Don’ dreamed again, of a misty forest circle with tall thin figures moving about within. They would turn their heads as if hearing or sensing him on the outside of the circle but never founds him in their gaze. The trees were old and thick boled. Don’ awoke. Was it a summons? The imagery was stronger this time and he mentally shared it with Fionnghal. The dog, though fey-touched, was still a dog and did not understand but the memory was now there.

Whatever tension that was had with Felghanis seemed to ease at breakfast that morning. They sat and ate, talking about their plans and things they had seen. It was so good to be with people again. Everyone of them in the party were all so much more relaxed than travelling the snowy wilds.

Don and Herath went into the markets and asked about the surrounding lands. They found out that food prices were 50% above normal, when they could be had, and all the good furs were sold out as soon as they were offered. Each trader was keen for more, having sized at least Herath up as a good woodsman, and they offered good prices.

It was the Lutemakers Woods that had Don’s interest and the traders dismissed it out of hand as haunted. Don’ seemed unfazed by that and determined to have a visit, since it could be done in a day at less than 10 miles away. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to tell the others they planned to go there.

Turned out the rest of the group, except Aenir and Kellor, wanted to go to. Even Fel. Whatever their spat last night seemed to have vanished. A good night’s sleep can solve many things, it appeared.

On the way out of Vrim Don’ led them to scout old buildings. Abandoned after the Livruss and Kulvuss fleet attack.

“We could take one of these over.” Don’ was excited at the idea. “Maybe just pay a notary or something a lease-fee.”

He knocked on the door of the nearest neighbour. They were wrapped in blankets and making crafts. Their small fire barely enough to heat the hut, but they were happy for visitors. After sharing information they asked Don’ and his friends back for drinks, song and cake. It was agreed.

They set off over rocky hills that were wind-lashed. On the other side they descended to the margins of the woods and saw a miles wide stand of various good timber trees. Spruce, maple, birch and cedar. All growing straight and tall. The predominant northwest wind seemingly not reaching them here.

Fionnghal suddenly went on alert, growling towards the trees. As they thought to ready themselves a great four armed beast leapt from under a snowdrift and raked the dog with claws. Herath acted first lunging in with his spear and the thing was quick to respond. Rending the hunter’s face almost from his body. The man fell into a heap blood staining the snow about his head.

They fought hard and the thing tried to run off with Herath’s body, but a black ray from Felghanis weakened it so much it dropped the hunter and fled into the massive trees. They had won out. Herath was healed by Kalista and they gathered themselves.

Don’ described the stones that surrounded the circle in his dream and asked Kalista to try and locate one. She cast her spell and searched out. There was nothing close but her spell would last long enough that they could cover another furlong or so. The forest became older, darker, and more still. Mist gathered between the boles and Kalista sensed a stone like Don’ described. They cautiously approached and then Don’ gestured they stop.

Don’ moved forward and knelt, starting some ceremony, to place three torches and three silver pieces on the ground. He chanted briefly and then removed his touch. It was almost as if he had summoned the three figures that appeared in the mist. Each walking towards him from a different position. One in silver mail, another dark armor, and a third in brown clothes that might have been made from bark and leaves.

Each had skin like leaves, hair like grass and dark eyes like set amber, and seemed completely disinterested in everyone save Don’. They spoke to him.

“Our forest has been desecrated.”

“Too many times have the men come into our place and taken our old beautiful trees.”

“A price must be paid in blood.”

The three seemed to know what must be said. Like they were reciting some old prose.

“The next hunter that enters these woods.”

“You must bring to our circle.”

“And make an offering of to pay the price.”

Don’ was shocked. A blood price for the Fey. “What about a beast instead?” He had no want to be a murderer.

“Aye.”

“A beast for nine years.’”

“Each time the moon is full.”

The question was how.

“You will do this service for us.”

“Make right the wrongs in our realm.”

“Or the price will be paid by you.”

Each took a torch and a silver piece, turned, and after a few strides seemed to melt away into the mist.

The party said little as they left. It seemed too close the edge of the forest and that elicited comments.

“We may have to delay the journey with Lorco,” Don’ said.

When they returned to the Whalers’ Retreat Aenir and Kellor were waiting for them.

“We saw our friends from the Crypt,” Aenir said gravely.

“That means Thiridea has made it back to Vrim.”

This made things even more dangerous if Jonas, Thiridea’s mentor, was still there in the chapel on Manduran’s Hill.

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