Grumpty woke early and tiptoed over the sleeping bodies of his fellow travelers in the half light filtering between the large tree roots. He made his way silently up the steep incline of damp soil rising to one of the gaps in the gnarled cluster of roots. It was an immensely bright day and Grumpty had to grip on to one of the gargantuan roots to stop himself from toppling backwards from the glare. Once his eyes had adjusted to the light he clambered over the tangle of roots and jumped down onto the grassy verge. Below him a small beach of pebbles stretched out until they dissolved into a wide, sweeping river. As Grumpty slid down the grassy verge on his behind, he felt guilty for not appreciating the glorious morning about him. He staggered across the floor of pebbles, the hardened soles of his feet used to rough terrain. At the water’s edge he paused and let out a loud yawn. His eyes were heavily bloodshot and encircled by dark bags. Grumpty was Grumpy. Deep wrinkles were etched across his forehead, pulled together in a moody frown. Three days had passed since their adventure had begun and Grumpty hadn’t had a single decent night’s sleep. The first night he had had to endure the sobs and wails of Ogle caught in the throes of reoccurring nightmares about his stolen mother. The second night he had been awoken by an owl’s hoot and had stumbled outside to find Mother Owl and two of the older younglings. They had tracked Grumpty and his companions’s progress, worried that things had turned sour and Grumpty had been kidnapped by the other elves. She was about to send in one of the younglings to retrieve him when Grumpty had stumbled out into the moonlight. After much discussion Grumpty managed to explain the real reason he was traveling with a group of elves from the village. Mother Owl wasn’t impressed and found it difficult to digest the fact that Grumpty was working alongside those that had cast him away. However Grumpty was determined to see the task through and Mother Owl accepted the fact that there was no changing his mind. They left soon after, telling Grumpty to take care and offering assistance by scouting out the forest ahead for signs of the wolf clan. Last night hadn’t been any better. Grumpty had tossed and turned all night, plagued with troubled thoughts. He had returned to the village a new elf and despite the bad memories that frequented the dwelling, as more time had passed he had discovered how much he enjoyed the company of other elves. This worried Grumpty because he felt a responsibility to the Owls. They were his true family, who had treated him with respect and compassion. Who had taught him a great many wise and insightful things. Thus Grumpty felt torn. His head was a foggy blur, unable to make a clear decision. Not helped by the lack of sleep. He sighed and rubbed his tired eyes. It was going to be a long day.
The others rose a few hours later and found Grumpty asleep at the foot of the grassy verge, snoring loudly. They began packing up their provisions and equipment whilst Ogle who was unlucky enough to pull the short straw was tasked with the challenge of awakening the beast. Azral and Nut were in the middle of a heated argument about which way to go next when a loud yelp interrupted their bickering. Much to their amusement they spotted a terrified Ogle tearing across the pebbled beach pursued by an irate Grumpty, brandishing a large stick. The reason for this sudden turn of events was down to the fact that Ogle had rather stupidly poured cold river water over the sleeping form Grumpty after failing several times to wake him gently. Both Azral and Nut burst into laughter at the peculiar display and the disagreement between the pair was soon forgotten about. Barkle who was sitting on a log and pondering over a sketch he had made of Grumpty’s wings joined in too and soon the forest was filled with elvish laughter. Mugleaf on the other hand did not look impressed and watched the chaos from the shadow of the tree with an air of distaste, his arms folded across his chest.
A few hours later and the small company of elves were making their way down river, headed for HoneyGlade Town. According to Azral it was the last place to suffer a wolf attack and so the plan was to enquire with one of Azral’s many known contacts in the local tavern. Grumpty, Ogle and Barkle were keen to pursue this avenue of inquiry as they had walked many miles already with only the occasional paw print to keep them on track. Nut on the other hand bitterly opposed the idea. Despite the friendly name, HoneyGlade Town was a dodgy place. One had to keep an eye out around the many backstreets and side roads as muggings and violence were a common occurrence. Nut had experienced this first hand when he had visited the town in his early teens. A gang of street trolls had cornered him in a alley, roughed him up and taken his vacation money. With no funds to return home Nut had been forced to work in the town tavern and deal with the brutes and bruisers wanting refreshment. Azral explained that no harm would befall them for two good reasons. Azral was well known around town and reliant upon for his wares and services. And secondly a lot had changed since Nut’s youth. Nut was still not convinced but was left with no choice as the five elves decided they were going there anyway, whether Nut liked it or not.
HoneyGlade was a shock to the system for Grumpty, Ogle and Mugleaf as they made their way down the heaving, cobbled high street. All manner of creature fought for space in the bustling throng of bodies. From Mountain Trolls to Cave Dwarves. Even a few Tree Pixies whizzed overhead. Azral, Barkle and Nut who were more experienced with dealing with crowds tucked in their heads and stuck out their elbows. Grumpty didn’t understand why at first but soon it dawned on him when a lumbering River Ogre barged past him, nearly sending Grumpty spinning into a a nearby stall. Azral, Barkle and Nut were making speedy progress and Grumpty took hold of his senses and grabbing hold of a horrified Mugleaf and a dazed Ogle, ducked and weaved his way after Azral and Nut.
The dark, near empty tavern was a welcome relief for the six elves and they collapsed round the nearest table. Grumpty was still reeling from the intensity of the outside world. He had never seen such a variety of creatures in one place. Mugleaf was positively pale from the ordeal and clutched onto the edge of the table in tight fingers. Grumpty glanced around the dim interior of the tavern. A few tables were occupied with an assortment of mean looking individuals. One of them, a large rock goblin gnashed his granite teeth together upon catching sight of Grumpty’s curious expression. At the back of the tavern, hidden in the semi darkness of one of booths sat a shadowy figure, his hand clasped around a tall tankard of ale. Grumpty couldn’t make out the figure’s face but had the uneasy feeling that it was watching him. Azral plonked down six tankards of the cloudly looking ale on the table in front of them and without a word moved over to the mysterious figure.
Grumpty was halfway through his never seemingly ending beverage when Azral returned. As they finished their round , Azral informed the group that there was a wolf camp not three days walk from HoneyGlade. Azral’s contact had advised that if they wanted any chance of finding Ogle’s mother then this place would be there best bet. The news delighted the group as it was the first bit of solid evidence they had come across in days. Ogle’s only concern was that another three days walk might not be quick enough as he was already growing increasingly worried about his mother’s safety. It the end it was agreed that Barkle and Azral would search the town for someone willing to take them down stream in a boat. By river they would reach the wolf dwelling in a day and a half at the most. In the meantime the rest of the group would gather supplies and sort out accommodation for the evening.
The next morning the group rose early and made their way down to the docks. Azral and Barkle had managed to persuade a local fisherman by the name of Gargol to ferry them as far as Sticklewood, a cluster of mud huts and dwellings a few hours walk from the wolf camp. Gargol was a narrow eyed, skittish looking hobgoblin and Grumpty wasn’t too keen on sharing a boat with him. There was something untrustworthy about the creature’s furtive glances. But they had no choice. Gargol was their only ticket out of HoneyGlade and the company of elves were eager to leave the hostile town behind them. After they had lugged all their luggage on board, the rope connecting the boat to the jetty was cast aside and they began to drift slowly away from the HoneyGlade docks.
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