New Forged Bonds
The adventurers just finished making the deal with the kobolds and were traveling back to Oleg’s to cash in their completed quests. As the sun sets and the darkness fills the sky, they set up camp for the night. It’s Hydrastis and Rudi’s watch. Rudi sat near the fire tending it while Hydrastis, in falcon form, looked and listened for any unusual sounds in the night. It was a quiet night however. Hydrastis realized it was unusually quiet… What was different? She looked over at Rudi and realized, He’s not talking my ear off tonight! Instead he sat on a rock, head down, just staring into the fire and occasionally poking the embers with his trident.
Poor Rudi, she started to think. Immediately followed by a sudden feeling of confusion. Why am I suddenly empathizing with this halfling for Gozreh sake? Shouldn’t I be happy to finally have some peace and quiet to actually be able to do my job properly on watch? Hydrastis thought of the journal entry she wrote a few nights back, remembering how it was the first time she admitted to herself that, although very obnoxious and full of himself, she secretly found Rudi pleasant to be around once in awhile. This whole ‘adventuring together with a group of companions’ thing is making me soft she chastised herself.
Then it hit her, in a weird way her and Rudi had something in common. Hydrastis was used to living on her own for the most part, isolated in the wilderness living amongst nature. Even now being a part of this group she still felt isolated and alone. The outcast who is some kind of misunderstood freak of nature. She realized Rudi may be feeling the same type of lonely isolation. She thought back to the recent events and how the group has been picking on Rudi quite a bit lately.
Sure he’s still young and naive. His dreams of fame and fortune over everything else leads him to make poor judgements, but I can see he has a good heart. He just has a lot to learn in life still. I see him learning from his mistakes everyday. The thing that happened with Penelope was very unfortunate and I can’t make excuses for Rudi about that. He was showing off, trying to prove himself to the group, that he was fearless and could cross the bridge that everyone else was too afraid to. But in that moment he made one critical mistake of only thinking of himself. If he wanted to risk his life that was his choice, but to drag his pony into it was very selfish and stupid. There is no way around that. However, I know Rudi did love Penelope very much and I know he realizes the mistake he made. I believe that he has learned from this tragedy, and would definitely think twice before doing something like that again. I think he is torn between his selfish wishes of fame and fortune and his good conscience. I just hope he chooses the right path.
After contemplating this for a few minutes Hydrastis feels like maybe it’s up to her to be a good role model for Rudi. Then she thinks of the wolf, Thlayli. I know that’s another reason Rudi’s so glum tonight. I can’t force Thlayli to like Rudi but maybe I can help… Hydrastis walks over to where Rudi is slumped on the rock. “Rudi, I recommend that you gather up something special for Thlayli and then follow me.” She turns and heads towards Thlayli without waiting for Rudi’s response.
Hydrastis closes her eyes, concentrating on her wolf form from within. She figured this could only help improve her connection with Thlayli. She suddenly feels her nose protrude out into a wolf-like snout and whiskers pop from her cheeks. Her sense of smell is amazing! She leans down next to where Thlayli is lying and pets his head as she casts a spell. Rudi stares at the pair guardedly as Hydrastis and Thlayli start barking, yipping and howling together..
“Thlayli,” she says. “I have something I’d like to discuss with you. First I’d like to express our gratitude to you for deciding to join our group. We know that you are a creature of the forest and you are free to leave if and when you ever decide to. While you are a part of this group however, we will look after you, share our food, and fight by your side as one of our own. I’d also like to talk to you about the halfling, Rudi Tumblefar. You should know that it was his idea first, to spare your life and ask you to join our group. He was devastated when you acted as though you wanted nothing to do with him. I know that he does not yet understand exactly the deep connection that druids can develop with animals but I know that he is willing and determined to learn. I think he is still young and impressionable enough to learn the ways of nature and how to respect her, and I believe he has the heart for it. He just needs guidance. I completely understand if you don’t want to, but I am just asking that you might consider giving him a chance. If nothing else than to at least just be friends with him.”
Rudi hears the barks stop as he watches Hydrastis stand to her feet and walk over to him. She whispers to him, “I can’t promise you anything, but if you want any kind of connection to develop between you and Thlayli, now would be the time to offer him a gift of friendship. And whatever happens, I highly recommend you do not bring up your ridiculous thoughts of having him be your mount! At least not for awhile! Also, I know you gave him a different name originally, but he told me his name was Thlayli so it might be wise to start calling him that.” Hydrastis swiftly walks away and watches from a distance as Rudi approaches the wolf.
The halfling closed the gap tentatively, unsure if this was some sort of trick. It’s what the bullies used to do, afterall. “Oh, hey, Rudi come check out this really wonderful thing at the pond! No, no we mean it this time!” Then they’d push him through the ice and start chanting Bumblefart. He looked behind him quick to see if anyone was sneaking up on him, but Hydrastis was already gone and, as far as he knew, turned into a tree ready to drop a beehive on him or something.
“Tha-lay-lee, huh? That’s a bit of a mouthful…” he said, then backpedaled before saying something stupid, buying time by rummaging through his pack. “I only speak halfling, and dwarf, and common obviously. I know a bit of goblin too, but who really needs to talk to them. I mean, Barril thought I should learn it ‘just in case,’ whatever that means. I mean, in case what, they stop by Oleg’s and all they want ‘s a drink?”
He stopped, and looked at the wolf thoughtfully. “Except… we did just make a deal with Kobold’s… So I guess they might? I dunno, everything I thought I knew is just turning out wrong. Do you ever get that feeling?”
Rudi glanced at the wolf who was staring at him with those luminous eyes, his mouth closed. He wasn’t sure if that was an invitation to keep going, or maybe an effort on his part to not tear his face off. I mean, we did just kill his pack the other day… But he didn’t think Hydrastis would set him up for failure. At least he hoped she wouldn’t.
“You probably don’t care about any of that much. I don’t know if you can even understand me. I don’t really speak wolf like Hydrastis. Or is it dog? I wonder, is dog like common is for us, and wolves have their own language? Kinda like elves talking to humans? That might be why I have a hard time with your name, because I don’t know dog or wolf. Lessys would say I just need to practice saying it until I’ve got it… Huh. You know, Hydrastis actually reminds me a little of her. Pretty serious, and scary when she wanted to be… But nice, too. At least once you get to know her. You’d probably like her too.”
He started warming up to the conversation, relaxing into the situation after no one jumped out to pour a bucket of blood on him. He stuck his trident in the ground to dig out the one thing he had that a wolf might appreciate. “I wish you were with us a little bit ago. We had to fight this boar, right? He was called Tuskgutter, but maybe his name was something else in boar too. Or wait… would it be in pig…? Anyways, he was HUUUUUGE,” He held his arms out, trying to make his tiny, 3 ft frame as big as possible. “Bigger than this, bigger than YOU even! I wish you could’ve seen him. When we killed him, we had so much food and so much just went to waste. What a shame, right? I did what I could. Must’ve eaten a third of it alone, but I bet the two of us could’ve finished it. I was trying to get Ted to help us hunt something else like a goose, but he couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. I don’t know, you can never tell with these people.” He paused, and glanced behind him before leaning in to whisper loudly. “Well, some of these people.”
He started pulling out pieces of jerky, picking out the best ones he could to feed the wolf. The thicker ones that were less like an old boot, leaving just enough of the worse offenders for himself on the trip back to Oleg’s. Hydrastis specifically told him to gather something special. Now, the jerky wasn’t exactly the best; being honest, he’d say it was shit, but he figured lacking anything of quality a wolf might be interested in, he’d go for quantity.
“All I’ve got are these rations right now. I picked out the best! I mean, it’s still just jerky, but hopefully it’s enough to tide you over until we get back to the trading post. I can get you something good there. Maybe some beef. Or pork. Or lamb. Honestly, I don’t know what your favorite is, not yet anyways. The other Barril- well I guess the only one, since you’re Tha-lay-lee – well, he mostly ate chicken or vegetables or something . . .”
Rudi prattled on, placing the small pile of rations on the ground between him and the wolf before plunking down a few steps away. The gloom that had plagued him since the silver mine lifted as he talked at the wolf, and he couldn’t tell if he was making any sort of impression. The eyes still stared at him, and his mouth was still shut tight. But right now he didn’t mind so much. His dreams of befriending the wolf, and feeling the wind in his hair as he rode through the Stolen Lands were at the back of his mind for now, because he felt like he finally made a friend out of all of this madness.