I get to her side, she is laying on her back holding her wound who is bleeding still. Why is she not healing the wound?
It becomes pretty clear why when I kneel beside her, she looks at me but nothing but incoherent mumbling comes out of her mouth, it seems like she wants to tell me something but it's obvious she is confused, but aware enough to understand the situation she is in. Still, I heal her wound, just in time to hear the clanging of heavy armor hitting the floor and I turn to see Lionel hit the ground as the slim figure he was fighting was crawling away clearly too injured to keep on fighting any longer.
Without a care of the orders to take them alive if possible I cast my fire again in the shape of a fox, while the first time was an accident, but I quite like the flame to look like my feral form. The figure is not able to escape the fire and dies in a yowl of pain, I quickly jump on its charred body and siphon his life energy before running to Lionel’s side.
Lionel is still in his armor so I can barely understand in which state he is, the darts that he got hit by before still stuck out his mostly broken chest plate. The only thing I smell is blood, and not knowing where he is hurt I can't help him, and it doesn't help that he seems to be unconscious by the fact that he isn't moving or talking.
I use my claws to cut the leather straps that keep the heavy armor together and take it off of him, under his armor plate is a mess of blood, guts, and bruises, given that the cuts were all where the armor had an opening, but I wonder how he even still breathing, still, now I see where the wounds are and I heal him wasting a huge amount of magic energy, but I don't care and in the end, I leave him on the ground all of his wounds mended.
I look around the battlefield and now notice that the rangers and the foreign adventuring group had joined the fight and piled up on the huge figure, managed to subdue him, and were now staring at me with weapons at the ready. I sigh hoping that the battle was done and say: <I am not an enemy… Please lower your weapons, we were ambushed and I couldn't really capture them without my friends dying> trying to sound reasonable as I gesture to the charred bodies.
Evan from somewhere behind me says: <Ivo… can I get some healing too, I know our allies there might be scared, but I’m feeling fuzzy… I don't think I have much blood left in me.>
I turn around and see Evan sitting against a tree holding one of the more serious injuries but it was obvious that he had taken many slashes from the figure’s blade and was very close to bleeding out, I look at the foreign adventurers for a long moment and seeing that they were not making any move to attack me I rush to Evan and close his wounds, trying to conserve some magic in case I had to fight them too, Evan thanks me and warns me not to lower my guard against the foreigners and I nod.
I turn back to the foreigners and said: <What will it be Pick? Do I really have to fight you 4 too? this mission was damned to fail from the start, we don't have to make it any worse than it went unless you 4 are just more “Renegades” trying to kill adventurers.>
Pick seems to be taken aback by the accusation and says in anger: <how dare you to insinuate that corpse sucker!? we were investigating a trail when the rangers came, not that I have to justify myself with a mangy corpse eater...> he takes a moment to look at me seething with rage but one of the cat people whispers to him: <Come on we got one of them, there is no point in endangering ourselves on a magical creature, we are not prepared to fight it, shame for the bodies, but I’m not willing to die for the corpses of people that went looking for it, at least he isn't taking “tokens”.>
Pick sighs calming down a little and says: <Fine fox, we shall let you return from where you came, be glad to your mother for the feast you got, as next time you might be so lucky> sounding more like he was threatening me or wishing me ill fate than telling me to be careful.
And with that, they leave carrying their captive with him… Damn, I wanted to question one of them, but I couldn't risk my friend’s life, though, maybe. As the foreigners are leaving I shout behind them: <Hey! before you leave, I have reason to believe your group of “Renegades” holds information useful to me, now I’m not gonna ask you to interrogate him myself, but if you could inquire about why their Nekra friend was separated from them and mentioned knowing there wouldn't be a fox around here I would very much appreciate it. It's not like my friends didn't almost die and I did most of the work right?>
I can see Pike’s expression turning into a snarl before he says in a cold voice: <we’ll see, if we find anything that is of your concern we will send notice to the adventuring guild> And with that, they leave.
I am left with the rangers who now approach me and the others and Layla specifically, approaches me and says: <Thanks for the help fox, I don't believe I know your name, we were told that “The one of many names” fortress was attacked, or that something happened over there, so we didn't expect a fox to show up, they were the only fox living around here.>
I chuckle wondering why the long name and answer courtly: <My name is Ivo, and well you can see me as the heir to their stuff, not that I killed her or anything, you can see me as her kid… I am trying to learn more about the world. I was looking forward to talking to someone that wasn’t an adventurer for a long time, shame it has to be in these circumstances.> and I hold my hand out to shake.
Layla looks at the hand for a few moments before shrugging and shaking it and says: <Nice to meet you, Ivo, just a warning if you are gonna leave your fortress some other creature is bound to take it over.>
I shrug and say: <I don’t have the power to keep it to myself, nor do I look forward to having to fight for my life every day without even knowing why, when I wanna settle I’ll come back and get back what is mine… and probably do some renovation>
She chuckles and then says looking at my friends: <we should probably get your friends back to the village, no need for disguise Ivo, you are gonna be our guest, it was thanks to you that the forest is safe again, at least hopefully, who knows about those foreigners.>
I nod and help them carry Marina back as Lionel is a bit too heavy for just one person, so I leave him with the rangers, Evan instead still can walk so one of the rangers helps him move, I carry Marina princess style as I’m a bit too short to carry a human over my shoulder… I need to ask Ira how to change into an older form.
On the way back Marina finally starts making sense again and tells me with much strain: <Thanks… Ivo… Must… Used… Poison.>
I say: <Don’t worry, everyone is alive, we’ll check on the poison when we are back>
Layla says: <We have an apothecary in town, she will for sure know how to treat it, or at least point you to where to direct your healing if you got any spare energy>
I answer: <Well, I used a lot, but I think I never had as much magical energy as today, so I’m fine to do some more healing if needed.>
The walk back to the village is uneventful, Marina and Lionel recover enough to walk mostly on their own even if they don’t seem to be able to focus too well, and they need help walking straight. Lionel is still in a bad shape, needing 2 people to have him walk straight, and couldn't do much but mumble a few disconnected words, but in the end, we are let in the village and into the inn where the adventurers can finally get some rest and be seen by the apothecary.
I notice that since I entered the village everyone disappeared from the streets, I sigh as I wait outside for Layla to fetch the apothecary. He soon arrives, he is a fairly old man, with decently clean robes and a bag that smelled like herbs. I left him to do his job and when he comes back from visiting Marina and Lionel he says that they are mostly fine, they were affected by a poison specifically used to neutralize magic users… very common among demi-humans, makes it very hard to communicate and disrupts thoughts so you can’t shape your magic or even call it out, doesn't do much against non-magic users as it does not impact memory or coordination.
I guess Lionel saved my hide by taking the darts for me.
One last thing he says it's that both of them are gonna need 3 days to recover, no need for magic and he suggests not to ignore the request and let them rest for 3 days because even if magic heals the wounds and can clean the poison the body still needs rest to recover energy and reassess. Whatever that means, something about the body only being able to withstand so much magic before going into shock… maybe it's the same problem my soul would have if Ira didn't help me?
Anyway, I have 3 days to fill up so I go to the tavern part of the inn and talk with the bartender there, he doesn't seem comfortable with me being around, so I keep it short and ask him where I can find Layla, I’m still not great at moving silently yet and who better than a ranger to teach me how to move through the forest without disturbing it, and she seems like the only one who didn’t avoid me.
The bartender answers me hastily but truthfully and I am directed to a barrack-like building near the gates, no signs, but I guess they don't get visitors.
Inside I can see a kind of lounge area or maybe a preparation room? There is a desk, a big table with chairs and a fireplace, there were also armor stands and weapon racks with bows and arrows as well as other kinds of weapons. I see that a few humans are going about their business, one of them says friendly but with a note of fear in his voice: <Hey! I-Ivo was it? the new forest fox? friendly I hope, what brings you here.>
I chuckle and say: <Yeah friendly, no worries, I got no ill will on humans, do you know where Layla is? I need to speak to her.>
The guy nods and says: <She should be in her room, her dad is still missing so she is taking a breather before going back out, they found several bodies of our rangers in the forest with the Foreigner adventurers, most likely they were patrolling when they were ambushed… anyway, down the corridor the last door in front, can’t miss it.>
I nod and follow the instructions. the whole place is pretty nice if you like hunting that is, there are several animal heads propped up as trophies, there are some crudely carved statues of animals and even a few creatures I don't even know anything about, the is also one of a magical fox in its feral fox, even if they were crude whoever made this did a nice job since if you know the creature you know what it is.
I get to the door I was directed towards and knock, I hear the sounds of water sloshing and then Layla saying: <Who is there?! I said to be left alone for a few hours!> clearly pissed.
I answer: < It’s Ivo, I wanted to ask you something, but if you wanna I can come back later>
Layla says: <Oh shit, Ivo, sorry, come on in, I got time for you no worries> Sound ashamed to have yelled at me.
I get in and inside is a kind of office/living quarters room, it looks pretty comfy and has everything a room should have… well except a tv, but well I guess that’s not a thing here, the thing of notice is that there are more crude statues in here, and no hunting trophies.
Layla is in a tub filled with steaming water, the water level being high enough to cover her almost fully except the knees and her head.
I am thankful for my fur or else I'd be blushing like a tomato right about now… never been good with girls… especially naked ones and pretty ones, but it's easy enough to shake the thought from my head and I just focus on what I want to ask her while staring anywhere but at her.
<S-Sorry about the intrusion, if I knew you were taking a b-bath I would have come later> I say apologetically.
Layla chuckles and says: <never met a shy fox, they are generally the ones with the self-confidence to flirt with anything they find interesting. But don’t worry, I was just relaxing, warm water helps…> and shifts in the water.
<I wanted to ask if you could teach me to move silently in the forest… I think I got it mostly by myself, but those cat people in the forest… they made no sound until they were on us> I ask.
Layla sighs: <Wind magic helps with moving silently, most people can’t hear or notice the wind shifting direction, but that said, magic is a crutch, one can be almost completely silent in the forest if they know how to move, look, in about 4 hours I’m going to look for my father’s body, no way I’m leaving him as a “Missing in Action”, and while I made peace with the fact he is not alive anymore, I want his body, to give him a decent burial before the animals come back and eat the body. So you help me find anybody left in the forest, and I’ll teach you how to move silently… not just in a forest, but in an urban field too. You foxes should have a keen sense of smell, you shouldn't have a problem smelling someone dead for a few days>.
I nod, it seems like a fair deal, I got time to kill, and this will train my smell as well as my stealth skills, and I will also get some good reputation from the humans… oh mother… why am I thinking about this in game terms