After their failed assault on the Troll King’s caves, our heroes limp back towards Moonstair, Angiledhel binds his own wounds, then falls in step next to Finn, holding small pot of salve and a strip of bandage for his companion. “Here. That cut over your eye. Put this on it.”
He slows his pace slightly, so that Hosvir with his gruesome burden of the minotaur’s head, and the Deva Ikar are out of conversational range, though not out of sight. Gil is pale, visibly shaken, more so than his injuries seem to warrant.
“I should have carried you out of there. I should have carried us all out of there, one by one, while I still held the shape of Fukurokami the Great Owl. I made a mistake, and it cost us terribly…” He shakes his head and passes a hand over his brow, grimacing in pain.
“Finn, I need to ask you something,” he says after a moment. “Do you believe the spirits of the dead can communicate with us? I know Lathander speaks to you, but… But I heard a voice just now, the one I told you about. The reason I insisted we return to Moonstair as fast as we could. My friend Elchelmon, my…” He hesitates, then says softly in Elven, “My heart star.”
Gil’s slender fingers clench protectively over the decorative hilt of his sword, then he speaks in Common again, “In twelve years I’ve heard no word from him. I don’t know how much of my past you’ve gathered, Finn, but when last I saw Elchelmon, he and I were both badly wounded, driven apart by Ingerhol’s soldiers. He was alive, but if they took him captive…” He breaks off again, storm-grey eyes not meeting Finn’s, and takes a breath, steadying himself.
“It was Elchelmon’s voice, just now, calling for help in Moonstair. It was like he was standing right beside me. Maybe he escaped. Maybe he mastered some sorcery that allows him to speak across distances. My heart wants to believe it, but… ” He shakes his head. “Something… Something isn’t right. Elchelmon’s voice said they intercepted the message we sent to Myth Dranor, but that was not our message. That message was sent by the mayor of Moonstair before we ever arrived there. Why would the answer come to me? And why was a message to Myth Dranor intercepted? The voice — Elchelmon — said he’s brought reinforcements, and that Moonstair has not yet fallen. That we had to hurry…”
His steps falter, and he stops. “Finn, I’ve seen your god work miracles, and I know he speaks to you. There are few men in this world I would trust, let alone call friend, but you are one such. You’re not the smartest man, but you… you have knowing of the nature of things.” Gil slips into Elvish again, finding no words in Common that suit his meaning.
“What do you think? What do you sense? Is this a trap, Finn?”
Finn absently applies the bandage to his forehead as he listens to Gil speak. When the elf finishes, Finn breathes out a long, slow breath before responding.
“I don’t really know what to think. Yesterday I thought we were going to kill that troll king and his army, but then he killed Goeban and kicked us out of his cave like little kids. The day before that I thought that nice barmaid wanted me to come say hi to her, but then she was asleep, so I thought it’d be better to not wake her up and play cards with her friends instead, but then the next time I saw her she was mad at me. The day before that I thought Lathandar spoke to me in my mind, but then the Oracle said it’s not Lathandar who speaks to me, it’s the banner, because it smells.”
Keeping his head down and his eyes on the road, Finn continues: “I prayed to Lathandar to make me strong enough to kill the troll king’s army, and he did, but I still couldn’t kill them all. But Lathandar can make the sun burn and move around in the sky and make crops grow and everything, so he can definitely make me strong enough to kill a troll army. So maybe I did something wrong. Or maybe I’m doing something wrong. I don’t know. But no one dead has ever talked to me—not even Father Radnic, and he’d definitely talk to me if he could, just to say hi and maybe to tell me a bit about what it’s like being with Lathandar all the time. And I thought my banner was Lathandar. It’s hard to tell who’s talking to you in your head, because you can’t see anyone’s lips move. But if someone says something that’s not what someone else would say, then you can tell that maybe the someone isn’t the someone else, you know? So if your friend Eckelman said something in your head that was wrong, maybe it wasn’t him. Or maybe he was confused; I get confused sometimes, and I say the wrong thing. Like maybe he thought the message was yours even though it wasn’t, or maybe he meant, ‘your message’ like ‘the message you guys care about’ or something like that. But it is weird that after such a long time he wouldn’t even say something like, ‘Hi, Gil! Guess who this is? It’s Eckelman! I’ve really missed you!’ Or was he not that kind of guy?
“Plus, that troll king said he’d already wrecked Moonstair, and he said we didn’t have to listen to him about not fighting if we got to Moonstair and it was still OK. So I hope it’s still OK, but that troll king really didn’t seem to think it was.
Finn finally looks up at Gil: “So maybe it’s a trap. Yeah, it’s probably a trap. But in a way, that’s OK. Because we would have probably died in that cave back there if the troll king hadn’t kicked us out, so even if we die up here in a trap we’re not really any worse off. So if it’s not a trap, then maybe your friend Eckelman is OK, and so is Moonstair, and we can save Moonstair and kill the troll army and the troll king. And even if it is a trap, at least we got to walk back to Moonstair together and talk and stuff before we die.”
Gil meets Finn’s gaze, steady and searching, holding somberly still a long moment. Then he smiles wryly as if he has reached some conclusion. “Okay. But let’s not die if we can help it, Finn.” He sets into motion again, keeping to an easy pace to match his human companion’s. “Elchelmon was definitely the sort of guy who would have said hi, if he could have, but… When I knew him he was no sorcerer, but when he knew me I was no druid. Maybe something has changed. Maybe the Troll King lied. Maybe Moonstair yet stands.”
Slanting elven eyes study Finn, seeing mismatched armour, toussled, unwashed hair, blood-stained, bruise-marked cheeks dark with stubble. Seeing a light about Finn that seems to come from within despite the rough exterior. A light and a shadow, and maybe it is just fatigue and injury playing tricks with Gil’s vision, but… “I don’t think you’re doing it wrong, Finn. The gods… Gods sometimes give strange answers to prayers. Maybe Lathander didn’t want us to defeat the Troll King and his army. It’s hard to understand what a god wants sometimes. Although the Oracle was probably right about your banner not being Lathander. It speaks for Lathander, maybe, but Lathander is surely bigger than a piece of cloth. ” He glances up at the overcast sky, shivers, and pulls his cloak closer about him.
“I think the gods right now must want us to be cold. Or maybe the gods want to see those trees covered in snow. Or to hide the—” He breaks off, noticing something on the ground and swiftly kneels to retrieve it. When he stands he groans, holding his aching side. “Maybe the gods wanted me to find this. It’s fevermoss. Good for healing bruises.” He cups a brownish, velvety curl of moss he’d scraped from the ground in a creased, scar-marked palm and holds it out for Finn to see, before he stows the bit of moss away in a belt pouch.
“The gods — Lathander, Ereval Illesere, maybe some other gods we don’t even name — brought us to know one another, after all. Brought us this far. Maybe the gods are still on our side.”