|The Hamlet of Egriel|
Designed by Athrian
Medium Groups: 26-31
Large Groups: 24-29
Calihan checked the bed of his covered wagon again, making sure all the contents were secure. Trading had proven most unproductive at this stop, and he was leaving with more goods than anticipated. After verifying the security of his remaining goods, he climbed up onto the seat of the wagon. He pressed his fingers against the back of the seat and opened a hidden compartment. Whispering a single word, he withdrew a small pewter jewelry box and opened it. He reached into the pocket of his cloak and pulled out a tiny amulet attached to a silver chain. A smile grew on his face as he thought of his wife, and how lovely she would look wearing the amulet once he finally returned home. With a small sigh, he placed the amulet into the box. He replaced the box into the hidden compartment and whispered the incantation that would conceal it from view. Turning forward in the seat, he grabbed the reins and urged his horse onto the road heading out of Egriel.
The girl concentrated furiously on the tome she was studying. The room was musty and lit only by moonbeams streaming in through the window near the ceiling. Her black robes were quite warm, but she did not mind. The master wanted her to wear the robes and so she would. Finding the passage she was searching for, she dipped her quill in ink and copied it from the tome, scribbing it onto the parchment in front of her. The quill felt awkward in her small hands, but she made sure not to smear the ink and to write legibly. The master was counting on her to find this information. Soon, he would be able to finish his spell and bring the area under his control.
As she finished writing, the door to the cell opened. A man dressed in a hooded black robe covered in silver runes stepped in. Walking over to the table, he inspected her work and nodded. The girl smiled, for when the master was happy, it made her happy. Wordlessly he rolled up the parchment and took it with him as he walked out. The girl walked over to a chair in the corner and sat down. Staring blankly at the bookcases in the room, she waited until the master would come back with further instructions.
A trickle of sweat ran down the side of Ralin's face as he swung his axe in wide arcs, chopping away at the large pine tree. The work was hard, and he hadn't gotten much sleep the last few nights. Setting aside his axe, he sat down on a nearby stump and pulled out a handkerchief. He wiped at his face and took a swig of water from his waterskin. He had only been out
here for a few hours, but already felt as drained as if he'd worked from dawn to dusk. The exhaustion was taking a toll on his body as well. The skin of his arms and hands was drawn tight across the bone, showing a spiderweb of blue veins.
Ralin turned his head nervously at a rustling in the bushes behind him. There were rumors of dark things walking the forests lately, and several people had already disappeared. He let out a small sigh of relief when a brown-cloaked figure stepped out from the brush. The druids had been friends of the village for generations now.
"Ho there! Good to see you," he called out.
The figure stood there, impassive and silent. More druids stepped out from behind the trees, surrounding him. A cold sweat broke out on Ralin's brow as he wondered what was going on. Several of the druids were gripping their quarterstaves tightly, and some carried flaming torches.
The first druid raised a hand and pointed at Ralin.
The cart lurched as it hit a pothole in the road, upsetting Calihan's already-queasy stomach. He had not been feeling well ever since he had arrived in Egriel four days ago. He reached into the inner pocket of his cloak and pulled out a small flask of colorless liquid, given to him by the village's healer. Draelin had told him there was a sickness of the stomach going around, and given him the potion. Breaking the seal, he swallowed the bitter liquid and tossed the vial into the woods. He snapped the reins, urging his horse to go faster. The sun had sunk almost completely below the horizon, and he wanted to get out of the woods to an inn before it was completely dark.
The unsettling feeling in his stomach suddenly turned into a burning sensation. Violent cramps seized his abdomen. He grabbed reflexively at his stomach and fell out of the wagon. His head struck the side of the wagon as he fell, and everything went black.
He awoke a few minutes later, his stomach feeling as though it was on fire. Bloody flecks of spittle flew from his mouth as he screamed for help. He saw shadowed figures moving between the trees near him, and called out, "Help me! Please!"
His horse began snorting and screaming as the strange figures stepped out onto the trail. Yellow light flashed from their dead eyes, and unnatural muscles bulged beneath the tight skin of their arms and legs. Before he passed out from shock, he heard a familiar voice from the forest say, "Take him back to the temple. Leave no evidence of his passing."
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