Written by George Sanders

Captain Stoke sat by the fire reading through some reports from the day. The old stone building they were in was cold without a fire, even with it being summer. The building used to be a Guild Hall for the Hunter's Guild. The threat of attack from goblins, gnolls, or worse brought out the 3rd Expeditionary Force force from Etonia. His squad was stations at one of several fortified checkpoints along the main road in the forest.


The dim light was barely enough to get through the pages. At the 4pm entry he made an adjustment one two squads of Ardelis' Arrows on their way to Everst. He thought back to that moment, a young half-orc, Supheli, had been with them. They ran into her a few weeks ago. Lt Tymal had talked to her both times about the old ways. Ardelis was with them as well. He put an 'x' on the identity checked column.


"Hey Tymal, we've been out here for 2 months now. You've talked about the old ways a couple times. What happened that made them the old ways? Why did your people leave the forest?"


Tymal paused for a minute, settled in his chair more. Took a drink from his mug. "My grandmother would tell a story about that." He stopped there, seemingly lost in thought. Stoke had a pretty good feel for who Tymal was now, enough to know that was an act to play up the drama of the story. "The People had already been living in small groups scattered in the forest. They were the ones that turned away from the violence of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows. They were all that was left as the Kingdom turned to ash, destroyed by its own stubbornness and hatred. Many that slipped away were druids and hunters, connected to the forest."


Tymal took another drink, looking to see if he had everyone's attention, "We didn't want to leave the forest. My grandmother would say, first the magic started disappearing, then people started disappearing. A few would be lost to the forest every year but soon it was happening every few weeks. No cause was ever found. It made everyone suspicious. The small groups broke into even smaller groups. isolated. Eventually, The People realized that it was getting rarer and rarer to run into another group in the forest. Ancient Evils could be back, hunting us like in the days of the Kingdom of Many-Arrows."


"When I was old enough to walk, my family moved to the shore, hoping to get away from the curse. Etonia was already being built up at that point so that is where we stayed. More of The People arrived over time. I don't know that there are any of The People left in the forest except those that made it were finally safe in Etonia."


Tymal paused again. Captain Stoke pulled out some more papers. The other guards started back on their dinners. Tymal continued with flourish, "My grandmother would say the council were Chosen Souls, they would protect us and eventually return us to the forest. And here we are." He ended his story with whoop, downed his drink, and slammed it on the table. He got a few chuckles and laughter out of the other guards. Captain Stoke got back to his paperwork.


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