The temple in Goldcrest was more than ready for the arrival of the companions. The only surprise was the mass of human and dwarf that came rolling through the portal. Gwent, still under the spell of his fear of the gates, rattled off a host of dwarven curses, all aimed at Draven. After untangling themselves, they both sat there next to each other, Gwent fuming and Draven shaking his head with a smile.
"Don't know what you are so grumpy about, you're still in one piece!" Draven mused.
"Aye," Gwent grumbled, "Ye best not be tell'n anyone 'bout this, no one tackles a dwarf. Especially a scrawny welp like yer'self."
Draven reached over and flicked the dwarf's nose, "No one would believe me anyway!"
Gwent stood and offered the ranger a helping hand, but both paused as they looked to Mace and Zythos, who stood staring at them with twin looks of amazement. With a shake of their heads, the pair shook off the moment, and Mace led them out of the portal's chamber.
Everything the four would need was already laid out for their inspection. At the expense of the temple, they were provided horses, said to be the best that Goldcrest could offer. With everything ready, they left the gate and began their trek towards Ravenwood.
The first part of the journey was comfortable enough with the open plains that separated the city from the Golcroft forest, in which Ravenwood and Caelfall resided. They could see for kilometers in all directions, making it easy to spot trouble should they encounter any. By the time dusk was taking its hold, they could make out the edge of the forest far in the distance.
"I be think'n it ta' be a wise idea to camp 'for we enter the forest," Gwent offered. Mace looked to both Draven and Zythos, asking the unspoken question with a raise of his brows. Both agreed with a nod of their heads, which drew a victorious grunt from the dwarf.
"I'll run ahead to see if there is a good spot to rest," Draven offered, "perhaps there is a stream to water the horses nearby."
Without waiting for a reply, the ranger nudged his horse into a gallop and made his way west, using the silver light of the two small moons to help aid him as he scanned the distance. Draven often scouted ahead for the group and though his eyes were not attuned to the darkness as his elven friend Zythos, his mystical connection to the essence of nature, which was a blessing bestowed to him by the goddess Nyrarae, gave him an edge even the elf could not achieve. He was a little over three kilometers from the edge of the forest when he spotted a group of dark silhouettes moving steadily northward.
With a slight nudge, he prompted his mount to slowly move to the top of a rise, hoping to get a better look. He watched from his vantage point as the group slowed down, some of them dropping to their knees as a couple of others moved ahead slowly. Draven followed their path to the north and spotted the telltale glow of a campfire. He sighed as he looked back to the stalkers and knew it was a hunting party. Whether it was an orc party or a band of highwaymen did not matter, and it was a challenge to get an accurate read on the numbers despite the shine of the moons, but he could easily guess there to be close to twenty, if not more.
Draven made his way quickly back to his friends, who pulled their horses to a stop. They could always tell when the ranger found trouble with the slight smile on his lips and the gleam in his blue eyes. Even in the pale light, there was no mistaking his excitement. Of the four, Draven craved adventure more than anyone, which the others appreciated knowing he was raised in the wilds.
"What did you find?" Mace asked as the ranger pulled his horse up next to him.
"I'm guessing a hunting party, perhaps twenty strong, stalking an encampment to the north," Draven offered, "Not sure if it's man or orc."
"Or both," Zythos added. Draven nodded as he twisted to his left, looking off in the distance. He could see neither groups nor the campfires. He did know, however, that even pushing their horses at full speed, they would not make it in time to stave off any attack. He turned back to Mace, staring with an unspoken question masking his features.
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