After all that mess with the Lightbringers, I made a solitary journey up to visit our goblyns, the little ones as Boraen calls them. I took a couple goats, and plenty of rations, as I was not sure they could find their own food. But when I got there, they were distinctly not interested in the food. Neither my pony nor the goats would go willingly inside the circle of the goblyn dance.
These goblyns were changing. They were very peaceful, full of the love of nature and the woods and all living things therein. Not unlike we littlings, really. But they were also physically changed. Their skin was becoming almost like bark; their eyes were covered over or just small slits in the bark. They danced around me as I walked, careful to avoid any harm, but otherwise ignoring me.
I felt a great peace with them, though, I lost myself in meditation. When, hours later, I came back to myself, the leader of the goblyns patted me on the shoulder and gave me a flower, which I twined into my hair for the ride back to Enonia, with the goats and rations that I passed on to the dispossessed followers of Tangadorin.
Belaldur, Boraen, Turgon, and I went to the market to seek out hunters who could help us track the abducted followers of Meesha. A trader sold me several furs and as we spoke, he told me to seek out Odebrandt, up at Old Fawn. Belaldur had more immediate luck, hiring a grizzled, scarred hunter named Golub.
Fergus was instilling some sense of military rigor into Willie and Josef, but they were all agog at the thousands marching up the road to Old Fawn – the 50th day of summer was the Marshall’s mustering day! Belaldur got their attention when he brought forth the fine brown cloaks he had made for the Enonia Falcons, and all five of us (Belaldur and I, Fergus, Josef and Willie) donned ours. We set out for Meesha’s shrine, to the east of Ulichton. Keld’s carpenters had done great work already. We spent a merry evening with them, though Turgon wept to see his shrine but not his congregation.
The next day, Golub found the tracks of our friends (and even a cast-off shoe!), andalso signs of much traffic along the edge of the Dark Woods. Golub told us stories from his father’s time, and also of his adventures hunting, as we followed the trail north. We camped away from the woods, rose early and set out again. Around lunchtime, we found the body of a woman Turgon recognized as one of his. Boraen, Talvi, and Turgon took blood oaths to avenge her.
Golub began to train Fergus, Belaldur, and I on tracking and observing nature’s ways. The trail, as we followed it, came near to some villages and farms, but never too close. On the fourth day of our journey, many trails crossed. With the help of the shoe Golub had found, Talvi pointed us the right way. As we entered the fens, Golub mentions how good the peat here is, for building and for fuel. I’d prefer a fire from fallen sticks, myself, but the folk here fear the woods.
Belaldur and I investigated a peat camp we see from the trail – just some local, hard-working villagers. They were surprised to see me – but I calmed them, and we chatted. These peat-cutters were from a nearby village, Pella’s Wish, which the black riders have been annoying. This would be the last harvest, before the villagers evacuate, maybe to Old Fawn.
Belaldur rides in with the others, and we camped there overnight, sharing our food and drink. Turgon spoke of Meesha’s shrine, and his friends taken by the riders, and the locals remember Meesha. The Falcons stood watches so the villagers can rest, and in the middle of the night, a force rode by on the trail, so lucky for us we had withdrawn a ways from it.
The next morning, the farmers head back to Pella’s Wish, where they will tell the mayor of the Marshal’s forces. We all gave them some gold and supplies to help them resettle – maybe at the shrine? – and I gave the ladies most of the furs I had. One’s pregnant; I don’t want her child to be cold this winter! I kept only one, for modesty and to alleviate chafing.
Two days later, we came across the body of one of the black riders with some arrows in him, at the base of a ruined watchtower. He lay atop a crumpled white flag emblazoned with Domingo’s griffon and three stars. In the distance, Beladur and I spied a stone keep, flying a similar flag.
My father told me the histories, how Domingo had led the littlelings to triumph over the dark forces. I was not looking to find other littlelings so far west – but we found fifty-some defending the keep! The keep was old and built for men but modified for us. While I spoke of our quest to Carbaugh, the leader, Belaldur brought up the rest of our force. We feasted, and the cooking was incredible! They even had a seed cake, like my dear mother would make, save they served it with wild berries where mother would use spiced apples and whipped cream. Still good, though! Boraen and his wolf were made very welcome, too; the ways of the wild men are known to these littlelings.
Carbaugh told us all about the black riders – People of the Skull, he called them. While the Domingans had garrisoned this keep and patrolled the lands around since soon after the Doom, the black riders with only came into the area early this summer, joining the orcs in Yew. Turgon receives an insight that the folk we came to rescue are not held in Yew, but south of Yew. Ishma and Falen, two of the Domingans, show us the way the next morning.
That dusk, we crept up on the shrine, thunderbolts of chaos churning the sky overhead. There is necromancy going on – an orc and a human were summoning something, using a human sacrifice. As they finished their ritual, a purple column writhed up from the ground, a cruel voice, the same as heard at the monastery, cried out, and a purple crystal flashed down into their circle.
We charged in. Littlelings all took first blood, with our sling bullets striking the priests and disrupting them; Boraen made a mighty jump and landed in the midst of our enemies, yelling MEEEESHA!, and sliced the orc priest in two. His wolf Talvi joined battle, ripping away a chunk of flesh from one of the orc guards.
Belaldur loosed an arrow, then joins the charge into the melee. Boraen by some dark magic was held, but then Turgon called up vines from the ground to immobilize the priest. Turgon’s work stirs me, and things started to click into place. But it slipped away in the confusion of battle as I took Turgon a healing draught. Fergus fell, but many of our enemies are down, too. Turgon cast a spell on his club, and mental paths opened for me, even as we finished off all our enemies and freed the captives. We didn’t want to touch the chaos crystal, so we smashed the braziers used to summon it. With the last brazier destroyed, the crystal shattered. The cruel voice denounced us and a tentacled monster appeared.
My path was now clear – cast faerie fire on the monster, become a druid, fight for life against those who would defile it. We quickly dispatched this last foe, and the world breathed easier. We took little from the bodies – the red eye symbol from the orc priest, a purple/gold triskelion symbol from the human, and a sample of the crystal. Heading back to the Domingan Keep, we tried recruiting our erstwhile allies to the Falcons, but Isma says the traditions they uphold prevent it and Kalen says they have to protect the writings of Domingo, which I’ll want to look over.