The Forests of Adrimon

Part 3: Into the Forest

Written by: Jonathan Mariucci

The moonlight was waning and dawn was beginning to break. His lungs burned as he labored to scale the wooded hill. He had been moving into higher ground all night long, unwilling to stop because they were close.

He could hear them at times, moving through the dense brush below, possibly less than a few hundred paces behind. The mindless... the mind-wiped. The crowd following him belonged to Adrimon now and it took everything he had to keep moving. They were after one of their own.

He fought to control his breathing, forcing himself to breath slower. The pain in his head left him dizzy, and he righted himself for a moment by resting against a tree. The woman he was carrying, bound to a pulling cart, began to stir. He had saved her and her unborn child, spiriting them away from the city. That had been three days ago.

The wood elf looked down at her, sadness and resolve awash across his features. He respected and loved her, possibly more than anyone, and he knew he had to try to save them both. A pop and crunch several yards below alerted that Adrimon’s army was closing nearby. He whispered to the woman "Delaina, I won't stop until you're safe". He choked down his grief and turned back, nearly bumping into a small winged figure. He was so frightened by her sudden appearance that he almost dropped the cart.

There before him hovered a diminutive creature. She stood shorter than his hand, a nixie with iridescent wings patterned in silver and navy. She hovered close to his face, her skin was as blue as a robins egg and her hair was made impossibly of liquid water. It seemed to stand and swirl atop her head. She had taken him by surprise (a trait common to her people) and the wood elf was clearly panicking.

"You're not safe here." her little voice was merely a squeak. "I am Nialyn." His panic turned to confusion, but he had no energy left in him. His shoulders fell, and for a moment the stress and anxiety seemed to melt away. "Nialyn, this woman is sick... and I can't run any more. They're going to find us. Can you help her?" He pleaded, gesturing to the woman who had now awakened. Her eyes glowed blue, and thin filaments trailed off of them. She began to struggle against her bonds, attempting to free herself. "Please, just… help her!"

- - -

The firelight crackled as Elrick spoke to Arvellon. "And she did, she helped us both." The two were sitting on opposite sides of an intricate table. The mahogany surface was polished and unstained. Maps and charts were pushed to one side. For a moment he searched through them, unable to find the one he was looking for.

"She hid us, she moved us, through the trees." Arvellon tilted her head, looking puzzled. "I mean that quite literally child: she led us into the bark of a tree. Where we emerged... I haven't yet been able to know exactly." He finally located the sheaf he had been looking for. It was a sketch that showed a beautiful waterfall surrounded by a thousand species of plant. The drawing was surreal in its beauty, and the image seemed to come alive the more she looked at it, as if the leaves and grass were gently shifting in the wind. She was swallowed by the image, unable to pull her attention from it. 

Elrick looked at her and then back at the image, a little puzzled. He waited to see if she had any questions, and when she didn’t, he continued.

"We emerged somewhere else entirely. I suddenly had time. Time to breathe, time to plan. There was..." he stopped speaking for a moment, choosing his words carefully. "There was this serenity to the place that was unlike anything I've ever felt."

Elrick continued: "I rested, and Nialyn tended to you and your mother. I don't know how long I slept, but when I woke, I wasn't alone. A dryad, Elowyn, claimed to ward this place. She saved us that day. But the good that came of it was short lived." He furrowed his brow revealing, once again, a pained reaction.

The old man looked fierce talking about his experiences in the forest. This was a side of him that Arvellon had never known. He had held all of this in for so many years. She felt sadness that it affected him still. At points in the conversation she could tell he desired to hold back, to help shield her of some truth. This was one of those times. He had finished speaking and now for many moments chose not to.

She knew in her heart the terrible truth... that her mother must have died in that place- in the fey realm. Elrick did everything he could to save her. She placed her hand over his arm and the two hugged while they wept.