Chapter 13:

At One with Nature II


Harvest Moon 21, AS 632. The Endless Wood, outside the Kingdom of Farrus, The Sundered World.

The six adventurers cut their way through the dense forest in search of the trolls that plagued the hidden elf enclave. “I’m starving” moaned Descartes. The female wizard put a hand to her growling stomach. “Berries aren’t filling at all.”

“Why, friend Descartes, it be unlike you to complain thusly,” said Erenata, looking surprised.

“I can barely focus on magic with my stomach rumbling,” she complained. “I want to leave. If we stay here any longer I’m going to starve to death.”

“You are highly unlikely to actually starve,” pointed out Cyton. “You have the magic to conjure water, meaning you’ll never go thirsty, and it takes several weeks for a human to fully starve so long as they keep hydrated.”

“Actually, Descartes brings up a good point,” interjected Appraiser. She sliced down a branch without looking. “Why are we even doing this?”

Cyton reminded them “they won’t let us go free unless we drive away the trolls, remember?”

“But we’re free right now,” Appraiser pointed out. She gestured behind them. Other than a small trail left by the group’s footsteps, there was no way of telling where the Heartwood Sanctuary lay. “What’s to stop us from walking away from this whole stupid forest right now? We don’t owe these stupid hippie elves anything. They aren’t even paying us.”

The party needed some time to digest that point. It was Jotun, the fiendblood who met them in the village and accompanied them to defeat the trolls, who answered first. “I think we’re doin’ this because we’re heroes.”

“What do you mean?” asked Appraiser.

The tall figure took a moment to collect his thoughts. “I guess I mean that we’re different. I’m sure y’all are on a mission of some kind. So am I. But anyone can pursue a mission without getting’ distracted. If we just do the bare minimum, fight only the monsters we absolutely must fight, and ignore those in need we meet on the way, we’re just common mercenaries. Thugs. But we’re heroes, not thugs. Even though he always completes the quest, I think a hero is one who always turns aside to help those in need. Although,” he laughed, “I certainly hope not everyone in need is as annoying as those elves.”

Appraiser giggled. “My, Jotun, you’re much more idealistic than you look, aren’t you? I like that in a man.”

“Ah, despite my looks, I’m just a big softie,” agreed Jotun.

“Um, Appraiser?” Rachel interjected. “Weren’t you tracking the trolls’ trail? Should you focus on that?”

“No need,” Appraiser replied without taking her eyes off of Jotun. “They went that way.” She pointed at a clump of forest in the direction the group was walking that was not obviously different than the rest of the area. “We know the trolls eat berries. All the berry bushes in this area are stripped bare. Furthermore, we know that the trolls must be quite stealthy. If they weren’t, then the elves who live in this forest wouldn’t need to be frightened, since they could hear the trolls coming from a distance and easily run away. Therefore, we should look for a part of the forest that is free of berries but is not obviously populated.” She gestured to the surrounding area that filled that exact description.

Jotun whistled. “I see that even that lovely face can’t hold a candle to that sharp mind. I envy the man who can find a woman like that.”

“Why, thank you,” giggled Appraiser once again.

Rachel interrupted nervously. “Then, does that mean we’re getting close?”

“Oh, we’re on the trolls’ front porch,” said Appraiser off-handedly. “Don’t worry. They’re probably not home right now.” Her last words were punctuated by rock flying through the air at a tremendous speed past her head. It embedded itself in a rotten tree less than six inches away from her ear. She and the rest of the party slowly turned to the left, the direction the rock had come from.

Standing there, partially camouflaged by the mottled shadows, stood three grotesque figures. They had a vaguely humanoid shape, but that’s where the resemblance ended. They had rough, almost bark-like skin that was tinted alternately green and yellow. Although they likely would have been over 8 feet tall if they stood straight, they all hunched over so much that they appeared shorter than most of the party members. Their faces, too, was off: their eyes were set far too high in the forehead and their noses were too small. All three wore a rough animal skin around their waist; one of the three wore a similar skin around its chest. Completing the picture was the crude clubs each clutched in their over-large hands. “There are the trolls” pointed out Appraiser unnecessarily.

The three trolls bared their weapons. The party, too, readied themselves. Rachel gestured to them. “Please, let me try negotiation this time.”

Descartes and Appraiser exchanged doubtful looks, but Erenata gave a thumbs up. That was all Rachel needed. She stepped forward. One of the trolls, the one with the skin around its chest, also stepped out of its group. The two figures approached each other until they stood only a few feet apart. Rachel began by asking “do you speak English?” Cyton called across the distance, reminding her that the common language that they all spoke was actually called Common. “Do you speak Common?” she revised her statement to the troll.

“Me speak little,” it responded. It had a most peculiar voice: like an undergrown teenage boy imitating a feminine Boris Karloff.

“Why do you hunt the elves in this forest?” asked Rachel.

“Me no hunt elf. Me eat food. Elf eat food. No food left.”

“Surely the forest is big enough for all of you.”

The troll cocked its head. “Me eat all food.”

“You don’t have to, though,” begged Rachel. “Don’t you see how coexistence is better?”

The troll still appeared confused. “Me eat all food,” it repeated. “Elf is food. You is food?” It raised its club. Saliva dripped down its toothy maw as it grinned. It swung the weapon, only to find the wooden club was no longer in its hands. Instead, the large branch hovered a few feet off the ground. Both Rachel and the troll stared at the club in confusion for a split second. In that moment, the club suddenly took flight—in order to smack the troll in the head.

From the back, Descartes used her left hand to point the staff at the club. She used her right to gesture in the air as if she were wielding it. Although she was over a hundred feet away from the object, if flew through the air as if commanded by her gestures. The club continued to smack the troll in the head. Based on the monsters’ yowls, it caused more annoyance than serious damage.

Of course, the scene didn’t remain like that for long. The other two trolls, enraged by the attack, rushed forward with their weapons held high. In response, Erenata and Jotun each strode forward. Erenata said “thou go left, I go right?” Jotun nodded, so the two adventurers each intercepted the appropriate troll, engaging them in one-on-one combat.

Erenata’s fighting style was graceful. She almost appeared to be a dancer in the way she dodged, parried, and struck with her wooden sword. In contrast, Jotun had a brutal way of fighting. He simply let the troll beat on him with its club a few times before grabbing the monster. With it locked in his grip, he slammed his head into its head repeatedly. After a few strikes, he switched to using his axe, inflicting heavy damage on the green creature. Ctyon, after hesitating for a moment, joined Erenata. As it was distracted by the half-elf warrior, he struck it from behind, landing significant damage. With the combined forces of Erenata and Cyton fighting one, and Jotun single-handedly smashing the other, these two trolls were quickly pushed to the brink of death.

However, that left one troll unaccounted for. The one that had originally spoken had now reclaimed its club from Descartes’ invisible grip and was now using that same weapon to batter the cleric. Twice in a row, Rachel attempted to use her paralysis spell on the troll. Both times, the monster was caught for a moment before shaking off the spell and continuing its assault. Descartes then attempted bombarding it with fire magic. This clearly did more damage, but the troll was so enraged that it continued to fight even with its crude hide clothing burning off. “Ew,” said Descartes quietly, averting her eyes as the hide across its chest fell away to reveal that this troll was definitely female.

The combined magical bombardment was not enough. One powerful blow from the female troll’s club struck Rachel across the temple. It knocked her to the ground, where she lay unmoving, blood trickling from her mouth. With a roar that might have been either laughter or anger, the troll raised its club for one final swing that would kill the cleric.

That swing never came. Instead, the troll toppled to the ground face-first, its massive body narrowly missing crushing Rachel. From its back protruded one of Appraiser’s shorter knives. Appraiser herself emerged from the shadows of a nearby tree, having thrown the knife at the monster while it was distracted. Descartes noticed that this one was no longer a threat, so she aimed her fire magic on the other trolls. Those two, already severely weakened by their battles with Cyton, Erenata, and Jotun, fell quickly.

“Whew,” said Appraiser, wiping the sweat from her eyes. “That battle wasn’t as bad as I expected.”

Descartes had rushed to Rachel’s unconscious body. She cradled it in her arms, listening to the cleric’s heartbeat by pressing her ear to her chest. “She’s dying!” Descartes cried out desperately.

Appraiser waved her hand dismissively. “Just use some healing magic or something. Once she’s conscious, she’ll be fine, right?”

Tears appearing in her eyes, Descartes explained “A wizard can’t heal. Rachel is the one in our party who uses healing magic!”


At that moment, Rachel coughed up a massive clot of blood. Her face became even more pale. As Descartes and Appraiser both cried out in shock, Cyton rushed to the scene. “Move out of the way,” he ordered. When the two protested, he snapped “Rachel taught me a tiny bit of healing magic before. But I need to focus.” The two women backed away.

Cyton closed his eyes. He breathed deeply in and out, loud enough for all the bystanders to hear. The then performed several seconds of complicated-looking hand gestures. With those complete, he placed his right palm on Rachel’s forehead, gripping that arm with his left hand. His eyes snapped open. “Minoooor….healing!” A small flash of light, no bigger than a candle, flickered to light under his hand. Two of the bruises on Rachel’s battered body shrank slightly. Still, even that tiny healing was enough to bring her back to consciousness.

She tremblingly raised one arm, only for it to collapse back on top of her chest. She began to whisper something too faintly for the onlookers to hear. Cyton leaned in closer. “It’s ok, don’t strain yourself,” he said. “What is it?”

A croak crossed Rachel’s lips. “Moderate healing.” A flash of light appeared from her hand that was touching her chest. It briefly illuminated the forest. When the light vanished, every wound on Rachel’s body had vanished.

She sat up, evidently now full of energy, only to be almost tackled by Descartes, coming in for a hug. “You’re alive!” the wizard said.

Erenata helped the cleric to her feet. “Thou had us worried, friend Rachel. What canst the party do if the healer be the first to fall?” Appraiser nodded in agreement.

Cyton, looking away with a red face, said “glad you didn’t die.”

“Oh, Cyton! Did you use the healing spell I taught you to save me? I’m so proud!” Rachel grabbed Cyton in a close embrace, causing the young man to blush more fiercely.

Jotun, who had been watching the entire scene from the background, laughed. “I can’t say I know you well, Miss Rachel, but I’m glad as well. It would be such a waste for a woman as kind and as lovely as you to die young. Now I don’t know about any of you, but I’m sick of this forest. Shall we get out of here?”

Rachel said anxiously “how will the elves know we finished the job?”

“Worry not!” said Erenata confidently. She turned to address an ordinary-looking squirrel sitting in a nearby tree. “Relay this message to the elves posthaste: the forest be cleared of the foul beasts that inhabit it.” The squirrel looked at her before running down the tree’s trunk. “As these wood inhabitant elves clearly are in sync with nature, they no doubt possess the capability to speak with animals, and, likely, know everything that the animals see.”

“They can do that?” asked Descartes.


“Good enough for me,” said Appraiser. “I agree with the big guy. Let’s get out of here.” Nobody else had any objections, so after Rachel used some minor healing on those who were slightly injured, the party set out in the direction they hoped led out of the woods.

On the way, Appraiser said “one more thing. Lets make a rule: no letting the squishy mages attempt to negotiate with obviously hungry monsters. Actually, lets just avoid all negotiation with obviously hungry monsters. Cool?”

“I had to try,” protested Rachel.

“You really didn’t. That was obviously going to turn into a fight.”

“That’s wrong! It is our duty to try to resolve things peacefully. It’s just like you said early, Mr. Jotun: we’re heroes, not thugs.”

Jotun of clan Jormungandr shook his head. “Miss Rachel, don’ misunderstand. We heroes are still killers. The only thing we can do is murder some so that others can live happily. Killing is what we do. Never forget that.”

“Monsters don’t count as people,” interjected Descartes. “They’re just there for us to beat up to get stronger.” She swung her staff. “I think my maximum spells per day went up after that fight.”

“Well, I don’ know if I’d go that far,” said Jotun, “but she’s mostly correct.”

Rachel looked disturbed but didn’t say anything else. Cyton pointed ahead. “We’ve reached the edge of the forest.” Sure enough, the trees thinned out ahead. Beyond it was a rode that ran parallel to the forest.“Well, this is where I take my leave,” said Jotun. “I’m headed the other way. Bes of luck to all y’all.” Appraiser and Erenata both looked extremely disappointed. Despite their requests, Jotun insisted that they had to part company. The Sunviewers and Cyton watched him confidently stride off into the sunset until he was out of sight before turning to continue on their journey.