still tormented by the loss of his spellbook and his journal and couldn't stand the thought of those thugs perhaps using them for kindling or worse - toilet paper!

They rested for a while as Eveil looked around for some food - she had no problems coming up with enough edible plants, fruits and berries for all of them - and then continued upriver.

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Two days later Wulfgar and Petja stumbled out of the jungle and into a clearing on the riverbank. Before them lay the tiny village of Punaauia whose workers they had been asked to come and save from the horror in the mines. At the moment they didn't look anything like rescuers. They were covered in dirt and grime, their clothes were torn and bloody and their faces unshaven.

As they slowly staggered across a small field of vegetable gardens towards the village a number of villagers spotted them and came to their aid. They were given water to drink and crude stretchers were made to carry them inside the cool huts in the village.

They were too tired to give much of an explanation and the villagers simply gave them care and something to eat and drink without any questions. A number of curious children swarmed around the beds in the hut, however, watching the strangers from a safe distance behind barrels and sacks and other furniture.

Just before Petja sank deep into a troubled sleep he saw a beautiful Makai girl sitting on the side of his bed gently washing his face with a cold wet rag.

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'By Kagyar's Hammer! We made it! I thought that bloody jungle would be the end of me!'

Whitemane slid down a large rock and landed on the riverbank with both his feet in the cold water. In front of him was a shallow crossing and on the other side a village that they assumed had to be Punaauia. The rest of the tired company followed close on his heels.

It was late afternoon almost three days after the ambush. They had managed not to starve only thanks to Eveil's astonishing ability to find food in the jungle but they were still fatigued from the long hike through the jungle.

When they came to the village and spoke to the chieftain, a man named Imoraquai, they learned that their two missing companions, Wulfgar and Petja, had indeed survived and had made their way to the village just hours before.

Ikaros, Whitemane, Thaminor and Eveil were invited in and treated to the full extend of Makai hospitality. Eveil smiled as Thaminor and Ikaros both walked off with a young woman under each arm to be bathed and fed. Whitemane had no such desires and just asked for hot water and bandages before he kempt his beard and then finally gave way to a ravenous hunger for 'proper food' - roast meats and beer.

Eveil talked to Imoraquai and learned that the village had never had any problems in the mines, nor had they sent a messenger to the Tribune asking for help. The whole things was apparently orchestrated to send them into the Iron Ring's ambush...

Next time: Plotting their return