Night on the River

It is cold on the river at night. Shrimpkin, the strange magical boat found in the otherworldly caverns beneath Bald Mountain, carries them downstream and away from the Fever Valley, the dark waters hissing and foaming along her spell-stitched strakes. The craft needs no means of propulsion other than the will of its pilot, Valindra, who crouches in her stern, exhausted but vigilant, keeping a watchful eye turned on the shore slipping past just at the edge of her vision.

The elf draws her bearskin cloak more tightly about her slender form to ward off the chill, and reflects on what has happened. The fight against Caliban had been tough, much tougher than they had expected. They have recovered the Orb of Summer and have fulfilled this part of their mission, but the cost has been great. So great. She looks upon poor Ainorei’s corpse lying in the boat’s bottom, safely wrapped in a canvas tarpaulin. At first light, they will put ashore, and attempt a mighty ritual that Blair claims will call the gnome’s spirit back from the realms of the dead. She hopes this will work. Blair has never been wrong about such matters before, but until then, Ainorei is gone.

And the cost could have been even greater.

Valindra looks upon Solera who lies asleep in the bow, head resting on the rune-etched gunwale, her face all but hidden in the shadows of her fur cowl. When Caliban had called forth the inferno that engulfed both Ainorei and Solera, Valindra had been concentrating on controlling the fire elemental that she had summoned from its own plane of existence and bound reluctantly to her service. Ainorei had made no sound, perhaps killed instantly in the conflagration.

But Solera had screamed.

Valindra thinks she may never forget that scream. She can almost still hear it now, the snow elf’s howl of agony as the flames engulfed her. She had wanted to run to her, to plunge into the fiery maelstrom and drag her forth to safety, but to do so would have required her to relinquish control of the elemental, allowing it to run amok and turn on them, perhaps killing even more of her friends. And so she had maintained her focus and control despite Solera’s screams ringing in her ears, despite the kettledrums throbbing in her chest. That had been one of the hardest things she had ever done.

Overhead, the moon suddenly appears through a jagged rent in the clouds, and Solera’s dragon-scale armor gleams in the silvery light. Valindra looks upon her sleeping friend’s delicate visage illuminated thus in the moonlight and feels a sudden aching inside. As long as I am by your side, she thinks, I will defend you with my life. If you ever fall, then be assured that I will fall as well defending you. Ironic, she thinks, that she should feel so protective of one so utterly capable of defending themself, but she feels this way nevertheless. She is not entirely certain if Solera harbors similar feelings for her, but this matters not.

Glad that her friend is resting, Valindra turns her watchful eye back toward the murky shore gliding past in the moonlight. It will be dawn soon and there is much to do.

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Really beautiful, pensive post. The emotion really carries it along, and builds as the post develops. Nicely done. "Spell-stiched strakes" is an especially nice turn of phrase.

And the picture is perfect. Exactly what I pictured for the lower reaches of the river.
You can really feel Valindra’s struggle with not saving Solera. Beautiful post