Able looks at his companions. "Well, I guess we are all men, but I usually prefer the term mail carrier. But you know the saying - through snow or sleet or communist ambush, the mail must get through."
The druid looks back from Eryndir to Able.
"Rupert would have told you if I was anyone else. Help me move these bodies from the water and into shallow graves. I'll repay your intercession with a meal and a warm hearth. I'll take your letter then. Do we have a deal?"
Charn rinses his blade off in the river, sheathes it, and approaches the druid. "That is acceptable to me," he says, and proceeds to drag the commies out of the river.
"Hm?", Able adds, with surprise. "I would have thought you'd have wanted to leave them for carrion feeders or something. Let them return to the cycle of life or something. Apparently I don't know anything about druids." Able doesn't make any real effort to drag the bodies into shallow graves, but he does make an effort to LOOK like he's helping - or at least, not shirking.
Eryndir also assists, and checks their pockets, purses, belongings, and other accoutrement as he does.
Digging four holes each large enough to accommodate a grown man takes a fair amount of time when digging without a shovel. Charn feels as sore from the digging as he does from the battering he suffered but his clothes aren't as soaked through as Caleb's. The earth by the river is soft - a merciful blessing for the laborers.
Hatepshon disappears for a few minutes and returns with a wild boar hung over his shoulders. The boar must have weighed 200 lbs but the druid casually carries it over one shoulder as if it weighed nothing at all. As the graves are dug, the druid prepares the carcass for a meal. He is meticulous about his work and peppers the process with careful applications of Druidcraft, a cantrip that flavors the meal and alters the aroma to a more palatable one.
Over the next few hours, the druid prepares a meal of root vegetables and loin while softly singing. He's a passable vocalist and could possibly pursued a career as a bard if he hadn't become a druid. There is denying that he is in tune with nature, however. Dinner is simply excellent.
Around the modest campfire, Hatepshon begins using prestidigitation to cleanse the soil from his garments and his body. In the darkened wood, the flickering lights cast an ethereal look on the druid's features. His otherworldly appearance does not distract him from business.
"Now that we've salted together, let's discuss your postage."
Eryndir performs the work of burying the dead silently and efficiently, piling their belongings near the fire. He picks through the items, giving them a cursory examination, but leaving anything of value in the pile. He takes a few of the letters and pamphlets and reads through them over his supper.
He eats with an appreciation of the sustenance but without much sense that he is either enjoying the meal or not. It is an act of nourishment. When the Druid speaks, Eryndir finishes what is on his plate and sets it aside, giving the party his attention.
Charn produces the letter which he passes politely to the druid. "Something tells me it won't be a wedding invitation."
Caleb makes no move to help bury the Communists, and makes no apologies for not doing so. He watches Eryndir's antics with the magical canteen with passive interest, but refills his own waterskin from the stream and drinks his fill.
"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken
Eryndir watches the Druid closely as he reads the letter.
The druid reads the letter. He smirks. He then proceeds to smell the letter. He makes several loud inhalations through his nose, holding the letter just above his slight five o'clock shadow.
The druid looks up at the assembled.
"My Archdruid wants to warn me that there may be communists in the area. I'm not sure I believe him."
A crackling sort of hissing sound escapes Charn's mouth, and it's difficult to tell whether he's laughing or sighing. "Would that the blighters stay in their communes and share their brand of misery exclusively with themselves." After a moment, he asks, "Other than the one who managed an escape, are there more nearby?"
The druid furrows his brow. "Where there is smoke, my scaled friend, there is fire. Perhaps you and your colleagues can find out if you are not needed back at The Outpost immediately? I would be happy to have your assistance scouting these lands if you are so inclined."
The druid reaches into his robes, pulling out a legume. He cracks it between thumb and forefinger before fishing out the edible interior.
Eryndir offers an uncharacteristic bark of a laugh when Hatepshon describes Taron's warning. The smile still lingering on his face, he replies to Hatepshon.
"The Archdruid suspected you might ask us to assist, and gave us leave from the Outpost if we wished to do so. He also mentioned that you might have some other request of us, though he may have been speaking generally.
"For myself, I would be eager to help. I cannot speak for my compatriots, however."
"I don't really care for the wilds. If we're going to be traveling far from soft beds and hot food, we'll need to be compensated."
The druid smiles at the Tiefling's request, as if he knew it was coming. "I know you're no communist, now don't I? Able, was it? Tell me about yourself Able. What would you wish from a man of the woods such as myself?"
He crushes two legumes at a time between his thumb and forefinger. His amusement is plain to see.
"Gold won't serve you here. Can't you command the moles to dig it up for us?"
Now it is Hatepshon's turn to bark a laugh. He crumbles up the contents of his hand while chewing. After digging a small divot in the ground, he dumps those crumbled contents into the earth and covers them back up again.
"I don't command anything, I'm afraid. I'm not Archdruid Hatepshon, I'm simply Hatepshon. I have no particular rights or responsibilities. Unlike your cleric friend," the druid gestures toward Caleb, "I don't believe I have to do anything just because someone tells me to do something. I suspect you have a similar outlook. Am I right?"
Eryndir begins sorting the assorted goods taken from the bodies of the dead Communists into four piles. Each pile contains 550 copper and 20 silver. Seeing that the gold does not divide evenly, he places 12 gold in his own pile and then 15 in the other's piles. He places one scimitar and one set of leather armor in each pile, as well.
In a separate pile, he arranges the three gems, the four canteens (setting the magic one just to the side of the others), the spell scrolls, and the potions taken from Marx.
He hands Able his share of the coins. "It seems this work may be lucrative on its own, without asking for gold from a man of the woods."
He hands each member of the party their share of the coins and places one of the scimitars and sets of leather armor by their packs. He then gestures to the other pile and says "each of you can also take one of the three gems, dividing them however you choose. One of those canteens seems to be bigger on the inside, as well. And I lay no claim to the goods taken from Marx himself."
He sits once more and offers Hatepshon his attention. "How would you recommend we begin?"
The druid looks between Eryndir and Able thoughtfully. "That depends. If you're looking for mercenary work, there is a watchtower to the north of here that needs capable hands. Their Commander is a good friend of mine and I know she pays well. If you're looking for interesting work, a . . . " he trails off, looking for the right word.
The pause is frustratingly long. The fire crackles and the woods at night loom large beyond the flickering of the flames. Somehow, the darkness is not menacing.
"An acquaintance, let us call him, of mine needs a cave explored. Apparently it is a new cave, but I don't quite know what that means. Of course, you also likely have work back at The Outpost if my Archdruid sent you all the way out here to warn me about the communists who want to kill me."
Hatepshon looks to Rupert, silent in the trees.
"That owl hates me, you know. It really isn't my fault."
Eryndir follows Hatepshon's gaze to the figure of Rupert. "He doesn't seem overly fond of us, either. We trespass upon his patience. It seems he expects us to fly at times and is put out that we cannot."
He looks back to Hatepshon and then to the others. "Mercenary work might pay regularly, but our gains are limited to our wages. Exploring a cave might allow us to be more . . . entrepreneurial."
He looks to his compatriots for their thoughts.
Charn furrows his scaly brow in thought and wonders, "What is that saying they're so fond of? From each according to his ability to each according to his need? Well. I have a heavy boot, and their pants will have need of it until they leave the good people of this area alone."
"The cave sounds interesting. All the best features of the wilderness like wild beasts and danger in every corner with all the advantages of the cramped warrens of a city."