As the door of the keep slammed shut behind them, Machi Tako paused and rested his hands on his knees and took a deep breathe. He was not having a good day he decided. It had started well. He had travelling companions. That was good. They seemed able to fight, that was also good. Still, he was slightly worried. The northlanders were so different. They way they seemed to act and think was alien. He had grown up in a small village by the sea. He had dug the dust and fished with his father before his wanderlust had driven him to the mountains in the furthest south. He felt he understood the silver haired woman, Asla, best. She followed a goddess of the sea and nature. She liked the sea as he did. That was good. He could sense her nervousness, her feeling of being an outsider. That meant nothing to him; to be a druid was to be an outsider. She would learn in time to rejoice in the power such freedom gave. Outsiders didn’t have to dig the dust after all.
The others were stranger still. The southlands of Chiclai had no orcs, or dragons, or elves, or dwarves, or gnomes. Just poor people and dust. Lots of dust. Only his beloved mountains still had the rains and grew more than thin crops. These northlanders seemed spoilt. So much food and water. They clearly coveted fine clothes and the little discs of gold and silver that seemed so precious to them. He had seen the dragonborn’s eyes almost never leave the discs. He drew a deeper breath to calm his heart rate. The dragon born could fight at least. Whether he could be trusted was hard to know. A northlander and a non-human. These were outside his limited experience. The clothes thing was bothering him. He realised that to many northerners he looked like a peasant. The ceremonial robes of his people were not recognised here.
He let his mind drift back over the events of the day and night. He had lit them a large fire in the forest. It had been magnificent. There had been jokes. He hadn’t understood all of them. Common was a hard language to speak for his people it seemed. They had laughed at the bollocks of the badger. He had joined in, but wasn’t sure why they laughed. Still laughter was good, so why not laugh. Did one need a reason? Seeing a priest in the group had made him nervous at first though. No one in Chiclai went near a priest unless they were either a noble or a madman. This priest was tall and wore clothes without any human bones. He hadn’t once tried to sacrifice anyone. Maybe his religion only sacrificed people at certain times. He nodded, yes that was probably right. They would have to watch him carefully to restrain him when the time came.
Seeing the disturbance over the keep and telling his new companions had been perhaps a mistake. The Elders of the Circle of Tolzetchkat had always been telling him to speak little. Still, they had all set off to investigate. Perhaps that was reckless. He wasn’t sure. He was not a warrior. He was a watcher, a caller of spirits and speaker for the World Spirit. He trusted the big half orc woman Reezka and the perhaps the others knew what they were doing. Certainly the strange little creatures that had attacked them had been beaten. He’d never seen little things like this. In fairness, he’d never seen a village with so much wood and water either. Who wasted things like that by trying to burn them? Badger had shot the little things with great skill, and the fighting was hard. He had been surprised to have to kill one himself. It wasn’t normal in the southlands for a Druid to have to actually fight. No one had ever taught him how. Still he had called the spirit into the wood and the creature had crumpled like rotten mushroom. That was good.
No, he thought, no it hadn’t gone well. He had seen the warriors of the southlands fight. Groups of them together had a rhythm and understanding beyond words. So had the northlanders on the ships, when they fought pirates on the voyage. His companions didn’t have the rhythm together yet. Would it come?
The dragonborn, Hesh, was certainly pleased with seeing the dead cultists, and they had got those medallions. Those told the Hesh something, he’d noticed. He had also noticed that Hesh hadn’t told about it. Was that good, bad or just a Northlander thing? They had been good scouts, Hesh and Stei though. The second fight had been very bad. Verina had almost shot Hesh by mistake instead of using her magics. He’d attempted to grab one of the small things. He had missed his jump and ended up in the dirt having to call for aid. That wasn’t good. What kind of people waited for a holy Druid to beg for help? It puzzled him. Maybe they thought druids were good at fighting. Did the northlanders perhaps only value fighting skill and the shiny little discs? That was possible.
They were very aggressive. He had played his pipes to calm things at one point. That had worked well, despite the way they looked at him like he was mad. It was needed, so it was done. What did the look of the thing matter? Maybe fighting and bravery were important to them in a different way. Was that why no one ran when they saw the crowd of villagers running terrified towards them? He had just turned and run, but he’d had to yell at his companions to run too. That was baffling. In Chiclai when people decided they had to run, no one stood around. You ran. Otherwise the Jaguar ate you, or worse you fell into the hands of the priests. No one wanted to be caught by the priests. If you had to fight you fought. There was no abstract. There was what was to be done at the time. He had tried listening to the stories that Badger had told. They hadn’t made sense. The people in them made strange choices. In the tribes of Chiclai, there was only what the tribe did, or what was taboo. One could not be brave or a coward. One just did what was needed.
All in all though, they had made it to the keep. They were all alive, and they had healed themselves. They had saved many lives. That was good he felt. Yes, his companions could do good. Maybe they would become strong together and he could ask them to help his people rid themselves of the priests. Maybe they could help stop Chiclai from dying and chase out the priests. Maybe it was time for a chew of his leaves or to smoke a pipe. Probably not for a mushroom though. He liked it when pink fox came to play with him, but as he looked around him he began to think now was not time to walk in the spirit realm.