The Road Less Taken to Alderhart

Summary of Loot: 2 x Gold, 2 Silver

Mission Status: Completed. Resting in Alderhart with Mama Mo and Papa Mo

Greetings, friend! Where were we?

Under the light of the moon, I had rested soundly. It was as if for a brief moment, in my tiny corner of Everden, the night had reached some equilibrium, some balance that had been so lacking.

Thus when I awoke the next morning, I was bright eyed and ready for the next challenge. Once I made my bed I headed to the dining hall; the innkeeper, a kindly Sprig supplied us breakfast for just a copper. Grains and fresh milk! Oh yes please!

As we ate, the innkeeper complained about the low coffee supply; there was too much danger for merchants to journey on the roads due to bandits! While listening to their woes, we were joined by a traveler named Fillion, who was another Vulpin. Fillion was an apprentice of Eliza searching for the Gem of Seeing! (This fact would later become very important to me.)

I should mention that last night we agreed to escort Eliza to Alderhart, so Fillion was joining us! Our group has grown so much; let me see if I can list them all correctly: Huitaca, Katya, Mavry, Rhen, Copper Robin, Eliza and now Fillion!

After breakfast, we departed the inn and immediately veered off the roads into the forest to avoid trouble. While the woods provided more cover, they were dense and difficult to navigate. Huitaca was the brave soul to first volunteer and she got lost. As time wore on, Fillion kept asking her, “Do you really know where we are going?”

At one point, out of concern, Mavry climbed up a tree to determine from a higher vantage point if we actually were heading the wrong way.

“We need to go North!” She called down from the tops of the branches, re-directing us.

“I knew you were going the wrong way!” Fillion was triumphant.

“All right Miss Sassy why don’t you lead,” Eliza quipped to Fillion

So Fillion took the lead.

The morning was actually pretty peaceful; we did not encounter any enemies! In fact, strangely enough we saw a lot of giant elk! I had never seen giant elk in person, only in books. They were not at all troubled by us, although we were still a bit nervous; elk can have quite the temper. Each time we would encounter an elk it would be drinking from a pool of water. We would try to sneak past, but poor Huitaca could not quietly move in her armor. However when the noise would disturb the elk it would simply lift its majestic head from the pond and stare blithely at us before turning back to drink again.

After another hour or so, it became clear we were getting lost once more. Or we just felt like we were going in circles because we kept running into elks drinking from ponds. Was it the same elk or a different elk? Was it the same pond or a different pond? We couldn’t decide! Fillon was also slowing down, seemingly uncertain.

“Are you sure we aren’t lost?” Mavry was supicious.

“Of course not!” scoffed Fillion. But Fillion did not pick up the pace.

So I began observing our surroundings and I saw a little beetle on the ground who looked a lot like Susan’s Normal, except much tinier. I started talking to it, to see if it could help us get our bearings.

“City, what’s a city?” it chirped rapidly. “Trees, grass? Trees?”

No help. So I looked around again and saw some flies buzzing.

“City? You mean food? Oh yes we know where to find food.” The fly buzzed.

“Yes, food, where is the direction of food?” I asked.

And the fly helped re-orient us north. After I relayed this information to the group and indicated the correct direction, Fillion confidently stated “Of course, that’s north; that’s where I was headed!”

So we continued, until we came upon a Gallus. She was a druid and immediately recognized our bond, referring to me as “sister.” Her name was Galia and she was foraging in the woods. She informed us that the ponds, the elks were drinking from, were healing waters and moreover they also keep the elks calm. What a relief! Also good to know there are ponds of healing, as they can be of good use!

Not long after leaving Galia, we came upon another pond. But it was different; it was steaming and scalding hot! Huitaca out of curiosity started poking it with a stick when suddenly sprites sprung out from the waters!

We had such difficulty landing blows on the tiny sprites. Eliza and Fillion seemed to have disappeared once the fey started attacking, although occasionally I could hear Fillion’s taunting voice teasing the miniature enemies. At last in frustration, Huitaca whipped out her war hammer and smashed one of the creatures dead! The other fell soon after.

We rested for a brief moment under a tree to recover from our fight. Fillion had reappeared, playing the lute. Eliza returned as well and was relieved the battle was over. Mavry excitedly tried the water to see if it had healing properties but nothing happened.

When we resumed our travels, Huitaca took the lead. As we continued, she made a gruesome discovery.

“I smell something rotting, like a dead body!” Huitaca’s wing covered her beak.

Sure enough in the distance was a rotting corpse, Rhen and Mavry approached closer to the body’s location to investigate.

“The body is ripped in half,” Mavry called out to those of us who stayed far back from the gory scene.

“It’s nobility, a Corvum. Pretty nicely dressed. Well.. the part that we can see at least is well dressed,” added Rhen non-plused.

Huitaca then joined them and noticed drag marks along with a trail of entrails.

“We should probably go around,” she advised wisely.

We continued although I would be lying if I didn’t say I was not perturbed; what kind of creature could have ripped a large Corvum in half! It makes me quiver to think it! Thankfully it wasn’t long after that we decided to make camp and rest. I disguised our area once more with plenty of vines and flora.

I offered to take second watch of the camp. I convinced myself that the evening before had changed my perception of the night; we are now friends and the moon is my guiding light. But as I took watch I immediately became uneasy in the darkness. Once again I heard noises, the sounds of twigs snapping and careful footsteps! Sure enough bandits had set themselves upon the camp. The noises soon woke my friends and they responded in kind handily overtaking two of the robbers.

In the dim light, I could see Huitaca fighting with one of the Mapach bandits, who started to turn tail once they realized their friends had fallen. I felt this surge of anger – rage at their disruption not just with our camp but with the peace of Everden! They have wreaked enough havoc! And with my quarterstaff, imbued with the power of nature, I smashed it down upon the Mapach’s head.

The battle was over but the camp was in tatters. After the fury of the fight, the bodies of the bandits were more visible in the moonlight. It was clear they were pretty emaciated and with that realization I felt sorrow and horror at their apparent desperation. My companions and I took their bodies a ways from the camp and remorsefully I covered their shallow graves with a bed of lilies.

Then we tried to rest once more, but it took me some time to sleep. What has sent Everden a-tumult? It is not just banditry, it’s Calamity, it’s the monsters that hide in water, monsters that rip Birdfolk in half, it’s the undead in unseen quarters… There is little peace.

Suddenly I was in a field of lilies. Lilies stretching out disappearing into the distant horizon. Far away I heard a voice say “Paikea!” Low but panicked. It repeated more urgently, more loudly, “Paikea!” The horizon smoked and the lilies began to go up in flames. Rapidly the fire blazed quickly towards me but my feet were firm to the ground. I tried to open my mouth to speak but nothing came out. I was on fire. I could feel the intensity of the heat burning my skin. My eyes closed.

My eyes opened and I was truly on fire. The camp around me was in flames. My quills burned, my skin was in agony. I rose up and ran towards the river when I saw from my peripheral a fire elemental. In an instant everything blazed bright white and then black.

I was shocked to awaken in the camp. My companions had healed me and extinguished the fire monster. I was shaken and slightly smoldering but alive. You would think I would have curled up in a ball forever in fear at such a brush with death. But on the contrary I was so grateful to not be dead, it motivated me to press on.

We started late that day, close to the afternoon; we needed more rest after that night! Traveling was thankfully uneventful, except we kept on getting lost. So I tried to elicit help from the forest bugs again when I found a beautiful Monarch butterfly. Her name was Buttercup and she referred to Alderhart as the “Big Tree” with plenty of jasmine and milkweed which is apparently her favorite! She lead the way to Alderhart and after last night’s events it was a relief to have Buttercup’s aid.

At camp I did not take watch and slept, the entire night! What a surprise to not be disturbed by bandits or flaming balls of fire! When I awoke in the morning I assumed the evening was uneventful. But over breakfast Huitaca told us this fascinating tale about a pretty Hedge she and Mavry met during her watch. Her name was Molly. She was searching for herbs for her potions and since Huitaca and Mavry helped she let them keep two Ryath root! She did mention, however, that she has an evil sister named Middenheap and we should practice extreme caution if we were ever to encounter her!

Buttercup was still with us; I had given her a fresh bed of flowers to rest on and she was ready to lead the way bright and early! The dewy morning passed without incident and presently before us we could see the large tree of Alderhart in the not too far distance. My heart soared in relief! As we got closer Eliza interjected.

“Wait! I know a secret way!”

Through the branches and leaves she revealed ancient stone steps leading to an entrance I have never used before! We followed right into the busy metropolis of Alderhart! Buttercup parted ways with our thanks.

Alderhart was a riot of noise, teeming with Birdfolk and Humblefolk alike! I had completely forgotten there would be a festival today – The Crown and Sword! So to the disappointment of my friends who wanted to cash Walden’s check, the bank was closed. I am not so keen on receiving the gold, but I am happy to thwart Walden in any way.

Thus we stopped at Eliza’s shop in the busy marketplace. When we first arrived, I was distracted, wanting to leave soon so we could make our way to the Birdfolk Council! As Eliza displayed trinkets for “discounted” prices, she and Fillion began discussing the Gem of Seeing again and I heard Eliza say:

“A wise old Hedge would know where it is, I think his name is Nestor…”

Nestor! My head snapped to attention.

“You know, you know, Nestor?” I stammered.

And Eliza shrugged. She said,

“I heard he was last in Meadowfen.”

But I was in Meadowfen just days before and there was no sign of him! I quietly process this information. Nestor is in Meadowfen…

No one was interested in buying any more objects from Eliza and soon after we headed to the Birdfolk Council. But once we arrived we were stopped in our tracks by a resplendent Perch Guard, flanked by colorful banners. He informed us we needed to follow the correct government procedure to gain audience with the council and directed us to the Magistrate’s office.

Magistrate Gregor Thornspur was a dull colored Luma with an odd feather sticking straight out right above his eye. He immediately recognized Mavry, I am not too sure how they know one another but I didn’t inquire. The fact that he is friends with one of my companions gave me some relief; after our encounter with Walden I am a bit suspicious of government employees and their motives. He acknowledged our plight and promised to help so long as we gave him something in return of course.

“I want you to take care of those blasted Jerbeen,” He was clearly agitated.

“Which Jerbeen specifically?” Mavry inquired, a bit confused.

“You know the little ones that have been wreaking havoc on the city! Vandalizing, robbing, disrupting the peace! Take care of them and I’ll make sure your letter is on the top of the pile!” He slammed his wing on the desk dramatically.

We leave and soon after we find the Jerbeen in a tight little alleyway just off the busy roads, gambling and carrying on. They were merely children. In their tiny voices they try to bully us away, but in little time they reveal that they lost their parents in Ashbarrow and had nowhere else to go. I look to my friends; we must help them!

Fillion stepped up and convinced them to take up tasks with Eliza to find some honorable work. She wrote them a quick letter of recommendation and sent them on their way to the shop! I hope they are able to work with Eliza and I hope she will show them some understanding.

We return and inform the Magistrate the Jerbeen children would no longer cause trouble and he is true to his word. Immediately, we are summoned to the Birdfolk Council.

When we arrive, we are greeted by Bita, a beautiful Gallus and speaker of the Birdfolk Council. The council surrounded our group from up high on an elevated dais. They informed us quite serenely that they read the scroll from Ardwin and while they understand our concern, it wasn’t at the top of their priorities at the moment.

I listen almost in disbelief. How can Calamity not be of utmost concern?

“Bandits,” Bita sneered. “They are ruining our commerce, robbing and killing upstanding citizens and destroying our peace.While it is horrible that Calamity has taken another village, that problem is more contained than these bandits! They attack at random!”

“With all due respect,” intoned Rhen, “Calamity is truly the source of these problems. The destruction of villages has resulted in many displaced citizens. Crime, is becoming their last desperate resort.”

Yes! Yes! I thought. But infuriatingly the Birdfolk Council shook their heads and began to counter. That’s when the alarmed sounded.

“Bandits! Bandits!” cried a voice.

We see from high above a group of Humblefolk trying to break through the city gates with the Perch Guard holding them back and restraining individuals who managed to get through. Huitaca and Rhen immediately glided towards the skirmish. Mavry followed climbing down speedily after them. The rest of us were slower taking the steps to the bottom of the trunk. By the time we arrived the commotion was dying down and Huitaca and Rhen were convincing a Perch Guard the Mavry was not one of the bandits.

“I saw her!” said Mavry, when she was let go by the guard.

“Who?” asked Fillion.

“Frey!”

Yet she had escaped in the chaotic throng. Other Humblefolk were being taken away in chains. It was a sight that made me sick, but there was not much we could do. It was getting late and we were all tired and frustrated from the day’s events. I invited everyone back to my parents’ place to rest.

Our house is tucked in a quiet corner of Bright Hallows. We always have budding flowers growing all around our cottage; dark green vines and brambles with ripe mulberries often twine around our porch and doorstep. As we approached, the sun was setting and its graying brown walls were suffused with vibrant hues of pink and orange. I was home.

It was almost as if Mama Mo was expecting us. She was right at the foyer the moment I knocked and entered. The smell of fresh baked apples filled our noses.

“Hello Paikea! Who are your friends?” She didn’t miss a beat.

I excitedly introduced my companions as I hugged my mother in a warm embrace. Papa Mo appeared in the kitchen with his apron on.

“Just in time, we made pie, Pai!” he winked.

And sure enough pies filled our kitchen counter! They must have known we were coming!

As we ate dinner (and pie), we recounted some of our adventures and my parents listened contentedly. I also told them that Nestor might still be in Meadowfen and that he may know the location of the Gem of Seeing. My dad immediately went to his books.

“The Gem of Seeing, let’s see,” he winked again as he read outloud. “Hmmm. Hmmm. Ah yes. …. Bestows truesight when you peer through the gem…. Allows you to see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects… detects visual illusions… Wow what a powerful item!”

Could Nestor know the location of such an item? In honesty I would not be surprised.

Soon I could tell my companions were getting sleepy. Rhen departed for his own quarters. The rest of us gathered in the living room and my bedroom. I summoned flower beds for my friends. I also made a small one for Buttercup on the windowsill with plenty of jasmine and milkweed in case she decided to come to visit!

I am so happy to be home. I truly do not want to leave! At least for a while!

Published by wallsofwinterfell

Engineer. Writer. World Traveler.

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