The rain that Vin had predicted arrived about midday. It began slowly but soon built to a steady downpour. It was the kind of rainfall that could, and probably would, last for days. The fallen leaves that lined the trail became treacherously slick and heads bowed to avoid the rain were often bumped against low hanging tree limbs. Spirits that had started out light and merry were soon as dark and gray as the sky.
"Pits! Vin was right. I really do wish I was back in his cave right now." Jaydee put his hand out to catch his balance as his feet threatened to slide out from under him.
"What? And miss out on all this exciting adventure?" Buck looked back over his shoulder and grinned evilly. "Not bothered by a little rain are you, Jaydee?"
"A little rain, no." The young man tried to wipe his face dry with his sleeve but that was damp as well. "But I'm about to drown in this."
"Hah. Let me tell you about the time Chris and I had to fight a band of trolls in a real storm."
"Later, Buck." Chris called back from his place in the lead. "Here comes Vin."
The small party gathered beneath a large tree and waited for the tracker's report. He had spent most of the morning ranging out ahead to check the trail and search for signs of recent use. The rain made his job difficult but not impossible. The look on his face as he rejoined his friends did nothing to improve their spirits.
"Bad news, Chris." Vin, just like all the others, had naturally given the mercenary the responsibility of being the leader. So, knowing they were about to encounter a serious problem, the young half-elf focused his attention on Chris. "This rain is coming from the Sungold Mountains. I figure it must have been raining just like this up there for the last few days."
"You've seen the river?" Chris had a feeling he knew what Vin was leading up to. The Rindel River started in the Sungold Mountains and eventually made its way to the Blue Ocean. At the point they were planning to cross, it was normally deep but slow moving. With all this rain though...
Vin nodded his head. "It's not good. Water's over the banks, all brown and moving fast. Got a lot of branches and logs in it too."
"Pits. Just what we didn't need." Chris rubbed his forehead as he gave the problem some thought. "How far are we from the main road?"
It was Vin's turn to look thoughtful as he pictured the landscape in his mind. Turning, he pointed in a direction to the right of their trail. "If we take the deer path up ahead there, we could reach it before nightfall."
"And what, pray tell, will finding the road accomplish?" Of all the men gathered, Ezra was perhaps the most miserable. A man grown used to the comforts of warm fires and dry clothing, he was not at all happy standing out in the drenching rain. He had not complained but his question was about as close to a whine as a man could come and still retain his dignity. "After all, I was under the impression that we were traipsing through this Bysha forsaken forest for the sole purpose of avoiding the open road."
Buck cleared his throat in a not so subtle warning but Ezra refused to back down. Chris lifted his hand in a calming gesture and explained his plan. He knew the minstrel wasn't really questioning his decision, he was just looking for information.
"We can't cross here but the road was made at the narrowest point in the river. The ferry won't be usable but we might still be able to cross."
"Friend Chris." Josiah's deep voice carried easily from his position at the back of the group and all eyes immediately turned to the wizard. "Only one man needs to cross through the water. If, he carries one of my crystals with him."
"Then you can teleport the rest of us over. Good idea, Josiah." Chris smiled in relief and the others relaxed slightly. There would still be one man at risk but suddenly the task did not seem so daunting.
"Chris." Before the small group could break up to resume their hike, Nathan spoke up from his place beside Josiah. "As long as we're going to the road, it might be a good idea to stop for the night at the inn on the other side of the river." The healer was careful not to look in Vin's direction as he spoke but Chris understood what he was implying.
"Yeah, might be good to get dried out for one night, especially if this rain is going to continue. Let's get across the river first and then we'll see."
With no further comments or questions the men resumed their single file line and followed Vin along the new path. They made better time then the tracker had predicted and were soon on the road and nearing the river.
Before they could see the Rindel, they could hear it. A dull roar that at first blended with the thrum of the falling rain but soon surpassed it. Topping a small rise, six of the party got their first look at the normally placid river. Soft whistles of amazement and a string of curses were some of their responses.
"Bysha's Grace! No man can cross that!" Josiah's deep rumble of dismay was silently endorsed by nodding heads.
"Depending on the rain, it may be days before it slows down." Vin was the calmest of the group, having seen it before but that had been on the same level. Looking down on the river, even he was newly impressed by the sight.
Stretching well beyond its banks, the Rindel moved like water boiling over a fire. Torrents of brown water flecked with white foam tumbled past the road. Occasionally a leafy branch or even what appeared to be a whole tree would be seen tumbling and twisting in the currents. Just barely visible were the wooden posts that marked the anchors for the guide ropes of the ferry. Usually they stood on the dry banks to either side of the river but now only a hand's width showed above the water. On the far side stood the ferryman's house, which was now only a few feet from the river's edge. Of the wooden ferry there was no sign.
Chris was the first to start down the road to the river. "We don't have days. There could be more orcs just on the other side waiting for the same thing."
As they neared the new bank of the river, the situation seemed even more hopeless. The Rindel roared along its widened path and the men had to shout to make their voices heard.
"What if Vin tied one of Josiah's crystals to an arrow and shot it over?" Buck was the first to come up with an alternate plan but Chris shook his head.
"You'd have to make a pouch and the swing of the stone would make the arrow wobble. No way he could aim it. And when it hit the ground, the crystal would probably break."
The men stood in the rain and stared in silence at the obstacle in their path. Jaydee moved a little apart from the others and went as close as he could to the ferry anchor-post.
"Hey, Buck! Buck!" Jaydee had to yell twice to get the fighter's attention and when he had it he pointed to the post. "Think the ropes are still attached?"
Buck joined him and studied the water. He watched the currents closely and the movements of the larger pieces of debris. "Yeah. At least one of them is still there. Looks like the top guide-line. Why?"
"One of us could use that to get across."
Buck immediately began shaking his head but Jaydee persisted. "We use a rope. Tie it around his waist and loop it over the line. If he loses his grip, he's still attached."
Chris had moved closer while Jaydee was talking and caught enough words to figure out what he was talking about. "The man that goes will need to be a strong swimmer."
Buck rounded on his friend, his eyes wide with disbelief. "You ain't serious?! A man would have to be more than a strong swimmer, he'd have to be crazy!"
"Can't think of a better plan, Buck. Can you?" Chris patted Jaydee on the back and the young man felt his chest swell with pride. "Good thinking, Jaydee."
Chris gathered everyone together away from the river, where they could talk without having to shout, then had Jaydee tell them his idea. When he was done, Chris looked each man in the eyes and challenged him to tell the truth.
"Don't need heroes. No one has anything to prove here. If you can't swim or don't want to try it, just say so."
Vin was the first to duck his head and admit the truth. "I can swim well enough to keep my head above water but not in this."
"I, too, must admit to a deficiency where water is concerned." Ezra smiled as he spoke, though he also looked a little sheepish. "In my opinion, water is for bathing in and occasionally drinking."
Chris nodded his head and looked at Buck who frowned in annoyance but kept his lips pressed tightly together.
"Buck, did you practice swimming this summer or have you got something to say?"
"Pits. It's going to take muscles to hang on to that line..."
The fighter was obviously not happy about it but finally nodded his head in resignation. "Yeah, alright. Count me out."
Chris looked at the three remaining men. Nathan and Josiah were both studying the river and almost simultaneously they shook their heads.
Nathan was the first to speak as he turned to Chris. "Sorry. I'm a good enough swimmer if the water's calm but I don't think I could make it half way in this."
Josiah echoed his sentiment. "I feel like I should be the one going, since it is my crystal but I also swim best in calm waters.
"Right. Well, in that case," Chris turned to the youngest member of their group. "It's just between you and me, Jaydee."
"I'm a great swimmer, Chris. I spent three summers down on the coast in Crescent Bay when my mom was alive."
"Yeah, but just how long ago was that kid?" Buck was quick to try and find a reason for Jaydee to be counted out as well.
"How long ago was it that you fought trolls?"
"What, in Bysha's name, has fighting trolls got to do with this?"
Jaydee crossed his arms over his chest and stared his friend right in the eyes. "If you ran into a band of trolls today, would you remember how to fight them?"
"Well, of course. A man don't forget something like that." Buck rolled his eyes and looked to the others for their support.
"Swimming is the same way. Once you learn it, you don't forget."
"No, but you do get out of practice." Chris interrupted the argument and drew Jaydee's attention back to himself. "It sounds like you're a little better than I am. Are you sure you want to try?"
"I can do it, Chris. I know I can." Jaydee dropped his hands to his sides and drew himself up as tall and straight as he could. Throwing his shoulders back, he glared at Buck and silently dared the man to open his mouth.
Buck threw his hands into the air and admitted defeat. "Fine. Fine. Can we get on with this then? If I have to stand out here in the rain much longer I'm going to grow gills and just swim over myself."
Preparations were quickly made and soon Jaydee was ready to enter the river. He had stripped down to his loincloth, knowing from experience how wet clothes would drag at a body in the water. Buck and Chris had the rope ready that would go around his waist and be secured to the guide-line. With Vin's help, Josiah had fashioned a strap that would hold the crystal tight against Jaydee's chest.
Ezra surprised everyone by making his own contribution to the preparations. "A man should never enter the unknown without some form of protection." And with those words he solemnly strapped a sheath and dagger to Jaydee's left arm. He even took a moment to show the boy how to bend his wrist back to make drawing the blade easier.
When everything was ready, they didn't waste time with words of encouragement or caution. Forming a human chain, with Nathan and Josiah as anchors, Buck and Chris helped Jaydee reach the pole and secure his rope to the line. Buck gave his shoulder a quick squeeze and Jaydee gave him a grin in return before taking a deep breath and starting across the river.
Jaydee kept his attention focused on the far bank as he felt the current try to drag him away from the security of the ferry line. At first he didn't notice the chill of the water as it rose above his chest and finally forced him to begin kicking his feet to keep his head above the surface. Excitement masked his body's discomfort and dulled his fear. Chris had actually chosen him to make the journey. Everyone was depending on him to get the crystal across.
An unexpected undertow pulled him down before he could draw a breath and the first spark of doubt ignited in his mind as he struggled back to the surface. Gasping for air he looked again at his goal and suddenly it seemed twice as far as before. And the water wasn't just chilly, it was down right cold. Something struck his right leg hard enough to make him cry out but his voice was lost in the roar of the river.
It became a struggle to hang on to the line. His legs felt like there were lead weights tied to his ankles and the shore wasn't getting any closer. Jaydee fought to draw more air into his lungs but the leather band around his chest seemed to be growing tighter and tighter, restricting his breathing. Water filled his ears, his eyes, his nose...it was everywhere. Falling from the sky...wrapping around his body...getting warmer....
From the bank, six pairs of eyes stayed glued on the dark, bobbing head as it moved further and further away. Sometimes it disappeared beneath the dark water only to reappear a little further along. Whenever he saw Jaydee go under, Buck would unconsciously hold his breath until he saw him surface once more.
Jaydee was just a little past the half-way point and everyone was starting to relax when Vin suddenly yelled and pointed upriver.
"Sweet Bysha, no!" No one heard Josiah's horrified whisper but his sentiment was shared by all of them.
The tree was huge. It didn't seem possible that something so large could remain afloat in the raging river but it did. At one end, its branches were still full of leaves while at the other giant roots still clung to clumps of slowly disintegrating dirt. The size of the tree gave it stability in the water so that it didn't roll or tumble as it was carried swiftly along. Directly in its deadly path and oblivious to his danger, Jaydee continued to make his way across the river.
Buck and others began shouting and screaming at Jaydee, trying to make themselves heard over the roar of the water. As the tree drew closer to the boy's position, Chris had to grab on to Buck to keep him from jumping into the river. At the last possible moment, Jaydee looked upstream and spotted the danger.
Jaydee blinked and fought to gather his wandering thoughts. Had he really heard Buck and the others yelling at him? He concentrated and over the sound of the water he faintly heard his name. Why were they calling to him? Was something wrong? He tightened his hold on the line and started to turn around. Bysha! Is that a tree?! It's huge! And it's headed...pits! Jaydee didn't have time to think. The tree completely blocked his view up river and in another moment it was going to be on top of him. Taking a deep breath, he let go of the line. As he went under, he grabbed the knife Ezra had given him and sent a prayer to Bysha that he was doing the right thing.
The men on shore watched as Jaydee disappeared beneath the turbulent surface and this time it wasn't just Buck who held his breath. The tree reached the guide-line and incredibly, stopped moving. Water swirled and eddied around it but could not move the huge mass.
"Pits! The branches and roots under the water must have caught on the line." Buck jerked free of Chris' hold and began stripping off his cape and tunic. "He's going to drown if we don't get to him."
"Buck, wait! Look, it's rolling free!" Chris grabbed the fighter by his shoulder and pointed to the tree that was ponderously and slowly turning in the river. But as more branches rose to the surface a new horror was revealed. Pale against the dark wood, the line that Jaydee had been attached to now lay tangled among the twisted limbs. As the trunk continued to roll, the line became further entangled in the branches. There was no sign of Jaydee.
"Bysha have mercy." Josiah placed his palm against his heart and prayed to the goddess for the spirit of their lost friend. Buck dropped to his knees in stunned disbelief. The others stood frozen, starring at the river in shock. All except for Vin. No one noticed when he left the group and began making his way along the edge of the river.
"Buck! Chris! Down here!" The tracker's shout was barely heard above the Rindel's roar but it caught Ezra's attention and he turned to see Vin further down the river, waving and gesturing towards the water. The minstrel quickly pointed him out to the others and suddenly there was hope once more.
The men raced along the water's edge and soon reached Vin's position. Following his pointing finger, they spotted the pale form hanging on to another floating tree. But the roots of this giant were still clinging tenaciously to the far shore.
"Thank Bysha! He's alright." Josiah and the others grinned with relief at the welcome sight. They watched as slowly, Jaydee's head lifted and he looked around. Seeing his friends watching him, he raised one hand in a small wave then turned to begin slowly making his way along the trunk.
Pits, he felt awful. His head was spinning and his chest really hurt from where he had slammed into the trunk of the tree. Jaydee dug his fingers into the wet bark and inched a little closer to the shore. At least the current was working with him this time, instead of against him. Jaydee blinked and focused once more on his goal. Almost there. Soon he would be back on reasonably dry land and this nightmare would be over.
"By the seven pits! He did it!" Buck threw his arms around Chris' waist and lifted him from his feet as he gave a wordless shout of joy.
"Chris! Buck! The other tree!" This time it was Nathan that spotted the new danger and pointed it out to the others.
Caught by the guide-line, the huge tree had swung around until its roots were headed down river. The force of the current and the weight of the giant must have snapped the line completely because it was once more headed in Jaydee's direction.
The men began shouting again, this time trying to encourage their friend to move faster. From their location they couldn't tell just how close the tree was to the far bank until they saw the roots strike the closer branches of Jaydee's support. Once more they lost sight of their young friend and were left to fear the worst.
The sound of groaning and snapping wood carried clearly across the water as the two giant trunks collided. The impact pulled the second tree loose from the bank and together they were swept away by the rough current.
Straining against the growing darkness, Buck scanned the far bank. He grew more and more desperate as he failed to spot any sign of his young friend. Once more, it was Vin that spotted their missing comrade a little further down river but safely on the other shore.
"Finally. Now all he has to do is set the crystal in a clear spot and we can finish this." Chris and the others watched in growing concern, as Jaydee lay motionless just clear of the rushing water.
"He must be hurt. Maybe unconscious." Buck paced along the shore and rubbed his mustache in agitation. "Pits. Josiah, can't you do something?"
"I'm sorry, friend Buck. That crystal is only spelled for communicating and teleporting." Josiah shook his head sadly. "And I cannot teleport to it if it is trapped beneath his body."
"Pits." Buck slapped his hand against the handle of his axe and continued to pace.
"Josiah," Ezra had a thoughtful look on his face as he stared across the river. "You say that it is impossible to use the crystal for teleporting but what of the communication spell? Can you trigger that?"
A broad smile lit the wizard's face as he gripped his staff tightly. "Of course! Everyone, gather close. If Jaydee is just knocked out, then maybe we can wake him up."
Concentrating on the stone at the end of his staff, Josiah murmured a quick chant that caused the crystal to glow softly. "Now."
Together the six men began yelling at the stone while casting quick glances across the river to judge their words effect. At first nothing happened and their calls became even more desperate.
Snarling in frustration, Buck reached out and wrapped one hand around the staff and drew the crystal down to his mouth. "I knew it was a mistake bringing you on this quest! You ain't nothin' but a mama's boy! How do you think you can be in the king's guard if you can't even swim across one lousy river?!"
"Shut...up...Buck..." Magnified by Josiah's magic, the softly spoken words were clearly heard in the stunned silence left by Buck's tirade.
Whoops, yells, and joyful laughter filled the air as Jaydee at last rolled to his back and began feebly clawing at the leather strap around his chest.
"Pits. You guys...are giving me...a headache."
Finally the crystal sphere appeared in his hand. Stretching his arm out above his head, he simply let the orb roll from his fingers to at last rest on solid ground.
"Josiah, take Nathan first so he can deal with any injuries." Chris was grinning just as hard as the rest of the men but he quickly got everyone organized once more. "Ezra, you and Vin go gather up the packs and get them ready to take across."
Everyone moved quickly to obey. Nathan was soon kneeling beside Jaydee and Josiah was ready to take Buck across. This time the big fighter didn't balk at being teleported by magic. Chris slipped his pack with the scroll back on his shoulders then picked up Jaydee's and Josiah's. He motioned to the wizard that he was ready and they quickly vanished in a flare of light. As Josiah's strength waned it would be best if the last two over were the smallest. Josiah warned Vin and Ezra, that once he had Chris across, he would need to rest a few moments before returning for them.
Once on the other side, Chris and Josiah joined Buck and Nathan where they kneeled beside Jaydee. Buck had his cape stretched out to keep the rain off of the young man's face while Nathan finished healing a small gash on his forehead. "Well, how is he?"
"Lots of bruises. Got a nice-sized bump on the back of his head but nothing broken or cracked." Nathan's grin was clearly visible even in the growing darkness. "Swears he won't ever take another bath as long as he lives."
"Well, he can just plan on walking downwind from the rest of us then." Buck's grin had never been bigger as he stared down at his young friend.
Jaydee's eyes remained closed but he also wore a pleased smile. His body felt like he had fallen down a small mountain and the cold was making him shiver but those discomforts were masked by glory of his success.
Chris handed Jaydee's pack to Nathan while Josiah drove the butt of his staff into the soft ground so that its light spilled across the resting hero. "Nathan, is he going to be able to walk after you get him dressed?"
"With Buck and me helping him. We'll have to move slow but he should be able to make it as far as the inn."
Josiah's deep voice rumbled from just outside the circle of light. "What about the ferry house? It's closer and surely the owner won't turn us away on a night like this."
"Now, that's a good idea." Buck agreed while supporting most of Jaydee's weight as Nathan tugged his boots back on his feet. "The sooner we get him someplace dry and warm, the better."
"Josiah? Chris? Can you hear me? Hello?" Chris looked around in confusion as he heard Vin softly calling his name. He couldn't even see the tracker on the other side of the river and its roar seemed louder than ever.
"It's the crystal." Josiah pushed himself up off the muddy ground and freed his staff from the earth. "He must be using the other sphere to call us. We can hear you Vin but it's going to be a little longer before I ..."
"Josiah! Tell Chris to listen to the river. I can hear something coming this way but I don't know what it is. Ezra says he doesn't hear it."
Chris moved closer to the staff before he spoke. "Vin, what does it sound like?"
"Not like anything I've heard before. It sounds like the river, only louder."
Chris looked towards the Rindel and cocked his head to listen. At first all he heard was the river's steady rumble and the patter of the rain. "I don't..." Chris paused and his gut tightened as he suddenly realized what was about to happen.
"Nathan! Buck! Get Jaydee moving. Get as far away from the river as you can!" Chris turned to Josiah and yelled into the crystal, "Vin! Ezra! Take Josiah's stone and move to higher ground. Forget the packs and run!"
"Just do it!" Chris cut Vin off and shoved Josiah ahead of him as they also began running. They soon caught up with the other three and together they raced for higher ground. Behind them, the noise of the river seemed to increase until it filled their ears and obscured the sounds of their passage. Water surged up their legs and suddenly they were struggling through a hip-deep morass of mud and debris while the strong current tried to drag them back to the deadly river.
At last they stumbled free of the water's icy grip. Collapsing to the ground, they struggled to catch their breaths and come to grips with their narrow escape. Buck was the first to regain his voice.
"What...the pits...was that?!"
Chris shrugged out of his pack and stretched out on his back. "That...was...the dam...at River Bend."
"Bysha! You mean...the whole dam...?" Josiah stared in shock towards the direction of the river.
"Well, so much for the ferry house. I hope the owner got clear." Nathan spoke while he checked Jaydee for any new injuries.
"Chris?" Jaydee was even more exhausted than the others but he couldn't rest without knowing about Vin and Ezra. Chris seemed to read his mind and before the question could be asked he was turning to Josiah.
"Josiah, can you hear Vin?" Chris staggered to his feet and moved closer to the wizard and his staff.
"Vin? Ezra? Are you alright? Vin? Can you hear me? Ezra?"
A long moment passed in silence. Jaydee bit his lip and tried not to think of the worst. He remembered the horrible pull of the Rindel and how helpless he had felt when he had been forced to cut himself free of the guide-line. Water had filled his ears as the current tossed him like a leaf and he lost all sense of up or down. His lungs had ached for air and his heart had felt like it was going to burst. He had barely survived that encounter with the rain-swollen river. He thought about Vin and Ezra being caught in something ten-times as bad with even less skill at swimming. His hands knotted into fists as he fought back the feeling of despair that threatened to overwhelm him.
"What was that?" Nathan broke the silence first as he cocked an ear towards the glowing crystal. "I thought I heard something."
Chris bent his own head to the stone and listened closely. The sound was repeated and he quickly identified it as someone coughing. "Vin! Ezra! Can you hear me?"
"Chris...give us...just a...moment..." More coughing followed but the words had been unmistakably in Vin's voice and he had definitely said 'us'. Smiles of relief covered everyone's face and they even laughed when they heard a couple of faint sneezes.
"Bysha's Mercy, I hope that wasn't Ezra. I remember the last time he got sick." Josiah grounded his staff and leaned back against a rain-soaked trunk.
"I heard you, Josiah. My ears are not quite that flooded."
More laughter followed the disgruntled statement as they all settled down beneath the trees.
"What happened Ezra? Thought you got lots of practice running from irate husbands." Buck pulled an unresisting Jaydee close while he spoke and covered them both with his cape.
"I have never known a husband or father to run as fast as this river. I assume that the dam at River Bend is no more?"
"Looks that way." Chris shifted impatiently and tried to think of a discreet way to get Vin to talk again. He knew the tracker was alright but he wanted to hear his voice. "You and Vin stopped to gather the packs up, didn't you?"
There was a moment of silence and then the sounds of a whispered conversation. Then a little clearer, "I was merely following your lead."
"I was just grabbing Nathan's pack because I thought he might have stuff in there he needs." Vin's voice held a defensive tone as he responded to Ezra's accusation.
"And I am sure that Buck will be equally grateful that I managed to save his belongings as well."
The two friends had obviously forgotten that their words were being transmitted to the others across the river. Ezra gave a sigh and continued in a long-suffering voice. "Although, I am sure that he will never admit to such an emotion. I doubt that the words 'thank you' are even in his limited vocabulary."
Grins of amusement were exchanged in the darkness and even Buck gave a small laugh. Chris cleared his throat and coughed loud enough to let the other two know that they were being eavesdropped on. Silence once again descended.
"Uhm, Josiah?" Vin's words were hesitant as they floated out of the darkness.
"Is there, uh, anyway to turn this thing off?"
Jaydee laughed out loud and Josiah merely shook his head and slowly regained his feet. "Why don't I just come and retrieve you and Ezra, then we can talk face to face?"
The men were surprised to hear the sounds of another whispered conversation and then Vin spoke once more.
"Actually, we were wondering if Chris is still planning on stopping at that inn."
Josiah shot Chris a puzzled look, which he returned before answering. "Yeah, Vin. I thought it would be a good idea to stop there for the night. We could all dry out and Jaydee can use the rest. Why do you want to know?"
"Well, Ezra was thinking," A loud shushing sound was heard but Vin continued talking, "That there's no point in all of us walking there with all these heavy packs. We could just wait here until you reach the inn and then Josiah could come back for us."
Chris shook his head in exasperation but he was still smiling when he thoughtfully replied. "Now, that does sound like a good idea. And since you and Ezra will be so well rested, you two can be in charge of getting all our clothes and gear dried out while the rest of us take it easy."
A moment of silence followed his words and then Vin came back once more. "I think Josiah can come and get us whenever he's ready."
Chris waved his hand to the wizard who was still waiting beside his staff. "Josiah, go and get those two before they come up with any more good ideas."
The mercenary leaned back against his tree with a tired, but happy, sigh. Soon his small group would be together again and on their way to the inn. They would have the one night of comfort to restore their energy before resuming the quest. Their first challenge had been met and conquered. Maybe seven really was a lucky number.