Thornstaff let her down to the ground then turned into a panther. He always shape shifted into a cat, he loved the creatures. Ryjah waited as the panther Thornstaff sprang away and attacked the unsuspecting bandits with a ferocious roar. Ryjah took the opportunity to dart towards the bard as the bandits scattered, she tried to ignore the carnage that had already begun and set to work chewing through the ropes on the bards legs.The bard was watching the fight with such awe that Ryjah dared to take a peek.
Thornstaff was shape shifting like mad ripping into a man as a tiger then diving through the bandits as a lizard to attack as a bear. In all his forms, there was a primal savagery that terrified her but at the same time she couldn't help but admire it. Ryjah ducked back down chewing through the ropes as fast as she could. After a gratifying snap she moved on to the bonds on his wrists hoping to finish them off before the bandits remembered that the bard was there.
"Fascinating." the bard murmured. "I will have to write a song about this. Attack of the Death Druid? No, that sounds like an amateur's work. Hmm...."
By the time Ryjah finished with the ropes a few moments later, Thornstaff had killed the rest of the bandits and left them as mangled corpses.
He was a Leopard and his golden coat was streaked with blood, his muzzle and claws were scarlet. Sickened, Ryjah turned away reverting back into her normal form spitting out any of the remaining rope threads, she had tried to fight the way he did once but the taste of blood and feel of flesh tearing under her claws, Ryjah shuddered, it was too intimate for her. So instead Ryjah had chosen to be Circle of the Land and focus on her spell casting instead of her shape shifting as the Druids of the Circle of the Moon did. Thornstaff changed back into himself spitting out whatever was left in his mouth after the attack. He still moved with the same catlike grace but at least he wasn't covered in blood anymore. He nodded to her briefly then turned his attention to the bard.
"Master Bard, was this all of the bandits?" The Bard looked surprised and offended. "It's not polite to interrupt a bard while he's creating a song about your heroics, especially Master Kalishan. All the bandits? Certainly not, this was just a small portion of the Cult of the Blackest Night left behind to guard the camp and prisoner though I surely would have set myself free in a few minutes, I nearly had the knots undone."
Thornstaff raised an eyebrow at Ryjah who gave a tiny shake of her head, not missed by the perceptive bard who opened his mouth to protest but Thornstaff cut him short. "Who are the Cult of Blackest Night? "
Kalishans eyes widened. "You don't know?"
"Obviously not or I wouldn't have asked. " Thornstaff snapped getting irritated.
"Very well then I will tell you. After all what else is a bard good for? The Cult of Blackest Night are both cultists and bandits. They are highway bandits who worship the Black of the Night. They believe that they are the fallen shards of night. Their leader gives up their own name and is renamed the Shard of the Blackest Night. What is your name Master Druid?"
Ryjah and Thornstaff exchanged glances, Ryjah shrugged, bards rarely made any sense. "Where are the rest of these cultist bandits?" Thornstaff demanded.
"Names first, I can't make a song about you and just call you the Druid the whole time, it's unprofessional."
Kalishan folded his arms with a stubborn expression and as Thornstaff was hissing between his teeth and hardly in the mood to be agreeable, Ryjah interjected herself into the conversation.
"This is Master Thornstaff and I am his apprentice, Ryjah. May I ask how you were captured, Master Kalishan?"
The Bards delighted smile took in his ears. "You certainly may Miss Ryjah! Thornstaff, Huh? I've heard many a song about you."
Ryjah grinned at Thornstaffs startled expression as Kalishan suddenly leaped to his feet and grabbed a small harp from off the ground nearby, strumming it with seeming boundless energy. "The Saga of the Capture of Kalishan the Greatest of Bards!" he announced in a loud officious tone, flinging an arm out wide.
Thornstaff groaned softly and looked to the sky. "What fiend possessed them so badly as to capture a bard?" Ryjah stifled a laugh as it was far too late to stop Kalishan now. He was in full flow and he started his song at breakneck speed.
"It was a dark night as I walked the forest
Suddenly attacked by the Nights adoring worshipers
The Cult of the Blackest Night!
Armed only with my rapier and ready wit, I was undaunted
Three I sent home weeping
They were wounded to the heart by my words
Seven fell full of holes that wept red tears
Ahh for the might of the great Kalishan!
The rogues knew they could not hope to defeat
The mighty bard of Kalshatal
Their forces were halved by my words alone
Before they had to resort to trickery
Overpowered at last they took me down
Alas for the mighty Kalishan
But this is no badge of shame for Kalishan
Only for the Cult of Blackest Night!
For I stole their pride and name to be trod on Adara's ground at last!
Ryjah heard Thornstaff scoffing as he muttered to her. "Modest, isn't he?" Ryjah had to stifle her laughter again as Kalishan bowed and watched them with a suspicious look in his eyes. "Every word of it is true, I tell ye!"
"Yeah, right." Thornstaff muttered then asked again. "Where are the cultist bandits?"
"Hmm?" Kalishan shrugged. "I heard something about attacking the next caravan that comes through on the Garredhen Valley road."
"And you didn't think that it was important enough to tell us that earlier?" Thornstaff snapped.
Kalishan just shrugged again. "Wasn't any of my business, didn't think it was yours either." Thornstaff spat at the ground, making no attempt to his his scorn for the bard. "Of course you didn't, you only care if there's something in it for you. "
"Pretty hefty blame to lay on someone you've only been talking to for a few minutes, but I will overlook it I come with you when you finish off the Cult."
"You are not coming with us. " Thornstaff snarled.
"I cannot finish my song about the defeat of the Blackest Night if I do not and you couldn't keep me from following anyway."
"Couldn't I?" Thornstaff's voice was as cold as ice but Kalishan disregarded it, seeming quite eager to get into an argument.
Ryjah felt uneasy he looked too positive that he would get what he wanted for someone that just saw Thornstaff defeat fifteen men single-handedly. She couldn't help wondering if Kalishan was a caster as were so many other bards. She slipped away from the budding argument. If either of them noticed they didn't acknowledge it.
Skirting around the edge of the destroyed camp and mutilated bodies, Ryjah caught sight of the caged birds and made her way over to them. Enacting a spell that would allow her to speak to animals, Ryjah approached carefully so as not to scare them.
"What happened?" She asked kneeling next to the locked cage.
One of the birds cocked its head as she tried to figure out the lock. -You free us? Yes? Speak bird.-
"Yes, I speak bird, now, where is the key?" A key appeared in front of her accompanied by a hissing chuckle, she took it hesitantly, nearly dropping it in surprise when she felt something scaly slither off of it.
-Key there, Key there, You free us?-
"Yes, Yes, I'm working on it, can you tell me what happened?"
Ryjah looked at the top of the cage suspiciously as she slid the key in the lock.
-Lots of things happened. Singing man sing ugly song. Elf cat animal kill bad men. Like eagle. Very strong. Singing man like worm.-
Ryjah chuckled and unlocked the cage opening the door. -Thank you!- the birds called as they all flew away.
"There goes that idea." Ryjah muttered.
"How come?" A sibilant voice hissed.
With a start, Ryjah turned back to the cage. A silver Faerie Dragon appeared curled up on top of it, delicate bat-like wings folded primly. She looked much like a miniature dragon but only the size of a cat and much more delicate. Her golden eyes were bright with amusement.
"I'm still here. What did you want to know?"
Recovering from her surprise Ryjah said somewhat sheepishly. "Oh, I just wanted to know if the Bard's tale was true."
The Faerie Dragon merely laughed. "Not in the slightest. He was wandering the forest and letting his horse go whichever way it chose while singing at the top of his lungs. He didn't even notice the Cult till they were right on top of him, but by then it was too late. They hit him in the back of the head with a stick and he dropped like a log." Ryjah burst out laughing.