Campaign Logs

Twilight Dawn

By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff

Chapter 76 - Colorful Canopy

Near the Reaching Wood 1371 DR, Eleint, 13th day (The Maiming, Tyr), noontime

As the group passes through the ‘Wood’s Gate’ and rides along the road, the cool breeze, that was felt within the shelter of the city walls, blows a little stronger across the fields and caravan stockades. Overhead, a blanket of fluffy white clouds covers almost the entire sky, save for occasional patches of blue sky. In the northern distance, the shadowy outline of the Reaching Wood is already visible and further to the west, a glint of the Chionthar is visible.

Farmers and their servants are working on the fields, gathering in this year’s harvest. With Highharvestide not far off anymore, there is an urgency to bring all in – the recent turns in the weather seem to indicate an early winter. The trees that are further out behind the stockades and the fields are showing their autumn dress, the yellow, red and green sparkling fresh as the random beam of sunlight moves across them. Areo darts off into a field, chasing a flock of crows.

Immerine is very quiet as they ride out of the city. She cringes as the shadows of buildings and gates fall on her. When they leave the city, she takes deep breaths and even Qwenta seems sprightly. When Areo darts out across the field Immerine actually has to rein Qwenta in to keep him from stretching his legs too. The spirited stallion tosses his head and a look of displeasure is in his eyes. He snorts a few times and Immerine laughs lightly then leans across his neck to whisper in his ears.

From near the gate a pony with a dwarven rider appears from a side street. It is the same dwarf, who entered the inn with Luna earlier this morning. “Well met.” The bearded rider greets the small group. “I had been listening to your conversations in the inn this morning even though I appeared to be sleeping.” The dwarf’s eyes look from Telsom to Luna. “I’m Branith, cleric of Moradin. I’ve seen too many undead on my way south, and unfortunately I was bound by my contract, otherwise I would have interfered. Anyway, I feel it as my duty to remove the un-living from the face of Toril, and joining you, I might redeem myself.”

Teryn shoots a puzzled look at Luna; he had thought the quiet dwarf was with her when they first entered the Running Stag. Looking to the dwarf, Teryn offers in a friendly voice, “You should probably have sought to travel with the other group. They are the ones seeking the undead, cleric of Moradin.”

The dwarf eyes the fellow named Teryn with a smile through his beard. “Ah well not much to do now, and besides I can’t just abandon my dear travel companion…” he glances over in Luna’s direction “…just because I get the urge to kill some undead things that don’t want to stay down.”

“I’ve only recently joined the group so I can’t speak for them, but I’m not one to turn away a servant of a good deity, nor am I willing to snub a traveling companion of the lovely Luna.” The warrior smiles and nods to the dwarf without glancing in Luna’s direction.

Tarim pauses in his music to welcome the dwarf with a cheery wave and a smile before resuming playing softly, apparently intent on polishing his skills.

Skeen shifts uncomfortably behind Telsom, not really having much trouble getting used to the rhythm of the horse, but not used to being close to someone. As the dwarf from earlier appears, it does not really bother her and he likely cannot see her anyway behind Telsom’s large bulk. “I don’t know where to put my arms,” Skeen mutters in a disgruntled tone, currently bracing them on the horse’s rump and on the saddle’s rim.

“Put them wherever you wish Skeen.” Telsom says rather seriously, yet in a voice not intended to pass much further than the elf’s ears and those of his own. “We’ll be on the road for quite some time so you might as well find a way to be as comfortable as possible, I’m not made of crystal so I won’t break and I won’t bite, unless the situation warrants it.”

“I bite.” Skeen mutters, using a combination of balance and holding to the saddle ahead of her to stay on. Looking to the dwarf, Telsom offers the man a welcoming smile. “Just as the presence of your friend is welcome, so is yours good dwarf.”

The dwarf looks over at the man named Telsom and nods “Aye, that is good to hear ain’t it horsy.” Branith says with a laugh and pats the neck of the horse.

With a nod to Branith, Telsom gently urges Teri forward running one forward towards her neck patting her reassuringly. With an impish grin, the paladin turns his head and whispers lightly to Skeen as his horse moves them forward. “Do you bite to draw blood, or to tease?” Telsom asks semi-seriously. “It depends on whether I am defending myself or what I’m being paid for,” Skeen says dryly in return.

“You deserve to be pleasured… such things should be intimate. I don’t pity you, but I’m angry about your past, and furious about what has been forced upon you and what you’ve been forced to do.” Telsom responds, his whispered words dropping to even lower tones than before. Skeen smirks. “Pleasure is for men. Pain is for women.”

“Such isn’t always the way of things Lightfingers. There are some out here who like to pleasure as much as they like to be pleasured. Many men can be demanding and unresponsive to a woman’s wants and needs, but there are some who wish to fulfill every woman’s want and desire. Don’t give up… where it’s been a job or a pain in the past it might bring you great joy and relief in the future. When that day comes it won’t be a means to an end, but the end which the means lead to.” Telsom says in a somewhat patronizing yet caring way.

Skeen rolls her eyes, clearly disbelieving. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” She pokes him. “I think the others have a question for you, flea-less leader. Or at least I hope you’re flea-less.”

As the paladin and the lithe elf continue their whispered conversation, Branith guides his pony to fall in line with the group. Luna seems unconcerned with the antics of the wolf and rides in the lead. The huntress turns in the saddle, her emerald eyes looking at Telsom and Immerine. “Do we follow the trail towards that little place mentioned on the map, or do we blaze our own trail?”

Immerine tries to hide a bored yawn behind her hand and looks at all the mounts. “While some of us are forest trained, most of us are not. And the abundance of mounts would indicate we remain on the trail. But there are bad things about trails, they are usually watched and ambushes can occur. So this should be up to the ‘leader’. And since Telsom has the map he should decide. For me, I would prefer to blaze a trail … if my opinion matters in this.”

After her petulant response Immerine gets a little glow in her eyes and lets Qwenta have his head, “Run my beauty… stretch your legs, but do not get too far ahead of the others. See if you can catch Areo.”

“Every time I have seen Immerine on horseback she has blazed her own trail, even if we were to try to go by some marked trail we’d likely have problems. Blaze away.” Telsom says with a smile as he turns his attention briefly from Teri’s other passenger to the group.

After addressing the group, Telsom turns back to Skeen. “Have you every checked someone for fleas?” Telsom asks, with amusement. “There is no point in checking unless you plan on doing a thorough search inch by inch.”

Skeen blinked innocently. “Oh, I’m sure I could take the word of a paladin of Sune on that matter. In fact, would fleas dare to tread on such hallowed flesh? You realize I’m probably contaminating you with unholiness at this moment?” With a chuckle Telsom says, “Oh yes indeed… I’m frightened terribly.”

Her coppery face grows warm as Luna watches wolf, horse, and woman run through the forest. Her first temptation is to loosen the reins of Darkon and let him as well as her join them in the frolic, but with a heavy sigh, Luna decides against it and looks to Branith with a soft smile as if he knows what is really in her heart. Looking to Telsom, the wood elf huntress asks, “Where do you wish me be positioned within the group?”

“I think your skills would be best put to use at our forefront, but I am not an expert or even a novice where woodland skills are involved. Are you averse to leading the way?” Telsom says with a good deal of respect as he speaks to the Huntress, almost shyly he continues. “Back at the Stag you’d mentioned that you were willing to teach any who would learn the ways of wood lore, my skills are honed for battle and a life in the city. I think it would do me good to widen my skills, if you would trouble yourself with teaching me.”

The almond shaped eyes seem to gleam slightly at the thought of teaching another to enjoy such the pleasures of nature the way she does. The ranger replies, “I am far from an all knowing elder to be called a teacher, but I would enjoy giving you some thoughts on how to search for signs and become a bit more aware of the forest around you. As for leading the group to our destination for I don’t know the land about us like Teryn might, but if you show me the map once more, I will do my best.”

Hearing the exchange between Telsom and Luna, the warrior’s expression turns sad. “Good luck Telsom. This is the sort of place my father loved and wanted to teach me about. I never could quite appreciate it the way he did though.” Breathing a heavy sigh, Teryn watches Immerine run her horse and waves his hand in her direction as he asks, “Shall we make an attempt to keep up with her?”

“No.” Telsom says plainly.

With a soft smirk and maybe a hint of something else within her tone, the leather clad huntress comments, “Everybody appreciates things differently, Master Teryn, but it doesn’t means it is the wrong way. Beauty in things is seen in different ways by many different people.”

“Yes,” Teryn responds, eyes flick up and down Luna’s body once as he seems to sit a bit straighter in the saddle “I’ve heard the expression ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ before, and it didn’t refer to the monster of the same name.” The corners of his mouth curl up into a subtle smile.

Skeen twitches. “See,” she mutters, “Men are all the same. Even species makes no difference.”

Teryn breathes a heavy sigh as he glances at Skeen before turning his vision to the road ahead, his expression a mixture of sadness and exasperation, yet he says nothing.

The chestnut haired huntress, with a bit of smile upon her face, looks to the moon elf, “Skeen, my friend, I believe Master Teryn meant no harm in his words, but meant them in jest.” Her orbs flash slightly at the warrior before glancing back at the hurting elf, “Even though it is rumored that men can grow excitable with a slight wind from the East does not mean all men act upon them. Beauty can be just observed or appreciated from a distance for even beauty does not have to deal with physical traits. One might admire you for your strength or your juggling abilities, Skeen, like a woman might see a man’s inner tenderness through a hard exterior or his humorous words and that might be what she is attracted to…” Luna tries to make her words a bit soothing and comforting for even the ranger’s hard life cannot compare to the pain the woman who now rides behind Telsom has endured.

Skeen snorts. “I was just making an observation. It doesn’t mean anything,” she says, surprised that anyone took her seriously. “It was a comment, like wind is windy. Why would I think the wind meant ill by blowing?” Skeen seems genuinely confused. “You all need to lighten up. And I don’t think he was jesting when he admired you. Do you think you are unattractive?”

“As to the rest, well, I’m sure you know best what’s for you. I’m not planning on really finding out. Tried it once and it went…” she pauses for the correct word and finally settles on “…badly.” Skeen talks in a matter-of-fact tone, and does not seem angry or even upset. If anything, she seems a bit amused at Luna’s jumping to defend Teryn from an observation.

It is unclear if Teryn hears any of the conversation or is lost in thought, as he makes no response to the dialogue between the two women.

Telsom shakes his head clearly amused as he urges Teri next to Luna’s horse. Reaching into his left hand saddlebag, the paladin withdraws the map and hands it to the ranger.

Tarim watches Skeen from underneath half-lidded eyes, ostensibly concentrating on the music that he’s *trying* to play. A slight smirk creeps across his face as he listens to the women’s discussion before he peers after Immerine shaking his head ruefully.

The huntress feels the blush of pink hue hit her coppery cheeks for she has mistaken the moon elf’s comments as serious.

“Forgive me, Skeen, for I only thought you took Master Teryn’s words to heart. I only thought that because of the situation back at the Stag. Please forgive my rashness in thinking such things. I often speak before I think,” the ranger speaks meekly as she takes the map from Telsom and tries to look like she is studying it and trying to hide her error in judgment as well as dodging the question about her thoughts of her beauty.

Now Skeen looks even more confused. “There is no need to apologize to me.” She tries to remember the inn. “Do you mean when I left?” she asks. “I was not mad at them. They talk like that all the time. They cannot help it. I just didn’t like the memory it brought back to me, so left.” Skeen shrugs awkwardly on the back of Telsom’s horse.

Tarim stops playing, dropping his longhorn to rest across the bow of his saddle, then he turns a steady gaze on Skeen, his vivid blue eyes clear and bright, clearing his throat gently. “Begging your pardon Miss, but I feel that you judge me unfairly. You do not know me therefore; you cannot speak intelligently on what I might or might not say “all the time.” I do apologize if my possibly ill-chosen response to his question provoked bad memories for you. Nothing could have been further from my intent. I am not accustomed to speaking on such matters and was… well never mind.”

“At any rate please excuse my choice of words in that, and I would appreciate the chance to defend myself before being judged on your personal interpretation of them.”

Skeen shrugs. “I speak from experience. You may be different. So far, you have not proved so. Nor do I expect you to know what will bother me. I don’t even know what that will be from time to time. How could I expect you to? Nor do I blame you for this. Again, there is no need to apologize for something you could neither control nor predict.”

“Nor do I judge you. I just observe that men like to talk about women and sex. It is their nature. I have observed this for more than eighty years. It is not a judgment, merely what I’ve seen and experienced. If you do not like my observations, then act differently.” She pauses for a moment. “Or ignore them. It should not matter to you what a stranger thinks or says.”

Again, there is no hostility in her tone, merely simple stating of what Skeen accepts as fact and a bit of confusion that it seems to bother anyone so much.

The young mage seems ill satisfied even irritated by Skeen’s response. “Perhaps it should not matter to me but it does. I would attempt to explain further yet somehow I feel it would only be more damning in your eyes.” He stows his longhorn away, no longer in the mood for music.

Not having any clue what bothers Tarim, and more confused by his ire than anything, Skeen tries one more time, “I have said I do not judge you. I am damned already. Why would I damn anyone else? If it will make you feel better, I will try to keep my thoughts and observations silent. I am not used to anyone actually giving weight to what I say. And I am not good with people. Many have told me this so I would guess it is true.”

Tarim’s eyes fix on the odd elven woman for a moment, perplexed. “I… you… um… no do not keep your thoughts to yourself Skeen, you have a right to speak. It is my responsibility to learn from my error in judgment. If I do not like how you feel about what I have said it would behoove me to speak differently no?”

This really seems to confuse the elf. “Ehm no… I would say you should then ignore what I have said and give no weight to it.”

Tarim’s voice relaxes a little but is still earnest “But I have no desire to discount what you have to say Skeen, your words have just as much value as mine… if not more so due to the wisdom that your years have given to you. I… hate what has been done to you…I do not wish to be thought of in the same way as those who have… harmed you” he finishes lamely not willing to speak the word out loud.

Skeen, perhaps unwisely, laughs out loud. “More fool you,” she says, still laughing. “You do not seem to understand at all. What you say makes no sense. I would say that water is wet. Yet if one drowns in a pond, it does not mean the water is at fault. Nor does it make it any less wet. Similarly, I have seen men talk about women and their own pleasure with them. It does not mean they have harmed me; it is just a thing that men talk about. I don’t really understand it, but it is just a thing that is part of man. It does not bother me. It is part of the way of things… And, age does not make one wiser. It just makes one older.”

For a moment, the barbarian’s face betrays the hurt shock and dismay at her laughter but then an instant later there is nothing but a coolly passive expression. He carefully bows his head gently and says, “As you say Miss”

Branith rides as silent as rock, listening to the conversations flowing around him with a smile on his lips, and yet a distant look on his face. “Enough.” Telsom says as he rubs his temple. “Pick another subject please.” Reaching into the neck of his shirt, Telsom lightly brushes his new shirt of armor with awe and then sighs contentedly.

While handing the map back to Telsom, the wide-eyed wood elf asks him, “Do you wish me to call back Areo for he might in return retrieve Immerine as well?” While waiting a reply, Luna tries to stay out of the subject of misunderstanding and the views of men, but tries to change the subject as well as the mood of the group by asking, “Tell me, all of you, what do you think of your homeland and what do you miss about it or will miss about it?”

Darkon huffs slightly underneath the green-cloaked maiden as if to answer the question about missing his favorite pastures.

Skeen stays deliberately silent, not wishing to cause more problems, though she mouths the word, ‘nothing’, at Telsom’s back.

“Home is where your heart is.” Telsom says with a smile. “Wherever I go Sune is with me and as such I am never lonely and for the most part content. I have lived in Waterdeep for some time and miss the many friends I had made there as well as the general atmosphere surrounding the City of Splendors. I was born in Silverymoon where my parents still live, most of all I miss my mother I suppose… our long talks and the pampering she always doted out to her only child.”

Qwenta races ahead of Areo leaving the wolf behind, but true to his mistress he does not race so far ahead, he cannot easily gallop back. After a few moments, he slows and pauses to nibble some of the sweet grasses while letting those of lesser stature than he does catch up. Immerine laughs at her stallion’s antics. “You are more of a standoff than I am Qwenta.” She slides off his back to check the ground and listen to what the spirits have to offer.

As the others get within sight, they see Qwenta, but not Immerine.

A soft smile appears about the face of the wood elf at the mention of Silverymoon comes out in the open air. “I know of Silverymoon for my father use to take me there often to get me out the woods once in awhile and into civilization in hopes to make me a bit more like a woman than a tomboy. I am afraid it didn’t work,” Luna interjects as she runs a slender fingertip through a piece of her brown hair to pin it behind her elven pointed ear where a jade drop earring hangs delicately from which seems quite out of place for a forest maiden to wear.

Her almond shaped eyes seem to float to the mount that the raven-haired mistress had ridden upon just moments ago. With a light whistle from the full lips of the ranger, Areo comes out of hiding by bounding towards Darkon at a non-stopping pace.

“I miss beards; there is too little beards above ground.” A dark voice speaks out from below the rest. “Just take my great aunt Fasilda Goblineater, she have one of the nicest beards in The Spine of the World. Now I bet if any of ya lasses saw her you would want a beard like that to.”

Telsom gives an involuntary shudder as the dwarf speaks of bearded women. Letting out a shaky breath, the paladin shudders again but says nothing. The first indication that Teryn has heard anything of conversations since he fell silent is a badly suppressed smirk as he glances at the discomfited paladin.

With an amusing smile, the forest maiden giggles slightly as she replies, “I believe I will keep the smooth face of mine, my friend, if you don’t mind.” Luna quickly gives a wink towards Branith’s way before chuckling once more.

“Well if you insist I can still not really grasp that women of your kind don’t sport beards.” The dwarf mutters.

As the discussion on whether or not women should sport beards continues, the small group arrives at the spot where Immerine’s horse is contently browsing on the late summer’s grass. At first there is no sight of the young witch, but then Immerine can be seen kneeling in the long – slightly brownish – grass as if meditating. Only a mile or two have been covered between the city’s walls and the current location. The Reaching Wood is still off in the distance – that is the outskirts of the massive forest.

Luna’s companion – the black wolf Areo – is sniffing the ground near Immerine though the wolf’s behavior appears a normal canine activity, not something worrying. Immerine’s face is relaxed, some of her earlier worry-lines gone form her face as if the feeling of nature close by has served as a soothing balm on the nervous system of the young woman.

Tarim’s carefully constructed neutral expression gradually melts into a smile as he sees Immerine’s communion. He nods gently at some inner monologue and sweeps the surrounding area with a keen gaze. “If it were not for my kin I would love to return home.” Tarim comments softly. “Though for now it will be nice to be among the trees again… It will not be the home, but it’s certainly better then continuing to try and sort out the sights and smells of Berdusk.” The mage takes a deep breath and sighs, feeling some of the stresses abating as they distance themselves from the city.

“Aye, being in the trees once more will be welcoming sight and comfort…and I think to Immerine as well,” the young elf maiden comments as her eyes find the raven haired beauty take in the surrounding nature. “Tell me, Master Teryn, what do you love about your home and will miss if you leave?” the inquisitive huntress asks as she swings the darken mount next to Immerine’s and to also look upon the warrior she just addressed.

“You going to mope around all day Lightfingers?” Telsom asked quietly, “Perhaps you’d find the ride more enjoyable sitting with someone else?” Skeen mutters something like “…shiny happy people…” and adds, slightly louder, “If you want me to get down, just say it.” The thief is clearly not in the best of moods. “Not at all.” Telsom responds, “You smell nice, and you are pleasantly warm against my back. If it helps you smile feel free to poke me in the back, or pull at my ear as the urge strikes you.” Skeen snorts softly, but makes no other comment. She does, however, stay on the back of the horse.

Areo continues to smell the many scents upon the ground and wags his tail as the many images of those who have caused such a wonderment behind flash in his mind.

Qwenta tosses his head as Luna draws her mount close then nuzzles Immerine to get her attention. Immerine sits back and looks up, “I hate those dead places enclosed by walls. Hate them. Even back home the cities are terrifying, though more open. Mainly we used them for targets for the Zulkirs and trade posts for Outlanders.” Immerine sighs in peace and looks lovingly at Qwenta. When the party is completely caught up she remounts and looks toward the forest.

Turning his brown eyes on the huntress, Teryn raises his eyebrows in thought before answering “At this point, I’m not sure there is much I would miss, other than my friends and the people I know there, like my best friend Cale.” He pauses and a sadness covers his face “Right now though, I have a personal matter I’d like to deal with if I can find the answers I seek.” Eyes downcast, he stares vacantly toward the ground.

Her orbs watch the proud warrior’s face suddenly covered with sadness which touches a heartstring all to close to Luna herself. “Then I hope with my soul this quest will fill you with the answers you seek to what ever problem you have within your mind and heart,” the wood elf simply offers up to Teryn as she turns Darkon once more to the point of the forest ahead and offers her own mind up to her own unanswered life questions.

“Thank you” he whispers without looking up in what he thinks is a voice just loud enough for the elven woman to hear.

“Lets press on to the edge of the forest and then we can all take a short break before moving in.” Telsom says as he keeps Teri moving towards the woods. “Ay that sounds good to me as any” the dwarf says trying to keep his pony up with the larger horses.

“I’d like a chance to stretch,” Skeen says suddenly. “But I can wait,” she adds. “It won’t take long now.” Telsom says reassuringly.

Urging Darkon a bit with a small of her heel, the ranger longs to release the reins of her mount and allow the wind to whip through her waist length hair, but instead she turns to Skeen. “You will get use to riding in a few days and then won’t even know you are riding anymore and maybe even enjoy it,” the ranger encourages with a smile as Darkon enters more of trot mode.

“I wouldn’t bet on it,” Skeen replies with a doubtful look on her face.

With wide eyes that takes in the surrounding nature, Luna seems to be smiling more at teach approaching step towards the up and coming forest. Her eyes also seem to keep a close watch on Immerine and her reactions as well. Areo had run ahead of the group and takes in the catch up time of the others to chase the unsuspecting ground animals

“Please excuse my curiosity, for my father would always tell me it would get me into trouble, but Tarim, did you know of my father Reildan Rosewood?” Luna asks with a bit of concern within her tone of any news about her father.

“Reildan Rosewood…?” he repeats softly “Oh yes I know of the man…he brought a few of our hunters back after they had been set upon by orcs in the deeps of the wood last year. According to them saved their lives. He was um… human though…” Tarim hesitated, not sure if this would be a sore spot and not wanting to affront yet another lovely lady in the same day.

Sitting up proud upon her saddle with a gleam of love within her eyes of the mention of her father was at least seen within the year, Luna simply replies to the mage, “Aye, I am not the daughter of his own seed, but he is my father nonetheless and I am his daughter… not by blood or race, but father and daughter by fate and love.” The wood elf smiles at her words and the image of the relationship she displays within them as her heart aches slightly for the true proof that her father is well. “Your words bring me comfort, Master Tarim, thank you.” The huntress states as she nods her head towards Tarim as a sign of respect for what he has provided her.

While listening with half an ear to the conversation between Tarim and Luna, the paladin turns slightly in the saddle to address his passenger once more. “You going to mope around all day Lightfingers?” Telsom asks quietly, “Perhaps you’d find the ride more enjoyable sitting with someone else?”

He watches the pride and happiness on the lovely elf’s face and is well pleased with the results of his words. The young man returns the nod respectfully, his long black hair falls over his face a bit and he smoothes it back absently. “As I recall he was much praised by my village and they had a small feast in his honor. Unfortunately I was away at the time visiting some friends so I never met him.” The barbarian mage closes his eyes and thinks back continuing. “As I heard the tale though, his skill with the blade was legendary and he slew several orcs.”

Telsom coughs into his hand trying to stifle a laugh at Tarim’s words.

“I assume he passed those fabled skills down to his daughter?” Tarim asks innocently looking at Luna with a pleasant smile.

With a half smirked smile, the wood elf lead on to know something about her father and parties and what probably followed afterwards, before she answers him, “Aye, my father was always good with the sword, but I have found my comfort within the bow. I carry my family blade with me, but my skill with it might pale to others here, but I am honored to carry it and use it with little skill I have.”

With a shock of playful dismay towards the paladin, the ranger asks quite coyly, “Oh, Master Telsom, did you swallow a bug while opening your mouth to speak?”

“I’m grateful to the bug, it beat my foot by mere seconds.” Telsom says with a warm smile.

With a slight giggle, Luna peers in Teryn’s direction while replying to Telsom, “See even nature knows when to step in before you do… you have to respect it and admire it a bit.” She gives Teryn a slight wink of her evergreen eye before returning her playful gaze to…

Stifling a laugh and turning a grin toward Luna, he responds “Perhaps I just haven’t had the right tutor.” He winks back at the elf maiden. Skeen rolls her eyes. “I’d trade it all for a warm bed and a hot bath and plenty of food whenever I wanted it,” Skeen mutters, being more of an indoors elf.

“A day in the forest, a night spent in a warm comfy bed safe and snug in the city would be a happy medium for me.” Telsom says as he looks towards the forest. Reaching down, the paladin rests his hand on the hilt of his sword a small sigh leaving his lips as he takes comfort from the feel of the weapon in his hand.

A warm glow emits from the face of the wood elf as the talk of the forest and the creature comforts of the city come out in discussion. “I have to agree that a warm bed in a safe building is quite inviting and a personal favorite of mine especially in my home cottage in the High Forest, but I have to say nothing can beat a starlit evening on a clear night at the forest’s edge during the spring. I heard that lovers take those moments to consummate their love to one another during those types of evening or often that other villages hold spring festivals in such magic. I have to say that would beat any indoor bed,” the leather clad huntress seems spill out to the others as if she stares off to that type of night in her mind.

Teryn coughs nervously and adjusts his banded armor, obviously unused to the feel of the suit. “I *definitely* haven’t had the right tutor.” The young warrior utters to no one in particular. Skeen says softly, “Would you mind terribly talking about something else? Otherwise I’m going to have to share my experiences with you and everyone will get angry with me again.”

“Name the conversation then Lightfingers.” Telsom says playfully. Skeen grumbles. “How about best tavern brawls…”

“I’ve never been in one.” Telsom says with a smile as he turns to look at the elf behind him.

The ranger is somewhat baffled about the discussion on where they like sleep – and that it seems to be a sore spot for the moon elf – but shrugs it off quickly none of the less. “Tavern brawls? …I don’t think I have been in any for I tend to stick to myself in such places… I have seen many in my times though… and been in several battles outside the tavern, but don’t know if you would be interested in any,” Luna adds to the mix of the conversation, but backs out quickly because every time she opens her mouth she feels she causes the topic to be dropped completely.

Skeen sighs. “See, whenever I talk, people get upset. Just talk about whatever you want. I’ll shut up again.”

With gentle, soft eyes, the wood elf turns her attention back to Skeen. “My friend, I don’t mean any ill will at all by your switching topics for I don’t want to cause any harm towards you. I just don’t understand where I have offended you…If you can tell me then I will make sure not to touch upon the subject once more,” Luna tries to mend the fences between her and the elf and of course the rest of the group.

Skeen snorts. “Where people take their lovers, the oh-so-pleasant losing of one’s virginity, stuff like that. I don’t really enjoy talking about it and it’s wearing on me a bit thinner today for some reason. I’m glad it’s so good for you all. I really am, but it would be like me wanting to discuss torture for the rest of you.” Skeen shrugs. “That makes no sense I’m sure. And I did mention bed so of course that’s where the discussion would lead. So I’m sure it’s my own fault. I just like beds to sleep in, is all.”

Tarim looks up from examining his fingernails and says evenly “You make some rather bold assumptions Skeen. I look forward to challenging them.”

“Well, ok, but I do like to sleep in beds,” Skeen says with a smirk. “For some men losing one’s virginity isn’t a walk in the park either.” Telsom says with a chuckle. “Have you been in many tavern brawls Skeen?”

“A few,” Skeen says. “You can st… er, acquire a lot of things dropped during a brawl. And if yer quick, you can stay out of most of the fight too.” She blinks innocently at Telsom’s back.

With a bit of confusion upon her visage as well a blush about her cheeks, Luna just nods in Skeen’s direction and replies, “I didn’t mean to imply anything of that sort…I apologize if my words gave it that direction…I only thought to describe the night is all…and what others have said…again, my apologies” Moving her heels slightly into Darkon’s side, the green-clad archer decides to move a bit up to take point and away from the conversation and the embarrassment that now dons her face.

Skeen sighs again. “See,” she says softly. “I didn’t mean to upset you either. I’m really good at it though.” Skeen calls after the wood-elven woman.

A pained look crosses Teryn’s face as he turns to the young rogue “Skeen, I was never angry with you, in fact, earlier I thought you were angry with me and that bothered me. Sometimes talking about bad experiences allows you to ease the pain. Anytime you want to talk about your experiences, whether here or in private, I’ll listen. And I promise to not be insensitive to your pain.”

“Nope,” Skeen replies. “I wasn’t angry at anyone. Well, maybe some folks that might not even be alive now, come to think of it.” That thought clearly cheers her up a bit. “They’d be pretty old if they were alive, around a hundred years or more.”

“I remember a good hall brawl we had on a wedding once, those berserkers sure knew how to tear the place down. Some others did to if I can remember it through the fog of ale.” Branith adds with a laugh trying to hold the conversation in one place. “Aye it was good days back then…” he says with a low sigh.

Immerine smirks at the continual banter of the Outlanders at her back. Her eyes raze the countryside as they ride and she remains silent. When Skeen makes her comment about torture Immerine almost giggles, the noise comes out as a stifled sneer. When the talk turns to bar fights she loses interest again until the Branith mentions berserkers and then there is an amused gasp from the witch. “Then your berserkers are ill-trained,” she says simply and turns her attention back to the trail.

“Perhaps they are, or they just like to practice it about all the time, on one and all. Luckily they just clad themselves in that nasty armor when there is real battle to be had…” Branith says with a slight smile, “…my lady.”

“I guess they just haven’t been brow beaten by witches.” Telsom says playfully. “Nay.” The dwarf replies. “We leave that to the goblins and drow, master Telsom. Since they seem to be the only ones which are able to bank some thoughts into the thick skulls of those raving warriors.”

“Brow beat? We do not beat them. They simply know their place. But some of their practices can get quite exuberant.” Immerine seems seriously puzzled as to why Telsom thinks she would beat a berserker.

“Master dwur, I am sorry I do not think we have been introduced. I am Immerine and you do not have to call me lady. According to a Lord of the land I am far from it. You were very quiet in the Running Stag and so much was happening. I am sorry not to know your name.”

The pink hued ranger hears what Skeen has yelled to her, but Luna is too ashamed to turn and face the group again. Instead, the young forest warrior remains at the front as the group gets closer to the forest edge and she allows her stallion a bit of freedom in his gait as well as the path he chooses. Her intense, colored orbs watch her wolf companion dart here and there, as if it had been ages since he was able to run this completely free which only puts a smile upon Luna’s face and erase the blush about her cheeks.

A moment later, Areo joins Luna by Darkon’s side and seems to take delight in trying to keep as close to Darkon as possible which only annoys the dark steed and gets him to huff hard at the playful wolf. “You better watch it, my young pup, or you will end up with a hoof in your face.” Luna warns him before another giggle of amusement escapes her lips at the situation. However, the huntress can not help but to look over her shoulder at the group for a moment as if she was looking for something or someone, before turning her almond shaped eyes forward to the location Telsom had pointed out to her he wishes them to go.

“Ah I apologize about that my dear Immerine. I am Branith Rockbiter Cleric of Moradin at yer service. It wouldn’t mean much if I told you the name of my clan since we seldom or never travels the world above. My silence at the inn must have been due to the lack of a good dwarven ale around these parts. I ran out of it as we left the North and haven’t been able to find any new that is to my liking” the dwarf stops his ranting with a sight of longing. “So where do ya hale from then lady Immerine? One of the clans of the north perhaps? I have heard that they have berserkers among them.”

“I do not know of those tribes. I am from a land far to the east of here – a land of untamed wilderness and simple people. I am from Rashemen. And as the pretty paladin said, I am a Witch. Our berserkers are a highly trained fighting force which aids in the protection of our land from incursions of raiders and keep the Red Wizards busy. They are a lively lot and quite a deadly force.” Immerine smiles as if remembering something, then nods to the dwarf. “I would not know your clan if you even named them and you were well-known in these lands. But I know you now, and a man or dwarf, who stands in bravery represents his clan well.”

“Ay they do, so does any woman” The dwarf looks down on the ground a while in thought then looks up at the woman again. “Red wizards you say, I haven’t met them in battle as of yet. But I have heard that they are troublesome foes indeed.”

“The people in power in the lands of Thay have no respect for life. They throw it away each day or twist it into reprehensible facsimiles. The common people struggle in their land, both for survival against the elements and against anyone who would seek to dominate them. The wizards are getting clever though and seek to extend a hand of friendship will drawing close their noose. Many lands here in the west will feel their sting.” Immerine purses her lips as she looks off to the forest and sighs.

“They sound just like the drow to me. Only they don’t extend black hands of friendship at ya unless there is a dagger hidden somewhere or one of those nasty hand crossbows.” The dwarf’s eyes shine with fury as he speaks of the drow and his voice rolls like a thunderstorm in mountains.

“I know very little of drow except for vague stories, so will have to take your word on this,” Immerine falls silent not really knowing what else to say since the subject seems to be a hated one to the dwarf.

“What he says is consistent with everything I have heard about them.” Teryn offers helpfully. He shrugs “Except for the stories of one that lives on the surface and isn’t mean, deceitful and murderous like his kind are rumored.”

Immerine looks over to the warrior. “Even the darkest of societies can produce those who would live another way. Just as even the best of societies will produce criminals. It is the way of life, so perhaps those rumors are more than rumors. There is every chance they could be fact.”

“I guess the druids would call it the way of the balance.” Branith adds with a laugh. “I would call it plain common sense.”

Tarim looks up and nods his vivid blue eyes far away as he speaks “Yes even societies who consider The Art to be an evil corrupting influence can produce mages under the right circumstances. So it is not inconceivable that other societies could produce similar anomalies.”

The mounted ranger looks shyly over her shoulder to peer at the group behind her and sees them conversing like before. If it hadn’t been her pride and the fact she stormed off before, the green leather clad elf might have rejoined them, but instead Luna just looks forward to the ever growing trees on the horizon in her own silence.


Conversation is light – though sometimes a bit awkward – within the haphazard group of volunteers riding for the Reaching Wood. Luna and Areo are riding point as the outskirts of the huge forest come closer and closer. Areo a bit further ahead, is racing through the brush, only to double back at times to check out suspicious rabbit- or foxholes. The others change position every so often as conversation partners switch, and for a long wile the group travels as such.

The path taken leads more an more between the trees and soon the group is traveling through a multicolored environment where dappled sunlight illuminates an early Autumn décor. Like golden and silver strands the light filters from above through the canopy of the lightly forested area. The trees are predominantly beech, though some other types are intermixed as well.

Areo once more darts of in a direction, chasing a frantic rabbit as suddenly Darkon pulls away sharply to the right in an attempt to avoid something – he manages to do so, but an unbalanced Luna is not so fortunate. Having no clue as to why her horse reacts like that, she tries to regain her balance, only to be pulled out of the saddle as Darkon moves away. The ranger suddenly finding herself suspended in mid-air, hanging from some very thin, but strong and sticky strands…

The other horses, sensing Darkon’s reaction become suddenly very restless and the others have some difficulty in reining in their steeds. Tarim is the most unfortunate, his otherwise docile mount bucks and rears as it tries to jump away, sending the young magician head over heels tumbling to the ground. The floor of the forest is not very hard and the frail looking barbarian takes no damage though the impact sends all air from his lungs. Immerine and Branith have to wrestle with their mounts to maintain control. Teryn and Telsom on the other hand don’t seem to have much difficulty in controlling their mounts. In case of the latter, much to the relief of Skeen.

“Hang on Luna we gonna get ya out of there faster then a horse can run.” Branith says as he tries to calm the pony so he can get of it and down to secure earthy ground. Immerine attempts something similar as she leans close to Qwenta’s ear to whisper soothing words to calm him faster.

Tarim lands with a decidedly undignified “Whoooof” as all his air is forced out by his rather graceless landing. Immediately he sits up trying to gasp for breath and clutches for his staff as he begins staggering to his feet. His eyes sweep the scene carefully, trying to regain his senses as well as his breath and he readies himself to cast a spell in Luna’s defense if necessary.

“Spiders, I bet!” says Skeen loudly, sliding off of Telsom’s horse and readying her bow, both to free herself up for battle as well as Telsom. Her sharp eyes scan the trees, looking for eight-legged freaks. Standing in his stirrups, Telsom rests his hand upon the hilt of his blade as he searches for the enemy.

Teryn moves closer to Luna and leans forward on the horse, swinging his leg over the back of the horse and dismounts quickly with a jump and runs to the hapless elf, drawing his twin shortswords and aiming the tips of the blades straight up as he goes. Looking up as he approaches, he scans the trees above for anything that might pose a threat before attempting to cut her down.

“By all things unholy!” The suspended ranger curses quite loudly for all to hear, as her glowing emerald eyes search about the ground and the thin strong strands that bind her to the point she is in. Her slender hand tries to go to the rose gold hilt of her sword to prepare to strike at the strands if her knowledge of the creature turns out to be an enemy. She finds however that the more she moves the more she seems to get stuck in the webbing.

The other elven woman – dismounted from behind Telsom – looks up, her bow at the ready and almost instantly notices three large shapes descending down the webbing suspended between the trees. The sunlight is dancing along the silvery lines, mocking all with the false illusion of beams of sunlight slanting through the colorful canopy. As Skeen takes aim she notices a fourth spider which drops a web towards her; though when she steps aside to avoid the cast web, she entangles herself in yet another web.

While the paladin, standing up in his stirrups and with a small frown of concentration on his face surveys the scene, Branith manages to calm down his pony sufficiently to dismount, and he makes his way over towards the entangled ranger. Yet as he is about halfway, a shout of warning from Skeen comes too late as a web dropped from above causes the dwarf to falter and stop in his tracks, wrestling with the sticky mass of strands.

Only a few feet away from the unfortunate dwarf, Immerine has managed to calm down Qwenta and as she looks about to take stock of the situation, she notices five large spiders attacking her group. One of the spiders is rapidly descending towards the trapped ranger.

Noticing that she is only getting more tangled in the web with each movement she makes, the huntress growls lowly as if challenging the spider to come any closer. Her forest green eyes glow with hatred for the beast that has trapped her and looks to see her as dinner. “Teryn, get back!” Luna warns him, “This vile creature can trap you just as easily within a web and I don’t want to see that.”

“Lots of spiders!” Skeen yells, though too late to save either herself or Branith from entanglement. Realizing there was not a damned thing she could do about this, Skeen falls silent, only yelling if she can try to warn someone of impending webbing. ‘This is not the way I want to die,’ she thinks to herself.

Teryn does not waste time or energy speaking but keeps one sword pointed at the descending spider while using the other to swipe above Luna to cut the webs that keep her suspended in the air. He is wary of getting webbed and will watch for that as carefully as possible. If time permits before the spider arrives he will also try to cut her arms free, freeing her sword arm first. His other sword is ready to defend from the spider as soon as it is range.

The spider is faster than Luna or Teryn thought and the Berduskan warrior doesn’t see a chance to start freeing the ranger as the spider apparently is satisfied with the trapped woman and launches itself at the warrior. The odd almost rustling sound which initially was a very unsuspicious sound reminiscent of rustling leaves is suddenly clearly explained as the quick moving legs covered by chitin plating reach for the warrior.

As the valiant warrior tries to plant his swords into the attacking creature, the spider’s mandibles grab his exposed wrist. Though the bite of the spider doesn’t hurt that bad, Teryn can feel a poison being injected into his system. Gritting his teeth against the bite and the impeding effect of the poison, he stabs one of his swords into the creature, effectively impaling it and causing his second attack to miss.

Seeing the spider descending towards Luna and attacking Teryn, Tarim barks out a series of harsh sounding syllables in-between gasps for breath. The words hang in the air for a moment before sending a glowing purplish bolt of energy toward the swiftly approaching arachnid. Seemingly without resistance the missile penetrates the creature’s body with a sizzling sounds and a small tendril of smoke curls up from the impact point. The spider – impaled on Teryn’s sword starts twitching in a strange manner.

Sliding off of his horse, Telsom looks to the sky while drawing the dagger from his saddle, his rapier in his off hand. Seeing one of the arachnids descending towards Skeen, he throws the dagger at the creature. Despite his good aim, the downward movement of the spider was faster than the paladin anticipated and the dagger flies harmless over the beast’s back.

Telsom has no time to mourn over his missed attack, as suddenly he hears the rustling sound of one of the creatures close to him and Teri. Shifting the sword back into his ‘good’ hand, he brings it up as the arachnid rears to attack him. The creature’s legs landing on the paladin’s shoulders, but failing to bring him close enough to the venomous mandibles.

The previous spider ignores the dagger – or is ignorant of the danger the paladin poses – and advances onto the trapped Skeen. With a glint of panic in her eyes the elf stares helplessly into the eight alien eyes of the spider as she squirm to get out of the creature’s reach. To no avail, holding the woman with its two front legs, the spider sinks its mandibles into the soft flesh, injecting the poison into the slender rogue’s system. Almost immediately Skeen feels her strength ebbing away, while the spider starts wrapping her tighter into a cocoon.

“Nice work ya stupid dwarf, naw what will the lady in question think of ya.” Branith curses as he lies trapped under the spider’s web. While the trapped dwarf tries to wriggle his hands free of the webbing to get to his mace, he starts spinning around. Much to the surprise of the bearded priest, he starts floating in the air and spinning around as the spider above starts hauling him in.

Focusing on the spider in melee with Luna and Teryn, Immerine points to the attacking spider and barks a word of power shooting a glowing missile from the tip, only at the last moment to realize that creature is only squirming in its death throes. Mentally redirecting the missile she chooses the one almost overhead, which dropped a web on the hapless dwarf. The missile slams straight into the slightly bloated body of the spider, sizzling through its chitin armor. Her attention is then drawn to Branith as the unfortunate dwarf suddenly passes at her eye level while she is mounted on Qwenta…

“Teryn!” Luna exclaims in utter concern as she watches the spider bite the wrist of her would be rescuer. The concern turns to hatred and anger towards the very things that attack her new friends. The huntress with new vigor tries to free herself from the webbing and get her sword free from her hilt.

“Damn!” The young human curses as he feels the poison enter his system. He flings the dying spider off his sword in the direction of one of the other arachnids “Amazing what I’ve been impaling on my swords these days.” Teryn mutters as he swipes both swords at the webbing still holding Luna airborne, sparing precious moments to cut her loose to allow her into the fight with the other spiders.

The webbing is stubborn and setting the ranger free doesn’t go as fast as the warrior had hoped. Though after the first attempts, Luna is able to free her sword hand. A freedom the elven woman immediately acts upon, and the rose-hilted sword soon joins Teryn’s swords in trying to cut through the sticky stuff.

Branith in the mean time has more difficulties as he is slowly pulled upward. The dwarf manages however to pull his mace free out of his belt as the spider hauls him in.” Come on beasty, I will teach you why they called me ‘daddy Rockbiter’.”

Immerine smiles at the strangeness of this situation and murmurs the command of another spell and spreading her fingers wide and above her head. Almost immediately followed by a small collection of sticks and stones from the forest floor. The items quickly gathering in speed as the surge upward in random directions, smashing through leaves and embedding themselves in the bark of the trees.

The intent of the witch however was to do some damage to the spiders that might lurk above in addition to the one that is hauling in the dwarf. And what was intended happens as two of the tiny projectiles slam home in the arachnid, damaging a leg and puncturing a hole in the spider’s body.

The for the spider obvious painful experience results in it abandoning the reeling in of its catch. Unceremoniously Branith reverses his journey as the spider withdraws itself higher in the trees branches and the webbing that is spun there.

Calming himself, Telsom takes in a deep breath and then leans forward slightly bringing his rapier up over his left shoulder in a stab against the arachnid clinging to his back. The awkward position under which he makes the attack however causes his heirloom sword to skitter of the chitin armor of the creature. Though the paladin manages to twist and free himself of the spider’s grasp, now facing the eight-legged and eight-eyed creature head-on

The barbarian mage’s brow furrows with worry as he sees Skeen bitten, reflexively he pulls a handful of rose petals from his pouch. Chanting in the tongue of arcane power Tarim then blows the petals from his hand gently and watches as the soft red petals dissolve into a pinkish mist and waft as if blown to the spider attacking Skeen. The elven woman thinks idly of calling for help, but she can’t seem to look away from the spider. “Go away,” she tries to whisper, about all she has the energy for and blackness claims her.

Tarim sees both the spider and the trapped elf slump, though in the case of Skeen, the barbarian isn’t sure whether this is from the spell or not. The limp body of the spider tumbles from atop the elven woman and rolls on the ground; eight legs draped almost lifelessly next to the round body, almost as lifelessly as Skeen appears to be hanging upright in the critter’s web.

Then with a muffled ‘thud’ the wrapped dwarf hits the ground, rolling a few feet before he bounces of the legs of the frantically backpedaling Teri. “Ged me out of here!” Can be heard from the cocooned dwarf as he tries to rip, tear or sheer of the spider web around him.

“Ghastly.” Telsom mutters, as he lunges at the insect intending to skewer it. This time the paladin is in a better position to strike, and he punctures a hole in the arachnid’s head. The beast however refuses to die from the wound and rises on its four hind legs, its front legs and mandibles poised to strike Telsom.

With Luna able to use her own weapons to extricate herself from the rest of the webbing, Teryn sees that Telsom is still in the thick of battle. Nodding upward he warns her “Keep a sharp eye up” as he turns and runs to aid Telsom, attempting to skewer yet another spider on his swords. Though he still moves pretty fast, he doesn’t seem to hold his swords quite as high as normal as he runs toward Telsom.

Blinking her eyes as she manages to overcome the magical sleep, Skeen still very weak, continues to struggle. Seeing the coast is mostly clear, Tarim makes a dash for Skeen’s side drawing a large dagger with a raven-head pommel. Working quickly with what little strength he can muster the slight barbarian hacks away at the webs holding the elven woman with fierce determination. “Hold on Skeen…just hold on…” he urges as he works to free her frantically.

Luna, the other webbed victim, is busy hacking at the sticky strands holding her. With a growl of frustration for the webbing still clinging to her body, the huntress finally manages to severe enough of the webbing with her family heirloom to free herself. Once finally set free, the fiery eyed woman starts to follow the warrior’s lead to aid Telsom in his struggle. “Master Teryn, go to the Branith. You must be healed. I will lend my sword to Telsom.” Luna announces to the weakening man ahead of her.

Teryn however is reaching the paladin’s side, just as the large spider lunges forward. Either distracted by seeing the warrior arrive from the corners of its multi-faceted eyes, or weakened by the blow received from the paladin, the spider’s lunge falls short of reaching the side-stepping Telsom. Seeing an opening Teryn follows through with an attack from one of his swords, though the quick sprint has left the poisoned man a little unstable and his lunge goes wide.

Beyond the combatants, Immerine draws her staff and looks to see if there are anymore of the beasties to be dealt with that she can reach. The look on her face is a little sad. Sliding of Qwenta she kneels next to the struggling dwarf, unpacking her healer’s kit.

Immerine kneels next to Branith and rummages in her kit. She pulls out the small knife from inside and starts sawing away at the webbing. “Hold on Branith.” Then she looks over her shoulder, “Qwenta, guard.” The stallion’s eyes, already rolling in remembered fear paws the ground and tosses his head. Immerine returns to the task of cutting the dwarf free. Trying to works as fast and accurate as possible while the dwarf struggles inside the webbing, the Rashemi witch manages to free Branith of most of the webbing, the rest the sturdy and very annoyed dwarf tears off himself.

A couple of feet away from the witch and the dwarf, the young barbarian is aiding the trapped Skeen. “Kill the sleeping spiders,” she says. “Do that first. I won’t be much help until this poison is out of my system and if they wake up behind you, that won’t be good.” A twitching leg of the spider giving credence to her words.

“Please,” she adds, trying to be polite, an oddity for her. The slight barbarian nods at the wisdom of the trapped elven rogue. “Of course…You speak wisely Skeen.” Tarim makes his way to the spider quickly and after a brief analysis of its form delivers the ‘coupe de grace’. The last twitches of the arachnid are now truly its dead throes as its life-fluids run freely out of the wound delivered by the wizard. Skeen laughs harshly and freely. “I’ve never been called wise before,” she comments, still chuckling, despite the situation.

The copper tinted huntress shakes her head in both disbelief and respect as the human warrior charges through his own weakening condition to aid his group member. With her longsword in hand and anger within her eyes, Luna lends aid to the battle of the spider off Telsom as she calls out. “Areo to Branith!”

If Teryn heard the earlier words of the ranger, he does not acknowledge it. Mustering his strength, he prepares to again skewer the overgrown web-spinner while he still can. “I want to see you die first, you bloated bastard” he growls through gritted teeth, his face twisted with anger as he strikes at the spider with both swords. With Teryn now in the fray and Luna on her way, Telsom keeps the arachnid flanked and lunges forward once more.

The Berduskan warrior, despite his weakened state presses the attack first, thought like his previous attempt the spider’s poison has affected him more than he stubbornly tries to ignore. The first sword skids over the creature’s hard outer skin, causing a slight unbalance and his follow-up thrust with the other sword misses altogether, causing Teryn to drop to one knee to avoid falling over.

The spider feels decidedly uncomfortable with so much resistance and instead of attacking, starts backing up, sending out a sticky strand from its hind-quarters. Luna can narrowly avoid being hit by the silken-like thread from the arachnid’s spinneret while the paladin presses on with his attack, striking a severe blow. His rapier runs the spider almost completely through to the hilt of his weapon.

The creature is still moving as Telsom is pulling his rapier from the critically wounded spider. Yet before he can bring his rapier around for the final blow, the copper haired ranger’s longsword hacks the thing cleanly in two.

Surveying the scene, it is clear that this small colony of spiders for the moment doesn’t pose a threat to the group anymore. Branith is divesting himself grumbling of the last clinging pieces of webbing with Immerine’s aid, while Tarim provides a similar service to a now freed Skeen.

With a smile of some satisfaction of getting blood shed upon her blade, the forest warrior’s eyes turn to Teryn whom now kneels upon the ground. “Take your rest, Master Teryn, for I will fetch aid for you if Lord Telsom can not lend it,” Luna suggests knowing that offering an arm or commanding that proud warrior to remain where he is might bruise the image of the man. The leather clad woman looks to the mounted man with pleading eyes of help from him.

“I apologize for taking your kill, Master Telsom, but I felt it be best to end the vile creature’s life before it tried to take another.” Luna comments to him as her eyes quickly turns to the black beast who now noses the dead spider.

“Don’t play with that thing… it is dirty!” the ranger warns half laughing at him. Areo whines as if his squeaky toy has been taken from him, but the downed and cursing dwarf becomes the center of his attention.

The large wolf runs next to Branith and tackles him with kisses from his massive, wet, pink tongue. “What did I say about playing with dirty things just a moment ago, Areo?” Luna giggles slightly as she calls out at a safe distance from the entangled dwarf.

Immerine satisfied the dwarf can free himself the rest of the way, steps lightly toward Teryn. “Hold warrior, time for swords is over show me your wound.” Satisfied at seeing the last threatening spider die, Teryn drops his swords and keels over on his back, staring up at the trees.

While looking at Teryn, the witch asks Tarim, “How is Skeen?” Then Immerine irritably snaps at the warrior, “Stop moving Teryn you are making it worse. Hmmm, spider venom – interesting.” She takes the knife, dips it in a jar filled with a clear pungent liquid, then makes a quick incision into the warrior’s wound and squeezes lightly. “That will allow the poison to begin draining. We will need to move away from here because I cannot treat them with the threat of spiders dropping on my head. Plus we have destroyed enough of this colony as it is. Skeen don’t move I will be right there.” When Teryn’s wound begins to purge she will move to Skeen and perform the same immediate treatment.

Luna looks upon Immerine with thanks as she listens to what the witch has to say. “I agree,” the wood elf interjects, “If Teryn is not strong enough he can double up with me on Darkon and Skeen with Telsom, but that’s if he is not strong enough to ride on his own.”

Skeen laughs again, “I am sure you could catch me, Immerine, were I to try to move.” She moves awkwardly to a nearby stump, taking a seat, feeling as if her flesh was too heavy for its bones. Tarim shrugs at the notion of her “owing” him anything and says merely “I did what I wanted, there is no debt” and helps Skeen to the stump.

Once Immerine arrives, Skeen sits quietly for the treatment, the pain not really seeming to bother her – at least not as much as it likely should. The barbarian mage watches Immerine treat the wounds with rapt fascination. He winces slightly at the use of the knife on the wound but does not look away or stop watching in the least. About halfway thru her treatment he pulls his ever present brush from his pouch and begins his usual ritual of brushing his ebon hair meticulously as he watches.

“We definitely need to move somewhere I can better treat their wounds. Neither will be able to stay erect on a mount, so will need to double up,” Immerine frowns again. She digs through the healer’s kit again and pulls out a strange contraption and moves to the side of an intact dead spider. She examines the body and then inserts the tip of a needle while holding a bulb connected to a jar by a glass tube tightly. As soon as she has the needle inserted to where it needs to be she slowly releases the bulb causing pressure in the jar and withdrawing the fluid from the spider’s venom sacs. She gathers as much as she can before packing the item carefully away and gathering her supplies.

With a nod of her chestnut colored hair, Luna whistles lightly a tune for Darkon to return. When the stallion reaches her, the ranger gingerly and jokingly scolds, “Next time, please take me with you when you sense danger, ok?” The midnight warhorse feels the joke and just throws his long mane in response.

The forest warrior turns her attention to the weakened Teryn and with some careful words asks, “Do you feel comfortable riding with me, Master Teryn or do you wish to ride with Immerine?”

Though trying to speak clearly, Teryn’s words come out more of a mumble “First of all, I’m not moving so much as trembling, second” he takes a heavy breath “don’t humor me, I know a thing or two about how spider venom works, it turns internal organs into liquid so the spider can suck out the juices.” Another heavy breath later “Are you able to cure me or will this just delay the time it takes to turn my insides into tomato soup?” He looks at Immerine and smiles weakly.

Immerine laughs, the sparkling notes reach the ears like liquid bells. “Teryn, you are not going to die. Spiders have several types of venom at their disposal. The one you were injected with does not kill; it makes you sluggish and unable to struggle while they entrap you. Your moving around made it worse. It will not suppurate completely from the wound, nor do I want to treat you here. Nor do I have the skill to completely remove the venom from your system. However I am an expert healer and I can make an anti-venom.”

“Basically by using the spider venom I collected and turning it into something to attack the venom you have in your system. It is the best I can do for the moment though. Be a big boy and choose someone to ride with so we can leave this place.” She stands in front of the warrior with her hands on her hips and her eyebrow raised in impatience.

“See, I told you before I wasn’t *that good* a student of nature” he chuckles briefly, laughing at the irony of the earlier conversation.

Lifting his head off the ground to look briefly at Luna, Teryn offers a tired smile and a chuckle before dropping his head back to the earth a bit heavily “I’d be glad to ride with either of you but I’ll ride with you, thank you. Besides, I wouldn’t want to ‘touch’ Immerine the wrong way.” He looks to Immerine and winks.

Staring back at the sky a moment longer, he asks “Shouldn’t we take care of the rest of the spiders? They can still capture other travelers, and I suppose it is possible there may be someone in one of those many bundles” he nods to the treetops “still alive. If nothing else, there might be treasure up there worth getting.”

With a slight smirk about her face as she watches the wink and secret joke between Immerine and Teryn play out, the huntress offers her arm for the warrior to grasp to help himself off the ground. “Immerine, could you help me get him on Darkon’s back?” Luna asks politely before adding, “ehm, would it be better for him to be in front of me or behind me?”

“As for the others, Master Teryn, I believe that you and Skeen are more than important than treasure and your wounds need to be attended to quickly. However, I am not the leader within this group and will do what he asks of me in this situation, but I believe moving quickly out of the line of fire might be best all around at this moment,” the wood elf maiden comments as she awaits the answer on how to ride with Teryn.

Areo continues to torture Branith with wet sloppy kisses until the grumpy dwarf give in to laughter. Skeen merely waits for Telsom to be ready to ride on. “I think I’ll just sit here until you all decide what to do,” she chuckles dryly.

“Come along then spider-bait, lets get you settled into the saddle. The witch’s razor sharp tongue quite often offers sound and very wise advice.” Moving to aid Skeen, Telsom glances at Teryn. “Once Lady Immerine manages to stave off the effects of the poison we can return to search further for now our numbers are weakened however and it would be best to move on to a more defensible location.”

Still lying down seeming to enjoy the respite a bit too much, he sheathes his clean sword “I think it is a mistake to leave it. I wouldn’t want to hear a friend of mine left town and got killed by one of these overgrown abominations.” He then grasps his bloodied sword with his left hand and attempts to stand on his own. “I think I can get up on my own…” Still unsteady he clasps Luna’s offered arm taking care not to grab too hard “or not.” and gets to his feet, taking a moment to feel secure with his balance. “Okay”, he says presently, taking a deep breath “I think I can walk.” He lets go of Luna’s arm and attempts to walk toward her horse on his own. Glancing at the sword in his hand, he mutters “Damn spiders, don’t wear any clothing you can use to wipe a sword clean.” He glances about looking for a suitable surface to clean his sword, finally settling on a bush with leaves to wipe the blood and gore.

“Why thank-you Telsom, coming from you that is a compliment,” she helps load Teryn on Luna’s mount, “Get on behind him to keep him steady.” Once everyone is mounted she leads the way back out of the spider colony. “If you all decide to go back and destroy the creatures, I will not be coming with you. They have every right to exist. We decimated them. It will be a long time before they can hunt large prey. Of course, those we really are hunting could have placed the creatures there in hopes of using them as a defense. We will simply have to go around and see what is on the other side.”

Nodding at the paladin, Teryn smiles “It’s a date then.” He accepts the help of Immerine and Luna to get on the horse and waits for Luna to climb on.

“Well, if you stick around Immerine, maybe you will come to love nature more,” Luna comments with a slight smile as she swings her small, strong frame behind Teryn. Placing her arms around the warrior, the wood elf grabs Darkon’s reins while locking her knees firmly into the stallion’s side to make sure she remains steady as well as her passenger. With a few clicks of her tongue, the midnight colored mount moves in line with the others. “Is this alright, Master Teryn? the wild eyed huntress asks with a concern in her tone.

Behind Telsom, Skeen smirks. “Spider-bait, charming. You must really charm all the ladies with lines like that.” She snickers, trying to stand on her own and managing just a bit. “I’m not sure if I can hang on, Telsom,” Skeen mutters, clearly disgusted with her weakened state.

“That’s why you’ll be sitting in the saddle dear.” Telsom says condescendingly although his face shows good humor. “I’ll keep you in the saddle.” Helping the injured elven woman into Teri’s saddle, Telsom shook his head and then mounted the horse behind the woman. “I’m better at sugared words than I am with my blade… I just prefer to stay silent and let the women make asses of themselves. While my peers stumbled over their own feet trying to woo ladies with flowery speech I always found it easier to find company by offering a warm smile and perhaps a little heat in my eyes. It’s not a sport, it’s a dance, and those willing to dance generally saw fit to make the first move.”

Skeen growls low in her throat but doesn’t otherwise respond to the condescending tone. “Well,” she comments, “You are pretty enough at any rate. I suppose that would attract a certain type of woman.” Her voice is softly mocking with just a hint of humor in it.

“Pretty for a human?” Telsom asks. Skeen shrugs. “I wouldn’t know any other kind of pretty.”

“You are an odd little duck Skeen.” Telsom mutters as he finishes positioning himself behind the elven woman. “Twice now you’ve been in danger, and twice I’ve been too late to come to your aid… I think the company I’ve been keeping is going to put me out of the paladin business.”

“I’m not lucky,” Skeen says matter-of-factly. “I think I’m Erevan’s special amusement. Luckily he just likes to torment me and hasn’t seen fit to actually kill me yet. I think that’s all there is to it,” she adds.

Branith looks up in the trees and says, “as far as I am concerned the damn spiders can stay here and rot until I come back with a crossbow in hand next time, then we will see who pulls who.” With that he looks around the area and then brings his pony over and to the rest and mounts it.

“Immerine…” Teryn mutters barely audibly “nature…uh, yes, maybe.” He looks toward Immerine, a puzzled look on his face as though he was trying to figure something out. “Yes, that is quite um, alright.” he manages hesitantly, a bit of embarrassment in his voice as he recalls Luna’s question. Turning only slightly as though he was afraid he would fall off if he tried to look behind him, he asks “Does someone have my horse?”

Noting the pause of the warrior when Immerine’s name is mentioned, Luna takes in a deep breath and sighs a bit before answering the man in front of her, “I can have Darkon go by and I can tie your mount’s reins to my saddle if you wish.”

His puzzled look seems to deepen as Luna sighs, and he looks down at the arms wrapped around his waist. After a heartbeat his face softens into a look of understanding. Placing his left hand gently over the hands at his waist, he responds “Whatever you think is best, as long as someone has control of it. I wasn’t sure it hadn’t run off after I dismounted.” before removing his hand from hers.

Turning as best he can and whispering so only Luna can hear, “I thought you were the nature teacher, not her.” He nods in the direction of Immerine. A copper smile creases the face of the forest warrior as she feels Teryn’s hand briefly touch hers while she fights the blush as she stoically comments, “Then shall we go find out?” With a slight movement of her heels and a click of her tongue, Darkon turns around to face the others and hopefully Teryn’s mount.

While turning, Luna simply whispers back softly for the warrior ahead of her to hear, “I be deeply honored to teach you, but Immerine is so skilled… and beautiful.”

“Ack, Mules…” Tarim mutters as Teryn mentions his horse, and the young wizard searches the surrounding area for his mules. After all they were a loan and Mumadar didn’t seem like the sort of fellow who liked excuses, he worried.

It doesn’t take long for the wizard to spot the animals, they went off several yards, but apparently the grassy spots between the trees were enough to sooth them quickly enough from the spider scare. While the young wizard collects his borrowed animals again, Branith goes about the group to see to their wounds. Yet both Teryn and Skeen wave the offered help off, yet thanking the dwarf for offering. Shrugging his shoulders, the dwarven cleric instead tends his own injuries, casting three minor prayers to alleviate the worst of his bruises and sprains.

Luna and Teryn ride on Darkon towards the warrior’s mount. The ranger tying the reigns of Teryn’s horse to the bow of her saddle, while steadying the weakened Berduskan. Sweat is breaking out on Teryn’s forehead, and he feels the onset of a fever as his system is battling the spider venom in his veins.

Skeen, behind Telsom is likewise affected, though even a bit more as she leans slightly shivering against the paladin’s back. Her sarcasm sounds much reduced to the paladin’s ears, and a small worried frown over the elven woman’s health appears on his handsome face.

Immerine packs up her healer’s kit and mounts Qwenta again. She waits until Tarim has rejoined the small group, the wizard once more seated on his mule while leading the other. The Rashemi witch whispers something into Qwenta’s ears, and the proud animal steps forward, leading the way to safer grounds in order to find a treatment for the two patients.

The wild eyed huntress studies her guest rider carefully as his body in her arms seems to grow a little weaker as they travel onward. With a bit of worry upon her tan visage, Luna calls out, “Immerine, I believe we should stop soon and seek aid for Teryn and Skeen. It looks like we might be safe here, don’t you think?”

The wood elf’s embrace upon the warrior becomes a little tighter to insure that he remains upon Darkon’s back as well provide a bit of comfort that he not alone.

Whispering again, Teryn replies “Beauty is subjective but you are quite beautiful by any standard, though personality is more important and you win on that count as well. As for skill, I’m sure you have much you can teach me. We can talk later.” The poisoned warrior’s shoulders sag and his head hangs down as the venom makes its way through his system.

“As you wish, “ the chestnut colored haired maiden whispers back and as the heat of her cheeks come to her attention. It quickly vanishes as the concern from him returns as Teryn slumps forward in the saddle. Her wide emerald eyes scan for Immerine to call out to her.

When it comes time to dismount Luna realizes just how much she was keeping Teryn on the horse as when he goes to dismount he leans too far forward on the horse and when he brings his leg over he slides off and instead of standing slides all the way to the ground. “Not used to this armor that’s all, I’m fine, really” he slurs the words as the fever wracks his body. He turns to his left side and starts to push himself up with his arms but seems to decide against it and lays on his side, his head on his arm.

Immerine nods and slows looking for a good defensible location with feasible resources for a campsite. Once found she dismounts and tells Qwenta, “Find food Beauteous One, if I need you I will call.” The stallion tosses his head and waits for Immerine to remove the saddle and bags then trots off to graze.

Immerine sets up her bedroll, “If someone else has another bedroll could you please set it up over here? Skeen, come, lie down. Teryn until we can get another set up sit down.” Teryn lifts his right arm weakly and says simply, “horse,” before dropping his arm. A bedroll can be found among the gear his horse carries.

Once Skeen is lying down Immerine looks at the wound murmuring under her breath in the harsh sounding Rashemi language. She pulls out the healers kit and sets it down beside her. From inside she takes a mortar and pestle and several different herb and grinds them together. Once finished she walks to a tree with the tiny knife and cuts some of the bark away. Then she finds two large leaves and walks back to her kit.

She works on the bark for a few minutes making a smooth indentation then cleans it with the strong smelling fluid she used earlier. She pours a little water in the hollow and adds the herbs. Then from another vial she takes strong smelling yellowish paste and adds it to the herb mixture. She mixes for a few minutes and sets it aside.

Skeen slumps back against the paladin unwillingly, the fever sapping even more of her more-than-needed strength. “Sorry,” she muttered, shivering one minute and stifling hot the next. Dismounting, Telsom helps Skeen to the offered bedroll and then goes about taking care of the horses and mules. The paladin’s handsome face is emotionless as he moves about the campsite. Skeen barely reacts when Telsom aids her to the bedroll, her customary droll wit – or lack thereof – very much not in evidence.

When both Skeen and Teryn are settled she treats them both. She first checks the wound and pierces it again squeezing any of the poison out that she can get. Once that is over she spreads half the herbal mixture over the wound. It stings at first and then goes numb. Once that is finished she places a leaf over the wound then binds it with bandages.

Finally she looks up at the others, “The fevers will remain through the night. We need a hot fire banked high to burn long. The next twelve hours are crucial and they cannot be moved any more than is necessary. I would also like to make us all some tea – a special tea. We need it after the battle. It will refresh us and soothe our minds and bodies. For this I will need hot water. Does anyone have a pot or a kettle? Or even magic to heat water?”

With a quick movement, the mounted archer reaches behind her and produces the needed bedroll. “Here, take mine!” Luna offers as she throws it to the ground in front of Immerine, “I have a winter blanket too as well as a pot plus flint and steel to start a fire. Take anything you need, Immerine.”

At which point, the elf warrior dismounts and unbridles and unsaddles Darkon and allows him as well to wander as he may.

Areo spins around her for a moment looking for a hand to scratch his ears, which is quickly answered as a copper hand reaches down and does as he wishes. However, the deed is done only for a moment as Luna moves forward to where Immerine is. “Is there anything else I might do for you or the others?” The elven ranger asks tentatively.

Immerine smiles at her fellow ranger, “Pray to Mielikki for their survival. Other than that, time must mend them for they are beyond my gifts. Khelliara knows I would do more for them if I could. Perhaps a brace of coneys? Rabbit stew might be nice and it would warm our bellies. And the broth would be good for them when the chills set into their bodies.”

“As you wish.” Luna answers stoically as she looks to Skeen and then at Teryn before taking bow and quiver and heading towards the trees. Whistling the tune of a certain melody has Areo come bounding her way with an excited expression upon his midnight muzzle, like he knows what they are off to go do.

Skeen watches Immerine dully as if what she does is done to another rather than herself. “Dying?” she finally manages to ask. “If die, ring…” she mutters, tossing her head in delirium, clearly troubled by something. Of course, she is wearing no ring.

Tarim watches Immerine with rapt fascination, analyzing every movement as she cares for the poisoned duo. He is quiet and helpful offering to hold things or fetch, holding his questions for later.

Immerine looks at Telsom, “Please Telsom. She seems to take comfort in your presence. Perhaps you can sit near her, or reassure her. She isn’t dying, but she definitely feels like it.” The witch smiles wanly at the paladin. Skeen doesn’t seem to realize the paladin is there. She makes a variety of odd noises and tosses fitfully. She mutters under her breath, seeming concerned about a ring, and keeps pleading for someone named Ryan to believe her.


Having taken care of the horses and mules, Telsom nods to Immerine. Moving to Skeen’s side, the paladin lays down beside the woman, propping himself up on his right elbow as he uses his left hand to smooth the elven woman’s hair. Whispering soothing words, the paladin looks troubled as he tends to Skeen.

Skeen doesn’t seem to realize the paladin is there. She makes a variety of odd noises and tosses fitfully. She mutters under her breath, seeming concerned about a ring, and keeps pleading for someone named Ryan to believe her. Unperturbed by Skeen’s lack of response to his soothing words and gentle hand, Telsom continues to comb the woman’s hair with his fingers, offering gentle words as the woman becomes agitated.

Once the excitement has calmed down and she sets her tea on the fire to heat, Immerine sits with her back to a tree. “Thank-you Tarim,” she says quietly. She watches the young man for a moment. “Tarim, I have a question for you. Please do not get offended, but I am wondering why do you brush your hair all the time?”

Tarim pauses, his hand freezing in mid-reach for the pouch that contains his brush. “Ah…” he begins, somewhat embarrassed and a bit of a flushed tone takes to his face. “I was very sick as a child, my sister took care of me most of the time. She used to brush my hair for me and sing to chase away the fear of dying, her own fears too. Everyone said I would die, that spending all that time caring for a weak and sickly child was a waste. She always used to take special care of my hair for me when I was to weak which was most of the time, it’s a clan thing I suppose. But it reminds me of her” his voice is reverent and wistful “I hope she’s well.”

“I sent her a message awhile back…I hope she got it.” he says softly almost to himself

“I’m sorry Tarim, I did not mean to pry. She sounds like a lovely woman and she must care for you so much. I am sure you will see her again – that is if you want to see her again.” Immerine smiles wistfully and falls silent. She looks at her hands and then to the fire and shakes her head silently.

“It was an honest question, Immerine you were not prying” he says softly. He crouches down and looks at her intently, “I will go back…someday. I am just not ready yet…” His eyes stare almost thru Immerine as his mind takes wing and his thoughts are of another time and place.

With a slight shake of his head he “I was hoping you could help me learn your methods of healing, I have more than a passing interest in your rather amazing way with herbs and caring for the wounded.” he says both quietly and earnestly.

“You taught me, so yes, I will teach you,” she smiles, “one of the first things I learned was how to make this.” She reaches into the healer’s kit and pulls out the odorous yellowish pasty substance she used to mix the herbs. “It is concentrated horse urine. It draws out infection, keeps the wound clean and reduces fevers. I made a poultice with a few herbs used for leeching toxicity from wounds and numbing the pain. I covered it with the leaf to allow air to circulate as bandages alone would simply have pulled the wound’s sides together and not allowed anything in or out. In the morning, after about eight to twelve hours I will rinse the wounds. We should see reduced swelling and during the interim time their fevers will break but we have to guard against chills. We have to keep them warm. I learned a lot of this as a child in the woods. I was taught other things by my sisterkin. If you have questions, ask. I think you are far too quiet.”

Eyes closed and seemingly asleep on his back, at Immerine’s description of what the yellow paste is made from Teryn snaps his head around to look at his bandaged wrist and a look of disgust momentarily flashes across his features. He does not speak but mouths the words, “horse urine?” He turns his gaze to the sky, a neutral look back on his face as he closes his eyes again.

The young mage smiles softly and says “Well there’s a saying you know… Better to be silent and thought a fool then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt”

“I find this interesting…very interesting indeed. Who would have thought that such a substance would prove beneficial to a wound…” You said it was your sisterkin who taught you…that’s an odd expression. What do you mean by that? Who was your teacher?” Tarim’s bright blue eyes are alight with the quest for knowledge and he leans forward earnestly.

“Sisterkin – sisterhood, those that raised me after I was found in the woods. The closest thing I can relate it to outside Rashemen is a cabal of wizards and priests. No men are involved. You would be unique and sequestered as an Old One. Male wizards or sorcerers do not associate with others in our land,” she seems to have note of finality in her tone as if not to press that issue.

“My sisterkin is a cabal of Wychlaran – or Witches in the vulgar tongue of these lands. I am a witch. I think I mentioned that to you once. Anyway, they are the ones who taught me; as did the spirits of the land. I answer only to the Hathrans. All others in my homeland must answer to me, as an Ethran. When I said I am a leader in my homeland, I did not lie. The Wychlaran rule in Rashemen, I am a Wychlaran. Our rule though is not the rule you have in most lands. We listen to the voice land. The Huhrong listens to the voice of the people. Together Rashemen stands strong.” There is a definite note of pride in her voice.

“Wychlaran” he repeats matching her accent and emphasis exactly. “Yes you mentioned that…you say that you listen to the land? Is that after the manner of a Druid? My eldest brother is a Druid he left our village long ago to care for the land…”

“I find it very interesting that you are a person of such importance in Rashemen. It must be difficult here dealing with us who do not know your ways and who do not necessarily follow your orders. Frustrating I would think…” he says thoughtfully.

Immerine smirks and amusement lights up her eyes, “Very. In fact, there have been several times when I have actually left with the intention of abandoning the group to their own folly. Then something always draws me back. But no, I am not a nature priest. Druids are entirely different. We are more akin to the shamans of the barbarian tribes of the north. At least I think that is what you call them. Even that does not describe our place in the world.” Her brow contracts and she wraps her arms around her legs as she concentrates both on finding a reasonable explanation and how to convey it in the common tongue.

“The land is alive. It actually has nature spirits, place spirits and protectors. Each stream tree, rock and natural thing has a voice. I listen to them. They give me power and I let them work through me. They speak to me and they give me life. There is place magic, rune magic and magic of the world. All are parts of one whole,” she frowns again. “I cannot explain it. This language is hard to use for grasping the enormity. These spirits speak to me, they always have. Even here there are voices, strange voices to me, yet I still hear them. Sometimes these voices combine and I have visions. I am a rare type of Ethran. My connection to the land is more intimate than most. Even from my home I could see the shadows on this land and this city. That is why I came. The dreams and visions came every day and were so intense.”

“On my journey the thing, a cesspit of darkness – all-encompassing evil faced me. I barely survived. It haunts me still. I hear it laughing, I feel its touch. It must be stopped. It is why I stay, the only reason – at least now. Before – I thought someone cared for me. I was wrong.” She puts her hand suddenly to her side as if she is shot and winces from remembered pain. Her face collapses in exhaustion and tears form in her eyes. She fights them and struggles to regain her perfect composure.

Finally she asks, “As a stranger to this place, as much as I. Can you tell me, do you know what it is like to be feared, and all you want is to be accepted? To have a confidante rather than be confided in? Do you know what it is like to be betrayed? To have people be attentive to you yet relieved when you pass by? I’ve never even had a friend.” Dark circles so well hidden are suddenly vivid against her pale flawless skin. Her forehead is drawn taut and her cheeks devoid of color. The worst is her eyes, normally so full of life and sparkling, now they are empty and soulless. She whispers, “I feel it. Even here. Even in the light. It is coming and it will take you one at a time and there is nothing I can do to stop it.”

The barbarian watches the proud witch crumble before his eyes and yearns to put such pain to rest and to allay those fears. His arms reach out to her, but she flinches away and he is reminded of his promise. “Immerine, my father was shaman and he sensed a shadow creeping over our home as well. A different one but it chilled his heart and he did everything he could to stop it. He failed because he tried alone. You are not alone Immerine, I promise, you are not.

“I do know how it feels to be feared, and to be betrayed. And you do have a friend you just don’t know it” he murmurs softly

Branith ties his pony to a nearby tree and walks over to the rest of the group gathered around Skeen and Teryn. “Can I help with anything to speed their recovery, alas I have not been granted by Moradin to clear them from the poison” with a heavy sigh and loud clatter the dwarf sits down on the ground.

Through the sweating and shaking the young warrior opens his eyes and looks toward Branith “Help… parents… please?” Teryn can barely be heard to say through a weak, raspy voice before his eyes roll up and his lids close as he falls back into a feverish sleep.

The group has found a defensible and comfortable position to recuperate from the brief fight with the large spiders, and to try to treat the two victims of the spider’s venom. Immerine’s administrations seem to provide some relief to the struggling victims as the fall into a fever induced sleep. The others prepare camp while Luna and Areo move into the autumn forest in search of game.

The sun is already well on its way to the horizon when the huntress returns to the camp with a brace of coneys and even a small collection of forest fruits and mushrooms. Branith and Tarim have build a small campfire and with the aid of the ranger are able to set up an improvised spit. While Tarim prepares the mushrooms and the fruit, Luna skins and cleans her catch, and before long the meat is sizzling over the fire.

Though saving some of the meat and fruit for Skeen and Teryn, the others partake of the forest meal in relative quiet. Worry over their poisoned friends limiting conversation. When dusk starts to fall and tendrils of fog start to waft over the forest floor, the Berduskan warrior and the elven maid wake up, both feeling hungry and still slightly weakened from the fever, though the effects from the spider poison seem to have subsided. Apparently Skeen received a heavier dose, her strength having not fully returned. After a brief examination by the Rashemi witch, the verdict for the elven girl is a good night’s sleep. At dawn she should be back to her old self again.

Immerine seems controlled again and is back to her old self by the time dinner is over and the wounded have woken. She cleans the wounds one final time and casts a simple spell over each to seal them. “Thank you, Immerine,” Skeen whispers. Her stomach growls then, signaling her return to the official land of the living.

When done, the Rashemi witch finally relaxes a little and wanders to the edge of camp. Placing two fingers between her lips she gives a piercing bird whistle to call Qwenta to her side. It is several minutes but finally the proud white stallion trots out of the greenery to his mistress. He shoves his velvety muzzle into her neck and laughing she throws her arms around him.

Skeen gets to a sitting position and manages to eat some of what the group has saved for her. She feels a bit sheepish and stays quiet, still out of sorts from the poison and a bit wobbly. Shortly after eating and drinking, she curls back up and goes to sleep once more.

Branith eats the scant meal of food as he sits thinking. The silence takes its toll on his other good spirit as well and he laps into silence himself.

Teryn awakens to the smell of meat cooking, a welcome fragrance to the hungry young man. Sitting up and looking toward the campfire, he inquires as to the bounty “I hope you saved some for me, I’m feeling much better and am quite hungry. The lovely Immerine’s ministrations seem to have worked wonders, I hadn’t thought to come around until morning, but by Selûne’s light I seem to be in time for dinner. Thank you Immerine, you are a wonder.” Looking at the food, he turns to Luna “Luna, is this your handiwork?” he points to the meat cooking and fruits and mushrooms. “We shall certainly not starve with you around.” He smiles brightly.

With emerald eyes glowing softly with pride, the wood elf huntress replies, “I was lucky is all and Tarim helped prepared the mushrooms. The forest yields plenty here and it was easy to gather such a nice dinner with Areo at my side.” Luna crosses over and gets another bowl and looks to the warrior, “Do you wish another?”

The black wolf comes over and places his head in front of Teryn as if to beg for what he had in his bowl. Laughing at Areo and scratching him behind his ear, Teryn raises his bowl toward Luna “Yes, I would thanks, if there is enough to go around. Perhaps you have something for Areo as well?” he moves his hand to stroke the back of Areo’s head and neck.

Telsom wanders about the campsite a playful smile on his face. Looking up into the trees, the warrior begins to whistle as he fingers the basket hilt of his rapier lightly.

Immerine looks back to Teryn under Qwenta’s great head, “I am not a wonder. I am a witch. I only used what the forest provided and combined them to aid you in recovery. I am a healer, you were wounded. You are welcome. You should thank Tarim as well, he aided in your treatment.” The witch smiles and winks at the barbarian magic wielder.

Bowing his head respectfully before looking her in the eyes, Teryn replies “You are too humble. Skeen and I are indeed fortunate for your skills, whether you think it basic knowledge or specialized talents, we would certainly not have recovered so soon, if at all, had you and Tarim…” he nods to the barbarian “…not been here to help. In my fevered sleep I dreamt that had this happened to me with the other group the cleric of Kelemvor, Portia…” he says the name as more a question “…would have been saying prayers to speed us on our way to Kelemvor’s realm. There’s a certain comfort in that, yes, but not what I would prefer at this point in my life. And thank you Tarim, for your help.”

Tarim merely nods gravely to the warrior before casting an odd glance Immerine’s way. He takes a deep breath of the air inhaling the scents of the trees and smiles softly as he idly toys with the food in front of him. There is a confused expression on Immerine’s face, “I do not understand Portia. But she is respectful and deserves as much respect as she gives. I do not believe it would be as your dream displayed. While death is a part of life hurrying one toward the end does not seem like something she would do.” Qwenta bumps her with his head almost knocking her flat. She smiles and turns her attention back to the stallion. “He is jealous of the attention I give you all,” she scratches behind Qwenta’s ears.

Teryn frowns, shaking his head “My apologies, I should have been more clear. I don’t believe Portia would have been like that either, I merely explained part of my fevered nightmare. It was not my intention to denigrate the cleric. I’m sure she has enough problems with people misunderstanding her chosen path. Having grown up in and around Twilight Hall I have seen the prejudice that accompanies that faith.”

The wood elf ranger smiles quite softly at the man and the wolf that now seem to spark a new friendship even though Areo’s looks to have a motivate behind it. “Aye, I think there is enough here for you to have another bowl,” Luna speaks gently to the warrior as she takes up his bowl and refreshes it with the stew.

Giving the bowl back to Teryn, the huntress places a hand on her hip and looks like she is about to scold Areo but the image upon the coppery visage said other wise, “Now, Now…what did I say about begging…you had a whole rabbit to yourself a few moments ago.”

“Thank you” Teryn says as he takes the bowl from Luna. Giving Areo a stern look he frowns and addresses the canine “You did, did you? Don’t be greedy, rabbit breath.”

Areo just howls slightly as a big pink tongue spills out of his mouth as he looks up on the woman he calls friend as if to protest against the scolding. Luna just folds and gives the wolf a big hugs and giggles ever so slightly. Her almond shaped eyes float to Teryn in front of her for just a moment as if to say something.

Teryn raises his eyebrows and returns an expectant look, as though he were ready to listen. Though upon hearing the tune Telsom seems to be humming, the emerald eyed maiden asks the paladin, “What tune do you hum, Master Telsom, for it seems to be quite a pleasant one.”

“Oh…” Telsom says somewhat surprised by Luna’s interest. “Just something my mother would sing to me to get me to settle down and take a nap. I was something of a devil in my youth.”

With a quirk of an eyebrow and evil smirk upon her face, Luna sarcastically replies, “Oh, really? I would never have guessed you to be the devil in disguise.” Looking towards Teryn, the wood elf asks, “Did you, Master Teryn?”

“Never in an elf’s lifetime!” Teryn smirks. With a half a giggle and genuine smile, the leather clad maiden comments, “The tune is quite lovely. Do you know the words?”

“Yes, but since I really can’t sing I’ll keep them to myself.” Telsom says with a playful smile.

“Oh, I see… can you at least tell me the name of it… so I might find a bard to sing it for me…” Luna asks with a bit of earnest for the knowledge of the song.

Areo plops down in front of Teryn and places his head in the warrior’s lap as the soft whining for food escapes his slightly opened muzzle. The recovering warrior’s expression becomes a look of surprise at the familiarity of the animal he had until tonight avoided.

The huntress sighs heavily as she catches the scene of wolf and man at the corner of her eye. “Areo! Please allow Teryn to rest and have his meal for he needs both you silly.” Luna scolds lightly. The huge beast responds by only rolling over on his belly and invites a scratch instead of food from the man in front of him, which Teryn obliges.

The massive black wolf kicks his legs wildly in the air as Teryn scratches his pink belly and moans happily at the attention. “I have to warn you, Teryn, that you now have volunteered all your spare time as his scratching post from now on.” The emerald eyed woman cautions him as she watches the scene.

“Okay,” he looks at Luna and responds with a voice a parent reserves for laying down the rules to a child “but you’re still feeding him and cleaning up after him.” Teryn smiles at the wolf and continues to scratch him for a few seconds longer.

The shock of the spider attack has worn of the group quickly – at least superficially – and they make merry in the camp, with Areo enjoying the extra attention despite the worried looks he once in a while receives from Luna. Some further discussions take place in the afternoon and early evening, but nothing serious is being discussed – an after effect of the day’s scary encounter?

Skeen, tucked in for the night early, was the first to fall asleep, and after the sun has disappeared behind the horizon and the only light to see by is the small campfire, one by one the others follow her example with a rudimentary watch posted. Despite his recovering situation Teryn is adamant that he takes his share of the watch, and together with Branith, Luna and Telsom they split the night between them, allowing Immerine, Tarim and Skeen the rest they need.

The content of Twilight Dawn are the property and copyright of J P Hazelhoff, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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