The rest of the trip that day was quiet. I didnt know what I should say to these strangers I was traveling with and it seemed none knew what to say to me either. Maeve glanced at me from time to time, fear written plainly on her face. Nolan looked at me with such sad eyes, an expression reserved for criminals at the gallows. Tralin and Eshrin didnt look at me at all. Though I had washed myself as clean as possible after the event I could smell the blood. The smell both terrified and intoxicated me all at once. It was the first time I had killed a person. I was dizzy with emotion, shivers of pleasure ran up my spine when I recalled knifing the man, and I was terrified of how easily those shivers came.
When we made camp that night I couldnt help but wonder if the watch was partly to watch against me. I didnt blame them. I knew my blood came from the most vile of monsters, but now I knew that I was a monster too. I didnt sleep at all that night. Everytime I closed my eyes my senses were assaulted with the murder of others. All I could smell was blood, I could feel it coating my arms, splashing on my face. I could taste it in my mouth. Every glance at my companions brought nothing but fantasies of them writhing and screaming as I licked thier blood from my own body. I prayed like I never had before.
And I cried.
In the morning we were on the road to Shadowdale again. The mood was somber but as the day passed the others began to talk and the mood started to lighten. The day after was even better. Soon it was like it had been when we left Waterdeep, though I still got the occasional look of trepidation.
The trip was a long one, we couldnt travel the Black Road straight through Anauroch because Eshrin believed the Zhents were looking for him. Too many patrols and waystations on the way were between us and the Dales. So we left Waterdeep along the Trade Way traveling east and south, down below and past the High Moor, to Scornubel.All the journey to Scornubel was amazing to me, I had only been out of Waterdeep for small distances and only just barely into the underdark tunnels around Skullport. This was a whole new world to me and I was awestruck by the beauty around me
Scornubel was a large city, though not so large and not so magnificent as Waterdeep. We stayed the remained of the day and the night there even though we had arrived early in the day. While the men restocked our provisions Maeve and I explored the city. It was a port city, right on the river Chionthar, so there was a large diversity of people, and a good lot of goods to examine. There was wonderful things from all over the known world for sale there.
Evening came too fast. I took supper with the rest of the group, it seemed that in the journey here they had come to terms with what I was and what I could become, and they accepted me despite it. There was a bard playing in the commons room, and the crowd was quite jovial. I laughed as Maeve danced with just about everyone there, even me! Tralin, after some time at the bar, could be heard laughing even over the music as he danced and sang along. Before long he had every drunkard in the bar singing. Eshrin laughed and drank at a large round table, surrounded by a small harem of women, all laughing at his jokes and battling thier lashes prettily. I sat with Nolan at the bar, he wasnt particularly fond of that type of revelry, but he bobbed his head to the music and smiled as he drank his beer. I had been to bars in Skullport, and on occasion Waterdeep proper btu I had never participated in this sort of thing. I laughed as I watched my companions and I enjoyed the beer. A half elven man asked me to dance and I agreed. He was an attractive one and I had very little experience with the sort of thing. Maeve kept winking at me as I danced and I couldnt help but laugh every time. It was a wonderful evening and I was sad it had ended when I finally went up to my room.
The morning was a bright and warm one, and we set off early. Our next stop would be Tilverton to the north and east. We no longer traveled a road so much as a glorified trail. The going was a bit slower and before long we entered into the Reaching Woods. It was the first I had ever seen of woods. I was in awe of the place. Giant trees surrounded us, and the sounds of woodland animals resounded like music from all around. Small rays of light shone down through the canopy, illuminating the wood but also allowing long spears of light to be seen throughout. Tralin and Eshrin took up the front, Nolan followed behind them and Maeve and I brought up the rear. I couldnt keep my eyes ahead of me. I could do nothing but gaze out into the wood. I couldnt see far for I was almost desperate to see the creatures that made the sounds all around me. I wanted so badly to see the animals I had read about but never accually seen. I gasped as caught glimpses of many of the creatures. Maeve laughed at my delighted giggles and told me what each creature was. Soon Eshrin and Tralin were laughing as well, and before long a smile played across even somber Nolans face.
We had traveled most of the way through the wood when all the animal sounds stopped. The place took an erie quiet, and it suddenly felt more frightening, dangerous, than it before. No longer a pretty place filled with wonderful creatures but now a silent, maliscious thing, surrounding and trapping. Eshrin became very tense, as did Tralin. Of us all they had the most experience in the wilds. Nolan was on edge as well and Maeve, like me, glanced nervously around. Something was about but none of us could see what.
Though we were on guard the creature struck so fast and suddenly that I yelped in suprise. A roar like I had never heard erupted around me. My horse bucked and I tumbled off of it. I didnt know what had attacked us but it sounded large. I grasped for my dagger with one hand as I scrambled, mostly on my hand and knees, for cover. I could hear shouts from all my companions as I rolled behind a large tree trunk and got my bearings. Eshrin was trying to organize us, Tralin was chanting, so was Nolan. Maeve was screaming. I got my breath, drew my other dagger and poked my head around my tree to see what was happening. Tralin was peaking from around a tree across from me. At least two horses lay dead, torn to pieces. Slowly my gaze moved past the dead animals to Maeve, writhing on the ground clutching at her face. Her skin was blistered and red. Nolan was on his kness just handlengths from her, chanting softly. Just paces beyond Nolan and Maeve stood Eshrin. He stood, brandishing his sword menacingly at the creature that attacked us. I gazed beyond Eshrin to see what the creature was.
I have never in my life been so terrified as I was at that moment. Before Eshrin loomed a huge reptile. It stood on all fours and its long serpentine head must have loomed nearly fifteen feet above Eshrin. Large leathery wings folded around the creatures massive legs. It was colored the same as the leaves of the trees and the brush around us, and I suspected that is why we could not see it. It was perfectly camouflaged in the woods. It looked down at Eshrin and I could see nothing but malisciousness in those large, terrifying eyes.
I could feel my daggers slipping from my grasp as pure terror overtook me. My breath came in gasps, and I could feel tears begin to sting my eyes. I wanted to run but I couldnt. I could only stand there and stare stupidly at what would be my death. Someone was shouting, I could only guess Eshrin, but I couldnt hear what was being said, only the sound of my own rushing blood in my ears. Then something heavy was on my shoulder and I could hear someone screaming, only later did I realize it was me. I jerked my head around to see Tralin grasping me by the shoulder and trying to pull me into the woods. His touch somewhat broke the spell my fear had over me and with trembling hands I picked up my daggers. Casting one last glance back to the trail I could see that Nolan and Maeve were gone, Eshrin was bleeding from numerous wounds and still he waved his sword fending off the creatures claws. It was obvious the dragon was toying with him and that he was holding it back long enough for the rest of us to get away. The dragon struck and he danced to the right, I could tell it was a feignt, but so could the dragon and it made to disembowel him. I felt adrenalin run through me and I yelled for Eshrin and as I did a huge inky cloud of black formed between the two. I had summoned clouds of darkness before, but never so instictually, always I had to concentrate to create them. Eshrin saw his opportunity and instead of following through on his feignt, continued in his origional direction and botled off into the woods. With Eshrin safe I turned and ran for all I was worth.
I had no sense of direction, I just dashed madly through the wood. I ran until I couldnt run any more, and then I ran a bit more. Finally I collapsed midstride and lay on thr group gasping for breath. And then I lost consciousness.
I awoke on a soft bed. I was in a small room, sparsely decorated but nonetheless cozy and warm. A fire crackled in a small fireplace in the wall far to my left. The bed I lay in rested against a wall. I could hear the sounds of birdcalls and when I turned my head up to look I saw a small window with a small blue and white bird sitting on the sill. Across from the window was a door, which was closed. I sat up. I was nude. On a small, square table under the window I could see my clothing, and all my possesions. Thankfully both the magical ring Jesimae had given me and my flute were there as well. I would not have been able to bear parting with either. I went to the table and began dressing myself and the bird began a loud chirping.
As I picked up my blades to sheath them on my belt I stopped. They seemed so small and useless now. I had always been good with the dagger, and I had always thought I could defend myself with one. But that dragon had been so large, looking at them now they seemed to be little more than glorified needles. How could such a small weapon ever hope to even hard such a large creature? But they were all I had for the time being, and the longblade had always seemed so unweildy to me, and in thinking about it, Eshrins sword had been largely useless to him against that creature as well.
I had just sheathed the daggers when the door swung open. I turned to face whomever came through, my hands already at the dagger handles. A beautiful woman entered, I could tell she was at least party elven. She had a light tan complexion and flowing brown hair, which matched her light brown eyes perfectly. She was clad in leathers and wore a bow on her back. "Good, youve woken up. Your friends all have been waiting for you to wake." She smiled and motioned for me to follow, so I did.
The room exited to a larger room with a soft couch and a fireplcae, in the far corner was another table and a small stove for cooking. All five of my companions sat on the couch. I was relieved to see Maeve was unhurt and so was Eshrin. Thier wounds had closed up and I couldnt see even a scar on either of them. The womans name was Rhia Claseter and she was a half elf. She lived in this cottage and served as a ranger and protector of both the wood and the nearby town of Hluthvar, which it seemed we were very near to now. Eshrin had stumbled onto her home and brought her along to look for the rest of us. Once collected and back at her home Nolan had tended to everyones wounds and I had been laid down to rest, having had run myself to ground.Rhia said the dragon was a nuisance in the wood but lived on the western side and rarely crossed the river. It was simply bad luck on our part that it had when it had. She wasnt able to combat the dragon but hoped to defeat it someday. The others had discussed our mission with her and I understood why when I saw a small silver pin in the shape of a harp pinned to her leather just under the strap for her quiver. She would come with us.
We stayed the night in her cottage and set out the next morning. She lived right on the north eastern most part of the woods and we were quickly out. We passed through Hluthar, which was tiny in comparison to either Waterdeep or Scornubel, and were back on the trail to Tilverton. The Sunset Mountains loomed before us. I was certainly in awe of the mountains, they were quite magestic, but they didnt have the power over me the sea and the woods had. The crossing wasnt easy but soon enough we were past the mountains and on flat ground.
The going after was easy, until we came to the Stone Lands. We stayed to the trail hoping for protection from the orc and goblins that infested the place by outposts of Cormyr. We had traveled some ways through when we were set upon by orcs. We found a good place to make our stand in a thin portion of a canyon we were traveling through. Hiding from them was not an option as they had been stalking us for some time, according to Rhia. There was a good section where large rocks jutted out from the canyons sides making for a nice bottleneck. Just before one of the rocks the canyon wall curved out a bit making a small alcove between wall and rock. I hid myself there. Eshrin and Nolan took up positions just behind the bottleneck, with Tralin and Maeve behind them. Rhia scaled the canyon wall a bit just off to the side of Tralin. When the orcs attacked Eshrin and Nolan met them but only a couple at a time could fight the two. Rhia rained arrows into the mass beyond those Eshrin and Nolan fought. Maeve sang and Tralin hurled magical death into the orcs. I struck from my alcove, which I had covered with a cloud of darkness. An orc would wander in, trying to get to Eshrin and I would knife it from behind.
I was exhausted when it was all over and many orcs were dead, the rest had fled in defeat. We didnt stop to rest though. The rest of the journey to Tilverton was uneventful. We stayed a full day and night in Tilverton, recouperating from the long journey so far. It was clear and warm the morning we left and I took it as a good omen for the rest of the trip. We traveled north and slightly east along a real road once more. The trip was rather uneventful compared to what had come before, and at last we came to Shadowdale!
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