Morning dawned with no further incident, and Gwenn woke feeling hopeful. Rising from the cot that was made for her the previous night, She listened to the sounds of life stirring in the wood outside the cabin. Bird song rang through the air, occasionally cut with the chattering of a passing squirrel. Oddly, she heard nothing but the sounds of Mielikki's children on the air. Rangrim's loud snoring was absent, and looking to the door to his chamber, she found it was slightly ajar.
She slowly stood, a sense of worry building in her. She had known the dwarf only a short time, but already found she greatly enjoyed his company. She moved slowly, though she knew not why, to the door and gently pushed it open. She sighed audibly though, when she found nothing but an empty bed chamber.
Turning back to the main chamber of the cabin, She took a few quick breaths to settle her nerves. She didn't understand why she felt such kinship with the strange dwarf, yet there remained the fact that she did. Walking back to her cot, she began the process of collecting her things. Piece by piece, she donned her armor, lost in thought all the while.
A sudden loud bang brought her back to the reality of the cabin. Spinning quickly to face the noise, she found that the front door had been thrown open. She grabbed for her symbol, thinking to defend herself if needed. Glancing at the door though, she realized she need not have bothered.
Rangrim stood there, holding the carcass of a forest creature. On his face, he wore a wide smile. "Ai, hope yer ready fer some breakfast!" Rangrim paused then, noticing that Gwenn was on alert and seemed ready for a fight. A hearty laugh escaped him then, and he walked to the cookpot. "Sorry if'n I startled ye, was not me intention." he said with his usual mirth and charm.
Gwenn could merely watch him work in bewilderment. How happy he seemed just now, though she knew there were deep scars hidden beneath that exterior. She had to wonder how hard he worked to seem so carefree. Putting on an air of severity, she began to playfully scold him. "And just what was your intention then, Master Dwarf? Any sensible creature would have been ready for a fight with that racket!"
Rangrim paused in his preparations of their breakfast. He was fairly certain she was joking, but was not fully certain. "First," he began, " As I tol' ye last night, call me Rangrim. Anythin' else seems too stuffy." He turned to face Gwenn, "Secondly, me intention was only to announce me return. Nothin' more, nothin' less." He studied the young cleric's face for clues about how serious she was, and soon was relieved when her face cracked into a large smile.
The two of them shared several moments of boisterous laughter, then Rangrim returned to the cookpot. Before long, he had transformed the carcass into a wonderful stew. As they sat at the table to eat, Gwenn couldn't help a small jab at her host's expense. " Stew?! Not exactly ideal for breakfast is it?" Rangrim merely shrugged, and reached toward Gwenns bowl. " Well, if'n ye be not wanting it…"
Gwenn was quick to guard her bowl from his outstretched arm. " I never said I did not want it. I was merely commenting on the choice." Again she couldn't hold her smile, and both she and Rangrim laughed again. Once the laughter had died down, both were quick to dive into their breakfast.
Some time later, Gwenn stood in the clearing outside the cabin. She did not know where she should go next, but she knew she could not tarry here any longer. She still had her divine mission to complete, after all. Having lived her life in the confines of the enclave, she possessed very little actual knowledge of the world outside of Neverwinter. Where should she take the relic, or to whom?
She was brought once again to the clearing with the loud banging of the cabin's heavy door. Turning around, She was faced with Rangrim's smiling face. He was dressed in worn travel clothes, but something about the way they fell told her there was more than simple clothes being worn by the dwarf. Resting easily on his shoulder was his axe, and he wore a pack on his back as well.
Gwenn started to speak, but he cut her off. " It's no use tryin' to talk me out of going. I've already decided. Beside's, do ye be knowing where to be going? Or even how to find the road?" She started to protest, not wanting to draw the dwarf further into her troubles, but realized he was right.
When Gwenn didn't answer, He spoke again. " Now, I have a small bit o' travel things, but we will need more. Closest place be Sundabar, we should be heading that way." At the mention of Sundabar, the cloud again crossed his face, but passed just as quickly. " O' course, Sundabar be only a stop, as we be heading to Silverymoon. The folks there should have a thing or two to say 'bout yer relic lass.
With a bit more conversation, and a long look about the place from Rangrim, the pair set off. Rangrim kept them moving generally north, with occasional detours to avoid creatures or obstacles. His familiarity with these woods was obvious, and he moved as though he had placed everything in it. They made excellent progress, and by the time darkness fell the road was in sight. As the gloom of twilight took the sky, Rangrim busied himself making a fire. Every so often he would look up and smile, and mutter something about how what he was doing was for safety.
Sitting beside a roaring fire, Gwenn was uneasy. She had never spent a night in the wilds, and had heard of how dangerous such a night could be. Rangrim sat easily next to the fire, his outward calm hiding the level of alert he held. He had guessed that the young cleric had not been in the wilds, and was trying very hard to not scare her. But he knew what dangers wait in the dark. This close to the road, beasts were a small concern, but a larger danger was the possibility of orcs. Merchants often traveled the road, fine targets for Orc raiders.
The fire burned low in the early morning hours, long before the break of dawn. Gwenn slept fitfully, her dreams filled with the manifest uncertainty she felt. She was as unsure of herself as ever, perhaps more so now that she had a moment to reflect. Initially, she had not questioned the will of her Goddess. But now, she was sure the Goddess had picked wrong. She was but a low level cleric in her order after all, with limited experience in most matters, how much could she conceivably do?
Lost in doubting dreams, it took her several moments to awaken. Rangrim stood over her as she opened her eyes, and confusion filled her mind. "Wha..?" She started to say. He was quick to cover her mouth, and only held a finger to his mouth, to signal silence. She then noticed his eyes, void of the normal light and mirth, staring into the darkness outside the camp. Gwenn was struck by the cold, almost callous, look on his face. Something had obviously raised his guard.
Rangrim slowly removed his hand from her mouth, and readied his axe. Taking cue from his actions, she removed her symbol from its place on her armor, and slowly sat up. The next few moments passed slowly, almost agonizingly so, while the pair waited. Soon enough, a quartet of orcs, a race not known for its stealth or subtlety, came charging into the camp. Rangrim was up in an instant, bellowing a war cry and charging three of the creatures.
The one orc not in Rangrims path, turned its attention to the half prone cleric. Quickly closing the small distance to its target, it swung its battleaxe overhand, thinking to cleave the small cleric in two. Gwenn hastily rolled away, missing the strike by mere hair's breadth. She jumped to her feet following the roll, and squared off against the orc. The orc, genuinely surprised to find its strike had found only earth, lifted the large weapon easily and charged the young cleric once again.
Rangrim, as skilled in battle as he was, was hard pressed. It had been some time since he had faced orcs, and he found himself squarely on the defensive. He had charged these three willingly however, for even with her recent experience, Gwenn was no warrior. He hoped she could handle the one remaining creature, but could not spare the attention to check. The four combatants worked furiously, each seeking advantage but finding none.
Gwenn had not faced such a ferocious enemy before. Ducking a wide swing, she backpedaled a few steps. Always the orcs' weapon was mere moments behind her, shadowing her every move. Quickly realizing she could not out maneuver this opponent, she racked her mind for some strategy. Remembering the little she was taught of orcs in the enclave, she began to develop a plan.
Parrying another series of blows, Rangrim dug his back foot into the dirt, and launched himself forward. He had to even the odds in his favor, for he knew he couldn't hold forever against these three. The creatures were skilled, for orcs, and had slowly begun to work together. Using the momentum from his spring forward, and the surprise he had gained, he struck. Jabbing out with the top of the pole on his axe, he stole the breath from one of his attackers. The injured creature fell to the ground, disabled for a precious few moments.
Gwenn knew, at least as far as she was taught, that orcs were not overly intelligent as a rule. She thought to use this to her advantage, and waited for the orc to swing its heavy weapon again. When the small half-elf had paused for a brief second, the orc thought its moment had come. It brought its weapon across in a vicious swing, meaning to end her life then and there.
Seeing their companion brought low in such a short time, the two remaining orcs against Rangrim hesitated. That hesitation was all the surly dwarf needed. Bringing his axe across with practiced ease, he gutted one orc. The wounded creature fell back, not even knowing it was already dead. The remaining orc stood, jaw agape, as the battle turned in the dwarfs favor. The two circled each other for a moment, before beginning to exchange a flurry of blows.
The orcs' axe cut across, and Gwenn tucked into roll to get inside the swing. Coming out of the roll, She stood quickly leading with her holy symbol. The move, one which the stupid creature never saw coming, resulted in her symbol bashing into the chin of the orc. The blow, while not powerful enough to end the fight, would certainly leave its mark. The axe fell from its grasp, and Gwenn thought she now had an advantage. She was that much more surprised then, when the orc wrapped its powerful arms around her small frame, and began to squeeze.
Amidst the clang of steel on steel in his own battle, Rangrim caught the faint sounds of distress nearby. Chancing a glance, his eyes found Gwenn being slowly crushed by the powerful embrace of the orc that held her. He turned his attention back to his opponent, just in time to deflect another blow. But the dwarf felt something, a feeling he had not had for ages; Unbridled fury. His rage grew, and finally exploded on the unfortunate orc before him. Powered by rage, his strikes came faster, and hit harder. Soon, Rangrim had the orc squarely on the defensive, the poor creature hardly able to keep up and certainly not understanding its impending doom.
Gwenn struggled valiantly against the impossibly strong grip of the orc. She kicked, bit, and clawed, all in a futile attempt to break the death grip. She thought to utter a prayer, but found she had not the air to say the words. Her world started fading, first color went, then toward black. Just as she was about to lose consciousness, and her life as far as she saw it, she heard a meaty thud. The monster's vice grip loosened, then let go all together. Falling to the ground, the injured cleric gasped for breath, and color and sounds returned to her world. Turning to her adversary, she found the orc blinking, unable to comprehend the axe that had come to rest in its skull. It wobbled, and finally fell, dead long before it hit the ground.
As the orc fell, the axe came loose, as it was held in the sturdy hands of her dwarf companion. The bloody weapon seemed to hover for a moment, before falling to the earth. Rangrim rushed to her side, all thought focused on the well being of his friend. " Lass! Yer alright?" He asked, the rage inside dying down as he spoke. Gwenn nodded, before setting about examining herself and Rangrim for wounds.
Rangrim rose then, retrieved his axe, and strode to the downed orc he had left. The creature was stirring, finally having found its wind again. Before it could come fully to its senses, the dwarf finished the battle with a quick chop of his brutal axe. Walking back to Gwenn, he finally noticed the slew of minor wounds he had sustained. Adrenaline had prevented him noticing when he was struck, but now the first hints of pain began creeping into his body.
Finishing her examination of herself, Gwenn happily noted she had sustained no significant injury. Rangrim stumbled then, drawing her eye to him. Seeing her companion bleeding from several wounds, she jumped to her feet and approached him. " You're wounded, Rangrim!" she said, more concern in her voice than she had intended. Rangrim merely shrugged, and offered a sheepish smile. "Aye, those orcs got a hit or two on me." he said.
Rangrim stood quietly as Gwenn set about healing his wounds. A quick prayer saw his wounds close, and the pain began to lessen. Rangrim found his mind was quite busy as Gwenn tended his wounds. He studied the battle over and over in his thoughts, wondering how he had let it happen again. The rage had not taken him for years, so long that he might have escaped it. But again, the rage had come and he had been powerless before it.
Gwenn looked up from her healing prayer, and saw in her friends eyes that he was far away in his thoughts. She glanced about the barely lit camp, now with the corpses of the four orcs strewn about. Orcs traveled in numbers, she knew, and so she thought it wise to move on. She reached out and gingerly placed her hand on Rangrims shoulder. "Rangrim," she began, "We should not linger. There may be more nearby."
The dwarf heard Gwenn's words, but only barely. He shook himself from his thoughts, before glancing around the camp himself. "Aye, lass. That there may be. Best we be moving on." he agreed. Moving swiftly, the industrious dwarf doused what remained of the fire. Grabbing Gwenn by the arm, he pulled her along toward the road in the predawn light. "Sundabar be not far, maybe a day or two further along the road," he said as they approached the merchant road. "Best we keep moving, try to avoid further battle."
Rangrim meant his words in the best way, but they had a different effect on Gwenn. She knew she had been almost useless in that fight. In fact, had nearly been killed! She was sure Rangrim meant that she could not defend herself. While there was truth in the idea, as combat training had been slated to begin in earnest the following year, she had thought to be more capable than she was. She decided then that she would seek some training once they reached Sundabar.
The following day and a half passed quickly, with the pair meeting neither friend nor foe on the road. It was nearly midday as they approached the winding road to the gate of Sundabar. Gwenn had never seen such a construction, one built almost purely for defense. The entire city sat atop a hill, surrounded by thick sturdy walls. Though they approached from the south, she could just make out other roads winding away from the fortress in the distance.
Approaching the gate, the pair stopped short at call from above. "Halt and identify!" shouted a guard from atop the wall. Gwenn glanced to Rangrim, thinking he would answer for them, but instead found him squirming uncomfortably at her side. She looked back up toward the guard and shouted back. "Good day and well met sir! I am Gwenn Moonshadow, cleric in service to Selune, and this is my companion Ran-" The guard cut her off. " Rangrim! You have some nerve showing your face here again." He turned as though talking to someone else atop the wall. After a moment, he looked back down toward the pair, " That unwelcome slug beside you aside, what business brings you to Sundabar Cleric?"
Gwenn was unsure how to proceed. Clearly, Rangrim had some history here he had not divulged. But they needed supplies, so she could only hope to talk their way in. " We make for Silverymoon!" She shouted, "But we need provisions and supplies. We would like to enter to rest and restock." The guard once again conferred with his unseen companion. "Silverymoon lies the other way, cleric!" He shouted down at length, "And we shall not allow him entrance...not again. You may enter if you wish, but he stays here."
She wasn't sure how to feel. On the one hand, they desperately needed the supplies, but she did not wish to abandon her friend. A slight nudge to her back brought her out of her thoughts, and she turned to see Rangrim, looking rather deflated. He raised his hand, and spoke softly, "It be alright lass. I earned their scorn." He shrugged his pack off, dug around in it for a moment, and produced a piece of parchment. "This be a list of what we be needing, please go."
Gwenn took the parchment, her heart aching at the distress on the dwarfs face. "Very well," she said sadly, "I'll return with haste." Turning back to the gate she shouted up once more. "Alright, I am ready to enter!" The guard disappeared over the battlements, and soon the gate groaned open. Gwenn took a step forward, and was surprised when several armed guards walked out. The guard from above poked his head out of the gate, and motioned for her to enter. "Welcome to Sundabar, Mistress Cleric." And with those words, she strode into the city.