As the blackness faded away, Faith was aware of something pulling at her leg, dragging her over sand. Salty water suddenly engulfed her head and she pitched forward into the air, sputtering and coughing while jerking her ankles out of the grasp of…. What? What was dragging her and where was she?
Her vision was blurred as she sat up, still coughing. She blinked to clear her eyes, wanting to rub them but her hands were frantically trying to find solid ground to hold her head out of the water. They slid backwards in the sand as she felt herself pulled forward again.
“Stop it!” she managed to sputter at whatever it was, as it tried again to drag her up the beach. She kicked free of the grasping hands and glanced around, disoriented and aching but most of all panicked. What was going on?
As she rolled over to a crawling position coughing deeply to clear her lungs, she suddenly remembered the wreck. The ship! What had happened? Glancing back over the surf, she could see the mast and part of the bow of the Laughing Goblin sticking out of the water in the distance.
“What happened? Where are the others? Who are you?” she asked, alarmed. Her vision had cleared up and she looked up to see a smarmy-looking halfling man who seemed amused at her bewilderment.
“Well, I’m Jeets Shimis and I’m charmed to meet ya, I'm sure” he said, with a bow. “As to the rest of your questions, well, I believe your ship was wrecked out there more than a day ago, unless you happen to be a mermaid.“
He pointed to the distant wreckage.
“If you was on that ship, that is. And if you was- well, so far you'd be the only survivor.”
A thought occurred to him and he adjusted his glasses to look at her more closely. "Hoy, you ain't undead are you?"
A spasm of coughing shook her aching body. Undead? What was he asking her?
He paused and glanced at her, apparently deciding she was still alive. “Let’s get you up to the fire, eh? You don’t look so good. Can you hoof it?”
Faith had twisted and slumped over into a partially reclining position on her elbows… her arms shook and didn’t seem strong enough to hold her. While she was sore and exhausted there was no sharp pain any place in particular. The sand grinding into her various cuts and bruises as she shifted her weight made her wince though.
“If you could help me up, I think I can walk,” she said with difficulty, trying to get her feet under her. Jeets placed his shoulder under her arm and with his arm around her torso, helped lift her to her feet. She tried to take a step but wobbled and nearly fell.
“All right now, take it easy, there’s a good lass,” crooned Jeets as he awkwardly guided her up path. “We’ll get Cellimas to fix you up proper. Good as new, you’ll be!”
Although his head only reached her shoulder, he was strong. Faith was embarrassed to lean on him, but very grateful. She was getting her balance back but still felt very shaky as they neared a small campsite with a few tents just off the beach at the base of a small, rocky mountain.
A human-shaped wood creature covered with metal plates was busy cleaning some weapons, but looked up as they approached. He walked forward with a dagger in his hand.
“What have you found, Jeets?” the creature called out in a smooth but faintly echoing voice. “We can’t keep pets, you know.”
Faith pulled back in fear and tried to run away when she realized what the creature was. A war machine! Right here in front of her! All the stories of the terrible things done by the warforged fighters of the Last War flooded her head and she was wished she had just died in the shipwreck. Her legs failed her and she only got a few steps away from Jeets before falling into a heap. Unable to stop herself, tears of pure terror started to flow down her cheeks as she heard the warforged approach behind her.
“What have you done to her Jeets?” the warforged asked with a tinge of concern.
Jeets however, was nearly doubled over with laughter. “It’s you, Talbron! She’s afraid of you, you big rune arm!”
“Me?” the warforged answered in surprise. “How did I frighten her? You do not make sense, Jeets. It seems she is injured. ”
He leaned over to get a better look at Faith and she screamed. In surprise, he waved a hand in front of her and muttered a small incantation and she instantly went to sleep. He picked the sleeping girl up and carried her to a mat near the fire then got a blanket from the tent to cover her.
“There,“ he said. “She needs rest, but the sleep spell won’t last long. Cellimas will be back soon and can tend to her. Tell me where you found her Jeets. Is this girl from the latest shipwreck?”
“She is!” Jeets said enthusiastically. “Just washed up on the beach, she did. Woulda drowned if I hadn’t a come by looking for, ahem, useful debris.”
He puffed his chest out with importance.
“I see,” said Talbron. “I wonder where she has been for the past day...”
“Well, she didn’t rightly seem to know, not that we had time for lengthy chat before you scared the bejeebers out of her,” Jeets snickered. “I wonder if we can get a reward for bringing her back?“
Greed lit up his grimy face.
“I am thinking something different entirely,” Talbron answered. “But it will wait for now.”
Jeets made a face at him. He knew Talbron better than anyone and he knew Talbron would not say anything else until he was ready.
At that moment, a blond human woman in bright blue armor appeared around the corner of the tent.
“Cellimas, look what I found!” Jeets called, pointing to the sleeping girl. Before Cellimas could respond, the girl awoke with a jolt and looking around, again caught sight of Talbron and stiffened in fear.
“Hello there,” Cellimas said in a comforting tone. “I’m Cellimas Vilhune and I’m going to heal you. Is that all right with you?”
While she spoke, Cellimas removed her shield and set down her bags, moving to the girl’s side. Cellimas could see the cuts, bruises and scrapes on the girl as well as the fear in her eyes.
The girl did not respond, her large pale blue eyes never leaving the warforged, her body tense. Cellimas placed her hands on the girl’s dark hair and as she softly murmured some incomprehensible words, Faith felt a tingling ripple of divine energy run throughout her body, healing her many injuries. She also felt her fatigue lift and her spirits rise. She felt comforted, for the moment.
“What’s the story here, Jeets?” Cellimas asked in a tone that was slightly suspicious.
“Well, I found her, ya see,” Jeets answered. “Right there in the water on the beach, just washed up she was. If I hadn’t a' been there, she’d probably just have washed back out wi' the tide. I went right into the water and saved her, I did. Brought her here, then Talbron scared her. That’s all there is to know.”
Cellimas looked at Talbron, puzzled. Talbron shrugged his metal-covered shoulders.
“She did seem frightened,” he answered Cellimas’ unasked question. “I don’t know why.”
Faith was staring at him again.
“Aren’t you a war machine?” she asked, unable to speak louder than a whisper. “Aren’t you made to kill people? I thought warforged were outlawed!“
Talbron seemed a little taken aback.
“Ahem. We have not been properly introduced. I am Talbron Tewn,” he answered her calmly. “Warforged are not outlawed. The creation of new warforged is against the law, yes. I think you are confused. While we warforged were created to fight in the Last War, we now have the same rights as other races do under the Treaty of Thronehold. We are talented, tireless and intelligent beings with feelings.”
Faith suddenly felt like a fool. She insulted this creature who had been nothing but nice to her. Her face flushed red and she stammered, “I…I’m sorry… I didn’t know.. I’ve never met a warforged before.”
They all looked at her in astonishment.
“Where do you come from, child?” Cellimas asked in a kinder voice. “And how did you come to be here? Can you tell us a little about yourself?”
The kindness in her voice made Faith relax a little but then thinking through what to tell them, self-pity overcame her and she started to cry again.