As the Oak
"I almost feel sorry for them," Imoen said. She spoke softly, to avoid waking Kelsey, who slept with his head in Maera's lap
"Almost," Maera agreed, her eyes fixed on the fire.
"All those books…they weren't from after Bodhi became a vampire. They were from before. She was a reader. She was trying to figure out the best way to deal with what happened to her. And she decided being a vampire was better."
Maera gave her a look. "You know it's not."
"I know. But I think I do feel sorry for her. It's like a little piece of her came back with my soul, and I feel like I know her, just a little."
"That can't be a pleasant acquaintance."
"Well, no, not really. But it hurts so much to be empty. I mean, it's not right, what they did to us, but…I dunno. Forget it. I'm rambling."
"It does hurt," Maera said. "But what happened to them was a punishment. They weren't innocent bystanders minding their own business. You heard what Demin said. They were so obsessed with power they tried to usurp it from their own god. Then they spent years and years doing everything they could to circumvent the punishment they got for it. They stole from us to avoid the consequences of their own actions. What separates good from evil is how one reacts to one's circumstances, and they did not react well."
Imoen leaned her head on her sister's shoulder. "Gods, you sound just like Gorion sometimes." She sighed. "I'm gonna try to get some sleep. You should too." She gave Maera a peck on the cheek, which was returned, and crossed the room to her bedroll.
They had spread out their bedrolls in Demin's sitting room that night, scooting the broken furnishings against one wall. Maera had wanted to slip back out with Imoen and find Elhan, to let him know they had succeeded in freeing Demin, but the Whiteleaf had vetoed that idea. "You say he already knows that you have sought me, from those young soldiers you met. That will have to be sufficient. He will have enough concerns this evening with the drow. It is best that we leave him and his forces to liberating the city and aiding the civilians. If he is able to seek us out, so be it, but we will lay low for now." More than once, Maera had been positive she had heard the sounds of combat, and her inability to intervene or even investigate chaffed, but Demin was right. Best to leave the military action to the professionals.
Minsc was already asleep, but it was his particular gift to sleep anywhere under any circumstance. Jaheira kept watch in the stairhall on the off chance the drow decided they wanted to finish the rakshasas' work. Kelsey stirred as Imoen got up, eyelids fluttering. "Is it my watch?" he asked sleepily.
"No," Maera murmured. "Just Imoen going to bed."
"You should too."
"You know, you call me boss, but you keep telling me what to do," she said, smiling slightly.
He made show of patting his pockets, his eyes still closed. "Now, I know my Guardian of Maera's Welfare badge is around here somewhere…"
"There's a badge?"
"Oh, there was an entire accreditation process."
"It was worth it."
She felt her smile broaden as she ran her fingers across his forehead and through his hair. He could always make her laugh. It was the times like this that she knew, on some level far deeper than conscious thought, that he had been right. This love she felt, born in that intense and immediate rapport they had formed that first sleepless night, was real. And for something so quick to bloom, she found that its roots ran deep. Deep enough that she knew there was nothing she would not do for him. "Kelsey," she said, smile fading, "About earlier…you understand why I said that, right?"
He opened his eyes. "You always take everything on yourself," he murmured.
"Sorry. It's habit."
"I know. I'm just pointing it out." He sighed. "I think I'll always wish it could have worked out differently, but…" He sighed again. "The thing is, I know you would made that same decision for Imoen, or Minsc, or Jaheira, because that's just the person you are. I have never met someone who loves other people the way you do. It's…amazing, and wonderful, and honestly kind of scary." She blushed and chuckled, and he reached for her hand, tugging gently to plant a kiss on her knuckles. "All I wanted, the day I saw you on the Promenade, was to know who you were, and why you were there. I never imagined for a second the answer to that would bring me here."
"You walked away from your life to come with me. You didn't know anything about me, and you still did it."
He raised a bleary eyebrow. "When you put it like that, it sounds crazy, instead of romantic, which is how I prefer to think of it."
"I'm sorry," she said, laughing softly. "You have to admit, it was kind of a gamble on your part."
"It was, but… I may have walked away from my life, but I wasn't doing anything with it. I was treading water, just getting by on the minimum amount of effort. You changed that. Before I met you, I was a merchant with a weird talent that I had spent nearly half my life hating. Wishing I could get rid of it somehow. But you took one look at me and told me it was a gift."
"It is," she said. "And you've made the best of it."
He reached up, trailing his fingers along her cheek. "That's why I like this life better than the one I left." He tweaked the tip of her nose teasingly. "Now, are you going to go to bed? Your watch is after mine, you know."
"I know that! I'm the one who assigned it, remember?" Her smiled faded as she rubbed her forehead. "I just can't stop thinking about how close we are. We will finally be able to get our hands on Irenicus. And this time, he has nowhere left to go."
Kelsey's jaw tightened slightly, and he muttered hotly, "I will be very glad to see that son of a bitch get his." She blinked in surprise at the heat of his tone and he looked self-conscious. "What? I know I don't swear that often, but…"
"No, it's not that," she said. "I guess…I didn't realize you would feel as strongly about it as the rest of us."
He sat up and faced her, looking faintly cross. "Well, no, I wasn't in that dungeon with you the first time. I didn't know Khalid and Dynaheir. So it's not the same for me. But I did have to sit, in the dark, in Spellhold, and listen to you scream while he ripped the soul out of your body. He hurt you, and it didn't give him a second's pause. He is a monster, Maera, and I don't have to have personally lost something at his hands to know it."
He had that look on his face again, his brow drawn and his jaw set, and she wondered if he even knew how strong he really was, and how much she had come to rely on that strength to bolster her own. "You're right," she said. "And thank you." She leaned forward to kiss him, and was positive for a moment that it would remain a relatively chaste affair. But then his hand slipped beneath her hair to hold the back of her neck and his lips parted and she had him halfway to the floor before she remembered they were not alone.
Minsc was still asleep, and if Imoen, who lay on her side facing the wall, was not, she was choosing to save this moment for embarrassment ammunition at a later date. "So…" Maera said sheepishly, "sleep, huh?"
"Sleep," Kelsey agreed. They shared a vaguely guilty grin, then settled onto their blankets. Morning always came more quickly than expected, and the next day promised to be eventful.
They had closed Demin's door as best they could, but Minsc's enthusiasm had left it loose on its hinges, with a long, wide crack down the middle. The wind whistled through it, and Maera sat in the dark entry hall, listening for any movement beyond. Suldanessellar had gone quiet in the waning hours of the night, and she could only hope that heralded at least partial success on Elhan's part. But the drow were ones cut off now, with no hope of reinforcement. And Elhan's troops, while not exactly fresh, had come for their homes and families, and they were angry. She smiled grimly to herself. Now that she thought about it, the elves' odds were pretty good. As for herself, her next move had to wait until morning, and all she could do was listen. And about a half hour before the end of her watch, she heard something.
A light step sounded on the walk, and she tensed. Was it a drow scout, sent to check in on the supposedly captive priestess, or was it a local, drawn in the hope of finding friends? The unseen intruder pushed carefully at the door, and Maera pressed herself against the wall. As the door swung open far enough to allow for the sight of a slight, dark figure, Maera grabbed. A drow didn't need gentle handling, and she could always apologize to a local.
The intruder stiffened as her hand connected, but made no effort to get free. Maera turned hard, slamming the figure into the far wall, her forearm across the throat, where the dim sitting room fire still cast enough light to reveal the face. Her jaw dropped. It was quite possibly the last face she had ever expected to see again.
"I am unarmed!" her captive cried in heavily accented Elvish, raising his hands as best he could in his awkward position.
Maera continued to gape, dumbstruck almost beyond speech. She had to work her jaw for nearly a solid minute before she could finally muster the one word left jangling through her shocked mind. "Solaufein?"
The drow narrowed his red eyes in suspicious confusion. "How do you know me?"
"We've met before," she said, dropping her hold and stepping back.
That only deepened his bewilderment. "I'm afraid I have made the acquaintance of very few humans." He eyed her closely. "And I think I would remember you."
"I didn't look much like this at the time."
"I still do not…" He swallowed, comprehension in his eyes as he stared up at her. "Veld…Maera?" He gulped again. "What you said before…that was no jest. You are very different." He continued to stare, but a slow smile began to cross his face. "But how fortunate; to meet you again, here and now. Perhaps I may survive this fool's errand yet."
A silvery light filled the stairhall, and a footstep creaked above them. Maera and Solaufein looked towards the steps, where Demin stood, barefoot and in her dressing robe, a small priest's light bobbing in the air above her shoulder. Her long chestnut hair fell about her shoulders in soft waves, but there was nothing soft about her features as she took in the scene below her. "Maera," the priestess said steadily, "I trust there is a reasonable explanation for this?"
Maera glanced at Solaufein, back at Demin, than back to Solaufein again. "Actually…" she said to the drow, "you might not."
The Whiteleaf sat stiffly on the only unbroken chair in her sitting room, the gray light of the approaching daybreak emphasizing the paleness of her face. She stared in absolute silence at Solaufein, who returned the gaze coolly. His body language was carefully positioned for pacification, but he could not quite conceal the irritation in his eyes.
The adventurers stood on the uncomfortable fringes of this staring contest; Maera had done her best to explain the circumstances of her acquaintance with Solaufein, his role in preventing the demon's summoning, even his nonstandard religious affiliation, but Demin continued to watch him as if certain he would transform into a million venomous spiders the second she looked away.
"Well," Imoen muttered, crossing her arms, "this is awkward."
Maera nodded her very deep agreement, and decided to try again. "Demin, doesn't it mean anything that I can vouch for him?"
Demin did not move, but her eyes cut towards Maera impatiently. "Yes, I am sure he is a veritable Drizzt Do'Urden." Maera's shoulders sagged with frustration, but the priestess cut off her intended reply with, "Frankly, Maera, I'm rather surprised that it did not even occur to you that I would find it suspicious that the first drow to appear on my doorstep would just so happen to be a friend of yours. You failed to mention that your trip through the Underdark was actually some sort of goodwill embassage!"
"It was n-"
"Might I be permitted to speak on my own behalf?" Solaufein asked mildly. Demin's eyes returned to his face with the force of a hammer, and whether he did not flinch because he wasn't going to give her the satisfaction, or because it genuinely did not bother him was anyone's guess. "I did not know Maera and her party would be here, nor did I intend to seek them out. I came to here to see for myself what use Irenicus had put Ust Natha to. And to help stop it, if possible."
"What do you care?" Demin snorted.
Solaufein's mouth twisted, but his voice remained calm. "Because just as he seeks to destroy your city, he left mine to devour itself with empty promises of glory that he never cared to fulfill. We were tools to him, to be used and discarded."
"Welcome to the club," Maera murmured. He shot her a half-smile. Demin's face, however, did not change.
"Ah. Driven by vengeance, then," the Whiteleaf said. "At least you do not try to insult my intelligence by claiming some sort of moral epiphany."
"Don't mistake me," Solaufein shot back, his voice rising slightly for the first time. "I never liked Ust Natha. But it was my home, the only one I ever knew, so for that, I loved it." His tone dropped once more. "And now I cannot go back." Maera glanced at the floor, feeling inexplicably guilty.
Demin's eyes returned to their long survey of Solaufein's face, her expression inscrutable. The room was silent again, and then she stood suddenly. "You want to be of use? Very well. You can begin by atoning for the desecration done to the temple of my god by your kin. We have wasted enough time already on this foolishness. We must prepare for our assault, and if you are so very pliable, drow, then you will do exactly as you are told." She turned for the door; Jaheira and Minsc silently stepped out of her way.
"Being ordered about by an ill-tempered priestess?" Solaufein muttered under his breath. "That will be an entirely new experience for me." Demin stopped halfway, her already stiff shoulders tightening as she sucked in an angry breath. She thought better of it, and departed without reply.
A collective sigh of relief passed through the party, and Maera shook her head with a chuckle. "You just couldn't help yourself, could you?"
Solaufein shrugged carelessly, but his expression was considerably lighter. "It's a failing."
She shook her head again. "So are you all right?"
Kelsey stood against the wall, watching as Solaufein nodded the affirmative, and replied, though he did not particularly care to hear what the drow had to say. Imoen edged up beside him, and poked him in the shoulder. "What's up with the face?" she asked quietly.
"There is nothing up with my face."
"Liar." She followed his gaze, across the room to Maera and Solaufein, then looked back at him sharply. "It's Solaufein! You've got your undies in a bunch about Solaufein!"
"My underwear has nothing to do with it."
"Liar again. C'mon, Kelsey," she coaxed. "Let's have it. Honesty's good for the soul."
He shrugged awkwardly, deciding to give the tilework an inspection. "You saw the way he looked at her in Ust Natha. You can't tell me you didn't."
"Oh, Kels." The deep disappointment in her voice made him look back at her. It was amazing how such a seemingly innocent face could rearrange itself into such a condescending expression. "You mean back when he thought she was a hot little drow number, and not six feet of scary blonde human?"
"I didn't say it made sense," Kelsey protested. "I know it's stupid, I just-" She backhanded him across the shoulder. "Ow!" This was followed by another slap, this time with her palm. "OW!" He gripped his shoulder defensively. "What was that for?"
"You're right – it is stupid. I'm just reinforcing the point." He was about to retort he didn't need bruises to know that when they both realized they were being watched.
Maera's eyebrows were up. "So is there a good explanation, you two, or just one that's going to give me a headache?"
"Don't you worry, Mae," Imoen beamed innocently. "I'm not aiming for the face. I'll keep him pretty for you."
Maera's mouth opened, and then closed again. "That's…not at all what I asked, Im, but…thank you?" Forestalling her sister's bright and completely insincere reply, she said, "Anyway…Demin's right. We need to get moving. Jaheira, will you go upstairs and make sure her head hasn't exploded? The rest of us will finish getting ready."
Demin reappeared a quarter hour later, armed and armored, her hair braided tightly out of her face. She wordlessly directed them along a narrow, climbing walkway, her face set and her green eyes grim. Minsc, as usual in these situations, brought up the back of the line (who better to fend off rear attack than the one with the steel backplate?), with Kelsey, Imoen, and now Solaufein, armed with a rakshasa's abandoned scimitar, walking just ahead of him. There was a distinct aura of tension floating forward from the trio, which met the cold front of Demin's disapproval right over Maera's head. She sighed. So much for the general sensation of peace and goodwill.
The city was quiet that morning, as the daybreak peered cautiously through the tree branches. Maera fell into step with Jaheira, and said in a lowered voice, "I hope I didn't make a mistake."
"You are referring to Solaufein?" Maera nodded, and Jaheira gave her a measuring look. "You had more opportunity to know him in Ust Natha than any of us, and I trust your judgement of him."
"I hope Demin can." Maera looked over the railing glumly. The Whiteleaf had every right to distrust Solaufein, and by extension, Maera. After all, hadn't she lately had her every worst opinion of the drow justified? Their ascent towards the tree crown spread the layered city out below them in a tableau of half-demolished buildings, scarred tree branches, and broken bodies. It should have been beautiful, and from certain angles, it still was, but looking down at the destruction for too long kindled an all-too familiar anger in her heart. All this carefully orchestrated devastation, years in the making, and for what?
"I dare not speak for her," Jaheira replied, interrupting her thoughts. "But I do believe she is more than wise enough to set aside her animosity for the work at hand."
The walkway they had followed led to a rear entrance of the temple, a modest doorway half shadowed by an overhang of vines. "This is the acolytes' entrance," Demin said softly.
"No guards," Maera noted.
"That is either a very good sign, or very bad," the priestess replied. She carefully opened the door, leading the way down the darkened hallway. Demin carried herself with the wary pessimism of one who had planned for the worst and was prepared to beat it thoroughly when she encountered it. Maera wondered idly if she had been an adventurer at some point in her long life.
They entered a wrecked storage antechamber, and the priestess sighed heavily at the damage. A cabinet of wall hangings had been smashed open, the textiles within shredded. Dusty bits of pottery and wood lay scattered across the floor. Minsc picked one up, and showed it mutely to Demin, who paled with anger. They were pieces of carved acorns, ritual objects that had been chopped, broken, and crushed. Maera's stomach did a slow, quivery half turn on itself at the sight, and she covered her mouth. Imoen patted her back gently. "Breathe through your nose, Mae," she murmured.
Demin took the acorn from Minsc, and clenched her fist around it. "Damn drow," she said, her voice a trembling growl. "May their spider bitch give them exactly what they deserve."
"She will," Solaufein said.
She tilted her head, and for the first time, something other than distaste entered her features. "You are truly a follower of Eilistraee?" He nodded, and she extended her hand towards him, the broken acorn on her palm. "How does one live in that darkness, surrounded by those who would do this for sport, and decide that it is wrong? Are you a deviant to them? A freak?"
Solaufein looked first at the acorn, then at Demin. "I am a heretic," he replied quietly. "And how does one live here in this light, decide it is not enough, and seek to advance himself at the expense of his own god?"
Demin's hand closed around the acorn once more, holding for a moment, and then tossing it hard away, the clatter of it striking the floor the only sound. "Fair enough," she whispered. She turned towards the door on the opposite wall. "We have a ways yet to the sanctum. We cannot waste time."
They followed her up a back corridor, but their progress was soon arrested by the sound of voices ahead, the hard Z's and rolling R's marking the speakers as drow. They quickly ducked into the nearest room, another small storeroom, this one scarcely larger than a closet, but Solaufein hovered near the partially closed door, listening. He suddenly snickered, and as one, the others shot him a hard look. "What's so funny?" Maera hissed, speaking for them all.
"Apparently, the rakshasa abandoned the city in the night," he replied in a whisper. "Their payment for the illusion was the sacrifice of the Whiteleaf, and when you laid waste to those plans yesterday, they decided to cut their losses. Those two gossips up ahead are quite put out about it." He listened again, then began speaking along, translating. "They went to all that trouble, and then they run at the first sign of trouble."
"And leave us like this! That Irenicus is a weird one, dealing with that sort," commiserated the other, with unconscious irony.
"I know this is a great victory for us, but I'll be honest…this place is creepy. All that air up there, miles and miles of it…" The voices began to fade as the drow moved on, and Solaufein stopped speaking.
"Creepy?" Demin looked as if she couldn't decide whether to laugh or be offended.
"Does the sky really bother you?" Imoen asked.
Solaufein shrugged self-consciously. "When you've spent your whole life with something over your head, it is rather unnerving. And it's very bright here. I've had a headache for days."
The passage ended with another, more obviously public hallway. A short distance further, Demin pointed them to an inconspicuous, unmarked door. "That's a shortcut," she said. "It leads directly into the sanctum."
Imoen peered through it carefully, and whispered her findings. "About a dozen drow in there. Warriors mostly, but there may be a couple of mages."
"Less than two each," Maera said thoughtfully. "Good odds."
Demin bowed her head, a pale green glow surrounding her hand. "Be as the oak, my friends. Carry its strength with you." She touched each of them on the forehead (or in Minsc's case, the chin). She hesitated for a moment when she reached Solaufein, and he shifted his weight, as if to take a step back and relieve her of the embarrassment, but she set her jaw like one about to touch a hot iron. Her fingers made only the quickest contact, but it seemed to be enough. He gave her a small, brief smile of thanks, and she raised her eyes, almost returning it, then hefted her cudgel. "I only need to reach the altar. Keep them occupied for me."
Maera nodded, then pointed at Kelsey and Imoen. "You know I hate to say this, but no fire, you two. Wooden temple, built out of trees. Bad idea." Kelsey shrugged, but Imoen rolled her eyes.
"Yeah, yeah. I don't tell you how swing your sword, do I?"
Maera gestured to Minsc. "You and me first, big guy. On the count of three. One…two…"
"THREE!" Minsc tore through the door, charging with a roar of gleeful exuberance, and she was hard on his heels. The best way to rush a roomful of startled, armed enemies, she reckoned, was from behind the enormous man in full plate.
After a morning of sneaking, it felt good to stretch. The altar was, of course, on the far side of the sanctum from their entrance, so they set about clearing Demin her path. Maera rammed into the first drow in her way shoulder first, forcing him off balance, but there was another to her immediate right, a female armed with a barbed flail. The points of the flail heads screeched on Daystar's blade as she caught their descent. The weapon was imprecise; it relied on its size to deal damage, and without a shield, she knew she would have to end this quickly. The male she had knocked over came to his feet, sword low, but he wasn't watching his back, and Jaheira's staff swept his feet from under him once again. Maera turned her attention back to the flailwielder before her; she dodged another swing, and thrust Daystar right and up, the sharp tip biting through the thin links of the female's armor under her arm.
To her left, she heard a hiss of surprised anger as Solaufein blocked the thrust of another female's sword. She spat something at him in Drow and he sneered as he caught her wrist with his off hand and brought it down over his knee with an audible crack. Her sword clattered to the floor, and she growled another harsh phrase, to which he responded in Elvish, "No. I am not," and ran her through.
"RILLIFANE RALLATHIL!" Demin's voice echoed above the steel and noise of battle. Maera yanked back her sword, leaving her opponent to crumple to the floor, and turned to see the priestess before the altar, arms spread wide, her holy symbol clutched in one hand. "Leaflord! Your children call to you in our hour of need! We beg of you! Aid us! Please."
A great, rumbling, creaking groan, like the branches of a huge tree in a windstorm filled the sanctum. The surviving drow tried very hard to make themselves small as the air near the altar opposite Demin began to ripple and shimmer. A gust of air blew past them, oak leaves dancing within it, and the leaves gathered about the shimmering spot, coalescing into humanoid form. A voice, deep and ancient, echoing with the memory of so many sunrises the mortal mind could not comprehend them, filled the sanctum.
Demin. My child. Your absence had worried me.
The priestess lowered her arms and bowed her head, tears of relief sparkling in her eyes. "I am here now, my Lord."
What has happened here, my child? Why is my temple defiled? Where is my daughter?
Demin swallowed hard. "My Lord…the Exile has returned. He has stolen the soul of another and means to finish the sacrilege he begun so many years ago."
The sanctum was utterly silent, save for the faint whish of the leaves that made up the Leaflord's shape. When he spoke again, the deity's voice was soft and sad. We try to protect our children from their mistakes, yet make them they must, if they are to learn. Demin stared at the altar, face flushed and miserable. What soul has he stolen, my Demin? Whom has he wounded so grievously and selfishly?
"This human, my Lord. Maera," Demin said, looking up and gesturing towards Maera. "She and her companions have come to reclaim it. In doing so, they have rendered us great aid."
The head of the leaf shape swung towards Maera, and the wind rose suddenly. The daughter of an old enemy stands before me. Demin looked at her sharply, eyes questioning but Rillifane was still speaking. And yet I sense no malice within you. The avatar looked past her to Imoen. And you as well. Two daughters of Bhaal, standing in defiance of your sire's nature. Curious. But heartening. The Exile was cunning indeed to seek you out, and with your soul may work even greater harm than if he had stolen from one of more…mundane origins.
"That's why I'm here, Leaflord," Maera said. "Irenicus has used me to get his vengeance. I can't allow him to do that."
The deity considered her words, and then the leaves dipped once in a nod, before turning to face the surviving drow. I see he has loosed the drow upon my city. The whirling leaves of Rillifane's avatar had no eyes, but it was obvious they could feel his gaze. Flee, dark ones, and take your brethren with you. I will spare you, for you were but tools of a former child of mine. Know this, and be grateful for the mercy of the Oak. The drow did not have to be told twice – they bolted as fast as their shaken legs would carry them, leaving their dead behind without a second glance. Solaufein slowly set his borrowed scimitar on the floor, and began edging towards the door, but the Leaflord spoke again. Save you, strange one. There was something almost like wry chuckle in the avatar's voice. You have brought me quite the motley band, my dearest, he said to Demin. Bhaalspawn who seek goodness and a drow who loves my sister the Dark Maiden. Demin's eyes slipped towards Solaufein, slowly widening as the avatar spoke. Her mouth opened, but she obviously had no idea how to respond. Her god saved her the trouble by continuing soberly, Tell me. Where is the Exiled One? What must be done to thwart him?
"He is in the palace, my Lord," Demin said, and dropped her gaze once more. "With Ellesime."
Consideration weighed heavily in Rillifane's silence. No doubt he intends to attempt his sacrilege once more. Maera, dear one, you have most pressing business with him, and I sense in you the strength to put an end to the matter. What need you to accomplish this?
Maera swallowed as the god's attention rested on her. As she looked at the swirling leaf shape, the dancing green almost hypnotic, she thought about what she needed. She needed a hot bath and a pint of really good beer. She needed a few hours of uninterpreted privacy with Kelsey and a sturdy bed. She needed a good book, a change of clothes, and a nice long nap. But most of all, she needed back what she had lost, the piece of her Irenicus had taken. Like a missing tooth, it was notable only for its absence, and even if she had begun to learn to make do without it, she knew that was only a temporary solution. She needed this to be over. "All I need is to get into the palace, my Lord," she said. "But…General Elhan and his troops have been fighting since yesterday to retake the city. I'm sure they could use a break."
Rillifane's avatar nodded once more. Easily done. The children of the forest shall repel the invaders and set them to flight. The grasp of the poor wretch who was once mine will be loosened. All that will remain will be your own work. Go then, young one. Take back what is yours.