Episode 14 Path of Fog and Shadow

After Mort path in the fog and shadows for the past 10 years. We Turn the clock back once again to where the company went their separate ways and follow Tha’pop the sullen and brooding Elf.

Clear morning in Creekstone as the throngs of travelers, pilgrims prepared themselves to leave the town they have been sequestered by the King’s army for the last 2 days. The Army left suddenly, opened the bridge and the people could once again leave.

Tha’pop had seen Dro leave earlier, and was sure that Mort and his 2 companions had already left. Looking over at Steve the rug merchant stretching his arms and yawning, the day seemed promising to start his journey to find his son’s killer. Running his hands over the piece of floor plank with his clue, “ Black roof at Dressa” found in the dead mans he mused. Steve nervously looked at Tha’pop and said he was on his way to the stable to get his mules and cart of rugs ready to leave. Tha’pop nodded and propped his tall lithe body against a wall and watched the masses of people milling in the streets. Not knowing what he is looking for, 4 taller heads in hoods are navigating the crowds as well. Tha’pop pulls his hood over his head and starts following the 4 at a distance.

Down in front of a house in the village they stop and are seen conversing with each other. Tha’pop steps up closer, with his reflexes ready to act, if they are not what they seem. One of the 4 Elves glance over and nod at Tha’pop and recognize him as a fellow Elf. He turns and the other 3 Elves, 1 female among them, gesture and speak, “ Light of Elmsen, Strong and Blessed may you be”.

Tha’pop responds in kind. “ Paths of twilight and harp, where do your feet and hearts lead you to?”

“ Our feet are sure and glad to gather at the wedding of Palmth and Younent in two moons”.

Tha’pop nods, “ Blessing always. Have you seen others of the True ( Elves of the Kings realm call themselves the True Elves. Separating themselves from the Wood, Sea, and extinct Snow Elves) in this village?”

They shook their heads, “ You are the first, why do you travel alone, friend?”

Tha’pop then tells them of the dead Elf messenger in the woods and watches their faces for a reaction to see if their hearts are pure. Grief pulls their countenance upon hearing of the death.

Tha’pop tells them, the nameless Elf is buried in the cemetery outside of town. The four Elves converse and decide to stay their journey for 2 days to mourn over the fallen. Tha’pop nods, gives them direction to the cemetery, stating he will join them soon after his errand. They part ways as Tha’pop heads to the stables in search of Steve.

Steve meets Tha’pop in the streets and is flustered and upset. Telling Tha’pop there are 3 ruffians at the stable demanding 3 times the cost of getting their mounts. Steve refused and asked to see the owner, which was told was gone. Steve saw other travelers pay the shameless bribe to get their property. Tha’pop tells Steve he will get his wares and mules but not till tomorrow since he has an urgent matter to attend to. Steve raises his hands in resignation and sullenly tells Tha’pop he will get another night at the Inn.

Tha’pop makes his way to the cemetery and finds his earlier companions already mourning and singing beside the grave of the fallen. Tha’pop sits on the grass and for that day, songs are sung and grief is given for a True that has fallen. Tha’pop doest tell them he suspects another Elf killed the fallen one, but keeps that thought hidden.

Evening comes and the Elves continue singing and sharing the grief of the world and of the True. Tha’pop excuses himself and finds Steve at the Inn. Tha’pop finds out from Steve that the owner is gone and he thinks the ruffians are using this time to extort pilgrims and travelers. Tha’pop knows he could deal with this issue with violence, but decides another mode. He and Steve make their way to the village constable and find a line 14 deep to see the constable. Tha’pop pushes his way to the front, and when the others see his tall, brooding form, make way for him.

Constable Dickens looks up from his scroll, “ What is your issue or concern?”

Tha’pop speaks quietly, “ There are ruffians up at the stable extorting people for their property.”

“ Doyle! Come here”

A big man with a club pushes his way to the table where Tha’pop, Steve, and Constable. “What you want, boss?”

“Don’t call me boss, I’m Constable. Do you know of any ruffians up at the stable extorting people?”

“Nope.”

“ What have you been doing then?”

“ You mean other than pushing carts out of the ditch, breaking up fights, and throwing drunks out of the Inn?

“ Get up to the stable and find out what’s going on.”

“Before or after I find Widow Marne milking cow?”

Constable and Tha’pop nod at each other in mutual agreement, and Tha’pop pushes Steve out of the room before he starts yammering about how they insulted him.

Night falls and the next morning appears without incident.

Tha’pop and Steve saunter up to the stables and find Doyle leaning on his staff with 3 young looking ruffians sitting on the ground. Doyle looks over at Tha’pop nods and pets the milking cow tied to a post. Doyle hits one of the ruffians and he gets up and helps the stable boy to find Steve’s wagon and mules. Steve nervously looks over his rugs and happily says everything is there.

Crowds are still large leaving Creekstone and as they arrive at the stone bridge, Steve gets off his wagon and leads the wagon with the precious rugs over. Tha’pop on his steed, leads the way with crowds of people walking with them.

Halfway across the bridge, yells can be heard at the water’s edge. Screams break the sound of the crowd. Tha’pop tenses up as 2 tentacles rise up on both sides of the bridge. People start screaming and running. Steve freezes and just stands there, as horses and mules alike rear up in fright. The tentacles being the thickness of ale barrels sway with menace. One tentacle swipes some travelers next to the wagon and bones are heard crushing, as people are crushed or pushed off the bridge. The other tentacle wraps around another traveler on the bridge and squeezes him till he explodes and flesh and bone make the air red for a moment. Tha’pop slides off his mount, and bodily picks up Steve and throws him in the wagon. Slapping the mules he gets them moving fast across the bridge with Steve still dazed from the horror.

Tha’pop prepares himself and pulls his weapon thinking Fire Fever the sword spirit would once again appear. Only this time red smoke pours out of the scabbard as he pulls it free, and he feels another dragon not Fire Fever.

The weapon gives out a sigh of relief, “ Ahh, to be free at last.”

“No time for that” Tha’pop states as a tentacle now sets its sight on Tha’pop. Tha’pop raises his arms over his head, with his sword, and the tentacles wrap around his torso and start squeezing their death grip. Tha’pop sees arrows and crossbow darts hit another 2 tentacles making it 4 now to be seen, and bouncing the shafts easily off.

Tha’pop breathes in, and feels the restriction start to push his elf armor against him causing pain. With one thrust, he slices down at the tentacle holding him. It slices the tentacle in 2 as if it was a hot knife through butter. The tentacle falls from Tha’pop and sees another coming his way quickly. Tha’pop runs to the edge of the stone bridge and jumps over with sword in hand. Seeing a massive blob in the water, likening it to an Octopus. This creature is immensely larger, has 6 tentacles that are large and hundreds more that are smaller coming from the creature. Falling towards it, the tentacle tries to slap him midair, and misses. Tha’pop sees the tentacle slide past him in the air and stabs the tentacle, ripping it open and riding it down to the body below. The creature now rolls over and tentacles grab Tha’pop legs, as he drives his ancient sword once again the massive body and then filets it as he pulls it out. The creature collapses and Tha’pop jumps to the river bank next to a fisherman.

Tha’pop clamors to the top of the bank and mentally asks the sword, “ Who are you, and what was that creature?”

“ I’m not accustomed to having to answer to mere mortals. However, since its a reasonable request, I shall. I’m Rising Wind. I have lived for millennia. That creature is a Haglen. Its one of many Titan pets. “

“ A Titan? You mean Titans of legend and myth? “

“ What do you mean? Are you so dumb to deny a Titans pet is below dead from my will?”

“ Titans have not been recorded alive since the First True King. As for your will, it was I who wielded the hand to slay this beast.”

Tha’pop looks behind to the creek once more and sees a cautious guard with a spear, thrust at a tentacle and it bounces off. He finds Steve wide eyed on the other side of the bridge with an equal number of travelers gawking at Tha’pop.

Tha’pop sheathes his sword and the red smoke stops immediately, mounts his steed, “ So, shall we proceed then?”

A large crowd for 2 days surrounds Steve and Tha’pop on their journey for protection, but keeping a healthy distance out of respect and fear as well. 3 days out of Creekstone, a fork in the road is seen. Steve tells Tha’pop a detour needs to be taken to deliver a rug to a buyer. The detour will take 7 days. Tha’pop nods, needing Steve as a guide among men, and they say goodbye to the travelers and set foot on the less traveled road.

Next day it was raining and there was no travel. Steve, nervous of his rugs, makes camp under trees and mother hens the rugs to keep them dry.

Next day they set off. Lots of fog around and Tha’pop hears wolves and senses something off in the distance off the road. Telling Steve to continue on, Tha,pop and steed walk towards the wolves sound curious. In the fog he sees motion in the grass that is knee high, and stays his steed as he draws his bow. Pulling back on the bow with an arrow notched, he awaits to see his prey before he shoots. A boy with a muddy face appears and is drowsy from up top the grass. The boy is moaning and incoherent. Tha’pop relaxes and puts his shaft and bow away. He silently pulls back and without looking back and finds Steve on the road once again. Steve asks what was in the woods, and Tha’pop answers it was nothing.

3 days later they enter a village and find the merchant who bought the rug. They stay the night and Tha’pop and Steve witness a tense moment and possible altercation between some soldiers and a female agent of the king on business. Instead of taking sides in the matter, Th

a’pop shrugs his shoulders and just watches. Steve looks at Tha’pop and wonders what manner of Elf and spirit this one has that has attached his path to his .