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Michael-TLH

The Darakan Chronicles, Part 2

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As everyone stares at the gathered animals, attempting to calm them or communicate, or just to ignore them... a great eagle screeches from overhead. Pinions spread it dives toward the center of the camp. All eyes are drawn to the magnificent bird, golden-brown wings, white head as pure as snow, it is almost an avatar for it's kind.

 

As it descends a strange twist makes it almost hard to look at. Settling gently to the ground in place of the eagle is a tall elven man, his blond hair tied back with a length of vine. Dressed in some kind of rippling scale armor, he smiles and gestures to the assembled animals. The enormous stag dips his head and retreats as does the grey wolf, tongue lolling and seeming to grin. The great bear rocks back and forth, obviously amused to those who can read the emotions of the woodland creatures.

 

"Be at peace, I wish you well. I am Taanar of High Branches, leader of the Guardians of the Woodland Wild. I bid you welcome." His common speech is unaccented, his smile warm and bright as a spring day. He looks at each of the Companions in turn, saying nothing. He pauses and frowns for a moment as Mykayla adjusts her saddle and turns a pitying glance upon Warrick. He looks twice and grins slightly upon seeing Stern before finally turning and facing Jesset.

 

"Welcome home, Servant. Your... family... awaits. I am to ease the path to your Bole."

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Eldon suppresses his own urge to crawl into his hat, following Fuzzbucket's example, and looks around. With an almost audible gulp, he says aloud "So um... does this sort of thing happen to you folks a lot, or is this an out-of-the-ordinary experience?"

 

--LSH

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Robert smiles slightly, feeling the best he has felt since arriving in this land.

 

"Either that, or lots of people trying to kill us. It's usually one or the other. But I don't think there's some kind of rota, if you're worried."

 

<E> "Tanaar, you are a Druid?" <E>

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Stern at first remains silent, bowing slightly at the tall elf before the Companions. His divine abilities once more allowing him to sense any potential evil within the elf... Only good radiates from the elf's aura. He is no darkelf or undead minion.

 

"Be at peace, I wish you well. I am Taanar of High Branches, leader of the Guardians of the Woodland Wild. I bid you welcome." His common speech is unaccented, his smile warm and bright as a spring day. He looks at each of the Companions in turn, saying nothing. He pauses and frowns for a moment as Mykayla adjusts her saddle and turns a pitying glance upon Warrick. He looks twice and grins slightly upon seeing Stern before finally turning and facing Jesset.

 

Stepping forward only slightly, Stern introduces himself to Taanar.

 

"An' peace be with ye as well, Knight o' these Woodlands..." Stern bellows as others make their introductions as well, "I am Stern Kestrelmann, Aegis o' St. Marcus, One o' Tha Chosen o' Beleah, Paladin o' Rockfist, Defender o' tha Hadren Crown, n' sworn Vanguard ta these Companions... An' tha' is me faithful warhound Hammer"

 

"Welcome home, Servant. Your... family... awaits. I am to ease the path to your Bole."

 

Stern turns to Jesset, "Ye heard tha man Jess, this Bole o' yers awaits! Besides, we've still got plently o' skulls ta crack on this journey, in tha name o' St. Marcus o' course... "

 

SK

 

 

 

 

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Mykayla's eye watch the new elf cooly and dispasionately. Meeting his gaze with unflinching eyes, when his sight wanders over to Warrick she turns and finishes tying off the last of her stuff. Then moves to stand by Robert and wait to see what happens next. Not my call. she thinks as she waits to see what happens.

LT

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Jesset smiles with a widening of her nostril-covers in an expression that her close friends have come to know as rueful happiness.

 

"Tanaar - well met! It is long since I chanced upon someone along a trail that knew my title. Even the Phoenix Guard avoided it. Outside of the city, and the palace, none have called me servant for years. And even then, it did not carry the meaning that it does here in the Wild. Thank you. It is a good homecoming."

 

She sighs with a large lift of her chest. "And a timely one. We could use a breaking of the trail. I did not think the next leagues would pass easily. It is certain that we have been scried upon. I hope that you can help us defeat that or it may be a long trip for all of us."

 

After pausing a moment she glances behind her - with her gaze falling on the hin in particular. Knowing all but the newcomer knows her history, she presses on with a quiet question: "As we travel, any news you may have about your...colleague Karrock would be welcome. It would do my heart good to know you are not the only druid remaining in these woods..."

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"It is not chance that we are met, Servant. You have been watched for a while now, as are all who enter the Woodland Wild. Yes, Ranger, I am a Druid." Tanaar's smile is warm and friendly. Quite unlike the elves of the Woodland Realm in both action and demeanor.

 

"Barata, come and say hello." He turns to the massive brown bear who shuffles forward, snuffling at the ground. With a lumbering waddle he rushes forward and sniffs Robert from head to toe. Massive claws the size of serving platters reach up and playfully push at the Woodsman. As the bear's eyes meet his, Robert feels a stirring deep within himself, a feeling of trust and friendliness and curiosity and just a tiny bit of hunger. Friend? Hungry. Treat? Barata's nostrils flare and he pushes at Robert's pouches and pack.

 

Tanaar meanwhile, walks over and crouches down in front of Hammer and Garr. Smiling he reaches out a hand and allows them to capture his scent. Both their tails wag and Tanaar begins growling, which causes both dogs to growl and bark back at him. He stands with a chuckle and nod to Stern and Jesset.

 

"We gauge the strength of a person by how they treat the world around them, Vanguard, especially how they treat the woods and wild creatures. You are welcome to this wood." He stops for a second and peer closely at Stern for a moment. "I see you have met Dree. Well... that should make things interesting for you." Chuckling softly, he turns and walks over to Warrick.

 

He stares at the Scout of Searoad in silence for several heartbeats before reaching into a leaf-weave pouch at his side. He carefully takes out a small wrapped bundle and slowly opens it. The smell which wafts out is awful, equal parts rot and corruption. Wrinkling his nose, he closes it, and steps back, waving the offensize odor away. He lightly coughs once and pulls out some long yellow leaves which he wraps around a piece of what appears to be some kind of tree bark.

 

"Your true scent lies underneath that which has been placed upon you. It is still there, but weak... and getting weaker?" He nods before Warrick can answer. "These will help. Steep one small piece of each in hot water. Once in the morning light and once as the sun sets. It won't cure, but it may halt it... for a little while." He nods and takes one of Warrick's hands, closing it around the bundle.

 

"Now then, if we are ready, we can talk along the way, for it is many hours of walking until we reach the Bole." He picks up a large stick which rapidly lengthens and straightens into a perfect staff. Waving it before him on the edge of camp, the trees seem to bend slightly and the brush settles back off a fairly straight path. "The Me'er Ailewynn you can leave to run free. We will see they are taken care of. Barata! Leave the Ranger alone and come along, Bondmate!" He smiles and begins walking down the path.

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Cuchulainn watches as the stag receades into the forest. What symbol was this? Another druid, or my totem? Surely an Islander's spirit would be something more... maratime..... Cuchulainn willingly follows the druid Tanaar down the makeshift path. He walks in stride with the others, except Jesset, though deep inside he knows he walks awkwardly; still used to the shifting lull of a ship's deck.

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Stern nods at Tanaar's remarks. The big paladin smiles brielfy when Dree is mentioned, not fully knowing what to make of the elven druid's comments.

 

Should make things interesting?

 

As the group begins to depart, Stern turns to Jesset and speaks slow and direct.

 

"Where would ye have me in order o' things Jess? I'd gladly take tha point again, but would perfer ta stay close ta tha group in case we're ta come under fire a' our flanks."

 

Stern waits for a response from the blue-horned ranger wizard, and then steers his mount in line accordingly.

 

St. Marcus watch over Tanaar as he aides our cause, help ta heal Warrick o' his affliction, n' guide us safely through this sea o' green...

 

SK

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"Yeah... um... I just got here." Eldon says to the Druid who commands the beasts of the wild. "It's a long story, and I'm sure you want to hear it, just as soon as you've nothing better to do with your time.." That said, Eldon turns, giving the Skoli a small wave and a bright, infectious smile before he turns and begins preparing to depart.

 

"Glad you liked it, Sir Kestrelmann." Eldon finally responds to the powerful Aegis' complements. "It was nothing, really. meager fare for traveling."

 

Eldon quickly prepares Teacup for the day's journey, admonishing the pony quietly not to take its time about. Pointing to the other Companions that these Tall Folk are always in a hurry, and there's Shining Host about, who will turn the pony into a toad should they feel like it. With the proper talking-to done, Eldon fishes in his hat for a bright apple, letting the pony much happily before the Hin saddles up and is ready.

 

Eldon does not hear the command issued from the Knight of Rockfist, but does see the large hound take up position next to the Hin. Even on Teacup, the warhound looks considerably bigger than the Wizard mounted. "Um, hello there. I'm Eldon, and this is Teacup. I'm sure you're like your Master, and won't bite me in twain unless commanded to, but I would like to say it's a pleasure to meet you... and what a lovely coat you have. Truly a proud warrior you are."

 

The Hin clears his throat. "So um... Hammer? I would introduce you to my familiar, Fuzzbucket, but she is not one to speak with large animals who could snap her up for a snack and still want more. I'm sure you'll understand...."

 

Eldon glances left and right, unsure the order of the march, but once it is settled the Hin taps his Pony and he begins traveling with the rest.

 

--LSH

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As the great beast snuffles around his pack, Robert chuckles quietly, enjoying the sense of controlled power the bear emits. He quickly dips into his small pack, bring ing out some of the rations the party were equipped with by the elvenkings orders - he holds them out for the beast to sniff and inspect.

 

<whisper>"Elven food; you are welcome to it for it stuck in my throat." <Whisper>

 

As Mykala joins him, he smiles at her and encourages her to stroke the bear, even if her dragon seems a little concerned.

 

"Seems everyone's come out to welcome our glorious leader back home, doesn't it, my love?" he half whispers to Mykala and as Tanaar calls Barata back to him, he mounts up and takes his position alongside her.

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Jesset, knowing the need for proper caution in this wood, invites others to join the line as they will, saving only some discretion in making sure the rear guard includes a proper warrior, and the van the same.

 

As Stern has volunteered for the van, she welcomes him and the Druid to the front - for leading as well as guarding. She herself will take the rear if none other does.

 

Tho' if there is another volunteer, she will accept their offer gladly that she might ride more closely to Warrick - fated to the middle as he is by the discomfitting disease he suffers...

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Barata lumbers along at the side of his bond-mate, his massive head swinging left to right, nose twitching as he keeps guard as the party walks forward. The brush seems to draw back as Tanaar leads the companions. Roots straighten and dip into the earth, branches bend backwards until the last of the group passes and then gently take up the place they have grown into.

 

As the morning passes, the Chosen of Beleah walk in companionable silence or speak quietly. A group of hawks keep pace overhead, their keen sight making them ideal as scouts and lookouts. Tiny forest creatures scamper about. One squirrel, in particular, reminds them of another companion left behind as it chitters madly and tosses an acorn at the head of Stern. With a flash of it's tail it vanishes into the undergrowth chasing another squirrel in either fun or defense of it's territory.

 

The great wolf and deer have returned as well, flanking the party from time to time. It is obvious to all that they are well protected and in no danger as they stop for lunch in a large clearing. A well worn set of logs surround a large boulder, flattened top perfect for a table. A well-used firepit lies nearby. Gathering up cords of wood under a tarpaulin of leaves, Tanaar places the kindling into the pit and lights it with a wave of his hand.

 

Bowing to Eldon, he grins as he rises. "The smell of your morning meal has made my mouth water these last hours thinking that you would be so kind as to repeat your culinary wizardy, friend. Would you perhaps be willing to let me sample some of the delicacies which your kind are known for?"

 

Barata rumbles deep in his chest and bobs his head up and down as if he, too, is looking forward to a well-cooked meal.

 

"Come, friends... let's take a moment to rest our feet before the last part of our journey begins. We are safe and guarded here, so do not worry." So saying, the tall elf sits on a log and stretches his legs before him. "Tell me of your journeys and how you came to travel with one of the Servant, and I will tell you of what has happened in your absence, Lady... and why we desperately need your help."

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Eldon chatters lightly during the travels, his voice low in respect to those who guard him. Mostly, he is facinated with the obvious magic that lets the Companions pass through these woods effortlessly. Even Teacup can keep pace with the Tall Folk.

 

Eventually, Fuzzbucket pours herself out of Eldon's hat. First a paw lightly batting his nose, then the rest of the grey and black striped feline behemoth puddles around Eldon's lap, twisting to recieve tummy rubs and exposing the only white patch on the animal.

 

While stroking the Familar's fur, Eldon sees the squirrel bean Stern in the head, and has a good laugh at that, his laughter and giggles almost infectious. Fuzzbucket watches the squirrel for entirly different reasons...

 

As the Companions reach the clearing Eldon nods, ready for a break to ease the sores from the saddle. Those more skilled in horsecraft know that Eldon may be able to ride, he cannot ride for long. A fact that will soon change if he is to assist the Companions.

 

As he unsaddles Teacup and takes care of her, he almost jumps when the Elven Druid speaks to him, turning quickly to the Shining Host, he almost jumps out of his skin again for the smile on the Elf's features. Then he smiles back. "Of course! First Lunch is a fine idea! And such a space to prepare it in! It shall be a fine meal, indeed.

 

As uncomfortable as Eldon is around these Tall Folk, he is a Hin. And while their small race is almost unknown amongst the common races, those that do know of them know of their prowess at cooking.

 

Eldon wastes no time on this matter. He expertly judges the fire, nodding his approval. Another kettle is placed near the fire, to warm but not boil. Into this fragrant herbs and spices are added, followed by a whole bottle of sweet wine.

 

His magic hat brings forth all manner of foodstuffs and utensils. A heavy pot, a pan, bread dough for fresh rolls, the list continues. Admittedly, since he has only a firepit to work with, the meals are simple and hearty. The portions are generous and flavorful, rare and exotic spices used sparingly to give amazing flavors.

 

Eldon grins over at the already lurking Stern and makes an exceptionally large roll just for him. "Soon enough, Sir Kestrelmann, soon enough."

 

The tiny Hin continues cooking, his skill amazing, indeed.

 

--LSH

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