Echoes of Invasion: The Society of Shadow | Scene 13

It is early afternoon before everything is sorted out at the site of the raid and the elves are free to follow-up on the Society of Shadow encampment. The woses have no interest in coming along; the corruption there is too unsettling to them. They are, however, willing to watch Butterbell so that the elves do not need to worry about keeping the pony quiet on their approach. She is not a trained scouting mount, after all.

Since the woses will not provide backup, Heppa asks Tric, “Do you think we could get any of the guards to come with us? There might be potential prisoners.”

“That might be going a little out of their way, but we can try,” Tric agrees. The caravan has not quite gotten rolling again yet, and the elves are able to find Sir Sior without any trouble. Tric explains to the knight that he and Heppa know where the shadow mages were encamped several leagues into the Grey Woods. “We are going to clear that out. Would you like to send any soldiers along to bring back those prisoners to be tried for high crimes? Or are your forces spread too thin? We would be able to lead you by ancient elvish roads, if your feet can keep up.” And if we can find them…

The knight declines. “We cannot delay the caravan any further, and the prison wagon is already full. I must see my charges to the Ford of Abez, but I can send a message with Rhodri to carry on to Carcyn. The city can mobilize its militia. If you are headed up to Carcyn yourself, you can guide them. Or you can give me a description of the encampment’s location to pass along.”

Tric frowns at this response. He really does not want more humans coming through the Grey Woods. “No, these woods that the shadow mages were squatting in are elvish territory.”

There is a clanking of armor as Sir Sior shifts. Tric cannot see the knight’s face through the closed helm, but he can read the displeasure in the man’s body language. “You dare to say that to an official of Wesnoth?”

“By the treaty of Lord Haldric—”

King Haldric.”

“And the elves of the council, the plains between the two rivers were granted to the humans,” Tric argues, voice more pompous than his sketchy knowledge of the material can justify. “These are woods that existed prior to that alliance.”

“If you are not going to send word to Carcyn because this is elvish territory, then you need to go to Wesmere and tell your people to deal with this,” Sir Sior demands. “If this is your problem, then you have to fix it.”

Oh, I guess Wesmere is close, isn’t it? Tric reflects, recalling the maps decorating the walls at the Elvish Retreat in Weldyn. But he takes umbrage at how the knight has reframed the situation. “Yes, humans were trespassing in our forest, stirring up undead, it’s true. It is unfortunate that the local law enforcement was not able to keep a leash on them. For the last several hundred years. Can you at least keep an eye out for any shadow mages that may have fled? Perhaps you can petition your Lord Uchal to take a greater interest in this, rather than…” Rather than harassing Osian. “Rather than in affairs of the city.” Sir Sior nods. Satisfied to have accomplished at least that much, Tric takes his leave of the knight.

As Heppa and Tric slip into the Grey Woods, she asks, “So you want to go to Wesmere? The woses could use a new sentinel.”

“It’s not actually that far, and we’ve still got a month or so before we need to be back in South Tower to meet with Kachen.”

“I think we have time, as long as we head straight back,” Heppa agrees.

When they get closer to the encampment, Heppa tries to improve their ability to blend in with the forest using fae magic. As she manipulates the energy, her mind keeps going back to Blululldrum’s comment about her corruption. The threads of power unravel, striking yet another blow at Heppa’s self-confidence. 

They reach an edge of the clearing with a hut nearby, its open door facing toward the forest. The elves dash inside and take a quick, quiet look around. Heppa’s mind is not on the task, still focused on the issue of corruption. Maybe alchemy…? 

Tric finds nothing of interest, though Mate draws his attention to some of the fine cheeses he purchased in Dan’Tonk. The hut is a little out of order, as though someone perhaps grabbed some things hurriedly and left in a rush. “Well, if they’re vacating, that’s good, at least,” Tric mutters. “But they might have another camp elsewhere in the woods… Let’s track them down.” 

Someone made an effort to conceal the tracks of a small party in the surrounding forest, but their work on the ground was unable to compensate for their companions’ blundering into bushes. The elves suspect that they are trailing a group with an experienced woodsperson and a few of the scholars. As Tric evaluates small clues, like broken sticks, he hears his dad’s voice in his head. Now, my boy, these sticks don’t work as well for water dowsing because… Nasir’s lessons have borne fruit in the long run, just not quite in the way he may have hoped.

Moving swiftly over what they perceive to be a road, the cousins soon catch up with their quarry. Up ahead, a group of four humans travels through the forest following a northerly heading, possibly on their way to Carcyn. Tric and Heppa see two scholars, as well as a poacher and a thug. From the hushed conversation the elves overhear, there is no backup encampment, nor do these folks have a real plan of action. After some hurried whispering of their own, the elves come up with an approach that Tric hopes will encourage the humans to give up their corruptive magic and never return, preferably without coming to blows. Heppa assembles a makeshift megaphone by rolling up some large leaves, and gives it to Tric, then slips off in one direction, while Mate flies in another. Coming at the human group from multiple sides this way, they can make their own party seem larger.

Mate’s eerie yodeling call echoes discordantly through the forest from one side, and Heppa shakes branches on the other. Tric tries to project his own voice to multiple locations, an auditory illusion rather than the visual ones he has attempted in the past. “Leave this place,” he intones, rapping his willow knuckle dusters against a tree near him, like a creepy woodpecker. Mate mimics that sound as well, tapping on a trunk with his beak and rattling branches with his wings. “Leave this place; your corruption is not welcome here. Do not return.” Each statement is punctuated with warbles and rattles and taps.

The two scholars turn and look right at Tric, sensing the source of the powerful magic they felt in the early morning. “It’s the elvish caster!” one cries. With wild arm motions, she tries to draw shadows to herself for protection, just as Gaenyn did during the raid. However, instead of benign shadows pooling about her, something else is drawn from the ground. Something far more horrifying. A wraith.