Chapter 15: The Lake Effect

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The coagulated smoke fell from Seamus’s body and landed with a thud. Producing a sack from his belt pouch, the wizard stuffed the magical residue out of sight. In the meantime, the bard regained his senses. He looked first confused, and then terrified as he realized he was tied to a tree with his party members standing over him. Fortunately Ailbhe removed the gag before he started to cry.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “Why am I tied up?”

“It’s a long story,” Iain said as he removed the still rainbow colored roped.

“One I would suggest for another time,” said Fandango. “I think the dragon is done.”

Indeed, an unnerving calm had fallen over the forest, as if every living thing held it’s breath to see if the dragon would go to sleep. Either that or they were offended by the scent produced by the beast.

“Oh god,” Ian said as Ciardhe staggered up over the lip of the rim.

Seamus’ first act as a free man was to throw up.

“Drop her in a lake,” the paladin said. “For the love of all that’s sacred and holy, drop her in a lake.”

With a nod, Fandango started a teleportation spell. Unfortunately it looked like he was having some trouble concentrating. And with one simple misspoken word, he dropped a lake onto Ciardhe instead of her into it.

The wave that hit Ailbhe took her breath away and knocked her into a tree. Fortunately her armor took the brunt of the damage. Unfortunately, once it was done taking damage, it held her pinned at the bottom of the deluge. She struggled desperately to free herself from the heavy plates, drawing her rarely used knife from her boot to cut the leather straps. Blackness ate away at the edges of her vision. A powerful jolt knocked the blade away and nicked her face. Without thinking, she inhaled water. Panic helped her find the breastplate straps, but it was too late. Her fingers slipped from the strap and were still.

“Ailbhe!” Iain’s voice brought her back and she woke coughing. “Shit, you had me scared. Do you always have to be so damn dramatic?”

“Yes,” she croaked between coughs. A soothing sensation spread over her chest and she realized the ‘serk must have cast a healing spell. “What happened?” she asked. It was much easier to talk now that she wasn’t coughing. She finally opened her eye to find Iain laying half beside her, half on her. He was using her chest as a pillow.

“The damn wizard dropped a lake on us,” he muttered. “And I ruined your armor.”

“Guess that explains why you can use me as a pillow,” she said. “Normally you complain I’m way too hard.” She put an arm around him. “Thanks for saving me.”

The ‘serk grunted.

There was a long pause, and Iain was almost asleep before she asked. “The others?”

He grunted again. “Haven’t seen ’em. Was too busy saving you to look.”

“Shit, we have to go look,” she said. “I’ve got not idea where to start, though.”

“Sleep now, look later,” Iain said. “Tired.”

“Mmm,” Ailbhe agreed.

They were still asleep when Fandango found them. The magical burst woke the paladin, and the berserker sneezed himself awake on the accompanying smoke.

“You’re okay!”

Iain made a displeased sound as he found himself sandwiched between Seamus and Ailbhe.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” the bard exclaimed, pulling away. “You are okay, right?”

“We’re fine,” the paladin said. “Though someone owes me a new set of armor.” She gave the wizard a withering look.

“Right,” Fandango cleared his throat nervously. “Now that I’ve found you, we can go looking for the healer.”

“Do you think she’s alright?” Seamus asked.

“Fat floats. I’m sure she’s fine,” the wizard replied. “Now hold on a minute while I teleport us back to town. I’ll need to consult my crystal bowl again to find her.”

Remembering the last time someone distracted the wizard in the middle of a spell, the three party members were absolutely silent as he recited an elaborate incantation. Iain had almost fallen asleep again when smoke billowed out from Fandango’s sleeves and enveloped them all.

When the smoke cleared, they found themselves back at the inn where they’d captured Hellspawn. As Ailbhe and Iain climbed to their feet, their companions looked around for the staff.

“Haloo, we’re back. Can we get our keys?” Fandango called to the kitchen.

There was a clatter and a teenage girl came out. “Keys? Sure, which rooms were you in?”

“Back corner room and the one across the hall,” the wizard said. “Where’s the innkeeper?”

“No good jerk just took off this morning,” the girl said. “Told me to run the place while he was making a spiritual pilgrimage. Or something like that.”

“Goody for him. Glad he found religion, etc, etc. Keys please,” the paladin held out her hand.

“You don’t have to be rude,” the girl said. The deposited the keys in the waiting hand.

“Sorry, sleepy ‘serk,” the paladin said as she headed for the stairs, one arm around Iain’s waist. “Fandango. Come get us whenever you find Ciardhe in that crystal ball of yours.”

“Bowl,” the wizard said. “It’s a crystal bowl.”

She grunted. “Whatever it is. Just don’t wake us up until you know where she is. Come on, Seamus.”

The three of them trudged up the stairs and were asleep in minutes. When the knock from Fandango came, it was full dark outside.

“Come in,” Ailbhe slurred.

The wizard entered, closing the door behind himself. “I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that I found your healer and she’s not too far from here, just the next town over. And she’s okay.”

“So what’s the bad news?” Seamus asked from his blanket nest on the floor.

“The bad news is she found someone that likes her costume. And by ‘likes her costume’, I mean they invited her home. And by ‘home’ I mean to bed,” the wizard said.

Ailbhe swore.

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