Echoes of Invasion: The Society of Shadow | Scene 15

When Heppa’s screaming cuts out abruptly, Tric immediately knows things have taken a turn for the worse. “Give it to her! C’mon!” he shouts at Mate. The magpie swoops down and lands alongside Heppa. He gobbles up the dwarvish fly and then regurgitates the mushroom into Heppa’s mouth, as if she were a hungry hatchling. As the first juices are absorbed into the lining of her mouth, she stirs and reflexes kick in. Before she is fully conscious, she has chewed and swallowed the potent fungus, benefitting from its strange combination of numbing and invigoration. She murmurs her thanks as her eyes crack open.

Tric dodges blades and blows, shouting at the wraith all the while. “Spirit! Your mistress gave you a command to drive us from her home. You know as well as I—you’re an elvish spirit—this is not the home of a human. Her home is in one of the towns, and we are not there. So you have driven us from that town.” The logic is not perfect, but Tric is doing the best he can under the trying conditions of multiple people trying to rough him up.

The wraith does not heed him. Drifting on towards Dolmathengalin, it tries its sword against this wose. “Yeah! Go get that tree!” Donella shouts in encouragement. It is no use, though, the bark is once again too thick. 

The two woses strike back at the apparition, their branches interleaving perfectly as a result of years working together. Blululldrum’s branches swing out wide, crashing in and through the wraith and then continuing to sweep on towards the humans menacing the elves. The blows send the smaller one crashing into a tree. He slumps to the ground, still. 

“You shall rest, spirit,” Dolmathengalin intones, trying to knock the wraith away. Their fruitless exchanges continue, neither the spirit nor the wose being able to do much more than scratch at each other. Dolmathengalin even loses a few leaves in the process, as before the elves’ eyes, wose life force is siphoned off to feed corruption, mending the wraith. 

Rather than look around for her sword, Heppa climbs to her feet and readies her bow. Blululldrum has taken down the poacher, but Donella is still swinging. The outlaw lands a solid blow on Tric, and he falls to the ground, exactly what Heppa feared would happen. The bandit reaches into her pouch, grabs another red mushroom with white spots, and tosses it in her mouth, then turns to find her next target. Heppa is spared from being that when another rain of branches comes down on the human. With Donella thus distracted, Heppa dashes over, dropping to her knees beside her cousin. Bow now forgotten, she digs out her poultice pouch. Amid the chaos of the battle, her focus narrows to her patient. It is rather calming, actually, mending rather than injuring. Tric is a mass of bruises. Heppa loosens the collar of his leathers and smears some soothing but pungent ointment on one of the worst contusions. When the smell hits his nostrils, Tric’s eyes flutter open, their piercing purple gazing right up at Heppa.

Mate settles on the still form of the poacher and begins rummaging through the pouches attached to the man. The magpie finds three mushrooms that have the colors Tric seems interested in. With one in each claw and the third one in his beak, he flies back over to where his friend is just standing up.

Tric snatches the mushroom from Mate’s beak and pops it in his own mouth, barely registering that it was dusky white with red spots instead of the other way around. When the buzz hits him, though, he realizes the taste was not quite right. “Oh, no! That’s… You know what? It’s all good.” Rather than a dwarvish fly, he has just ingested a smoky fly—also known as a dwarvish high. It has numbed a lot of the pain he was feeling but also his feelings of alarm and urgency. That poacher probably kept this on hand to chill out and relax whenever the shadow mages did things to make him too uneasy. Yeah, everyone just needs to calm down, Tric thinks, as sticks and leaves fly around him from the branches striking Donella.

“Hey, spirit,” he calls out calmly. “Look, we’re not chasing anybody. This isn’t their home. Nobody lives h—This is your home, bro!” The tattered remains of the wraith’s armor remind Tric of someone. “You were an elvish fighter. You were probably even a champion. You’re just like Renwick!” Tric throws his arm out toward Donella. “We don’t need to fight. Just leave! That’s all we wanted. Nobody lives here.” He turns to Heppa. “Do you live here? I don’t live here. Maybe Dolmathengalin lives here, I don’t know.” He pauses for a moment, considering what here really means. “We’ll be out of your hair in no time,” he tells the spirit. “Or what’s left of your hair. You want to drive us out? We’ll leave, too! It’s cool.”

The wraith ignores Tric’s ramblings, as it has larger concerns. Blululldrum has managed to knock the sword from its hands. Whether the weapon has vanished or merely disappeared into the undergrowth is unclear. But regardless, it is no longer available to parry branches. Dolmathengalin takes advantage of the opening, clubbing at the wraith more. Its blows are so hard that some of its larger branches fracture in the process. The apparition flows back away from Dolmathengalin and lets out another ear-piercing wail. The disturbing shriek is almost visible, a shimmering in the air through which things look a little wavy. Dolmathengalin shakes from the sonic blast.

A bruised and battered Donella mutters about being beaten up by trees enough for one day. She runs off, leaving her fallen morningstar and erstwhile companion behind. Judging by her speed, Heppa is convinced she really means to leave. That means only one threat remains. It occurs to Heppa that next time she sees Ulf, she can tell him that, yes, this forest is definitely haunted, no question. She studies the interplay of wraith and wose, noting what the branches hit and what they pass through. It seems to her that fire would be far more effective than clubbing, not that she thinks that is a wise approach in a forest. It is scary even just thinking about that.

“Whoa! Whoa, man! Just chill out,” Tric calls at the wraith, trying again to renegotiate its terms of employment. “You don’t need to do that. We can hear you just fine. It’s your home, not our home. We respect that. Just let us get patched up, and we’ll get out of here. Look, look, look! Whoever your mistress was, she’s gone. Whoever her allies were, they’re gone. If you want to make sure you’re driving us away from their home—which is not here—you’ve got to go with them.” 

The wraith turns its empty eye sockets toward the annoying gnat that keeps shouting at it. The tattered remains of a soul that still animate the creature is stunned by the elf’s perseverance.

Fire… or magic, Heppa thinks, continuing to ponder what can most damage the wraith. Neither approach is without risk. She does not know what corruption she has from Lady Sabine’s ring, so using it to attack here is out of the question. Her elvish magic, though, is far less reliable. Hoping that someone else here can be more effective, she calls to her allies, “Magic attacks! Use magic!” With the knocking her head has taken, she can be excused for having forgotten that the woses do not wield fae energy like elves do, something that she only learned for the first time in the pre-dawn battle planning session this morning. Tric’s form of magic bruised the Beard one time; she hopes he can do something like that to the wraith, too. It has been a really long day, and she feels so run down. If she is to work any magic herself, Heppa needs to replenish her energy supply. She pulls out her single springy horsetail and consumes the mushroom. With the burst of vigor it gives her, she tries assaulting the wraith with fae power, but her brambles assail it fruitlessly.

So, magic… Tric muses. Can this wraith be dispelled like I did the darkness? He walks toward the wraith, gesticulating wildly with the rhythm laced into his words. “Look, we tried to be nice. Just go away! Go away, man. Look, everybody agrees. Dolmathengalin, you agree. Blululldrum, you agree. Even Donella agrees. You just need to chill out and go back to the ground. You’re just done, all right? We tried to be nice, but now it’s just over.” The wraith fades in and out some, which Tric initially takes as a positive sign. But then he notices that Dolmathengalin and Blululldrum also shudder uncomfortably. It suddenly occurs to Tric that the woses are creatures of magic, too, and thus possibly at danger from his words of unbinding. The woses do not narrow their eyes angrily at him or accuse him of corruption, but still, their reaction gives him pause. “Oh… Whoa! No!” he gapes, as he puts it all together.

The woses are patient. They continue whacking at the wraith no matter how little damage each blow does. Eventually, they will wear the creature down and the forest will be at peace again. Dolmathengalin’s branches crack further with its blows. Blululldrum presses on, assuring the wraith with each whack that the woses are the proper guardians of this area and, just as the young elf has said, its services are no longer required. Finally the wraith dissipates with a last disconcerting wail, released from bondage.