Thornstaff and Ryjah are sent by the druid circle to answer the King’s request for aid when it comes to the mysterious song that is causing so many people to vanish into the depths of the forest never to return.
The Wooden Siren: Part One
The night was dark and cool. Ryjah skipped her way into the clearing among the giant oaks and blinking fireflies. She didn’t care that it was undignified or whatever nonsense people were saying that skipping was these days. She was happy, so she was going to do it. Several other druids were already there in groups that were racially segregated. Humans, Elves, Avatharans, and even some dwarves. Ryjah giggled to herself, and of course, there was a group for a single elf standing all by his lonesome, if you didn’t count the hawk on his shoulder, where he leaned against a tree and scowled at the world in general. He was tall and lithe, dark-haired, and had a permanent scowl on his face. He looked to be in his early forties though she knew that in reality, he was much, much, older. She wove her way towards him, the groups of druids shifted to let her pass.
“Still can’t stand to have a friendly conversation with someone at least once a year, Thornstaff?” She asked cheekily, brushing a lock of curly red hair out of her face as she looked up at him from her diminutive five-foot height, he was a foot and a half taller than her.
“I believe that having to mentor a certain chatterbox for five years has cured me from ever wanting to have a conversation in my life.” He said, but his scowl softened slightly.
Ryjah laughed, “Oh come on! I wasn’t that bad.”
Thornstaff raised a sharply angled eyebrow, his incredulous expression said without words, that it was that bad.
She sighed, though her grin did not fade, “It’s hopeless to try and convince you.”
“Then why must you try?” Thornstaff asked.
“Because if you never talk to anyone then you will turn into a dark shadow that exists to scowl at everyone.”
Thornstaff snorted, “Did your mother tell you that?”
“Yes, minus the scowling part, that part I added for you.”
He scoffed but didn’t seem interested in continuing the argument, his dark eyes flicking back to watch the groups of people.
“You can’t be tired of talking already!” Ryjah protested, recognizing the signs.
“Then say something interesting.”
“Ok, well, you are never going to guess what happened the other month!!!”
Ryjah grinned, the way that he said, what, reminded her of the way her father said it when he was resigned to listening to her talk. “I took down an entire troop of orcs by MYSELF!”
“Impressive,” Thornstaff muttered, she was aghast as he appeared to be holding back a yawn.
“Hey, come on! That was big for me!” Her voice took on a hint of a whine in her disappointment.
Now Thornstaff did yawn, “You are getting all the praise you need and more from everyone else.”
“It’s not the same coming from somebody else,” Ryjah muttered.
“What else did you do then?” Thornstaff asked.
Ryjah had to think for a moment, “There was a wildfire, a couple of goblins, graffiti artists, woodcutters... nothing spectacular. Oh! And a werewolf.”
Thornstaff raised an eyebrow, “And a werewolf is not worth mentioning because…?”
“It was just one guy, not 17 orcs,” Ryjah said.
Thornstaff sighed, “Ryjah, how many times do I have to tell you that numbers aren’t everything? 17 orcs is a tidy sum for a new druid on her own. However, if you are faced with a single orc and a single werewolf which is the bigger threat?”
“But I didn’t face one-”
“Answer the question.”
“The werewolf, I suppose but-”
“And why is that?”
“Look, I didn’t come here for a lesson,” Ryjah snapped, getting annoyed.
“No, you came here for praise,” He smirked, “Instead you’re getting a lesson and you will stay until it is finished. Now answer the question.”
“Fine, because you can be turned if a werewolf bites you and their ability to shapeshift makes them harder to kill and they are usually in packs. But there was only one and 17 orcs are still-”
“Just orcs!” Thornstaff snapped, “They are crass and dimwitted cowards. They are the same worth mentioning as the werewolf.”
“But the werewolf wasn’t worth mentioning at all!” Ryjah protested.
“Exactly,” Thornstaff said pointedly.
Ryjah pouted, “Well, no thanks at all to you. Let me guess, you got rid of an entire army of werewolves?”
Thornstaff smiled faintly, “I did nothing worth boasting of.”
“That’s not what the bards say.”
Thornstaff cursed, causing his falcon to squawk on his shoulder, “I knew I should have tied up the blackguard!”
Ryjah giggled, thinking about a certain song that spoke of the grumpy elf druid in a less than favorable light. Thornstaff narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously but didn’t ask, she told him anyway.
“One, in particular, says that you are a rabid beast that can sometimes have an elf form. A malformed Avatharan it says.”
Thornstaff growled softly, it was far deeper than it should have been. His falcon flapped her wings a little restlessly.
Ryjah said, “Don’t scowl so much your face will stay that way!” then skipped away before he could do anything about it.
She joined the group of humans but didn’t say anything at present. Instead, she just listened to their conversation. It wasn’t long before one of the senior druids pulled her aside.
“What you did just now was remarkable, few would dare ever try it.”
Ryjah frowned, somehow she didn’t think he was talking about orcs. “I beg your pardon, sir, but what do you mean?”
“You were talking with Master Thornstaff for an extended period of time and during your conversation, he had an expression other than a scowl.”
Ryjah laughed, “Seriously? It’s not that big of a deal. He’s just grumpy a lot and everybody avoids him like he’s got some kind of disease, It doesn’t help any you know.”
The druid looked unconvinced as the meeting was called to officially start. Everyone stood in a large circle, except for Thornstaff, who remained where he was. Nobody tried to get him to move. The meeting started differently this time as Goodberry announced:
“Friends, I must apologize. I have to pause our meeting for a moment to insert something of importance. The King has asked me that I send in two druids to deal with some rogue Alivened. He has requested at least one to be of the highest available rank. I am afraid that I am unable to go there are rising troubles in my territory that must be attended to. Gregor wasn’t able to come at all, which means that Thornstaff will be taking charge of the operation.”
There was a pregnant pause as everyone turned to look at Thornstaff. He glowered at them all as if it were all their fault, even the shadows around him looked menacing.
“I need a volunteer to go with him. Is there anyone willing?” Goodberry asked.
The druids all exchanged glances, Ryjah stared at them all. Were they all that scared of Thornstaff’s bad attitude? Sure, it was grating at times but it wasn’t that bad. She should know, having been his apprentice for five years. She glanced at Thornstaff, she knew him well enough to tell that he was hurt by the lack of trust and even hostility in some of the druids. It was his fault though he shouldn’t glare like that. Ryjah thrust her hand into the air eagerly.
“Ooh, pick me! Pick me!” She called as if she was not the only one volunteering and would have to fight for the opportunity.
“Very well, Ryjah, you will accompany Thornstaff. I will fill you both in on the details after the meeting.” Goodberry said he did not look happy about the arrangement.