The Dryad’s Dream
Chapter 6 – Found
The first thing that Briddle saw when she opened her eyes was the smiling face of the wizard staring down at her.
“Wendel!” she gasped and started to sit up. The man placed a hand on her chest.
“Stay down, my dear. Don’t get up just yet.” She relented. “You’re safe for now. Are you hurt?”
The female took a moment. “I… I don’t think so.”
He sighed in relief, nodding. “Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
“Wait, are you alright? The others thought you might be dead when you failed to show up after… after…” Her eyes filled with tears. “I told them you were still alive, Master. I told them I could feel the bond.” She started weeping.
“Shhh… It’s okay. I am unharmed. I was just forced to take a more roundabout passage to get to you after evading a pair of very honery Kax.”
“There were TWO?” Her eyes were wide.
“Indeed. Not to worry, they’re very powerful, but not very creative. Now, I need you to tell me what happened, Bri.”
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Briddle, it’s important. Now please.”
She nodded. “We waited at the pass like you asked, but had to move down to the forest when one of the… Kax, tried to freeze everything.”
Wendel rubbed his chin, considering her words. “That makes sense. Continue.”
“We were going to wait there for you, but then Taya saw an army… ‘orcs’ she said, coming from the north along the mountains. Master Wendel, what is an orc?”
“Hmm? Big, ugly humanoid born of evil. Go on…”
“Well, we couldn’t stay there, so we started along the forest road, only to run into another group of orcs coming that way.”
“Yes! That’s the word Taya used.”
The wizard frowned. “What would an orc patrol be doing in Vel’Orthak this time of year? And then?”
“We had to hide quickly. Taya and Lawen ran to one side of the road, and Peleial and I ran to the other…” The girl’s eyes widened. “Peleial!!”
Wendel stopped her when she tried to sit up again.
“It’s alright, Briddle, she’s safe. I got you both out of the Catcher after killing it. She’s right over here,” he said pointing.
The female looked to the side and saw her friend lying nearby, unmoving.
“Is… Is she okay,” she asked.
He sighed. “That, is not clear. She’s appears to be unharmed, but is unconscious. I have been unable to revive her. I think I may know the problem, but not how to help her.”
Tears filled the girl’s eyes. “Please, Master… she has to be alright. She has to!”
“Try to relax, my dear. I will do everything in my power to help her, of that I can assure you. Perhaps you could provide me a bit more detail on what happened when you left the road? Specifically in regard to the fungus.”
He saw her blush.
“It… spit something at Pel, something that hit her in the chest and made her cough. She told me to run out of the circle, and I did. I would have been fine, but I tried to help her. I tossed her the rope from her pack, but the… Catcher, pulled her hands down… Smooth roots, out of the ground?”
“Tendrils. Yes. Continue.”
“I tried smashing those mushrooms around the edge, and it worked for a bit…”
“Clever.” He smiled at her.
She frowned. “But then it tricked me, and I got caught. It pulled me out flat on my stomach and… and…”
“Bri?” he prompted.
“Master, I am ashamed. It… did things to me. It made me feel pleasure, even though I tried to resist. It made me… want it.”
He sighed, knowingly. “It seduced you. It’s okay, Briddle. You did nothing wrong. Pleasure can be an even more effective means of torture than pain. Er… I assume it pleasured you… intimately?”
“I need to ask you a question about that, Briddle. It’s a bit personal, but I need you to be completely honest with me about it, okay?”
Her eyes went wide again. “I would never lie to you, Master!”
He smiled. “That’s ‘Master Wendel.’ I know you wouldn’t, Bri, but this may be hard for you to talk about, and I need you to. Do you understand?”
“I think so.”
“Good. I need you to carefully think back and remember… Did the creature… release anything within you?”
“It… put a number of its… tendrils, inside me… again and again.” She looked away.
“Hmm. That’s not quite what I mean. I need to know… did any of those tendrils release anything when they were inside you? Liquid, or maybe small seeds?”
She looked up at him and blinked. “I… I don’t thinks so.”
“We need to be sure, Briddle. No sudden rush of warmth, followed by a feeling of being filled?”
Suddenly she understood. “Oh! You mean that kind of release… Like the night in the tent, when you released your seed in me.” She was blushing, but also smiling as she stared up at him.
He returned her warmth. “Yes, exactly. I need to know if the Catcher at any time released something while it was within you.”
She considered it for a moment. “Well, it did feel like there was a lot of something wet in there, but it wasn’t a rush.”
Wendel rubbed his chin. “Hmm. No, that was probably your own reaction, or possibly something to… lubricate you.”
“Make you slick.”
“Ah!, Yes, lots of that.”
“And nothing else?”
She shook her head.
Sighing, he sat back, next to her. “Okay. We can reasonably assume that you’re safe then. I’m very sorry that was done to you, Briddle. I came just as soon as I was able.”
“I know,” she replied. “And it wasn’t as bad as Master Tarn. He hurt. What about Peleial? Did the Catcher… release in her? Is that why she isn’t waking up?”
“That’s right. At least that’s my theory. I don’t know what it put inside her, but whatever it was, it’s almost certainly keeping her sedated.”
She looked very worried. “Can you… help her?”
“No,” he replied, sadly. “It is beyond my skill. But Lawen may be able to. She has been studying some spells to counter dark magic… assuming we can find her.”
“May I sit up? How did you find us?”
He helped her to a sitting position and draped a blanket around her shoulders. “Your bond. The master’s bond to a servant is much more accurate. If I concentrate, I can pretty much sense your direction and distance at all times. It led me right to you. Unfortunately, finding the others won’t be as easy. We should go as soon as you are able.”
“My legs feel a little… numb.”
He looked to her lower half. “No doubt. Here,” he said, and handed her a small vial. “Drink this. It’s a tad bitter, but it should help to restore you.”
The girl took the potion and swallowed it without comment, though she did shake her head and screw up her face at the flavor.
“Now,” he said, turning to the elf, “let’s see if we can make Pel a bit more… mobile.”
Waving his hands in a series of complex gestures, Wendel tapped their companion on the arm. Briddle heard a soft bell sound, and Peleial seemed to glow for a brief moment.
“What was that?”
He smiled. “Oh, just something to make her easier to move.” Reaching over, he found the rope Briddle had pulled from the elf’s pack, and tied one end to the unconscious female’s ankle. The other end he affixed to Briddle’s belt. He handed her the coils of slack.
“Why… Hey! I can feel my legs again!”
“Excellent. Why don’t you see if you can walk. Go slow. You may be a little dizzy for a bit.”
She was a tad wobbly, but her strength had returned enough to travel, and she said so.
“But… what about Peleial?”
Wendel was grinning. “Ah. Go ahead, lift her.” He pointed to the elf.
“Oh, she’s too heavy for me to carry…”
“You may be surprised. Uh, go slowly.”
The human reached down and braced herself to try and hoist the she-elf, but gasped as her friend floated right up off the ground.” She turned to the wizard with wide eyes.
He chuckled. “A variation of a water walking spell I created. We had quite a bit of trouble on our last quest as a group, and I vowed I would not find myself caught without a way to deal with the effects of weight a second time. I made use of this exact spell to climb the mountain more quickly when we first encountered the Kax. It has limitations, but is suitable for our needs. She still has mass, but no weight.”
“If you say so,” replied the human, giggling as she pushed Peleial’s floating body around with her index finger.
“I do. Be careful. I nearly launched myself into the sky the first time I played with this spell. Thus, the rope. You should move her with your hands. Just remember that she has momentum…”
“Momentum. Uh, the tendency to keep going in the direction you push her. The harder you push, the further she will go, and the harder it will be to stop her.”
“Ohhh. I get it.”
“Good, then we should leave at once. I shall take the lead, and you follow behind with Pel, okay?”
She nodded. “Hey, you know, this would be a good spell to put on our packs, yes?”
“It’s actually less helpful than you might expect…” He commented. “Off we go.”