By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 80 - Hunting Game
Near the Reaching Wood 1371 DR, Eleint, 14th day, dusk
Luna and Teryn in the meantime are off to hunt for game and forest fruits and have moved away from camp. With soft glowing eyes, Luna looks back to the man who trails after her and smile passes over her face as she catches the image of him in her orbs. Thoughts began to race through her mind on how she should address him or strike up a conversation to keep things light and keep them from being uneasy.
“Have you gone hunting before, Teryn?” the wood elf finally asks as she tries to look like she is busy looking for tracks on the ground. At that moment, Areo comes charging from behind and starts to howl in happiness. The huntress growls at the black beast with a look of disappointment, “Areo!”
“A little.” Teryn replies “that looks like a game trail up ahead, let’s try there.”
With a bit of glimmer in her eyes, Luna allows Teryn to catch up to her right side and she turns to look at him before she asks, “Tell me, Teryn, what have you learned and what you want to know about hunting and the woods. I would be honored to teach you what you wish.” A smile creeps up on her coppery visage as she strings an arrow within her bow as the glimmer in her eyes turns into something more.
Glancing at the experienced huntress at his side as he scans the area while walking, he ponders a moment. “My dad tried to teach me to spot game trails, though he said I wasn’t very good at it. Most animals will stay near a water source if they can, and the bigger the animal the more it needs fresh water. If I come across animal droppings bigger than a rabbit’s I have trouble telling what it is from and unless it is an hour or two fresh, which is usually pretty obvious, I can’t tell you how old it is. Don’t even ask me about spotting signs of passage. Usually when I go hunting it is blind luck I find anything” the young fighter offers haplessly as he tests the condition of his bowstring.
“Aye, fathers can impress upon you things you do not wish to know or undo pressure to know certain things. I know that for sure,” Luna answers with a soft smile trying to soothe the warrior at her side, “Can you tell me what you like to learn and I will try to provide you with the knowledge?” The wood elf ranger stops and looks to him with her evergreen eyes and awaits his answer with both patience and appreciation for what her orbs hold in front of her.
“I’d like to get a little bet…” the young ranger seems a bit flustered as he notes Luna’s expression “I mean… that is… I… uh…” he stops walking and looks into Luna’s eyes “oh!” he exclaims then “ohhhh?” he says with a question as he raises his eyebrows.
With a soft giggle as the man flounders around to finish a sentence, the wood elf wanders what he is thinking. “Um, yes, what would you like to know better, dear Teryn?” Her evergreen eyes still fixing on his as to search why he feels so uncomfortable now.
“I… I just… the look in your… uh… never mind. Let’s go find dinner” the warrior sighs and seems to regain some measure of composure as he turns his attention back to the task at hand.
Placing her hand upon his shoulder, Luna holds him there as she quickly and quite boldly asks, “Tell me, Teryn, what did you see?” For the first time, the wood elf attempts to not allow this opportunity in her life to slip by her once more.
Caught short as he started to move again, the elf woman can feel the human trembling under her hand and he seems unable to look in her eyes, instead focusing on the ground at their feet. “I just thought… that is…” he pauses as if grasping for the right words “Please excuse me if I was wrong, and I’m embarrassed to bring it up, more so if I am wrong, but I thought there was a look of…of…desire” he puts emphasis on the word desire as he finally looks into Luna’s eyes.
Biting her lip as if he had seen into her the thoughts within in her mind, the huntress once strong and without worry begins to falter a bit as she removes her hand from his shoulder. It is now the fair ranger that seems to be a loss of words and lack of focus at the task at hand. “I… I… meant no harm by the look or the thoughts, Master Teryn.” Luna sputters out as she grips her bow more tightly as if she is about the change the subject to the means of hunting once more.
“Harm” the young man cries incredulously. “No. No harm, not at all. I am sorry I misinterpreted your look, just call it a… cultural difference… and we can move on from there. Again, I’m sorry. Misinterpretations seem to be rampant in the camp today,” a reference to the apparent misunderstanding between Immerine and Tarim when they came back from bathing. Teryn is noticeably sweating as he wipes his forehead with his sleeve.
This time the maiden seems to stand still as she tries to bring to light the words she been trying to tell him, “but it wasn’t a misunderstanding.”
The huntress just stands there while her foot begins to push leaves back and forth while her forest green eyes act like they are trying to find something in the dirt.
Stunned, Teryn’s mouth hangs open a moment before he shuts it, his teeth clacking together noisily. He gently places his curved finger under her chin and lifts up, tilting her face up forcing her gaze to leave the ground “Look at me please.” When she does, he continues “Are you saying what I think I saw was correct? You and me…?” he lets the question hang, waiting for a response.
Her orbs of green look at him as she man before her questions her about the feelings she feels inside and wonders why he questions such a thing. Still biting her lower lip gently, but not daring to look away, Luna whispers slightly as if caught in a trap and there is no way out, “Aye… I – I – I didn’t mend to offend you… we can just go on… we have supper to get.”
Her body shivers with nervous energy within her leather armor and the need to get past this odd moment seems to take a hold of her.
Teryn looks serious as he continues to hold his hand under her chin “Yes, we can go on and get dinner, but first we have to clear a couple of things up. First, you did not offend, not at all. It’s more like a dream come true. Second…” he continues by slowly leaning toward her face with his, bringing his lips to hers in a gentle kiss.
The surprised and awe struck elf feels the tender and gentle kiss placed upon her lips which causes her whole body to shudder with emotions she had ever felt before. Her soft full lips accept the kiss and return pulls the warrior before her into another.
Her hands began to fidget at her sides as if she did not know what to do with them, but finally one of the coppery palms reaches up and caress the man of her affection’s cheek.
As his hand goes from her chin to her cheek, he places his other hand behind her back but he does not pull her closer, mindful of the armor they both wear. After what could have been no more than a couple of minutes but seemed much longer, he slowly pulls back from kissing the elf huntress, a contended smile on his face “Now that we have that cleared up” he grins “let’s get back to business, we have dinner to catch. The others are counting on us.” He doesn’t sound like he wants to get back to the hunt though.
As the moment of another world is split and the call to hunting is once more at hand, the blushing and off balanced elf tries to gather her wits about her. “UM… yes… um… yes… let’s get back to that. …um where is Areo?”
At that moment, the afore mentioned black beast comes bounding through the brush and greets the two with a wolfish smile as if he has caught the two up to something they shouldn’t have been doing.
Having been drawn back to the here and now and their task at hand by the appearance of the exuberant wolf, the huntress and her apprentice set out once more in the darkening forest. The twilight of dusk being the time when most of the forest animals are active, it doesn’t take long before the three hunters have spotted suitable prey and three bowshots later two large turkeys are the prize of the evening.
Having accomplished the mission, the threesome makes their way back through the forest as night starts encompassing the forest in its velvety embrace accompanied by the myriad sounds of the creatures making their homes in and under the canopy.
Gathered around or near the sheltered fire, Immerine, Tarim, Branith, Skeen and Telsom await the return of Teryn, Luna and Areo. As the first stars have been about for a while and are accompanied by more of the night’s travelers, the three return with their prize. Two fat turkeys are quickly prepared and sizzling over the fire. A little seasoning with herbs and forest mushrooms makes for a delicious meal.
Conversation is low the group eats and drinks, and not long after the watches are set and bedrolls made. Luna reduces the fire to glowing embers which, with a little wood, can quickly be enlarged to its former strength. With the group’s activities dying down to bare minimum, the sounds of the night take over. The humming of insects, the hooting of owls and somewhere close the rustling of some small animal in the underbrush.
Near the Reaching Wood 1371 DR, Eleint, 14th Day, morning
Despite the relative closeness of the caves and the unknown threats that could lie within them, the night passes easily and quietly for those on watch. When the first rays of the sun start penetrating the forest and the light mist that drifts lazily between the trees, those who need some time to refresh their minds with the arcane and divine do so while the others start preparing some light breakfast.
Waking early Teryn sets about fixing breakfast for everyone, welcoming help from any who offer, knowing several members will need to take longer to prepare for the day than he. He is smiling this morning, obviously feeling much better than he did the morning before.
Waking from a fitful sleep the young mage looks around blankly for a bit gathering his wits. After the obligatory few moments of clearing bleary eyes Tarim gathers his papers from his backpack and begins rifling thru them and reviewing some things. After reading for a little while he looks off into space for a few minutes with a faint smile crossing his features.
Immerine greets the dawn with a smile then calmly gathers her thoughts for communion with her goddess. Following her time of prayer and meditation she unrolls her spellbook and studies. By the time breakfast is ready she is famished.
Branith rises as he hears the other members of the group begin to stir around him. He walks away into the woods to find a secluded spot to pray to his god for the blessings of the coming day, and thanks for those who have been. He returns after a while, sitting down on his bedroll he digs in on his breakfast as he waits for the rest to come around.
“Did you have a nice dream last night Ter,” Branith says as he looks around the campsite.
Looking over at the dwarf Teryn’s smile grows broader. “Yes, you could say that, friend Branith. Instead of tossing and turning with concern about what we will meet in the caves I slept soundly and restfully, pleasant dreams dominating my thoughts.” That’s quite unusual for me these last few months.” Teryn returns to his task of readying breakfast, a smile still on his face.
“Well I’m glad someone slept well.” Tarim grumbles softly under his breath.
Waking up late, Telsom looks refreshed and unruffled as if he hadn’t moved at all during his sleep. Wiping each eye to remove the sleep, Telsom beams a smile at the others. “Nothing quite like sleeping out in the wild when no monster or bandit traipses into camp while you doze.” He says as he climbs out of his bedroll, stretching his limbs. “I’ll be back in a bit.” He says as he moves to Teri leading her to the water.
“Aye, that alone should bring a smile to any adventurer’s face! Morning, Telsom.” Teryn responds and greets the warrior.
One by one, the members of the group wake up and partake of the simple breakfast Teryn has prepared. It does not take too long before Immerine, Branith and Tarim have finished their morning rituals and join the breaking of fast as well. Some small talk lightens the atmosphere as the morning mists slowly drift by, showing no intention of dissipating yet.
Soon bellies are reasonably filled and the mounts prepared for the continuation of the journey, a light feeling of unease or anticipation seems to grip the members of the group as they are ready to venture forth to the caves indicated on the map – who knows what manner of creatures might inhabit the darkness within the earth if this cave is not the one used by the villains…
“Let’s get going,” Skeen says simply. “I want to get this over with.”
“Agreed but I think we need a plan and a method of approach other than marching headlong into a contingent of armed guards. Wouldn’t you agree?”
Tarim prods the nearly sleeping owl on his shoulder and say “Wake up sleepyhead we nee your eyes aloft. Go take a look around discretely and let me know what you find, alright?” Ened’ome looks at him with big abyssal eyes and bobs her head once before taking flight soundlessly.
“We probably should not bring the mounts any closer. Now, are one of us staying with them or are we tethering them here?” Immerine asks quietly.
Skeen watches at this question. “I’m not staying.” she says finally. “None of them are mine at any rate.”
Head and shoulders moving in a soundless chuckle, Teryn pipes in “Nor mine, though I doubt Matteo would be happy to lose the horses he lent us. That said,” he glances at Immerine “I won’t stay here to baby-sit, nor do I think any one else really wants to do that. One person alone out here doesn’t exactly seem safe anyway.”
Equipping himself, Telsom talks soothingly to Teri before leaving her untied as he approaches the others. “I’ll be leaving Teri as such, I’m ready whenever the rest of you are.”
“Didn’t someone say something about a plan,” Skeen mutters, then sighs. “If no one wants to volunteer one, I guess we get moving. If it is guarded, then we should probably try to have someone take the guards out with bows or something when we get closer, not all just march up there. Of course, that’s just me.”
“I think we should advance in the same fashion as how we got here. Luna do you feel up to taking point? Your woodland skills would be useful to us here.” Telsom says as he rests his hand on the pommel of his blade looking quite relaxed and happy with the way the day is turning out.
“I’m all for a plan, if someone has one. As far as I know, we have a cave to enter. I can’t see squat if it gets too dark so if someone has a light source less problematic than my bullseye lantern that would be good. If someone can sneak up close and get an idea of what we face, that would be good also. And…” Teryn pauses, lost in thought for a moment “…just because someone is there doesn’t necessarily mean they are the troublemakers we seek. We have to make sure it isn’t a group of travelers who holed up for the night, as unlikely as that may seem.” This last seems to trouble him as he frowns, staring at the ground for a moment before looking to Telsom.
“It is my hope that Ened’ome will give me a feel for what awaits us.” Tarim offers, “At that point with a bit of information to go on, perhaps formulating a plan is possible. For the moment let us await her return, shall we?” Tarim closes his eyes and focuses his awareness on his beloved little owl weaving in place just a bit as he does so.
Immerine shrugs when no one seems particularly interested in watching the mounts. “I was only voicing a concern. Qwenta is able to take care of himself.” Immerine removes the tack from her beloved friend and whispers to him in Rashemi. Qwenta tosses his head in acknowledgement and seems to go on alert as he watches the area.
The witch looks over to Tarim, “What does your little friend report?”
“That was what I was thinking too, horses are a lot smarter then they look, even ponies. Perhaps some one should come behind with the horses in case the rest needs a quick escape. Since I came up with the idea I can do it myself. Although the pony will probably make me pay for my earlier statement.” Branith adds with a wide grin.
Giving a wink at Teryn, Luna moves over to Telsom’s side. “Areo and I can do the scouting up front, no problem but don’t follow to closely on my heels.” The lithe green-eyed huntress steps away from the handsome paladin and looks at the other members of the group, “Despite all your best intentions, most of you are not really quiet when it comes to moving in a forest.”
Giving chase to a squirrel, the black wolf races out of the makeshift camp with surprising stealth for such a large animal. The little furry animal however is able to evade the canine and rushes up a tree, leaving a tongue-lolling Areo staring up the trunk.
“Bah, just because I tripped a couple of times when we made or way down here doesn’t mean I don’t know how to sneak. Clearly you have forgotten my tales about me clan sneaking up on drow parties lass.” The dwarf says with a scolding look on his face as he crosses his arms on his chest. His movements makes his scale armor rustle and he adds, “Although now that I think about it, they didn’t wear outfits like this.”
“I don’t know Branith…” Teryn says, “…I’m torn between whether that is a good idea or if it makes it easier for any scouts to locate us easier.” The fighter seems lost in thought for a moment as he appears to be weighing the pros and cons.
“Perhaps we should scout out the area around the cave first before entering, and approach it come dark?” the dwarf voices as he ponders the task that lies before them.
The ebon-haired mage opens his eyes and nods to the rest. “Ened’ome sees nothing of immediate concern besides more breakfast. I will have her continue to scout and if we follow a bit behind Luna we should be able to make our way without stumbling upon any hostile persons. …Hopefully…”
“I suggest that if you see anything suspicious at all, Luna you immediately double back here to report and let us all decide on how to proceed together.”
“Once we get inside, I can scout,” Skeen mutters. “My elven vision will let me be a bit more sneaky about it.” Skeen’s posture and non-verbal communication makes it clear that she doesn’t like caves and she likely hopes they’ll be quickly in and quickly out.
“I think Tarim’s familiar is scouting now, if nothing is found we should probably proceed. Darkness will give you an advantage but would hinder me.” Teryn looks down at his feet and frowns.
“Oh, yes. I forgot about old feather” Branith says with a jovial grin. “I also forgot about you humans don’t see as well in the dark as my kind does. Ay but that is the way of things, if everything was alike what a dull life one would live eh.”
Teryn offers Branith a lopsided grin “Well, I sometimes think the humans have the short shrift compared to the older races. You and elves live longer, dwarves can see in total darkness while elves enjoy better vision in low light conditions, elves have better hearing than humans, and dwarves are tougher all around. I won’t even go into the incredibly long lifespans you and elves have compared to humans. Since we live shorter lives we tend to breed faster. I wouldn’t call that an advantage.”
Skeen mutters, “And should our lives be crap, it’s an awful long boat of it.”
“Ay that is so, but also a long time to redeem yourself and find your right path again if you stray away from it.” the dwarf says to no one in particular.
“Why should I redeem myself for other’s wrongs?” Skeen asked. “Hells, half those that have wronged me are long dead and not by my hand.”
The look on Teryn’s face turns to dismay at Skeen’s comment about a long boat of crap as he listens to the exchange between dwarf and elf.
“Need help with the other half?” Teryn offers, a crooked smile on his face as he tries to make the best of things. “I’ll agree with you that if you are imprisoned or enslaved, or otherwise maimed or crippled that a long live would seem more like a curse, but we short-lived humans tend toward the optimistic that if things are crap now, they won’t always be, if we are able to think and act for ourselves as relatively free people. For us, life is too short to wallow in the bad times. Even magic holds hope for the maimed and crippled.”
Skeen looks at him and shrugs. “Life has been a game of chance for the most part. I have little to no control over it. I’m not wallowing. I’m realistic.”
The dwarf looks at Teryn and says, “Yes humans are like candles spreading warmth and lighting up in the darkness ahead and often burn out before their need is over.”
Teryn seems about to say something to Skeen when Branith speaks first. The young human looks thoughtful as he lets Branith’s words sink in and he nods almost imperceptibly and grows quiet, pondering that comment from the dwarf.
Chuckling, Telsom shakes his head at the banter between the human, dwarf and elf. “Every candle is different, scented or unscented, some shed more light than others, and yet others aren’t worth the coins that were spent on them.” Skeen falls into a dark and moody silence at this point, thinking on how Telsom’s last words apply to her particularly.
With her hands on her hips and the big black wolf sitting on its haunches next to her the emerald eyed huntress looks with a hint of dismay at the discussion and grimaces at the accompanying noise the group is making. Shaking her head she walks back into the small clearing and takes the reigns of Branith’s pony from the dwarf’s hands. “Go ahead. I don’t think it’ll make a difference if I scout ahead or not. I’m sure you’ll find the cave entrance. I’ll stay here and guard the horses. Besides with Areo here I won’t be alone in my guard duties. Likely he’ll pick up ad hint of danger before I do.”
Tarim looks around carefully and sighs at the topic of conversation. Thinking discretion to be the better part of valor in this matter, he keeps his mouth shut and his eyes on the forest. Seemingly idly he begins to collect small rocks and puts them into a small swatch of leather cloth with a few copper coins.
That done he keeps the leather swatch handy and takes a deep breath. “Right then, Luna stays with the horses and supplies. I suppose that leaves you to do the scouting ahead Skeen. Sorry about that but I think your eyes are most likely keenest among those gathered here and your movements the quietest. Please though remember at the first sign of trouble please return quickly to us, I do not wish any harm to come to you.”
“Let’s move quietly and keep conversation to a minimum shall we? Oh and spread out no closer than ten feet from each other please, just keep the person to each side visible. Make certain to check your neighbor every few seconds.
Let’s keep an arrow formation, Teryn in front Immerine to his right and back, me to his left and back. Then Branith to Immerine’s right and back and Telsom to my left and back If anyone sees anything of importance gather the rest before investigating. No one goes anywhere by themselves any more than absolutely necessary.”
Looking around at the group with piercing blue eyes he give a little smile. “Shall we?”
The dwarf a bit taken by Luna jerking the reigns from his hand looks at her with a bit worry in his face showing but winks at her and says “Aye, better to get it on with I guess. Be careful Luna, and no escapades while we are gone, I don’t want to miss anything.” he takes his position in the formation suggested by Tarim.
Skeen shrugs and moves off. She’s not really good with trees, but she’s probably quieter than most of the others. She heads in the general direction she thinks the caves are in and hopes she doesn’t get lost.
Immerine has been silent during the quips, even when Tarim decides to take lead she remains silent. She turns one last time to Qwenta and whispers endearing words to her friend before taking up her staff and moving forward. She smiles at Skeen, “I have faith in your abilities, even if you do not. Please lead us into the dark, I would have no one else at my fore.” She takes a position to the right diagonal behind Skeen.
Telsom quirks an eyebrow at Tarim’s strategy and then moves forward disregarding it as he heads off in the direction of the cave.
Teryn turns to Luna, a bit surprised at her action. “Take care of yourself” he says with concern. “Areo” he addresses the canine “I expect you to help keep Luna safe. Hopefully we will be back very soon.”
“Right, then!” Teryn comments to Luna as he watches Telsom ignore Tarim’s idea without so much as a comment “‘I’d best be off.” He turns and hurries to catch up with the others, pulling his bow and knocking an arrow as he goes.
Shaking her head at Telsom’s behavior and the movements of the others Luna softly says, “May Tymora smile upon your fortunes and may the Forest Queen guide your steps and thwart your enemies…” The words don’t reach the ears of the others, but the two goddesses might have heard them.
Out in front of the group Skeen is somewhat surprised of herself as her movements seems to flow with the forest. True, a forest-born elf would frown at the noise she is making, but she knows she is walking more silent then she would have dared hope. Several yards back she can hear one of the others move. Judging by the metallic sound of rustling armor it is most likely Telsom or Branith.
With the false start of the strategy to move as a group towards the suspect caves, Tarim once more sends his senses out towards the little owl, trying to find if the bird has detected anything to worry about. While doing so he moves into the position he had assigned himself and follows Skeen, Telsom and Immerine. Teryn and Branith follow. The warrior taking up the position initially given to the paladin.
Skeen leads the group onward, trying to find the easiest path to travel between the trees and shrubs, steadily ascending the hillside in which the caves should be. Behind her she can hear the breathing of the others become heavier, despite the healthy conditions most of them are in, the climb upward with all the gear is more strenuous than would appear at first sight. Even the lithe elf’s own breathing doesn’t come as easy anymore.
With the sun steadily on its way to its zenith, Skeen halts and lets the others catch up with her. Pointing slightly downhill, she indicates a rocky outcropping. “That could be he caves, but I’m not the expert here.” She says as finally Branith also makes it to the spot. The dwarf looks at the rocks further ahead as he catches his breath and listens to the others idea’s.
“You seem much more at home in the woods than your self given title of “City Elf” would lead one to believe.” Telsom says as he hunkers down staring intently at the area Skeen has pointed out.
The Uthgardt mage gains the top of the hill with some effort and surveys the surrounding area particularly the area around the outcropping looking for anything indicative of recent traffic. He then asks Ened’ome to do a flyby of the area to see if there are any two-leggers about. He looks thoughtful as he checks the small leather parcel with its stones and coppers and folds it back up loosely. “Any suggestions?” he asks quietly.
Coming up behind the others and puffing a bit, Teryn mutters, “Gotta get used to this armor.” He looks out toward the outcropping for any obvious signs of anyone having been in the area recently.
The witch takes a few deep breaths after the strenuous climb and looks to Tarim. “What does Ened’ome tell you? Are there any two-legs in the entrance? Can she sense anything within?”
The sensation that returns through the bond towards the young wizard is one tinted with fear and a desire to hide. As these feelings plainly register on Tarim’s face, Telsom’s expression turns slightly worried as well, feeling emanations of evil from the direction of the caves – albeit not very strong.
While the others look expectantly towards both wizard and paladin, there is a shrill whinnying and the sound of something crashing through the wood coming from the direction of where Luna is guarding the horses…
“Luna!” The name of the huntress is whispered by the warrior with alarm as he spins in the direction of the sound, bow at the ready in case the target is not friendly as he quickly tries to assess the cause of the disturbance.
Immerine frowns at the look on Tarim’s face but before she can say anything she hears the crash and looks back toward the forest. “Some things are more important…” she trails off and heads back the way they just came – a look of worry on her face.
Skeen frowns, then follows Immerine. She goes for stealth rather than speed, her bow out and an arrow in hand, ready to be nocked.
The dwarf looks around to see what the others are going to do about the new turn of things. But doesn’t spare much consideration before he rushes of towards the direction of Luna, his hammer drawn, to defend his friend if needed. He mutters a prayer to Moradin that the she is unharmed as he crashes through the underbrush of the forest in a dangerously quick pace.
Sending a command mentally to his beloved little owl Tarim urges her to hastily put some distance between herself and the caves and remain innocuous. He observes his surroundings carefully and watches to see if the racket brings forth any dangers from directions other than the one they heard the horse coming from.
“I do not like this…” he mutters to himself quietly as he slowly and carefully makes his way after his companions with many a glance over his shoulder and to his sides.
“Aw hell, I thought we were supposed to be doing the surprising.” the warrior grumbles quietly as, not seeing anything coming crashing through the trees at them and watching the party move toward the noise, Teryn cautiously looks all around before moving along with Tarim toward the disturbance, keeping an eye out for a surprise from the sides or back.
As the team heads down to aid Luna, the crashing and panicky whinnying continues. At some point, a hissing sound emerges from the general area where Luna and the horses are and suddenly things become a little quieter… The soft drumming of hoofs on the forest floor indicates that at least two or more of the animals are on the run, their sounds fading quickly downhill. Somewhere further off to the side is the fierce growling of animals fighting to the death.
At a headlong run, Telsom hurries down the hill, soon catching up with Immerine, and actually over-passing the fleet-footed witch. Behind her, Teryn and Branith hurry down while Tarim follows at a somewhat slower pace, worrying about the safety of Ened’ome until he sees the little black owl darting between the branches to alight on the mage’s shoulder.
When Telsom can see a little more through the trees towards the clearing, he sees Luna standing wearily, turning this way and that with her sword at the ready. The ranger looks much worse for the wear, with some sort of liquid covering her and eating away at her armor and flesh. She is in pain and a racking cough issues forth from her mouth, nearly sending her staggering to her knees. Off to the side of the clearing lie the immobile forms of Branith’s mule and the paladin’s own mount – both covered in a similar biting liquid that has left ugly blistering wounds on the animals and destroyed part of their gear.
Concentrating hard, the paladin warily steps into the clearing towards the struggling form of Luna. As Immerine, Teryn and Branith arrive to the scene, Telsom has almost made it to Luna when something big and green suddenly swoops out of the trees towards the duo.
Skeen uses a bit more stealth to descend towards Luna, but chooses a steeper path. Her natural surefootedness helping her greatly in making a fairly rapid and reasonably quiet descend. As she reaches more level ground she warily advances forward towards the general direction of where Luna – and by now – the others should be. However between her and the clearing she can she two large dark shapes fighting each other; one appears to be Luna’s black wolf, the other a similar but unknown creature.
And a few yards in front of the stealthy elf lies the bloody and torn form of a smallish humanoid creature… it looks like the creature’s throat has been torn down…
“For Moradin!” The dwarf booms out as he sees what has befallen Luna. He stops in his tracks and begins praying to his god before he does anything else. Branith’s voice starts low as his prayer-chant begins, rising slowly in volume as the chant nears the end. On the final tone, the dwarf’s warhammer comes down in a two-handed blow and lands on the earth. A visible ripple of energy forms at the point of impact, rapidly spreading out in a widening circle. Immerine and Teryn, who are the closest to Branith, feel the spell’s effects first, becoming a little more confident as dwarven steadiness fills their hearts. Soon after Tarim feels the same, followed by Skeen, Telsom and Luna.
Then something big and green’s shape becomes clearer as it fully is within the space of the clearing. A winged reptilian creature that most closely resembles a dragon – although smaller than those that appear in tales. The green flying lizard swoops over the clearing rear claws poised for an attack as it’s head swivels on the long neck to regard Luna’s support troops.
With a hiss of anger it veers slightly and swoops over Telsom, claws ripping through the paladin’s armor as he tries to twist and avoid the attack. Though unsuccessful in avoiding the beasts claws, Telsom swings his sword up, scoring a counter hit. With bits of armor and human blood on its claws, the creature continues its flight towards the other end of the clearing, venting anger in a earsplitting scream. Ignoring his own wounds, Telsom keeps a wary eye on the flying lizard as he advances towards the wounded Luna.
Immerine touches her hand to the carved unicorn symbol at her throat and murmur’s a quick prayer. “Guide us in your glory and aid this warrior on his quest.” She reaches out to touch Teryn with the hand holding the staff. A warm glow flows from the witch’s hand into the warrior’s body. Immediately Teryn feels emboldened and more up to the task at hand. He releases his readied arrow at the airborne creature, and without waiting to see if it hit the mark, drops his bow to run forward as fast as he can while drawing his sword, intending to engage the creature – or defend Luna.
Teryn’s arrow speeds through the air, but his aim was off and the attack too hasty. Harmlessly the arrow flies across the clearing, disappearing in the canopy at the other side.
Emboldened by Ened’ome’s return Tarim picks up his pace as he begins to realize that something is terribly, terribly wrong. The sight that meets his eyes is heart-wrenching to the young mage’s tender heart and he desperately wishes to rush down into the clearing. His mind takes charge upon seeing the green creature swooping towards Telsom and Luna and for efficiency’s sake he stops in his tracks.
Tarim’s brilliant blue eyes sweep the clearing his hands deftly making strange complicated gestures. In a strange hollow voice devoid of emotion he calls forth arcane forces with harsh syllables of power sending a single bolt of glowing purple energy streaking towards the green thing.
Unerringly the bolt whizzes past the branches, streaks across the clearing easily darting around Luna and Telsom before finding its intended target. The young dragon hisses as the arcane magic slams into its body and the long serpentine neck swivels in flight to look at who dared to strike it.
Not far off, the two wolves – if the other animal is indeed a wolf – keep fighting each other with jaws snapping shut repeatedly on empty air, but every so often on a piece of opponent. Luna’s black wolf seems the worst for the wear as the other appears larger and stronger. However Areo is not afraid and attacks fearlessly…
Leaving Areo to his fight, Skeen focuses on the clearing. To her surprise she sees some green lizard-like creature flying in her general direction and quickly takes aim. Her arrow leaves the bow with a soft ‘twang’ and just misses the creature by a hair’s width. The slight ‘whoosh’ of air draws its attention to the elven archer, and a pair of malevolent eyes bore into Skeen’s.
The flying lizard continues it’s flight path and disappears in the forest’s canopy overhead. The rustling of leaves and some small twigs snapping indicating that it is moving somewhat away from the clearing…
Keeping her senses open for any sign of the green lizard’s return, Skeen looks once more towards the two fighting creatures a few yards away from her. The fight is fierce, but it is evident that Areo is loosing the battle to a wilier and more cunning foe. The other wolf-like creature though appearing the strongest, is certainly not unscathed. Luna’s friend has left some serious wounds, evidenced by a limp in the creature’s walk as it looks for an opening to bite Areo.
Not knowing if the beast will be back, the witch cautiously makes her way to the paladin and the ranger. “Luna,” she asks as she comes forward, “What happened?” Branith lowers his warhammer as the beast flies away among the trees. “Be wary the beast will probably be back for sure” he bellows out as he too moves over to Luna. “I doubt it, now that it has seen reinforcements arrive. Just in case, I’d better get my bow.” Teryn looks at Luna with concern before he turns to run back and retrieve his bow.
Looking up into the canopy for a moment after their adversary Tarim thinks for a few moments and nods, mumbling to himself. He closes the distance to the clearing slowly and looks for a good spot in between a couple of trees where he can see but won’t admit the bulk of their scaly friend, calling out: “I think it will come back, that’s a young green dragon…!” He then focuses his attention elsewhere and rubs a small piece of leather from his pouch as he chants the words to another spell.
Luna doesn’t answer Immerine’s question as another racking cough overcomes her. The young ranger nearly collapses under the effort, as her battered body tries to expel some of the toxic that she must have breathed in. A few feet away and looking warily about despite the pain and the blood flowing from his wounds, Telsom remains alert, turning slowly as if tracking something that only he can see.
A little off to the side and between the trees, Luna’s black wolf, hackles raised although plenty of his fur is matted with blood and saliva, moves defensively, hind quarters close to the ground as he bares his teeth, the white of the teeth contrasting starkly with the blood-coated black muzzle.
The larger creature’s eyes glint with what Skeen can only interpret as malevolence and feints towards Areo. Tired and weary from the fight, the black wolf falls for the feint and leaves himself open. Areo’s opponent seizes the opportunity and a pair of jaws snaps close on Areo’s throat. The dying yell filled with pain echoes through the woods, sending a chill across the spines of those nearby.
With a final shake, snapping the already dead wolf’s neck, the larger specimen abandon’s the kill and focuses two hateful eyes on the elven rogue…
On the other side of the clearing, Teryn has retrieved his bow and while putting an arrow on the string, he moves back cautiously towards the others, noticing Telsom’s focused stare in one direction. Bringing his bow about and aiming in the general direction of the paladin’s stare, the warrior is not surprised when he glimpses the flying form of the young dragon.
It approaches the clearing in an arc, its path allowing to almost view the entire area of the clearing as its sinuous neck waves back and forth to look for threats. Teryn takes aim and lets an arrow fly towards the creature, hoping to catch it, if not to drive it away. The latter seems to work, although the arrow misses the dragon, it does alter its flight path which takes it behind the cover of the canopy.
“Come back you cowardly bastard!” Telsom yells as the dragon flies away, “Take on someone your own size.” Ignoring the wounds the dragon has dealt him, the paladin sets off at a running pace in the direction the dragon was flying.
While the paladin makes his way back between the trees, Immerine darts forward and tries to lower Luna to the ground. Immerine murmurs softly and again touches her carved symbol, “Lady I beseech thee on behalf of this goodly woman and servant of your cause. Pause the flow of this toxin so I may better aid her hurts.”
Yelling after the running paladin Teryn tries to get him to stop “TELSOM, NO! WE NEED YOU HERE!”
As Immerine’s hands touch the wounds of the ranger, she almost as quickly draws them back as her fingers register a blistering pain. The liquid coating Luna in various places is not neutralized as it burns its way into the suffering woman’s flesh, leaving blisters and ugly red wounds. Recovering from the surprise, Immerine focuses her will and displays some of her nations (in)famous stubbornness as she puts her hands again on Luna’s body.
Gritting her teeth against the biting pain, she forces her goddess power into the pain-wracked body of the ranger to slow the toxin’s effects, though it will do less to spread the burning of the acid. The magic’s effect seems to soothe Luna’s pains somewhat, but the pain and the loss of her friend is too much for the woman as she faints…
Having finished with its smaller cousin, the large black wolf advances steadily towards Skeen, eyeing her with a cold calculating stare. With no arrow on her bow, Skeen rapidly pulls one from the quiver. As if the sudden movement had been what the large beast had been waiting for, it launches itself in the air, saliva and blood flying from its jaws. Only a split second left to pull the bowstring back, Skeen gives it a desperate try as she simultaneously tries to dive to the side.
She is not surprised and even manages an ironic grin as the arrow only pierces the creature’s ear before two paws and several pounds nail her to the forest floor. Her desperate dive did save her however, as the wolf-creature’s jaws snap shut less than an inch from her throat.
Seeing that the ‘real threat’ is not anywhere where he can see it, Tarim focuses his attention on the enemy at hand. He breathes deeply and opens his heart to the weave calling forth arcane energies feeling the thrill of his spiritual connection with his goddess.
With an icy glare at the wolf like creature he pulls forth a pinch of sand from his pouch and sprinkles it lightly onto the ground in front of him. “Lady of Mysteries lay this beast low…” he murmurs. While his dwarven companion advances towards the wolf-like creature. Branith looks at the beast with equally hateful- but also tear-filled eyes, “Ye are not having her as well yer beast!” He says as he clenches his warhammer tightly and moves of towards the killer of Aero.
Tarim’s magic passes the advancing dwarf and takes effect near the prone form of Skeen and the beast towering over her. Both Skeen and the creature feel the spell’s effect wash over them, but elven inborn resistance is more powerful than Tarim’s magic. Not so for the slavering thing above her. Its eyes fall shut and it sinks to the ground, effectively pinning the elven rogue to the forest floor. The woman nearly gags on the fouls smell that emerges from the snoring creature, but there is not much else that she can do but struggle to crawl from underneath it.
Immerine trusts her companions to give battle as she fights to save Luna’s life. She keeps her hand on the symbol and her palm steadfastly against the now unconscious woman. The prayer she murmur’s this time is in Rashemi, but the tone is pleading.
A chill runs through Teryn as he sees Luna on the ground but takes comfort in seeing Immerine tend to her, and he feels relieved to see Tarim’s magic kept Skeen safe Teryn asks Tarim “Need help with that?” Secretly hoping not as he moves toward Immerine and Luna, pulling out a water flask. “Will water help wash that goo off her or will I just spread it over her skin?”“Water will help, but I will need more than that.” Immerine’s focus shifts and she snaps her fingers into the air, gritting her teeth against the acidic pain, while cradling Luna in her lap. “Bhalla I need your tears!” As her goddess answers the prayer, the air above shimmers and seems to become liquid. Soon gravity takes hold and as if a portal to a lake or river had been opened, water pours forth seemingly from mid-air, to splash down on the suffering ranger. Much to the Rashemi witch’s relief, the water washes most of the acid away or dilutes it enough to render it more or less harmless, though the sting of it is still discomfiting.
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