“To the outsiders!” Wooden cups were raised high above the heads of two hundred villagers, and the hamlet of Syrkuum drank its fill. A group of excited gnomes crowded around the six strangers, asking to hear of their exploits for the umpteenth time that night while five tieflings performed a whirling jig accompanied by elvish woodwinds. Standing slightly apart from the crowd, elder Telakosa amusedly watched the cavorting of her people. Indeed, their visitors had given the village good reason to celebrate, putting a stop to a bullywug threat that had grown larger than any of them had realized and halting the incursion of goblin invaders that would have surely lain waste to much of the island. Even Akmenos, she was pleased to see, was becoming more comfortable regarding the crew of the Cloudskimmer as allies, if not friends.
“You seem awfully contemplative, elder.” The monkey had appeared at Telakosa’s side without warning, but she knew better than to be surprised. Her connection with the forces of nature was too strong to be taken off guard by them. She had felt the spirit coming like the old elf Eofel felt the approach of storms in his creaking joints. “You’re usually the celebratory kind. Not one for festivities tonight?”
“Oh don’t mistake me, spirit, I take no shortage of joy in tonight’s revelry. You know I love nothing better than seeing my people happy. And how happy they are! Just look at dear Trikomes. He hasn’t left that dragonborn alone all night. He’s so delighted that it was the trident he gave the paladin that ran through Jebdul. I’ve never seen him look so proud in his life. They say the warrior slew Jebdul in one strike. Imagine! That old toad has been haranguing us for years, and they come along and do away with him in a week. It’s remarkable.”
“Then why the pensive look?” The monkey’s mouth moved, but it was just a formality on the spirit’s part. In truth, his mouth did not even match in its timing with the words projected directly into the elder’s mind. She had long since grown used to it. Telakosa paused a while before answering, mulling over her thoughts before forming them into words.
“I should have seen it before,” she said at last. “Jebdul and his ruffians must have been using that temple for months before today. If it hadn’t been for the outsiders, he could have built up a power base large enough to make a bid at ruling Sheenryn. Luckily, the crew did come, of course, but still. Perhaps Akmenos was right to challenge my rule. He may be brash, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t right.”
The spirit did not answer. Instead, it peacefully scratched its side before asking, “And what of the wilden and her family?”
“Those people stormed the Temple of Exoden and defeated not one, but two menaces to this island, spirit. That wilden shapeshifted into a primordial bear, batted a few bullywugs away like limp toys, and carried her husband and son on her back through a collapsing ruin to safety. I think they can fend for themselves adequately. The wilden woman, especially, has an impressively strong link to the spirits of the jungle. She is as adept as Akmenos in battle, but her empathy runs deeper.” The spectral monkey said nothing. Telakosa’s mind lingered on the druidess as she watched her reuniting with her family. That the three should have been reunited under such circumstances, with the mother rescuing her family from the goblin slavers who had captured them, was nothing short of miraculous. It seemed like a sign from the spirits. The elder’s eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, and the corners of her mouth tugged upward. “Yes… What of the wilden?” The monkey merely faded from her side.