Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by The Harbinger of Ferocity
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The Harbinger of Ferocity Aspect of the Ferine

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"Of course, it is just a request, I... well, we can talk more about it once you have rested. Let me quit bothering you for now, if your friends are here to meet you..."

"Then I take it you will find me soon enough again." Brannor's return came to the fellow stranger, seeing now the elderly Torus and far more youthful Shepard had arrived.

His watchful eyes noted them warily, knowing that even in the dim candlelight they could see well his inhuman silhouette and how it towered, even leaning as it was from its weakened state. Enough so was it, that as Waladra seemingly prepared to see himself out, the knight-aspirant moved what was between paw and hand clutching to his still bloodied chest. Dry as it was, the pale fur was stained and had done well with its flesh to turn a killing blow aside; in truth what spurred this was that it took everything for him to not let go and collapse to rest. The faint ache of subdued pain was more an anchor than much else he had at the moment in the realm physical.

"I am alive, priest."

His short, curt point was made before he looked away from them and to the stonework floor.

"Or..." The voice added after a pause, the beast looking to the three from the corner of its eyes, "You can speak with them... but not here and not now."

What was Brannor made its suggestions where it could, if only to distract from itself as it tightened is grip at the chest. All it sought to do was hide away and lick its wounds, which made it as much a struggle internally as it was externally to maintain this altered self. At some point, some day, the huntsman knew he would act with it - but not like this, even less like now. It was no simple tool to be exploited, not like those of men after all, not like that of the dragon's lightning either. There was no perfect way to maintain it in the shape and inexperience he had with his gift. His other talents were all far more mature by comparison, but they were minor to this; the blessing of the Pale Lady too great a grant for most.

"Go..." He snarled now, revealing his teeth in a clear menace and growling before looking away and leaving the tip of the length of his tail to move with visible irritation.

One was not wise to corner a wounded animal and if Brannor was anything at this point, he was not far from that.

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“Go…”

The tiger barked ferociously, as shadows irked back an echelon.

“Aye, Brannor. We will not lurk over you, like vultures, waiting for any sign of deterioration or vibrancy.” As the monk swept out, the pirate followed his staggering exit. Motioning to Kyra with his Tethyrian cane, the druid ushered the priest towards the door. “Let us depart, las. It seems we have a shepherd missing from his flock.”

Not lingering any longer, to discern whether the cleric would follow his lead, the briny elder tailed Waladra into the hallway, waiting until enough of an expanse separated the duo from the sight, but likely not from the feline’s acoustic grasp of their delayed conversation.

“Master, you say?” The dribbled inquiry delved further.

“Did he flee like a deer in cowardice? Or was his disappearance linked before the events here in Greenest?”

The salty senior just sighed, attenuating his line of questions for a reflection.

“Hundreds of mighty oaks are born every year from the amnesia of squirrels, forgetting where their cache of nuts was buried, before the blanket of winter diguised their treasures under snow.” Freed finally from the torture of Xaron, the sailor’s thoughts fiddled, with ease, about the discordance of forming a search party in lieu of their new mission, to locate and destroy the hoard of a dragon queen. With another tap of his staff, Torus provided a rebuttal to their lost leader.

“My mind doubts your teacher actually desires to be found, lest such a thriving opportunity be squashed from its onset. If he desired reinforcements, someone amongst your fold must know his whereabouts. I don’t believe our attention during such a tumultuous season should be so easily forfeited, while Tiamat’s harvest grows.”

The interrogation again continued.

“Lad, what is so fruitful about reaping this one man?”

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The monk stopped and turned towards the old Druid, listening to what the man had to ask from him. His first question on its own was already a grave insult to the brotherhood and that was visible from his face. The wounded monk's sour mood did not get any better as this old fart continued in their disrespectful tone. While he did not know that Torus was finished by the point he finally had enough, he hit his staff against the floor. "Enough!" the monk barked, agitated enough to break the tranquillity expected of his kind.

He took a few deep breaths, calming down considerably before actually answering the Druid's inquiries. "Leosin, our master, has been investigating these raider for months, yet the first thing you ask is whether he ran away in shame. What sort of a disciple would even consider finding again a master that showed naught but cowardice? No, I fear his bravery has outdone itself and that he might have tried to infiltrate the cult's ranks." The monk tried to stand up straight but winced in pain as their hurt leg got too much weight on itself in the process, forcing him to return to the slightly hunched down posture.

"You ask what is so special about him. There may not be a man in these lands that knows more about those raiders than him, outside of their ranks that is. All I would ask is that you see whether the cult has captured him... all his work going to waste... I dread the possibility", they finished replying to Torus' questioning with a shake of their head. Maybe seeking out this master would be worth their time after all?

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Parum had returned to her bunk after all the chaos had died down. She just felt completely exhausted. She thought that the whole thing would make her restless, but she was asleep just a few seconds after laying her head down. She didn't wake up until much later while everyone was getting out of the keep. Despite all that's happened, the people of Greenest were working hard to return to their normal lives. Bitting her lip Parum had to admit she felt ashamed. She was still shaking and scared from her encounter with the dragon and just... Everything. Yet these people, commoners, were moving on with their lives. Parum supposed that they had to. It's not as if they could just curl up and die.

Getting off her rump Parum walked around and tried to find the others. NO Doubt people like Kyra and Orchid would be helping the people of Greenest. Brannor was definitely still resting. Torus... Parum wasn't sure what Torus would be doing. Perhaps entertaining the children, trying to life their spirits? Stopping in the middle of a hall Parum looked at her rapier. Perhaps there was something she could do to help too. Going to what was left of the town square Parum sat on a box. She watched people mill about, some people trying to make repairs to their homes, others just shuffling along. Taking her viol off her back Parum took a deep breath. "I have no idea what I'm doing... This is probably a horrible idea anyways..."

Taking a deep breath Parum tuned her viol, drew her rapier, and played a somber song. It was just what she was feeling for at the moment... She probably should have tried to play something more upbeat, but her mind was just on the dread and melancholy. Parum wasn't sure if this was the best way to go about it or if maybe she should just pick up a tool and help repair the village. But playing music was all she knew how to do. She hoped that it was good enough.

Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Norschtalen
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"Of course Brannor. I'll stop by again later with food and water." Kyra said to the wounded man. Gruff as he may be, he has earned Kyra's respect, so she'd stop letting his instance on naming her by her title bother her so much. Though she'd certainly not tolerate others doing the same. Kyra left the room alongside Torus, who immediately questioned the monk. Kyra was rather surprised to see the old man bad mouth the stranger; while Kyra knew the monks did not participate in battle, their healing services were immensely appreciated. Kyra and the other healer had their hands full enough just treating those wounded getting here, without the help of the monks many soldiers would have also been left for dead.

"I apologize for my friend's words, good sir. After everything that's happened we're all very... Frustrated. That being said if what you say is true, than my friend here may have a point: trying to find your master while he is undercover may undo whatever task he set himself out to do. That being said..." Kyra thought about it and decided that she would make her decision now. No more hesitation. "It would be imperative that we know more about our enemy. We already know that they command an adult dragon, a mighty warrior, and even a nest of hatchlings. I have no doubts that they have even more among their numbers. As much as I wish that a righteous fury would be all that's needed to fight these evil-doers, a calm and informed mind is needed to defeat these enemies." Kyra only wished she knew more then what that prisoner told them. They didn't know the exact location of the hatchery, though Kyra was certain that they could find wherever they had set up their main camp. Perhaps that would have clues. Not to mention that they traveled as an army, and Kyra could easily track their movements with their numbers. Even if they scattered all she needed was one lead out of a thousand.

"What else can you tell us about your Master, Leosin? What does he look like, and where was the last place you knew he was at? And has he told you anything before he departed?"

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"What else can you tell us about your Master Leosin? What does he look like, and where was the last place you knew he was at? And has he told you anything before he departed?"

Torus eyed the prideful monk as Kyra also questioned him. His tongue spun another test for the brother, discerning the urgency and need of this request.

“Scars are like luminaries. Bright, vain, and pregnant with glowing intensity against the sea of shadows. My intention was not to soil your honor nor uproot your dignity. But to simply trawl or cut bait. In this dark hour of need, I hunted to see if our stars actually aligned. Sometimes, cornering an animal often reveals a hidden savagery.”

He allowed this additional subtle slur to sink in; its parable premeditated to analyze the monastic’s commitment and salve towards his friend. Nothing more. The druid could feel the familiar madness of Xaron rising, but her thoughts and emotions palpably absent. Was she really gone? Or had she become a part of his liminal persona, impossible to extricate without overt conscious effort? Likely the fatigue fashioned his hardened mind similar to putty, now softened and malleable to the whims of vile fermentation, by the exhaustion that plagued all.

His glossal ring, a brand of his former possession, rang true, once more.

“Domestication of the future mandates identifying the dangers of the strange unknown. As much as possible. My hail of insults is a net to merely capture the brio behind your search for Leosin.”

The pirate awkwardly shifted his gaze to the priestess, while quickly appeasing the other caustic scorns his vernacular connived. The Tethyrian fang suddenly elevated high in his grasp.

“If we are to fish the same monstrous whale your master still harpoons, the bones of this old sailor will offer this pole to your expedition.”

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Having at last won a second hard fought battle, the knight of the wild at last collapsed.

The keened ears had awaited their departure, listening closely for every footfall's step and word distant they made themselves until there was no more resistance to be had. Brannor caught himself upon his hands and coughed, the fierce burn of power leaving his body and residing again only in spirit; it was no pleasant sensation to touch, to taste something that powerful and then have it violently ripped away. There was no taming that strength within, not now at least. Grasping for what solitude he could, his eyes and jaw remained clenched and tight until, minutes after, all was as it appeared again.

The man rolled only then to his back and leaned against the wall of the small chamber, rattling his bloodied piecemeal armor until it ground to a halt against the stones, its noise absorbed only in slight by the thickness of the battered cloak. There Brannor sat, at last alone again to himself.

No great surprise washed over him as he removed, bit by bit, his vestments; it was no revelation that he survived. No disappointment that he failed to kill the dragon. No shame in having scorned its notions of "honor" either. Had things been ever so slightly different, the predator in him would have killed the beast without mercy. The stakes were as simple, to his vibrant golden eyes even as mere man, that nature's balance was cosmic and all encompassing. Good, evil, everything in between, all mechanisms of the eternal and changing cycle. The only role he had was to pursue what he was born to do.

Now that, that would take true sorting out.

Diving deeper into the soul, calling out to the savage heart within as he had so briefly, was the only way to do so. It made all things clear, even where he could not see them when he looked upon his tired hands. They trembled ever so gently from the lingering rush of primal might and the onset of fatigue.

"So," Brannor's dry lips began, closed eyes now leaving him alone in the dark, "That was why I was led here...

Even in the black he could see himself for what he was in reality, "I understand now."

He rose slowly to standing, first to a foot and a knee, never taking his mind's eye off and crept to where last he knew the humble bedding to be. It was no rolling green beneath a sea of stars or under a bough, but it was a den made of quiet and darkness that could give him the time to mend his wounds and continue to look inward.

"... thank you."

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The Governor was surprised to see Orchid storming away so easily and tried to call after them: "Wait, I didn't..." Unfortunately, the half-orc was too focused on the matter of obtaining new stuff to hear his call. "Well, I hope Escobert does not chew his ear off", he said to his guards and headed off in the opposite direction. If he was tired, the case with the dwarf might well be even worse off. Best of luck to the adventurer, for the castellan clearly had not taken a liking to them during their earlier encounters.

And the hunch of the governor had been right. Escobert was doing his best to get things under control after the martial law that had been set up for the duration of the attack, slept an eyeful at most, kept calling most of the shots when it came to logistics and now that he finally was about to wrap things up, this buffoon had the gall to come demanding free things from him! "All right listen 'ere you knife-eared... Arg, I've weapons and armour all right, but I don't know how many! Tis night 'as been chaos! 'sides, we dun have tougher skin for ya, and I dun think ya wan' a shorter sword either. 'less you 'ave come lookin' fer harder steel. We can see to 'at in tha mornin', but gimme time to organise tis pile o' crap..." he poured out before waving to dismiss the Berserker. Well, at least they promised something in due time.



The monk was evidently much happier conversing with Kyra, listening to her without a hostile glint in their eyes, but once Torus explained themselves further the familiar disapproval returned. "You would play your games with someone who genuinely seeks out your help, old man? If not for your friend here and your earlier achievements, I might question whether you are up to this task at all", they retorted to the sailor's words before answering to the local: "Master is a half-elf with black hair. When I last saw him, he was wearing simple travelling garments... he didn't say anything, no, but once we had retreated to this keep we noticed he was no longer with us... slipped away on his own I fear. All brother Brightwood could find when he returned looking was his broken staff and his choker that he always wore. I am afraid his plans of infiltration didn't quite work out..." Brother Waladra shook his head before starting to turn again to make his way back to his resting place. "But if you will excuse me, my wounded leg needs some rest."



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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Lucius Cypher
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Orchid was at first surprised at Escobert's aggression, only to narrow his eyes at him with a bit of anger himself. Was this how the dwarf treats the heroes of Greenest? Orchid was not normally a prideful person and didn't care too much for reputation, but he didn't like people who were mean to him. Fortunately Escobert at least conceded that he was simply busy, which Orchid could understand, and that he'll have something ready for Orchid by tomorrow morning. It'll have to do. "Okay!" And just as quickly as he came Orchid ran off and left Escobert back to his work.

Walking back through the keep Orchid seemed to be in high spirits. Tomorrow he'll be fully rested, better equipped, and would set off to hunt down those cultists. He wondered what became of the others as the half-orc hasn't seen neither hide nor hair of them since Brannor had came back from his duel. Speaking of Hide, Orchid still had his drakehide tanning somewhere in the keep. He hoped no one had knocked it over or disturbed it since he left. That would make him really sad. As Orchid wandered he spotted the familiar faces of Torus and Kyra talking to an unfamiliar monk. Orchid didn't catch anything they were saying as the monk started walking away. Filling the empty void the monk left, Orchid turned to the others with a look of curiosity. "What happened?"

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Parum finished her melody but no one stayed to watch. Everyone was too busy getting back to their old lives. She wasn't sure what she was hoping to accomplish but Parum was fairly certain she didn't achieve it. Sighing deeply the halfling put her instrument away and walked back towards the keep to look for the others. At this point she felt that she'd be more useful if she stayed with them than if she just kept wandering around on her own. While she thinks that they're all still very crazy for wanting to go against a dragon cult, at least they were on the right path, as oppose to Parum's own aimless and uncertain road. Perhaps this is what destiny intended for her. Or maybe she's just been swept up in the moment of things.

It wasn't hard for Parum to find the others, as she figured that they would be near Brannor's room. Sure enough when Parum went to his room they they were, all three just standing outside of his door talking. She arrived just in time to hear Orchid ask his question so he must have arrived recently as well. "Hello." Parum greeted everyone present as she approached. From the looks of things Torus and Kyra were discussing something important, possibly with Brannor, before Orchid and Parum had arrived. No doubt it has something to do with the dragon cult that just left, and she was certain that Kyra wanted to go after them. Orchid of course would do so no problem. Brannor would, perhaps after he's healed. Parum wasn't sure what Torus might have thought but so far his actions seem dedicated to defeating these cultist. Only Parum had some shadow of a doubt, but she'd suppress it for now. Maybe later once things have really settled down, Parum can try to straight out these feelings she had about all of this.

"Did I miss something?"

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Kyra could only sign and shake her head hearing why Torus was acting the way he was. Out of respect for her elder Kyra did not say anything to him, but she made a note to herself that she'd need to make sure Torus doesn't lead a conversation next time. The last thing she needs is for him to start playing mind games with potential allies out of distrust. Save that for complete strangers. At least the monk was able to tell Kyra what Leosin looked like. A black-haired half-elf wasn't much to go by, but it would help narrow things down if Kyra finds an elf by that description. Most elves she met were fair haired, so a black-haired one ought to stick out in her mind. After the monk had left Parum and Orchid had arrived. Seemed like as good of a time as any for Kyra to tell them her plans.

"One of the monks, who helped tend to the wounded during the attack, their master has vanished. They think the dragon cult has taken him prisoner. Chances are they have even more villagers prisoner... I hate to think what their purpose will be." Kyra grabbed the sling of her quiver tightly. She knew exactly what they may need prisoners for, and if they didn't hurry, there wouldn't be anything left of them. So Kyra spoke loudly and bowed her head to the three adventurers standing before her. "I know this may be sudden, and I can understand if you say no... But please! I need your help to defeat the Cult of the Dragon Queen! From what you all told me, what they're doing is bigger than just their attack on Greenest. They intend to bring Tiamat to our realm and spread chaos all over the world. Something this big is... My head is still spinning just trying to absorb it all. But no matter what, I must fight them. Not just for my people. But for the sake of our world. You all came to Greenest's aid and risked your life to save us."

Kyra looked at Torus, still a bit wary at his state of mind but hopefully nonetheless. "Torus, thanks to your wisdom and experience you've kept the people of Greenest calm in their darkest hours and ensured our survival with your actions, no matter how small they seemed." Then the priestess looked towards Orchid with a soft smile. "Orchid, your strength and determination has inspired the soldiers to fight even against impossible odds." Glancing towards Parum, Kyra's previous rage and anger had subsided, and she smiled gently towards the halfling. "Parum... I'm so sorry for the things I've said to you. Anger and fury had taken me yesterday, but if it weren't for your calming words and intelligent mind, I would have made a mistake I could never redeem myself for." Finally, Kyra looked towards the room where Brannor was resting. She laid her hand on the old oak, grasping the iron handle. "And Brannor... He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Despite whatever bestial spirit that's within him, he has proven his honor, valor, and justice in the face of evil. And for that, Greenest cannot thank him enough. I cannot thank him enough. And... And it brings me great shame to have to ask you all to help me again. If it were possibly I'd like nothing more than to hold a celebration in honor for all your help. But Greenest needs time to heal, and we have a great and terrible enemy that needs to be stopped. So please, I, Kyra Shepard, Priestess of Chautea, on behalf of Greenest and everyone in Faerun, ask of you:"

Kyra looked at the tree standing before her. Determination was burning in her eyes, as did the rage of all those who died, and the need to protect more innocents from what's to come. "Will you join me on this quest?"

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The heroes gathered around the Priestess did not need to consider her words for long. Whether it was her question that spurred to life the will to fight the invading cult or that the will had been there all along, everyone agreed that this crusade would need to be started. The cult had fought a winning battle here, but they would take the battle back to them and show just how powerful a select few could be, compared to their masses. Sure, the cult had the numbers... but they had the will and the skill. It was no longer fighting to survive. They would be fighting to avenge.

However glorious, the plan could only come to fruition after they had rested their bones, mended what wounds they had and gathered back the will, resolve and whatever else they needed for their more exceptional abilities. Come early afternoon, the group once more stood before governor Nighthill, who granted them two Potions of Healing, his lackeys handing them over to the man who had acted as the champion of Greenest not too many hours earlier. It was all rather surreal: In the light of the day, one could see that while many buildings had been burnt and all ransacked, people were back on the streets rebuilding. Life in Greenest would go on. Even while the adventurers' task would take them away.

To Brannor's surprise, the villagers also offered to repair the suit of armour for him while they were gone, but since they had little for themselves as things were, they would need a small sum of gold to cover the costs, that would then go to purchasing further materials for rebuilding. Unfortunately the man didn't quite have the money now, so he left the suit of armour behind... but not without arranging with the villagers that he would return with the required sum later. The smith would not work with quite as much zeal, but the job would go onward.

What had followed had been a quick departure to follow the tracks the small army had left behind themselves, a remarkably simple task in fact. A wide swath of grass has been trampled down, but the exact numbers of the attackers are impossible to tell. What Torus and Kyra were able to tell was that the prints they could find were undoubtedly deeper on the way back, but that did little to aid with the question at hand.

Perhaps five miles of travel later, they spotted smoke coming up from somewhere in front of them. It was a single trail, way too small to belong to the entirety of the opposing army... and they still had a good three miles of distance to go to reach it. If the path they were following would continue as expected, the smoke would be a good distance off to the side... Possibly even unrelated. But who would be camping here, in the wake of a marauding cult? They would need to pick a course of action to take with this find. To ignore or to investigate?

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“My instincts have long since rotten away, but my hunger remains. Every campfire is a hunting ground; each soul either ally or potential prey.”

The druid did not falter in disclosing his perspective, having been flanked many a time by threats ignored. His days and nights fending off pirates, all after the same horde.

Treasure.

His bones knew of this possible tactic, discard a faction to follow the rear, ever so often, then send word by bird or smoke. The rub kindled, whether the presence of the smolder was actually a message, or its absence a herald of followers. Likely the former since the cult remained on the move, trafficking its members with crude expediency.

“I suggest we test the waters to the side, lads, lest we become swept in any cagy tide. The power of discretion is soft. It is the firm leaf unyielding to a tornado.”

With a snap of his fingers and an outstretched hand, feathers twirled into a squall emanating from his palm, sprouting the familiar ebon frame. Eventually the whirling beaked dervish coiled into the heavens, to scout ahead if they decided, collectively, to advance upon the curious tangent.

“War soars upon the meekest updrafts while peace brawls against the gales of a hurricane. It is now the way of the world. We must change it.”

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The descent into sleep was a welcome distraction from the waking world, albeit this time it was far, far longer a journey into its depths. No mere passing dream, it was the sort of plunge into the unconscious that one only had when they were at their weakest; when they could no more resist sleep than any other foe. Rather than fear or fret in this place, the ferine soul could be at ease. There was no struggle between primeval urges and the tempering of humanity, only sublime peace. It was what relief was needed now more than ever, to be away from a night of battle.

But Brannor did not sleep forever, let alone long.

After the passing of some hours, just enough for the others of his company to settle their business with each other and the town of Greenest, the man stirred awake, the call to continue their crusade in pursuit of the cult not falling on deaf ears. It was, as with any other thing of instinct, an inexplicable urge. The outlander had no bodily desire to rouse himself from the crude bed of straw and burlap, but the call to the hunt was far, far stronger than he; far more powerful than the underlying sting of his in part healed injuries, many of which had been soothed by the touch of the lunar blood through him. So possessed now of this compulsion, Brannor mended himself further before donning the trappings of his leather and chain armor.

The splint, which he had cast off in this weakening throes before his rest, was now distinct to him and what a mauling it had endured. It had served its purpose, yet he the man feared for a moment just what was to come once he revealed himself again to the people of the town. At the time, his actions felt as though to him they made great sense, but now in hindsight, would they still tolerate him? Or was he to become the new enemy of this town now that the other threat had passed? It ate at him, the doubt that his service, a light of hope in darkness, might be so easily betrayed because of just what these people were - little more than scared peasants. They had no appreciation for nature's power or its glory, the priestess was proof enough that when riled even her divine conduit was stronger than she imagined and far more red in demeanor than people dared think it.

While they, his company might have understood, Brannor did not think the people of Greenest itself would. So when he clasped his cloak and threw over his shoulder the remains of the splint to rest upon his pack, he made himself no obvious figure to the people outside; stopping only by deed of the governor who, in apparent continued thankfulness, awarded them two alchemical bottles. Potions. The man, admiring the reward, swirled their contents about within their glass, viewing them with a particular wonder that was far more than amusement; such concoctions were often born of the world outside, collected by herbalists who knew the bounty the land provided in its natural ways. What little surprise was it as he thought about them in his observation that Greenest's clergy of Chauntea might know more than they understood.

Packing one of them away for a moment of dire need, the hooded hunter offered the other to his companions, all of whom had apparently been willing to hunt down their common enemy. They stopped only one other time thereafter before setting out on the road and that was to return the armor, beaten and broken as it was. To pleasant surprise, the smithy, whose forge was already well at work, offered to do the deed - either not knowing just what Brannor was or not caring that he was dealing with what many would see as a "beast" - for only a minor fee. The men, at least the soldiers, had no issue with bestowing the armor as it seemed and for a few coin, Brannor could return to collect it.

Fortune had smiled upon them as it seemed...

... and it continued to, for not long into their travel, they bore witness to smoke on the horizon. Not of flames like Greenest had been, many of its buildings raided, damaged and scarred, but rather a lone billow. Off the path as it was, several miles over and out, it was a strange sight to behold. The elder took no time in debating as to what they were going to do with it, no, instead calling upon his avian watcher in a whirlwind of black feathers and strange magic. It perched itself briefly as he talked, watchful eyes darting about as its head observed them all on the path then the rolling world beyond.

“War soars upon the meekest updrafts while peace brawls against the gales of a hurricane. It is now the way of the world. We must change it.”

The hunter nodded initially in silent agreement, his arms folded across his great chest, speaking only when the briny druid came to a slow.

"If favor is still with us, they are the meek of our enemy, perhaps those injured and limping along." Brannor said, looking across from Orchid on down to the halfling, "Or they are travelers themselves, perhaps even the others we saw on the caravan before we left to reclaim the town."

The back of his fist brushed the silver amulet that hung about his neck, reaching then to the bristled hairs of his close kept face. He thought further for a moment, becoming less idealized and more practical in his musings once more.

"Whatever you choose, our quarry is likely not swift. We might have time for such a delay, as at worst they will only be a day ahead of us."


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Orchid did not hesitate to accept Kyra's offer to hunt down the rest of the cultists. Frankly he figured that this was already going to be the plan from the beginning, so he wasn't sure why Kyra bothered to say everything she did. Still he liked the effort. Shortly after they met, the group parted to rest the day away. Orchid was still eager to fight and gather materials, but one decent meal later and he was now ready for a fitful rest. By the time he awoke it was the start of a new day, which meant Orchid had to go get a few things. First he went to Escobert and his armory with the promise of weapons and armor, however what he found was... Dissapointing. The only armor they could offer felt far too cumbersome even for the half-orc, it's chains and straps too restrictive for the more free-bodied warrior. The weapons were also fairly lacking; short blades and a short bow. Basically weapons that the militia were using. Orchid tried not to show his disappointment, failing to do so, but at least took a shortsword and the shortbow. With the swords he'd have a weapon more effective than his dagger in tight spaces, and with the bow he'd have a longer range option than just his javelins, of which Orchid still only had two left.

After consuming a hearty meal and meeting with the others alongside the governor, the group would be off. Brannor was rewarded two healing potions, one which he kept for himself and another he offered to the rest of the party. "Orchid take!" Orchid was familiar with the restorative medicine, his elders making him quite a few during his training as a totem warrior, and thus knew their importance and the bitter taste. If it kept him alive, Orchid would tolerate it. Once geared up and rested the party moved forward for most of the morning, quietly following the trail of the army. Which wasn't too difficult; an army that big left a trail about as obvious as a lava elemental through a snowy field. While not much could be gleamed from the tracks aside from the sheer size of it, eventually it lead five miles south and towards a long campfire some ways off. Everyone stopped to determine their next course of action.

Torus was the first to speak in his usual cryptic ways, which by now Orchid was to somewhat ascertain the meanings of. To the Half-orc's mind, Torus figured that the fire could belong to someone chasing these cultist as well, be it a fellow adventurer or possibly a cultist straggler. Torus then summoned his bird to go scout ahead, so Orchid left the druid to what he does. Still the fire was quite a ways away, and if they were cultist they'd have a long way to go to capture them. "We go closer. If friend, no problem. If Cult, fix problem." Orchid crouched low to the ground in preparation of either a sprint or sneaking. He could do either depending on what needed to be done. Chase or stalk, both were things he could do fairly well.
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The group did not need many of themselves to voice on opinion to come to the conclusion that they would need to investigate the source of the smoke they were seeing. They slowed down their pace to keep an edge against potential enemies that might be at the stopping point, needing around one and a half hour to reach a position from which they could accurately tell what was going on over there. At this point, they had been on the road for approximately three hours, and the sun had began to move down from it's high perch in the early hours of the afternoon. To the luck of them, they could find themselves a vantage point where their shadows would not reveal their positions.

The smoke was coming from a low spot between a few hills. Tall boulders had rolled themselves into a loose jumble around the area, serving as ample vantage points for the adventurers. They wouldn't even need to risk sending everyone close, since Torus' magical bird could simply fly above the spot and see what there was to be seen. Four humans dressed in leather armour had gathered near a fire with a few prairie hen cooking over it. A group of eight kobolds there too, taking some of the food for themselves at the very moment. The humans were talking amongst themselves, but from the position the adventurers were now, it was hard to tell what was being said.


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The familiar returned with sight of cultists and kobolds left behind, either weaker than the ahead marching troupe or purposely meandering behind to flank any unwelcome followers. The humans apparently segregated, likely due to their taste of food. The draconic fiends outstripped the leathery brigands, more numerous by a factor of two, with which the quintet of Greenest would have to contend.

After disseminating the information, the pirate savored the situation of the prairie hen roasting in the fervor of flint and wood, intermittently being turned, equaling the golden brown hue to all those gathered. The men likely would not be armed with weapons, poised to dine instead of fight. Taking advantage of the timing, the druid’s jaw widened briefly as fur began to slowly overtake the minotaur hide.

“Numbers they possess. Strength we have but at the cost of identity. Failure bears only one price.”

Soon, the masseters and temporal muscles became more prominent as the shaggy covering rose in both height and breadth upon the grizzly. The staff and the belongings of the sailor were consumed by the single colored, agouti hair, as powerful limbs heralded massive shoulder blades and an enormous pelvic girdle, in a stride dedicated to ambush the nefarious dozen. The hope in the now brown bear’s preserved mind churned as its paws feverishly hastened to the humans, in efforts to surprise alongside the arrows of Kyra and Brannor.

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The years, countless years really, of tracking through the wilds seemed to have found a place here for them, one that led them to the doorstep of their foes. Ill prepared foes, more specifically, another blessing they had secured from on high almost assuredly. The men and scaled vermin outnumbered them greatly, but the huntsman was none too concerned with that; they tended to crumple under the rage of the great blade and arrows rained upon them, ignoring the fact that he was not alone in inflicting those ends either.

Brannor's fingers plucked an arrow from the leather quiver that rest under the cloak and knocked an arrow. It was no war quiver, the type on one carried at the hip, but it was certainly an outdoorsman. He planned to kill them as he would any other hunted quarry - at the tip of an arrow from somewhere they did not see. Although, before he so committed, he commented to his company wisely in a hushed voice for added certainty. Foiling their surprise now would help no one, not even the enemy, whose death it would prolong needlessly.

"Orchid and I will flank."

He looked to the half-blood and motioned with his head, wanting to ensure the enemy would be so distracted by the bear that set off toward them that they would not immediately notice enemies to their side. Before there was any other time to act or call to action, it seemed the druid was off - off and away from the other pair of halfling and wood elf. Now they were committed, especially given that even as a bear, they could not allow Torus to fight the enemy alone. All Brannor hoped as he began his own pace, bow low and at the ready, was that they would take to the distraction.

Once the orc and he fell in from another angle, the enemy was all but assured added casualty.


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Kyra had no arguments against ambushing these cultists. While her fury had simmered to a more reasonable anger, she still had no sympathy for these people and wouldn't hesitate to fight against them. Kyra followed everyone to the campfire until they were close enough to watch the campfire below. There they could spot about twelve people total, four humanoids and eight kobolds. Kyra imagined that there may be more kobolds nearby, perhaps even an attack drake like before. She did find it rather suspicious that these people were here. And army as big as the one that came to Greenest would be impossible to hide if they were nearby (Or so Kyra hopes), so surely these are stragglers. Or, perhaps, they were scouts. Either way they needed to be dealt with. If possible, they may keep one alive for questioning. But Kyra would not shed a tear if they all died.

The plan was simple: Ambush them while they ate. Orchid, Brannor, and Torus would get in close to disrupt their formation while Kyra and Parum stayed back and picked off any enemy from afar. Kyra took out her father's longbow; simple yet opulent. Carved from local wood, but treated and decorated well enough that it could fetch a decent price. Even if it was just a regular bow, to Kyra it meant more than that. It was a reminder of home and the people she fought for. But sentimentality would have to be put aside for now. It was time to work. Drawing an arrow Kyra crept closer and tried to get a better look at her foes.

While most of the enemies she fought at Greenest were brigands with swords, after seeing the strength of Cyanwrath and knowing that this was a cult, she was looking for anyone who may possibly be a spell caster. She looked for holy symbols, wands, spell component pouches, anything she thought that might indicate someone is a mage. If they were elven or half-elven, she'd prioritize them as well. And of course she checked what their weapons would be. While she was certain that the kobolds would be armed with daggers and slings, the four humanoids may be better equipped. Even if it's just shortbows and scimitars, they'd be a threat to Kyra and Parum. Of course Kyra wouldn't ignore the Kobolds either. Many good men died because they underestimated kobolds for their cowardly nature and small size. But they still outnumbered the group greatly, and those numbers will do a lot of damage if left unchecked. Notching an arrow onto her bowstring, Kyra took aim and waited for the others to attack, or to give her some signal to attack.



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And the hunt was on. With no objection everyone headed towards the fire in the distance, closing the three mile distance in good time and health. Admittedly if Orchid had gone alone he probably would have taken longer. He'd be cautious, easily distracted, and maybe even bored. But running alongside everyone else brought out a certain primal furor from within. Like running with a pack of wolves coordinating their moves to take down a great beast. Orchid may have not known these people for long but he felt like they were part of a pack now. An unconventional family born from circumstances. The only family that Orchid has ever known.

Indeed as they ran through the forest Orchid almost felt at home. Sure, while these weren't his neck of the woods it all felt so familiar to him. The air, the smell, the sounds, the feel of sticks and stones underneath his feet. The thrill of a chase. Even if he was hundreds of miles away from where he grew up he felt like home was closer than he thought. If it wasn't for the fact that they were after prey Orchid may have gotten lost in his own thoughts and nostalgia. Fortunately once the group started slowing down and neared the campfire Orchid's attention returned to the matter at hand. The first thing that Orchid detected was the smell; some sort of fowl was being cooked. Perhaps a wild peasant, maybe even a turkey? It wasn't a creature that Orchid knew specifically but it smelled like chicken. "Orchid eat good."

Soon the party of adventurers arrived to a rocky outcrop where they could observe their quarry. Four humans, eight kobolds. They had stopped to eat. The half-orc could smell their meal already. A double-edge sword to be sure; the delicious scent would easily mask the party's own, but now Orchid was salivating. While Greenest had gave him delicious food surely there was nothing better than fresh meat. But Orchid was able to control his urges well enough that he'll eat after they kill everyone here. What followed did surprise Orchid greatly however. It was Torus; Orchid had figured the man to be a wizard of some sort. A feeble old man surely couldn't hold his own in a fight and would have to rely on wizardly to defeat his foes. He certainly had shown an aptitude for magic. But what Orchid failed to realize after all this time was that Torus was not, in fact, a wizard. No he was like the elders back at home; Torus was a druid. Orchid soon discovered this when the old man turned into a mighty bear.

Although Orchid had seen his elders turn into larger and more fearsome forms before, Orchid could never get tired of seeing druids transform into any creature. It was something that Orchid strove to do himself one day. Not merely adopt an animal's power, but to become a force of nature. Orchid watched in awe as Torus, in his proud ursine form, strode towards the bandit's camp. He nearly missed Brannor calling out to him as the werewarrior moved to take advantage of the pandemonium Torus's arrival would cause. Fortunately Orchid immediately resumed his hunting instincts and followed Brannor without a word. Brannor took out his bow and so Orchid did the same. He wasn't as skilled with bows as he was with weapons such as the sword or spear, but Orchid knew how to operate a bow well enough to take advantage of a sneak attack. Still once he and Brannor came to a stop Orchid placed his sword on the ground next to him to easily retrieve it once the battle begins. The totem warrior certainly had no intentions of letting the noble bear battle on his lonesome. Orchid took aim upon the kobolds, figuring them to be easy foes as well as hoping to demoralize them and make it easier for the rest of the party to handle their foes.

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