Echoes of Invasion: The Society of Shadow | Scene 14

Gray mists and a tattered cloak billow around the skeletal figure. Only its upper torso has a discernible form, and the remnants of armor and flesh clinging there speak of a long dead elf who still cannot rest. In the wraith’s hand, a sword glows blue, energy drifting off of it in wisps. The creature hovers in the midst of everyone, and the shadow mage who summoned it forth shouts, “They’re driving us from our home! Protect us! They’re invaders!”

The sight of this apparition is actually a little exciting to Tric, as it presents an opportunity to try out an idea that has been bouncing around in his head ever since they parted ways with Kachen: talking a ghost out of its responsibilities. Through the mists around the wraith, he sees the second shadow mage point at Tric, waving his fingers and murmuring something, but his partner grabs his arm, urging him to run instead. Their thuggish companion is not so timid though. As she charges in at Tric, he gets a clear look at her. It is Donella, still sporting some impressive bruises from her fight with the woses that morning. Her weapon slams into Tric with the full force of her momentum, jarring the knuckle dusters from his hands. They vanish amid the brambles of the forest floor, but Tric has no time to deal with that right now. He tries to fend off and redirect the incoming strikes, but Donella’s morningstar lands on him more than he would like.

Heppa screams when she sees the wraith arise. The poacher, his own limbs quaking with fright, fumbles out his bow and spins to face where she is, nocking an arrow as he does so. He begins peppering that part of the forest. Heppa tries to evade the arrows, but some catch her with glancing blows, nicking and slicing her. Far worse, though, is the tree branch that her head slams into as she dodges away. She hits it with enough force to leave a clump of hair and scalp behind, and her vision dims momentarily. She ducks around another tree and stumbles closer to Tric, summoning fae energy into motion as she reduces the space between them to make directing the magic to her target easier. It is frightening to get closer to the imposing Donella, but if Tric goes down from the bandit’s blows, Heppa will be on her own against all these foes. She directs the fae energy at her cousin, trying to mend some of the injuries he has just suffered. Heppa finds herself regretting that traveling with the caravan, though it did bring income, never gave her and Tric time to forage for mushrooms on their travels. All she has on her is a single springy horsetail. A dwarvish fly would be really good for Tric right now.

Aware of how near that bloody morningstar is, Heppa draws her sword for the first time in what feels like ages. She has grown used to wielding runic magic through Lady Sabine’s ring, but now that she knows it is somehow tied to corruption within her, she is hesitant to employ it here. Particularly when the nearby wraith begins its blood-curdling wailing. 

Donella smirks as Heppa screams again, masking her own fear with bravado. “Yeah, you hear that? That creepy shadowy thing is on our side! You’d better run, elf.” She slams at Heppa with her morningstar, beating at her frailer opponent’s parries.

Tric is relieved that Heppa has moved in to deal with Donella. Her sword is far more suited to that than his fists are. Tric backs away from that scuffle and hurls himself recklessly at the poacher to eliminate the threat of more arrows. “You should follow your friends’ footsteps,” he growls, landing a jab. The slight man bats aside most of Tric’s punches with his bow, but there is no longer space to get another arrow ready. Instead, he draws his knife and swings wildly at Tric with it, clearly out of his element wielding his skinning tool as a weapon. To Tric, this current situation is a vast improvement over Donella’s morningstar or Gaenyn’s lightning. 

The poacher spares a glance over his shoulder and sees that his companions are leaving him behind. “Rowan and Godol have ditched us!” he calls over to Donella.

“We can take care of these guys, Saeth,” she shouts back over the sound of sword and morningstar coming together. “Should’ve eaten another one of those red and white mushrooms, though—Yeah! Take that!” Her weapon finally gets through the elf’s guard, crashing into the smaller woman’s stomach.

The elves are relieved to hear Dolmathengalin’s voice sound from nearby. “You give no rest to the dead. You will have no rest yourself!” the wose cries, swinging its branches after the fleeing shadow mages. They duck out of the way and keep running, content to let the criminals and summoned help cover their retreat.

Blululldrum is also close at hand, though this wose is more concerned with the evidence of corruption, rather than the small creatures who worked the magic. Its branches hammer at the wraith, some passing through, but others clattering against the armor. On some level, the wraith is physically present and able to be injured, though it does not look much put out by the attack. The limbs clatter against the wraith, and it drifts toward Blululldrum’s trunk, striking out with its sword. Where the weapon passes near leaves, they turn yellow and red. Some of the tatters and tears in the wraith’s form patch back together. Fortunately, the wose is too sturdy for the blade’s edge to inflict more than scratches. The wraith does not stop there, though, but continues forward, its ghostly form passing through the wose. Blululldrum shudders at the resulting chill, and the artificially aged leaves drift to the ground.

Across the way, up on his branch, Mate watches the wraith with interest, admiring the shiny item in its hand. Tric shouts at the magpie, drawing the bird’s attention. “Get that mushroom to Heppa!” His cousin is coughing up blood from that last blow; Donella’s dwarvish fly could save Heppa’s life. Mate swoops down and deftly dips his beak into a pouch on the thug’s belt. She swats at him, and he flits out of the way, narrowly avoiding the strike.

“The forest itself turns against you,” Tric calls out, grating on the nerves of his opponents. “It matters not what magic you weave or metal you wield or spirits you conjure. There will always be another branch to push you out. This is not your home!”

Dolmathengalin brings its branches in to lend support to the poor elves, since the shadow mages are moving too quickly for it to pursue. It rakes its limbs across at the largest human it sees, the one menacing Hepalonia. The woman dodges out of the way, but her weapon is struck. It disappears into the underbrush as the wose picks up Tric’s refrain. “Neither magics nor metal!”

Things have taken a turn for the worse here, what with those monstrous trees showing up again and the cowardly shadow mages fleeing, but if Donella runs now, there is no guarantee these elves will not keep pursuing. After all, they tracked the gang here from the abandoned encampment. The loss of her morningstar barely slows Donella down; she seamlessly transitions to old-fashioned brawling. This elf lady might have some skill with a blade, but she is no match for Donella’s power. The bandit is actually a little surprised when her pale target crumples after just a couple solid blows. Donella’s momentum then carries her past the fallen foe, and some tree branches slam her right into Saeth. 

He was never a good knife-fighter to begin with, and the collision just makes him that much worse. “Don’t tell me where my home is,” Saeth shouts back at the wily elf he cannot manage to hit. Donella has already taken out this fellow’s backup and now she is here in this tussle to literally lend a hand, so there is no way Saeth is going to back down.