PrP: Black Ring Rising

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Drizzle and rain fall from the sky in splashing droplets, sparks of moisture that flitter from woodlands and grass and tree and armor. The youth from among the refugees, a lad of barely fifteen winters, leads along the path that so many others have trod before. It takes some several days to pass from the shield of the city's walls into the deepening wilderness outside, but even here the appearance of those fleeing towards the safety of Alexandria seems to continue. A steady trickle of passer's-by move on, some huddled beneath their cloaks, others wide-eyed, staring in blank shock from atop rickety wagons.

As though they fled from a distant war, rather than towards the promise of the city's defensive walls.

"They're more like this every day," the boy says softly. Ladislau, his name, keeps to himself, near enough to the fore of the tiny company to direct, but far enough back to hide from the growing forest's encroaching branches. "The militia and headman had to start driving them away. N'a enough food for everyone.... nah anymore."

Selia nods politely, and keeps her peace, eyeing lands around warily. May be well traveled and somewhat experienced, but still a city girl at heart, and never really comfortable without a soild set of walls around.

"It's not just you." Karl's voice is grim as he watches the refugees passing by the group from beneath the edge of his hat, rain dripping from the brim steadily as it drizzles down, "It's all over that's like this... this's far from the first village I've seen that's having these problems. There've even been a few casualties, locals wanting to get rid've refugees and all..."

"Don't we know it," replies Esilwary to Ladislau, his words laced with a certain familiarity. This situation is hardly new to him, as he's been called upon time and again to handle bandit problems. Such endeavors offer little material for his book, but they do fund the work, not to mention making the world a little better than it presently is. The gnome nods to Karl as he adds, "I remember that. Went up north with Younger, too, to deal with the same damned problem. These issues could be solved if people would think with their brains, rather than their swords."

Craft is wearing his heavy, tarp like cloak again, less to hide his inhuman appearance and more to protect his metal from the rain. "The same could be said of many would be adventurers," he remarks quietly to the gnome's grumblings, his metallic voice smooth and even, for all that it sounds like it's echoing in a tin can.

"There's farmer's daughters there still, right? Nothing like saving the day. Makes 'em wetter than the spring thaw, eh? Eh?" Marek asks of Ladislau with a toothy grin and then a wince. His new still polished boots are still being broken in and a nice long march was just the way to do it, painful as it is. His own cloak is wrapped around him tightly as possible, but the grip of his sword poking out leaves one shoulder wet and bare.

Ladislau swallows thickly, keeping his head down with a fierce blush at Marek's words. "We've only got spears," he offers towards Esilwary, smiling weakly before he turns his head up again, forcing his gaze towards the woods. Trunks grow rapidly thicker all around, new growth stretching into thicker boles, older oaks, heavy and gnarled and with bark in shades of brown and grey and russet-red. Leaves cling stubbornly to the branches, shivering and intermixing with pine needles and other, less sturdy growth.

"We used to hunt boars with them," the boy says more quietly, shrinking in on himself. "But that was years and years ago. When everything started bein' broke, and the woods.... They got mean. I mean, they were always mean, but now... Now they were smart-mean. Hunting getting bad, and our crop foods failing. And..."

His voice trails away, silent and small. "All the wolves. And the demons. And the... things out in the woods..."

"A spear's a reliable weapon," Karl says with a slow shake of his head, "Easy to use, keeps your enemy at arm's reach. Good for boaring, yeah, although you need the cross-piece or they'll just bloody run up the spear to get you... stubborn buggers." A glance over to Marek, a grin briefly crooking his lips, and then he's back to watching the forest as they travel onwards.

Selia sighs, nodding grimly. "Dis ain't bad. Still food ta be 'ad, places ta grow yer crops, wodds ta 'unt in. But, is gittin worse. Reckon if gits rilly bad, will be rilly, RILLY bad. Spread out all over, na where ta import nuthin from."

Esilwary looks over his shoulder, pointing a stubby little index finger at Craft. "That's pretty slick," he grants, "but it doesn't apply to me. I happen to be a /scholar/, sir. Or, madam? Hm." The gnome nearly has an opportunity to philosophize over war golem genders, no doubt a disturbing bit of discourse, but something distracts him. He slows a bit as he gathers his strange cloak about himself, squinting at the surrounding forest. "Wait, wait. This isn't right." Esilwary walks up to one of the nearby trees, a large oak with red bark, some of which he strips away to examine. "These trees don't grow around here, certainly not in such numbers. How'd they close in on the city so quickly, too?"

"I have found it easiest to allow myself to be considered male. I resemble the form more closely, and have no strong preference as to the matter," Craft remarks to Esilwary. When the gnome goes to the trees, he stops, considering the tree himself. "Perhaps during the mist?" he suggests, magicite eyes considering Karl as he speaks of weaponry.

Marek happens to be carrying a spear, as a matter of fact, nodding and pointing it to Karl, "Damn straight, brother. Nothing wrong with a spear. First man I kill't was with a spear. With this spear right here. Well, the head. Done gone through 3 shafts for this gob-sticker." He trails off, looking over his shoulder at Esilwary, "C'mon, quit fuckin 'bout with that tree, we got to a move on, stubs!"

Ladislau's reaction is unusual to say the least-- He pales, going practically white as he turns his head away, raising a shaking hand to make a haphazard mark of warding on the air. "We don't know anything about the trees, or the mist, or the bloody weep----" he whispers, voice suddenly a hoarse croak of shaking terror. "They always been red, Ser Gnome, and grow really fast. Just how they are!"

The young man's voice carries a desperate edge, as though fear and panic were all entangled together. He sidles closer towards Marek, away from the rifleman and the man of wood and metal. Fear barely contained on his features, but easily read in the carriage of body, the beaded brow, adn to orc senses, the stench of naked terror.

Selia glances towards the Lad with a mild frown. "Oy, I danna much 'bout trees, but I na when sumone ain't playin straight. Wot's up, pup?"

"The what now?" Esilwary didn't miss that part about red weeping. He turns upon his heels to face Ladislau, still holding the strip of red bark in his hand. "Look, I'm seventy-six years old. The mists didn't have me for /that/ long, certainly not long enough for this forest to change so much. I've seen it plenty before." The gnome then points to the boy with his empty hand, advising, "Maybe you'd ought to tell us the truth, if you actually want some help for your people?"

"The trees...?" Karl's brow furrows, and he steps over after Esilwary to check out the tree, reaching out to rap his knuckles against the bark, "Something funny going around here, 'wary?" A sidelong look, then back to Ladislau with a frown, "What's going on?"

Craft turns his head, looking at the boy with his magicite eyes as the attention all shifts, abruptly, towards him. He might still be working on people, but he can read a situation well enough that his hand slips down to his hammer, gripping it's haft.

Marek isn't really paying that much attention, still trying to figure out what that gnome is doing with the tree bark. Probably weird magic crap. Stupid gnomes. The smell of fear and puberty hits his nostrils suddenly and he turns his head to the left to look at the guide and the rest of the group. He might not be the sharpest arrow in the quiver, but he can pick up on most things. He wraps a meaty arm around Ladislau' shoulder as he walks for a nice you-ain't-goin'-nowhere side hug. "Alright now, Laddy. I got blisters on my blisters and I'm colder than a witch's tit in this rain. If'n I find out you led us on some wild goose chase or using us as bandit bait, Imma fuck you up so bad you'll be lucky if you can buy a woman." He says in that special non-chalant jovial Marek type way, grinning down at the boy.

Selia glances to Marek with mild expression and a faint quirk to her brow. The application may be questionable, but she can appericate a well spoken threat.

Esilwary drops the piece of bark and very, very casually slips that fancy shortbow from his back. As his stubby fingers lightly descend into the quiver of arrows he carries, he softly advises his companions, "We've got visitors. About eight of them, if my ears are sharp." The little gnome may be a bit eccentric at times, but it seems he's not entirely without use!

"Oh, by Caracoroth's knotted cock," the oath spills harsh from Karl's lips as he reaches back to unsling his rifle, dropping back towards the group and spinning to face the trees, "We've got bloody black druids or something - and they're all-a-bloody-round us, too." The rifle's brought up to his shoulder, and his voice lifts sharply, "Come on, then, you cowardly dogs! Come out into the light and face the justice of Angoron's hammer, if you aren't too lily-livered!"

Selia nods, and sighs. "Blokes should na better dan ta try ta feed Adventurers ta da monsters. Makes fer indigestion." Glancing towards the gnome, she draws her own blade, peering about mildly. "Some sorta messed up druid cult, ya reckon?"

Marek's beetled brow furrows downward into a grimace at the boy's confession, but his ears perk up enough to know trouble is a'comin. "We'll talk about this later, boy. Right now you need to take your nap." With that, he drives his free fist into the boy's face, leaving him to presumably crumple to the ground and free up his hugging arm to grip his spear.

Craft takes the hammer from his waist, reaching behind to remove a heavy shield from his cloak, masterfully crafted and looking quite sturdy. "I am assuming that a fear of trees means we should be worried by these?" he asks, glancing at the nearby trees, having seen enough in his short time as a sapient to not easily trust things.

The woods are silent; not even birds chirp as the echoes of Karl's oath rebound from the trees. Finally, brush shifts as a tall man in black steps forward, a gaunt and grim-faced man, with hard eyes like old flint. He stares for a long moment, one hand hanging low, the other grasping the haft of a heavy axe. The harsh glare and silence are broken only by the sound of Ladisislau falling like a sack of wet wheat.

"Give us the boy," he says grimly, voice rough. "And we will let you go free." Soft words..... and perhaps true, were it not for the rustles, the whispering movements, the crack of a branch and the glint of malice, echoed in black hoods drawn low, the glitter of hungry steel. "Or stay, and die, and give the woods fresh strength."

Selia yawns, unimpressed. "Door numbar three; we stay, you die, become parta yer precious woods."

Marek takes this brief pre-combat moment to drop his travel pack and undo his cloak, leaving it to fall on the poor unconscious Laddy. "What she said. Step up if you wanna get beat down, shitwit."

Esilwary winces as he watches the boy hit the dirt. "That really wasn't ..." And then, the druids make their appearance. He takes several steps back and away from the trees, joining the heart of his party. The gnome already has his bow brandished, and with it, he trains the tip of an arrow upon the robed figure. "Dark druids, eh? Unrewarding path. One day, when you run out of people to capture for your trees, you'll be on the dinner plate."

"As the lady said," Karl replies, cocking the rifle with an audible and ominous click as he levers the rifle at the axeman's face, "The only watering your trees'll be getting this day is your blood." A pause, "Well, and the rain, but, you know. That kind've messes with the metaphor. You been sacrificing people to the damnable forest, then?" He has to ask. You know. Confirmation.

"I believe you'll find me rather inedible," Craft remarks, his hammer gripped tightly, the light of his magicite eyes briefly illuminating his metal eyesockets, revealing his inorganic nature. "And, personally, I prefer the organics that do things," he remarks, regarding trees.

The Blackclad grins viciously; teeth filed to sharp points glitter as he draws his free hand to his weapon, face contorting into a snarl. "Brave words from the dead," he replies, voice rising. "The Forestlord demands sacrifice. Demands penance from all who tarnish the lands with their malice and magic and demon-summoning ways!" He roars out a battlecry, eyes ablaze as he raises his weapon high. "Let Dana know her own! For the Forestlord! Kill them all!"

Howls erupt from the woodline as the remaining seven blackclad ambushers abandon stealth; axes held brazenly, they charge, closing the distance with an alarming speed!

Selia readies her weapon, throwing an iron-core ball towards the approaching druids. But, the halfer's foot twists on a root just as she throws, throwing her well off balance..... maybe there's something to this tree worship after all?

"Right," Karl murmurs, shoulder firming behind the butt of the rifle and one eye closing as he sights down the barrel at the sharp-toothed black-robe, "That's all I needed to hear."

The sharp -crack- of a black powder weapon echoes through the night, off the trunks of the unnatural forest, and a spray of crimson suddenly waters the roots of trees grown too-swift and hungry under the tending of their dark keepers. As the black-clad reels back from the shot, he's already reloading, stating grimly, "Time to reap these bastards' harvest."

Esilwary's always hated close combat, and it looks like these druids won't be leaving him with any alternative. He shifts the aim of his bow from left to right, keeping his target uncertain. All the while, the gnome begins to ramble on about druids who've fallen to dark paths. Their failings, their weaknesses. Most of it's myth or stories which so happen to glorify Esilwary, but in the words, there are occasional nuggets of useful information.

Marek roars in pain when a thrown axe slams into the top of his right thigh, but he bites back the blinding pain to see the leader running at him...Or just to him. With a quick gimpy juke to the right out of nowhere, he plants the butt of his spear on the ground and aims it towards the man. With meaty sound of impact, the man is impaled and hefted to the ground before he's thrown aside to bleed out in a rain gutter. The axe in his leg is pulled out and he grits his teeth, looking for the soon-to-be-dead man that put it there.

The blackclad assailants stream from the woods, by ones and twos. Their original ambush thwarted, they result to more direct means... A handful of hurled axes, one of which rebounds from Craft's metal hide; the other strikes Marek with a vicious cut, jagged metal ends scoring a savage rake of blood to join the original spray.

And the Blackclad Leader? Dies in his own arcing stream of crimson, sailing overhead to land with a final, gurgling note behind.

"It is ironic that the aggressors speak of malice, also, I have never once summoned a demon," Craft remarks, getting some of what's left of the cult leader on him as he passes under the spraying arch. He gets even messier as the brings his hammer down, hard, catching another of the druids just right, the hammer passing easily through the skull, sending hard to recognize bits of organic material in a small splash. At least the rain will wash it away, right?

Selia listens to the assorted banter with half an ear, focusing on avoiding those swinging axes, returning a slash with a stab of her own. Druid blood waters the grown, but no solid fertilizer yet.

Another shot rings out, the leaden bullet shattering flesh and bone as it tears through one of the blackclads, but not slaying him, and then Karl drops back a step; slinging the rifle into his off-hand as the robed bodies just seem to keep coming, he grips the rapier at his waist and draws it with a hiss of steel. "Come on, then! We're no helpless villagers laying down for the sacrifice! Come and die, dogs!"

Battle is joined, gunshots giving way to the splatter of blood and the rage of steel. Heavy axes swing in the air, some striking, some not; more blood flows as one of the blackclad lands a strike upon the half-orc.... And pays for it with a bloody axe in return! Another howls in triumph as his weapon strikes the Warforged... And recoils in horror as it simply drarws a gash, without blood to flow or muscles to scream. "Abomination!" he shriekes, heaving the heavy axe up to strike again, trying to catch the metallic warrior as he charges away. And the other two, trying to circle, hunting for an opening like ravenous wolves.

Marek rears back to plant the throwing axe into the face of the bastard that hit him with it to begin with. Unfortunately, it's slick with blood and rain and it sails out of the half-orc's grasp, flying impotently over the head of his attacker, who then slices his arm open with the axe before Marek grabs the haft long enough to ready his wooden shield before his attacker wrests the axe from his grasp, ready to swing once more.

"Not an abomination," Craft remarks, glancing to the druid's companion. "Simply better constructed." He ignores the one attacking him entirely after that, and charges away, trusting his shield and metal hide to protect him from whatever counter-attack the druid might make as he catches one of the circling companion's square in the gut.

Selia feints and parries with her 'dance partner', frowning in mild thought. "Ya na, I ain't ne'er reckoned wot da problem is. All dem animals build nests, aye? Wot's so diffrent 'bout 'umans an da like building der big nests?" Almost as an after-thought, the halfer drives her blade foreward, again drawing blood, but not a kill.

As the blackclad jerks the axe away from Marek's grasp and raises it to strike down against the orc, Karl ducks in swiftly--the rapier in his hand thrust forward sharply, digging in under the fanatic's arm and into the ribs, drawn forth crimson with blood. "Finish him," he snarls out, pulling back a half-step as the man reels from the wound.

Esilwary's fears are realized, with the robed figures having closed in for melee combat. Not his favorite thing. The gnome trains his bow upon one of the figures and looses its arrow. It flies true, its tip piercing the wicked fellow's left leg.

The battle rises. a snarling pitch; the Blackclad engage without apparent thought for any tactic beyond breaking the ring of steel, and hammering home brutal, painful blows. An axe finds its mark on the gnome's poor flesh; another dodges behind the pair of Marek and Karl, missing with a vicious swipe. Craft's combatants hammer at the metal shell, unable to break through the stirling defenses. And the one facing Selia starts spouting creative curses as he swings and misses, again and again... Frustrated!

Marek takes the opportunity now that his attacker is distracting. He slaps a heavy palm across the side of his head, cracking his temple and bursting his eardrum. Not to leave well enough alone, he grips the man's ear and tears it clean away with a sickening sound and shrill screaming. He tosses the gory clump of scalp, hair, and ear aside, using the opportunity that the man is distracted from having his shit pushed in so bad to draw his longsword.

Karl's rapier blade is caught by the haft of the axe as he goes for another strike; the buckler strapped to his other arm coming up to absorb the axe strike from the other man who'd come in behind him, whirling around to finish the inertia of the movement, a laugh stirring in the night. "Not fast enough, dogs!"

Selia dodges and dances, twirling lightly around her larger, more massive foe, listening attentively to his swearing. "...nah nah mate, ya can do better den dat. 'ere, ya gots da general disparities down, but ya need ta work on yer personalized insults. Tailor sumthin ta me specifically, nay jus wot suits any bloke ya 'appen na ta like. Meybe sum additional motovation?" she inquires, slipping past the druid's guard once again. "Oy, dat's da spirit!"

Esilwary finds himself quite wounded and rather short on options. Still, when it comes down to it, the gnome's always had a bit of a tactical edge to him. Might be that dragon blood hidden in his veins. He sights an opportunity to free up his allies and seizes it. Another arrow flies from his bow, and straight on into the poor cultist's skull. So much for him.

The Blackclads seethe like angry animals, a snarling fury as they struggle to press an advantage. Therr one on Esilwary howls with impending ttriumph,. bloodlust in his gaze as he rains blows down, sharp metal glittering like a cleaver; another scores a lucky strike against the might of Craft, metal crunching metal as their battle continues. Esil's chosen mark dies, gurgling in his own spray of agony, and the one behind tries to take another cowardly swipe at Karl. missing, if only barely!

And Selia's is screamign fit to scare the crows, blood rushing from a bevy of wounds, almost crying in frustration as he swings *again*! "STand still!" he snarls, voice breaking at a high pitch. "Stop moving you shiprat!"

With his first attacker down, Marek surveys the battlefield to find another bitch to smack up. Seeing Esilwary getting hacked at, he lurches into a gimpy charge, wounded right leg slowing down. But not enough to give his defender time to avoid the wild attack. The druid is given a wild swing to his side, exposing some of his intestines. "Try picking on somebody your own size, cocksucker!" Witty, Marek is not.

Craft, as always, takes his lickings impassively, always managing to look less damaged than he actually is, though even he's starting to show some wear. He brings the hammer around again, catching one of his attackers in the head, the hammer simply skipping off his skull rather than plowing through as it did to his ex-companion.

"'Shiprat'? Eh, nay bad, but ya can do better." Selia critiques, continueing her own battle. The halfer is starting to get a bit winded, and picks her moment carefully, driving her blade deep into the druids side, but still fails to make a killing blow.

"Thanks for the assist!" A call across the battlefield as the blackclad that Karl was fighting tumbles senseless - possibly dead - to the ground, and then he whirls, bringing his buckler up high and the rapier striking forwards to bite into the foe's leg in a bloody nick before he pulls back, a rogue's smile flashing toothy across his lips, "...well, now it's your turn, my friend. Time to do your part for the forest, ah?"

Esilwary's not having the greatest luck today. He's taken on strange aberrations and servants of the Hells, yet this crazy guy in robes is hacking him to bits. Never has he been so thankful to see a friendly meathead. "Right," the gnome mutters to himself, drawing another arrow from his quiver. Though a trail of blood has forced his left eye shut, he still maintains good aim with the right. Esilwary's arrow plants itself into the druid's back, dropping him once and for all.

Craft continues to fight off the druids. "Aren't axes meant for chopping /down/ trees?" he wonders, the next swing going wide. "Or, perhaps, you were going for irony."

Marek nods approvingly to Esilwary after the gnome drops the attacker that now shifted his attention to the half-orc and would offer up a bro fist if his hands weren't occupied. Spying his own savior a few moments early getting viciously wounded, Marek swings around and begins to hobble-charge towards that one. With one wild swing, he slices the man's lower leg off, his screams cutting off quickly once shock and blood loss set in.

Selia feints and parries, museing thoughtfully. "Ya na, yer material's a bit weak, but ya gots sum potential for a real act wit a bit o' trainin... wodda ya say? ....mate? Oh, yeah...." Muttering in mild embarassment, the halfling wipes her blade off on the fallen corpse, and looks around to see if anyone noticed her level of distraction, and how the others fare.

"Nngh--" A pained grunt of breath escapes Karl as the blackclad's axe finds a weak point in his leather--cleaving into his side in a gory strike, he's staggering back a step when Marek steps in to finish off his foe. A quick, curt nod of thanks, and then he turns a bit to look over the battlefield. The rapier's dropped, landing point up in the earth, and he sweeps the rifle up. A bullet's loaded in record time, and he snaps off a shot, grazing the man's shoulder with a sharp crack.

Esilwary isn't quite ready to give up the fight, hacked to bits though he may have been. The gnome leans against his sturdy shortbow and lifts a hand, leveling it towards the fleeing figure in robes. Mysterious guys who try to run away tend to know things. Channeling the power in his blood, he worms his way into the druid's mind, triggering something or other. The poor fellow drops to the dirt and starts rolling about, his body wracked with uncontrolled laughter.

The crack of the bullet sends the first fleeing Blackclad crashing into a tree, and then the gnome's magic catches him.... Giggles become guffaws and howls and gales of laughter! The druid falls to his knees, then to his face, twitching and quivering with mad, agonized laughter, fingers twitching as he reaches for his fallen axe desperately....

And the other druid breaks away from the Metal Demon, screaming in terror as blood pours from raw, deep wounds. He flees, even as the heavy smash sends him sailing, feet kicking as he runs and runs.. And runs!

Craft watches the druid run. "You chose this fight," he bellows, voice like a steel drum, simply turning to look towards the others. "Is everyone still intact?"

Selia eyes the fleeing fellow, whipping a Skipball in is direction, but just cracking into a tree near his fleeing form.

Karl snaps off one more shot, but he's in too much pain; it goes wide, striking one of the trees. "Althea's bouncing breasts," he spits blood to one side, dropping down to a knee and painfully retrieving - and sheathing - his rapier. "Got overconfident... someone tie up that laughing bastard so we can find out if there's more to this cult!"

"If you're not gonna kill him, you might wanna tie him up," says Esilwary, gesturing vaguely toward the laughing druid. "My control doesn't last all that long." And with that, the gnome finally gives in, falling to the dirt. He's quite severely bloodied from a few deep chops to his flesh.

Selia stretches and frowns, moving to retreive her thrown weapons as she nods towards Craft. "I'm alright. You blokes look like shitte, though."

The fight seems to be just about over. Marek doesn't know what that guy's deal is laughing on the ground, who knows what goes on with these cultists. Crazy as a shithouse rat. He hobbles over to his giggling victim and gives him a good swift kick in the face, sending teeth and blood sailing while the axeman sails off to sleeply land. He then finds a fallen log to sit down on and put a torniquette on his leg. "These were my good pants, too." the mercenary laments. "Check for more survivors we can patch up. Might get a coin or two out of this if we drag him to the magistrate to hang."

"It is nothing," Craft remarks, looking over the mostly superficial damage, few real difficult to repair bits of damage. "Should we revive our guide and ask him if this resolves things?" he asks the others as he digs into his blacksmith's apron, withdrawing his tools and starting to hammer out some of his injuries.

Selia retreives her weapons and makes her way over towards the Lad, eyeing Craft's efforts with idle curiousity. "Eh, iffen were ta kill everyone wot tried ta betray when in a tight spot, would na be many blokes left. wake 'im up, see wot 'e 'as ta say fer 'imself."

The battle is done, the giggling axeman stares up at the heavy boot smashing down, teeth and blood spraying with a gurgle. "..dying to see you...." the mad druid whispers, eyes crazed before they glaze, and unconciousness takes full reign. Ladislau is reawoken after a long moment, no worse the wear for his encounter than a lump the size of a robin's egg on his brow.

It takes but a few minutes to stir him to full wakefulness. He DEFINITELY stays away from Marek this time; gnomes are infinitely less terrifying! "They had us catch people!" he says after a few seconds' questioning, almost babbling. "They had us trap foriegners and hold them for them! Then they came and took them into the Deep Woods; I don't know anything more, I promise, I swear!"

"....please don't hit me again..."

"I think..." Karl grunts a little as he straightens, "...that we're going to have to regroup and go check out the deep of the woods at some point. We may want to bring fire. This wood isn't natural."

Further questioning yields grim truths-- There are far more of the Blackclad than simply revealed here. Far more. And as for the village.....

Perhaps it's failure carries a fate best left to the imagination.

Selia nods to Karl in agreement before turning to eye Lad. "Any guess ta 'ow many der were?"

At the mention of fire, Craft checks the pocket of his apron. "Somewhat lacking, at the moment," he remarks. "But... could speak with someone. I am hesitant to leave an entire village enslaved," he remarks. "Perhaps we could sneak them out, into the city?"

"....more than anywhere," Ladislau whispers, staring at Selia in silent fright. "Too many to count. More than the horses in Uncle Rustak's stable." At mention of saving, his eyes flicker over, a trembling hope. "Please?" he asks, all but begging. "I... don' ye wrong, I know but they made me... Please?"

Karl shoulders his rifle, head jerking back. "Bring the boy back to the city with us," he states firmly, "We'll hand him over to the watch... and come back better prepared to deal with this cult. I doubt the city has the time to spare to send real soldiers..."

Selia frowns thoughfully, checking the sky before nodding to the boy. "'ow far yet ta yer villiage? Reckon I can take a peek, meet back up wit ya blokes in da city. Git sum more 'ands ta 'elp, iffen we can."

Of course the forest isn't natural. Esilwary said that to begin with! Why do people always take him to be some crazy little gnome? "Damned if I'm going in as I am now," declares the scholar, whose hands glow as they press to his wounds, the discharged energy mending severely torn flesh. "I need some time, at least. Still in, though. This'll be great material for my bo-" Oh, that might sound insensitive. "... bow. The wood will be great material for my new bow."

"He's just a skinny lad, never knew no good from bad." Marek retorts, quoting some Queen while he's at it. "Not like he did this for the fun of it. I can leave him with my sis, wait until all the cards are on the table before we hand him over to those Watch cocksuckers."

Ladislau swallows again, staring over at Marek. Decidedly uncertain as whether his offer is good or... more terrifying still. THERE'S MORE OF HIM. "It's another half-day," he says, trembling words trying not to fly from his lips in a rush. "Ov--over the Warblebrook, and the old Hannock Hill..." He bites his lip, weaving back and forth with a shiver. " killed 'em all. Oh, mother..."

"That's what we do, lad," Karl states with a blood-tinged smile, one brow raising slightly, "We're the heroes of Alexandria, and there isn't any gods-be-damned cultist, monster, or army that can stand against us. Haven't you /heard/?" Selia glances mildly to Karl. "was dat giant thing in da Mists. Gave a pretty good lickin.... though think dat were sum form o' a God, and we recovered, more or less. Still, prefer nay ta tangle wit dat."

"I will require materials for repairs," Craft remarks, looking himself over, trying to buff out a scratch. "Going back to the city would, perhaps, be best."