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Unnannouced Visitors ( Completed - Eswarth )

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Eswarth - (Johan)

It’d been about a week now that the Orcs had arrived in the Ironbark forest. It was an unusual kind of visit though. Ordinarily, a tribe of Orcs would somehow get it in their heads that they could come down to the Ironbark and launch an assult. They’d rally a few other tribes and come in groups of maybe sixty or seventy. Most times the battle wouldn’t even last a few hours. It’d been years since a Centaur was even killed.

This was different though. There weren’t groups of tens. There was no war paint, no drums… They weren’t even fighting. Su’tharc would get a report from his animal network that there were two or three in a particular part of the woods, and he’d send five Guardians to take care of it.

Each time, it was fast and uneventful. You had been on three of these events yourself, and by all accounts they were evil. Being a paladin, you know! But they didn’t fight back. In fact, they were not even armed. Though this was puzzling to you, and even a little bit disturbing, the fact remained that they were evil, and in your forest. This could not be forgiven.

You didn’t know why Su’thac had sent Virik, his feral cat friend to retrieve you, but you’d suspected there was something weighing on his mind of late. Indeed you thought that same something was gnawing at yours as well.

Su’tharc sat in a small clearing he’d always enjoyed, a small fire cooking a pair of rabbits. He was resting on the ground, four legs folded beneath him. His arms were folded at his chest, and he sucked on a pipe. His eyes focused on the fire showed no sign he’d even noticed your approach, though you knew he had, even without his animal companions alerting him.

“The forest is worried,” Su’tharc said in a concerned tone to no one in particular. Aegis, Su’tharc’s Great Horned Owl friend sat motionless on a nearby limb watching for movement.

“Come, sit,” he beckoned. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small bag of tobacco and set it down on a stone to his side, next to a full flagon of mead. Both of these things sounded good at the moment. The mead would warm a bit, and it was a little cold in the shelter of the trees.

Eswarth entered the small glade as he always did: with quiet reverence. He sat, as requested, and took up the mead to drink. It was sweet mead; Su'tharc enjoyed the sweet mead the best on a grey day such as this. Eswarth had to admit that it had a charm to it; come summer he would be preferring the stout more than the sweet, but this was not yet summer.

They sat in silence for a while, as was their custom. The Elders had said that this was done in respect, to allow both conversants to give proper respect to their thoughts before airing them.

He waited patiently (reminding himself to be patient) for Su'tharc to speak his mind. The arrow, as it were, was in Su'tharc's bow.

Su'tharc poured his flaggon into a small crystal goblet he kept in his jacket. He stared into his cup as he slowly swirled the honey-wine around, coating every bit of the inner glass. Slowly he brought the cup this lips and drew the liquid in. He let it sit for a moment in his mouth, and swallowed.

Su'tharc's face went slowly from stern to a look of distste over the next couple of seconds.

"I smell it in the air, I see it in the ground I taste it in the water..." he said in quite irratation. He turned his semi-disgusted face toward Eswarth. "Are you unaware of the taint that swirls all around these woods these days? You of all the others I'd have thought must be aware of it..."

Eswarth thought quietly a moment. It occured to him that some foods tasted a little off lately, and he'd noticed mosses that were typically starting to show hadn't yet, but he figured it'd just been because of the change in season and the slight cold he'd been feeling. Could that be what the older fellow was talking about?

Su'tharc had been a close teacher to Eswarth for many years, and had hoped Eswarth would take up the ways of nature, but was equally as pleased when Eswarth had chosen the path that he had... However, he still seemed to try to push the ways of the druid.

"There's something amiss out there, but I don't know what, and I don't know where... One thing I do know, is that we need to know why these Orcs are showing up for. They're clearly looking for something and they must be down to their last, as none of the ones we've encourtered are even close any kind of fighters."

Not understanding something was very strange to Su'tharc. Understanding and interperating was what he did, and now he suddenly couldn't. It was very unnerving.

"We need an Orc taken alive," He said. "Can this be done?"

Eswarth knew that it could of course be done, but they were evil and shouldn't be left alive... Of course, no one said they would be left alive, in the end.

"As you have pointed out to me so many times, revered elder," Eswarth responded. "Anything can be done. It's all in the "how" of it." Su'tharc had repeated this lesson many times over the years, and Eswarth found that when there were no rules the tenet was true.

"I admit that I have sensed things to be other than they should; I had thought that the issue was within me. It's comforting in a way to know that it's not, but uncomforting to know that the issue might be in the forest.

Eswarth thought a moment longer, then said, "Capturing an Orc should be easy...they are not fighters that we have been dealing with. *Talking* with one might be more difficult. Firstly, is there someone here who speaks their language, and secondly, why would they talk with us? On another thought, it might be better to go to them and speak with them instead of capturing one to bring back here."

"If a hand or two of us were to approach a couple or few of them, they would not fight. We could talk to them right there and then."

He let the idea hang in the air. He knew that Su'tharc was thinking on it, and so was Eswarth. This idea, Eswarth felt, had merit.

"You're correct," Su'tharc said finally. "However, talk was not exactly what I'd had in mind. The statement was only momentarily puzzling to Eswarth. Su'tharc must be talking about Aimria.

Aimria was, like Su'tharc one of the Elder Centuars in the city. Younger Centaurs usually steered clear of her, but those from her generation said she had much to teach.

She lived not in the city proper, but on the outskirts in a very extravagant domicile. Eswarth had been told that the house was erected for her by an enamored suitor. They’d courted and married, but he purportedly died, though no one would say how. It was really quite the sad story.

Aimira was regarded as a medicine woman, though the younger folk would opt for other treatments most of the time.

Su’tharc nodded when he saw Eswarth beginning to understand. “Aimria would have something we could use.” The whole situation seemed wrong to Eswarth. Capture and … was it torture? Experimentation? It seemed so immoral, but the harder Eswarth tried to disagree, the more he realized it may be the only way.

“The others would not approve,” Su’tharc stated, driving home the purpose for the secrecy. “Grayan has agreed as well. Should you agree that this is necessary, I would place him in your charge.”

Grayan was young for a centaur, and relatively inexperienced. He could be considered brash and impatient, but compared to Su’tharc, the same could be said about the trees. Grayan had an attitude that most, Eswarth included, found unbecoming of a Centaur. Grayan sometimes acted as though he’d learned everything there was to learn, and quickly got upset when contradicted.

This was a test, Eswarth realized, as much for Grayan as it was for Eswarth. Su’tharc was giving Eswarth a trial in leadership, and Grayan a chance to grow.


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