Crant was tapping her foot anxiously as she waited outside Nentanuk’s hut, watching for the exact moment that day shifted into night. It was nearly three hours since she’d arrived, and the pendant just needed the final two steps in order to be completed: drying under moonlight, and then to be bonded with a few strands of her fur. The instant it was done, Crant was planning to run back to town to find Teresa, and hope the dwarf hadn’t given up on her returning.
Parunta’s golden light faded below the horizon, while Shan’s Eye and Calu’s Rest began to glow more brightly from their respective places in the sky.
“Nentanuk!” Crant called through the open door.
“I’m coming woman, don’t get your tail in a twist.” Grumbling, the magician left her hut, cradling in her claws the newly potion-coated pendant. It reminded Crant somewhat of a centaur shaman’s dreamcatcher, a detail she’d long noted while carrying around the instructions for making one.
The two of them headed to the edge of the surrounding stand of trees, towards one oak in particular. It was completely devoid of leaves, bearing several lightning scars along its topmost branches and trunk.
Out of her sleeve, Nentanuk produced a long cord, onto which she strung the pendant before tying it closed in a loop. Then she hung the thing from one of the lower branches, stepping back and allowing moonlight to completely bathe the pendant.
“There,” the magician smiled slightly. “Now while we wait, let’s go get a bit of your fur, wolfen.”
“Alright,” Crant hesitated briefly. “Anonian.”
“I’m assuming that’s what you are, at least, despite the fact that every history tome I’ve ever read agreed that they were all wiped out in the Great Massacres.” The woman forged on. “And after hearing what you said before, about the Immortals stealing from the Animkind gods...”
“It’s... Been a very long time since someone deduced my true race for themselves.” Nentanuk finally responded. “How...?”
Crant could only shrug. “Like I said, I’ve spent several years wandering just about everywhere. I once was invited to tour Vika’s palace in the Far North, and she had an entire wall depicting every breed of dragon to have once lived upon her shores, including the Stormers-”
“Who my particular Anonian breed greatly resemble.” The magician finished for her. “You are a very strange individual, Crant. To have earned a place among the Animkind is one thing, but to be on friendly terms with the Ice Goddess herself... I have a feeling there’s a great destiny in store for you.”
“I doubt that very much, but thank you anyway.” A hint of bitterness crept into Crant’s tone, but Nentanuk chose not to comment on it.
“Well, shall we continue on making you a lesser danger to your environment, my friend?” Grinning, the woman nodded, and the pair of them returned to Nentanuk’s hut.
“Hey,” Aldra said nervously. “Do you guys feel that this might not be such a good idea? Like, maybe we should have waited until dawn?”
“By that time, another family of townspeople could have been taken.” Mentras reasoned.
The group was on the simple track that led up the hill outside of town towards the Dweller’s home. Andren had taken the lead on the narrow trail, purposeful steps taking her forward as the elf ignored both her brother and the uneasy feeling in her stomach. Behind the archer came her twin, followed by Teresa, then Mentras, and with Krun making up the rear. It had taken some badgering, but the four of them had eventually convinced the meckle orc to come with them - first to make sure they didn’t get turned around inside the town, and then onwards as extra muscle. He didn’t seem terribly happy with the situation, but agreed nonetheless.
Aldra wasn’t the only one worried, as they could all sense the same feeling of danger as him: it was as though the darkened landscape around them was warning the group not to go on. Just as she was going to turn around and say that maybe they should wait until daylight, Andren reached the track’s end and stopped. They had arrived at the thick grove of trees, with a small hut barely visible in the center. Through the cracks in the closed shutters and the door came some sort of greenish light, and everyone picked up on the low murmur of magic being done. Before Andren could work up the courage to keep going, Teresa stomped past her and hammered on the door.
“Who’s there?” They’d clearly interrupted something, if the worried tone was anything to go by.
“Open yuir door right this minute, ya cowardly demon! We want a word with ye!” Teresa called back. The rest of the group approached the hut. They could all hear the distinctly panicked sounding voice inside, overtop a growl that grew in volume.
“Why does it sound that way?” Krun muttered to them. “Why would a demon be afraid? And of what?”
“A bigger demon.” Mentras suggested. He stalked up to the door and began fiddling with the latch.
“Alright, ya blasted bein’!” Teresa yelled. “If you can’t come out, we’re a’coming in!”
“NO!” The creature screamed, just as the door crashed down - from the inside. Teresa and Mentras were thrown back by a giant beast that came out. It was huge, with long fur bristling from under strained clothes and dagger-length claws. It’s eyes were crazed, foam dripping from a mouth full of sharp teeth that were bared in a vicious snarl.
“W-w-wo-WOLFEN!” Aldra screamed. The monster’s eyes swung to the terrified elf, and it growled in his direction. Before it could take two steps toward him, Krun stepped in and threw a punch aimed at the wolfen’s lower jaw. The force of the blow forced the mad creature back a few steps, but then it recovered and leapt at its new target. Krun barely managed to avoid the teeth snapping at his arms, stumbling away from the wildly swinging claws.
“Crant! Stop this!” Getting back to her feet, Teresa did a double take as the fearful shout resounded through the grove. Eyes drawn back to the wolfen, she sucked in a startled breath when noticing the familiar sword hanging from a belt tightly caught around the wolfen’s waist. The dwarf had no time to act on this, though, before a tall being flew out from the hut on large, leathery wings, tackling the monster and forcing it away from Krun. Grappling, the pair went crashing into a leafless tree, breaking the trunk near in half. The air around them crackled, and then a trio of lightning bolts appeared out of nowhere, stabbing into the wolfen’s form and eliciting a pained howl.
A hand on her shoulder caught Teresa’s attention, and she looked over into Mentras’ alarmed eyes.
“We can’t fight that thing!” He hissed, tail swishing in agitation. “We have to get out of here, get some soldiers or something!” Teresa clamped her jaw down on an unhelpful comment.
“Mountainmover dwarves don’t run from a fight.” She said instead, pulling out her broadsword. Mentras stared at her, eventually gulping and pulling out a pair of daggers. Closer to the trees, Andren had gotten her brother to calm down, and the pair of elves were rapidly stringing their bows. Krun had regained his composure, readying his axe for a fight even if he didn’t know the first thing about combat.
Together, the five prepared to charge in to assist the winged being, whom the wolfen had finally succeeded in dragging off and throwing aside. All of their attention was on the bellowing monster.
So, no one was prepared for the arrival of a fast-paced melody on the air, or the green tendrils that suddenly burst forth from the ground to wrap around everybody’s limbs and weapons, holding them in place.
Hours, Seesor had been crouched in the tall yellow grass, ears and tail twitching as he intently studied the magic-infused abode. His abilities as a druid connected him to all forms of life, and most forms of mystical power, allowing the tiny faun to sense a great many things even without seeing them.
He could feel the mighty presence of the being who lived within the wooden dwelling.
He could hear the tingles of the various spells she’d put up to protect her home, keeping out any with less than noble motives.
He could smell her pain, built up over hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of years of loneliness.
Digging his fingertips into the soil between his hooves, Seesor took a deep breath, and on the exhale, let his magic reach out. It was a tentative probing, meant to be nothing more than a humble inquiry, so the protective wards on the dwelling allowed him entry. He gained several flashes of disjointed images, old memories and emotions used to power the multitude of spells. This was someone who used more types of magic than he’d known existed, but at their core was a being who’d gone from being a cherished loved one to the last of her kind in a matter of hours.
As he retracted the probe, Seesor wasn’t surprised to find tears streaming down his cheeks. Shifting position, the faun curled up within the little nest he’d made, slowly descending into sleep as he pondered over the bits and pieces he’d seen of Nentanuk Magicborn’s soul.
When he next awoke, there were voices nearby.
Jerking upright, Seesor felt his eyes widen as he recognized three of the scents passing by his hiding place - the elves and the orc creature. Curious as to why they and another two were approaching the dwelling, the faun crept after them. As neither he nor the others seemed to have ill intentions, they were all allowed past the wards of protection, though Seesor still felt an uneasy ripple over his fur as he stepped through and into the trees.
He was focusing more on the energies filling the air than what the group was doing, but his attention was instantly captured by the raging monster to emerge from the wooden dwelling. Staring in horror as the creature went on a rampage, Seesor tried to figure out what was going on. His earlier nap meant he must have missed the monster’s arrival, because it definitely had not been present that afternoon. Hurriedly extending a bit of his magic, the faun was only able to get a sense of ragepaingriefkill before some other force, dominating the creature’s actions, drove him back out.
But it was enough for Seesor to gain an idea of what he had to do for the wolfen.
Bringing his carved flute to his lips, the faun began to play. The stirring, almost violent notes burst from his instrument, instigating a frenzy in the Growth magic around him. Vines and roots were called forth, emerging to the same pulse-pounding rhythm, and wrapped themselves around all the nearby people. The elves shouted in surprise, attempting to twist their way free. Their companions reacted much the same way, though the orc suddenly stilled as his ears recognized the music for what it was. The winged being also held still, her expression a cross between gratitude and irritation.
As for the monstrous wolfen... It howled in anger, ripping away many of the tendrils that attempted to bind it. Only once he was sure enough of the plants were holding it in place did Seesor dare show himself and approach the beast. The others throughout the grove took notice of him then, several calling out a warning not to go near the monster. Seesor ignored them.
He continued to play his flute, though with those around him firmly secured by the tendrils, the faun allowed his tune to slow into something more resembling a lullaby. His steps were slow and quiet, but unfaltering in the face of the snarling creature and snapping teeth. Ignoring the terrified flutter of his heart, Seesor willed a calming wave of magic to cover the monster before him, soothing its phantom pains and convincing the overpowering force to depart for a time.
As the wolfen’s struggles ceased, a strange transformation took place. The pale grey fur shrank away, revealing sun tanned skin and blonde hair. The leather garments became less strained, returning to looseness on a much smaller body that slumped in weariness. Intelligent, relieved eyes looked up from where the human woman was supported by the same tendrils that had previously held her prisoner, seeking out the gaze of her helper.
“Thank you,” she mumbled, before those eyes rolled up in her head and Seesor’s song sent her into a peaceful slumber. He continued to play a while longer, until those behind him had become still as well, and then he ended the flow of magic. Seesor brought down his flute, and the tendrils returned to the ground, releasing their various captives and setting the sleeping wolfen-woman down.“Alright.” Standing to her full height, Nentanuk glared down at the faun. “I want an explanation for all this. Now.”