“Did anyone see who, or what the Watcher is?” Even though they had gone some distance from the entity’s lair, Malroc’s question was little more than a whisper. The party glanced back and forth at each other, all of them shaking their heads no.
“It matters not.” Stravo’s loud voice pierced the stillness of the dark tunnels. The bard grinned happily. “We made an alliance with a powerful creature. We know what the minotaurs and their orc allies found. It could have tried to fight us, but instead, it aided us. I think we came out ahead, here.”
“We entered into a pact with someone powerful, whom we could not see! We don’t really know who, or what we’re dealing with! And you’re happy about that?!” Shivra hissed angrily through clenched teeth, her frustration rising. The drow shouldered her way past her companions, muttering dark elven curse words the entire time. She made her way to her customary point position at the forefront, becoming a shadow flittering just beyond the edge of the torchlight.
“Just get us to the surface.” Eth muttered. “I prefer sun and sky to these dank caverns.” The others nodded their agreement and continued in silent contemplation, content to follow their drow guide.
The party’s return to the surface was uneventful. as Shivra’s canny guidance steered them safely to the main entry chamber of the Malachite Fortress. It was late afternoon on the surface, and the reddish gold light streaming through the massive, open fortress gates cast a warm glow throughout the chamber. Stravo sighed in relief and allowed himself a smile. However, Malroc let out a low, rumbling growl and swung his heavy axe into the ready position.
“We have company.” The minotaur’s axe pointed toward the open fortress doorway. In the distance, the rising smoke of a campfire was a dark ribbon against the afternoon sky. “In the ruins below.”
“Did the orcs return?” Crono‘s hand easily rested on the pommel of his sword. Shivra was silent as she stalked toward the entryway, her two daggers flashing out of their sheaths. The big minotaur followed after the drow, his expression grim. Stravo and Eth could only shrug as they fell into line, content to trust in their comrades’ judgement.
The party goes to investigate the campfire, and are surprised to discover that it belongs to a group of six elves. Eth realized that he knows them, scouts and warriors from his home village of Thorlian Crest. They have followed the party and sought them out, so that they could deliver a letter to the elf druid. Eth recognizes his father’s insignia stamped upon the missive as he breaks the seal and begins to read.
Eth relays the gist of the message. His village has been attacked, by invaders from the Feywild. Some villagers were captured as well. Stravo felt that there was something else that Eth wasn’t saying, some other reason that required his return. Eth looked visibly pained at not being able to tell his friends everything, but a higher duty compelled him to keep silent. They would not be able to join him in his sojourn into the Feywild. At best, he was able to hint to the party that there was something nearby his village, within the Feywild, that required a strict guard and was of the utmost importance. Eth would accompany his friends back to Hawksbridge, but after that, would join his elf friends in returning to Thorlian Crest.
The rest of the party was stunned and dismayed by the news. They could appreciate Eth’s sense of duty and loyalty to his village and did not try to dissuade him.
The journey back to Hawksbridge was quick and uneventful, in part due to the elven scouts that now accompanied them. The mood was somber as Eth bid his friends farewell, promising that they would see each other again soon. The party paused a moment before they entered the town gates, watching the group of elves travel northward and vanish into the forest. They entered the western gate and made their way to the town square, discussing their next moves.