Outside, Euven requested a short absence so as to “calm down”. Greil agreed to this, on the condition that he himself could examine the two stones. The deal was accepted by all. Inside, Tarkus took a seat by his dragonborn companion, grumbling about “the elven douche” – his whinging went ignored as Grimlock got to his knees, looming over the deceased dragonborn, and began raking at the corpse’s chest with his formidable claws.
Striding through dead leaves and the general thick underbrush, Euven marched back to the two magic users, one of whom was now holding the orbs side by side and staring at them intently.
“Anything of interest?” he enquired upon reaching the two. Greil looked up with lightning speed, snapped suddenly from his concentration, “The two are linked in some way, though beyond that I can determine nothing. I know a little of seeing stones, which these certainly appear to be, but I am no expert on the subject. Most scholars agree that they are in fact a myth…” his voice trailed off as his gaze returned to the balls.
“Well if you feel you’ve inspected them enough…”
“Indeed” Greil handed the objects back to Euven and Gregg, who both pocketed them.
The conversation quickly moved on to Tell, questions were fired from all three warriors, keen on any information she had on the witch. A long time companion and bodyguard of Rhea, Tell was able to give surprisingly little information, though she confirmed Euven’s suspicions that Nathir, the murdered resident of Goxhill, was indeed an acquaintance of the wild witch, what it was their meetings were dealing with however, she did not know. The questions rapidly dried up; clearly Rhea kept her dryad bodyguard in the dark about most matters, using her only to escort visitors through the forest, unfortunately, Tell informed them, the decapitated dragonborn would have been far more helpful, as his duties involved guarding Rhea during her meetings. Satisfied with the dryad’s answers, if a little disappointed, the group allowed Tell to leave. She thanked them before lumbering off slowly into the dark, densely packed trees, blending into the visual melee within seconds.
Gregg, having just watched Tell disappear, turned back to the other two and was met with an odd and intimidating sight: Grimlock, the other dragonborn slung over his shoulder, was emerging from the dark hut. The invoker let out a small grunt of surprise, causing the other two to turn and lay eyes on the approaching lizard. Upon reaching them, he lifted the dead lump that was his former kin as if it weighed no more than a pelt and dropped it unceremoniously to the ground at Greil’s feet, like a faithful hound bringing his master a gift.
After a moments awkward pause, the commander chose to ignore the body and its bearer, and said, “Excuse us for a moment, Gregg. My two friends and I need to converse privately for a moment.”
“Go ahead” the invoker replied. Greil signalled for the other two to follow him, leaving the bearded invoker standing stoically by the large corpse. Once out of earshot, Wistark filled Euven in on the details of his adopted disguise, and how it had served him well so far whilst travelling across Alba. The elf found himself surprisingly impressed by their covert abilities, considering that one half of the fugitive team was a hulking, one-eyed lizard man, and agreed to play along with the ruse.
Meanwhile, Gregg retained his position by the dead dragonborn, eyes darting between it and the nearby group of his companions, who were discussing lord knows what in their suspicious hushed tones. His gaze suddenly settled on something truly disturbing. He crouched low and moved one of the dead lizard’s thick, muscular arms aside to get a better look – the chest was entirely torn open, the rib cage appeared as if something had exploded out from it, jagged hunks of flesh clinging to the forest of bones which jutted out at entirely the wrong angle. He considered finding Tarkus when his attention was drawn to approaching voices, his team mates had returned, not only this, but he could hear Greil informing the elf of their quest for the black dragon. It seemed this unknown element may be becoming a permanent fixture within the group. He muttered a prayer to his deity, requesting strength and patience, before getting to his feet.
Having just heard of his former companion’s current mission, Euven decided to share some information with them, beginning as they reconvened with the bearded magic user, who, Euven noticed, seemed to be slightly on edge, “Greil, you have been up front and honest with me as to your business, a pleasant surprise considering the nature of some of our past dealings. I must admit, I have held back something from you, though not for long, it is information I have only discovered since our last meeting.”
“Go on” Greil spoke calmly, assessing the elf along with Gregg and Grimlock.
“You remember Norman Bulip?”
Greil nodded, but Grimlock didn’t seem so sure, as he turned to the wizard and muttered under his breath, “Norman, commander in chief of the elves, right?”
Euven’s keen ears picked this up and the elf sighed before continuing, “Sir Norman Bulip, a Knight of Arcelor with whom you travelled not long ago.”
The dragonborn wore a blank expression.
Grimlock’s eye lit up as he held his hand out by his thigh, as if demonstrating the height of a tall child, a questioning look on his face.
“Yes Grimlock” Greil groaned, “Please continue, Euven.”
“Since returning from the… adventures of which we were all a part, Bulip had been receiving heavy psychiatric care in an attempt to stem horrendous nightmares which had plagued his sleep. This was the case up until several days ago, when Bulip vanished without a trace. I have no more information than this, but I was contacted due to my connections with him, and my connections with you. My superiors wanted to know if I had any knowledge of your whereabouts, this being mere hours after encountering you in Goxhill…” Greil snorted a small laugh.
“The irony didn’t escape me either, wizard," Euven paused briefly before going on, "So, from what I now know, it seems that you likely had nothing to do with the disappearance.”
“Correct.” Greil replied.
“As I suspected. Well, with this information, and our consistently crossing paths, I’d like to propose a combination of investigations.”
“Would you now?”
“Indeed. I must admit, I am quite curious about the nature of the orbs, and believe that keeping them together may be beneficial.”
“Euven, you’re an experienced and highly capable warrior, but we have come to blows before. If you were to travel with us, I would need a guarantee that you will respect my position as the leader of this group.”
A brief silence followed the exchange, broken by Grimlock, “I have some business to attend to before we leave.”
“Oh?” Greil enquired.
Grimlock merely looked down to the dead dragonborn at his feet and grunted a response, “It won’t take me long.”
“Ah, perhaps we should go and find Tarkus while you work. Hopefully he finished tending to his nose by now” Greil eyed Euven as he said this, the hint of a smirk spreading across his mouth.
“No need to come collect me” a gruff voice boomed out. The huddled adventurers turned to see Tarkus emerge from the hut, dried blood smeared around the centre of his face.
“You’re looking better” Gregg chortled.
“No thanks to him,” Tarkus pointed to the cycloptic dragonborn, “He ATE the dead one’s heart. Right in front of me, as if I wasn’t there.”
Stunned silence descended as the group shared shocked glances. Greil rounded on Grimlock, “You what?!”
Grimlock licked his teeth for a moment before answering, “I wanted his power”.
Greil swore, made to swear a second time, then said, “Eating hearts doesn’t give you power! How could you possibly think that?!”
Grimlock shrugged and began, of all things, digging. Tarkus joined the others without another word, but threw an intense glare towards Euven on his approach. Greil wiped his hand hard across his face before questioning Gregg,
“You are native to this area, would carrying on through this forest take us to the foothills surrounding the mountains?”
“Indeed, it would likely be our best bet if the mountains are our goal; the slopes to the north of here are slightly less intense.”
“And could we reach the edge of the forest before nightfall? I would prefer to avoid camping amongst the spiders.”
“Yes, we can make it if we leave soon and maintain a good pace.”
“Is this a plan we can all agree on?” the commander queried the group.
They agreed unanimously and set off a quarter of an hour later, only needing to wait that long because Grimlock insisted on burying his fallen kin, digging the grave vigorously by himself with nothing but his bare hands.