Follow Joref on Foot to Unicorn's Landing

Looking into Joref’s eyes, you can’t help but reconsider his request. "They shall walk and not faint", the verse said. Could that be a reference to leaving the horses behind and taking the footpath? They that wait upon the Lord... it said.

“It all comes down to trusting the OverLord.” you say at last. “If Joref feels that the OverLord has spoken this word to him, I say we take it at face value and start this mission trusting that He will get us there on time. It’s not up to us to guess his plan, but just to obey.”

“But is it the OverLord’s word, or Joref’s?” Kale challenges. “That’s the question.”

“Think about the words of the verse, Kale, and answer that yourself.” you reply. “I, for one, trust Joref. As I trust all of you. Is this how we want to start a raid? Not trusting each other?”

You look around at each of your companions in turn, meeting their eyes resolutely with no hint of doubt in your own. One by one, you see them each come to a silent agreement with you and begin to dismount and collect their packs from the horses saddles. Joref puts his hand upon your shoulder in a silent gesture of thanks as you too, gather your things from your mount.

A few minutes later, the horses have been returned to the stable-master and the five of you set off for Swan Wing path and Unicorn’s Landing beyond, wondering what the OverLord has in store for you there.

You spend the remainder of the morning walking south along the Swan Wing Path and arive in the coastal town of Unicorn Landing by mid-day. It is well past lunch. Joref leads you to Amberlessa’s home where you are greeted by her Father and invited to stay for dinner. This is just what you feared would happen and Kale groans audibly (though discreetly) when you accept the kind offer. Soon, you find yourselves the honored guests at a small feast, complete with the friends and neighbors of Amberlessa’s family all wishing you well on your raid and toasting everything from your Valor and Courage, to Joref and Amberlessa’s engagement. Though the festivities would be enjoyable under normal circumstances, you find anxiety mounting in your mind as the hours wear away. Glancing at your companions, you see it mirrored in their eyes as well and you begin to wonder if you haven’t made the wrong decision following Joref after all. Finally, as the sun begins to set, the guests begin to drift off toward their homes and you manage to pull him aside for a moment.

“Joref, we have got to get to the Glade of Many Waters!” you remind him impatiently. “You said that was where the Overlord told us to go!”

“It is.” Joref assures you, shrugging nonchalantly.

“Then why are you wasting so much time here?” You feel the blood rushing to your face in anger at his ambivilance. Taking a deep breath, you continue on. “You said you weren’t coming here just to spend time with Amberlessa, but that’s all we’ve done. We’ve got to get on with our mission!”

“I didn’t come here just to spend time with Amberlessa. We got dinner too, didn’t we?” Seeing the look of irritation on your face he quickly adds, “Relax. I told you we don’t have to be to the glade until nightfall. Amberlessa and her parents know that. That’s why their clearing everyone out. We’ll have plenty of time to gather our things and get there.”

“Nightfall? You didn’t tell us that!”

“Didn’t I?” Joref looks at you with absolute puzzlement on his face. “I could have sworn I did. Oops. Well, I’d better say a final farewell to my precious “flower petal”. I’ll meet the rest of you outside in a moment.”

With that he turns and is gone, leaving you with the sudden urge to throttle the oblivious orator. The Glade of Many Waters is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in all of the Liberated Lands and the central hub of Unicorn Landing. It is here that the many streams of the Western White Ridge Mountains gather in a bubbling pool of cold, clear water surrounded by moss-covered stone, gentle grasses and frothing water-falls that tumble into the bowl of the glade from the roots of the mountains North and East. A sacred place of prayer and worship and a place of baptism for the obedient, the Glade was once the place of the first visitation by the Helper, when it is said that the waters of cleansing were first poured out upon the Twice Born after the Overlord’s departure for the Everlasting Kingdom. Though the town has grown up around it, the Glade remains undisturbed and a place of solitude for the true seeker.

As you stand in this place of quiet and rest, you watch the two moons rising. They are full and brilliant - made more striking by the beauty of creation all around you. It has been an hour since the sun has set and you are beginning to wonder if the Overlord is ever going to do something. Around you, your companions are pacing and praying, “waiting on the Lord” as Joref’s Sacred Scroll passage said to do.

Suddenly you begin to notice a change. The moonshadows seem to be growing. Not stretching, but expanding, swallowing the light of the glade as though the moons were being shrouded by clouds and their light extinquished. Looking up again, you see the reason.

It is a full lunar eclipse.

Suddenly you remember. This is the Night of the Scarlet Moon, that awful night each year when both of the light moons, Cheruu and Serax are eclipsed for five minutes by Moluno, the Scarlet Moon! Though of no consequence to those in the Liberated Land; it is a different matter in the Dragon Lands. There, every baby born to a dragon slave during the eclipse is declared by the dragons and their followers to be a sorceror. The helpless infant is removed from its home and taken to the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry that lies deep in the Forest of Horrors. There they are trained from their earliest hours in the dark arts and their lives are wholly given over to the service of the dragons.

You shudder as you realize the significance of this night and wish there was something you could do for the innocent lives that will be taken! If only your mission would have started a day sooner, your team would be in enemy territory now, ready for action. Again you are reminded of the precious time being lost!

“This was a mistake.” you mutter as the sky goes completely dark with a final flash of blood red light. “I can’t take this sitting around. We should be doing something!”

You hear the sound of your friends gathering around you in the dark and Joref’s voice in reply to your statement.

“We are doing something, Tharkon. The most important thing. Trusting God.”

As if to illustrate the truth of the statement, there is a dazzling flash of light in the sky above you. Thinking the eclipse is already passing, you look up again. Sweeping down from the sky is a train of glorious white beings - winged horses that radiate a light brighter than the noonday sun and a presence warming to the soul. As they alight noiselessly around you, you can see that there is one for each of you.

The leader addresses you as you shield your eyes.

“Fear not, Lightraiders. We have been sent by the Celestial King in answer to your obedience, to bear you on the first part of your journey into the lands of shadow. But come; time is short.”

They bow on their knees, inviting you to mount. Gathering up your things once again, you carefully and reverently climb upon their backs, taking your place between their mighty wings. As soon as you are seated, the celestial guardians take to the skies, and in a moment’s time, the familiar town of Unicorn Landing has disappeared. Within moments your team is flying between the peaks of new beginning and through the mist barrier into the lands beyond the safety of the Overlord’s protection.

Before the eclipse has even fully ended, you find yourselves sliding from the horses’ backs in a place that you have never seen before. Although it is dark, you can tell that there are trees all around you. Through a clearing in the forest, you see the jagged outline of mountains against the starry sky to the west. You can tell by the faint light of the re-emerging silver moons that you are on a narrow road running north and south through the forest. As you try to gain your bearings, the winged horses disappear without warning leaving you feeling small and alone in this immense forest where all manner of evil creatures might dwell. And with the Celestial Guardians goes the light of their presence, leaving your team in the near total blackness of the wilderness.

You stand quietly for several moments, trying to take in your environment with all of your senses and giving your eyes a chance to adjust to the darkness. The air is cool and pleasant as it blows from the Northwest across the Mountain tops and smells of fresh foliage and damp wood . The forest is exceptionally quiet, however, making you feel somewhat uneasy as you realize that the sounds of crickets and other animal noises native to the woodlands are conspicuously absent. It is almost as if the animal kingdom silently mourned the loss of innocence that would take place this evil night as well.

“I hear a river nearby...” Valen’s voice, just above a whisper, startles you out of your thought for a moment. “...west of us. It must be a good size, by the sound.”

“Tharkon, do you have the map handy.” Joref asks.

Reaching in your pack, you produce the parchments as the others gather around you. “Yes, but we need some light. I can’t see a thing in this darkness.

Just then you hear a sharp cracking sound as a spark flickers in the night nearby and a torch flickers to life. You turn to see Kale putting his flint into his tinder kit and holding the light above your heads.

“Are you sure that is wise?” Keei questions, glancing about you with concern. In the light of the single flickering light, the shadows of the woods around you seem to move eerily.

“It’s necessary at the moment, Keei. We’ve got to get an idea of where we are.” you assure him. “Why don’t you scout around and keep the look out up the North road while we get our bearings here.”

Without hesitation, Keei moves away, joining the shadow dance around you and disappearing from sight. Turning to Kale, you ask him to check out the south road and then turn back to the map.

“I don’t like this silence, Tharkon.” Joref comments, confirming your feeling of unease.

“Neither do I, but we have to stay focused on the Raid.” you assure him.

Valen interrupts you both as he points to the map.

“Here is a river and the mountains to the west. We must be somewhere along this stretch of road running beside the river going North and South.”

“That would make sense.” you agree. “Then Safety’s End would be...”

You are suddenly interrupted by Kale, who is running up the road toward you from the South and signaling for you to douse the light!

“Goblins!” he hisses.

“Where?” you ask in alarm.

“I don’t know for certain, but we dare not take the chance with the light. I found many fresh tracks along the road going South. They couldn’t be more than an hour old and there’s no telling if there might not be a few of them lingering around in these woods somewhere.”

Soon Keei returns as well with a similar report. Apparently, goblins passed along this road from North to South mere minutes before your arrival, but nothing else is out of the ordinary. The light of the silver moons has returned and with it, the sounds of forest life.

What will you do now?

Follow the North road, follow the goblin tracks South along the road, or try cutting West through the forest, leaving the road and heading toward the sound of the river?

The End

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