Blood and Lies (pt. 5)

Part five in the Blood and Lies series
Part One: Blood and Lies (pt. 1)
Part Two: Blood and Lies (pt. 2)
Part Three: Blood and Lies (pt. 3)
Part Four: Blood and Lies (pt. 4)

The nights rest had returned some colour to Verumalleus’ cheeks. During the day her pace still lags behind the less fit members of the team. Her stamina visibly recovering from the price of her magical over-extension with every passing hour. Throughout it all Pan remained dutifully by her side, his concern not unnoticed to the crusader. Though she knew not how to address it.
With the new day the party continues their journey north. Vahkragg at the front of the group internalises a suspicious thought. Where were all the monsters? Even in his homeland one could not expect to make a journey the distance they had already trekked without being molested by at least one aberration. The Black Forest has a reputation for even more numerous and aggressive creatures. So the relative peace of their journey thus far was remarkable. The noble decided that sharing his concern would be of no benefit while they remained in the woods achieving only lower moral. Setting his jaw in resolute silence, he continues the push north.

Noon is close to ascendant when the trees finally thin. The direct sunlight is blinding after the days spent with light filtered by the canopy, but still the sight was one that was met with great relief and cheer.
Analysing the clearing Telfor is the first to relinquish the sense achievement. He had expected to emerge by the road, however the road was nowhere in sight. The wood had clearly been cut back by the people, but he couldn’t recall any settlements on the map in the area he’d predicted they would be. He could have easily forgotten something, or the settlement not been considered worth marking on his map, however the veteran soldier knew to always be suspicious of the unexpected.
His gut told him there was danger, but his head understood that they couldn’t simply ignore the possibility of a friendly settlement.

“Pan,” he summoned the scout, who answered only after ensuring Verumalleus was seated comfortably. “I need you to go on ahead and see if you can find who this clearing belongs, whether friend or foe.”

“Aye, Cap’n” the scout gave a mock salute, but obeyed the order anyway. Slipping back into the trees and following their cover around the cleared area. Telfor noted the slight insubordinate look in Pan’s eyes before he’d followed the order and resolved to address the issue as soon as they’d stopped for the day.
Inspecting the party, Telfor notes Verumalleus’ recovering colour. As well he cautiously noting the growing comradery between Rubin and the prisoner. Another issue he would have to consider when the days travel was concluded. The stoic Vahkragg was impossible to read as usual, but with their years of travelling and fighting together Telfor could sense that the giant was worried about something. Looking back in the direction Pan had left, seeing no sign of the scout he approached the spot by the wood where Vahkragg rested.

“Something is troubling you, old friend,” Telfor says quietly, so that the others wouldn’t overhear. Leaning against one of the trees with his back to the group, he tries to read Vahkragg’s body language. The large man’s face remains impassive as he shrugs, the furrow in his brow a permanent fixture. Its apparent that he is considering how to answer as Telfor stares.

“The Black Forest has been quiet, don’t you think?”

The observation gives Telfor reason to frown, “Aye, the woods always are”

“Perhaps. We have been very fortunate not to encounter any aggressive creatures so far”

“Aye,” Telfor nods, hoping the giant might elaborate further on his suspicions. He didn’t. The behaviour of monsters wasn’t Telfor’s field of expertise, the relative peace of their journey he had been prepared to account to Vahkragg’s skill. Hearing the suspicion coming directly from the nomad gave form to his own wordless paranoia, he’d been nursing.
They’d encountered only one monster during their flight and it had already found prey. Ever since accepting this bounty something had felt off. Perhaps it was time to talk to Oliver again.

Suddenly aware of Pan’s presence, Telfor withdrew from his thoughts. As soon as he was acknowledged, the scout gave his report, “It’s a settlement, not a bandit camp. Deep wood folk mostly. There doesn’t seem to be any paths leading out of the village, most likely they’re an isolated people. They seem pretty normal, but I can’t be certain until we approach.”

Telfor nodded, dismissing Pan and watching as he immediately returns to Verumalleus’ side. Love may be blind, but it’s also blatantly obvious, he thinks to himself. Another thing he’ll need to keep an eye on to ensure it doesn’t interfere with their chances of surviving.
They had enough supplies that they could avoid the town and make the road, if they were where he thought they were. However there was no same guarantee that they would be able to make it to Verwich, or Tassholm, nor even any way of knowing which was closer. His instincts urged him ferociously to avoid the settlement, but his intellect knew they would be foolish to risk the journey without taking the opportunity to replenishing their supplies and receive directions.

“Alright everyone, listen up. There’s a settlement of Deep Wood Folk ahead, north past that is probably the road. However, I can’t be sure whether the nearest town east or west from there. In order to make it back to the capital in one piece, our best bet is gambling on this settlement being willing to help us. Together we’ll follow the treeline to the west, keeping out of sight until we’re to the north of the settlement. When there I’ll be approaching the settlement alone, you’re to wait one hour for me to return before continuing north to the road. Understood?”

Receiving the affirmative, upon reaching the northern edge of the clearing unnoticed, Telfor leaves his arms and armour with the group and steps into the clearing. Walking with confidence he didn’t completely feel into the friendly looking hamlet which hadn’t existed on his map. His doubted his wife would ever forgive him for if she knew what he was doing now.


Author: Zairron

I'm writing to build a habit, practice, and be creative.

15 thoughts on “Blood and Lies (pt. 5)”

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