White fire broke the lock on the witch’s cage. A trail of remains of the foul wicker creations were left in her wake. The man in the cage trembled and dashed out past her. “Wait!” The man didn’t pause, he ran, stumbling over bones and sticks and gore. The wicker beast leapt from the shadows and took the man in the neck, he crumpled to the ground.
“Dammit.” Auris growled and waved her hand towards the beast, she could already sense the man was dead. Roots reached from the ground and pinned the strange dog as Auris began to work on the next cage. There were two in this one, shaking and looking wide-eyed at the dead man on the ground, and at her.
“…Are…are you a thornspeaker?” A young dark haired girl asked tentatively.
This group stood huddled together when released, staring at her. “I am not sure what that is. I am a druid.” They only nodded, she turned and began to lead the small group away.
The ground shook and the Kul’Tirans in her small band screamed. Auris looked up into the tainted eyes of a giant wicker monster, it towered over them, and it wasn’t alone. I should have been more subtle with my path through here…. Too late now.
“I will open a path. Run.”
Here. Auris’ eyes met the glowing green eyes of a deer, it blended in with the trees as if made of…bark? Auris narrowed her eyes, but did not sense the same tortured malice as she did in the other wooden beasts.
“Follow the stag!”
If the stag survived what was about to happen, Auris called out to the world, the sky and the plants, she felt resistance from the roots nearby, some filled with too much taint to answer the call. She saw the green eyes in the distance widen as it felt the pressure and backed away, still in view. The sky broke into a shower of lightning and rain. The wicker giant blocking the direct path to the deer exploded, splinters showering onto the ground, and Auris silently prayed nothing hit her party. She was lucky. Or…was that a shift of the breeze? She locked eyes with the creature in the woods as the party ran past. Auris whirled to face the rest of the giants, they were battling the roots, one had lost an arm, and a second was smoking where lightning had struck.
You never change, do you? Auris shivered, the voice was different, soft as silk and smooth as poison. Save them, then.
Amidst the trashing giants, a figure stepped forward, she smiled, wreathed in dark energy. “Save me.” She laughed.
A curse? Auris channeled healing energy into the woman, feeling, knowing it was a trap. But if she could save this woman, could she leave? It was a curse, it had a hold of the Kul’Tiran woman, body and soul. The wicker monsters moved forward and Auris took a few steps back. She had to give the party she had saved enough time to be free.
The Cursed stared back at her, smiling widely. Auris hated soul based magic. She felt some headway, a loosening in the claws, and she was backhanded by a wicker beast, crumpling at the base of a tree. She’d been too focused, and lucky her armor was enchanted, or she’d be dead.
The claws shifted focus, digging into her, and she fought back. The beast had stopped moving. They wanted to control…her? A beam of bright sunlight fell on the caster, and the spell’s touch faded. The wicker monster in front of her paused…blood ran down Auris’ face. She reached out drawing energy from the ground, her eyes lost focus.
Hazy green light filled her vision. A screech filled the air and a flash of red cloth flitted across her sight. Did you believe you had escaped me, Auris?
“Peter! PETER!” Auris was running through woods, unnatural and leaves dripping blood. Flashes of red stalked her through the trees, always in the corner of her vision. It was quiet. No way out. Her body ached. “PETER!”
Auris tripped, rolling down a hill onto the hard stone below, she threw out her hands…
…and hit the floor next to the pallet she was lying on. Her eyes flew open fell on a group of Kul’Tiran men and women. And a strange wooden-looking cat.
“Did they make it?” She twisted to a sitting position, wincing as fire filled her body.
A man nodded. “Aron took them home. Eirciel will fill you in. Welcome to the Thornspeakers.”
Eirciel, a younger Kul’Tiran woman watched Auris warily. “How did you do it?”
“I am not sure I understand, I am sure your group rescued me.” The woman tied her red hair back, bringing Auris a bowl of something that smelled like soup.
Another man grunted, “She wants to know how you fought all of them. Aron told her something about you being ancient, or some such. Night elf, right?”
Auris accepted the bowl and met the wary gaze of the human. “Not easily. I cannot recall the last part…but you are correct, I have been practicing druidism for several thousand years. Though I have met shorter lived races that have met impressive feats as well…”
The others seemed to accept this, Eirciel almost glared down at her charge. “You’ll rest here until you’re recovered. You’ve made a target of yourself with the witches.” She folded her arms. “My teacher will want to talk to you when he gets back. But I won’t do it.”
Auris thanked the younger woman and tilted her head. “I am sorry if I do not understand, your help is much appreciated, but I will not need to linger long, I hope.”
“You can’t make me, I don’t care how strong you are.”
Auris blinked, staring at Eirciel’s back as she stomped out of the cavern. What had Auris missed? And how long had she been out?