A crow came in to land. Shifting to the shape of a tall, thin human mid-landing, Mikhail furtively looked around as he crept into the grove.

“I see you have graced us with your presence.”

Kravo’s voice was low and rumbling. An unspoken threat lurked behind his words.

“The people of Travance, they... I did not think...” Mikhail began.

Kravo slammed Mikhail against a tree, a hand around his throat. “Exactly.You did not think. You instead threw bodies at the people who spoiled your little game, without even CONSIDERING the bigger picture! Now one of our tribe is dead! They killed Chaggah and your response was to taunt them and throw a few Blighted creatures at them.”

The larger Skinwalker slammed a club-like fist into Mikhail’s body. The other Skinwalker did not try to deflect the blows. Nyria and Skarrosh watched the methodical yet savage beating silently. This was Mikhail’s punishment. He deserved it. Eventually Kravo let Mikhail drop to the ground, the other Skinwalker gasping for breath.

“Next time, you will not be so foolish. Next time, we will take even more of them. The Grove they have is ancient. It will fall before us. We will take what is ours.” The Skinwalkers nodded in agreement with Kravo’s words. Soon…

~ ~ ~ ~

Flocks of birds littered the sky as they returned to the proper. They were followed by the other small animals, and lastly the larger creatures walked, crawled, and slinked their way back into the surrounding forests. The odd silence that once enveloped the scenery was met with a cacophony of life.  Swaths of dry grey land began to darken, and plant life began to unfold and bloom offseason. Astonished by the elegant and powerful resurgence of nature, farmers rose once again to begin the tireless rush to take advantage of the sudden growth overtaking the land.

The common folk flooded the roads rushing to return to their homes as the land that once sought to consume them became safe once more. With pitchfork and sword commoners and adventurers alike smothered the lingering patches of affliction and took back their land.

Normalcy slowly returned as the days passed. The people of Travance refused to let the wound brought upon them fester, and together they prevailed just as life always does.

 

~ ~ ~ ~

A fox with rabbit ears paced impatiently in a clearing, distracted by the thoughts in its head. A serpent-sided owl landed on a branch nearby, watching it. The owl spoke.

“It would seem the past few days are a mix of victory and defeat. The Blight totems have been destroyed, and the mortals are actively cleansing the land of their taint. But this other you…”

The Trickster turned towards the Sage. “It is NOTHING like me! It should not exist at all!”

The Sage nodded slowly. “Yes. And you have set a geas on the one who accidentally created it as penance. The both of you will learn much from this ordeal.”

Trickster sighed. “All I wanted to do was help. Give them tools to ready them for what was coming, And now this.”

“And so you have. And will continue to do so. Even with this. You will help guide the one who created it. Who knows? Perhaps you will find that there is something to be learned from this that will aid against what is to come,” the Sage spoke, not unkindly.

The fox that was the Trickster shook themselves. “You are right. As usual. They have surprised us before, in positive ways. We can only hope they will do so again.”

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