On our way to Adernas, we had to camp out another night. By now, I was more than just a little annoyed. Rai, the young beastman, was displaying an infuriating mix of arrogance, child-like innocence and cowardice. He had yet to speak to either Adra or me, let alone thank either of us for something we did. No ‘Thank you for saving my life.’, no ‘Thank you for cooking.’ nothing. He stuck to Sigmir like a leech, thinking her presence would shield him or maybe seeing her as the leader of our group.
That part, I mostly did not mind. I was not a leader, I knew that much. But at the same time a small part of me, minded it very much. I had been burned before, trusting a friend to take over leadership, only to lose all that I had built. Of course, Sigmir had sworn an oath of submission to me but without knowing the fine print, it was not that secure. With that it came down to one question. Did I trust Sigmir, oath or no oath. By now, that question was easily answered. And thus, I did not mind her taking over leadership of the group. Much.
But it wasn’t Sigmir’s behaviour that annoyed me, she was just as annoyed by Rai as I was. She tolerated him acting like a child, but when he hid behind her because he had once again done something rude I was glaring at him for, that annoyed her. During the night, she told me that she believed in personal responsibility - if one acts arrogant, one should have the courage to withstand the displeasure, not hiding behind another like an spoiled child.
Roughly at noon, I got my first look at Adernas. Lenore was scouting once more and I managed to tap into her sight, despite the distance. It felt easier to do so, since I crossed the first divide, but I had a feeling that channelling spells through her would cause negative effects far easier as well.
From the air, Adernas looked like an unorganized collection of houses, built close together for protection. At first glance, I estimated the population at roughly two, maybe three hundred people, living off the land around them, and judging by the few visible fields, they were mainly hunters and gatherers. I tried to see if there were any giantblood around and was unable to spot anything but wolf-beastmen, so we would risk entering the settlement.
Thinking about entering, I almost laughed. It was a bad idea for Sigmir to enter, just in case her tribe had contacts here, passing on the fact that she was here. It was problematic for me to enter, due to my Outsider-Trait. Normally, Adra would be our best bet, but here, she might be the worst to enter, depending if the news of dryads and nymphs killing their hunters had filtered back already. But if we wanted more information and possibly a reward for saving the annoyance, we would have to enter.
As Lenore circled over the village, I asked her to stay outside for some time, watching for suspicious behaviour from the air, just in case. I also made the decision that I would not use magic to conceal my features, fearing that concealment next to a dryad might make them even more hostile than my normal features would.
There was no wall and no guards around but we didn’t make it far into the village when someone screamed, “Dryad!” and a spear was flying Adra’s way. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Rai hiding behind Sigmir, not moving forward to clear up the misunderstanding. But the spear had to be dealt with. No time to draw out runes, so I instantly projected three ice-runes around my hand, willing them into existence and channelling Astral Power through them to manifest a solid ice-shield in front of the spear. It stopped the spear and hung there for a moment before fading away in glittering of silvery shards.
To prevent more attacks, I flared my cloak, letting all six shuttles soar, stretching my Ice Magic as far as possible, even getting some of the snow around us. Under the guidance of my Ice Magic, the six shuttles and a glittering dusting of snow was swirling around us, inspiring awe with both beauty and power.
“Enough!” I did not raise my voice but I tried to draw on the core in my chest a little, amplifying my voice with the strength I had gained after crossing the first divide. It even seemed to work, as there was stunned silence while I let the shuttles hover behind me,
Suddenly, a woman screamed, “Rai!” and run forward. Rai left his hiding place behind Sigmir’s back and moved forward, jumping into the woman’s embrace with a strangled sob of “Mother!”
Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw Sigmir’s face display a grimace of scorn and disgust for a moment, before settling into a grim scowl. Adra on the other hand had a soft, benevolent smile on her face. To me, the whole scene felt light an annoyance.
While Rai had his reunion with his mother, two tall and powerful-seeming wolfman joined the gathering around us. I felt attempted intimidation would be the wrong gesture and they had no overt weapons, so I swiftly moved my shuttles back into my cloak and displayed my open hands in a gesture of peace. It was rather interesting that their scowl was not directed at us, but at Rai, still sobbing in his mother’s arms.
After a moment, one of them looked at the spear, still lying on the ground where it fell and schooled his features in a neutral mask before he turned to us.
“Greetings. I am Giro, chief of Adernas. I want to thank you for bringing my son back. Would you be so kind to tell us what happened?” he asked.
“Of course. My name is Morgana, a Traveller, these are my companions Sigmir and Adra. Why don’t we go somewhere private so we can tell you what we know?” I introduced us and hoped that he would approve the change in venue, I had no need for a lynch-mob against dryads to form out in the open.
Giro nodded and led us into the largest house I could see. The other wolfman followed along, leaving Rai with his mother. The house itself was built out of rather simple materials, mainly wood combined with plaster and furs but it was rather well made for the conditions.
Inside, we were shown to a large table in front of a hearth and seated on one of the benches. Giro sat at the head of the table, with the other wolfman at his right side.
I told the story, telling them that we were travelling from further north and heading into distant lands, far beyond our own. When i came to the combat-site we had spotted, both of them grew very still and attentive, so I went into detail on my observations and the conclusions I had drawn from them. They developed interesting scowls when I told them about the trail we had followed and the state we had found Rai in, their scowls not lessening when they heard about his injury, the healing and the story he had told us. Finally, the second wolfman spoke.
“Thank you. My name is Guto, I was among the hunting party you found. Sadly, your conclusions were rather accurate. We were ambushed and our leader was one of the first to fall. We managed to beat them but we were all wounded to some degree and had no strength left to take care of our dead.” he paused for a moment.
“Are you already healed?” I asked, breaking in a little.
“No, not yet, but my wounds are not dire.” he answered, with a small sigh.
“May I heal you, using magic?”
He looked at his leader for a moment and both nodded, so I stood and walked over. To me, this was a great chance. Healing him did not cost me anything major, a little Astral Power, but it might endear me to the chief and possibly to the hunters if they heard about it.
Not quite knowing where his wound was, I simply used a large rune-heptagon, mixing blood, vitality and regeneration, and carefully channelled power into it. That gave me the now familiar sense of his body and I found a cut on his arm and a puncture-wound in his thigh, both annoying but not dangerous, just as he said. Both had been cleaned and bandaged, but my magic was able to do more. Making sure that everything healed right and well, I let his body provide most of the needed power, exhausting him in the process but a large meal and good night’s sleep would cure that.
I told him just that and the chief invited us to stay the night. Feeling it would be rude, I agreed, just as the door opened and Rai came in with his mother.
Now, Giro was scowling again.