SUMMARY Once again, Silverwing takes off in pursuit of a mysterious trail. This time it leads to a small lake in the mountains, filled with that same black sparkling water that Rak has been finding everywhere... including in the cave where he first found Silverwing. Yeah, his companion definitely has some kind of mysterious connection to the Corruption of the Wild. :-( Hopefully that won't be a problem.
For the last fifteen minutes or so, Rak has been following Silverwing, who has been picking her way through the undergrowth very intently, as though following a trail only she is aware of. "I have absolutely no idea where she is going," he says to Murder, "but she sure does seem determined to get there!"
Murder clings to Wilfred, who lopes alongside Erakirak. "She probably smells either something tasty to eat, or another griffon to mate with.", the Gobber whispers, resting her chin on the top of the worg's head. "Or maybe some poachers?"
Erakirak shrugs one wing. "The last time she did this, it was a ghoul miles away. I'm not sure how she even tracked it," he admits. Silverwing stops, considers her next move, and moves off the path altogether, scrambling sure-footed along the rougher terrain to the side of it."
Wilfred rumbles and licks at his chops, then gives his head a shake. "Hmm. Might be something out there.", Murder says, running her hand along the worg's mane. "I'm not hardly dressed for it." Indeed, her nice, blue summer dress and the ever present hat do not make for good hunting clothes. "But I've a few spells."
Erakirak nods. "Whatever it is, between the four of us I'm sure we can take care of it." Fortunately, none of them are strangers to hiking where there are no paths. For Rak in particular, the mountains are pretty much his home.
It doesn't take too long before Silverwing leads them over a stone ridge. On the other side of it is a small lake, about three hundred feet in diameter, fed by a small trickle of snowmelt from higher up. Silverwing runs out ahead and perches not far from the edge of the water, and the rest catch up not long thereafter. From closer up, you can see that what seemed like clear water sparkling in the sun in a dark stone basin is actually black water, that sparkles without the need for sunlight.
Erakirak frowns. "I found her in the first place in a pool like this. There's a lot of it around, lately. It's unnatural."
Murder pulls the worg up short, and hops down. "Please, stay, Wilfred." He sniffs at her hand and she pats his jowls gently. Turning, she crouches at the water's edge. "What is it, do you know?" She leans close, sniffing at it curiously. "Can't say I've seen this before."
"I'm not really sure," Rak admits. "Ga'Elian said it had something to do with the Corruption in the wild... ever since the battle we fought against that lich and her undead hordes. Whatever it is... it's not good."
As though to underscore that comment, a tentacle comes out of the water and tries to grab Murder. "Look out!"
Murder squeaks and falls back upon her behind. And then growls, stretching out her hands to form a fan shape. Spitting out a word in Goblin-talk, a great gout of fire roars from her fingertips, catching the tentacle full on. "Did you see those things before?", she wonders as the rather crispy tentacle is pulled quickly back beneath the surface of the inky liquid. "Maybe Ga'Elian needs to do a few more of these rituals.
"It seems that way," Rak agrees, impressed. "Though they did say it was only a localized --" he is interrupted by Silverwing's charge, as the griffon shoves him out of the range of a second tentacle. "Improvement," he finishes from a safer distance.
Wilfred barks at the second tentacle, and snaps at it a few times, before huffing and sitting down at the edge of the water. "Well, we should tell them at least, and warn people, so they don't accidentally fall prey to the water or the tentacles here."
Erakirak nods. "You're right," he agrees, firing arrows at the tentacle, which flails around as though blindly seeking a target. He whistles a command to Silverwing, who seems ready to charge the tentacle. "I wonder what the creature attached to the tentacle is."
Murder shrugs in reply. "Octopus? Squid? Dinner?" She giggles and moves to Rak's side. "Do we need to find out?"
Erakirak shakes his head. "Look at the suckers," he says. "Starshaped, with that weird fringe, like a man-o-war's... I'll bet they're venemous. This isn't any animal I know of."
Yet another tentacle comes up from beneath the surface, this one thicker and further from shore. It has a metal object wrapped around it that, on a moment's inspection, appears to be a sundered breastplate.
Rak gulps. "It might be too late to avoid people falling prey to it," he observes.
Murder rubs her cheek. "I don't know much about sea creatures, so I'll take your word for it. We should probably move away, yes?" She sidles up close and wraps an arm around his waist. "No point in antagonizing it, since we don't want to go in to get it out."
Erakirak nods, backing up further and gesturing to Silverwing to do the same... though he continues to fire arrows at it. Thus far he's missing... it's a small, fast-moving target at range, after all! "We can't just leave it here, can we?"
Murder takes a deep breath and huffs it out. "What do you propose we do, then?", she wonders, looking up at the Egalrin. "It is pretty remote, though, heh, at least one person has found it. But I don't know if we can root it out of there."
"No, I don't suppose we can," Rak admits. An arrow finally strikes true, and the tentacle vanishes below the water. "I wonder if they regenerate," he muses.
After a moment he nods "Yeah, I guess you're right... whatever it is, it's not really a danger to anyone unless they're stupid enough to go swimming or something. It would make more sense to tell someone equipped to drag it out with a net, or something."
The Gobbo nods and squeezes gently. "We should tell Ga'Elian. He'll come out and deal with it. We could come with him and provide assistance. Safer that way and we get to be sure that it is dead."
Erakirak nods again. He clearly recognizes the truth of what she's saying, while also clearly being unwilling to walk away. "You're right," he repeats, putting away his bow and starting to assemble rocks.
"That was impressive, with the fire," he remarks as he does so. "It's funny, all this time and I've never asked you... what other magic can you do?"
Murder eyes Rak for a few moments, and starts to collect similar sized rocks, bringing them to the Egalrin to set up how he wants. "Oh? It was just a little fire spell. I can also slow my falls, as you have seen before, I think. And uh... I can make myself really scary."
Erakirak smiles. "You don't need magic for that," he observes fondly, and starts laying the rocks out in a stylized pattern. "It will let other rangers know there's a dangerous lair nearby," he explains.
She giggles and shakes her head. "Well, it's supernatural fear that I can cause, which will make people and things flee." She nods at the pattern the rocks are in. "We should build a few of those around. So people will see."
Erakirak nods agreement. "And that's fair... ordinarily you're scary in a nonsupernatural way," he adds with a smirk. The water's surface is placid again, though still black and sparkling.
Murder snorts and shows off all her teeth. "It's not stopped you from screwing me silly, has it?" She giggles and moves to his side again.
Erakirak grins. "I was taught never to let fear stop me," he says, adopting a mock-heroic pose.
The Goblin snorts and shakes her head. "I'll try the spell out on you some time and we'll see how you do. It is actually pretty powerful. I figure it's a good way to break up a group of people or monsters, make them run away and split up, so you can deal with them one at a time, or be able to flee." Murder rubs at the back of her head. "Don't people like you have spells too?"
Erakirak thinks about the first question for a second and says "You know, I think a demon cast that on me once, now that you mention it." Somewhat sheepishly he adds "I ran away." Then, apparently grateful for the change of topic, he adds "And, yes!" he says, suddenly proud. "Cernan taught me a spell, around the same time I met Silverwing! Did I not mention it? Sorry... there was a lot going on."
Murder reaches up to squeeze his arm gently. "No, you didn't say, but don't think that you have to tell me every last little thing. I know that so much goes on in the world, you will forget things or think that they might not be important." She grins and stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "And it's okay to run away, sometimes. Spells like it are hard to deal with. All you can do is deal with it as best you can."
Erakirak gives that I-know-you're-right-but-still nod, again. "I know you're right," he says, "but... still..." he shrugs. "I don't like it."
Murder grins to him and nods. "That's because you're a boy. You like to look big and strong, and you think running away makes you look bad." She holds up a finger. "The trick is knowing when to run away, and when to stand your ground. Magic... magic messes with that."
"The trick," Rak replies grudgingly, "is not _having_ to run away."
Murder tugs on his arm. "Indeed! Now, do you think these are enough warnings for people?". She gestures to the small piles of rock arranged in a specific pattern.
Erakirak considers for a moment, then nods. "At least anyone who understands trail sign will understand it, which is the best I can do. So... I guess we should go find someone who can deal with this?"
"Yes, we should definitely go and find someone who can deal with the threat.", the Gobbo says. "And we should watch and assist. So that we can learn things too."