Votes are now closed. I’ll have the official results later. Although, it shouldn’t B to hard to tell.
Bardulf finished packing his new equipment away; he was finally ready to leave. As he led his horse through town, he heard people whispering and felt their stares. By now most knew that an attack had happened at Lord Belmont’s manor the previous night. The steward had managed to keep the details secret, but they knew that Bardulf was somehow involved. It was unnerving. He was glad when he reached the western edge of town and left those gazes behind.
A sunny sky traveled with him for the first two days, tempering the cool early spring air. The western road that Bardulf took was quiet. Other than a small group of guards and soldiers to keep the peace, there were few travelers. There was little worry of thieves or bandits because there was no profit that far west. On the second day, Badulf passed through the last real village in Karathon. He stopped in a tavern for a break and to listen to news. The only thing that he heard was a rumor that rebels had begun to gather in the mountains north of Dawncrest.
He enjoyed the travel. Since he started farming, there was not as much time to get out into the forests. After spending so many years out of them, he found that he missed them.
The third day began like the previous, but the rumble of storms rolled in with clouds. By midmorning, the rain began. Bardulf pulled the hood of his cloak up, and tightened the laces to keep the rain out.
As the rain fell, Bardulf perceived something strange. Some of the rain was streaked with blue light. He stopped his horse and looked around. Blue tinted rain was an anomaly that he was familiar with. He observed an animal trail off to the side. Bardulf dismounted, and led his horse along the path. The blue rain stopped as soon as he stepped off the road.
The rain slowed and clouds moved away as he picked his way along the animal trail. Even after years of neglect, Bardulf found that his tracking skills had not diminished. A paw print here, an overturned rock there; all those clues helped tell where to go. He finally found what he was searching for and picked it up. The small rounded stone stuck out because its deep blue color was marred by cracks and scratches.
To anyone else, it was just a stone. But the faint scratches were runes. This stone was inscribed with Fae magic, and had been placed near a ring of mushrooms. These were called fairy rings because people thought fairies danced around them in the moonlight. Those who knew or studied the Fae marveled at how close they really were.
Bardulf tied the horse to a tree, and scratched its muzzle. “I’ll be back in a bit.” He stepped into the mushroom ring, while rubbing the stone. The runes in the stone began to glow, and the air before him began to shimmer. After a heartbeat, a short wooden archway appeared from nowhere, its own engraved runes glowing. Bardulf stooped down to step in and found himself in a small room. Out of habit, he turned and saw a closed wooden door.
The room was tall enough for him to stand comfortably, but his head brushed the ceiling. Bardulf leaned against the wall and took in the room while he waited. A small table sat in the middle with some herbs in jars and a fruit bowl. There was a wooden chair pulled up to the table. A fire burned in the fireplace, and it smelled like a soup was cooking in the black cauldron.
“How many years has it been since we have seen each other, Bardulf?” A voice called out from around the corner where he couldn’t see. “Five summers? Six?”
Bardulf thought a moment. “Ten, I believe.”
“You live only two days away, and you don’t visit?”
“My farm keeps me busy.”
The only reply was a sigh as the owner of the voice stepped into sight. The speaker was much shorter, standing as tall as Bardulf’s waist. His pale green hair fell to his shoulders, and was tied off at the back with a leather cord. A large blue feather stuck out from his hair as well. Bright golden eyes stared at Bardulf, looking him over. The elf’s pointed ears twitched as Bardulf met the piercing gaze. “Of all you Rangers, I didn’t expect you to desert us, Bardulf. You were the most gifted student I had in recent memory. You enjoyed patrolling the wilderness, keeping the wild creatures away from villages.”
Bardulf scoffed. “Not this argument again. That is why I haven’t returned to see any of you. I can’t support my family hunting wild animals for the rest of my life. Not anymore.” He sighed. “The blue streaks of rain meant you had an urgent request for a Ranger. Tell me now, or let me leave. I am on an important journey and don’t have time for idle chatter.”
The elf pulled the chair out, and sat down. He scratched one of his large feet. “Impatient as always, I see. Three nights ago, an unknown creature came through the forest and just disappeared. I have searched for clues, but turned up nothing. I was hoping that a pair of human eyes could find something that I missed.”
“You stopped me for a creature that probably became a meal for a predator? It could have been a bear or even a mountain cat.”
The elf shook his head. “You know better. I would have found a carcass, or at least an area where the hunt happened. The area I found looked like something large crashed through the tree canopy. There was no sign of anything large leaving. Only the footprints of a human making their way to the road.” The small man took a bite of a piece of fruit, and tossed an apple to Bardulf. “Will you give me some help, or not?”
Bardulf took a bite and made his decision.
Inventory: bow, 4 quivered arrows, hatchet, dagger, flint & steel, traveling cloak, heart necklace, 88 coins in a pouch, food for traveling, 5 packets of healing herbs, rope, compass (items bought in Part 3 are in bold)
Health: broken ribs
Should Bardulf help the elf out, and search the area?
A) No, he needs to hurry on his journey.
B) Yes, he can take a little time to assist.