The sky seemed duller somehow.
I sat under a tree at the edge of my forest gazing deeply upward towards what seemed an endless array of possibilities. I was greeted, as I pondered, by the twitch of my pointed ear. It signaled the nearing of something. It came from the east, climbing upward towards me across the mountain. Having tracked and killed many animals of multiple times my size, this was not surprising to hear, though the noise was of two legs walking at a time… and several sets of them.
For the first time in my dreary life, my heart skipped a beat as I pulled my bow forward and drew an arrow, ready to fly. I buzzed into the leaves above me, and watched as the noise lumbered closer. I peered into the fields below me on the mountain. I saw from my point of vantage over the trees, a pillar of smoke. Had something happened? This place was long since abandoned by the humans and their worship of that horrible beast. Who would wonder here now?
Perhaps more orcs roaming the mountain seeking out meat and bone to feast on. A man then stepped out from under the trees as my gaze was quickly drawn to his shining armor. He wore the sign on his chest. One of bright glimmering pride… the beast itself displayed on his chest. Had they returned? The humans, to reclaim their once strong temple?
I flew down to meet them, arrow ready. There were more to them than I expected. Another human, this one in robes. There was also a dwarf, who looked deeply troubled. None of them noticed me at first until I shouted to them.
“You there! Where do you tread? What is your quest?”
“We seek the holy temple of Bahamut.” the deep commanding voice of the man in iron replied. “We come to cleanse it of the orcs that have taken this mountain.”
“You know not of the forest you skirt. leave this place, your temple is to the north.”
The dwarf looked up, his eyes weary. “You, little fairy, are in our way. It be not wise of ye’ to fly there. Most assuredly after what we’ve just been through.”
“Then turn your way north, and I shall no longer stand in your path.”
The man in iron suddenly had a hand on his shoulder, “Sir Oakley, if you please.”
“My name is Orsaan, cleric of the great Pelor. Your name, tiny one?”
My eye brow raised, I answered the human in robes, “Tobi. I am known as the stoic if my people.”
“That’s an odd thing for a pixie to be,” he replied. “A compromise then, if you please, Tobi. My companions and I are traveling, we’ve lost several to… tragic things…
Perhaps you would know of a safer way up the mountain. The summit is our quest, for the moment.”
“I might.” My response brought a glimmer of hope to the eye of the dwarf.
“Then show it to us ye’ wee lil’ gnat!”
“Aacorn,” Orsaan replied, “We are nearer his home than ours. Be respectful.”
“I’ll respect two things on this trip, ya bugga’. The coin we get at the end, and the women that come with them!” the dwarf said as he let out a bellowing laugh.
“If it takes you from here, I will show you the way. So long as you never return to this forest.” I told them.
“Well met, then, Sir pixie! Lead on!”
I flew out of my tree and led them through the forest, as promised. As we continued, we came across a purple woman, who was very odd in both accent and manner. After a moment, I’d realized they’d stopped to talk to her. She had been sent to determined what had happened to the group I’d met. I cut in on the conversation and told them we needed to press forward, lest we be found asleep in the wilderness that surrounded the summit. Not a kind place to strangers.
As the lot of them closed their distance, we continued up the mountain. Along the way, they informed me of the woman, a deva by the name of Shara. She had come from the temple in the town they had all left from to find the party and confirm their status for a group of dwarves that had not come with them. I listened intently of their stories, still leading them up the mountain, but said nothing.
Finally, after several hours, we came to the summit. A large flat area that my people had scoured many a time. It was nearing dark, so wee sought shelter and made camp for the night amidst the stone ribcage of a once great structure. During the night, I could swear I heard the flapping of feathered wings and hissing.
Rising before the rest of us, the man in iron readied his armor and weapons to begin a search of the area. Some time later, once the remaining party members had risen, we heard a shriek from within the largest building. No one else seemed to care, or more likely notice, that it sounded inhuman in nature. They rushed to the building to see what made such a horrific noise. I stood there on a branch in the courtyard. I thought of leaving for my forest. Something drew me to their aid as I remembered Daeron just outside the glades.
To Be Continued