“Oh, you again.” Sneered the rasping form huddled against a nearby hut. “Did you come to gawk? To gloat?” With a slight shift, the form’s mud-caked robes fell open revealing a hideously scarred dray. Mottled gray tumors protruded from between her scales, oozing mucus as she moved. But even worse than her flesh was her eyes; No longer did they sparkle with intelligence and cruelty they had in the past. Now, there was only defeat and regret.
Only a shell of the once powerful sorceress Rohan remembered had remained. How long had it been? Two years? Three? He couldn’t recall at the moment. But being confronted by such suffering shook him to the core. “You look terrible Tooska. How do you feel?”
“How do I look, fool?! Get the hell out of here before… wait… ah yes, I can see it now. You too have the wasting. When did you first feel it? Does it frighten you to look at me this way? Seeing your own future so clearly must be terrifying. Yessss.” Some of the malice had returned to the dray as a smirk played on the corners of her mouth.
Rohan averted his eyes. Pity was not a word one associated with Tooska. And yet, he could not help feeling it. The disease had defeated the sorceress. And not just her body; but her spirit as well.
He understood pain. He understood agony and suffering as well. These things intimidated him no longer. But, the assault on the spirit. This was a new kind of battle; a new manner of fighting entirely unfamiliar to the desert warrior. To combat this new foe Rohan spent a great deal of energy steeling himself. Defending against despair with optimism and combating hopelessness with passion. But to be faced with one who was once so strong willed yet had succumb so completely was, indeed, terrifying.
“No, I came here to give you this.” Discreetly, he drew a small pouch from his belt under his armor. The sound of ceramic coins clinked within revealing its contents. “This is your share from our last deal. Sorry it took so long for me to deliver it. There have been… complications.”
After a moment, a shocked expression crossed the dray’s face and then was gone. “I see you still honor your agreements. At least that remains of our kind.” Tooska withdrew again into her robes to count the coins.
“There is more. I thought you might be interested in this.” In his hand was a small stack of bone discs bound by a sinew cord. On the discs were arcane inscriptions written in some ancient language. “I can’t make any sense of these. They aren’t written in the trade tongue. I’m told they are a journal from one of the templars who attacked Guistenal. And from what I had to go through to get them I believe it. Supposedly, these are his notes about the dray and..”
“You truly are a fool, Rask. Did you think you would find salvation on those discs? Did you think you could save me? Or save yourself? It is too late.” Slowly she reached up and plucked the discs from Rohan. “I will look these over… it… it appears that… they are ritual notes of some kind.”
With that, silence fell between the pair. Despite all the noises of the jungle the quietness was deafening. Rohan stared down at his old companion as she paged idly through the bone dics. Minutes dragged past as the two were frozen in place amidst the bustle of the city.
Rohan broke first. “I guess that’s that then” he said with a sigh and turned to leave.
“Wait.” The elder dray ordered. “I found this in the roots of some tree. When I saw it I immediately thought of you; fighting with trash for weapons.” The sorceress leaned over and rummaged through her pack for a moment before producing an immaculately carved ebony shield. The shield was an Islangu, a traditional dray shield. Designed with gaps around the edges, each gap housed a dozen small rings which rang like a rattlesnake when shaken properly. Inscribed on the back in steady handwriting read “Rask: 1/1”
A tear formed in the corner of Rohan’s eye as he read the description; for he knew what it meant. Tooska was dying, and soon. The gift signified that he was now the leader of his clan… a clan of one. Without turning around he whispered, “goodbye, old friend” and quickly strode off. Suddenly he was eager to be anywhere but there.
Looking up as the warrior departed for the last time, she too whispered “goodbye, old friend.”