Shamil spent the next day staring at the glowing remains of the campfire.
Jory lay on the bedroll in the tent. Shamil half expected to hear
one of his whimpering, grunt-like snores any minute. Then she remembered.
Jory was gone. Her thoughts chased each other in a whirlwind.
No. He can’t be gone. He just can’t be. What will I do
without him? He can’t be gone! If this is his idea of a joke,
I’ll kill him. The last thought sent her back into a sobbing oblivion.
She woke up to a cold fireplace and colder ground. It was just after dark and frost was already beginning to accumulate. Shamil sat up and saw the moon just beginning its long journey across the star-splattered sky. She knew what she had to do. She stood, wincing at the series of rapid pops that flew up her spine. She went into the tent, kneeled by Jory and brushed his hair back from his face as she whispered, “Jory, honey, I’m going to be okay. If I can just do this one thing, I know I’ll be all right. I love you.” She kissed his cheek and proceeded to prepare Jory for burial. She dressed him in his armor, If only he had been wearing it! and brushed his hair and tied it in his customary ponytail. She laid him out on his half of their bedroll and placed the hilt of his sword in his stiff hand. She then wrapped the blankets around him and sewed him in.
By then it was nearing midnight. She gathered together everything she thought she’d need for what remained to be done. She used Jory’s hatchet to cut a pole approximately four feet long. A short length of rope, unwound to make it thinner and easier to work with, attached her dagger to the pole, making a formidable spear. The week had been cold. She knew it would be staying near its burrow until warmer weather.
Shamil walked up the ridge, hoping it would still be there. She found a weasel out and about, and stopped it for a moment. Luckily, the weasel knew the area, and told Shamil everything she needed to know. She found the hole in the ground with no problems whatsoever. She emptied the entire bottle of lamp oil into the hole, opened the only other bottle of oil and made a small trail of oil back from the entrance. She took a deep breath and struck a spark with her flint and steel. It landed wrong. She struck again. This time the spark landed right, but was too small to light the oil. “Third time’s a charm…” Shamil whispered through clenched teeth. The spark flashed bright and true onto the puddle of oil. Shamil leaned over and blew gently, then jerked back as the fire raced towards the burrow, towards it.
A high-pitched shriek split the night air. The giant spider lumbered out of the hole in the ground, oil on its back in flames. It tried to outrun the burning pain, but it seemed to realize that was futile. Shamil dumped the bucket of water on the beast with a savage scream. It didn’t put the fire out, but it did wash the burning oil onto the ground. Before the thing could recover, she rushed forward and impaled the spider on her spear. She quickly backed away as it writhed on her dagger. Shamil began picking rocks up from the ground and pummeled the thing until its thrashing became spastic twitching. Then she went up and snatched her spear away. Protecting her hand with a bit of spare leather, she removed the dagger from the pole and, with it still twitching; she proceeded to cut its head off.
She carried the gruesome trophy back to camp and set it down next to Jory’s body, next to the fireplace. The rest could wait until morning. She crawled into her bedroll and fell into a troubled sleep; dream spiders chased her all night.
She awoke shortly before dawn. The air was frigid, and she was cold, even wrapped up in her blankets. She yawned and stretched, then hurriedly dressed in her warm traveler’s outfit. She ate some rations and opened the tent’s door. She saw the sun rising, blood red on the horizon.
Must be a fire not far from here. Despite what Shamil was about to do, she was extraordinarily calm. A strange detachment settled on her when she woke up. She gulped some icy water and set about gathering stones of the proper size and shape. It was nearing midafternoon before she had enough. She knew she wouldn’t be able to dig very far in this rocky area, not with the ground as hard as it was. Not to mention that she didn’t have a shovel.
She drug Jory to a place between two bushes, piled almost all of the gear they had carried over him. She included the bridle, bit, and saddle for Loogie. The last thing to crown the pile was the spider’s head. After that, she proceeded to encase the lot under the stones she had carried. The sun was hitting the rim of the earth to the west when she placed the last stone. The prairie fire had gone out earlier in the day, but the amount of soot and ash that still hung in the atmosphere draped everything in a surreal orange-red light. Her hair hanging in her face, Shamil staggered back to camp. She packed up and left. She didn’t look back; she’d learned her lesson. She’d never look back. Well, she’d try really hard not to.
By sunup the next day, she found herself stumbling into a town of considerable size. She tracked down an inn and stayed awhile. She developed a taste for ale, if not meat, and moved on. The summer passed in a blur, she was traveling aimlessly, sporadically asking if anyone had seen Zook, then moving on. Autumn came, and with it the profusion of color in a usually green world. As autumn fell into winter, Shamil found herself traveling through new country. When she awoke one morning to a covering of snow, she decided to head for the nearest town and hole up there for the winter.
She kept herself amused and in coin by slitting purses and robbing rooms. She never got caught, but by the end of her stay there, the owner of the inn had his suspicions. Shamil moved on with the first spring rains. She resumed her directionless search, and traveled until summer gave her a choice.
One sunny day, she was walking along the edge of a forest, when she heard a commotion ahead. She peered out from behind a bush and saw a strange conglomeration of two-legged creatures bent over a figure on the ground. She approached slowly, but was stopped when one of the tall ones looked her way. He was the ugliest thing she had ever seen! She was still marveling at the fact that something could be so ugly, when the local authorities arrived.
Much to her surprise, the authorities arrested her, along with everyone else that was there: a male elf, a female elf, a dark half-elf female, and two half-orcs. As they marched to the local prison, in a town by the name of Scarville, Shamil wondered if she would ever get to continue looking for Zook.
…and the rest is gaming
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