After re-uniting the children and seeing to Rumble and Mischief I was keen to get above ground. Having removed most of the denizens of this part of the Crucible, we were likely safest behind the secret doors in this room but I want air, fresh air. I hadn’t any idea of the time when Zandu proposed hunting and foraging for a few hours, if the light permitted it. I was quick to agree and while both of my animal friends were injured they too would appreciate returning to their familiar environs. Realizing that there was little need for all the trappings and gear while hunting, we stripped down some and re-stocked. I spoke briefly with Kieyanna and Zandu about swapping the use of Glintaxe for Manfeller and in using the crossbow from Kapmak. While I had a bit of guilt about requesting the use of two powerful and magical items my companions seemed little inclined to using them and much preferred I gain benefit from their use.
Thus I found myself following the light foot falls of my monk friend with a my satchel emptied of items so I could better carry back any harvest and a crossbow with a half quiver of quarrels. As we came up from the earth I felt like a breath of air being expelled – leaving behind the confines of a terrible beasts chest to enjoy the freedom of the openness. I was home and I wasn’t likely to go back underground for a good long while. Zandu and I agreed to stay with easy earshot of each other but not to pair up. It would afford better chances with game and we might find differing items. He seemed knowledgeable of plants and animals and quiet capable of foraging without me. With a smile and half wave we moved off into the woods. I signaled to Rumble and Mischief they were free to explore for a while and they proceed to stretch their respect appendages.
Zandu quickly found a patch of blueberries and began harvesting them. I nodded and swept out in a series of switchback curves from the food source, knowing it would likely attract a variety of fowl and game, and as ever, those that prey on those beasts. In no time I had the workings of the crossbow down, and lost only two of the ten quarrels due to stray shots. I took two pheasants on the wing and one before she left her roost. They were staying in close brush to the berries and clearly feeding on them, as they needed. I got one rabbit on a long loop to the west and another heading back to the east. As we were readying to head back I noticed a fox in the setting sun’s dim light. He was on the far periphery of one switchback and on the prowl for the blueberry patch’s denizens; just as we were. While I prefer to leave the predators of the wild alone, as they are key to population control and often killed near civilization, the desire to increase our food supply was strong and I could use it’s pelt to fashion something.
Zandu and I trudged back towards the ruins and the children elated by our finds. While I suspected everyone would feel better after a filling meal and a good night’s sleep it would be many weeks and even months before the children fully recovered from their trauma. We weren’t out of the woods yet by any measure either – our trip here was equally dangerous and I wasn’t yet convinced there wasn’t a larger werewolf problem. While we were likely in sufficient numbers to scare off the likes of Jeva we likely weren’t enough to keep off a larger pack. I shook these dark thoughts from my mind and headed into the dwarven ruins with Zandu leading the way.
Inside the somewhat safe walls we quickly spread out our bedding and stoked a fire. Using some of the wood Zandu hauled back as well as existing wood in the kitchen area of the kobolds. Kieyanna and I cleaned the game in silence and I was careful to keep the fox pelt for later use. After handling the butchering we proceeded to make them into a fine mixed stew with the berries from Zandu and some spices we carried. Shortly after the feast another round of hugs and thanks ensued and we lay down to sleep.
My turn at watch was last and between the four of us adults each shift was short. I spent my time focusing on my daily spells as the morning sun began to rise. I focused solely on healing as we’d need it. I expended my full abilites on Rumble, Zandu and myself. Hollan was recovering somewhat from his catatonic state but my healing training lead me to believe he was still in severe mental shock from the entire dungeon ordeal. None of the children mentioned what happened to them or what had occurred down there. They chatted with each other about seeing their parents and what they would say. How nice it would be to be home again, and safe. Kimmy seemed least concerned with their homecoming but the others wondered if they’d be punished for going off – despite the terrible ordeal they’d been through. I wasn’t sure how the townsfolk would really react. Most seemed brutish and nasty with habits born of desperation yet they did seem to have a soft spot for their children.
Zandu saw to the cleaning and preparation for the transport of Tyran’s body. He prepped a litter to drag behind us and then proceeded to clean and redress the man. He seemed quite familiar with anatomy as he worked. For my part, I tended to Rumble’s wounds and expended most of my healing spells to bring him to near full strength. He’d need it as I was asking him to drag Tyran back to town for us. He was the strongest of us by far and the pulling of the body down the road would pose little difficult to him. He acquiesced at last but I knew it would cost me a few silvers of meat from the butcher for sure. It was a small price to pay in exchange for the dignified burial of Tyran.
We set off towards town at a slow pace, the children didn’t move as fast an adult and all were tired. I was able to keep a normal pace and noted I was utterly uninhibited in my movements in the woods – as if the very briars and brush wished to permit me through. As such, I could spend half my time foraging for our meals while keeping an even pace with the party. I knew with Rumble at full strength they would be fine and Mischief was back to his troublemaking self. I was contented to be back under the sky and in the woods moving under my own strength. I mulled many thoughts as I moved about but when I was foraging I enjoyed the peace known to a druid in his home element. The calm and clear mind of an elf in the woods – I was glad to be out of the terrible hole in the ground.
I knew in reaching town I’d have to collect the extra from Sharvaros and I was of a mind to try my hand at crafting a specialized pearl. While I’d attempted to create a number of minor magical trinkets in the past I’d lacked the requisite magical might to do so. The only bright spot of my time in the dwarven ruins was my growing druidic might perhaps I’d reached sufficient strength to craft something wondrous. Sharvaros might have the materials but it seemed unlikely. I knew, too, that we’d need to go to a larger town to sell any of the magic items we possessed. The impoverished town of Falcon’s Hollow had little appetite for and less means to get such things. Yet, I wasn’t fully prepared to leave.
I hoped to help the Sheriff’s position more and to strike some definitively blows to the Lumber Consortium and the tyranny they represented. While it would help the people as well I was more concerned for the darkwood groves they were chopping down. With our greater prowess and magical might I thought we might succeed in taking on a few camps and beginning to rollback the tide of darkness over the valley. I also suspected some of the more unsavory types in town might need some lessons in manners and behavior. In short, we had some cleaning up to do before we sought the greater fortunes. While a small part of me longed for such things most of my mind cared little for the acquisition of wealth or powerful artifacts. I was more than content with the new weapons I had, and while I’d enjoy tinkering at crafting magical items for various purposes, getting more wasn’t a strong lure for me.
The trip was uneventful however and we arrived to be greeted by a great multitude of townspeople. They rejoiced at the return of the children with parents and friends fawning and clucking over them with great concern. We were cheered with many handshakes, hugs and slaps to the back by all present. Each person seemed to want to offer their thanks and a trinket or two. After sometime folks paid more heed to our weariness and let us head to Jack’s for some dinner and rest. The children hugged us again and said thanks and we moved along to our rest. I was most anxious to sleep outside again, but a rich, cooked meal from town seemed delightful. I released Rumble and Mischief to the woods and headed with the others for some food and companionship.