This is another scene from the D&D game I’m running, though it takes place some time in the future from where I last left off. From here on out I’m abandoning chronological order. In addition to that, this scene is the one that marked the campaign taking a much darker turn. So, um, trigger warning.
“OH no, you wouldn’t want to do that,” said the elf, emerging from the brambles which surrounded the circle of standing stones. “Milady wouldn’t like it if you did that.”
The companions looked at one another. “Why’s that?” said the largest among them. He was carried a heavy shield and wore black dreadlocks down to the small of his back.
“She just wouldn’t. She likes new visitors to come to her first.” The elf twisted a stray strand of hair around her finger.
“We’re not here to visit her, though,” said the large one. The smallest of the troop elbowed him in the thigh. The large one winced and corrected himself. “We’re just here to-” The small elbow struck again and the large one shut up.
“What my friend means is that we need to go to Lioth Tethys first.”
“Oh,” said the elf. “Um…” She produced a skin drum from behind her and began to tap it nervously with a double headed beater. “Um…”
“Yeah?” said the large one.
“You should do that. Yes. You should… do that.”
“We don’t need to visit Milady first?” inquired the second tallest one. He was nearly the same height as the shield bearer though he did not have nearly so much weight on him. He wore a rough-spun cloak that hung to his shins and had left his hood up.
“You do,” replied the elf, the her drumming stuttering as she spoke. “But you shouldn’t. Um… Yes.”
“I’m confused,” said the large one.
“Yeah, me too,” agreed the short one. “We should go to see your lady but we shouldn’t?”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Well, um, no. I suppose it doesn’t, does it.” The elf made a trembling smile. All four companions shook their heads. “It, um, well, it’s… It’s like this.” The drumming sped up, alternating center and rim beats. “I’m supposed to bring you to Milady.” The elf focused on her drumming. The rhythm changed erratically.
The short one moved his hand in an impatient circle. The hooded one nudged him to stop.
The elf collected herself and steadied the beat of her drum. “I’m supposed to bring you to Milady, but I think you should run away.”
“That’s what you said we should do when you first spoke. At least, it was you right? Before you stepped out of the bushes?”
“Yes. Um… Yes, that was me.” The elf smiled and a tremor ran down the arm holding the drum, causing a few strikes with the beater to fall short of the skin. She frowned and stared at the drum until it stopped moving.
“And then you told us not to.”
“Why?” asked the hooded one.
“Um… because what I want and what Milady wants are sometimes different. They shouldn’t be, oh they shouldn’t be but they are.” As she spoke, the elf’s drumming grew more frantic, both hands trembling so the tenuous rhythm she’d established devolved into haphazard beats with little connection to one another. “Oh no! Milady I…” At once the elf’s demeanor calmed. The drumming steadied and then stopped.
The companions all took a step back. The large one raised his shield and drew unfastened his spear from the straps on his back. The hooded one shook out his sleeves so his hands were free. The short one drew a short sword and dagger. The quiet one stood motionless. The elf smiled serenely.
“Mendacia Solvitia bids you welcome to her forest. She would like to apologize for the actions of her sl-servant.” The elf bowed. When she rose, her face was once more animated. A muscle in her cheek twitched. “I am Bodhranny, in the service of Mendacia Solvitia, mistress of this forest.”
The companions remained alert, aspiring to keep an eye on Bodhranny as well as their surroundings.
“It’s nice to meet you, Bodhranny,” said the small one. “I’m-”
“No! No names!” Bodhranny shivered. “Go, now!”
Something growled behind the group. It was joined by several somethings. The quiet one turned to see wolves padding back and forth just beyond the circle of standing stones. Bodhranny grinned and took a step to the side, standing clear of a break in the circle.
“Let’s go, guys,” said the quiet one. The companions nodded and left at a brisk walk. The quiet one was the last out of the circle. He bowed his head in thanks to the elf, who returned the gesture with a helpless smile.
“I am sorry,” she said. “You should run now.”
The companions ran. They did not stop until they reached a clearing, fifty yards of short grass between the trees and a wall of tight packed stone. The air buzzed as they approached the wall and what happened beyond it is a story for another time.