Ryjah grinned as she tossed another pebble at her mentors back. Thornstaff was a grumpy Wood Elf Druid with a six and a half foot lithe form, angular features and shoulder length dark brown hair. His eyebrows were all too often angled down in a sharp V whenever he became annoyed with her as he was now, glaring at her with furious dark eyes.
"You shouldn't glare at me like that. Your face will stick that way." She said her grin grew even wider when shes saw that she had caught him by surprise.
"What? No, Stop it." He growled at her towering over her diminutive 5 foot height.
Contrary to what most people believed Wood Elves voices were not melodic. Instead they were more like low hisses with a hard edge to them, Thornstaffs more than most. Which was a pity really, it would make Thornstaff much more pleasant to listen to if he was melodic.
"Stop what? You aren't being all that specific."
Ryjah widened her grey eyes in innocent confusion which was rather hard when she knew exactly what he was talking about and found it funny. Clearly she didn't fool him because he snorted in disbelief and grabbed her hand uncurling her fist with his fingers, which were far too long to be normal. Only Elves had fingers that long. He raised an eyebrow at the small pebbles in her hand that she had not had the time to drop or hide while being inconspicuous.
"Oh, how did those get there?"
Thornstaff rolled his eyes, not fooled in the slightest. "Really? You expect me to believe that, girl?"
Ryjah gave an exaggerated sigh, rolling her eyes. "Why do you always call me girl?"
"I don't always call you girl, just when you annoy me. Would you rather I call you Human or child?"
"No, and I'm not a child, I'm 15." Ryjah huffed and folded her arms, the picture of indignation.
"To an Elf you are a child."
Thornstaff turned and walked away, Ryjah hurried to catch up walking beside him this time. "What about carrots?" He asked suddenly a few moments later, with the beginnings of a wry grin that she did not understand at first.
When it dawned on her what he meant, her mouth dropped open in outrage at the reference to her thick wavy red hair. "Carrots! Definitely not! How dare you even suggest such a thing! You will ruin my self-esteem with a horrible name like that! "
Thornstaff was smirking at her so Ryjah did the only possible thing she could think of to make him stop and slapped him. The smirk disappeared in an instant replaced by a scowl. "Carrots it is. "
Ryjah scowled back at him. "Would it be so hard to call me Ryjah every now and then?"
"Would it be so hard not to torment me every now and then?"
Ryjah didn't answer him muttering to herself instead, while Thornstaff was content to be a silent grump as usual. Suddenly he stiffened and strung his bow with hands that moved quicker than sight. He touched one of the arrows in his quiver lightly, but did not take it out.
"What is it?" Ryjah asked.
She didn't hear or see anything but she adjusted her grip on her Quarterstaff and got into a defensive position anyway.
"I don't know... I'm going to check it out. Wait here. I really need another familiar." He whispered then disappeared into the trees without a sound.
Ryjah waited pulling up the hood of her cloak, constantly shifting her position trying to get rid of nervous tension. All Druids had a portion of land that they protected, they were scouting the far borders of Thornstaffs territory, which was also temporarily hers while she was his apprentice. Thornstaff had spoken of a familiar more to himself than to her. Some Druids had animal companions that they were magically linked to. Thornstaff had had one once but it had disappeared and the link had been broken, he still wasn't sure what had happened, Ryjah suspected that that was why he hadn't tried to get another one despite his frequent complaints about not having one. Thornstaff still hadn't returned, so she put her back to a tree and settled back to wait. She waited for near half an hour and she was just wondering if she should go after him when he came back.
"What was it?"
"Bandits are in my forest!" Thornstaff snarled, glaring at the world in general with such fury that she almost expected it to go up in flames. "And they've captured a human, bard by the look of him."
"Are we going after them?"
Thornstaffs face was so incredulous that Ryjah couldn't help a small grin. "Of course we are, did you really think I would allow such filth on my land?" Thornstaff spat. "Come, it's time to go, keep your hood up and try to be quiet."
Then he set off at a such a swift pace that she couldn't keep up and be quiet at the same time though she surely tried. "I'm trying!" Ryjah gasped indignantly as Thornstaff turned around yet again with an irritated expression when she cracked another stick. With a sigh, he waited for her to catch up then hissed "Use the shape shift spell I taught you. Mouse or Squirrel. I'll carry you and we'll go faster."
Ryjah did as he commanded, shamefaced, she hadn't meant to mess up. She hated messing up when she was doing something that Thornstaff asked her to do. He was her hero, and she had been so excited to get him as her mentor but she didn't seem to be able to stop messing up. The tasks he assigned her were so hard but the approving nod or one of his rare smiles that she received when she succeeded made it worth the effort. For now she rode on his shoulder as a red squirrel, suffering his disappointment as he slipped through the trees, silent as a wraith.
To take her mind off of her failure she considered why Thornstaff had asked her to be a mouse or a squirrel instead of a bird which would have been much easier and she could only cast the shape shift spell twice a day as it was a difficult one. Unlike Thornstaff, who used the spell easily and appeared to be able to use it an unlimited number of times as well but that was also where he focused much of his magical abilities.
Thornstaff slowed and crept to the edge of a clearing, Ryjah was disgusted at what she saw. There was near fifteen men in the clearing, one or two were sleeping, even though it was already mid morning, all the men were dressed in black and those awake were surrounding an oddly dressed man that was slightly pudgy, had a bushy tan beard and bright blue eyes. The floor of the clearing was littered with the bones of small animals, half-eaten food, and scattered cloth. The trees had crude carvings etched into them, several were burned, a horse was tied to one of them. There were a cage with some birds in it at one end of the camp.
"Band of Adara forsaken forest-blights!." Thornstaff hissed, his temper clearly hadn't cooled any.
Ryjah couldn't help feeling sorry for the bandits if Thornstaff was willing to go as far as to invoke the Goddess but when she saw his face twisted in a feral snarl she shivered. Sometimes she felt that he was more animal than Elf no matter what form he was in. Thornstaff seemed to notice and looked down at her with mild confusion before whispering.
"I'll cause a distraction so that you can free the bard, stay as a squirrel, chew through the ropes. If there are any bandits left then you are to protect the bard. Understand? "
Ryjah nodded, she understood, she also understood that by the time she freed the bard it was unlikely that any of the bandits would still be alive.