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    Yeoldebard
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Elf's Hunt - 6. Into the Woods

A spell wasted. Elluin grumbled quietly as he sat beside the river, staring at the walls of Kalen. He was close to home, but he was not entering the woods. Not when his quarry could slip further away at any moment. If the tiefling had come this way, someone in the village would know. He only wished he could have made it here before the gates had closed. If that gods damned mimic hadn't slowed him down...

He was still happy it was dead. Who knew how many people it might have killed? Maybe it had even killed Hope. He could very well be on a fool's errand right now. Strike that, he knew he was on a fool's errand. The choices still nagged at him. Take the tiefling back to Cadara to face the Queen's justice? Kill him and end the threat of a fiend on the Material Plane? Or was there a third option, provided the tiefling was alive? Even now, he could still let Hope go. There had been no harm down, no one had been hurt in the heist, save for the pride of the palace guards.

A fell wind blew across the river, Elluin shivering. He pulled his cloak tighter around himself, listening to the murmur of the water running in its bed. The sky was full of stars, and the elf busied himself with picking out constellations. There was the North Star, cornerstone of the Mage, the tip of his staff. Beside him stood the Magic Knight, the stars Tyrma had claimed as hers, and Elluin's favourite constellation. Many considered the constellation to be a holy warrior, calling down the power of Lynestra to defend the weak. But Elluin preferred to attribute the stars to his patron god, a little known deity who nevertheless had followers throughout the land.

His spell had taken effect already, and he could slowly feel his vigor returning. The act was a risky one. If he did anything too strenuous, all the weariness from the day would return. But if he could get through the next eight hours without trouble, he would spend the next day completely refreshed. The risks were worth it. If there was any trouble in the night, he would see it and be able to react.

Sitting back against his bag, the elf let out a sigh, and continued his search of the heavens. He was in for a long night.

 

An owl hooted loudly, Hope jumping at the noise. He felt ridiculous, his paranoia pathetic. All of these sounds happened in the city. Why was he so scared of them out here?

But he had found something he hated almost as much as graveyards. The water of the river Garys bubbled beside him, his constant guide in the darkness. He could see just fine, but he also had no idea how to navigate through the woods. It was far better to allow the river to dictate his course. He had once gotten a peek at an adventurer's map, and he knew the river came out of the woods barely a day from Four Pines. He just had to survive two nights in the woods.

The tiefling couldn't shake the sensation that he was being watched, had been watched since he had entered the forest. It wasn't a malevolent feeling, but it still unsettled him.

"I wouldn't step there if I were you..."

A shriek escaped him before he could stop it, the elf who had suddenly materialized beside him laughing. She pointed at a steel bear trap hidden on the ground inches from the tiefling's foot.

"The woods are full of peril for an unwary wanderer," the elf said, a rapier on her hip. "My people wonder what brings one of fiendish heritage into our realm."

"I am passing through to the city of Four Pines."

"There are safer roads to travel to reach your destination."

"But those roads would take too long," Hope said. "I have to reach Four Pines by a certain day or my friends will be in danger. I am taking what precautions I can by following the river."

"Yet my people would hinder you should you prove a danger to us."

"One might say you are already hindering me, though less so than you could."

The elf laughed, nodding to the tiefling.

"A fair point," she conceded. "I will allow you to continue your travel. You may hunt sparingly, should you need to. But know that we will watch you closely."

"I would expect no different," Hope replied. "I wish you well."

The elf vanished into the trees, Hope letting out an exasperated grunt.

"Fifteen years of dodging the streets and I still can't notice people coming and going. Why do you do this to me?"

He got no answer, not that he expected one. Stepping carefully around the bear trap, the tiefling continued his journey. watching each step he took to avoid the other traps that just had to be laying around.

 

He was at the gate at dawn, a guard opening the door to let the elf in. Elluin felt rested, ready to continue his quest. If he could just find the right person to ask about the tiefling.

"You aren't one of the Do'Kalen barbarians, are you?" the guard asked.

Elluin scowled at the human.

"I am one of the tribe, but I assure you we are no barbarians," he said icily.

"How anyone could live in that forest is beyond me," the human muttered. "You all are witches or something."

"Or something," the elf agreed. "Do you know anything of a tiefling coming through here?"

"Ask Sara's brat. Damned kid won't stop yammering about some cloaked guy with a tail that passed through last night."

That sounded promising enough. Elluin headed further into the village, hoping to find this kid. A group of men passed him, nets slung over their shoulders. Fishers, he assumed, off to set their nets to catch fish from the river. They eyed him suspiciously, a stranger intruding in their lives. He would be gone soon enough.

"Do any of you know where I can find Sara?" he asked.

"What fer?" one of them demanded.

"I am looking for a man who came through here yesterday. I was told her son had information."

"Peh, that boy is nothing but a nuisance, running around here pretending to be some sort of wizard all the time," another human spat on the ground.

"He's at the Elder Hall, listening to their stories again."

Nodding his thanks, Elluin went further into the town, easily finding the hall. He stepped inside, finding a small group of children seated in front of a pair of older humans.

"And so the Do'Kalen came to us with gifts of meat. But their gifts were poison, and left our people sick. And to this day, the people of Kalen, who had used the elf name for our village, will never accept a gift from the people of the woods."

"A nice tale, but biased in its retelling," Elluin said, stepping forward. "Your people were made sick from a plague upon the land. The city of Cadara also felt the plague, but it was dealt with swiftly by the clerics of Lynestra. My people gave you food to aid you, not to poison."

The female Elder smiled at the elf.

"It would seem we have a guest from the woods," she said. "What can we do for you, Master Elf?"

"I am looking for a tiefling who may have come through here, possibly last night."

"Jorge, you spoke of a visiter from last night, did you not?" the other Elder asked one of the kids.

"Aye Sir."

"Perhaps you could tell our guest your tale?"

The boy stood up nervously.

"Well Sir, me and my friends, we was playing ball last night, and this man, I think he was a man, but he had a tail or something. He stopped our ball from going down the well, and it was really cool, he like flew through the air."

"Did you see his face?" Elluin asked.

"No Sir. He had a cloak covering his head. But his tail, it reminded me of my papa's old cat what drowned last year."

"Like a grey tiger?"

The boy looked at him blankly and Elluin held back a sigh. He had forgotten these people knew nothing of the jungle of Ajinra.

"A grey cat," he ammended.

"Aye Sir, his tail was grey, but the sun was going down and I might be mistaken."

Elluin nodded. It certaily sounded like the tiefling.

"He left last night? Do you know where he was headed?"

"No Sir, but I think he went to the river. Least I saw him move that direction when he left the village."

He left the road? That was going to make following him much harder. But it also meant the tiefling was heading for Four Pines. If he hurried, there was a chance Elluin could beat him there, assuming he wasn't mounted. Which seemed unlikely, unless he had stolen a horse somewhere.

"Thanks for your help," the elf said.

It was early still. He could cut through the Do'Kalen Woods, and stop by his home for the night. Or he could keep walking through the night. Either way, he didn't really feel welcome here. Sure, the Elders were nice enough, but he really felt like he should leave soon.

And so he did.

Copyright © 2020 Yeoldebard; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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As Elluin found out; the story is told from only one point of view, and rarely right.  Seems like if he had headed straight for the woods, he might have already caught up to Hope, but I guess he did not think that Hope would go that route.

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