END OF THAUMONT OF 1005 AC
DYMRAK FOREST, KARAMEIKOS
“What?” The dwarf looks at me with wild eyes and embrace the tabi, that seems to have a liking for the dwarf, clinging to him.
“I need that creature. Please, give it to me, I don’t want to fight with you.” I repeat my request, studying the small group: beyond the dwarf there are a tall, beautiful woman with a sparkling armor and, in contrast with her, a very short man, an Halfling. Near the dwarf there are a man with reddish skin, like he has a lot of burns, who observes me with deep gaze, and a tall elf.
“Please, stranger, introduce yourself, we’re all educate people.” Says the man with the reddish skin and the dwarf growls, approving; the man carries on: “I’m Francisco de la Coronilla y Azevedo, cleric of the Lord of the Light, the great Ixion. Who are you and why do you want this little creature?” He talks slowly, like he has all time in the world but I haven’t!
I have no time for explanations, especially to outsiders who could be nagpa’s allies.
“I can’t tell you why I need this tabi. I know it isn’t your-“ “Is it yours?” The dwarf asks with loud voice.
“No but-“ “So you can’t claim it. I like this guy, I think I’ll call him… Cippy!!! … Seems he likes me too.” Declare the dwarf.
“Tordek, don’t be so rude.” The cleric scolds him with calm voice, than he goes back to talk to me: “Tordek is right: if this creature isn’t yours we don’t have to return it to you. If you want it you have to explain us why you want it.”
“Start with showing yourself: that hood completely covers your face and body.” The woman voice is soft but resolute: I can clearly see she’s looking at my hands, my paws, staring at my long claws.
I sigh, resigned, and take off the hood, totally discovering my head, my ears, the sandy fur that covers me, my long feelers: they look at me with a lot of astonishment.
“What…” I interrupt the elf: “I’m a rakasta. Shā Zhī Wǔ Shì* is my name.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Shā. Now, can you tell us why do you need this creature?” Francisco smiles at me, while the others look at my face with curiosity.
I growls in frustration: “I came from Alphatia and I was trying to reach Serraine, the flying city, but a storm teared down the flying machine where I was on board of, a Cloud Clipper. Now the crew is repairing the machine but this creature-“ I point at the winged monkey, that grips itself more at the dwarf. “-Stole an important part of the Cloud Clipper, a crystal, and we need it as soon as possible.”
“Ah! Flying machines! These things don’t exist!” Shouts out the dwarf, laughing at me.
Francisco gets close to the tabi and talk: “It seems that it hasn’t this crystal with it. Maybe he hid it somewhere.” Than the cleric asks to the tabi: “So, young boy, did you conceal this crystal? Can you give it to me? I’ll make you a shiny present.” Francisco extracts a coin and lends it to the tabi, that observes the man for some seconds and starts to go to the forest, waiting for us.
I look at the skinny cleric, trying to understand how he did such a thing.
“Francisco, we have an important mission, you know. There’s no time for this.” The elf exclaims with soft but resolute voice, the halfling and the dwarf nod in agreement. “The forest is too ample and this deviation could take more than one day.” He proceeds to explain.
“If you help me you’ll regain the lost time thanks to the flying machine: I’m sure the gnomes will accept to transport and help you all.” I quietly say, not sure if this can truly happen but I need the crystal!
They look at each other for some seconds, then the elf hands out his delicate hand and says: “We have a pact, Shā Zhī Wǔ Shì. I’m Immeral from the Lake of the Lost Dreams.” He also introduces his companions: Reed Ninblefoot, the Hin; Tordek of Highforge, the dwarf and Azulenia, the woman, paladin of Petra.
“We must advise Elarik and Undir too. I’m pretty sure Elarik is in his room at the inn, resting. Azulenia, please, can you call him?” Asks Francisco with a clever smile and the Paladin nods with lightly-red cheeks.
After some minutes Azulenia and a tall, serious, man, who introduces himself as Elarik Farrel.
“Where’s Undir?” Reed asks, watching the woman. “The innkeeper said he left the Inn early in the morning. I have no idea where he went to.” Azulenia answers while Elarik nods, agreeing.
“We must go, hurry!” Immeral exclaims and we enter in the Dymrak forest.
For the entire day we proceed heading northeast, quietly.
In the middle of the walk I notice Azulenia and Elarik, distant from the group, talking in a low voice: “…but why didn’t you stay in Fort Doom, fighting with your companions? The rebellion needs you!” Azulenia talks looking at the ground. “There are different ways to fight the Iron Ring and Von Hendriks… Helping a friend who wants to rescue her sister, for example.” He says with a shy smile, watching Azulenia’s face: the woman lifts her eyes and her cheeks turns slightly red.
“I…” She tries to say anything but, in the end, she smiles, her eyes full of joy. Elarik, bashfully, touches lightly Azulenia’s right hand and both blush.
They get close, satisfied by this affinity.
In the evening, the darkness slowly and silently arrives, we decide to encamp in a small clearing in the forest; while we’re preparing ourselves for the night, strange noises come from the woods.
Azulenia extracts her shiny sword and awaits in silence.
A tall figure enters in the circle of light created by the campfire: a strange elf shows himself, behind him two other elves, both totally inexpressive.
“Good evening.” Says the elf: “Please, let me introduce myself: I’m De’Ath and I have a request.” He talks with raspy voice, looking at us.
Immeral scrutinizes the elves and I think he shares the same doubts I have: these strangers aren’t Vyalia or Callarii elves, I’ve never seen them and I have a bad feeling about them, my fur lifts on my back, warning me about this strange situation.
De’Ath moves a step towards us and the tabi, still grabbing Tordek’s beard, has a scary tremor and whines like it’s in pain.
“What is your request?” Asks Francisco, watching the little frightened tabi.
“That tabi is mine. I want you to give it back to me.” When he says these words the creature moans louder and tries to hide itself behind the dwarf.
“Seems that he doesn’t like you.” Exclaims Tordek.
The elf observes Tordek with bitterness: “It doesn’t concern you. Give the tabi to me.”
Francisco intervenes: “We need this creature, it stole something very important for our friend-“ He points at me. “-and, last but not least, it is really scared by you.”
The discussion proceeds until Immeral makes a simple question: “What type of elves are you?”
De’Ath flounders like he has no air and, after some murmurs, his body starts to become smaller and stooped. In few moments the elf reveals his true nature.
“A nagpa!” I whisper watching the horrible vulture in front of me.
“As you can see I’m not an elf but a nagpa. Now I’ve satisfied your curiosity so you can return that tabi. It’s property of my master, Heydrech!”
This name! It’s the nagpa my master wanted me to investigate on!
I assume the defensive position, whispering at Azulenia’s ear: “Don’t trust him!”
“Allstorn Stormbringer, is him familiar to you?” I ask with grudge.
De’Ath turns his head to me and looks at my face with a mixture of surprise and satisfaction: “No, I didn’t have the pleasure to meet him.” He makes a sly smile and I growl with hate.
A rustle from the trees and Azulenia screams: “Goblins! They’re attacking us!”