Sparta's Epic Pursuits - Chapter 2 - Coming Home

Two young and tired Halflings followed by a large dog and an even larger lion leave Troll’s Bridge via the Zuodeyja gate. They walk along the remains of the old north road towards the great pit that is all that remains of Walton.  As they wind their way among the trees, the branches seem to left and separate allowing them to pass easily and quietly through the forest before the boughs mesh again behind them.

The Halflings find an open glade in the forest near mid-day and stop for lunch.  Having only walking food for second breakfast, brunch and elevenses they have worked up quite an appetite.  After their dinner, the Halflings relax in the warm sun piercing the forest roof and laze in the heather, redolent with pleasant forest scents.

Finally, Dale breaks the silence that has settled around them, “The forest is peaceful today. Almost like it is resting from all the violence of the last year. Even so, I don’t think we should be out alone and after dark.”

Sparta smiles at Dale’s concern. “There is little left in the forest that we need fear. The wyrm’s kin are all in hiding. The orcs and giants are in retreat.  The trees themselves are our friends for as long as we treat them kindly. Still I suppose we shouldn’t tempt fate. What do you have in mind?”

Dale smiles coyly as she takes Sparta’s hand, “I’ve been wanting to try a spell I learnt a while back. Bring Ringo here.” Dale rustles her hand through Ferocious’ mane before taking out the sprig of mistletoe she uses for her spells. Sparta does as he’s told as he watches her curiously. Dale casts her spell and then touches Ferocious first, then Ringo and finally Sparta. “Now follow me and try to keep up.” As Dale speaks she begins to melt into a foggy cloud of mist. Sparta looks about to see that Ferocious and Ringo are similarly beginning to melt  before he looks down to see that his legs have disappeared and he seems to be floating in his own cloud. Turning back to Dale he sees her cloud seem to beckon to him before floating into the trees followed by the cloud that surreally was a lion a moment ago.

Sparta wonders whether the mushrooms in their lunch were perhaps a little off before willing himself to follow Dale and summoning Ringo to tag along behind.  He finds he can move effortlessly through the trees and quickly catches up to Dale’s cloud. 

Sparta hears a giggle emanate from the cloud, “Come on slow poke we can go much faster.”  Dale’s cloud begins to race through the forest weaving and bobbing among the tree trunks. Soon all four of the clouds are flying along as though pushed forward by a gale force wind. Suddenly the lead cloud zooms upward through the forest’s canopy emerging in the late afternoon sunlight and pausing for a moment while the other clouds look on apparently bewildered. The three laggard clouds quickly gather their wits and follow Dale only to find she has zoomed even higher.

Sparta is ecstatic. He loves to fly and has looked on enviously as the other heroes sprouted wings and marshaled their arcane powers. He zooms high and low. Skimming the tree tops, letting the leaves tickle his tummy before soaring high above until he can just see the line of the forest demarking the Almebezbik plains receding behind him. If anyone were listening, they would hear laughing, giggling, barking and a low rumble of a great cat’s purr coming from the four clouds as they continue their travel north.

Finally, as the sun begins to set and darkness gathers under the eaves of the forest the four clouds find themselves swirling above the burgeoning village of Tangleton.  The night guard is already mustering to man the ramparts while the Halflings and Kobolds scurry home to their holes and caves.  They can see the foundations for Nyza’s keep have been laid and walls are already starting to rise into the trees.

Dale motions to the ground and the four clouds quietly descend back under the canopy to the ground where with a thought first Dale, then Sparta followed by Ferocious and finally Ringo regain their solid form.  In the gathering gloom of evening, the foursome marches forth from the forest and Sparta announces their presence at the village gate, “Hallo, is there room at the inn?”

A halfling voice responds from behind the palisade, “Halt, who goes there?” A second voice quickly pipes, “Hush there Fernie, don’t you recognize the voice of your Master? It’s Sparta and Dale. Jump quick there and open the gates before I cuff you upside the head.”

Sparta and Dale hear the Halflings rustling around and then the gates begin to swing open with a slight creak.  “Hey there Fernie. Roscoe, you should listen to Fernie. Who knows who will coming knocking at the gates next time.”

Roscoe looks chagrined but answers back, “Aye, Master Sparta. But Lady Nyza gave word this morning that you and Dale had left Troll’s Bridge and we should keep an eye out for you. Though I’m amazed you made it so quickly. It usually takes days to make that trek through the forest.”

Dale smiles gently on Roscoe, easing his discomfort, “Not everyone has to trek hard through the forest to cover the miles between here and there. There are many ways for those of us who can harness nature’s powers to travel quickly. I will say that no matter how we travel it has been a long day and you have four more hungry bellies. Now close up the gate and stand to your post.  I need to rustle up some supper for your  Master.”

Sparta and Dale stroll up the avenue followed by their pets while the Halfling guard look on in amazement before turning to their duties to secure the gate.