Morning of the eleventh day of our journey, tensions were at an all-time high. We were finally all together again, but the half-orc crew that had been hired alongside ourselves was dead, as was a woman Vodarr had saved from Valmire. The accursed dead showed no signs of stopping their pursuit—indeed they seemed drawn to our cargo, which we now believed to be the souls of the dead. At this rate it would not be possible, much less profitable, to protect the cargo. In the interest of fulfilling any part of our bargain, and indeed escaping with our own lives, our only hope was to abandon the chests, give this unresting horde what it desires, and finish the journey alone. The only problem—convincing Milo to agree.
The others wanted to confront him as a group, but I felt that an unwise approach. Milo was already a suspicious and closely guarded man—if he felt we were ganging up on him, he’d only get more defensive. Instead, I hoped that the respect I had gained from him over the past week-and-a-half would give me enough leverage to at least get him to consider our words. In any case, I knew we needed to address things before we reached the crossroads. The zombies wouldn’t be deterred by the rocky terrain—slowed, perhaps, but undaunted in their pursuit. It was only delaying the inevitable, a delay which none of us could really afford.
About midday, I approached him. I reminded him of all we’d been through, and of our agreement to protect him, and told him that in order to do so, he’d need to tell us more. “No questions asked” was no longer sustainable. Stubbornly, he refused to listen to reason, so Norrund joined me and, rather bluntly, revealed our hand—we knew he’d been stealing souls, and that it was the reason for this pursuit. At this, Milo turned, if not hostile, hostile-adjacent. He stopped the cart, left the cart, and stood back a ways from us as he attempted to justify his actions. He scoffed at our claim they were souls, choosing to believe such a thing does not exist, and boasted of his right to own them. Ignorant fool, his nihilistic greed might well doom us all. The others may not have known the specific dangers of his actions, but had the sense to recognize their wrongness. Milo spoke of a red-clad woman, Zephora—the Red Witch he called her—and Finnian revealed he had spoken to her, claiming that the souls we carried were preventing her people from passing properly from this world. Milo scoffed at this, claiming her to be a war-hungry villain, recruiting people in some sort of crusade in pursuit of power. Regardless of his claims, we certainly were not in any position to defy such a power, so the four of us agreed that we would no longer allow Milo to take this cargo to the city. We would be leaving the souls here and taking the cart to the city, with or without Milo.
Finnian ordered Ursa to unload the chests from the cart, but when the automaton reached down to pick up the first chest, the halfling reached into his bag, which I then recognized as a bag of holding (!), and electricity shot from the chests into Ursa, causing him to collapse into unconsciousness. Milo then drew a small longsword and heavy crossbow from his bag, wielding one in each hand (!!) and stated, with the utmost confidence, that we would not be taking his cart. As we braced for battle, Norrund attempted one last desperate attempt at peaceably resolving the issue by magically Suggesting that Milo allow us to remove the cargo and then let us leave. Miraculously, it worked, although his wording missed one crucial detail—Milo let us unload the cart, then set off upon it alone—leaving us to finish the journey on foot.
Once he left, we attempted to explain to Finnian and Vodarr what had transpired, and then set to work hiding the chests. Magical suggestion only lasts for a matter of hours, and once it wore off, we could be certain that Milo would return to reclaim “his” treasure—and likely settle the score with us, as well. As Ursa was still unconscious, he could not help us move the chests. I was, similarly, rather useless in this form, so I volunteered to guard him while the others took the first chest. Vodarr mixed himself some sort of alchemical potion that increased his strength, allowing them to make quick time with the chest. While I waited, I inspected Ursa, and found a means with which to reboot him. When the others returned, we all left with the second chest—taking into the woods on the other side of the road, in a different direction from the first. I covered our trail as we went, until we found a suitable hiding spot. We then doubled back a ways, taking extra care to hide our tracks further, then set off down the road toward Waterdeep.
We traveled the rest of the day without incident. We kept to the trees, far enough off the road to, hopefully, not draw any attention from travelers, but not so deep as to lose the road entirely. We saw no one else, not even our former employer. As darkness fell, we set up camp and arranged watches. I told Norrund to wake me when he was ready to end his watch, but instead I woke to a commotion caused by Finnian, who was engaged with my own worst fears returned to life. A figure ever present in my mind since the appearance of the lady in red and her companions. A figure who was ended hundreds of years ago. A figure I’ve only ever known as a demon, born of desire and grief and the power of a dark god, in guise of a young girl called Selina. Her name on my tongue, unbidden, drawn out by shock, by the vain hope that I might be mistaken. She turned and locked eyes with me—no mistake then—but before she could strike, Norrund reached out to touch her leg, and they both were gone.
Supplimental: Unbeknownst to our narrator, during Vodarr’s watch, he was alerted to a noise in the woods. Not wanting to investigate alone, he woke Finnian and together they discovered it was caused by a rabbit caught in one of Finnian’s traps. Finnian decided, since he was up, he would relieve Norrund on watch and take the time to dress and season his catch.
When he finished, he noticed that Norrund was having fits in his sleep. He went to him to try and rouse him, only to have both of them suddenly appear in an unfamiliar foggy hill. Norrund ignored Finnian, believing him to be part of his dream. They discovered two gravestones along the path they walked, and, at the top of the hill, the remains of a burnt-down house. They poked around the house for a short time, until a shaking of debris caught their attention. They witnessed the rise of a young dark haired girl, clad in a white dress, who moved oddly, almost like a puppet without strings. They fled down the hill and she chased them, gaining every time they turned to look back. As she was just about to make contact, Norrund awoke, to discover the same figure standing over him.