“Something is wrong.” Sigmir stated about an hour after Lenore and I had severely chastised the three stooges, teaching them that trying to ambush me and mine was a foolish endeavour that would only end in pain. Their pain. During that hour, we had continued our way through the snowed-in forest, looking for game to hunt, something that could feed the people of Yaksha, netting us coin and goodwill in the process. But Sigmir’s statement stopped our prowling search, causing all of us to look at her.
“What do you mean, love?” I asked, curious what she was referring to. I had had a strange feeling tugging at me, causing me to carefully look around but I had been unable to trace that feeling back to its origin. Now, Sigmir was apparently feeling something similar.
“It’s too quiet, do you remember the forest around Tegi, when we visited the second time?” Sigmir asked, making me shudder in memory. Back then, the forest had also been eerily quiet, quiet as a grave, thanks to the Devourer that had sucked all the live from the land.
“You mean…?” I asked, while stretching my magical senses to their limits, fearing that the next moment some creepy monster would jump out from behind a tree. Maybe that was why I had been so disgusted by the Querders and Lamprey, their elongated, slithering bodies reminded me of the tentacles I had seen on some Nethersprites.
“No, I don’t think so.” Sigmir answered, while Adra nodded along. “But something is going on in this forest. Something strange.” she added.
“Let’s be careful.” Adra suggested and we shifted from a slightly casual formation, into a formation dedicated to respond to attacks. Adra went into the front, as our best tracker, followed by Rai, me and finally Sigmir, bringing up the rear.
Keeping quiet and stepping carefully, we continued on our hunt. Sadly, we had no luck, there were the large birds Lenore had seen before, flying in the distance, and we happened upon another small wolf-pack, taking them down once more but wolves were not really tasty. Finally, after some time, Adra called for a halt.
“I don’t think there is any point to continue. There is just no game to be had, something must have driven it away, either the wolves or those birds we have seen in the distance.” she told us.
“So, go into the mountains, above the treeline?” I asked, remembering that we had been able to hunt quite well up there. Just no wolves.
“No, let’s head to Yaksha and find out if they know what’s going on. It might be useful.” Sigmir suggested, causing Adra to nod in agreement.
I was not really happy with that, the gamer in me wanting to complete all quests before heading back but it seemed that the world of Mundus had other customs so I just nodded and Adra re-oriented herself, setting of towards the town. We were not too far away and if we hurried, we should be able to get there around dusk.
What we found was rather surprising. From the forest around the cut area, we were able to see that the birds we had seen before were Wind Raptors, hovering in the area, not trying to attack the city but keeping an eye on things.
Not wanting to cross the distance with birds attacking us, we kept hidden, waiting for night to fully fall, hiding us from their sight.
So, we sat there, discussing why the birds were behaving the way they did. It didn’t take long for us to come to the conclusion that the bowl valley with the dungeon, which I had permanently warped, had been their main nesting space. It was an excellent retreat for them, the bowl-spahe strengthening their wind-magic to a ridiculous degree making an attack difficult to say the least. We would have been torn to shreds had I not acted the way I did, disturbing their magic and, with more luck than good sense, changing their magic in such a way that it was no longer in their control but was turned into wild magic, fueled by the surrounding area and its Astral Power. Lenore and I had tried to comprehend the result of my actions quite a few times but neither of us was certain that we understood what had happened. Not understanding what we had done was irritating but there was nothing either of us could do about it, neither of us had any real formal magic-education. We could only learn by experimentation and discovery.
And in this particular case, maybe our reckless use of magic had worked a little too well, permanently changing the area by bringing the glacial flows of Astral Power to the surface, cooling the area to a point that made it impossible for the raptors to continue living there. Now, with their nesting place destroyed by two-legs, it seemed that the raptors wanted to take revenge on the two-legs and targeted the town to do so.
The next surprise came when dusk forced the Wind Raptors to abandon their blockade. As we were about to start our journey across the clearcut, we noticed that we were not the only beings hiding in the forest-line. Stopping for a moment, we used our varied magical means to investigate and realised that there were dozens of wolves hidden around us, not really doing anything active, just slinking around. I might be anthropomorphising, or would that be sapient-pomorphising, but they gave me the distinct impression of being up to no good, acting like some thugs, skulking in dark alleys.
“Maybe, we should make sure that we are not seen.” I suggested, once we had an overview about the amount of wolves in the area. Again, neither of us had a need to tussle with all of them at once, so the idea to sneak past them was a good one. The others crowded around me and Adra used her magic to erase our tracks, while Rai and I used our Darkness-magic to hide us in the open field, making us an indistinct, dark shadow hidden by the darkness around us. I had to conceal Sigmir and Adra, in addition to myself, making it a rather complex piece of magic, creating a cloak of shadows using runes and stretching it over the other two with Darkness-Magic. Luckily, Rai had his own cloak while Ylva and Lenore were in their Hallows, using that innate piece of magic to hide themselves from the world.
Preparations in place, we started moving, stealthily making our way forward. I kept scanning the field, using Lenore’s vision and noticed that there were other sources of magic creeping around, I was unable to clearly make out what they were doing, but I could hazard a guess that those concealed by the magic were doing just the same as we did, avoiding the massive amount of beasties that surrounded the town.
I quietly whispered to Adra what I was seeing and she focused on the area I pointed out to her, trying to find what I was seeing. It took her a few moments, but once she knew where to look, she managed to pierce through their concealment, telling us what was out there. My assumption had been right, it was another group of hunters, moving towards the town. Unsure if the gates would open for us, we followed the four hunters, careful not to draw attention and when we got close to the walls, they gave a signal and a ladder was lowered, allowing them to enter the town.
We moved close and once we were close enough, Sigmir made contact, quietly asking for the ladder to stay lowered. There were some quiet swears due to the surprise, but just from the fact that we could talk, it was obvious that we were not animals, so the ladder stayed down and we were able to climb over the wall. Nobody really checked, after all, what was gnawing at their walls were wolves and those were not known for their ability to use ladders.
Once inside, I dropped the concealment from Sigmir and Adra, keeping myself hidden in Sigmir’s shadow, unsure if my Outsider-Trait would cause trouble. When asked, the others simply answered truthfully, that we were hunters and had been unable to track down game, so we came to the town, looking for more information. Sadly, neither the hunters nor the watchmen had any real information, just that the woods were teeming with wolves, killing everything and the Wind Raptors had turned up a few days ago, circling the town and attacking everything moving on the open ground around town.
The town itself could easily defend itself against both threats, the Wind Raptors had felt the bite of Yaksha’s bows and ballistae when they came too close on the first day and the wolves hadn’t even tried to attack the walls, so it was a bit of a stand-off. A few hunters, especially the few Travellers in Yaksha, tried to sneak across the clearcut in the night, coming back the next night with their prey, if they had any.
With those things in mind, we headed towards the inn where we had stayed the last time. It had been quite good, so we wanted to stay there again.