After a little bit of conversation, Juniper eventually convinced Grace to spend the night with them. Everyone was exhausted after the fight with Lyon and H’larg and Juniper knew it would be a bad idea for Grace to run off by herself. The Ollick forest were very large and full of all kinds of dangers: both human and bestial.
Juniper and Piakol found a tree about 50 yards away from the campsite. Juniper helped Grace up into a group of branches that would sustain her weight. It wasn’t super comfortable, but it made due and kept them off the ground. Juniper found another group of branches a little farther up and made her bed there. Piakol kept watch throughout the night. Nothing disturbed them as they slept.
It was a bit of a restless sleep for Juniper. Images of burnt bodies and charred flesh filled her dreams. She was images of her brother, Julian. Then darkness and deep red eyes. Whispers telling her to give up. That her brother was lost. He was now in Hell’s domain.
Juniper shot up out of her sleep and looked around. She shook the nightmares from her head. Piakol rose his head from near Juniper’s feet.
“Everything ok?” Piakol asked in Draconic.
“Yeah I’m fine,” Juniper said. “Just a bad dream.”
She looked down and sat that Grace was still sleeping.
“Glad to see that she’s still here,” Juniper said.
“Agreed. I would have to try to track her down if she ran away,” Piakol said.
“That’s not exactly what I meant,” Juniper said rolling her eyes.
Then she looked up into the sky. By her calculations, it was around noon with the sun high in the sky.
“You should have woken me up earlier,” Juniper said to Piakol.
“Both of you had a long night and figured that you could use the rest,” Piakol said.
“And what about you?”
“Dragons don’t need that much sleep.”
Juniper let out an audible laugh.
“You would sleep all day if I let you,” Juniper said.
Piakol let out a snort of fire.
Down below, Grace let out a small yawn as she stirred. One moment she was peacefully sleeping and the next moment, she woke up and her whole body went tense.
“Don’t worry, Grace. You’re safe,” Juniper called down.
Grace looked up at Juniper and then relaxed.
“Right. I guess I forgot where I was for a second,” Grace said.
“That’s alright. Happens to all of us,” Juniper said.
“Not to me,” Piakol said in common.
Juniper gave him a sideways glance.
“I’m going to scout the area,” Piakol flapped his wings and took off into the air above them.
Juniper helped Grace down from the tree.
“Do you need to go back to the campsite? Do you have anything there?” Juniper asked.
Grace shook her head no.
“No. I wasn’t able to grab any of my stuff from the wagon,” Grace said.
Right. Juniper was remembering details from the small conversation they had last night. Grace was a part of a wagon of people heading north towards The Human City of Frost Haven. It was attacked by the Human Slavers, Lyon and H’larg. Many of the people Grace was traveling with were killed trying to fight back. Grace ran, but was tracked down and captured. She had been enslaved for a little over 24 hours before Juniper sprung her free and killed the slavers last night.
“Do you think there will be any stuff with the wagon still?” Juniper asked.
“I…I’m not sure,” Grace replied. “I didn’t have too much stuff to begin with.”
“Gotcha,” Juniper said. “So you think you can get me to the road that runs between Xylon and…ummm…what was the town?”
“Bishop,” Grace said. “That’s where we were stopping before heading up to Frost Haven.”
“Right, Bishop. You can lead me to that road?”
“I should be able to.”
“Great. We’ll make our way there, then,” Juniper said.
“And you will escort me to Bishop?” Grace asked.
They had talked about it a little last night. Juniper knew she had to get to Xylon, but that seemed like such a distant place, now. She also needed to find the road so that they wouldn’t be wandering around for more days out in the woods. Plus she couldn’t leave this girl stranded. Juniper had freed Grace from those slavers and wasn’t going to let her get eaten by a pack of dire wolves or attacked by more bandits.
“Yeah I’ll take you to Bishop. But I can’t travel all the way to Frost Haven,” Juniper said.
“Understood,” Grace nodded.
Juniper noticed that Grace was rubbing her right arm.
“Are you hurt?”
Before Grace could finish her sentence, Juniper had reached forward and was looking at her arm. She had some minor burns on her forarm and wrist.
“Here I’ll take care of those,” Juniper said.
She reached out and touched the burn wounds as softly as she could. Grace still flinched a little from the pain. Juniper concentrated on the wounds and a soft green magic swelled up from the ground coating both Juniper’s hand and Grace’s arm. The arm glowed green for a moment and then Juniper removed her hand leaving the arm without any sign of burns.
“Woah,” Grace was in awe.
“Pretty cool, huh? I’ve picked up a little bit of magic during my travels. It’s nature magic that lets me heal minor cuts and bruises,” Juniper said.
“Cool,” Grace said now having a large smile on her face.
“It’s something you can learn as well,” Juniper said. “You might have a talent for magic.”
Grace shook her head.
“I don’t think so,” Grace said.
Juniper pulled a dagger from her belt and handed it hilt side to Grace.
“More of an up close fighter?”
Grace look nervously at the dagger.
“I’m…not really a fighter at all.”
“Well hold on to this for now. Just in case,” Juniper said.
“Uhhhh…” Grace stood there.
“Come on, just take it.”
“….Ok,” Grace took the dagger and held it in her hand. “Just in case.”
“Just in case.”
“You two ready to get going, yet?” Piakol yelled down from one of the higher branches.
Juniper looked up at him.
“Yeah. Yeah. We’re going. Just give us a second.”
Juniper and Grace shared a laugh before Grace led them through the woods and towards the road that runs between Xylon and Bishop.
The three traveled through the woods for the next day without much of anything happening. They stopped several times thoughout the day to rest and eat some of Juniper’s rations. She was running pretty low on the dry rations, but thought it wouldn’t hurt to share some with Grace. Plus she was fairly confident she could hunt if necessary or pick up additional supplies once they got to Bishop. Piakol stayed mostly in the treetops watching out for any kind of potential danger that might come upon them. At one point they stopped and waited for a pack of Owlbear to wander by. Juniper and Grace watched from a safe distance and once they were gone, Grace managed to find an Owlbear feather on the ground. This put a huge smile on Grace’s face. That night they slept in the trees again and woke up early in the morning so they could start their day early.
Between Juniper’s tracking skills and Grace’s basic knowledge of this area, they managed to make it to the rest of the way to the road in only two hours. During this journey Grace began to open up a little bit around Juniper and Piakol and wasn’t so nervous. Juniper passed the time by talking to Grace and telling stories of her childhood in the Elvish City of Perralyth with her brother Julian. Juniper thought about asking Grace about curses, but figured that she wouldn’t know much about it. Juniper completely left out the part about demons or anything like that. They barely knew each other and figured that was not a conversation either of them really wanted to have.
However there was something nagging Juniper about Grace.
“So Grace,” Juniper started. “I know we don’t really know each other that well, but I was wondering if I could ask something about yourself.”
“Yeah…sure,” Grace said.
“The two slavers said something about how you had angel blood in you. What did they mean by that?”
Grace got quiet and pulled back into herself for a moment.
“You might have noticed my gray hair and my pale blue eyes.”
“Yes I did.”
“Well those are traits of being an Aasimar.”
Juniper tried to recall whether or not knew the word, but nothing really came to mind.
“Yeah,” Grace said. “I don’t really know all the details, but basically I’m not fully human. I have the blood of angels or a celestial in the mix. Again I don’t really understand it completely, but I know that it gives me these characteristics. I also know that sometimes Aasimar’s are hunted by demon cult worshipers who want to please the demon or religious radicals who believe we are abominations. We’re pretty rare people so it makes us sought after.”
“And what was the plan of the slavers?”
“I’m not sure. They mentioned a couple of times that they had some kind of connection in Perralyth. Maybe it was a crazy, religious Elf or maybe it was just a regular sex ring. I’m not sure.”
Juniper had never heard of any cults or sex rings in Perralyth, but she was aware that the city had several brothels in the poorer part of the city. I guess those prostitution had to come from some place. And her brother may or may not be connected with a demon, so maybe cult worship wasn’t out of the question.
“That’s why I have to make it to Frost Haven,” Grace continued.
“What’s in Frost Haven?”
Grace took a deep breath.
“One of the people I was traveling with. His name was Fredrick. He was a human missionary from the City of Frost Haven. He was a missionary of Pelor, The Dawnfather. Fredrick said that about a decade ago another Aasimar like me made his way to Frost Haven and spent some time in The Pelor Temple there. Apparently the Aasimar was protected and taken care of there. Fredrick believed I would be safe there if I made it to Frost Haven.”
“Do you have any connection to Pelor?” Juniper asked.
“I don’t really have connections to any of the gods. I mean, obviously there’s something in my blood that connects me, but I’m not a religious person. I was just seeking shelter wherever I could find it.”
“Yeah that makes sense.”
“What about you? Why are you heading to Xylon?” Grace asked.
Juniper readjusted her bow on her back.
“I’m looking for my brother. He is missing,” Juniper said.
“Was he kidnapped?”
“No. He left willingly as far as I know. But I believe he might be in with some bad people or maybe someone is messing with his mind. I’m not sure.”
“Well…I hope you find him,” Grace gave Juniper a little smile.
Juniper tried her best to return a smile.
“Thank you, Grace.”
Piakol flew down and landed on Juniper’s shoulder.
“I saw a rider on the road up ahead,” Piakol said in Draconic.
“What is he saying?” Grace asked.
“Apparently there is some kind of rider up ahead,” Juniper said.
“Single person on horseback. Couldn’t tell anything else about them,” Piakol said switching to Common.
“What do we do?” Should we hide?” Grace asked.
“No. No. It should be fine,” Juniper said.
Grace looked nervous.
“Don’t worry, if something bad happens, just run down the road and Piakol and I will come find you afterwards,” Juniper said.
“Should I fly up high and use my firebreath again?”
“No, Pickle. We’ll just walk. Say some pleasantries and then keep on moving. We don’t really have to even talk to them. Ok?”
Juniper, Grace, and Piakol all continued to walk down the road towards Bishop when a woman on horseback entered their line of sight.
“There is the rider,” Piakol whispered into Juniper’s ear.
“Ok everyone just breathe. It’s going to be alright,” Juniper said.
The woman rode up and stopped them.
“Greetings travelers,” The woman said.
“Hello there,” Juniper replied with her best smile.
The woman was regal looking with long black hair that hung past her shoulders. She wore military-style metal armor with a cloak over it and her hood was up. Juniper could tell she was human.
The woman studied the entire party and then fixated on Piakol.
For a moment the woman thought about making a comment about the small dragon on Juniper’s shoulder but decided against it.
“I was wondering if you could tell me if this was the right way to Xylon,” The woman said.
Juniper looked down at Grace and then back to Juniper.
“You’re heading to Xylon?” Juniper asked.
The woman’s face stiffened.
“Yes,” She sad flatly.
“This road takes you straight to Xylon,” Grace spoke up. “It’s about a week’s journey through The Ollick Forest.”
The woman made eye contact with Grace.
“Thank you,” The woman said.
“Beware we’ve run into slavers in this area,” Juniper said.
The woman gave a nod to Juniper.
“Thank you. I’ll keep an eye out for them, but I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah sure. Sure,” Juniper said.
The woman then turned her gaze back to the road, but before she could ride off, Juniper continued the conversation.
“So did you come from Bishop?”
The woman hesitated for a bit before replying.
“Yeah just left from there an hour ago. Probably take you a couple of hours on foot. You should arrive there midday.” She said.
“Thank you, I really appreciate it,” Juniper said.
“No problem,” The woman said. “Safe travels to you.”
“And to you as well,” Juniper replied.
The woman snapped her reigns and she was on her way down the road.
“Do you think she noticed me?” Piakol asked.
“If she did, she didn’t bring it up,” Juniper said. “She kind of seemed like she was in a hurry.”
“Well let’s go. We’re only a couple of hours from Bishop,” Grace smiled.
“Yeah my feet could use a break. Plus I’m starving,” Juniper said.
“Me too,” Piakol joined in.
“Great! Let’s keep moving then!”
All three of them continued there journey towards the Town of Bishop. A few more wagons and travelers passed them as the sun began to get high into the sky, but no one paid them any notice. Piakol wrapped himself up in Juniper’s bag and hitched a ride the rest of the way to town. It was some additional weight for Juniper, but at least no one else knew that he was there. It was probably best to keep Piakol hidden once in the town. People were not always kind to Dragons and rightfully so. Adult dragons were known for attacking villages and eating people’s cattle while also stealing gold and riches. Not exactly a great reputation to have.
Grace remained pretty quiet on their journey into town. She admired her Owlbear feather as they walked and mainly focused on that. Juniper would wave to travelers along the way and smile nicely at them. Most of them were humans, but she saw a few Elves and a caravan of Dwarves. All of them were carrying axes, so she guessed that they must be woodcutters who work in The Ollick Forest.
Once the sun was nearing its zenith in the sky, Juniper saw the remnants of a town. At first it was the transition from thick forest to rolling farmlands and small farmhouses. Then they walked into town proper with buildings much closer together. Juniper noticed quite a few houses and storefronts. There was a wood worker’s shop. A blacksmith. A general goods shop. And there near the center of town was some kind of Inn and Bar.
“The Nick-Nack Inn,” Grace read.
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