Come gather ‘round people where ever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
The party made their preparations to depart.
Tarant, the keeper of the Avener’s Hut, has helped assemble some more able-bodied yet elderly men and women. They have set up a watch rotation, with some spears that the guards left. They likely have to idea how to use them, but giving a guard a spear makes them a better guard. Tarant was nothing more than a squire, he admits, but has wounds from real battle that he will not admit. He asks Mathan for advice on leading his motley crew. Mathan, having been misread for a military man, tells Tarant to “trust his instincts” surrounded by some flowery inspirational fluff.
Lunier instructed them on the basics of tracking for hunting and his knowledge(weakness, tendencies) of the northern wolf in case any come around.
If any of the improvised militia dared looked towards Coriona, they’d get a snort of derision, little more.
TreeCaster pulls Lunier aside and into his hut, and tells him “I do not mean to have misled you kind elf, but my studies have found no fruit, nor, was I really studying. A far larger task has been looming ahead of me, and though in many of my ages I would have leapt into the pursuit of your family history, this is not the right age for it to have come to fruition. There is one thing I give you in parting however.” He moves to his bookshelf and brings out a smallish book.
“This is a very old tome from a nearby ruins that an elven scholar once gave me. It is written in moon ink , so it was important, but not so important that it was literally left out, aging under a skin of dust in the ruins of a elven tyrant, a man who ruled a small province not far from here in the age before the elven imperium consolidated its power. I have perused it under the moon before, it may give you some clues. You’ll note the spine of the book, the only markings you can see during the day…”
The spine of the book is a longtailed dragon, curled around a lance, what is that a spear, or perhaps, an arrow? Was it finally a sign, some proof, of the Azure Protectorate?
Lunier took it with an amount of hidden joy, his stoic elven nature preventing him from emoting an emotional response other than a simple “thank you.”
So, too is Coriona. Gathers her simple belongings, she is contented, quiet and straight-faced but internally thrilled and grateful for a mission, for a grand quest worth of her grandeur.
Dumoren gave some of her blouses and dresses to the local girls for use. She gave a book of alchemy (originally given to her from Treecaster) to Tarant, and in her strange broken language, pointed out the parts for mixing elements to make fire bombs and best methods to sterilize water. With wide eyes, Tarant accepted gratefully but hesitantly, quietly terrified of the book and its giver.
She stalled and delayed and dreaded her last visit. She stepped into Treecaster’s hut one final time.
She was about to leave the inhabitant of this unfamiliar plane she was most familiar with, and wept openly with their last embrace, as a father comforted his child before her departure for university. She is sad but resolute, silently nodding a tearful goodbye. She gifts to him a small bird she carved out of a black speckled stone, and he cradles it as if it were a priceless artifact. They embraced again, and she departed, off to her great fate. All without a single word.
Quietly to himself, Treecaster regretted every idle moment, ever missed opportunity, and remembered at once every ended conversation, every unsaid sentiment, every untrained moment.
Cliff continued to serve at the self-service Avener’s Hut buffet, until the last moment in town. He wouldn’t be eager to bring up that he is leaving because he feels in a way that he’s letting these people down by not being there to serve them, but he knows that he has a much more important task at hand.
Mathan noticed that Hini and her family had gone with the rest of the elves. Hini had left behind the small rabbit skin that had been a gift. He took it with him, with a spirit of hope.
The party is outside the walls now, moving on the northroad towards the Pelargir, where they hope to acquire a vessel to move upriver quickly, or perhaps some horses.
Cliff looks at Mathan, a little puzzled. He replies, “I am a clergyman of Pelor, the God of Light. It is my honor to serve others in his name, though I will never overcome how much to him I am indebted. I guess it’s good I have a lifetime to try!”
Nature is changing. The elves aren’t wrong.
Each of the characters notice these changes in different ways. A bird here that isn’t usually this far east. A mushroom there that would be exceedingly rare in this climate. Frogs chirping at an unusual hour. As the road descends down the relative highlands that the refugee camp sat on, and down towards the Ktecedios Gulf coast, the soil was wetter than normal.
Dumoren can’t explain it (literally) but she feels the elven lands closing in… as if there are giant walls of stone in the sky over head… the sky seems like it glows in a faded blue, no purple hue… and she can feal an almost radioactive buzz or energy… it seems so familiar…
To Lunier this snow-less land has become even stranger. Everything feels off from before(like what a bird would feel if the magnetic poles shifted). But the strangest thing is that unlike Dumoren, Lunier is unable to see any blue colors anywhere…they are all replaced with a faded gray…with one exception, oddly enough…his skin is still blue.
Coriona does not feel the magic in the same way some of her new companions do but she would certainly notice their changes in behavior.
As the part approached an overlook and the Pelargir first came into first, it was quiet, dark, with no fires or movement. Coriona knew once it must have been bustling with activity, but now is deserted. The changes would serve to put the fighter on edge, her narrow, oblong pupils darting back and forth to survey the landscape for potential danger. Her scaled hand never too far from the hilt of her broadsword.
The priest of Pelor noted the changes of the forest, how it no longer welcomes the light of the sun as willingly, a sure sign that something (pun intended) dark is replacing it.
Descending more on the path, the road itself became swamped. It wasn’t high tide.
That’s when the first wolf attacked. Darted silently in from the sides, a ball of fur and teeth bowled into Cliff Sidevillage on the left flank of the party, knocking him down with a furiousity before other members of the party were even aware the ambush was on.
Quickly, Lunier moved two arrows from his quiver into the wolf’s chest, freeing Cliff, who was helped to his feet quickly by Mathan. “Watch your step, there’s water there!” Mathan joked loudly.
Dumoren allayed the darkness with a vanguard of lights in all directions, revealing just how surrounded the party was.
Once again, an alpha wolf from the distant Winterwolf Wastes had taken the tactical advantage over them, with a host of local wolves.
Mathan stepped forward and with a subaudiable growl, focused the attention of the alpha as Coriona, Dumoren, Lunier and Cliff grouped tightly as the wolves descended in from all sides. The tips of Mathan’s antler helm glowed dimly white. Mathan drew the attention of the alpha, but another wolf bowled into him like a dart out of the darkness, dropping him to his back with a wolf angrily snapping at his face. Move wolves darted in at Dumoren, Cliff and Coriona, and Cliff ignored his own personal danger to fend off the wolves nearest Dumoren.
His first time in combat in years, Cliff’s first offensive incantations instead lit a damp tree on fire.
The party collapsed into a pocket under the wolves’ 360° assault. Coriona slayed one wolf then sidestepped to cover Mathan, freeing him to stand back up as Cliff shouted a healing spell at Mathan: “Watch your step, there’s water there!”
Dumoren flexed her arcane connection again, filling the forest with the rancid smell of burnt mange as she immolated a wolf in front of her. She was dancing on the knife edge of control over her arcane magics, keeping it in check so far.
Lunier’s arrowed found deadly purchase again to protect Dumoren and Cliff, as the alpha winterwolf turned from Mathan to Coriona and leapt for her throat, knocking her down at Mathan’s feet as she held it at bay. Mathan’s antler’s glowed brighter now and he brought his halberd down upon the alpha wolf, from the wound a great flush of green brambles erupted in a bloody splash. The vines constricted around the wolf and its life ended with a yelping and the crushing of ribs as the brambles obeyed Mathan’s bidding. With a deft swipe, he whirled his halberd again and lopped the wolf’s head off, “Back to the fey with you!”
Coriona, doused in its blood, rolled the leafy red corpse off her and got up with Mathan’s hand. In the process, Mathan imparted some natural energy towards Coriona’s fast recuperation.
A single local wolf, scorched by magicks both arcane and holy, yelped away from the battle and darted into the woods alone, the rest lay dead on the waterlogged elven road. Mathan, his antlers fading as well as his adrenaline, put his hands on his knees in exhaustion. The rest of the party exhaled. They fought together for the first time, and made it.
But their worst sight of the night was yet to come. Not much farther down the road, an elven caravan.
Elven civilians lay half consumed, scattered by wolves. Chests of fresh lembas lay untouched, but open sacks of vegetables and meat have been taken. The parents of Hini, whom Mathan had travelled this very road on not 3 days prior, were slaughtered here, as were three of the camp guards whom the DM had fatally decided not to name. Both the wagon’s horses were slain as well. The tracks of some survivors led up the road towards the Pelargir, adult elves.
The wet murder scene was a day old. The bodies lay in shallow water on the road.
The party found three very important things in the gruesome wreckage.
The tracks of a smaller elf, imprinted in the mud ever so softly, led hurriedly into the forest. Hini?
A small seashell carving, resting lightly on the mud. Cliff found it while helping bury the bodies in shallow roadside graves while Lunier searched the woods.
The elven messenger’s carrying tube that Lunier and Coriona had retrieved from in the woods the previous day. It’s message commanding all elves of good family name to leave at once in the night to take the “take the oath of defense of the race”. They are instructed to report to Garrison Amarth.
Off in the woods, Mathan and Lunier searched desperately for Hini. Enlisting the help of a local squirrel, the fey paladin followed its erratic path to laid down, hollowed-out log. In the darkness inside, and perfectly hidden from all but his most hopeful senses, Hini waited. Mathan retrieved the small rabbit skin she had left behind. “Hey there, you left this behind.”
From the shadows, motionlessly, came the tiniest of voices.