I must confess the next portion of our journey and adventure was most unusual. I have held a number of thoughts of what the outside world might be like, but many I thought would prove false once getting out into it. Sadly, some were not. I had persistent concerns over the last several days about the possibility of lycanthrope attacks and a hidden, growing scourge that existed just beyond sight in the woods.
As we departed from the burnt out husk that was Elara’s Halfway House I tried to banish the thoughts of the owner’s last moments from my mine. Perhaps she’d gather the weapons to fight the beasts and to at least begin the war – only to be found and tortured in her own basement. I could only think some innocent child happened upon the scene and started the fire inadvertently, or perhaps purposefully?, to scare off or kill the “wolves” harming their mistress. Only the entire thing went up in a conflagration that consumed all. Yet, perhaps it didn’t consume all. No other signs were noted regarding what might have torn out her throat. The thought unsettled me.
Yet as we left we began to see something on our periphery; a ghosting figure flitting from tree-to-tree. My companions and I stopped to confirm as to the cause of this and resolved to leave Zandu, the stealthiest of us, behind to investigate while we proceeded up the trail as if nothing was awry. I struck up a conversation anew with Kieyanna regarding her firefoot and began an animated discussion of it’s preferences in diet. After a good minute we heard a yell go up from behind us and turned and ran back. It sounded as if Zandu had found whatever was following us and was involved in a struggle with it. I was not prepared for the sight the created me when I got into sight range of the scuffle. My newfound friend was in mortal, unarmed combat with a werewolf. In that moment all the fears I had were proven true. He was shouting for us to get some rope to tie the beast. I could scarcely believe what he was saying. He must be far more potent of a warrior than I had estimated if he was grappled, barehanded!, with a werewolf and his concern was something to tie the creature up! Nonetheless, I acquiesced once I came to my sense and chopped a hunk of the hempen rope I had on Rumble. The bear didn’t know what to make of the situation and I could sense his unease as a palpable feeling. I rushed over and began to lasso the creature up, as Zandu had it clearly pinned. After a few pitiful cries and moans, along with considerable pulling and yanking on the rope, the beast subsided. I was much surprised when, in a few moments, it morphed back into a young girl, with terrible scarring on her arms.
She began to wail and cry and the ropes fell slack around her hands. I re-tied her for fear it was some sort of trick. After she calmed she explained her name was Jeva and that she was a former orphan from the Halfway house. She claimed to have been tortured by the evil Elara, who used silvered weapons to bring her, and the other children, great pain. She claimed Elara was a werewolf as well, and had forcibly converted all the children that had lived with her. She claimed one of the other children had lit the fire that burnt the place down but she made no comment regarding her possible misdeeds with the former mistress. The whole recount was rather dubious, but I couldn’t detect any sort of lie or half-truth. Zandu, Kieyanna and I drew away, with Rumble set to watch her, and discussed the matter. While the girl initially pleaded that we kill her, none of us had the stomach for it, nor thought it was a fair idea. None of us could see our way to taking her back to town either. The miscreants that tended to gather in Falcon’s Hallow were likely to kill her on the spot – rather than treat her fairly. In short, this was a problem not given to easy sorting out. Finally, we absolved to question her regarding our trail and the missing children and then decide a next action.
Jeva reported she had seen the kobolds take them away towards the monastery’s ruins and that she did intend to do ill to the kobolds. She said too many were there for her to fight them and that the children will all alive when she’d seen them last. It seemed clear the girl was slowly losing her humanity to the beast inside her and while she had done no active harm to us, we also could not overlook the possibility she may yet do so. Zandu seemed most comforting to her and he provided some food – a consideration I hadn’t thought of. The girl seemed to grow more agreeable when she realized we’d treat her fairly. While we gained little more than that she knew the location of the monastery and could take us there, we decided to bring her along. I re-secured her wrists and we proceeded along through the woods in a direct line to the missing children.
The oddities only continued from there as our next woodland encounter was, perhaps, yet more strange than the one with Jeva.