“Ruuun!” The hoarse voice of the Seeker’s Chaplain bellowed through the chill night air. Creed could see the shadowy forms of Moradin Thunderbane and Tudor Sampson moving out of the far reaches of the firelight at the edge of the campsite. The rest of the party had already disappeared into the black. Attacking spirits had been cast out by Creed, but they would not stay away for long. You must lay me to rest, Chaplain. Eli’s incessant voice filled Creed’s mind, allowing for no other thought. At the edge of the clearing, opposite his companions, Creed spied the mound of snow that Eli claimed covered his remains. The Chaplain sprung forward with supernatural speed thanks to Tudor’s enchantments. In the same instant the Outrider, Rykson Finn and his mount, Kongo burst back into the firelight and were soon at the Chaplain’s side.
“Damn fool!” cursed the Chaplain. “I told you to run!” he scolded breathlessly. In reply, Rykson only smirked at the old man and resumed his scan of the tree line, searching for another spectral assailant. The trio covered the ground to Eli’s remains swiftly. Creed fell to his knees and frantically brushed away the snow to reveal the headless skeletal body. He gathered the bones into their own chainmail and laid them across Kongo’s haunches. With a click of Rykson’s tongue and an imperceptible squeeze from his knees, Kongo turned and bounded back towards the Knight and the Wizard with the Chaplain in tow.
Moradin raised a gloved fist to signal the Seekers to a halt. They had been running for near an hour, and the specters did not appear to be pursuing. The Knight surveyed the area while the rest of the Seekers caught their breath. They were well off the road with plenty of trees to obscure the light from their fire. On the opposite flank there was a small rocky gully ending at a high crag. Anyone approaching from that side would need to descend over a hundred feet. “We should make camp here, boys,” said Moradin, satisfied that this was an adequate tactical position. The exhausted Seekers raised no objection and went about preparing their camp.
Creed removed Eli’s bones from Kongo and entered the gully to begin constructing a cairn. Moradin watched as Creed worked, then gathered a few stones and brought them over. He laid the stones then placed his hand on Creed’s shoulder and said, “There ain’t nothn’ can be done about the past, Chaplain. All ya can do is decide what path yur gonna walk from here on out. Every one of us has lost somethin’. But ya know what we all have? We have each other. You’ll always be a Seeker, Creed and there ain’t nothn’ or nobody that can ever take that away from you.” Creed looked up from his work with pain in his eyes and nodded to his companion. With that the Knight rose and returned to the campsite to gather wood for the fire. The dwarf somehow reminded Nathanial of his own father whom he had buried only months ago. His gruff demeanor, his wisdom, and his relentless optimism are the same qualities that Nathanial remembered most about him. So alike, in fact, that it sometimes struck a cord of sorrow when the dwarf spoke. Chaplain Creed wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and placed another stone on the cairn.
“My friends! Please join me.” Creed breathed deeply of the chill night air as he summoned his companions, “The time for this moonlight requiem is long overdue.” The Seekers took their places around the cairn in silence. The silvery light from Shaneer shined down upon the Chaplain glinting off of his armor and giving him a ghostly glow. In a solemn tone he began the eulogy, “When last we gathered to commit the deceased to eternal repose it was Moradin who occupied the grave. By the grace of powers we do not yet understand our faithful Knight returned to us. And so we cannot presume to understand the will of the Gods nor should we make an attempt at such futility. Eli did not return to life after he was struck down as Moradin did. But he did not pass into the embrace of the Sky Father either. There are times when winter sweeps across our lands so suddenly that the harbors freeze over leaving ships trapped until the thaw. In much the same way the spirit of a mortal can become entrapped in our realm. And, like the thaw of spring, the only way for that spirit to be released is to melt that which holds it here. For Eli, the winter came upon him in storm of vengeance,” Creed paused for a moment then looked to the infinity above them, “at my hands,” he finished. “And because of this Eli is trapped here with me. So, Eli I forgive you. I forgive you for all of your terrible sins. For taking my flock. For burning them in the very tabernacle where they worshipped the Sky Father. Where they prayed for their sick. Where they prayed that their harvest would be fruitful. Where they prayed that their unborn children would be healthy. Where they pray no more and will never pray again. I forgive you. I lay you to rest so that your spirit may find the embrace of the Sky Father.” Looking down again, Creed finished by saying, “And I damn myself,” barely louder than a whisper.
With that, the Seekers made their way to their bedrolls to get some much needed rest. Unable to sleep, Creed took the first watch, making himself comfortable on a fallen log at the edge of camp. The Chaplain sat listening to the steady breathing of his sleeping companions when the sound of something approaching grabbed his attention. He peered into the darkness and suddenly a pair of yellow eyes appeared in the waning light of the fire. Just as Creed was about to raise the alarm he heard the familiar panting of his favorite Seeker, Kongo. He let out a sigh and said in a quiet voice, “Come here, boy.” Kongo trotted over to the Chaplain and sat down next to him, nuzzling at his hand in a bid to get scratched in that special spot behind his ears. Creed pulled some dried meat from his pack and began feeding the eager animal. “It’s been a tough night, Kongo. Hell, it seems we are all having a tough life. I’m glad you’re here though.” Kongo put his paw on Creeds leg and nosed at the backpack, “Okay, here you go,” said Creed as he pulled out more dried meat. “You know, all the family I had left died in that fire. I suppose your family is all dead now too.” Kongo put his head down in Creeds lap and looked up at him, looking sad as if he understood what Creed had said. “It’s okay, boy,” said Creed as he ran his hand through Kongo’s soft coat. “We’re your family now. All of us. The Seekers. As long as we have each other I think everything is going to be alright.” The Chaplain rose from the log and found a stick on the ground nearby, “A little piece of advice for you, Kongo. If you ever need to wake up Tudor for watch make sure you keep your distance. The boy swings his fists at whatever is in front of him when he is roused. Learned that the hard way.” Creed started waking toward Tudor’s sleeping form then stopped and looked back at the dog, “You know what?” Kongo cocked his head to the side in response to the question. “Eli’s quiet,” Creed said with a smile that no other Seeker had ever seen before.