silva rushes to the council's tent, spear gripped tightly in hand, constantly moving, zig-zagging and vigilant.

she has heard the commune was raided by a marauding band of gnolls. they did it during the day, which was unusual. the gnolls prefer to attack at night when they have the upper-hand of darkvision. their attacks have been petty, seizing the weak and the wandering during the night, to serve as food. children are their favorite, which is why there is a strict curfew to protect them. parents have scared their children into obedience and submission, threatening to leave them outside at night for the gnolls. the difference between gnolls and the bogeyman is that the former is quite real; they make their presence known by inducing fear and excruciating pain in their victims as they tear them apart while still alive. silva was told the more the victim screamed, the more excited they get, and the more delicious their kill. yes, children are their favorite. she grips her spear tighter at that thought.

the attack was unlike previous ones. the commune's psions and iyam --- when he was still around --- was able to keep them at bay around the commune's perimeters. their ravenous, feral teeth and their excited state of bloodlust was enough for everyone to be on high alert, the parents sealing their children inside the tents. there hasn't been any casualties for the past months, not until this morning. she heard the neighboring tent's owner's voice, shaken with fear, almost hysterics, that something was keeping the psion circle busy, distracting them, while the knolls orchestrated a three-prong attack on the commune: two women, six children and one grown man are missing, presumed dead, almost without a doubt. for the gnolls to have such planned success would mean they had a strong leader --- one whom they feared and obeyed, uncontested --- which they don't normally have among them. this thought also set her on edge: who (how many) would be powerful enough to strip away the commune's defenses and keep them so utterly preoccupied that the gnolls were able to abduct nine --- *nine* --- people!

arriving at the tent, silva brushes the tent flap aside and darts inside. adaka is surrounded by three psions, manifesting one power or another. she looks in bad shape. silva quickly scans the room and sees three other psions being tended to. they look in worse state than adaka. one thing she knows with certainty is that her adopted mother has never backed down from intruders; she seemed to possess a fervent desire to protect all life in the commune. by association to iyam, she became the designated offensive force for the commune. the other psions' powers are honed more for utilitarian and humanitarian causes.

"mother!" silva drops her spear beside the cot and gently grabs adaka's hand. "who did this?!" silva demands, reviewing the tattered woman lying before her, her dear mother. adaka's face is disfigured: one eye seemingly not to ever open again, and the skin on her face down to below her neck is singed and blistered. her robe is shredded, as if it were held up to a blast of oncoming shards, and from the tear openings, blood seeps and stains the fabric. her other hand, some fingers are partially crushed. she is barely able to speak. silva looks into her mothers remaining eye, still determined, still alive. tears flow freely from her own eyes.

"we'll get you healed up, mother! stay with us... you're going to be all right!" silva protests to death with defiance. "i will go to find iyam, mother! we will protect the commune...."

"no..." the word was barely audible. silva is only clued in to her mother attempt to speak by the pressure of adaka's hand on her own. "iyam must not return here... he is in grave danger... they know he is my child...."

"who are 'they,' mother?!" silva interrupts.

"the ones who came through; the ones who escaped undetected..." and she falls unconscious.

"mother!" silva shakes adaka's hand.

"you must let her rest and recover, my child," one of the attendant said with a surprisingly calm and soft voice, stroking her head. "we will tend to her. go and help the others to defend the commune. we must keep the illusion of still having our strength and powers lest they mount another attack."