If one thinks that the clash and fury of lethal combat is all there is to “a fight” or “an encounter”, then one has been told only a very limited part of the story by the bard on his corner stage at the tavern, or by the old man beside the hearth in the adventurers’ Guild-house.
When the fight proper is done, and the enemies no longer draw breath or have within them the strength to raise a last, failed stroke, I have found there comes this collapse of strength and spirit among the warriors. No doubt there is jubilation and excitement for the victory, for triumph and one’s own life removed from the horrible ethereal scales of Life and Death; judged this time worthy of more of the former. But when this brief hubris subsides, there comes the letdown, marked first by ritual or reflex, followed always by physical and emotional exhaustion.
Wilhelm is a Barbarian. His rage makes him a furious foe, seemingly ten times the strength and endurance and size of an ordinary fighter. When the last enemy is down and he falls back out of his rage state, he seems to shrink back to a normal size, fatigued, almost shaken for the experience. I was mistaken to have assumed him a mindless killing machine, someone that revels in slaughter, the stereotype of the Barbarian class. Tonight for the first time, I paid much closer attention and was surprised to find that in combat, Will is not a random force of nature; but in actual fact, focused so intently that he only seems to be completely unaware of what happens around him.
At any given fight’s conclusion, frenetic monk BOB has a moment where he closes his eyes, becomes very still, and just breathes. When he opens his eyes he has become serene, passive, as if he had been watching the fight and not in and of it. Others, like Lunk or Dusty, I have seen to utter what might be praise to their weapon, or make a somatic gesture of victory or self-glorification. Reece mumbles something at each of the bodies he has had a hand in slaying. Perhaps curses; obscenity, or arcane, in nature. All of this I have noticed in what has only been a fortnight of adventuring and actually being in combat. Strange that I should notice it; after a fight or an encounter, I am often the most occupied by the outcome.
As I was after this fight. BOB was resuscitated and back on his feet. The rest of our party was injured but stable.
Among our enemies, I separate the wounded and the dead. Tonight there were few dead; a couple humans, a couple lizardmen. These I indicate to my allies, whose enthusiasm and adrenal rush has become exhaustion and awareness of their own wounds. My party members stagger over to the dead, drop down to their knees as if praying thanks for victory, and strip the corpses of weapons and valuables. It is grim work and over it, no words pass.
The wounded I tend as if they were our own. Many are comatose, some are just unconscious or at the drifting, hazy edge of it. They are not a threat; a single action would push them over into the black and besides, they seem to understand my action and welcome it in an animal sense, their rational mind abandoned to waves of pain and disorientation. I stabilized all of the wounded in and out of the warehouse, calling over torches to better see my work. Bandages, ointments, splints, salves; secure the health of one, move on to the next. I lose no one this night that was not already gone.
The wounded are tied up, carefully and humanely, and they are relieved of their weapons and armor and goods with a measure more care than was bestowed upon their dead cohorts.
Sundered by the physical engagements this day, our side haphazardly stacks the take. 619 gold pieces; ten suits of studded-leather armor, most of which will be in good condition when the blood and wound-holes are fixed. The notable find is short-swords; seven are of marginal quality, but three stand out as truly masterwork. The finest that could be made, just shy of being of magical quality.
There was the cart that half of the smugglers had arrived in. Pulp and BOB haul this into the warehouse. We dragged our prisoners inside, made the dead less visible, and tidied up the outside so as to look uninteresting should a passer-by come to investigate the sounds of the fight.
Wilhelm went to check out the barge, and when he returned with news of his find and learned what BOB uncovered in the cart, we believed we had the smuggling ring exposed.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
14th Day, town of Mid-Plain, territory of Ælim.