Marpenoth 19, 1367 DR - Year of the Shield
The fellows watched as the hulking paladin made his way up the worn path toward the front gate of the keep. Occasionally Remenissions would look down and correct the path of his horse, at least making a show of avoiding any potential tracks.
"Dorian, keep your bow aimed near the paladin," Justian hissed through clenched teeth, "just in case of hidden ambush."
"I know what I'm doing," Dorian snapped.
"Aye. My apologies," Justian replied.
Haeming glanced at the two as they bickered, silently hoping that this bickering that seemed to be almost constant would get the attention of some lizard men and end this constant waiting.
Remenissions found the way to the small castle clear, with only dead lizard men to greet him. The gates to an interior courtyard were wide open, with one of the gates resting crooked against a stone wall. Its wood splintered inward and hinges mangled beyond use.
As he entered the courtyard the paladin could feel sweat bead on his brow, and his eyes begin to sting. He used everything he had learned about horses, riding, and horsemanship to urge his steed on. Black acrid smoke still poured out from many windows, but was not as thick as when they had first arrived. The heat was intense even from yards away, but he could feel it slowly dying.
The courtyard was filled with the living and the dead. Men held dead wives, and wives held dead husbands. Parents tried to comprehend the loss of a child, and children tried to get the attention of parents who would move no more.
The paladin took in the grisly sight. Those who were not covered in ash were covered in blood, or so much gore.
Remenissions gripped the handle of his massive war-hammer as an ash-stained woman, accompanied by a forlorn attendant rushed towards him, only to relax his hands as the woman threw herself at the hooves of his horse. Her clothes may have once been elegant but battle and death had taken all sense of wealth and class from this small stronghold.
“You must help him. You must!” she sobbed. Tears made lines down her face as bubbles of snot blew from her nose.“He’s gone after the rest of them, into the swamp!”
"Who, milady?" the paladin asked.
The woman tried to answer, saying the same words over and over again, her sobbing distorting her voice and obscuring her answer. Remenissions asked again, until the woman began to scream over and over again, "help him!"
Her attendant knelt beside her, trying to hold her and console her. She was too far gone into her grief.
Remenissions sighed, "Leave her be boy, and tell me who is in the swamp?"
The servant glared at the unfeeling warrior before him.
"The Baron Cromm is in the swamp, he chased after the lizard men." The servant replied, as he stood up and searched form something unstained with ash, blood or smoke to wipe his mistresses face with.
The clatter of kicked masonry caused Remenissions to violently wheel his horse around, nearly knocking into the sobbing Baroness Cromm and her servant. The paladin grabbed his war-hammer, expecting an implacable foe, only to see the other fellows creeping into the ruined courtyard, walking their horses behind them.
"Ye'd taken so long friend," Coryn explained, "we grew worried." The cleric could hardly speak as he surveyed the dead and the. He dropped the reins to his horse and began to administer what aid and comfort he could, while offering up a prayer to Torm for safe passage of the dead.
Remenissions nodded his understanding and turned back to the servant.
"And which way is the swamp?" Remenissions asked, acting as though he were speaking to a child, despite the fact that the servant was at least twenty years his senior.
The attendant raised his hand, pointing to the southwest.
Remenissions's nodded as he once again wheeled his horse around, taking off out the gate ruined gate, yelling as his tired horse was once again pressed into hard service. " Get back on the horses, now! Come on!"
The fellows quickly scrambled to get on their mounts and follow the paladin in his pursuit.