|by the Captain of the Blackwatch
The sunrise over the birch and maples of the Vesve Forest opened a new day for the wood elves of the Fairlander Tribe. Though it is about the smallest elven tribe in the Vesve it is perhaps the strongest military tribe of the Flanaess. At the head of this elite group is the Most Honorable Capell-Knight of the Heart and the High Forest. This day Capell rose from the reverie before daybreak. He was sitting in a trance-like state of thought as the sun peered over the horizon and through the trees. The arrival of the sun's light on the old rangers face caused a quick yet knowing reaction that broke through all previous thought patterns. Capell's thoughts were varied yet concurrent. This autumn day marked the birth of Capell's middle son, Hawkins, and there was no doubting his first true step into adulthood. Soon he would yearn to leave the constrictions of his life, to start anew and go it alone. It was the last part of it that concerned Capell. Not so much worry for Hawkins, his abilities were unquestioned, it was his younger brothers well being and more exactingly, Capell's. Not only was Hawkins ready to move on, the realization soon hit that Caver to would soon want to spread his wings, perhaps even with Hawkins.
"How old they've become", Capell's thoughts were now a low murmur, "were did the years go...how did they grow so well without a mothers care...I was never around, it's always 'duty first' with me"! As Capell's anger began to boil, someone emerged from the door,
Not long after that Hawkins ambled out, half dressed and groggy. Upon seeing his father outside a half -hearted, "morning", fell out of his mouth followed by a yawn that evolved into a full body stretch in the doorframe. "Did Caver leave without me?", Hawkins asked, surprised to say the least as the realization hit him.
"He thought you could use the rest", Capell defended, "your up and about early every morning one day of rest won't hurt, now will it"?
When Hawkins returned he sat attentively listening to his father speak. This attention lasted for a very short while because Hawkins soon realized how long he would have to listen, his once attentive expression changed to a glazed over look of anticipation as he awaited the end of his fathers ramblings. Hawkins reasoned that what had happened was that Capell had gone through his entire life over the course of the morning and now every conclusion he came up with was coming out.
As a youngster Capell was a great and courageous warrior who knew every tree and dale of the Vesve, for this he gained a reputation as both a guide and as a fighter. Another thing that set Capell apart from most was his uncharacteristically liberal outlook. Because of these aspects and his many triumphs Capell was inducted into the Knights of the Heart and the High forest. It was a rare wood elf that attained this distinction and Capell was a rare wood elf indeed. This however changed; with time, years of battle and the loss of his wife, Capell's ways turned to the more characteristic hard-nosed outlook of the Vesve wood elves. Now his fighting days were growing short. Being Lord Mayor of the Fairlander Tribe and needs not worry over actual combat, he has soldiers and his eldest son Galladin to lead them. Galladin has always been Capell's pride and joy, he was proud of the fact that his son had followed in his footsteps. Capell often used Galladin as a measuring stick for his other boys and he realized the wrong in that on this very morning. It was the words, "what I'm trying to say...", that brought Hawkins back to the conversation. "What I'm trying to say is that I am sorry; I'm sorry that I've measured you up to Galen's example all these years - not that I'm not proud of him, don't misunderstand me there, it's just not fair to you and I realize that". "In other words Hawkins I realize that you are at an age where you need to start to make decisions for the future and I want you to know that your decision, be it to leave the Vesve and become a cobbler or stay and fight for the old wood, will be backed by me all the way."
"Thank you father", Hawkins replied, "I appreciate that and I am glad to hear your realization because it makes it easier to tell you-"
As they drew closer Caver reached back for a sack fastened to his pack, from it he pulled four large hare that he held up in search of approval. Hawkins shrugged it off hiding embarrassment and saving his pride. Capell showed encouragement and excitement to his son, giving him as much confidence and happiness as possible. By the time Caver and Sathers reached the clay hut Hawkins had already returned with the necessary cleaning knives and tools, even if he didn't give credit he was glad, underneath it all, to see his brother could handle himself. The remainder of the morning moved swiftly, the cleaning and preparing of the kill was not an overly laborious task for Hawkins and Caver, as they prepared the meat Sathers cleaned the two yellow-feathered sheaf arrows he used on the hunt.
Sathers store of arrows were all made by Sathers and Hawkins. The boys had come up with many arrow designs to go along with the standard arrow types. It is because of this that Sathers was sure to use specific feather colors to separate the arrows. The only arrow not made by the boys was the black-feathered arrow given to Sathers by Gaff Tallow, an archer once known throughout the Vesve, who gave Sathers the arrow before leaving on a journey to a far off realm. Gaff and Sathers were great friends due to the skill they shared and Gaff gave Sathers the arrow to symbolize that friendship. Gaff told Sathers that it was a rare wooden arrow that could only be used once, but with great results. The arrow had slick black feathers and dozens of elven runes written upon the shaft. Sathers, of course, had yet to use the arrow and hoped he would never have to.
Since the death of Sathers parents to an Iuzian raiding party Sathers has shared many things with Capell and his boys, first and foremost was the hatred of Iuz that they share, secondly Sathers shared a bed with the Fairlanders.
Sathers took up residence in a converted clay and mud shed in the back Capell's house ever since Capell found him in such dire straits. Capell found Sathers while patrolling the Northern Vesve Borderlands; he came across an overturned cart and a half-dozen bloody and charred Grugach Elves. It looked as though an Iuzian raiding party stumbled on these lonely travelers and decided they were easy pickings, and they were right. From what Capell could surmise from the scene it looked as though the grugach did not, or could not, defend themselves against the large number of attackers. There looked to be little or no battle, simply a slaughter for no apparent reason. This was anything but surprising to Capell, he knew that most things that Iuz did had no real reason. In the debris Capell found a very young grugach child huddled amongst the clothes, the child was shaking and showed signs of a good long cry. Capell could think of nothing but the young one he had at home and being far from a cold-hearted elf he took the child and raised him as his own. Capell taught the very valuable and time-honored skill of archery to the young Sathers. Sathers took extremely well to it and became one of the best archers in the tribe. Sathers took extremely good care of his bow since it was, in actuality, his only true possession. Sathers bow was a wonder to behold. A finely crafted elven bow that was decorated with an inlay of the Fairlander seal as well as many meticulous designs.
The third, and at this time most important, shared quality was that of eating. On Moonday, after the hunt, Sathers prepared the meal and the four elves feasted as kings and with this Moonday, being Hawkins birthday, the meal was compounded. "Sathers the older I get the more I seem to be able to eat", Hawkins exclaimed.
"Wait here boys I'll be right back", Capell then rose and headed off into the dome hut. He soon returned dragging a large chest to his seat. "Hawkins", he began, "I have something I'd like you to have", he opened the chest with a great deal of excitement on his face. "First of all", he continued, "your brother, Galladin, sent these from the city of Highfolk". Capell drew from the chest two swords of glimmering beauty. They were different from anything Hawkins had ever seen; they were singularly bladed with a gradual curve to them, yet they were not scimitars. Capell assured that they were of elven design, and a rather ancient one at that. Capell then handed them over to Hawkins. Hawkins heart dropped and his hands trembled as he grasped the swords for the first time. He had never owned a weapon worth more than ten wheatsheaf in value; theses were surely worth twenty paladin at a minimum. The hilt was encrusted with two small red and one larger green central gem, the blades were sharpened to perfection and were made of pure silver.
"Those came from Mayor Lofton Greystand himself", Capell stated.
"Surely you can't be serious!", Hawkins exclaimed after a moment of composure.
The staffs designs were few, as were Hawkins adventures, but there was a border that continued past the symbols and spiraled down the staffs bottom, "I'm sure I'll have to add to it", Caver stated. Hawkins marveled at his brothers handy work and said,
Soon enough, the day of the trip arrived. Hawkins, Caver and Sathers were ready; they packed very light relying on the forest to support them. After saying their good-byes the three set off. They wore their thistledown cloaks so that snags and branches would not impede their travel. Hawkins, of course, wore a cape because of the extraordinary lavender hat that he traveled with. Another necessity that Hawkins brought was his falcon. Swoop, by name, has been attached to Hawkins for as long as anyone could remember. Swoop traveled ahead of the group because Hawkins had trained her to watch for unseen intruders ahead, which most times proved most helpful. The falcon glided effortlessly into the stiff wind, unaffected by the gusts. The trip would not be a very difficult one for the boys but they were prepared for the worst.
Since the trip was to meet Justinian he was the main topic of conversation. I t had been quite a few years since anyone had seen Justinian. He had gone to Highfolk to study in the Temple of Beory and to become a priest of the faith. Justinian went, in part, because he did not want to fight against Iuz in the Vesve borderlands as Hawkins and Sathers did. Justinian knew his fighting skills lacked and thus, found a better option for himself. He was, in fact, quite a strange sort. He was different from all other Fairlander wood elves because he was only half-elven. Justinian's mother was human, which was something Sathers was far from thrilled about, though it had no real effect on their relationship. Justinian's mother was killed for giving birth to an elven child, though the child himself was successfully saved from that end and was taken to his father who was a Fairlander. Because Justinian was seen as a half-breed by Elves as well as humans he had been the brunt of many a joke and slander. This in part drew Hawkins, the uncharacteristic liberal attitude filtered down from Capell to Hawkins and Hawkins knew that as a friend of Justinian the jokes and such would quickly end, due to Capells prominence and Hawkins promise.
The trail to Highfolk was a fairly routine one for Hawkins and crew; they often traveled there when a major threat was evident in the forest. Also Capell was often called to the city to serve the ceremonial duties that went along with his knighthood. The wind this day seemed unusually fierce to Sathers, who gained an interest in such things through his archery training.
The three elves stopped for a while at the crossing of two paths. Caver had given in to his stomachs persistence and Sathers' curiosity toward the wind called for study. Hawkins checked the paths to get a feel for the recent traffic when Swoop made a close pass in front of him. He then picked up the sound of an approaching group ahead. Without a sound he slipped into the shadows of the forest, neither Sathers nor Caver knew what was happening. As the noise drew closer Sathers and Caver became aware of the group. Sathers quickly secured his bow, the absence of Hawkins brought ease to his mind. Not seeing Hawkins meant he was already a few steps ahead of whoever was approaching. Then, to the elves surprise, the sound of four or five proved to belong to only two. Into the clearing entered two much older grey elves. They seemed to be arguing back and forth about a land unknown to the boys and of great turbulence in the particular realm. The two elves stopped a bit startled by the appearance of Sathers and Caver. Another shock came when Hawkins made his presence known when Swoop perched on his arm behind the men. "Well meet fine travelers", Hawkins greeted with a smile, "what takes you through the Vesve"?
All in all the trip was uneventful. The land between Fairlander and Highfolk was mostly clear of hostility, only the occasional hobgoblin was known to roam the area. It was felt however that Hawkins hatred towards hobgoblins kept them clear of his path. Within two days the boys set their eyes on Highfolk, they had seen it many times before but it still dazzled them each time.
They entered the city close to mid-day; the food in the air was perhaps the greatest joy for Caver, he more than the others enjoyed a good meal. The action of the streets was what Hawkins liked. The hustle and bustle of city life attracted him more than it probably should, yet he never had gone through with his plans, then again that could change. The boys reached the courtyard of the Beorian Temple and waited. Swoop made his way down to perch and Hawkins was quick to put on his talon guards and hood, this was the only way to have such a predator in the city. Sathers sat rather impatiently adjusting his bowstring and testing the strength of his arrows, he was not at all happy in the city he enjoyed the woodlands and that was about it. On top of that Sathers was not the greatest admirer of Justinian and he being the cause of the trip only added to things.
The boys waited quite a while until an ominous looking cloaked man approached them. The man slowly pulled back his hood to reveal Justinian, or was it? This was Justinian, no doubt, but he looked different. He had a strange glow about him, a look of confidence perhaps, whatever it was it was new to Justinian as far as the boys knew. A smile quickly ran across Hawkins face as well as Justinian's and the two embraced with great happiness. "How are you?", Hawkins began, "you haven't gone and become some sort of a grownup have you"?
"As a matter of fact I have my friend", Justinian answered, "I also see that your outfit tells me I'm not alone".
Following a morning meal Justinian left the temple, perhaps for the last time. The boys wasted no time returning to the Vesve even with the cakes and candies calling to Caver. The boy's were excited to return home, especially Justinian. The trail was again clear of danger up to the spot where the group encountered the grey elves. This again was the resting spot, though there was no company this time. From that point forward something changed. Hawkins was quick to notice a tremendous amount of broken branches and shrubs. There were signs of rapid exit by many creatures in every direction. Hawkins could not seem to make out any type of definite track type other than humanoid, but he had a guess or two. Hawkins suspicions were quickly confirmed as they pushed on, many of the tree's now had arrows stuck in them and in the ground, as well as the occasional bolt. Sathers studied the missiles to find them to be of Iuzian make, but Caver and Hawkins also made that realization as they found an unknown, yet, elven body full of arrows and a dagger. This caused a hurried panic that brought the group to a faster pace to the village. As they grew closer a thick sea of smoke filled the forest and the smell of burning wood became more and more prevalent. This caused the boys to travel at full speed, weapons drawn, to their home.
As they entered the village they found everything in sight ablaze with a small group of orcs herding the people. The sight of this sent Hawkins into a dead sprint at the vile beasts. He was spotted immediately by an outer orc but three blue-feathered arrows silenced him before he could announce the attack. Hawkins thrust his way into the orcs, swords well set. He swung with wild rage but proved effective. Caver followed with Justinian as they engaged an orc each, while Hawkins was relentlessly fighting three orcs. Sathers cut that number down to two, again with flight arrows, and that was all he needed to do. The orcs were caught off guard and were never to see the light of day again. The people swarmed around the boys scared beyond belief. They spoke of a great monster that was made of the dead and could not be killed, Hawkins and the boy's only concern was that of their families. Their fears became reality as Hawkins and Caver found their father barely recognizable in their home. Justinian also found the same at his home and he quickly made his way to Hawkins.
As Justinian drew near to Hawkins home Galladin and four elves rode up on horseback with fear written all over them. Inside the empty but charred dome the whole group sat, speechless. Galladin was the first to speak after hours of silence. He spoke about a courier that got through to him talking about some great beast attacking the village and Iuzian soldiers following them in. Galladin repeatedly stated that he rode as fast as he could. Hawkins then piped up asking questions of the beast, he vowed vengeance on it and on Iuz. The fire in Hawkins eyes filled the room as Sathers sat slowly bubbling up with anger, Caver and Justinian could only reflect on the loss.
The next morning Hawkins woke up with a head full of questions. The only good was that they all seemed to be answered. It seemed as though this beast was making his way around the villages of the Vesve. It was thought that it was softening the elven villages to make them easy targets for conquest. There was no assault yet but the rumors were that the Iuzian forces were slowly rising. The pattern of these monster attacks pointed to the west, perhaps to the village of Tree Topper, they were known for their bowmen throughout the wood and seemed the obvious choice. Hawkins gathered the villagers together and told them of his plan to defeat the beast and avenge the death of his father. He made it known that any of the Fairlanders were welcome to come, but none of the people were willing. Fear had crippled the people of this great tribe; the death of their leader was enough to stop even the best fighters. This was true of all the tribes that this beast rampaged through; truly the Iuzian plan was working perfectly. Hawkins realized this and the fear in the Fairlanders confirmed it. If there were no elves brave enough to face this monster than it would be Hawkins.
Hawkins quickly put his plan in motion. He knew that Sathers, Caver and Justinian were with him so these were the only numbers he planned for. Hawkins organized the boys and their equipment and set off for Tree Topper. The trip was short and well traveled by the group who could only imagine the fight that awaited them. Hawkins could find no signs of the beast on the trail so it was assumed that they were not to late.
The village of Tree Topper was made up of a network of huts among the branches of the tall maples. An unknowing or unfamiliar traveler had been known to walk past the village without even seeing it, and that is just how these elves wanted it. The Tree Topper peoples are known mainly for their archers, who had numerous perches in the surrounding trees, and that made for a well defended as well as a well-positioned village. The boys arrived in Tree Topper to find a worried yet thankful clan. A small group came to meet them with Lindorn, the village leader, at the front. He told the group that their steel was appreciated since they have only stories to go by as to what they were up against.
Two days past with no attack from the beast. With each hour that it did not come the anticipation grew in Hawkins. Sathers was given his choice of perches, since his skill with the bow was known throughout the wood, even to the Tree Toppers. The rest could only wait, Justinian prayed fervently for a blessing upon his compatriots and the village. Caver feverishly worked a block of wood, the fear and nervous tension weighed heavy on his young heart. Hawkins was focused upon his burning desire for vengeance; only the fact that Swoop had been missing permeated his thoughts. Swoop had not been seen since the Fairlander attack, yet Hawkins feared nothing as to his well-being. Hawkins merely wondered.
As the sun began to set upon the third day of waiting, the alarm signals began to go off and an approaching rustle rang out through the forest. The archers began to spray the oncoming force as Hawkins, Caver, Justinian and the Tree Topper ground troops hit the ground. The Tree Toppers and the incoming forces clashed in the clearing outside the Tree Topper tree line. The enemy force was made up of hobgoblins. Many steered clear of Hawkins but most knew not of his prowess and hatred. The Tree Toppers easily fended off the attack but Caver noticed a small group of humans that seemed to be surveying the attack, or was it the Tree Toppers. It became clear in Caver's mind that the battle was merely to find the strength of the Tree Toppers and that attacking at sunset allowed enough darkness to cover the surveyors, yet enough light to disrupt the Elvin infravision. After making these determinations Caver gave a signal to Justinian and Hawkins, then broke for the humans. Justinian was quick to follow, but Hawkins could not break away from cutting up the hobgoblins.
Caver and Justinian were able to run up on the humans before they were seen making it an easy attack. There were four humans in this group, which quickly was cut to two humans following the surprise attack from their side. The remaining humans ran upon seeing the elves and were soon after locked into a chase. As the elves drew close to the humans a wave of arrows shot at them, both Justinian and Caver were hit yet it did not appear to slow Caver's pursuit as he darted through the trees. Justinian was slowed by an arrow that pierced his thigh, luckily however one of the humans was also hit and stopped by friendly fire. Caver's chase went a short way more as he leapt and tackled the human serving him a deathblow in the air. Caver then proceeded to tumble off into a small clearing. As he picked himself up he found himself in the presence of five men who quickly dropped their bows and drew swords. Caver's quickness and hand speed allowed him to dodge and deflect many of the thrusts at him while hitting his attackers well. After the initial flurry Caver remained standing, barely, without his weapon, one of the attackers stood with his own sword propping himself up. Each stood for a moment regaining their breath, then the human made a final move for his sword but was dispensed of by the throwing dagger on Caver's wrist. Caver took a deep breath of relief, this breath, however, was lost when Caver heard a chilling tone say, "enjoy your glory, elf", these words were followed by the point of a blade which penetrated Caver's back then exited his chest. As Caver fell he turned to see a slender black figure chuckling and saying, "rejoice, better to have died by my hand", then Caver could hear no more as his vision faded and the last breathe of life escaped his lips. As the black figure looked up from his handy work he found himself confronted by a less than jovial Justinian.
The assassin quickly turned and ran, only to be stopped by Justinian's thunderous command to halt. There the man stood frozen by Justinian's command, Justinian made his way around and blocked the killers way saying, "I have no place in my heart for cut throats and thieves, yet I do have honor". When finishing his statement Justinian turned and faced the assassin. As the man regained control of his body Justinian demanded the man to defend himself, then proceeded to beat the life out of the killer. After finishing the assassin off Justinian rushed to Caver and began to cry for Beory to intervene on behalf of his fallen friend, but it was useless. Tears ran down Justinian's face as he picked up Caver's limp body and carried him back to Tree Topper.
Upon returning the elves of Tree Topper were looking over the remains of the battle, which was won convincingly. As Justinian came into sight Hawkins face and swords dropped as he ran to meet Justinian. As the two met Justinian was well into mumbling of how he could do nothing but Hawkins was quick to block that out as he ripped Caver from Justinian and gave him a look that was thought to be reserved for hobgoblins. Hawkins rushed Caver to the clerics of Tree Topper but there was nothing that could be done.
Sathers, surprisingly, was the first to console Justinian, which was more than welcome help in Justinian's eyes. Though it took a while Sathers assured Justinian that he was not at fault and was bringing on an undo burden upon himself. With this in mind the two of them went to find Hawkins since it was well into the night. Hawkins, however, was nowhere to be found. The clerics told the boys that Hawkins had taken Caver's body and vanished. Justinian and Sathers were not about to set off looking for Hawkins, they knew that if he did not want to be found, no one could find him in the Vesve.
Hawkins returned to Fairlander to bury his brother with his father and to vow on their graves to destroy the Iuzian threat in their names. Hawkins then slept with his fallen family, but rose very early and returned to Tree Topper.
In Tree Topper Sathers remained at his perch and Justinian slept in the village. Hawkins arrival was not picked up by any of the patrols or watchmen. Hawkins found his way to Justinians room where he slipped in undetected. As the sun began to rise Hawkins drew his sword and raised the blade to Justinians throat, allowing the cold steel to wake the priest. Justinian woke with a start as he saw Hawkins green eyes glow brightly in the dim light, "what is this!", Justinian asked.
When Justinian and Sathers arrived they saw an Iuzian camp that the boys figured to be the cleanup crew to follow the beast. There were four mid-sized tents and one large burnt out fire, which told Hawkins that there were probably no more than a dozen or so troops. Hawkins relayed this to the rest of the band along with the report that he saw mainly orc tracks as he came closer to the camp, Hawkins then devised a plan. He set up a format that was old hat to the boys. Sathers was to set up a perch on the opposite flank from Hawkins, Justinian would then take care of one of the side flanks leaving one open, which would normally be Caver's. Hawkins then signed that Justinian should wait for the attack signal before advancing, and with that they were off. Sathers found a prime spot upon a large rock formation as Hawkins made his way to the Iuzian horses; Justinian merely secured his position watching for both Hawkins signal and any movement from the trail behind. When Hawkins felt everything was in order he released the horses which Justinian knew to be the signal. Sathers began to fill the nearest tent with arrows as he waited for better targets; Hawkins rushed the waking Iuzian troops on horseback. Hawkins could hear the troops begin to stir as he cut into the tent, revealing five orcs who seemed more wary of the sun in their eyes then the blazing blades in Hawkins hands. While this was going on Justinian called upon the power of Beory to help him in this battle. As he did this the rain shower mixed with the rumbling of thunder. This occurred as orcs began to file out of one of the remaining tents. With immense and total concentration Justinian proceeded to strike down four orcs with bolts of lightning from the sky. Justinian saved a final bolt, which he used upon the tent itself, taking care of any too afraid to come out. Hawkins marveled at this power, as did Sathers. The amazement cost Hawkins to be hit by an orcish sword but this blow only focused Hawkins attack once more. Hawkins enjoyed the luxury of having far superior speed and precision in comparison to the half-drunken orcs and found it effortless in defeating them. Following his display of swordsmanship Hawkins saw that of the remaining tents one was smoldering and nonexistent while the other two were filled with arrows. Sathers had begun to retrieve his blue and yellow-feathered arrows and he assured Hawkins that it was filled with orcs and that they were all dead. As he looked to the remaining tent Justinian peaked his head out and waved Hawkins over. Inside Justinian had discovered the tent to be a far cry from the others. This tent was full of books and gear of two humans. It looked to be the devices of a mage and a cleric of some evil kind. Justinian was quick to point out the evil present as well as his desire to destroy the tent. Hawkins did not object but he did wish to return, he feared the attack on Tree Topper was in progress. Justinian then went to the brush outside the camp and picked a leaf of sumac then returned to the tent. Grasping the large green holy symbol of Beory Justinian again called to his god. From the hand holding the sumac leaf came forth a blazing ray of red-hot fire that Justinian used to breakdown and burn the tent. Following this the boys rushed to Tree Topper, Hawkins and Sathers were nothing short of amazed, but time was of the essence.
Upon their speedy return the band saw that Hawkins fears were correct and that the beast had decimated the village while they were gone. The boys were quick to seek out Lindorn and hear of the atrocity. Hawkins explained what they had done and how the lack of a clean up force made the beasts effectiveness far less. Lindorn agreed but could only marvel at the power of the beast itself. He explained how it seemed unaffected by all attacks and that it looked like no creature he had ever seen. He also told of how merciless it was in killing and destroying all that it could. Hawkins knew Lindorn and knew that he was not easily shaken; yet this beast had surely set fear in the mighty Lindorn. The boys then went to eat, Hawkins was feeling a bit weak and Justinian and Sathers knew why when they saw the large gash that now had bleed tremendously. The boys quickly took Hawkins to their room where Justinian again called upon Beory. Justinian set his hand to the wound, keeping one to grasp his holy symbol; Hawkins wound healed partially but Justinian could do no more. Justinian explained to Sathers that he had not yet mastered his abilities and that it had taken far to much out of him to continue. Sathers smiled and told Justinian that he had done more than enough, then proceeded to dress Hawkins wounds. The healing that Justinian had done revived Hawkins to the extent that he could again feel his strength; his desire also pushed him as he and Sathers began to talk of hunting the beast.
When Justinian woke it was the next morning. He searched for the other two and found them in a room in the midst of a ceremony and he immediately left not wanting to disturb them. Justinian then went back to his room to pray for Beory's blessing of power for he could tell what was to transpire when he saw Hawkins and Sathers. He knew he needed to pray when he saw that Hawkins and Sathers were in the midst of an even more spiritual ritual than prayer. Though he had never actually seen it before he knew Hawkins and Sathers were in the midst of communion.
While Justinian was resting Sathers and Hawkins had decided that this beast was nothing they had seen or heard of before and thus thought perhaps the communion was the best way to unify their attack. Communion is the ancient act of the elves in which a group of elves that willingly desire to share their feelings, fears and lives to become cemented in their bonds. This was the best course of action in the eyes of Hawkins and Sathers, whom had been best of friends since early youth. This act took the boys most of the day and upon finishing the two were invigorated but drained at the same time. With Justinian the boys then decided their plan of action against the beast over honey mead and venison. Hawkins and Sathers had strange yet knowing looks about them, which showed Justinian that the communion had been a success. It was a very strange conversation from Justinian's standpoint. Hawkins was finishing Sathers' sentences as was Sathers with Hawkins', the two of them seemed as though they were the exact same elf. The three decided to hunt the beast and any companions it may have had as soon as possible. They gathered their gear and wished Lindorn and the village a fond fair well.
Hawkins frantically searched for tracks leading out of the village. The morning rain had allowed for the ground to be soft enough that fairly good tracks were left. As Hawkins picked up the trail it looked as though it went in the direction of the camp that the boys had previously destroyed. It also looked as though the beast picked up two companions. The size of the companion's feet as well as the empty tent from the camp led Hawkins to believe that the beasts' companions were the cleric and mage that were vacant from the camp. As for the beast, the size of his feet and the depth of his prints showed that he was a very wide and large creature. The spacing of his prints showed Hawkins that it had fairly short legs, meaning that it was not only large, it was also mainly body. Hawkins saw the short legs to be a plus because he could fight a large stocky creature without having to attack his knees. Hawkins explained his findings to the rest of the boys, who were always marveled at what Hawkins could get out of a simple footprint. As the boys neared the camp there was no sign of the beast. This was expected since the attack was many hours ago. Hawkins again picked up the trail of the beast and his cohorts heading north. Hawkins felt this a bit odd, north did not go to Iuz nor did it go to any elven village.
Nonetheless Hawkins knew that if the beast was with humans they would have to sleep and that was the perfect time to gain ground on them, since the boys were well rested. Hawkins and the boys darted through the forest with great ease. The beast had cut a path through the woods wide enough for a wagon, making travel easy. After a short time the trail opened into clearing, when Hawkins saw it up ahead he slowed the boys and left the trail using the trees as cover. The boys reached the edge of the clearing picking up two humanoid forms with their infravision. They thought that perhaps the beast could hunt and that would explain why it was not present, but they did not really know. This had to be them, they had no gear nor did they have a fire. The lack of fire allowed the boys to pick up the bodies sleeping on the far edge of the clearing. It was extremely dark and thus extremely late so the boys decided to camp here until the beast returned.
The night passed, Sathers and Hawkins fell asleep but Justinian kept a vigilant watch on the situation. As the sun peered over the Vesve Justinian saw a most shocking sight. Behind the sleeping humans sat an enormous black figure, the size of which Justinian had never seen. Justinian was quick to wake the others who likewise were astonished. Hawkins and Sathers, still finishing each others sentences, were amazed at the size of the beast. They were also puzzled at the fact that it was not visible to their infravision. Was this beast undead? Indeed the boys needed to reconsider their plans. The boys were far from afraid, but at the same time they were far from stupid. As the boys plotted against the beast and his cohorts Hawkins caught a glimpse of a familiar friend above. It seemed as though Swoop had been tracking the beast since it had attacked Fairlander. Swoop was unaware that Hawkins had gone to Tree Topper and thus could not find him to lead him to the beast. Since Swoop could not find Hawkins he continued to follow the beast till he could find Hawkins. Hawkins then proceeded to call to the falcon with a high-pitched screech, which the bird recognized immediately. Swoop circled the general area where the call came from then rose in altitude and dove once it spotted Hawkins, making the process of finding Hawkins look as natural as possible to extinguish any suspicion. The two were very happy to see each other. Hawkins had a plethora of things on his mind at this time but finding Swoop eased his mind more than he knew. This heightened Hawkins' spirits, which were already high. Justinian prayed for a blessing upon the band as well as strength from Beory. Now Hawkins was ready to fight, he worked a plan where Sathers and he would attack the beast full on, while Justinian would focus on the spell casters.
With the plan in mind Sathers searched for a spot to set up while Justinian, Hawkins and Swoop made their way around to the side of the clearing that the beast was located, the elves moved effortlessly and silently through the forest till they reached their objective. Justinian called upon Beory, with his silver mirror and his holy symbol in his hands, to set a sanctuary upon himself so that he could maneuver to a good attack position without being seen. Hawkins ordered Swoop not to fight then drew his swords and flexed an iron grip on the handles, he was surely ready. Justinian began to walk out into the clearing when Hawkins stopped him saying that he was sure to be seen, Justinian merely shook his head and reminded Hawkins to have faith. Then again Justinian started into the clearing, to Hawkins' and soon to Sathers' surprise he walked by the camp without even a hint of notice from the Iuzians. Justinian stood for a moment plotting his position; when he felt satisfied with his spot he signaled Hawkins to charge. With that Hawkins leaped from the bushes with his blades blazing, Justinian grabbing control of the situation perplexed Hawkins a bit but not enough to break his focus. He made a quick dart for the beast and let out a thunderous yell as he leapt to engage the monster. Hawkins first swipes at the beast found their mark, as did the green-feathered arrows that struck at Hawkins incision. Indeed Hawkins and Sathers were in exact unison, as the blades hit the beast arrows followed. Soon the beast, which looked to be made of the bones of fallen warriors, was full of cuts as well as arrows, yet it seemed less than impaired.
Justinian allowed the humans to awaken. He could see that indeed one was a cleric of Iuz and the other perhaps a mage. Justinian knew that the cleric had not had a chance to pray for power from Iuz nor did the mage have his spell book, it was clear that he had an advantage. Justinian bided his time until he saw the best opportunity to attack. When he saw the mage begin to cast a spell and knew the time had come. Justinian raised his mace and smashed the back of the wizard disrupting his spell while breaking his own magical protection. The wizard then turned with a dagger drawn. Justinian could see that the dagger was poisoned; he could also see that the cleric had secured a rod. Justinian easily fended off the dagger and again struck the mage. This sent the mage to the ground and the clerics rod to Justinians back. Justinian quickly spun to face the cleric and answered his attack with a blow to his side. Justinian and the cleric went at it for some time. Justinian was pummeling the cleric when something peculiar happened. As the cleric hit the ground from a blow the rope on Justinians belt began to entangle and bind Justinian. As he spun he saw the mage and his poison dagger charging at him. The mage ran furiously at Justinian who could not break free of his bondage. As the mage lifted his dagger to deal a blow two green feathered frog crotch arrows fly across the skirmish. One arrow cut Justinian free, as well as cutting his cloak, the second arrow struck the wizards arm nearly severing his wrist. The mages dagger fell to the ground as he clutched his wrist. Justinian, now free, retrieved his mace and finished the evil wizard. The cleric was alive but only a short time longer as Justinian dispatched of him, then looked to help Hawkins.
Hawkins continued to fight the monster; his arms had never had such a work out. Sathers glanced to notice that his quiver was extremely low of arrows; he could only think to himself that something had to happen. Hawkins continued to chip away. The beast had never fought a single person, nor had it ever fought someone that seemed to not be afraid of it. The beast proved slow and had trouble keeping up with Hawkins, it seemed to manage little more than slight, glancing blows. This, however, changed when Hawkins missed a swing badly, he was on the edge of exhaustion and had little power or precision left. Upon missing he left himself open to attack and the beast took full advantage sending Hawkins to the air and then the ground, nearly twenty feet away. With this opening Justinian made his move. With Beory's assistance Justinian again called upon the heavens to send forth lightning, soon the overcast skies turned to a churning sea of electrical power and Justinian directed the lightning down upon the beast. It struck the beast sending the immense creature to the ground. Hawkins rose with relief but that turned to horror as the beast began to rise, shaking frantically. Hawkins however spared no time as he again charged the beast imbedding his swords into it. The beast staggered back a bit, then Sathers let fly with the black-feathered arrow, which penetrated the beast sending it to the ground for the last time.
Hawkins then fell over from exhaustion, Justinian rushed to him and clinched his holy symbol as he healed Hawkins and revived him. Swoop was quick to land when he saw the excitement over. Sathers burst from the trees and ran to his comrades, after finding them to be all right he then proceeded to retrieve his arrows. Justinian looked over the humans. Justinian again grasped his holy symbol and called upon Beory to find any possessions of magical content. The only item was the rod that Justinian had already imagined to be magical. He picked up the rod then returned to Hawkins who was with Swoop and was now joined by Sathers, who was only able to retrieve about half of his arrow store.
With little else to hold them, the three boys and Swoop decided to leave the forest. They set off for Highfolk, as it was the gateway to the realm from the Vesve forest, there they also had friends and even family, in Galladin. At Highfolk the boys could recover and supply themselves. The boys could also find adventure in Highfolk, but what was most important to them was that the boys were leaving their memories behind and also that had truly become grown warriors.