Chapter 17

Oren and Martell went out the gates of Abbysta. Martell reminded him that they needed to find the temple for Varelle in addition to scouting the area. They started with walking the perimeter of the place, looking out through the woods to see if they saw a structure that matched what they were hunting. With everything overgrown and tree roots that had peaked above the ground and sunk back in, it was a slow paced march around the outside of the keep. They were fortunate in that the ground was dry, as mud would have prolonged the trek. Three quarters of the way around they spotted the clearing where the ogres had made camp. The place still had a fire pit and some crude lean-to structures, but no signs anything had recently camped here. From here they could see what looked like a small stone structure with old trees growing above it. It reminded them of the Avo temple, though this time they were ash trees and not oak.
The two went over to the temple; the front was open and let in enough light to see the altar. It was eerie how similar the two temples’ interiors were, save for the lack of candles in this one. Oren went and placed down the bowl. He had Martell pour the water into the bowl. Martell chanted the prayer she was instructed. When finished, they exited the temple as they had been instructed. They waited, watching as a fog filled the inside of the building. Then it started flowing out the door. As it exited, they saw a candle light emanating from inside. Out walked a woman with short dark hair and brown eyes, dressed in a white dress and ivory robes.
“Thanks to you and Varelle I am finally free. I am Tabia, the eighty-third priestess to Varelle. I have been lost among the spirits for so long.” She ran over and embraced Martel. “I knew Rowenn would be the one to free me as Varelle said she would.”
“My apologies, but Rowenn was not able to do so. I am Martell, her sister.”
“I see it now,” Tabia spoke. “My eyes are still adjusting to all this.”
“And what are you to do now?” Oren asked. “We are not staying here at the temple nor at Abbysta long.”
“My job is the goddess’s will as her priestess. I will not return to Avo, as there is only a priestess already there. I shall stay at her temple tonight and await her inspiration.”
Oren and Martell headed back into Abbysta after finishing the patrol on the outside. Teman and Devlin had finished clearing out the second floor and moved up on the third. They had gathered a decent amount of loot to carry out of the stronghold. Their plan was to collect, then evaluate, and then finally cache what they could not carry and come back later for it. They were certain it would take time for word to circulate that the place was free of dangers. And it was just as likely some other problem would move in here with its prior tenant being around.
As daylight started to come to an end, the quartet turned toward adjusting the doors at the entrance as best they could to keep out nighttime visitors. They actually swung shut pretty well, though there was still a gap between them. The four would take turns standing guard while the others rested.
Oren was woken up for the third watch. He was not sure he would get back to sleep afterwards, though staying awake would be just as trying. He added some wood to the fire, and the shadows renewed their dance along the walls. He paced around the yard in to both stay alert and stay warm. This was not how he preferred to spend this time of year. He was starting to long for his cozy house and its warm hearth. He closed his eyes picturing happy memories from last year curled up…except they were not happy, he was feeling alone. A familiar smell came back to him, as he heard a rapping on the door. He walked over to see who was calling, peering out the window he saw a trio outside his house. It was two men and an older lady.
Oren shook his head, he must have dozed off. But had they found him again? He scanned the shadows around the fire and saw nothing. He grabbed a burning branch and lifted it up to cast light at the gates. Nothing was there either. Perhaps it was just fatigue getting to him. He looked over at an hourglass that Teman had found and they were using to keep track of time. He was only halfway through the granules.
The sound echoed against the stone. At first, Oren thought the sound was from outside, but now was filled with uncertainty to if it was in the courtyard or not. He held still trying to listen for another noise. It sounded as if something was walking about outside the walls. He listened to the sound of claws of some sort scraping along wood and stone. Oren walked back over to the fire and grabbed his staff while still holding the branch in his other hand. He then slowly paced over to Martell and tapped her lightly with the base of the staff. There was another sound of wood creaking outside the hold. Oren could see Martell was now awake. He proceeded to wakeup Devlin and Teman in similar fashion, quietly nudging each awake while watching the door.
Oren saw something reptilian look in at the camp through the gap in the gates. He saw the eye and then a bit of snout. Then a second set leaning over from the other door. He motioned left and right, hoping to indicate to the others that there were on both sides of the gate. The rest of the party had slowly been setting ready for a conflict. Martell had about half her armor on and sword in hand. Teman had his bow at the ready and Devlin looked like he had slipped a bit into the shadows to the side.
The two lizard creatures pushed at the gate trying to get in. The gates creaked at the weight pushing on them but held against the push. They then scratched at the gates and let out a trilling screech. This was followed by several more hits and scratches at the gate. The bracing that had been done earlier in the evening on the gates did its job keeping them at bay. This went on for a while before they gave up and went to go find something easier to play with.
“Salamanders,” said Devlin after a bit. “At least that’s what they looked like; though they are not usually nocturnal. They also were not breathing fire. But this is all based on what I have heard, not witnessed.”
“I think you are correct, from what I could make out through the door,” Martell commented. “But now back to sleep. Who knows what we will deal with tomorrow?”
Teman stayed up for the rest of the night, he let Oren call it quits on his watch early.

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