Stephan was eager to start finding new goblin trail and followed Hasan’s lead as quietly as possible. He was amazed at the silence of the elf and several times was startled, during their infrequent and brief breaks, by Hasan’s sudden yet silent appearance just behind his shoulder. “Ah, yes,” Stephan would say, trying not to be too noisy. “I think I can see a bit of the trail you’re following. But you seem able to string all the clues together to keep us moving at a quick pace!”, he said in hushed tones. Hasan simply nodded–an affirmation, at least, of Stephan’s presence–and moved on.
At home. Or near enough after the excruciating depths of the cursed temple and several days aship, thought the elf as he slid easily deeper into the Dymrak. A great forest, like his own beloved Radlebb, but different, less vital, thinner and yet deeper under its resinous canopy beneath the air and sun. Little stirred alongside the quartet that followed him, which bother Hasan, who would have expected to have spooked a half dozen white-bobbed hart in the cool dawn hours. Still, if such elusive prey were missed, there was no missing the trail of the dozen or two goblins they followed, despite the rain between the groups. The goblins traveled directly, with little sense for the land’s contours. Stopping to refresh himself at a slow-moving rivulet, Hasan found rough black hair and pungency—at least one dire survived the tribal battle. He waited for the humans and dwarf to catch him. Noon approached. Nothing yet surprised in the Dymrak.
The dwarf followed the party as rear guard, his lack of stealth and slow pace made him ideal to keep at the rear. Feldard didn’t mind the loss of position out here in the woods. It wasn’t like it was—back when he was vying against Saeth for lead position in the temple ruins.
Feldard glanced back along their path. All seemed quiet and clear. That was good.
After the rains, the forest smelt of fresh leaves mixed with the mustiness of decaying wood. As he trudged along he watched the beams of pale sunlight that sort the ground ahead. Darting between the beams like some flighty moth Hasan lead them as if they traveled a well-used road. The priest marveled at his expertise. “Now that is magic in my book,” he said ruefully to the mage beside him.
“Ha, a wood is a wood. Is a wood.” Miklos added finally, as if he’d made some deep philosophical comment. To be honest, he wasn’t thinking about the journey. He was more wrapped up with trying to make the loose ends of clues they had discovered make sense. Hobgoblins and goblins, towers and human bandits. Traitor elves and the Sons of Night. The Dread Night with its legions of the damned. All unsolved. All like festering boils on the skin of the future awaiting their time to ripen.
All these delays, sidetracking them from their true purpose? And what where the true details of that purpose? He looked at Maruc striding next to him. Ha! To place your decisions in the hands of a God? It’s too easy. Miklos knew the answer the priest would give him before he asked the question.
“Are we going the right direction? I mean really. Are we being sidetracked? We’ve spent day’s in the forest and now we are chasing shadows and Hobgoblins and Goblins and Towers. With no mention of the greater picture. We’ve not had closure on the Sons of Night, we don’t know how many enclaves fester out there. We may be being artfully manipulated.”
Maruc turned his trademark grin on the mage. “Trust in Halav!”
He watched the elf stop and stoop down, stand up and wait. He stopped by Hasan, as the others gathered.
The way ahead was unclear. The path of the goblins had been wiped clean by the rains, but the elf was confident he could pick it up again. After the rain stopped, any tracks left in the mud would be obvious to even a child. It was just a matter of picking up the trail at some point further into the forest. He would also keep his eye out for the Vyalia. Their traces would be much more difficult to pick up than that of goblinkind, but the group was due for some good luck.
The elf took his eyes off the earth and scanned the sky for signs of any ill-weather. His keen vision picked up on something far in the distance. It was smoke. The point of origin looked to be the beginnings of the mountains that stretched out from the eastern most point of the Black Peak mountain range.