Tuesday, May 07, 2013

[Raeslyn's Story] 2.15: Scotty's Empowerment

     Cerys Amare was outside on the Inn steps talking to a man when I walked up. The man turned, gave me a cursory glance, than walked away. It took me a few seconds to realize he was an Ascended. I nearly shouted after him, but I wouldn't have had anything to say anyway. But the idea of talking to another Ascended settled inside of me and I realized that although I had the entire Guardian faction at my beck and call, I was lonely. I felt apart from everyone because of my new status and it would be nice to have more Ascended to talk to and communicate with. I clamped down on this desire, not wanting to look foolish, but the yearning was still there. Perhaps I could join one of the many unique guilds that had sprang up since the Shade Wars. I'd heard that a lot of the licensed guilds were Ascended specific. Although that brought with it's own unique challenges as I'm sure a guild would expect me to play my part in the group and I still liked the idea of having the freedom to make my own choices. Something to think about then.

     The Spirit Guide honored you, Raeslyn!" Cerys cried delightedly when I'd explained what had happened at the Mirror of Ages and showed her the tiny seed pod that had been left for me. I nearly winced at Cerys's exuberance. "This seedling though...it's not of this world I'm certain. It is steeped in the magic of the Fae, the Plane of Life. Where Greenscale draws his power from. We need to investigate this and see how far Greenscale's magic has spread in Silverwood!" She handed the seedling back to me and I stored it away in a pouch on my belt, nodding. I already knew as much. Cerys fidgeted, glancing after the retreating male Ascended with a distracted air of worry, and I finally sighed, annoyed with her lack of attention.

     "You seem distracted, is something wrong?" I asked finally when she looked over again. Cerys blinked, looking startled, then smiled at me with the look of someone who just came up with a fantastic idea. I braced myself.

     "Actually, Raeslyn, there is a bit of trouble." I nodded, encouraging her to go on, although inside I was thinking 'aha, I knew it!'. Cerys clasped her hands together. "If you wouldn't mind, could you venture out toward the Untamed Copse to check on something for me before following up this Fae lead? My last duty was to see off a caravan of Quicksilver College researchers heading there but my sources-" here she glanced again at the retreating Ascended man, "-tell me that they never arrived. I would investigate it myself but we're stretched thin as it is and well, you are so much stronger then us if something has gone wrong." She wrung her hands with worry as she gazed at me, pleading. I scowled. If this caravan hasn't checked in by now, everyone is obviously dead, I knew that, and likely Cerys knew that, but I could understand wanting to be sure. Those at Quicksilver were so foolish, so enamored by their research and findings that they forgot the world was a big, dangerous place. Finally I sighed.
     "Alright, I'll go take a look, but you have to expect the worst." I warned. Cerys' face lit up like a Fae Yule tree and she bowed. "Thank you Ascended!" She exclaimed in loud delight and I winced, glancing around. A random citizen passing by stopped and stared in awe at us. I sighed in aggravation.
     "Where did your report say they were last?" I asked Cerys, wanting to get this over with. She gave instructions and I nodded, waving at her and taking off to the north for the Untamed Copse, a section of forest that was notorious for its dangerous attributes. About half an hour's quick dash from the college I found signs of the caravan. Or what was left of it. Burned debris and chunks of wood lay scattered among the trees, and casks of spilled supplies were scattered around. The remains of a campfire in the center allowed me to test how old the site was, but the embers were cold.

    "Thank the Vigil you found me!" The loud exclamation had me jumping about a mile in the air. Before the intruder could even blink, I had a dagger to his throat, tensely eyeing the undergrowth for any other threats. The man who'd been speaking froze, looking at me wide eyed. Eventually I relaxed my guard and tucked away my daggers and the man rubbed his neck, still gazing at me wide eyed. "You were saying?" I asked him sharply.
     The man took a deep breath, still looking shaky. "I-It was horrible, Ascended lady! The Aelfwar came in the night. My friends were slaughtered mercilessly." He clutched his throat again, looking around in fright.

     "It's ok. It's fine, your safe now." I said awkwardly to assure him. Obviously he wasn't buying it though. "What uh, exactly were you researching way out here anyway?" I asked, just to distract him from the horrors he'd witnessed. The man blinked at me, then seemed to remember.

     "Oh! We were investigating the Wrath Weeds. Well, we don't know what they are actually called, but we call them Wrath Weeds. They are a strange new plant that has been seen here in the Copse. They seem to grow in abundance around this area for some reason and they contain a strange dark aura. We were studying these plants when the Aelfwar jumped us. In fact...the Aelfwar had the same dark energy feel as the plants did. I wonder if there is a connection there..." the man trailed off in distraction, the allure of a new puzzle making him momentarily forget his predicament. I coughed to bring him back to the here and now.

     "I don't think it's a good idea for you to be out here right now. Head back to the college where you can be safe and forget about your silly research." I told him sharply as I looked around the debris of the destroyed caravan. I wrinkled my nose in disgust but otherwise remained silent as I came across a butchered body behind a tree. Best not to alarm the guy any more than he already was. The man nodded, grabbed a few items from the wreckage, and set out in the direction of Quicksilver college after a hesitant glance at me.

     "What fools." I muttered to myself as I ventured further into the copse looking for clues. I came across another body a few minutes from the initial site. This body was mostly skeletal, causing me to cover my nose. By the Vigil! If I had to guess, I'd say that they had been unknowingly led further from the path into Aelfwar territory by the goblins, horrid creatures, and the Aelfwar had attacked the caravan, feeling threatened. I continued further and nearly ran into a satyr that had been standing alertly near a fallen log. Whoa, that was close. I backed up slowly and silently, praying he wouldn't notice me. Satyrs were large, solidly build creatures with a good head of horns. I did not want to mess with one if I could help it. I backed up and then turned and quickly walked back to the site of the destroyed caravan. I could see now the plants that the researcher was going on about. Large, red, strange looking ferns were growing all over the place now that I was paying attention. The spikey ferns were unnatural and seemed to have a sinister aura about them. I knew just the person in Quicksilver who would be able to tell me more about what they were doing here. Careful to avoid actually touching the plant, I plucked a few stems up and wrapped them in a stray cloth I found under some wood. I also found a few bottles of light colored wine unharmed among the wreckage and grabbed them up too, shrugging with amusement. No sense letting good wine go to waste, was there? After studying the bottles, I was doubly amused to realize that it was the finest Galena wine in Silverwood, an alcoholic beverage that was quite popular in Argent Glade. In fact, these had the stamp of the Blunted Quill on them. I tucked the bottles away into my packs, putting cloth around them so they wouldn't break. If they were able to survive all this, they deserved to be brought back with me, I reasoned to myself with a grin.

     Back in Argent Glade, I gave a simplified version of what had happened to the caravan to Cerys, who looked so saddened and horrified that I wisely didn't mention the state of the second corpse I'd found. She nodded and headed back inside the Inn. I gave her the bottles of wine I'd saved and told her to return them to barkeep while she was at it and she gazed at me with a mystified expression.

     "What?" I asked sharply, crossing my arms. She just looked at me and I turned and left without another word. Whatever.

     I found Professor Thellium Bedstraw, my old professor of nature, discussing the importance of learning survival techniques to a group of attentive students, a mix of elves and humans, with one dwarf. That reminded me of my fondness for Scotty and I wondered what he was up to lately. I hadn't seen him in over a week as I ran errands for the Guardians and investigated Hylas's treachery and I was looking forward to seeing the little guy again. Little. Ha. I snickered as I waited silently for Bedstraw to finish up his lecture. After the students wandered off to practice their lesson, I showed the professor the strange spikey plant and explained where I'd found it. He took his cue from me and didn't touch it directly, instead eyeing it from the side and rubbing it with the cloth thoughtfully. I stood patiently, knowing my old teacher well enough not to interrupt him.

     "These weeds are bursting with planar energy." He finally said, looking at me with concern. I nodded, having suspected as much. "It comes from the Untamed Copse, you say? This magic is stronger then even Hylas should be playing with. Something terrible has come to Silverwood, my dear, and I'm afraid these weeds are only the beginning of it." I slumped.

     "I was afraid you'd say that." I muttered, grimacing. Now what should I do? We needed to find a way to prevent these weeds from strangling the natural flora of Silverwood, but we also needed to continue keeping the goblins at bay, as well as find out what Hylas was up to lately, being holed up in his keep the whole time meant that he had some scheme in mind no doubt. So much to get done. Not for the first time I felt frustrated, feeling like I was the only one able to do anything effective around here. It was obvious that the Guardians had their hands full fighting off the Defiant and keeping other threats out of the wood, but that wasn't enough. We needed to get to the heart of the problem. We needed to launch an attack on this Realm of the Fae and deal with that problem, and attack Overwatch Keep and deal with Hylas. I felt like things were quickly coming to a head here and I couldn't keep up.

     Bedstraw seemed to sense my mounting frustration, for he lay a gentle hand on my shoulder, drawing my attention back to him. "One thing at a time, yes?" He said, eyes filled with understanding. It was weird seeing my old teacher looking at me with a look like that. Usually I just earned looks of disappointment and exasperation while I was in school. On the days that I didn't skip anyway. I took a breath and nodded.

     "Well I started off by trying to get rid of the goblin threat, so there is that. But I don't know what to do to make them leave. They're like cockroaches!" I said, feeling frustration fill me again.

    "I can help with that," Bedstraw commented. "There are rumors of the goblin leader, named Gutter, being holed up in the north. I've heard tell that he carries something of immense planar power. I'd say that he's carrying around a token of Maelforge, as the dragon of fire is the goblin patron. Goblins only ever respond to displays of power and I bet that's how Gutter is keeping them here in Silverwood. They usually prefer dark, dank recesses of the world, not our sunny forest. If we can remove Gutter from the picture, it should drive the goblins out of the wood." I tapped my dagger handles thoughtfully. That seemed sound. And I'd have to tackle the goblins sooner or later anyway. I might as well get this threat out of the way. But no way would I be able to tackle a goblin leader without backup. I nodded at Bedstraw and headed back into Argent. As I was leaving the college grounds, I kept an eye out for Scotty. Strangely, I didn't see him in his usual spot, but I did see Fiona and her crew. She seemed to be arguing with a dwarf that looked from this distance to be Scotty's cousin, what was his name again? I walked up.

     "Hey, is there a problem here?" I asked as I approached the group. Fiona scowled at me and I raised an eyebrow at her. Bring it on little girl. Scotty's cousin turned pleading eyes on me. "Yes! Fiona is up to her dirty tricks again! She sent Scotty on some stupid crusade to save some squirrels. Only it's just a prank and they got him into some real danger!" The dwarf glared accusingly at Fiona, who made a show of buffing her nails. "Ha, it's not my fault the fool is so gullible. Even for a freshman!" I made a noise of irritation and glared at Fiona. "I thought you learned your lesson last time Fiona? Where is he?" She pouted a little, but eventually told me where to find the poor dwarf.

     I can't believe these young students, pulling these kinds of pranks on their fellows. Silverwood was in a state of flux right now and we needed the next generation to be smart and sensible, and here we have people pulling pranks on other students. Where were their teachers, for goddess sake? I mumbled the whole way down to the riverside, where Fiona had told me she'd sent Scotty. As I got closer, I could see the little dwarf crouched at the water's edge, intently staring at something. I felt relief. At least he looked ok.

     "Scotty? Hey Scotty!" I called out as I got closer so I didn't startle him. I always hate it when people startle me. Scotty looked over his shoulder and his face lit up. "Lady Raeslyn!" He exclaimed in happy innocence. He was clutching some kind of strange wooden whistle with runes on the side. Beside him stood an ancient wooden shrine covered in similar runes. It wasn't anything I could understand. Distantly, I wondered what it was for. The shrine seemed ancient. Like Age of Legends ancient.  Scotty waited until I'd come up to him.

    "Hello, Raeslyn Ascended. I bet your here to help me save the squirrels!" He held up the wooden whistle like it was the answer to all his troubles. "What is that thing?" I asked. "Where did you get it?" Scotty looked it over proudly. "Oh wait," I answered myself. "Don't tell me, Fiona gave it to you?" Scotty nodded, oblivious to my sarcasm.

     "Isn't it great?" He asked happily. "I've always been worried about the animals of the forest, they seem so scarce lately." Obviously I thought darkly, the Fae probably either ate them or scared them off. But I didn't want to scare Scotty so I kept silent, just nodded. "And Fiona offered to give this to me so I could help the squirrels find happiness and have baby squirrels!" I rubbed my nose. "Seriously Scotty? You believe her? She's just setting you up to--hey wait!" I tried reaching out for him but it was too late, Scotty blew the whistle and I groaned. "Scotty! Don't you have any common sense!" I glared at him. He gave me a hurt look. "Come on Scotty, you can't be that na├»ve. Fiona just wanted to humiliate you. Give me that!" I snatched the whistle from the dwarf and placed it in a pocket. Scotty glanced around expectantly, as if waiting for dozens of squirrels to start coming out of the woodwork. I sighed at him. Suddenly, the water rippled behind him. I slowly reached out and tugged Scotty back.

    "Uh...I don't think this is the best way to get my geomancy degree." I heard Scotty mutter forlornly from next to me as the world's ugliest fish suddenly exploded out of the water. I shoved Scotty out of the way and dived in the other direction as it lunged at us. Even though the creature had arms and legs, it seemed reluctant to leave the water, instead lunging as far as it could at us jagged rows of teeth snapping and snarling in a frenzy.

    "Oh, I bet that's a Siltreaver!" Came Scotty's unhelpful voice from the other side of the thing. The creature swung it's head toward the dwarf and I quickly jabbed it with a dagger to keep it's attention. Poor Scotty had no defense. The Siltreaver, or whatever it was, roared in fury and reared up onto land. A long whip like tail lashed out and I heard a grunt from Scotty. I hope he was ok, but I didn't have time to check. I had my hands full of fish. The creature was clumsy and awkward on land, but it was large and strong. It got in a good hit on my leg before I could get out of reach, clawing up my thigh and ripping my leathers. It crashed down on its stomach with its face pretty much in my lap and I frantically tried to keep the jaws from closing around my face. In desperation, I punched it with the hilt of a dagger. One beady eye stared right into me. With the weight of the creature trapping my legs, I couldn't move or maneuver, so I did what I could. I stabbed the fish creature in the eye, burying my dagger to the hilt in desperation seconds before it could bite my face off. The stench of rotten fish engulfed me as the creature suddenly slumped, pinning me down fully with its scaly weight. I let myself lay there for a moment, stunned. Dark, salty liquid oozed from the creature's eye onto my chest and I grimaced. That is disgusting. After gaining my breath back, I managed to get my arms under the body and heave it off me with a grunt. The large creature slid bonelessly to a stop at the edge of the riverbank. As my heartbeat slowed to a normal pace, the sting in my thigh announced itself and I reached down and touched the ragged rips gently. The blood was already slowing thanks to my accelerated healing rate, but it still hurt something fierce and I had half a mind to do the same thing to Fiona. I gasped. Scotty!

     I rolled to my feet, feeling a bit shaky at first, and glanced around to where I'd last seen the young dwarf. Scotty was face down in the mud, pale, and my heart leapt into my throat again. Oh gods, was he dead? I scrambled over to his prone form and before I could reach out to him, the dwarf moaned and muttered something in his own dialect. He slowly got to his knees and shook his head woozily. "Ouch, that beast packed a mean punch. I don't think anything is broken..." He finally muttered. I relaxed and chuckled. "Sucker punched by a fish eh?" I teased, relieved. Scotty gave me a reproachful glance, before grinning too. "Ya, I guess so. Looks like those hooligans fooled me again, huh? I'll get my revenge sometime." He turned and inspected my handiwork. The creature lay like some dead mutated fish that had been out in the sun for a week and Scotty turned pale again, this time from sickness. "That thing's disgusting." He remarked into the silence.

     I helped Scotty up the river bank and we trudged back into town both feeling tired and covered in mud. Scotty went back to his dorm at the college and I headed for the Inn for a quick bath. After that, I purchased a new set of clothing and sold my old leather trousers for whatever I could get. I guess that was a good excuse to get new armor. After I'd had myself measured for the tailor to get working on crafting my armor, I put on some plain clothes and headed back to the college to give Fiona a piece of my mind. My wet hair curled around my ears and my thigh still twanged slightly from the pain it had experienced earlier, though the wound was mostly healed now. Just long pink lines where the creature's claws had raked me. I entered the college grounds just as a young woman went running past, shrieking bloody murder.

    "Fiona?" I asked to thin air as she rushed by. Ok, that was weird. Peering in the direction she'd come from, I was quite surprised indeed to see a gigantic Scotty bearing toward me. I hastily leaped out of the way and watched with bemusement as Scotty chased the now tiny Fiona around the college grounds. I looked around to see what the professors thought of this, only to see them nodding with approval. Huh, so even they knew about the hard time Scotty was having fitting in. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Scotty's cousin approach. What was his name again? Murbo?

     "Fiona's latest prank really made Scotty mad. Not because he could have been killed, but because he felt she'd put innocent animals in danger." The dwarf supplied to me as he stood beside me watching Scotty chase Fiona. It looked like a giant cat playing with a mouse. I raised an eyebrow at Murbo. He nodded at my expression. "Yup, that's Scotty for you. So he got one Professor Brightridge to make him a wand of empowerment, and then he got another student to enchant it to make him super big, and..well, there ya go." I chuckled. That was actually rather clever. Maybe Scotty will make it here after all. Turning serious, Murbo laid his hand on my leg, the closest thing the shorter man could reach.

    "I'd like to thank you for all you've done for Scotty, Lady Raeslyn." I made to protest and he raised a hand. "I know you didn't have to do it. You're a busy member of the Guardians after all, tracking down killers and helping to protect Silverwood from the Aelfwar. Ya, I know about them. I keep my ears open. But anyway, Scotty considers you a good friend of his, and I do too. Scotty and I wish you the best in your travels. Stay safe and if you ever want to join the college, we'll let you copy our notes!" Murbo grinned at my look of disapproval and scampered away before I could find a reply. His words had more of an impact on me than I'd care to admit and I inconspicuously wiped a bit of wetness at my eyes. I'd never had anyone call me a friend before. It felt good.

No comments:

Post a Comment