Explosions could be heard from all directions, suddenly a blinding light appears for but a moment, “Ateş” A voice calls out a man approaches from the spot where the blinding light emanated from. “Are you all right? Don’t push yourself anymore, you’ve done enough for them. The dark ships won’t be able to make landfall now, we’ve pushed them back far enough. I can take it from here.”

“I’m not done yet, I have more left in me!”

“Push any harder and there will be nothing left of you”

“I’m not useless! Don’t patronize me!

“No you’re not, and I don’t, someone needs to make sure that none of those soldiers make landfall, if they do the war they bring may end all things. I will ensure the coming battle stays away, Please Ateş you’ve done so much, stay here and rest I’ll come back when were done. If any part of those ships makes it to land, you know what you must do!” Bending down the man kisses her forehead.

Elesandra jerked forward gasping for breath, reaching for her forehead she feels only sweat, wiping it away she realizes that tears are running down her cheeks. “It was only a dream” barely said with barely a whisper. Getting to her feet she walked into the nearby brush to escape any questions from the others. Once far enough away she collapsed onto her knees, sobbing uncontrollably, though she knew not why. The tears ran for what felt like an hour until she was able to pull herself back together, whipping away the last tears she got back to her feet and looked around.

“I hope nobody heard me,” she took a deep breath and started back to the camp, taking the time to reflect on the dream. Was it a memory she wondered, it felt so real to her and awakened such an emotion.

As she arrived back at camp she was met by three worried young woman, and no answers could be given. Could she really tell them she ran off because of a dream, they would surly think she was crazy.

“Scouting the perimeter or just taking a nature walk?” Firia asked. “You know it’s dangerous to go alone.”

Elesandra looked at her feet a little embarrassed, “wolves, yes, sorry, I guess I forgot.” Nervously she kicked at the dirt.

“Well no harm done,” Maebh rejoiced “Let’s get started on our raft, there’s no time to waste on this beautiful day, perfect for sailing, we’ve an adventure ahead of us!” With that she tossed some dirt on the ashes of the fire and started gather what supplies she could.

It took most of the day to disassemble the cart. From it they built a few crates to stow the food, tools, and various supplies they managed to gather. The crafting of the raft was satisfying to all the woman, their hard work came together in the span of a day.

Setting it into the water was a bit tricky, Maebh for a moment thought she could help carry it but found that the unbalanced load was more tricky to be a part of and offered to work on everything else instead.

The next morning began with the river crossing, it was calm and the current was mostly week and before long they had started their journey into the swamp lands. Large moss covered trees scattered the swamp, some of which had fallen over claimed by the end of an era or perhaps a strong storm, their trunks blocking the way forward or making a perch for the indigenous species of this new land.

Maebh pointed excitedly to different animals and various creatures that she recognized and some that she didn’t. There was something she pointed to in the water but she wasn’t sure what kind of fish it was, none of the others had seen these large greenish fish that she had described. Though it wasn’t much of a description, not that it was needed for long.

Suddenly something hit the raft, it lurched upwards with a jolt that gave most of the girls quite a start, “What was that?” Elesandra grabbed onto Firia looking at the water.

“I didn’t see anything, there’s no sound out there, maybe it’s Maebh’s fish.” The cat-girl gave a chuckle as she hit the water with her hand.

Then it happened again this time the raft creaked and groaned, “Well isn’t this interesting,” pondered Sharn “what kind of fish could do…” her voice trailed off as she caught a glimpse, if only for a moment, of something emerging from the water.

After the third impact the raft split into two large chunks and the four splashed into the water, the elf lost her grip and fell into the water with a cry. Suddenly one of the swamp monsters emerged opening its great maw beside Firia and the two disappeared for a moment as Firia fought the beast.

Maebh back to the raft as she reached it she franticly tried to get up but in her haste she couldn’t get a grip that allowed her to do so.

Elesandra felt the scaly hit by a hit by the tail of one of the alligators, the leathery swimmer disappeared from site as she shook the impact of. Catching site of the raft she swam for it, once there she attempted to bring herself onto it failing to climbing on she splashed back into the water.

“Land! I can see land!” Cried out the little gnome.

Sharn landed a solid punch on the snout of an alligator that swam up to her, “I will not be your supper swamp monster, I’m not your food!” making her own way to the raft another one attacks her leg biting down she cried out in pain and frustration.

Once again Elesandra pulled herself onto the raft, wanting to catch her breath she looked around and catching site of the first monster she could see, she grabbed her sling and fired at an alligator, miss the shot bounced off the water disappearing harmlessly into the murky waters.

A scream burst forth from Maebh as an Alligator grabs onto her shoulder sinking it’s teeth in biting deep.

Sharn was quick to the rescue grabbing the jaws of the wicked beast she used her great strength to set free her friend, the monster let out a low rumble as it wrestled against her orcish strength. “My friends aren’t food either, leave us alone!” The alligator retreated from Sharn giving her enough time to hoist Maebh onto the raft. With a his another water lizard attempts another attack on Sharn, who shoves it into the deeps.

With great delight Maebh grabs an oar that she spotted stuck in the nearby weeds, an oar that must have been lost by someone who must have attempted the passage of these waters many moons ago. Slamming it into the water who cried out attempting to sound scary and intimidate the alligator beside her. Unfortunately It doesn’t work, the monster only stairs back sending a chill down her spine. Changing strategies she starts paddling away from Sharn towards shore.

A vicious Alligator leapt up and out of the water slashing at Elesandra’s face with it’s open mouth leaving deep gashes that dripped with blood.

Sharn grabs the near by lizard “Want to play hun? I’ll wrestle with you” and picking it up, she slams it into it’s friend. With a roar it submerges back into the water disappearing below the surface.

Maebh paddles faster towards the shore, thankful that their supplies and food were still on this half of the raft. Grabs her loot and she starts playing a song of healing, one that was popular among her people. The notes moved about the two as if stitching up the wounds that they had suffered, the bleeding coming to a hault, and the pain subsiding.

Elesandra, feeling better jumps off the raft and quickly pulls it onto shore; grabs the first rock she could find and set it into her sling firing it, striking the belly of the upside down alligator just before it disappeared beneath the waters crest. “Sharn swim for it!”

Sharn moves closer to the shore trudging through the ever more shallow waters, punching another alligator in the snout.

Elesandra, fired another shot missing once again. “Shoot, I’m terrible at this! Where’s Firia?”

“I don’t know Elle,” stretching out her small framed body Maebh focuses and lets out a harrowing scream, one that seems if only for a moment strikes at the very heart of the watery beasts.

A leathery tail swipes past Sharns face as barely grazing at her before it too disappeared beneath the churned water. Now trudging in the ever swallowing waters, she shivers at the feeling of leathery scales swishing by her feet. “Guys I’m coming out now, though I think I’m bringing some friends with me.” Making it to shore, she scrambled away from the waters edge, looking back they watched as the alligators, reluctant to leave the waters protection disappear into the murky algae blanket.

Firia climbed onto shore beside Sharn, “I don’t think we need to do that again, everyone ok?”

The others nodded as they picked themselves up and moved into the safety of the grey long moss covered ancient oak trees. Once the group had gathered enough wood they build a fire to rest around.

Firia collapsed to the ground, relieved to be away from the water and the creatures that lurked below the surface, passing out into a deep restful sleep.

It wasn’t long and all four of the girls were fast asleep, the warm fire crackling between them, only the gentle calls of the forest birds sang around them like a lullaby.

A snap of a twig woke Elesandra from her sleep, a young boy with black hair starred at her from the safety of the trees, quickly he runs off without so much as a word. “Are you ok?” he sequels and runs further away. Looking around she could see the others were fast asleep, so she curiously followed the by, being carful to give him his space. “Are you alone? I don’t mean any harm”

Further away from her the child ran, until he emerged into a clearing. Entering the clearing behind him, Elesandra called out gently, but he didn’t respond, sunlight reflected at her blinding her for but a moment causing her to loose track of where the boy had gone. He disappeared, and seemingly in his place stood a cottage the light had reflected off of a window, cedar smoke wafted from the chimney, though she couldn’t remember smelling it before now. She pauses and called out to the boy once again, but no answer returned to her. Moving to the cabin she knocked on the door which swing wide open from her touch. The room within was filled with various handcrafted furniture, an inviting fire burned in the hearth. “Such a beautifully kept cottage” she whispered.

Sitting down in the doorway she waited for the boy, who did not come. After a short time something tugged at her memories, she finds herself drawn to an inviting chair by the window, taking a seat in it she looking up at the clouds, listening to the birds singing there melodious songs, a feeling of freedom and safety washed over her losing herself in thought amongst the clouds. ‘it would be nice to share this place with the others’ reaching up she touches the healed wound on her face and the pain comes shooting back, ‘it’s not safe out there.’

Suddenly a robin drops out of the sky in front of her fallowed by a crow cackling off in the distance, as if mocking her, its shrill voice grates down her neck. Without warning the sun disappeared behind the clouds, The wind shifted and started to howl giving the strong feeling of a storm coming about. Fearing for her friends safety Elesandra raced back to the wooded edge and back to the sump she remembered that marked her way back to their makeshift camp. With a fright she finds herself back in the same clearing with the same cottage in the center. This was troubling, as if someone or something was toying with her.

“What do you want from me!” she screamed out into the nothingness. “Show yourself!” feelings of worthlessness and being unwanted pounded at her like a torrent of tidal waves.

Suddenly with a shrill scream she wakes up, “What the hell was that? What was with that cottage?”

Sharn jerks to looking around, as Maebh tells of a similar tale of following a boy to a cabin in a clearing where she met a elderly gnome and admitted to throwing a harp at him. “I have to admit I was at that cabin as well, only in my jubilation of brewing potions I think I burnt down that place,” Sharn looked at her pockets as if she was missing something.

“We should leave this place, I fear a great evil is about us,” Elesandra pleaded. “We need to leave this place”

“Elle, lets head back to the raft and get some of the supplies ready.” Maebh took Elesandra back to the raft to retrieve what was left of their supplies.

“I didn’t notice those when we came in before, did you?” the elf pointed to runes that were carved and scratched into the sand, mud, and surrounding trees, the mystical runes seemed to go in either direction as if the encompassed the whole island that they were on.

“Look at the alligators Elle, see how they don’t go past the runes, I think it’s a barrio to ward them off.”

The two gathered what they could and returned to the others, only to discover that Sharn wasn’t present any longer. Firia shrugged as she rubbed at her cheeks, “Right after you left I was talking to Sharn and I turned around she was gone, it looks like she has gone back to the cabin. At least if it’s that way,” she pointed in the direction that they all agreed would be where the dream had led them.

Leaving the gear behind with the woman hurried after Sharn, only Elesandra more so, a fear creped up her back sending herself racing through the brush, Maebh marveled a little as it looked like the elf moved above the very floor of the forest, as if she danced atop the very tips of the grass, her nimble frame flying over fallen trunks and old stumps.

Sharn was at the cabin that stood in the clearing, just as it had in all their dreams. The door before her was open, and Elesandra could see that she was talking to someone inside.

Maebh stopped near the clearings edge and feeling as if they weren’t alone started to sing one of her spell-songs in an effort to undo what enchantment might be surrounding them, her song was a sweet melody that echoed through the clearing, a song that brought with it an overwhelming amount of peace and harmony.

Elesandra walked up behind the Orc, who was talking to an aged woman, dressed in a dull red dress the was held in by a orange shawl that draped over her shoulders, her hair was held in a fouler that covered her head, her skin dark and her eyes filled with wisdom, “Greetings Elesandra, I am Shantese elder of the Mambir, welcome to our home. I have to say that not many, if any have ever passed our tests. I apologize if they may have seemed harsh, we are very protective of our land and that of the safety of our people.” She gestured behind the two, turning around they could see a village around them and people all about, starting to move in and ask question.

“We don’t mean any harm,” Elesandra started.

“We know dear, if you had our spell would have driven you off, as it has always.” Turning to Sharn, “Your certainly a different one aren’t you.

“I’m not boring,” Sharn exclaimed with pride, “that’s why I’m different.”

“We welcome you to our village, you will be safe while you stay, but be warned, we value our secrecy. The outside world had proven themselves not ready to welcome us.”

The girls all received various small gifts from the people, and spent much time conversing with a few of the elders, who were glad to share in their wisdom and knowledge. Sharn spent much time asking about local ingredients, rather relishing in making new friends and talking with others that shared in her passion, for her there was much to learn here. Maebh enjoyed some time singing around warm fires and spreading her songs around. One evening she disappeared and came back with a new friend, a wild panther cub that had lost it’s mother was by her side, its black coat shimmered as she ran her hand down its back. She told Elesandra that she named it Scáthfile. Firia enjoyed some alone time when she wasn’t being bothered and took many opportunities to take some much wanted naps, and Elesandra was given a branch from an ancient tree in the center of the village, she was told by Shantese that the tree held some great power and she felt that she was to share this power with the elf. Elesandra noted that the branch made a great walking staff, as the curves of the old smoothed wood felt warm and comforting in her hands. A few days passed and they had all they needed to continue their journey, and with a guide to take them to the edge of their lands they ventured onward.