Quests Part Two
Read the series prologue here.
Read episode fifteen here.
Episode Sixteen: Hidden Threat
“Lilac, are you absolutely sure this is where you and Reuben saw the goblin and troll army?” Beritta asked.
“Yes, I’ve told you a thousand times, this is where we were when we saw them,” said Lilac, flapping her purple butterfly wings to keep her small body hovering at the eye level of the tall elf.
“I believe you, it’s just that the scouts have been searching for days and haven’t found any sign of an army,” Beritta explained. She brushed a lock of long blond hair behind her pointed ear with an irritated gesture. “Where did they go after you saw them? Where are they now?”
“I wish I knew. I might have found out if they hadn’t come after Reuben and me.”
“I understand,” said Beritta. “I’m just surprised we haven’t found any sign of them yet. It’s like they vanished.”
“More like they’re waiting for an opportunity to strike,” said Oakley. He and Faralasa, were standing nearby. Beritta turned to him.
“That’s what worries me. I want to find them quickly. I feel like time is running short.” she glanced up at a winged horse circling overhead.“There’s one of our forward scouts. Let’s hope he has something to report.”
The group followed Beritta as she made her way through the trees to the place where the scout landed his mount on the soft grass of a small meadow.
“What did you find?” Beritta asked.
“Not much,” the elf boy replied replied. “The goblins are hiding all trace of their presence pretty well. I can’t spot any sign of an army from the air.”
Beritta kicked a rock at her feet. It flew a short distance before hitting a tree and falling to the ground.
“I hate this!” she cried. “It feels like we’re just waiting for them to attack us.”
“There’s not much else we can do unless we find their army,” Faralasa pointed out. “They can’t hide forever. It’s just a matter of time before we find them.”
“Well I think we should try to speed things up,” said Beritta. “We’re going to spit up so we can search more of the forest at a time. Lilac will fly between everyone with news.”
“I don’t think spreading out is a good idea,” Oakley commented. “It will make us more vulnerable.”
“Keeping together we've found nothing,” Beritta retorted. “Maybe this way we’ll actually find the Dark army's location.”
“If we split up I’m staying with you,” said Oakley. “Since you’re our leader you should never be alone.”
“Fine, but you’ll have to keep up with me. I’ll be riding Mist.”
She nodded to one side as the grey unicorn approached.
“I’ll manage,” said Oakley.
“Okay,” said Beritta turning to give her orders. “Lasa, I want you, the other Airwalkers and winged horse riders to spread out and see what you can find in the air.”
“You got it,” said Faralasa. Using her new found airwalking skills, she floated over the treetops, saluting Beritta as she rose.
“Lilac, tell the other fairies to fly low under the trees and report what they see,” Beritta continued. “Oakley and I will search the ground.”
“Okay,” called Lilac as she flew to obey her orders.
Beritta beckoned to Mist and mounted her then turned to Oakley and snapped, “Come if you’re coming.”
By nightfall Beritta, Oakley and Mist found themselves near the foot hills of the Emerald Mountains. They were worn out and had made very little progress. They rested, taking turns standing watch. The night passed uneventfully.
In the morning Oakley suggested, “Why don't we scout the lower slopes of the mountains? It's possible the goblins and trolls camped there rather than staying inside Fairy Wood. After all, the elders say the forest makes goblins nervous.”
Beritta shrugged. “Sounds like as good a plan as any.”
They spent much of that day climbing the rocky peaks and exploring winding trails. As they moved onto the higher slopes a strange feeling tugged at Beritta and the wind seemed to whisper words of a half forgotten language. Something about this new sensation gave her the nagging feeling that she should tell her friends to regroup. She suppressed this thought. Oakley pointed out a thin path leading steeply uphill. Beritta nodded and focused her attention on climbing again before she could make sense of her strange feelings. They followed the trail as it wound its way over the peaks. Often the ground dropped vertically to one side or the other, revealing deep valleys and canyons between the mountains. They had almost crested a particularly steep hillside when Oakley stopped.
“What’s wrong?” asked Beritta.
“This path leads to the goblin city,” he said.
“How do you know?”
Oakley shrugged. “I just know.”
Beritta dismounted Mist and said, “Let's find out for sure.”
Crouching low they moved a little farther up the path until they were past the tree line. Here there was only a little short grass and lots of large rocks. The path became a well worn walkway which cut a rut through the rocks and disappeared behind a boulder. Peaking out from behind the boulder, they could see that the trail turned into a series of switchbacks leading steeply uphill. Several feat above them the path took one last sharp turn and ended at a dark entrance like a yawning mouth in the rock face. Straining her eyes Beritta spotted shadowy figures standing inside the archway.
“You were right,” she whispered to Oakley. “I think I can see some goblin guards.”
“Let's get farther down the mountain before they spot us,” Oakley whispered back.
They moved hurriedly down the slope until they were once more within the tree line. Beritta beckoned them off the path. Once they had put several hills between them and the goblin city Beritta spoke.
“This changes everything! I'm going to personally report our finding to the elders and ask them to provide us with warriors to mount an assault on the goblin city.”
Oakley looked shocked as he replied, “That's a terrible idea! I admit, knowing where they came from gives us an advantage; now we can cut off their reinforcements, but why would you want to attack their city?”
“We have the chance to take them by surprise and strike a terrible blow which could crush the moral of the army in Fairy Wood thus crippling their whole campaign against the fairy kingdom,” Beritta replied. “I will not let this opportunity pass.”
“Our job is to find the goblin and troll army and defend Fairy Wood,” argued Oakley, “not to invade goblin territories. No matter how many warriors the elders send there is a high chance we will be outnumbered. What good will we be to the fairies if we are killed trying to conquer a goblin strong hold?”
“The advantage of surprise we have in my plan gives us a much better chance of defending Fairy Wood than we would have waiting for the Dark army in the forest to materialize,” snapped Beritta. “I would much rather be the one leading a surprise attack than the one who dies in one!”
“I have to agree with Oakley,” Mist broke in. “Your plan seems dangerous.”
Beritta crossed her arms and said, “Why don't we let the elders decide? Mist, if you and I start now we can make it to the lake city in time for the midsummer festival. All the elders from the capital should be gathered for it, it would be a perfect opportunity for me to talk to them.”
“Very well,” replied the unicorn. “I suppose if anyone can talk some sense into you it would be the elders.”
“What about me and the rest of the group?” asked Oakley.
“You will pass the news of our discovery on to the others and then all of you will stay on the look-out for both the Dark army and any help coming to it from the goblin city.”
“And let you travel to Wilderlah alone? No, I'm still staying with you. Besides you should have the scouts regroup. It's too dangerous to leave our forces spread thin.”
“I will do no such thing,” said Beritta.“And if you come with me how will I get news of our finding and my plan to the rest of the group?”
“Lilac should still be making her rounds. Let's head back to the edge of the forest and wait until she passes. She will be able to spread the news faster than I could anyway.”
“It will give us a later start, but very well!”
It seemed like hours to Beritta before they spotted Lilac, waved her over and passed their news on to her. Lilac sped into the depths of the forest to spread the word while Beritta's group made their way in the direction of the elvin capital with all possible speed.
As she journeyed over mountain crags and the pains of Wilderlah with Oakley and Mist, Beritta continued to feel the tug of the earth and hear the whispers in the wind. She tried to suppress the feeling that they were telling her she should have stayed in Fairy Wood.
Faralasa moved easily through the air above Fairy Wood. She loved being an Airwalker. At times it seemed as though an inner force lifted her, making her weightless. Before returning to Fairy Wood after the ability tests, Lasa had trained under one of the older Airwalkers until she knew the basic tricks of the trade. She no longer had to jump to get into the air as she once had. She knew how to “walk the air” which was more like floating in the direction you needed to go. Also, she knew the proper way to fight a battle in midair or attack enemies by coming at them from above. Faralasa was itching to fight using her new abilities. She touched the rapier at her side.
Lasa searched for about two days, covering a good portion of Fairy Wood before the sun set on the second day. As evening fell, she took a brief rest and ate. Lilac met up with her during this break.
“Did you find anything?” asked the fairy.
“Not yet,” said Faralasa. “I’m going to circle back toward the place you said you saw the army. I’m hoping to see a few goblins or trolls roaming the woods when it gets dark.”
“Good idea,” said Lilac.
She told Lasa about the discovery Beritta, Oakley and Mist had made, their trip to Wilderlah and Beritta's plan to launch a surprise attack against the goblin city.
“Beritta said to tell you to keep a look out for the Dark army and any supplies or reinforcements coming from the mountains. She’ll return as soon as she can.”
“Well that's quite the turn of events,” said Lasa. “Maybe we’ll also find the location of the Dark army here in the forest by the time Beritta returns.”
“I hope so,” Lilac agreed. “Wispen, Lilly and Reuben were investigating another part of the woods. I’ve got to pass the news on to them.”
“Okay. Let me know if they found anything.”
Lilac nodded and flew off to find her friends while Lasa got to her feet, stretching.
Calling upon her strange inner power, Lasa moved into the air once again. This time she floated closer to the treetops, straining her eyes to see anything unusual in the failing light. Before long, the moon rose, casting a silvery glow across the forest which mixed with the shadows in speckled patterns of black and white. Movement on the ground caught Faralasa’s attention. She saw a tiny point of red light and realized it was made by Reuben, the pixie boy. She was about to move on when she realized that something about the scene wasn’t right. Confused, she turned to look again. As she watched, Lasa realized what was wrong. Reuben was moving very fast. He look like he was dive bombing a…was that a troll? She decided to move lower to get a closer look. She was only a few feet above them, hidden by the branches of a tree, when she realized what she was seeing. The fairies had found the goblin and troll army and they were in trouble!
Continue to episode seventeen.