Blackwater advanced carefully and silently making their way back down the stairs to a door for the first floor. Kraiven spotted shadows through the keyhole, but could not make out the words being spoken. Johann pressed his ear to the adjacent wall and heard the diction of Common and the voices of several men. Kraiven opened the door with deft silence and took a real look.
The Glasspine Guardians spoke amongst themselves as they stood behind three Elves kneeling in the middle of the room. Jordan Eran ordered two of the men upstairs to scope out the home. Their lords had come this way, but they have yet to seem them since splitting off at the river. The men advanced forward toward an already open door to come face to face with an initmidating Kraiven. He made it a point to let them know he could have killed them with ease.
Despite their initial terror, they were glad to see Blackwater safe and well. They quickly explained that they had been attacked during their combing of the forest by three Elves. Fenix was immediately wary of their treatment. He knew the Elves were captured, but he also knew this was their home and they were trespassing. The Guardians assured him they only used force that was absolutely necessary.
They continued down the stairs to examine the captives. Johann apologized for the circumstances, Fenix had them immediately untied, and Kraiven inspected them closely. Three Elves knelt on the floor:
Mendir was tall, even by Elven standards, and knelt straighter than the other two. His auburn hair flowed long and his sharp emerald eyes did not display the serenity you’d expect. He, along with the others looked to be very young.
Varandol withdrew slightly when looked at. He was brown haired and blue-grey eyed, but seemed meak compared to Mendir and softer spoken.
Seregil resembled Mendir in height, but was blonde and fairer than the others. She was also arguably more aesthetically pleasing. Her eyes were a fierce blue.
They collected that the Guardians had spotted the Elves in the Eastern portion of the forest before the three reacted violently, attacking the soldiers. The Elves also claimed they had a fourth, an even younger one, that they had lost just prior to meeting the soldiers. There was plenty of reasons for hostility and Mendir specifically seemed very upset by the outsiders.
Diplomacy brought them to a middle ground. They would help the Elves find their companion Eristor in exchange for passage to Tessaran. Mendir was reluctant and even claimed they could be no help of the people of Vanya’laide. They would not find what they seeked, but he did agree.
The group left the home and made their way East along the river. It brought them to the path the men and Elves had taken before. Three smooth white rocks dotted a dangerous bridge across raging waters. It seemed it would be a bit of a task to cross. Johann had no intention of using them.
His jump from a still, standing position was instant. He flew across the waters with ease and landed with a large margin of safety. With grace, he leaned on a tree and offered the other members an expression of self-assurance.
Fenix attempted the same, but with a running start. He proved that the heaviness of his equipment and armor did nothing to hinder his abilities. His jump was the perfect length as he landed on the other side comfortably, bypassing the rocks himself.
Kraiven relied on his balance as he made his way across the rocks. Although small and slick, his movements resulted in nothing close to a slip. His light, adept hops across were just as impressive.
The Elves made their way slowly with Varandol nearly slipping off the final rock. He held on however, but needed a moment to recover. His coughs indicated illness and weakness. Varandol was not well. He did make it across however as did the soldiers after a bit of time.
They examined the area where the scrape between the groups had occurred. Any chance of clues of tracks were decimated by the sheer amount of soldiers that stomped through earlier. They continued Southbound to a split in the forest. They split themselves as a result. Johann with Jordan and most of the Guardians; Fenix and Kraiven with the Elves and the leftover men.
Fenix, Kraiven, and the Elves
The warlord and rogue made their ways Southwest to another split. However, this one obviously led back to shore and the other curved back North toward the river and again to the East. They followed it in the only direction yet unexplored and found a dead end in the trees. It was round and clear with a discarded bag of sorts in the middle. Just past it, they spotted movement.
“Eristor! If that’s you, come out! We won’t harm you,” Fenix said. His assumptions were correct.
Eristor slid out of the tree line toward the bag.
“I saw it first! Get away from it,” the boy shouted back. He looked barely physically mature, standing short and lanky. His hair was a lighter brown and flowed ear-length over only one side of his face. Nevertheless, his appearance was one of determination.
The party made no attempt for the bag, but they neared him carefully. They noticed the bag was just a little too properly placed and seemed suspicious. Kraiven openly figured to let the boy test it out, there was at least something in it.
Before they could speak with the boy further, he picked up the bag. It barely swung around his shoulder before a loud crack sounded and he plummeted fifteen feet into a pit. A blunt rock awaited his fall and pounded into his abdomen leaving him unconscious at the bottom. The sky to the East then erupted in light in a signal, likely from Johann.
The other Elves rushed to Eristor’s aid and the others were ready to make their way toward Johann. In the chaos, only Kraiven noticed the charging bears before it was too late.
Johann, Jordan, and the Guardians
Johann approached the Southeast before reaching another split as well. One went farther South and he surmised with the others that it likely led back to the shore. The Westward path however led to an unexplored and wide open area. The grass was shorter and the fog was lighter. Johann easily determined it was not a result of the arcane.
“These look like hunting grounds,” Jordan warned. His suspicions were confirmed when Johann slid forward and recognized movement in the treeline ahead. The grass was shorter due to grazing – and shined with blood in patches.
“Large cats,” the wizard said. His knowledge of nature recognized the smooth, shrugging steps of felines. The Guardians froze in place. Any sudden movement could make them pounce. Johann brought a signal to the sky in hopes of support before facing these lions, tigers, or jaguars.
The response never came and Johann had no desire to deal with them face to face. He called upon his power of Ghost Sound and executed it perfectly. His resulting carnage of noise terrified even the men of Glasspine as the tigers and dire tiger bolted in pure fear and landed in the ocean on the other side. Their clumsy paddles were frantic.
Johann worried for the others and only made his way a bit more South before hearing the screams in the distance. The others were in trouble. He rushed back toward their original splitting place with the others and headed Southwest. He arrived at the dead end to see the other half of the partying battling two large, brown bears.
Fenix commanded his men and pounded on the bears; Johann lit them up from the grove’s end; and Kraiven sliced rotting wounds into them as he stepped and tumbled about. They were uncharacteristically sloppy in their fighting, but eventually killed the beasts while the Elves helped Eristor. When the battle came to its end, Eristor was awake upon the ground and Mendir showed some appreciation and respect.
He would keep his word and take them to Tessaran, though he insists it is not a good time for visitors. There hasn’t been an unplanned outsider in the city for many years and the he mentioned the terrors of war did never truly come to an end for them.
The forest proved increasingly gorgeous as they travelled a lightly beaten path South, deeper into the island of Vanya’laide. The previous shades of Evergreen merged with hues of yellow and purple. What was once fog became a cool mist, barely obstructing visibility. While the squad of Elves were able to navigate, Seregil explains that the trip to Tessaran was about a day-and-a-half’s journey. They needed to find camp.
Fenix found a perfect camping spot right off the bat and the men and elves began collecting brush and setting up camp. Before long, they sat beside a kindling fire to finally rest.