I woke up from the rain hitting my face. I took a deep breath, then rolled around coughing up mud. It took me a few seconds to even realize what was going on, and why I was outside facedown in the mud. My head still hurt like hell, and that didn’t help. I pushed myself up with my spear. Somehow, I hadn’t let go of it in… however long it had been. I looked around to find… empty road.
“Kantrilla!” I looked around in all directions, but found nothing. I looked at the road below me… and saw numerous horse and wagon tracks and boot prints that were also becoming muddy. Not that I was an experienced tracker anyway. How long had it been? From the amount of rain, it had been at least a few minutes… but it could have been more. I couldn’t just stand around waiting. They wouldn’t have gone through Ekralas with a person over their shoulder… probably. Actually, there was some chance of that. Having a fellow party member slung over your shoulder wasn’t that unlikely. Still, they would have at least checked their guild cards or something. Besides, I didn’t have any idea where they could have gone. Maybe if I hurried someone in the guild could track them down.
I took a step… and with the mud and my unexpected weakness I managed to stumble. As I pushed myself up with one hand I felt something hard. The edge on it dug into my hand, almost enough to be painful. I pulled it out of the mud. It was a guild card. Probably. It looked like one, but it wasn’t made of the same material as mine, and I didn’t recognize any of the characters. The arrangement of words on it was slightly different as well… but it had definitely seemed close enough.
I looked around for anything else I might have missed, though I couldn’t see much in the rain and mud. The card itself had been sunk into the ground. Was it even from one of those men? Unfortunately, it wasn’t a photo id. Instead guild cards were made to react to their proper owners touching them. They didn’t have a good way to reproduce pictures on a large scale… and besides that adventurers were often decked out head to toe in armor, and changed styles frequently.
I clutched the card in my hand- though not too tightly- and used my spear as a walking stick to help me move along the road, one step at a time. Just lifting my arm and legs was hard work. An hour later, I was within sight of Ekralas. The rain wasn’t so heavy as to block out the city once I crested the final rise, a couple miles away. It was probably another hour before I arrived at the gates.
“Too bad you didn’t set out earlier, eh?” one of the guards called out as I got close, “Could have dodged the rain. Hey, are you alright?” I was still half stumbling along, supported by my spear.
“Unnnngh I…” talking was hard. My mouth just didn’t want to work, but I made it anyway. “I need to get to the guild.” I fumbled around at my belt as I approached, trying to pull out my guild card. Once I finally had it I tried to activate it… and then I blacked out.
I woke up in the guild’s infirmary. I barely recognized it, since I didn’t need to visit ever. Kantrilla took care of all of our wounds. The only time I had actually been there besides when touring Ekralas’ guild for the first time was when… Kasner got his leg amputated. That didn’t make me feel better about the whole situation. “Aaaahhh…” I sort of groaned as I tried to sit up. That was hard.
“You’re awake?” I heard a man’s voice nearby. “Don’t try to move, or talk… and definitely don’t use any mana.” A bearded middle aged man walked over into my sight. “You’ve been through quite a bit.”
“Didn’t I say don’t talk?” the man snapped. “Just give me a moment. I know you have to explain what happened. First, drink this.” He handed me a drink that looked like mud, was as thick as mud… and tasted like it. However, with how much mud I’d had in my mouth already that day it wasn’t that bad. I coughed. “Alright, now you can talk… slowly.”
“We were attacked by… people we thought were bandits.”
The man started writing down something on a paper he had. “When you say we, was the other person the owner of that other card you had?”
I shook my head. “No. Kantrilla… my party member, was with me. The other card was from one of them… probably.”
“Hmm, I see… so then what happened? You said you thought they were bandits?”
“They stopped us… and told us to hand over half our money…” I still couldn’t talk. “But they were fake. When we collapsed the real people came up and took her.”
“I see. Any other details you would like to add?”
I explained as much as I could about the battle… or relative lack of it. “Please… you have to send people to help Kantrilla.”
“We’ll do what we can. As for you… you need to stay here overnight, at minimum. You’re Lucky you’re D-rank…”
“Why?” It seemed to me like being D-rank didn’t stop me from being ambushed and losing my best friend.
“It’s probably why you’re alive… If you’d died the guild would have known right away, and with a D-rank adventurer dying on the road near the city… well, that’s not a normal occurrence. Since they weren’t normal bandits, they would have known that… which is probably why they left you to die instead of killing you.”
“I just… passed out. Not like I would have died.”
“Really? Take a deep breath for me.”
I did so. “It’s hard. It hurts.”
“And yet you can breathe. We found two kinds of poisons in your system… mana dispersal powder and ten steps deathroot. The first one has a pretty clear effect, but the second shuts down muscle function with physical activity… including the lungs, and the heart.
“… can still move.”
The man shrugged. “Indeed you can. I can’t see why, though. That much would have killed pretty much anyone, even without four miles of walking afterwards.”
“Hmn. I have… a lot of Strength. Make sure to… find Kantrilla…” that was all I could say before I lost consciousness again.