Chapter 8: Reckonings

At the grey cat's warning hiss, Arco immediately shifts his attention on the tiny Pace, eyeing the feline suspiciously. Kyle's good hand immediately went to rub the spot behind the big, floppy ears to reassure his canine companion. The petite cleric's gaze, however, lingers on Naomi – taking in both the obvious and the subtler signs indicating the wizard's tension.

He then turns to Rhyoick. “Three are better than two – specially if we need to carry out several forays into town – as it will be easier to muddle the waters and hide our intentions by shifting the composition of the group for every entry.” With that, Kyle then proceeds to follow Naomi and Thistle – time to enquire what supplies can be provided and move out.

Narnae looks towards Naomi, Colin and Kyle, and then to Rhyoick, raising an eyebrow at the growing tension, but she makes no comment. Elf-human relations had eased considerably since the departure of one human - not lamented by her at all - but she can see that it has not disappeared entirely. The pause to gather food supplies and garish silks is unnecessary in her mind, but if it makes the humans feel more at ease, then she can tolerate the delay.

However as soon as the items are collected, she bows politely to the elves who delivered it and makes ready to depart. There has been enough time wasting already.

The elves are shy about contact but, when asked, freely give of their own supplies to aid the group of outsiders. It is not clear whether they do this at Betty's command, or if some greater sense of altruism motivates them. Naomi rolls a substantial swath of mustard-yellow silk into her pack, and everyone is given a few small silk-wrapped bundles of roasted nuts and dried berries, enough to last the short trip back to Willowmere and the disturbing lair of the man-eating spiders just to the northeast.

The whole village turns out to see the sextet off. As with their arrival, the place is eerily quiet. Naomi hazards a glance up to Betty's platform, where the naked, dark-skinned shaman watches the departure with the unblinking wooden mask still veiling her features. The wind seems to pick up at that moment, and the warmth of late spring is stolen away by a sudden chill that hints winter has not yet given up its yearly struggle.

Kyle stuffs as much of the garish yellow silk as he can in his backpack and Arco's saddlebags, along with the precious bundles of nuts and berries. It is hard to tell whether the Halfling is busying himself to escape uncomfortable thoughts or if he is simply eager to leave the strange Elven settlement.

Once the group is ready to take their leave and begins heading towards the forest, the petite cleric pauses, watching as Naomi's gaze lingers upon the village. The sudden gust of wind catches Kyle unprepared, sending a chill down his spine. Tightening the loose collar of his robe, he addresses the white-haired caster.

“We are not turning our backs on these people, if that is what you are thinking. Our paths simply diverge at this moment, yet I am confident that – our Ladies willing – we shall have a chance to return under more auspicious circumstances.” The words are spoken softly, confidently, as he observes Naomi. After a pause, he adds, turning to glance at the rest of the party where the Elves are in the lead to take them into the woods. “We should not dally. The shadows grow long and our destination is a fair walk away.”

Collin simply nods. They had fairly traded for the provisions and he felt little guilt over it. He felt sorry for the elves of the village, but certainly if they were successful in their endeavors it could only brighten their dismal lives, at least that is what he had to believe. A knight made the world a better place, and if he were ever to become one, than this was a good place to start.

He followed the others, it would be a long trek, and he was ready to depart.

Narnae's eyes narrow and she grits her teeth when she sees Betty up there on that platform, watching them go. The cold chill up her spine has nothing to do with the wind picking up - the whole place makes her uneasy with their silent stares and timid behaviour. It was like walking into a room that had been full of cheer and chatter just a moment ago and having the room fall silent on seeing you. She couldn't shake the feeling that although Betty had aided the elder elf they had brought here on his path to peace that there was more to this place and that something awful was at work here.

"We will return, or I shall at the very least," she amends, not wishing to speak for everyone here. "Something is wrong here as it is everywhere else, and I vow here and now that when all this is done I will return and find out what it is that has stolen the voices of these elves."

She looks around at the sad moss covered trees, forlorn and burdened with the weight of evil in this area and suffering from lack of sunlight. "First though, let us see to tracking this hound." As she walks, she scans the ground to either side of them and occasionally stops to listen above their noise, to see if she can
Dice Roll:
d20 Results: 12 (Total = 20)
These dice were omitted, altered, or moved: 1d20+7
Original Dice: 1d20+7
see or
Dice Roll:
d20 Results: 12 (Total = 17)
hear anything that might indicate its passage nearby. It's too much to hope that they will cross the creature's tracks, yet there is still a chance...

As they walked past the silent elves once more, Naomi could not help but look back at Betty's impassive masked features high above them. She raises her hand with a little wave, shyly thankful for the old woman's aid, but quickly moves to cover her eyes as the wind picks up against their little group. It is as though the forest is exhaling, blowing the strangers away. Perhaps it was because the high canopies and quiet swaths reminded her of the library in which she had spent much of her youth, but Naomi had felt strangely comfortable here, and she was a little sorry to go.

The young wizard falls in step next to Kyle. "It is an admirable sentiment, but from what I may observe we are in far greater need of their assistance than they are of ours." she says dryly. Trusting their elven counterparts to lead them, she concentrates at first on not tripping over roots and avoiding bushes, but as they get farther from the tall, silent tree homes of the elves and the forest lightens up a bit she can free her eyes from the path and
Dice Roll:
d20 Results: 15 (Total = 20)
watch their surroundings better.

For his part, Rhyoick was glad to be leaving the silent city behind. He wrapped his cloak tight about him and pulled the hood far over his head. He did not look back at the somber village, afraid of what thoughts might be stirred up if he did. Instead he cast his gaze at the surrounding countryside, just as unfamiliar as the Elven-home. He longed for the comfort of an upstairs room in a cozy tavern on the edge of town. When the chill breeze swept across the path, Rhyoick was shaken from his thoughts and brought back to reality.

"Forgive me, Narnae, but I would not return beneath the boughs of that city unless I had no other path open to me. But do not take me wrongly, our road is long and who can tell what may happen ere it ends?"

Narnae finds no sign of the elusive canine anywhere near the village's outskirts, so the group must look elsewhere for its quarry. Thistle leads them on to the west, plunging back into the relative darkness of the thick forest that surrounds Willowmere like a choking thicket. To most of the group, one tree looks much like any other, but Thistle leads them unerringly through the brambles and back onto the narrow, twisting path that had run this far from the human village.

That such a path could last long without travelers frequenting its miles is an oddity in itself. What might lie at the eastern terminus is also unknown. But the sun, having just passed the noontime zenith, beckons westward with scant rays piercing the heavy veil of branches, back towards Willowmere.
These dice sets were omitted or moved: 1d20+1

Not long after finding the path, the nimble Elf leads them from it again. It is plain he has no intention of following it directly back to Willowmere, but instead forging a path of his own choosing.

He seems calm and willing to not fight the forest, but pick his path through it, keeping the group both shielded from sight, but also safe from any minor obstacles such as brambles and thorns. Every so often he will pause, crouch, kneel, listen, look, and generally sense the lay of the land, before continuing on again. If the group needs rest, he waits, and if they are strong, he presses forward.

As he leads them on their march, he is ever careful, as though he does not wish to malign the woods, nor dismiss them either...

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