Chapter VIII Of My Current Campaign, Which Began A Year Ago, As Written/Retold By My Player Who Plays Vilven
Vilven was shocked at what Grid had told her. A dragon? Living in the lake? A deep part of her thought he was just trying to jest, but even if he was being serious, he must be misguided, right? Though the lake was enormous, she surely would have seen some evidence of a dragon. I mean, it was a dragon.
She turned to look up at his beautiful, lion face with questioning.
“Grid, you must be mistaken,” she started as she picked up the bowl she dropped, the contents not salvageable “I have been in that lake for the past two days, I even searched it rather extensively, and there was no sign of anything remotely similar to a dragon.”
Grid took a long, final drag of his pipe, then proceeded to clean it expertly into the fire. His yellow eyes focused before him at what he was doing.
“Well maybe not now, but she’ll be back ” He responded, pausing for a moment as he almost formally put his pipe back into his pouch.
He moved his gaze then, to look upward into the night sky. The movement was subtle, but Vilven was nearly taken by the drama of it. His long, flowing mane practically glittered from the firelight, as his eyes bore into the heavens. “She always comes back.” He repeated, almost as if he were somewhere else.
Vilven was silent, her large, black eyes staring intensely into the lake, unsure of how to respond. The mood had drastically shifted between them, she could tell, to something very serious. Careful of her words, she quietly inquired. “So she comes and goes?… Where does she go then, do you know?…. And do the inhabitants of the castle know of her?” There was a deep pause as she retreated farther into her mind. “I find it strange…” She said, somewhat deviating “that this dragon would call this place home. It’s beautiful, yes, and don’t get me wrong I’m no expert when it comes to dragons, but…” she turned her face to look at him then, “Well, it is strange, don’t you think?”
His head pivoted, so that he could look at her, and when he did, Vilven saw no trace of the soberness that had been there just moments before. She, in fact, saw something closer to delight in his eyes. It took her off guard, and before she could say anything, he stood. “Another time.” He said, ending the topic. “We best hurry if we want to catch up to your friends.”
Grid began to get his things together, collecting his cooking supplies first, absentmindedly nipping the bowl out of Vilven’s hand. Vilven stared at him, then into the forest next to them.
“What is it that we should do when we find them?” She asked, following his lead to stand. “I’m pretty certain they just want to escape and disappear into another life they create together. Alone.”
Grid shifted his weapons to be in a more secure place for carrying, then began to put out the fire with his boot.
“Your friend is a princess and so surely has coin, and I’m sure would gladly pay us to protect them on the road to wherever they’re going. I wasn’t kidding when I said they wouldn’t make it out there” Grid said looking at her sincerely. “These forests are fraught with danger.”
Vilven’s eyes widened with realization, “Are you sure they’re not too far already? How are we to catch up to them?” She gazed into the ominous forest with unease, putting a hand onto one of her sickles and inhaling deeply. “Especially in the dark…”
“You’ve answered your own question.” Grid said, and smiled heartily at her. “The dark will surely slow them, especially with the lad’s armour. Trust me, I’m a hunter. We’ll catch them.”
Vilven thought to herself that she didn’t really have much choice in the matter. And she hoped, from the depths of her heart, that this was what Areiden wanted.
Though hesitant at first, Vilven proceeded into the forest. Admittedly, she was a bit jumpy, but, to her credit, fiercely focused on the goal. It took her a bit to get used to the towering trees that nearly blocked out the sky, as well as the skittering of different small animals both on the ground and flying about. There was something strangely hypnotic, she found, about being surrounded on all sides by the nature of the forest, especially since her night vision poetically turned the vibrant colors ghostly and hazy.
And though she was used to nature, the sea was almost the opposite of this near claustrophobic space, the sea, and most waters, were so open and clear. And at times when you would feel too vulnerable, you could always revel in the feeling of the water around you, carrying and cradling you.
Grid, on the other hand, was right at home here.
Vilven watched as his gait became paradoxically both relaxed and tense at the same time, it was almost as if he could see through the trees and was prepared for anything that might happen. After a few minutes, however, Grid stopped her, speaking quietly.
“We’re going to need to quicken our pace, can you keep up?”
Vilven looked concerned and hesitant but nodded her head in agreement. Almost before she finished the movement, Grid took off in a flash, making Vilven nearly shriek in surprise. He leaped into full speed, his muscular legs flexing naturally with the motion. He looked more like a lion than ever, both ferocious and graceful, weaving and leaping in between the trees effortlessly.
Vilven blinked a few times, then began to chase after him.
And after some time had passed, she decided she was actually quite impressed with herself, as she succeeded in keeping him in her line of sight, only falling and tripping on lay branches and other such things a few times. Vilven knew she was fairly strong, she knew with certainty she wasn’t fragile physically. But she had never used her legs out of water so much in her life. She knew that this would be, would have to be, a learning experience.
Suddenly, Grid instantly froze in place before her. Vilven nearly ran into him, but was able to stop herself, falling in the process, to her knees. She cursed herself as she pulled herself up to her feet. Grid shushed her, and pulled her with him behind a tree. Angling his head around the trunk, he pointed forward to a distant dot of firelight. Vilven squinted, but could tell it was indeed, a torch. Vilven looked up at him and whispered,
“Do you think it is the princess?”
Grid visibly relaxed, then replied “I do… Best if you approach them first.”
Vilven chuckled quietly, “Yes, we wouldn’t want them to think a lion is trying to kill them.”
Grid looked at her with a gleam in his eyes, then responded “Just go…”
Vilven chuckled again, and began to take a few cautious steps toward the direction of the torch, unsheathing her sickles as she did. Vilven was sure Grid knew what he was talking about, this was his territory after all, but she couldn’t help feel she better be prepared if something unexpected were to happen.
As she got closer and closer, and the torch became brighter and brighter, her nerves began to surface. This was still so new to her after all, and who knew what or who could be on the other end of that torch if it wasn’t the princess.
Just then, with another cautious step, Vilven landed on a branch making a loud crack.
The torch jerked swiftly in response, and she could hear the unsheathing of some sort of weapon. Vilven lifted her foot instinctively with a wince. Her body was crouched slightly, holding both her sickles tight in her grasp, and though she wasn’t sure who it was in front of her, she took a chance and called out toward the flame.
“Wiendle? Jaren? It’s Vilven.”
There was no reply, but the torchlight seemed to halt in alertness.
Vilven took a few more steps forward, not concerned about making noise at this point, but cautious of danger none the less.
“Vilven?” She heard the delicate, high pitched voice of Wiendle call out.
Relaxing now, Vilven took the final strides forward, until she was illuminated by the flames of the torch. Before her was Jaren and Wiendle. He was standing in front of her, his sword grasped in both his hands in a defensive stance, she was behind him holding the torch in one hand, and grasping his shoulder with the other.
Once Wiendle saw that it was indeed Vilven, she gasped in relief and rushed toward her, despite Jaren trying to stop her. Vilven sheathed her weapons and progressed halfway, opening her arms to embrace the princess.
“Oh Vilven, I’m so glad you’re here, it’s so frightening. We are lost!” Wiendle wailed.
“We aren’t lost!” Jaren said defensively “It’s just dark…”
Just then Grid emerged from the darkness into eye shot, making Wiendle jump backward in retreat. Jaren, however, had the opposite reaction, he looked at Grid wide eyed and with recognition.
“Hunter,” Jaren addressed Grid with a respectful nod “You have missed her. She left a few weeks ago.”
“Yes, dragons are hard to predict.” Grid replied graciously. Vilven looked up at Grid, somewhat amused by his formality.
“Do you know each other?” Jaren asked Vilven and Grid, eyeing them both.
Vilven looked blankly at Jaren. “Well… not exactly. Sort of. We met tonight.” she replied awkwardly. She cleared her throat, then continued. “You see, Grid, here, brought to my attention that these forests might be dangerous terrain to be travelling alone, and thought that you perhaps would like some more protection on your way to Warden. And perhaps some help with direction as to not get lost on the way. ” Vilven winked at Wiendle with the last sentence, making her giggle girlishly.
“Yes! That would be marvelous.” Wiendle said excitedly, her head falling back and her shoulders dropping in relief. “I feel so much safer now!”
Jaren looked a little hurt at that comment, but nodded in agreement.
“But you must be paid!” Wiendle exclaimed, pulling a large bag of coin out of her pouch.
Vilven stared at the bag hesitantly, but Grid grasped it in a proper manner and took it from her. Tying it expertly to his belt.
“Well then, let’s be on our way” Grid said, walking past them toward the direction of Warden.