Something New in the Forest
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Bellamy goes into the woods to help with construction of the palisades only to find himself facing danger.
When he had been cornered by Shirina, Bellamy had agreed willingly enough to join the other tytos of the Noktus shrine. How hard could it be, helping with the fortifications around Tahmil? They hadn’t yet heard of the spooky goings on, so arrived in the camp one foggy evening to help the wood workers continue operations overnight. They were given a ration of food and a brief explanation of what they would be doing that night before being sent into the woods to work with the humans.
The first sign of trouble was the grumbling that was going on. It was like a buzzing in the background, but if you tried to follow the sound to locate the ones making the comments, it would stop and become impossible to tell who had made the remarks. For his own part, Bellamy assumed it was just humans grumbling, about physical labor outside while the temperatures were dropping nightly or any other human complaint. Things took a serious turn while he and the group of humans he was assisting came upon a new clearing to find the ground churned with human tracks… and something else. He smelled the blood before they came upon the body and his feathers stood on end, a raspy hissing screech escaping his parted beak as his teeth shifted to their fighting position. Alert, the humans slowed their progress and entered the clearing to find the murderer still standing over its victim. Blood oozed between teeth- not wooden ones either, but yellowed ivory and larger than a lumberjack’s clenched fist. The glowing red orbs within the two hollow holes burned with a fiery hatred as it gargled at them before fleeing into the dark. Nobody made a move to pursue it, though the human who was able to move first quickly went to the fallen human’s side. “Does anyone recognize them?” She asked from behind her hand covering her mouth as she retched at the gore.
Bellamy watched with one eye as everyone shook their heads in the negative as he scanned the woods around them for signs of the creature coming back. Despite his keen hearing, there was too much furtive whispering and panicked outcry that they should get out of there for him to hear if it was approaching on silent stalking feet. The woman who had gone forward to check the corpse silenced them all with a quick hissing shush. “Tyto, do you hear anything?” She looked to the watchful Bellamy who glanced at her and shook his head once before resuming his vigilant guard. “Right. We need to take the body back, someone should be able to identify them. Did anyone get a good look at that thing?” A quick rush of people describing the monster in unison answered this question before she silenced them again. “One at a time! Panicking is not going to help anyone. Now, what did you see, Ingred?” She asked, turning to the foremost man in the crowd. It was quickly apparent that they had all been focused on the gaping maw, as it was the only consistent part of the tale, the eye witnesses described it attached to a lizard, a dog, a bear, and various other animals. As they finished giving their accounts, the woman sent them off to either build a stretcher or to help gather the body and wrap it in their jackets. Someone else had a small scrap of paper from their pocket out and was sketching the tracks in the mud. Their return to the central work site created quite a stir, parties being sent to recall the other workers and verify if there were any other victims.
The next night, only a small number of people returned, Sheyla at their forefront and Bellamy there despite Shirina’s advice to stay at the shrine where it was safe. The small party was quickly organized by Sheyla and they advanced into the forest to try and hunt down the murderous monster. Hours passed before they found fresh tracks, though they were slightly different than the ones sketched the night before. They followed for over an hour, occasionally finding the tracks overlaid by a long rounded rectangle indentation that raised more questions than it answered. The moon emerged from a cloud bank around two am, rays of silver light falling through the canopy in a dappling of silver-green and black. In the middle of one such ray sat a log directly in their path, the dark opening of it’s hollow facing them. As soon as the moonlight struck it, a blue light lit up within the dark hollow and the log sprang up on spindly legs.
At sight of a log leaping to four feet, most of the scouting party screamed in terror, dropping their axes (and possibly loads), as they turned en masse to flee. Sheyla and Bellamy stood their ground, shocked not only by the animated log but by the sudden breaking of their group. For it’s own part, the sudden screams and fleeing humans caused the log to drop back down, the blue light within dimming as it retreated further into itself. Once silence enveloped the three of them again, Bellamy stepped up to the log and rolled it over so it couldn’t flee. The blue light blazed from within the log and a high pitched keening noise erupted from it, the spindly legs flailed to try and right itself. But Bellamy placed a taloned foot on the log to secure it while Sheyla stepped forward with her axe raised to investigate. What she saw when she stood beside it was the blue light was actually some sort of wisp-like creature and it stared up at her with trembling tearful eyes as it gripped the edges of its log. “Oh. You don’t look like a killer, little stranger.” She said, setting her axe down as she knelt down. With one hand she shoved at Bellamy’s foot, indicating he could release the creature, and with the other she helped it regain its feet. Bellamy blocked the routes of retreat while Sheyla examined it more closely.
Their examination was cut short as a howl broke the silence, the sound coming from right behind them. Bellamy whirled and jumped to meet their attacker, catching the creature in his talons in midair before both of them crashed to the ground. The tyto screeched as strong jaws latched onto his leg and he kicked it away even as he rolled to his feet. Limping, he circled the snarling log- for that’s what it was. Another log creature, but this one with a gaping mouth and gargantuan teeth, but the same little branch on its back and the same spindly legs. Bellamy hissed at it, his feathers fluffing to make himself larger instinctively. From behind the vicious log Sheyla had hog tied the first one so it couldn’t escape, the little wisp bouncing around inside its log keening in terror. Standing, she grabbed her axe and hurled it at the other log creature just as it lunged at Bellamy.
The lunge likely saved its life for the axe somersaulted an additional turn so the dull thick handle of the axe struck the wooden shell just behind the eye holes insead of the sharp blade. The gargling scream died in its throat and the toothy log crashed to the ground at Bellamy’s feet. Moving quickly, Sheyla secured its legs, noting the sharp claws that the other one lacked and their different colors before wrapping the last of her rope around the mouth and tying it so that the more it might struggle the tighter the muzzle would draw.
“I think…” She huffed, ducking beneath Bellamy to check his leg which wasn’t broken but badly lacerated, “we found what we were looking for.” Bellamy clacked his beak in agreement and looked back toward the city. “You think you can carry all of us?” Sheyla asked. Bellamy glanced between her and the two log creatures and shrugged his wings. “Guess we won’t know til we try, huh?” So saying, Sheyla dragged the grey log inhabited by the blue wisp to Bellamy’s side where he could pick it up in his beak and set it on his back. Using the rope harness Bellamy wore, Sheyla secured it so it couldn’t roll off at any point. While she was up there, she found a first aid kit that had been hidden under some of his feathers and dipped into it for some ointment and bandages to care for Bellamy’s wounds. After he was taken care of, she climbed back up into position while Bellamy grabbed the vicious log in his strong talons, careful to grip it around the muzzle in case the ropes broke.
They returned to the main work camp at dawn, the rest of their party trying to rouse the authorities into action and halt the other workers who were returning to the woods to continue construction of the palisades. The sudden revelation of logs coming to life created quite a stir and changes to the way the workers harvested the trees. Naturalists were quick to arrive to study the new creatures with Bellamy and Sheyla, as they had paired up and kept the two they had captured.
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