Chapter 3: Of Wolf and Elf
"A hound…er, wolf archon?" Velvadine asked his teifling lieutenant incredulously.
Singe nodded and the slender man burst into laughter. The news hadn't really come as a surprise to the wizard. He had foreseen the meeting in a vision years before, and wouldn't mind a bit of fun in the form of battle with the two elves and this… wolf archon.
He stopped laughing and became very serious as he looked into Singe's pink with red flecked eyes.
"Take two of the ogres and pay the companions a visit, if you kill them, all the better, if you lose, escape. I want the gauge the prowess of these three."
Singe nodded to him again and two ogres fell into line behind her at her mental bidding as she opened a portal. As the three blinked out of the room Velvadine's laughter followed them.
Several hours had passed as Lupin and the elves exchanged the information they had each gathered about Velvadine. The companions took an easterly route from Waterdeep and were heading to meet a druidess that Lupin had become acquainted with on his earlier travels. She had taken up residence in a grove with the broken hills of the area.
"She may have some information on where Velvadine's fortress lies, her animal friends rarely miss anything happening in the area, and at any rate she will be able to supply us for the road and perhaps give you two blades truly fit for followers of the Lady of the Forest." Lupin explained to the elves after a bit awkward silence between them. The elves had been very surprised at first when Lupin had showed them his true form, but they had quickly gotten over their shock. Lupin was, after all, their goddesses champion, and they were too joyous that he was beside them to be anything else.
Darkness began to fall and the companions set up camp by a stream. Lupin allowed Kairel and Adrael to inspect Equinox and all the two astonished elves could manage in response to the weapon was "Beautiful." A while later the elves went into their trance like sleep of reverie and Lupin looked on, having no real need of rest. He sighed as he thought of the friends these two could become to him. They were elves, and thusly capable of several centuries of companionship. Besides Seagrim, his only other companions had been human. The druid who raised him and had died and the druidess they were going to meet. She was in her sixth decade now, and may not be around much longer. Lupin smiled thinking of the adventures the two had shared forty years prior. Lupin leaned against a tree and decided to get some sleep himself rather than waiting for dawn and suffering through the nostalgia of lonely thought. He had just begun to doze off when a crackling energy started to build in the center of their camp. The elves, feeling the energy too, jumped to the ready and stood beside their wolfish companion.
A dark blue portal opened where the energy could be felt and an equally dark, lithe figure stood inside of it. Two piercing pink orbs with flecks of red stared out at them, announcing their doom. The figure leapt out and seemingly disappeared into thin air. An instant later out of the portal jumped two more, much larger forms. Ten feet of ogre muscle, each wielding dual clubs that were the same size as Kairel, and with many rusted spikes, came rushing at the three. Lupin drew Equinox up in front of him in both hands and looked to the elves.
"If I take one of them can you handle the other?"
The elves nodded and Lupin ran passed them to meet the ogres charge. The ogre on the right, two heads taller than Lupin, and obviously thinking itself at an advantage, brought its clubs to bear. Lupin brought Equinox across in a wide arcing horizontal slice, cutting both clubs cleanly in half. The ogre blinked, and then turned to run as Lupin went into a spin. The momentum of a full circuit behind it, Equinox dove into the ogre under his ribs and ripped out through the other side. Lupin didn't even wait to watch the ogre fall apart, there was someone else lurking around to worry about.
The elves dove out of the way on either side of the second ogre as it barreled at them. Kairel came up, long swords drawn and Adrael had already put five daggers in the ogres back and had another five in the air as she drew her long sword and dagger. The five flying daggers thudded home into the ogre's side as he skidded to a stop and turned. Clubs swung and thundered into the ground as the elves came in at the ogre and those same clubs were ducked under as the elves cut lines into the ogre's thick hide. Gashes covered the ogre in mere seconds and his own swings began coming less and less frequently. Adrael back flipped out of the way of a last ditch over head slam from the ogre and sent two more daggers soaring in as she went, each replacing one of the ogre's eyes. The massive monster shrieked and dropped both of its clubs to the ground to clutch at the blades buried to the hilt in his face. Kairel hopped into the air and dug both of his long swords into the beasts throat, then kicked off the things chest, causing it to go down in a heap and dislodging his blades at the same times. Adrael walked up as he landed and they both wiped their blades clean on the monster's tunic (which was rather nice for an ogre) as it died in a gurgle of its own blood. The elves looked at the gory mess that was the other ogre and were even gladder of Lupin's company.
She was close, he could smell and feel her. Tremendous energy was rolling from her as heat does from an ancient red wyrm, and the faint scent of brimstone followed her as it did a red as well. Lupin slowed as he came into a large copse of trees, for her energy was much more intense there. He blinked once and as his eyes opened she appeared in the center of the ring of trees.
She was beautiful, pearl skin and ruby lips, long, deep red hair and those eyes, orbs of pink with red splashes throughout. She had sharp elven features, for she was apparently elven, through she was also of demonic decent. A teifling. Two small horns protruded from her forehead under her hairline and her hands were clawed. As she smiled at him he noticed sharper–than-usual canines. The scent of brimstone continued to waft to him, but it was joined by rose now, a mixture of beauty and evil. Evil, he repeated to himself. She was evil. It was his duty to destroy such creatures.
The teifling drew out a nasty rapier and an even nastier dagger, both barbed and dripping with a greenish-black liquid, surely a heinous poison of some kind. The red and black intricacies of the apparent sibling blades caught Lupin's eye. They were magnificent weapons, just like Equinox.
He and she were the same person, Lupin realized, just for opposing causes.
There would be no pleasure in this kill for Lupin, though there rarely was.
He rushed forward and launched another arcing, horizontal slash as he reached her. As the blade was about to hit the teifling, time seemed to slow for Lupin. The maiden jumped into the air and landed lightly on Equinox as it slowly inched across its path. She walked atop the nearly frozen blade slowly, deliberately, right up to Lupin. At the sword's hilt she leaned forward and locked Lupin's gaze in hers.
"I can only enact this mind spell once a day, Lupin Mooncaller, pride yourself that I wasted it on you."
With that she kissed the archon on the lips and back flipped off Equinox as Lupin's speed returned to normal. The assassin rushed forward at him, her blades whirring. Lupin got Equinox up just in time to deflect an attack that would have had his entrails spilling to the ground and even managed to get back into an offensive stance. At once he realized that Equinox wasn't the weapon to use in this fight, for though he was much more agile and dexterous than any other in the realms with a weapon of such size, even his speed wasn't enough for this one. He smiled at the teifling and threw Equinox into the air, hoping to divert her attention as he drew the large scimitars that his old master used to favor from his belt. She was much too experienced for that rouse; though she did let him draw the blades…she hadn't had a good fight in a long time.
Equinox landed and dug into the earth a few feet to Lupin's left as he launched into a sweeping attack with both scimitars dipping in at the teifling and then, as she jumped over them, he stopped, allowing her to land again on his blades. They stood like this, staring into each other's eyes again for what seemed like an eternity. Then the assassin jumped from them into a quick somersault over Lupin, rapier racing hungrily for a shoulder, but Lupin had begun a spin as she had jumped, getting a scimitar up as he went to intercept the rapier. As she landed, Lupin was upon her, and her rapier was now out far to the right.
A scimitar came in at her chest as she tried to get either blade up, and she took a deep gash across her forearm in deflecting the killing blow, a gash that had her arm numbing every second. Lupin took a step back, thinking that perhaps she would surrender, wounded thusly. She stared at him, her visage one of defiance. She would never surrender.
She would rather die, proud to the end.
Kairel and Adrael came to the edge of the copse at that moment but decided to watch the exchange. Singe felt the elves at her back and knew she was badly outmatched now, and she also knew that Velvadine could heal her current wounds, but he couldn't bring her back from the dead. She smirked at the noble archon as he replaced his scimitars at his hips and sent a mental message to him.
The name is Singe, farewell Lupin Mooncaller.
With that another dark blue portal opened between them and Singe darted into it.
Lupin cried, "Wait!" but she was already gone.
"What just happened?" Kairel asked as he and Adrael walked up to Lupin. All he could replay was "Singe."
The next two days passed uneventfully as Lupin continued to trudge on and the elves continued to wonder why the battle with the teifling had so rattled him.
After some time they came to a shallow and narrow valley which was a straight drop on the end opposite of them, but had a comfortable slope down on their side. Up against the "wall" that the other side made was an arcing row of tall, lush trees, which were so thickly packed and intermingling that they were hard to distinguish from each other, and formed a half-moon style wall that created a natural shelter. As they neared it Lupin announced, "We are here," though Adrael and Kairel had already figured as much.
Lupin threw his head back and let out a howl that seemed to clear the sky of clouds and the tops of the tree that had bent back to form the canopy roof curled forward until they stood straight again. Large wings beat and out of the grove rose a bronze dragon, twenty feet from nose to tip of tail with a nearly equal wing span. Greenish-blue scales glistening in the afternoon sun, and with an elderly druidess atop his back the dragon flew high into the air, turning and rolling, before whipping around to dive back down at the trio. As he reached them he fanned out his wings, causing him to slow. The dragon spun one last time and finally glided down behind them.
"Well met, old friends!" came Lupin's thunderous greeting as he looked upon Seagrim and Rhia, whom he hadn't seen in some weeks.
Rhia jumped down off of Seagrim's back and quickly engulfed Lupin in a strong embrace. Seagrim brought his head down just behind Rhia and over her right shoulder. Lupin smiled to his oldest friend and patted his head as he and Rhia's hug ended. A calm, appeased look came over Seagrim's face, as when you pet a dog that hasn't had such a pleasure in a long time.
Presently Rhia noticed Adrael and Kairel.
"Are these the two Mielikki spoke of?"
Lupin nodded. Rhia cast a warm smile over the two elves.
"Well met, Chosen of the Lady of the Forest." She greeted the two. Both elves' eyes widened at being called The Lady's Chosen.
"Surely Lupin has told of the word of Mielikki, that you two and Lupin must stop the great evil that is spreading throughout this land…" Rhia inquired of the elves apparent surprise.
"Indeed, we have," Kairel began, " but it was a bit overwhelming to hear it put so."
Rhia nodded and gave the elves another smile. She pushed past the companions to stand before the grove that would be named for her. She chanted a few quick words and cupped her hands, then she spread them wide and yelled "interior." The trees warped and twisted and after a moment a doorway, large enough for Lupin even, was present.
"You will stay here for some nights, we need to devise a plan, and think on what allies we have to call upon, this war will not be won alone." With that Rhia stepped through the new portal and Seagrim flew up and back in through the top entrance. As the elves and Lupin stepped through, the grove enclosed on itself again, and the valley sat motionless once more.
The inside of the grove was amazing. Rhia had used her extreme control over nature's power, which came only after a lifetime of worship and druidic study, to alter the place. It went back at least four hundred feet into the solid cliff face and there were actual rooms, made from intertwining trees. Everything was made of the land, not from it. She shaped the trees to fit her designs rather than cutting and carving them. Now came Kairel's turn to be just as awed of a place as his daughter. This was a haven for any true follower of Mielikki. As the elves wandered the much-larger-than-it-should-have-been complex, the other three conversed on subjects of the past. Many a howling, rumbling, and quick pitched laugh came from the old friends, but as the elves finally found their way over, the dialogue had rapidly shifted to talk of a much darker tone; the future. Plans needed to be made concerning what to do with this Velvadine situation.
It was decided that the plans would be made in the morning after everyone had gotten a bit of rest. Rest they would all need very much, for no matter the details of the morrow's meeting, an army would need to be roused. The next dawn would be one of war.