I found that I was still clutching our hard-won token on my hand, and we had not even looked at it. It was in a small black pouch. I was just starting to open the pouch to take a peek, when we were attacked by a group of wolven.
There was no time to secure it. I fought with my sword in my right hand and the token in my left hand, praying I wouldn't drop it!
Fortunately it was a small group, maybe 3 wolven, so we were able to dispatch them without too much trouble. Gasping for breath after the unexpected exertion, we agreed that we needed to eat. It was supper-time, and we were all worn out. We started carefully down the path toward the tavern. Once again I started to pull open the pouch-strings as we walked, to see what it was I was holding. This time I managed to open it, and I pulled out a tiny stone carved in the shape of a skull. It was just the size of my palm.
I only just had time to glance at it though, before we were attacked again. This time I had a few seconds to tuck it back into its cover and stuff it into my money-pouch -- but I did all of this without really thinking about it, and later on that evening I suffered several minutes of panicked searching through my pockets before I found it again. At the time, my mind was devoted to the fight.
There were three, maybe four of them. I thought at first they were just more wolven, but their masks were different. Then, as they backed into the light, I warned my companions, "Do you see the color of their swords?"
The swords were green. They were coated in a deadly poison. We had all read about these poisons. Just a touch with that sword would send its victim into terrible spasms, and a painful death would come quickly if untreated. I shuddered. Steel I understand, but poison is unnatural.
Our small band moved closer together, and we approached the danger together, shoulder to shoulder. Then the fight began.
Most of our battles are a blur in my mind now, to be honest. I was too busy fighting for my life to remember any details. I know that Cedric cast a spell of some sort to help us out, and after many agonized minutes it was over. I looked about me breathlessly. The three creatures were fallen, but so were two of our own party!
My friends lay in seizures on the ground, the evil poison doing its work. I was afraid to come too close; I don't like to see my friends in pain. Hoping that Sunflower would quickly make everything right again, I set about searching the fallen monsters -- being very careful not to come close to those awful swords!
When I returned to the group, I saw Sunflower treating one of the victims, working her healing magic. But Jonah still sprawled on the ground, and the other members of my party were gathering in a circle around him. He was still alive, but he didn't look good. "What's happening?" I asked Rutger.
His face twisted grimly. "Jonah wouldn't let Sunflower heal him. She has very few spells left, so he asked her to save them."
"What?" I was stunned and horrified, watching him suffer. I couldn't understand... until I glimpsed the silver pendant I had found, still around his neck.
Rutger confirmed my realization: "He knows that when he dies, it will only be for 30 minutes. Remember the magic chain he's wearing?" He shook his head. "Talk about courage."
I understood, and I suppose logically it made sense. But what a horrible way to die! Even knowing it wouldn't be permanent, I couldn't bring myself to watch. I wanted to drag Sunflower over and beg her to fix him! But it was his choice, and I knew he was taking this heroic death for all of us.
Then it was over. There was just an empty hole in my heart where Jonah, my eyes, my protector, had been. The five of us remaining plodded our way painfully down the hill to the tavern. We were incomplete, our group was too small. A friend was gone....
...then I glanced back one last time, and I saw a ghostly presence floating along behind us. I managed half of a smile. Despite the horrible death I had witnessed, I knew. He would come back.