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Heroes of Eattwe, Ep.3 ~ The Stronger Bond

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The pale light of the moon started as the glow of the approaching torches began to take over the trees´ sleepy countenance. The woodcutter was first, followed closely by the four friends. For almost an hour now, they´ve been advancing at a slow pace.

The group had traveled along the country road, up to about two miles away from their destination. Then, so as to prevent the alerting of village dogs to their presence, the five left the horses with Tia´s men, who had come along, and took a detour through the forest, on foot.
Constantly on guard against an ambush, Tia had managed to determine her friends, through discreet taps and gestures, to adopt a formation: Glan and Chatai, with their shields, at either side of Aubey. Tia remained last, to have them all in sight.
But their trip has been uneventful. They made only one other stop, at a small glade, a place close enough to the village to start concerning themselves with being detected. They covered their cloaks with mud, for camouflage of odors, and then went on, at a pace adapted to their care against making noises.
Now the woodcutter had stopped again. He put out the fire of his torch and signaled them to do the same. A few steps later, they could see, in the distance, the outlines of a few houses. The man raised his right arm and continued alone. He was to verify that they would not run into anyone at his home.

When he was out of sight, Tia, for whom the cover of darkness was no guarantee of their safety, lead the group some twenty yards in a direction parallel to the houses´ outlines. There, they changed the formation to a single file: Glan first, facing the village, with her shield and handaxes ready, Aubey right behind her, rehearsing in mind the Magic Missile spell, Tia a couple of yards back, with an arrow loaded, and Chatai, who lacked her friends´ Darkvision, last, to be moving with Tia or just take cover behind a tree. And then they waited.
...¨So what if... Aaah, confounded business!¨ Glan again caught herself having that pesky thought. All this sneaking, and waiting, and... Something inside made her want to just charge into the village and find out at last what this was all about...
...¨Alamar! Exebur! Omi... And what if there isn´t any spirit, after all? What a waste of time would this prove to be...¨ thought Aubey, already bored out of her boots by the long, careful walk they had to undergo. And now this monotonous practicing...
...¨So what if there was an ambush... Should they just wait, or... try to surprise their trappers with an attack? ...If he doesn´t return soon, we´ll go after him...¨ Tia went through her planning one more time. She brought her friends there, she had to take them through safely... ¨Why did they decide he should go ahead and check, again?¨
...¨And what if... ...Don´t be worried, Chiamaka¨ Chatai found her temptation of sacrificing herself, interrupted. A peaceful presence took over her, as if she had been embraced by an angel. She raised her right hand, instinctively, towards the pendant, which hung over her chest, and stopped there. ¨Aubey... Glan... Tia...¨ She felt like she was touching them, through her heart... Was this a message?
What seemed like a long time had passed, when, suddenly, a shape appeared through the trees, moving towards the place they left earlier.
...It was a man ...the woodcutter ...alone.
Silently, with their weapons ready, the four slowly began to approach him...

Already a bit puzzled by not having found them at their point of parting, the woodcutter went through a few moments of real surprise when he realized they were prepared for battle. But by the time they drew near enough to distinguish his features well, he took care to let no sign of concern show on his face. He lit a candle, smiled mildly, and made the all-clear sign with his thumb.

After about an hour´s quarter, a small light passing along a house´s wall broke the dark into five large shadows who, one by one, sliding around the corner then, disappeared through a door´s open blackness. The door closed behind them.

The woodcutter quickly lit a few more candles and placed them around the house´s main room. He then turned towards the four friends, who had remained near the door, sizing up the interior:- ¨It´s safe to speak now¨, he said, in a low voice. Then, taking again on some of that weariness he arrived with at the tavern, he leaned against a nearby cupboard and slowly turned his eyes towards the room´s middle. There, by the table, next to some cutlery and piled up dishes which never became part of the intended dinner, a tree´s trunk stood, almost touching the ceiling. A bit further, by a bench, next to a wooden toy which lied on the floor, was another trunk.
- ¨What are we waiting for?!¨ growled Glan, barely tempering an outburst, while she let go of her shield and handaxe. She quickly unstrapped the greataxe from her back, raised it above her shoulder, put on a fierce face and dashed towards the nearest trunk.
Instinctively, the woodcutter threw himself towards her, with his arm outstretched, but stopped a few feet into the movement. The axe had swung up to just one inch away from the bark. Glan held it like that for a few movements, pulling all tension into her grip, then slowly let the axe descend, her fierce expression changing into a mixture of puzzlement and disappointment. There had been no reaction.

- ¨Suppose the spirit is not there anymore... But how can we know for sure?¨ said Aubey, trying to figure out the best course of action.
- ¨Not... there?¨ fretted the woodcutter. ¨Then what about my...¨ and he dared not finish his sentence.
Chatai started praying, earnestly asking the god for help in the name of those people.
- ¨...I could start a small fire, and then maybe the spirit would speak again?¨ tried the woodcutter. ¨The smoke though...¨
- ¨I have a better idea¨, Aubey replied, after just having decided to use her Detect Magic spell after all. ¨Um! Baradur! Ain, Elleonar!¨ she began mixing Gnomish and Elvish versions of the spell, in an attempt to catch the spirit off-guard.

[OOC: She uses a 2nd spell level slot for maximum effect.]

A few moments after, a swift, weak current of air made the candle flames tremble and lean towards the caster.
- ¨It´s there, all right¨, concluded Aubey, and quickly switched to casting Detect Thoughts.
A whole minute had not passed when she staggered as if something hit her. She stepped back until she could feel the wall behind her and then let her whole body´s weight rest against it.
- ¨Are you okay?!¨ Tia jumped to catch her, believing she would fall.
- ¨Yes... yes... I´m... I´m fine¨, Aubey regained composure. ¨This spirit... I am no match for its mental powers...¨

[OOC: Her opponent won at Wisdom and Intelligence saving throws.]

She took a few more deep breaths, and then, feeling that she had returned fully among the others, said:
- ¨I did sense fear, sadness, before the great force blocked my vision, pushing me back.¨ Turning towards the woodcutter: ¨I think your family is still here.¨ And to herself: ¨But... it seems like this spirit is not fully present, for some reason...¨

Chatai opened her eyes and looked at her friends. What can she say to them? She felt she was letting them down... No answer had come, and she prayed so hard... ...¨What more do you ask for?¨ a thought arrived then, as if from the same presence she was with in the woods. ¨My friends¨, she thought, ¨us, here... together...¨ and then something made her eyes slide towards a darker area of a wall where, after spending a few moments to figure out what it is she looks at, Chatai distinguished a coiled rope.
- ¨A bond...¨ she said to herself, but loud enough, it seems, as everyone had turned to look at her. Meeting their eyes in turn, Chatai found herself speaking as if she always knew this:
- ¨It´s us. We are the answer, together. Our shared past, our bond of the heart. It is... It must be stronger¨, she wavered a bit, ¨than that with which this evil keeps the child and the woman tied.¨ And then, looking again at that coil of rope, she said hesitantly, feeling that she was on her own now: ¨If we could somehow overcome the binding with one of ours...¨

Aubey, whom the earlier failure seemed to have made receptive even to such a questionable alternative as an emotional approach, pondered on her friend´s words for a while and then said:
- ¨Well, we could go to the Spirit Plane and face this evil in combat. But, provided that we can find each other after we cross... I don´t know if our... heart connection... may be enough to compensate for this thing´s powers. It´s really strong...¨
- ¨Let´s do it!¨, cut in Glan, anxious to have the matter brought within axe range again.
Aubey, now divided between staying safe and finding out more, shrugged, and looked away, letting her friends decide.
Then Tia had an idea, after having followed Chatai´s direction of sight with her eyes:
- ¨That rope. If we could somehow infuse it with our feelings for each other... We would tie ourselves with it, and the trunks. And then maybe it would bring us where we need to be, on the... other side.¨
- ¨Brilliant!¨ lit up Aubey, struggling with the impulse to jump and kiss her.
- ¨All right!¨ burst Glan, strode towards the wall and detached the rope.
- ¨But how do we get there?¨ Tia turned towards Aubey.
- ¨Well... ´Sleep´ is one spell I never got into studying...¨ her friend replied, somewhat embarrassed.
- ¨Oh, I can help with that¨, Chatai entered their dialog. ¨I can make us a tea of these herbs I carry with me, for going into deep trance. But... I understood that a fire could cause us problems?¨
- ¨...No, it´s okay. We can gather some candles and use their flames, instead¨, approved Tia. ¨The only matter left to determine is that of infusing the rope with our feelings´ energy... Any ideas?¨
After a few minutes of mind-searching, it was Aubey who, being able to take feelings into consideration from a less dependent perspective, happened to find first a solution which seemed promising. Amused by this unexpected emphasis on emotions, she said:
- ¨Well Tia, how about going back to that chat we had at the tavern? The troubles we used to get into, the fun, the punishments, standing up for each other... There is a lot of ´juicy´ stuff we left out!¨ she chuckled.

And so they set out to put their plan in motion. They made the tea, tied themselves and the trunks with the rope, in a big circle, and then began recalling the good and the bad times they shared as children. The woodcutter was to remain behind, to guard their bodies once they fall asleep. He had politely retreated to a dark corner where, in order to keep himself from listening to their storytelling or worrying for the result of their undertaking, he tried to preoccupy his mind with something trivial.

The candle light, bringing their facial features out of the dark as they reminisced, seemed to be giving shape to their souls. And as they more and more, while sharing, let go of that consciousness of being separate, the shapes became one shape, the lights one light, and they again a part of that whole of unconditional love from their past.

~ The End of Episode 3 ~

[OOC: The names of the main characters are linked to MW sheets. Alternatively, you can refer to their TTW sheets: Aubey´s, Chatai´s, Glan´s, and Tia´s.]

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Updated 04-15-2018 at 11:25 AM by Erran

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