14th Day, 2nd Month, second age, 2,564
So I had a little chat with some of the animals that were in the area around where we found that merchant’s body—Darrel, I mean. The birds there remembered (a miracle, I know) some other people in the area, one of whom had a fang-on-a-stick—in the bird’s words, at least—that stuck him with it before they commenced lunchtime.
I told Hrok before we left, and then we brought Darrel’s head back to the guard post to collect the bounty. Sergeant Mavorn, who is running the guards for the time being, took “Hrok’s” news of the attack on Darrel, and that it was perpetrated by men, well enough, I guess. She did kind of go green in the face.
As I guess the rest of us did when she surmised this all to be the work of cannibals.
After a little back-and-forth with the sergeant, we left again, headed northwest, away from the city. Sergeant Mavorn had told us that there had been a couple of disappearances in that area, most notably a ranger—Gevard, she said his name was. Also, a couple of farmhands, but I guess this ranger was more pressing—no little reason being, I’m sure, that he was a ranger and thus supposed to be able to take care of himself. But that’s just my supposition.
Anyway, northwest we trekked, o’er hill and vale and through forest and—well, really, just through forest. And even calling it “forest” is probably doing the area too much credit. More like a wood. After a bit of time, we found some more bodies. Gevard’s was one of them. Still chewed-up, still dead.
But this time they’d been laid in a triangle shape.
This only reinforced the “cannibals” guess, because animals don’t do that. If things land in shapes, it’s by accident. This, though, was as perfect a triangle as you can get with dead bodies of gangly human-types, what with all our limbs and such.
Virgil, for all his quirks, has eagle-eyes and such an eye for precise detail I’m surprised the Professor isn’t jealous. Almost right away he found three more track trails leading from the area.
I found some extra blood spatters in the middle of the triangle. Some of them were obviously from the bodies; they smelled the same. But some of them weren’t. In other words—too much blood for too few bodies. My nose told me the foreign smells went off on one of the tree trails—was freshest that way—and we went even more northwest, though only a few hundred yards this time.
Hrok did his land-shark trick, where he burrows underground and suddenly erupts underneath or behind something.
“Something,” in this case, was a dryad and her savage minions. And I use “savage” here to mean “uncultured human,” since these guys carried crude clubs and wore only furs. They didn’t even do barbarian tribes justice; these guys acted more like animals than men. Except, I guess, they treated the dryad like some sort of goddess.
Turns out this was her little glen. Her tree was right in the middle, and she’d discovered the group of savages a little ways back. Personally, I think they fell for her on sight, because let’s face it—primitive minds faced with a pretty girl stepping literally out of a tree?
Anyway, we ended up killing the savages, because Hrok’s sand-shark thing spooked the dryad; she basically had them try to kill us on sight. They got me good—I’m going to have a bruise for a week, in spite of Alaine’s magic—but between Hrok and, I’m told, Virgil, they made short work of the savages.
Once I was awake again, we dealt with the dryad. She hadn’t ordered her minions to do any of the things they’d done, which was good…then again, neither had she punished them for it. Not so good. Maybe she thought it was too complicated for their minds to understand. Or maybe she didn’t think it worth the effort. I don’t know. Point is, she wasn’t directly responsible for the killings. That was her guardians, and them alone. So after some words, we got her to agree to never “hire” any more cannibals, and in return we wouldn’t tell Mavorn that the dryad even existed.