Trainer Grafa ordered a couple of his soldiers to escort us back to the mountain complex, a six day walk from the dungeon. We got back on the trail home, still not daring to make a sound even though Trainer Grafa was not accompanying us on this trip. It was a slim chance that he could have the power to hear us from a distance and instantly cause excruciating pain to the offender, but none of us were inclined to take that risk.
The trees looked sick, their leafs growing black spots and surrounded by an off yellow color, their bark cracking and leaking a blood like sap. The grass was either dead or dying, where there was grass instead of a bare patch of dry dirt. I could feel the taint that was infecting the land. Killing the wraiths would allow the land to begin healing its self, but it would be many years before anything much would grow here again.
“What do you think they are going to do to us?” Reuben asked several hours into the journey.”I heard a story about how, a couple of years ago, some acolytes went on assignment to catch a few drek’s in a forest and, instead, walked around aimlessly for a few days in a nearby town. The generals found out and had them hung up by their thumbs for a year!”
“ Reuben” Thor sighed “That’s stupid. First: there is no way a few drek’s would be walking anywhere unless there was a wraith nearby. Second: The generals would not assign a punishment so pointless as to string up anyone by their thumbs. Third: Nobody could survive being hung up by their thumbs for a year. How do you think they would eat?” Reuben had no answer to this so he resigned himself to sulk in silence.
I focused my eyes on Reuben, allowing his aura slowly come into focus. I could see how nervous he was, a grey color surrounded him fringed with a little orange showing he was tired, understandable, considering how much we had been thru today. Our orders were to locate the Wraith den. The sickening of the land had been noticed and it had been determined that, by the rate in which the trees and grass was dying and the dirt was drying out, there were several wraiths in the area, their fowl life draining taint permeating the very soil and caused a blight on the land.
As soon as we arrived I could feel the taint, thick in the air, faint at first but growing ever stronger the closer we got to the epicenter of the disease. We killed a couple of drek’s as we were searching in the remnants of what had once been hay fields and grazing land, now turned to desolate dead grass void of any living vegetation. It was in one such field we found a cabin. The structure looked simple enough, but the taint was the strongest here, the foul taint oozing its dark green aura, seeping into the land. We should have stopped here and waited for Trainer Grafa, but, we didn’t. Reuben suggested we go back to the rendezvous point and wait for Grafa, but Thor as the team leader, decided to try to get a better idea of where the wraiths were, so we crept quietly up to the cabin, its shadows long in the early morning sun.
Jay wrapped himself in the shadows around the cabin and cautiously began looking thru the windows, checking to see if any drek’s or wraiths were lurking inside. Jay came back around to the front and cautiously opening the door, he slipped inside. After a few minutes he came back to the door and gave us the signal that he hadn’t seen anything. We entered the cabin slowly, it was bare. There was no furniture or ornamentation of any kind, except an exceptional rug in one of the back rooms. “ This doesn’t make sense.” I thought to myself. “ I know they are here somewhere.” I had never failed to locate a wraith yet, the sight never lies. On a hunch I lifted up the corner of the rug, “crafty creatures” I thought. This little trick would have possibly fooled someone who couldn’t sense the taint. I opened the small trap door concealed beneath the rug and a musty smell wafted up to meet me.
I wondered who built this cabin and the dungeon buried beneath it, and how the construction had escaped the notice of the locals. I’ve never known drek’s to be smart, or coordinated enough to build a bird house, let alone dig out a dungeon.
“Are they down there?” Thor asked. I nodded, he looked conflicted. On one hand we were ordered to find them and probably shouldn’t have even come this far, on the other hand we were so close, why turn back now, why not just get the job done and go home. He stood there thinking for a few minutes, thinking, and slowly said “Let’s do it. Let’s go get them.”
“Are you sure Thor” asked Elle. “Maybe we should just go back to the rendezvous and report this. I’m not sure we can take all these on our own.”
“We can do it” Thor said. “We’ve already taken down several drek’s on our own and we even got a wraith on the last mission we went on.”
“We were with three veteran teams, and she was wounded.” Countered Reuben
“I think we should go down there.” Jay said quietly, which was surprising, considering Jay doesn’t say much.
“Ouch!” cried Elle as I bumped into her. Her cry of pain brought me into the present.
“Sorry.” I said. We had covered a lot of ground while I had been spaced out, the mountain had grown a lot larger on the horizon. One of the mountains many deceptions as it was still very far away.