The Stones of Arcory Chapter Twenty Nine
Footsteps Into The Dark
Missive to Council
Storm Season First Quarter Second Horn’s Day
I have decided to take a few days on the Silverborne coast prior to my return before high storm season, And will be spending time with the Blue Guardians at Ascension.
I also have a small personal obligation I need to fulfill, but should be able to finish it before Council has any reason to be concerned. The High Guardian and his fellows have offered to assist me in this task, as there has been much activity lately amongst the witches and of possible demon activity in their forested region. But of course, I will not act in anyway unwise or in any way which will risk my health.
The winds were blowing through the trees and the dark roiling clouds above promised another heavy downpour as my new steed tread nervously along the forest road which wound its way towards the Black Mountains to the east. A local woodcutter, Valrek by name, who I had passed earlier in the afternoon had been reluctant to advise me of the location of those I sought, but he was able to identify the Margrave had journeyed here, once I showed him a drawing of the man’s sigil.
“A wise man would not follow in those footsteps,” he advised, axe slung over his broad shoulders, scar that stretched from the bridge of his nose down his left check twisting through whiskers on his cheeks. “That lord and his men did not return from the foothills. Few do.”
I thanked him for his concern, and then continued up the path. This was an imposing region of heavy forest, enchanted many claimed. Cursed others claimed. From what I recalled of the region, it was a little of both. That the Margrave had come up here was a mark of his increased desperation. Moon witches, especially those who dwelt around here were not to be treated lightly; I still bore scars to remind me of that. I had been young, inexperienced, but still…
And this was where the man’s path led, so I followed. I still had a cycle or two before the missives from council would grow anxious enough for me to consider turning back.
The path gradually turned wild. At the woodcutters, it was wide enough for a cart. The next morning, above in the hills, it was barely a foot path. By high sun, I knew I’d reached their territory. The bones of a forest creature dangled from a tall birch tree marked the border between man’s realm and theirs. I dismounted and tied the gelding I’d been loaned by the Blue Guardians and continued as far as I was willing on foot. I wanted to ensure this steed’s safety. Loaned by the guardians, the steed’s mild temperament was a vast improvement over what I’d been used to since leaving Council.
The air around me grew oppressive, as though both the trees and clouds were pressing it down on my. As soon as I set out on foot, rain began with the spattering of large drops. I had anticipated such weather, and the rain rolled harmlessly off me. First pattern spells, I had never had trouble with.
As dusk was approaching, I reached a dark glade, a circle of spun bramble, a clear focus of ancient, earthly power, the kind that ruled before the Dawn Crossing so many millennia past. There I started my work at earning the local coven’s attention. They would come – eagerly and angrily, I was sure – once they became aware of what I was creating and what I might be.
I did not, however, anticipate them taking so long. It was long past dusk when the four of them did finally arrive. They almost caught me nodding off after hours of waiting for them in the darkened forest. As for the warning I received, well, it was familiar too.
Bright light blasted the darkness, a crash of thunder brought me back to full awareness as the witches spells met the circles of protection I’d drawn into the hard earth of the grove.