Bright daylight woke the pair early in the morning and it did not take them long to get on the road again. Only a few more hours walk stood before them and their destination, that and a trio of goblins which were quickly slain whilst being used as sword practice by Rohl and his ruthless trainer Ell.
"Remember the main eight angles of attack."
"Hold your balance."
"Don't wave your sword like that, what are you a complete idiot."
"Predict their movements, parry and then counter."
"It's not that hard."
"Why are you so stupid."
Whilst her basic lessons were short, they did help Rohl improve his technique greatly. Not only did Ell seem to know her stuff but seeing her teach him did give Rohl a newfound respect for the elf who only gave a piercing glare when she saw Rohl looking at her with this newfound respect.
"Draw a picture, it will last longer," was her response during this.
At least the remaining walk was filled with a calm silence instead of an awkward one this time.
"Here, this is the spot of the attacks," Ell spoke as she quickly ended her steps.
Rohl stopped in his tracks and took in their surroundings, the road here was slightly more forested compared to the areas they had just walked through. Thick canopies of trees stood slightly closer to the road, with a thick undergrowth of bushes underneath. A place where anyone could lay in ambush completely undetected, a thought which made Rohl uneasy.
Only a small unkept growth of grass stood between the forest and the road. A growth that would soon be overtaken by the forest if nothing was done.
"It's a perfect area for an attack, aren't the cities mean to keep the forest back from the main roads," Rohl said out loud not really expecting an answer.
"They are, but with the increased monster attacks over the past few years, they've been too busy, this area of forest has expanded by a few miles. The woodsmen haven't dared head into the forest either, so it has been expanding towards Elmon as well," Ell said in return, this was probably the most Rohl had heard her say in one go.
"How do you know so much?"
"I listen, so should you."
Ahh Rohl thought, there was the Ell he knew.
"Well it's not like we can do much to prepare, lets head into the forest and find a good tree then".
A nod was Ell's only reply as she headed into the forest taking off her cloak to prevent it from getting caught in the undergrowth, Rohl soon did the same. Thanks to the thick growth of the forest, finding a suitable tree did not take long, it was a majestic oak with just the right number of branches and leaves to conceal Ell's presence. Once she climbed up, she dropped a small branch on Rohl's head to signal she was ready, not something Rohl was particularly pleased about.
Rohl drew his weapons, braced himself and stood just below the branch that Ell was on, so when the lamia arrived, he could easily stand to one side giving Ell the chance to drop down right on top of the monster. He was soon ready and prepared to unleash his blessing as soon as need be. A part of him was tempted to do it now just in case however that may have kept the monster away, so he decided to wait until it was committed to attacking him.
Unfortunately, the plan failed. No matter how much Rohl shouted, made noise, or even turned his back as to make a good target. No lamia appeared. It was frustrating. Even after hours of shouting "Help, I'm lost, is anyone there," no lamia appeared or any monster in fact.
Another branch to the head made him look up, only to see Ell jumping down from the tree and next to him.
"Where is it? The reports signalled it must have a nest around here, you're making plenty of noise, and I smothered monster tackle on your scabbard. All that and it's still not shown up," Ell spoke in clear frustration. The elf seemed a lot less capable at handling frustration and the way she was fiddling her weapon made Rohl take a few steps back.
"Wait you did what?" he asked confused she had definitely mentioned putting monster tackle on his scabbard.
"Don't worry about it." Here she started pacing angrily as Rohl went to sniff his scabbard and then clothes. He had always had a poor sense of smell, so maybe that was why he hadn't noticed the monster tackle smell emitting from him. It was not a pleasant smell.
"No lamia, means no contract, and that means no money. We can't give up yet. We're going to search for its nest, it can't be more than an hour from here given the hunting range of a lamia." A sort of fervour took over her as she said this and Rohl dared not argue with her. Besides, he had come this far, why not stick it out for a while longer.
Only one worry kept him from voicing his agreement "I've never been in this forest before, what if we get lost." Getting lost in an unknown forest was pretty much a death sentence. Something Rohl preferred to avoid. He couldn't die in some forest, not when he had people relying on him.
"We won't get lost, don't even joke about it."
To Rohl's relief, her tone was neither condescending nor angry, a nice change for once.
After thinking on his question a little more, he quickly felt stupid for asking, everyone knew that elves were at home in forests, they were their natural environment. At least he could blame his forgetfulness on the situation he was in.
"Let's go." Ell's words quickly cut through his inner musings.
"Alrighty," was Rohl's mumbled reply as they set off further into Bureihal forest.
To Rohl, the entire forest looked the same. Fortunately for him, Ell didn't seem to have the same issue as she guided him further into the forest in search of the lamia's nest. After one hour of searching, they had yet to find anything and Rohl's desire to keep searching the forest shrank every second as the forest got thicker and the light faded in the thick canopy of leaves.
Especially since any of these thick oak trees or thorny bushes could be concealing a monster that was just waiting to ambush them. Once or twice, Rohl had paused in his tracks thinking he had spotted the lamia or a pair of eyes looking at him only for it to be a misshapen bush. Such incidents stopped after Ell kept muttering idiot under her breath. Still, it kept Rohl on edge, that and the occasional poke or scratch he received when forcing himself through a particularly annoying path of bushes. Some had spiky thorns, others were laden with juicy red berries which Rohl had enough sense not to eat especially since Ell avoided them like the plague. One of the bushes was covered in blackberries which Rohl greedily stored, there was no reason not to top off their rations after all.
Apart from the berries, he did notice the rare patch of mushrooms, he especially avoided those. Throughout the pairs search, Rohl only saw one mushroom he knew was safe to eat. Unfortunately, that mushroom was crushed underfoot as Ell suddenly halted before rushing to crouch behind one of the birch trees. Her hand raised in the air signalling Rohl to do the same. As he did so he became quickly aware of just how badly he stuck out in the forest. Even with his darkly coloured clothes, it would not be difficult to spot him. Yet they remained in this position for a few minutes as Ell observed the small opening in front of them. At its centre stood a small cluster of trees wrapped in thick vines, the perfect spot for a monster nest.
After positioning themselves downwind they slowly snuck closer to the nest. Rohl seriously doubted then could have snuck up on any monster given how every step he took either snapped a twig or rustled the fallen leaves. Much to their Ell's frustration and Rohl's relief, the area was empty. All that remained was a few animal bones and the remains of a nest. It looked quite abandoned and according to Ell, had likely been so for a week or two. But to her chagrin, she didn't know why and Rohl seriously hoped that another monster hadn't driven out the lamia, anything that could do that was something he didn't want to fight.
"Gods dammit, where is it hiding, I can't afford to be spending this much time here on one stupid lamia." Ell's angry speel was accompanied by angry gestures with one unfortunate tree being slashed at several times as Ell vented out her frustration.
At Ell's second slash, Rohl decided he really didn't need to be this close and soon decided to rest behind a small nearby boulder.
Well, that was until the rock started moving, slowly rising higher into the air, knocking Rohl to his feet as he panickily tried to scramble away, his eyes were locked on the monster as if he were unable to take his eyes off its hulking form.