Dusk has fallen on Fort Álfyr. The fort is abuzz with activity. The great potluck, for the past few hours, has been a great success. The subtle tension that has been running through the fort for the last few months has faded away. People are relaxed, smiling, chatting with each other. Caravans have been loaded, bags have been packed, the animals have been fed. The months of being stuck in too small a space are finally over. Friends from different groups of elves are saying goodbye. Enemies are avoiding each other. Any and all food that can’t be packed for transport is being cooked or otherwise prepared and eaten. You have been with your people for most of the evening, but have a formal invitation to a dinner for just a handful of the leaders of the various groups.

In the center of Fort Álfyr lies what was once the great hall. This two story building was once the home of a wealthy Skati, who ruled over this territory. Those days are long gone. What was once a greatroom for feasting Lycans nobility is now an open room for you to enjoy.

On the second story of the great hall, this room has open arches allowing a stunning view of the stars slowly becoming visible over the ocean. The room has a high ceiling, with the blade elves having quite courteously placed hooded lanterns near the top casting their light upwards. The reflected light casts the room in a warm glow that’s bright enough for everyone to see, but not blindingly bright for the nocturnal ones.

The center of the room is dominated by a large circular table that is covered in a blue table cloth. It has many plates of various foods prepared by the blade elves. Thankfully, their cooking has improved a bit. Small roast potatoes, a few chargrilled oysters, and grilled fish- simple fare still, but at least they know how to season things now.

Ehra IndrekGrandmaster oldman.
Battle Grandpa
Tends to ramble
stands near the entrance, at his full height, dressed in his best blue robes with his mourning blade polished and sheathed at his back. Siiri MaarSalty healer alchemist.
Overprotective of Ehra
Has had enough of your bullshit already
, dressed in her official healer’s uniform, stands at his side supporting his arm. Katiin stands at military attention beside him, in her best dress uniform.

“You should sit, grandfather, I know standing for too long hurts your back.” Siiri comments.

“Nonsense,” he waves her off with a smile, “I’m old, not dying. I can stand for a few minutes until guests arrive. What kind of host would I be, waving guests in from the table?”

“Sir, I can handle this part,” Katiin PaaviTerrible at small talk
New to the job
Lost her unit and father late in the war

“Bah,” Ehra sighs, “I will sit just as soon as I greet the first few visitors, I promise. Allow me at least a little pride!”

“Yes sir,” Katiin nods.

Siiri rolls her eyes, but nods as well.

More about Blade Elves.

The winged elves were the first to arrive, wearing bright colors and paint in their feathers. ShadimonLeader, chill
Would like to quit, too responsible to do so
Marsh harrier feathers
and BaijaniQuartermaster, sarcastic, Old
Uses her age as a weapon
Harris hawk feathers
paused at the door to greet the blade elves, while AnasatriLoremaster, so curious
Understands personal boundaries, chooses to ignore them
Barn owl feathers
eased around them to set down the basket she was carrying. “Venison meatballs!” she announced. “With every spice we could get our hands on. Also bread.

Shadimon held out his hand to Ehra, looking up at the much taller elf, “A good party. I hope you haven’t spent it all in here?”

Ehra smiles and takes Shadimon’s hand, “Not at all! I have managed to get around some, at least. Siiri seems to think I will fall apart if I move too much, but I have been able to see our people celebrating together. It warms my heart.”

At Ehra’s comment, Siiri mutters quietly. “Grandfather…

Baijani rolls her eyes, “These young people, yes? Thinking a stiff wind will blow you over, never mind that we got through everything just like they did, hm?”

“A stiff wind did blow you over,” Anasatri added from her place arranging food on the table.

“Details,” Baijani waved it off, going to find a seat herself.

More about Winged Elves

A cluster of dreamdust elves enter, pausing to shove goats back out of the room, and approach. They are in bright blues and yellows and reds, eyesearingly saturated.

DustLeader, he’s sensible approaches first, waving PebbleScoutmaster, she’s the youngest of the four, and contains fifteen pounds of enthusiasm per pound of weight. Often accompanied by Arroyo the goat and Namib the kid. and DaveQuartermaster, she’s old, grumpy and fond of alcohol to set down the platters of flatbreads, goat cheese, and small pastries (carefully labeled “Drugged” and “Not drugged”). SteveActual Hippy, prone to mystical pronouncements stands nearby, smiling pleasantly while staring off into the middle distance.

“Thank you for the invitation.” Dust starts.

“Of course!” Ehra turns with a warm smile, “Where would we be without you?”

Ehra glances at the pastries, and Siiri views them with apparently extreme suspicion. Regardless, Ehra waves her off slightly without the slightest waver in his smile.

“Thank you for bringing your specialty, I’m sure it will be enjoyed. Please, enjoy yourselves!”

“Goddess bless, Dust,” Shadimon laughs. “The goats really do come everywhere with you. Do you have a kid hidden in your robes, then?”

“I’m sure we’ll have a great time.” Dust nods to the blade elves, then turns to Shadimon. “I don’t, but Pebble still has one on her.” He gestures, and Pebble indeed has a pouch with a kid in it slung under one arm, half-hidden by robes. There is a tiny bleat.

As the dreamdust elves step towards the table, Ehra sneaks a very small piece of the “special” pastries with lightning fast fingers, apparently too fast for Siiri to notice. He gives Dust a sly wink.

More about Dreamdust Elves

The totem elves arrive in their finest loin cloths and beads and the tail end of a conversation can be heard from Squirrel BoyDoesn’t want to be leader, but they won’t let him leave
Squirrels. Really. /sarcasm
and Rising Bear??? as they enter.

“This has to be the place!” Squirrel Boy insists. “Do you see the number of goats outside this room?”

Rising Bear’s dreads swing back and forth down his back as he shakes his head at Squirrel Boy. “Alpha, you cannot go on that alone. You could be wrong-”

Rising Bears looks ahead at the room filled with a variety of elves and strange food and groans.

Squirrel Boy dons a shit eating grin. “You were saying?”

A tall female totem elf comes up behind them both and cuffs them on the back of their heads. “Stop being rude,” she snarls.

“Sorry, Mad WolfAngry, and possibly a wolf,” they both say begrudgingly.

From across the room, Steve solemnly intones, “Listen to the goats.”

Squirrel Boy grins in Steve’s direction. “Always!”

Mad Wolf groans and greets the room. “We have brought a tribute to your banquet.” She gestures behind her and five totem elves bring in a metric shit ton of raw and cooked meat and place it on an empty stop on the tables. “We hope it pleases you.”

A note about Totem Elves - their player ended up having time conflicts, and did not continue in the game after this event. We don't actually have more information about them available.

“Very much so,” Ehra bows his head slightly to Mad Wolf, “Thank you for-”

A crackle like thunder interrupts the conversation, and the door slams open, revealing a tall elf in bronze plate, with a thick formal cloak sweeping over her back. Her face is covered by an old legionairre's helm and a blank bronze mask, with an amber glow visible at its mouth and edges. She storms into the room, shoving past the tables, and stops to glare at General Ehra before instead making her way to the hearth.

“- coming,” Ehra grumbles slightly.

Katiin quietly steps back and closes the door.

There is a small angry bleat from across the room.

Squirrel Boy looks in Pebble’s direction. “Same, little one.”

More about Fire Elves

A small group of river elves arrives a bit belatedly. Staurois RanidaeLeader, optimist, people-person, druid
Green skin with greener spots, bald.
and Litoria HylidaeMilitary leader, sads, therapy hippo.
Grey skin with freckles, long green hair, tidy bun.
are carrying an enormous earthenware crock between them, Staurois clearly struggling with the burden and Litoria clearly not. Edalorhina LeptodactylidaeCleric, hugs
Tan skin with gold blazes, long brown hair, tied back.
and Smilisca HylidaeNavigator, wizard, doesn’t do well with people
Grey skin with freckles, messy blue hair, stupid goatee.
In an off-again-on-again apparently solid relationship with a blade elf.
Shitty hat.
are tasked with opening the door and guiding them carefully. They plop the crock on the ground next to the table with a heavy thud. A small hippopotamus follows at Litoria's heels, and when she straightens from depositing the heavy burden on the ground she nudges her way under the grey elf's webbed hand.

"Pfoo-wee!" Staurois exclaims, "I hope the party ain't all over a-ready!" He rubs the spots on his bald head, smiling but clearly exhausted from the task. Litoria absently pats the hippopotamus on the nose, scratching her coarse whiskers. She and Eina shrug at each other. Smilisca's eyes dart around the room hopefully, but he appears somewhat disappointed by what he doesn't see, and he puts a bundle of large leaves on the table next to the crock.

Eina pops the lid to the crock and she and Staurois start to remove raw crabs from the crock and arrange them carefully on the leaves.

More about River Elves

Trailing behind the armored figure (by a few minutes it seems) is a much smaller man, also in a mask, but this time unarmored and carrying a large tray of actively smoking meats and vegetables. "Ah! How lovely. Thank you for this delightful idea, Ehra." He gives the general a quick glance, before turning to haul his tray to the nearest table. "...And there are goats for some reason. Wonderful."

The dark elves finally slink in, all wearing their dark surface garb though it looks like some of the usual equipment was forgon for looser garments on the two taller figures. The tallest of them, in fact, looked to be bouncing like an excited child while holding a rather large basket that...was slightly glowing?

The shortest one in the front turns with a raised finger to her companions. “Behave, Uncle.” She thinks about that for a moment before turning the finger to the other. “Make sure he behaves, GregGrumpy Councilor Who Did Not Ask For This Job Thanks, glorified babysitter for Rasputin, actually does care...deep...deep down...somewhere..”

At the long suffering sigh from Greg, she turns back to the others clustered in the room and moves their little group forward to add the large basket of various glowing mushrooms to the growing food on the table.

Greg smacks RasputinWeird Uncle, even dark elves don’t know what he’s all about, currently in charge of things relating to economy.’s hand as it not so subtly tries to reach for the specialty labeled pastries.

“But they smell like fun and rainbows!”

“No. I’m not dealing with that again.”

ShyrendoraLeader, considered rebellious by traditional dark elf standards, actually likes surface people? Gasp. ignores them and respectfully begins to remove her hood and mask while resolutely not making eye contact with anyone else occupying the room. “Greetings all.”

More about Dark Elves

The dreamdust elves wave at the new arrivals.

Ehra politely greets the new arrivals as they enter, apparently unbothered by the hippopotamus and odd ramblings of some of the guests. In fact, they seem to have a small metal plate of raw vegetables set aside for the hippo.

They wait for several moments before Katiin inclines her head to Ehra.

“I don't think they're coming, sir. It's not in their nature.”

“Come grandfather, let's take a seat. Don't want to miss the party.”

Ehra gives the door a long look before sighing, “I know, but I had hope.”

“Don’t worry,” Siiri pats his arm, “I’m sure it’s not anything personal. They probably just don’t like crowds.”

“Likely,” Ehra shrugs, “Well, let’s take our seats. Can’t keep everyone else waiting.”

The blade elves proceed to their seats at the table. Siiri helps Ehra take a seat, helping him adjust for comfort. He quietly thanks her as she takes a seat, then Katiin and Siiri take their seats next to him. He sets his hands on the table and smiles at you all.

“I am so glad to see you-”

As everyone turns to look at Ehra, something moves in the corner of your vision. As if he had been standing there the whole time, a Cryptid elf steps up to the table. It is the white skinned one with the tattoo on its chest, and it is carrying a large tin platter with… something on it.

“Hello,” the elf rasps eerily.

It sets the tray down on the table. On it is what appears to be some kind of sausage. It is black with some vibrant reds on it. It smells… pungent. It scoots the tray towards the center of the table, and takes a look around at no doubt the many pairs of eyes staring at it. It quietly takes a seat, though the chair seems awkwardly small for it.

“-I am so glad to see you all,” Ehra speaks warmly, calling attention back to himself. “I do have some important matters I would like to discuss with you all, but today is indeed a day for celebration. Please, share and eat. Enjoy yourselves for a few moments at least, before we must attend to more serious matters.”

With that, the blade elves take their plates and begin to sample the various foods in front of them. Against Siiri’s protests, Ehra even samples the sausages the Cryptid brought. He makes… an interesting face, but smiles afterwards.

“Very savory!”

What even are Cryptid Elves?

The dreamdust elves get up, helping themselves to the food. They stare at the raw crabs with some confusion. Dust pokes at one but adds it to his plate with some doubt. Food acquired, the four scatter across the room. Dust heads for the river elves, Pebble heads for the cryptid elf, Dave heads for Baijani with the winged elves, and Steve wanders in an apparently random direction, winding up by the dark elves.

Rasputin seems to eagerly pile bits of everything onto his plate, Greg only half-heartedly trying to convince him not to while being a bit more picky with his own.

Shyrendora quietly slides some pastries onto both of their plates and smiles at Greg’s aggravated look. He pointedly shifts them off of Rasputin’s growing pile and plops them back onto Shyrendora’s plate.

Staurois samples a bit of everything, but the other river elves pointedly avoid everything that looks to contain cheese. They partake of the drugged pastries only in very small quantities.

For their part, the two masked Fire Elves seem uninterested in the food. The TerrorLeader, Strong Silent Type seems content to stand in front of the hearth, placing her back to the party in general, and instead focus on the flames. The HungerCivil leader, sneaky, generally civil, meanwhile, slid himself down across the table from Ehra (plus or minus a few seats), and propped his head up on his elbows. “That’s not cinnamon, is it?” he said, pointing towards a pastry or two on Ehra’s plate. “Smells positively divine.”

Ehra picks one of the confections up off his plate (assuming it’s not the drugged one from earlier, that’s long gone) and sniffs it.

“Yes, actually I think it is. I didn’t think we had any left.”

Ehra pulls the pastry into two pieces,

“If there’s not any others left, you’re welcome to part of mine.”

The Hunger shakes his head. "Oh, no need, thank you. Pastries and I rarely agree with each other these days. I do miss the smell sometimes, though.

"On that subject, I passed by your fort's bakeries this morning. Your soldiers have done a remarkable job there; I never expected to see quite so many ovens operational after such a short time. The 'War on Hunger' is going well, it seems."

Ehra laughs slightly as he takes a bite of the pastry. “Well, it didn’t work out how we expected, but we managed to learn from it. In the end, we managed to adapt.”

Siiri elbows him slightly and mutters. He simply shrugs at her.

“We’ll all have a lot to learn in the days ahead.”

"Of course," the Hunger says, leaning back in his seat. "We all have a lot of adapting to do. Lots of... ground to cover.

"Fort Alfeyr is turning into a fairly sizeable fortification. Are you planning on expanding beyond it? Or just meandering out for the occasional patrol, just for old times' sake?"

“Oh, you can’t live in a fort forever,” Ehra raises an eyebrow as he forks open one of the marinated crabs, “I think we can finally leave the days where we were nothing but soldiers behind, though clearly we have a long way to go. After all, we have so much ground to recover, why only live within a wall?”

“Let un’ know what yall’re looking for,” Staurois butts in, “and if we see a thing a’side the walls ya want we’ll pick it up fer ya - any a yall.” He grins and gestures with open palms.

Ehra smiles broadly at the river elf and takes a bite of marinated crab. His eyes go wide for a moment before he swallows, coughing slightly.

“That… is very flavorful. But, yes indeed, Staurois, we have so much ground to cover, we’ll have to make sure to share what we find. I’m sure we’ll all be able to… come together.”

"We appreciate the offer, Staurois," the Hunger says, "though I'll admit my concern was less for trade, and more for how many sets of eyes will be staring over our shoulders." There's a glow to his eyes as he says this -- a glow that extends just barely to the slight amount of skin visible beneath his mask. Within a second, the glow recedes, pulling back to only his eyes.

"Try some of the stuffed turnips, Ehra," he says. "You'll enjoy them. I used some of the cardamom we had been saving for teas, and agave leaves and garlic in the stuffing."

"But as for what we need... how are we on silver these days? It would never hurt to have more."

“Our accountin’ dunn’t look good, sha.” Staurois hangs his head sadly. His face turns a little greener as he swallows a bite of goat cheese. “Thems dwarves says we’re under deep mud with them.”

Ehra holds up a hand slightly, “There’ll be time enough to talk finances and strategy in the days ahead. This is a time to relax and enjoy ourselves for but a moment, which we all sorely need right now. Speaking of, agave? I don’t think I have ever had that before, which is a rare experience for old bones like mine. Could you please pass me one?”

Ehra gestures politely.

The Hunger pauses for a second, and then stands up. “Happily,” he says, giving the group a slight bow before heading to the tray he’d brought in earlier.

“We're embarking in the mornin. We're gon’ be out your water soon enough.” Staurois shrugs.

“So we are,” Shadimon agrees, taking a place next to the river elf. “I’d been wanting to ask, Staurois, which direction are your people headed? Up this river?”

“Yes indeedy!” Staurois grins happily down at the feathered friend. “We've got a late start on da yearly circuit, so we're not going to hop to a different route when thar's a fine un here. The Nagivator over there would thank yall for letting him borrow tha map, but he's still grouchy that all it's got is a plain blue line.” Staurois waves his hands vaguely in Smilisca's direction. The navigator isn't paying a bit of attention, and is forlornly picking at his meal with his chopsticks.

“The map is sad, yes. But as to that…” Shadimon turned one of the pastries on his plate, “We’re also heading upriver. I know this is last minute, but would you object to us traveling together for awhile? We would make much better time if we could borrow raft space for some of our supplies, and we can scout ahead on river conditions for you?”

“Absolutely!” Staurois claps and laughs, “allayall are always welcome ta hitch a ride!”

Shadimon quietly sighs, “Wonderful, thank you.” He smiles a little, “The pack animals we have were a generous gift, but we aren’t exactly experienced enough with them to move at any speed.” He taps the table, “If the river runs this way from here, the map says there are canyons near the southern border. That’s where we’re heading. Rivers make canyons, so maybe space for your people too?”

Dust, passing by from fetching food, speaks up. “Don’t want to interrupt, but we’d be happy to take pack animals along with us, if there’s anything that needs to go overland. We’ll be moving slower because of the goats, but we plan to parallel the river a good chunk of the way. Don’t know if we’ll be going as far as you are, but I’m sure we can spare a few runners to get them where you’re going if you’ll give us scouting info as well?”

Staurois runs a hand over his bald head.

“I don't think we have space for both a yall at the same time. I been meaning ta ask ya, Dusty, which way are yall headin?”

“Current plan is to head down to the scrublands, down here, but we’ll be following the river for the first leg, and cutting south when we’re still east of the mountains. We’ll be setting up camp there temporarily, and sending out some faster scouting groups ahead first. We don’t know how good any of the water sources marked are, and it’s safer that way. Easy enough to haul water for a scouting team, not so much a whole town and herd. So we’ll have plenty of folks available if you need someone to wrangle pack animals for you. We’re hoping to set up a permanent trade center where the river forks here, east of watchtower rock where I think y’all are hoping to set up, Shadimon.”

“Not passage for us, Staurois,” Shadimon added. “We’ll fly ourselves and camp at night while you go on. We can catch up to you in the mornings, easily. Just company and some supplies, which we can certainly barter for transport…”

“Yall sure ya wouldn't want ta rest them flappers a bit and let the turtles do the work a ways?” Staurois looks concerned. “We're not exactly herds-elves ourselves.”

Shadimon glances across the room toward Baijani, “We may take you up on that, for the old and the young who can’t fly as far. But to be honest, water makes most of us nervous. We tend to sink. Like rocks. Not that we think you’d let that happen!” he hastened to add. “But well, I think most would prefer to fly during the days.”

Staurois shrugs. “If it's ya rathers. Raft's open fer landings if'n ya need. We'll fish ya out if yall fall overboard.”

“Thank you, truly. We’ll probably work out some logistics on the fly. But! That can be for tomorrow. I’d been also wanting to ask how in the world you get into these crabs…”

Staurois happily cracks one open, and spends a while demonstrating proper technique.

Dust watches the crab-cracking technique carefully. “That reminds me. With all these rivers about… would you be averse to teaching some of us how to swim? Our water sources weren’t deep and were mostly for drinking, it’s never come up before.”

“Prolly not the best choice of teachers, me. Ya see, the colors ain't for decoration, no matter how nice'n they do look. We breathe through our skin, and yall can't. How we swim ain't doin’ it right fer yall.” Staurois pops a bit of crab in his mouth and makes a satisfied grumble.

About this time, you abruptly notice that the Cryptid elf is quietly standing behind you watching you eat the crab over your shoulder. It has a plate of its own, with a few pieces of the strange sausage, some of the raw meats from the Totem elves, and one of the crabs. It blinks as you notice it.

“... Hello.”

Dust nods politely to the Cryptid elf. “Staurois was just showing us how to eat the crabs.” He looks back at the river elf. “Ah. I… hadn’t considered that being too good with water would be a problem. Hmm. The blade elves, maybe? I’ll have to ask around.”

“Dark elves, maybe?”

“Oh, good thought. I’ll ask. The tall one is, uh, very friendly.”

“That’s a word, yes. Has anyone seen Shyrendora? I had a question for her too.”

“Over there, last I saw…”

Staurois offers chopsticks to the Cryptid elf. “Sorry if’n they gave ya the wrong utensils. Lemee know if ya want some more crabs er anything.” He pointedly takes a bite of the sausage from his plate.

Thankfully the river elves’ somewhat eclectic diet prepares you for this experience. This appears to be some kind of blood sausage, except it appears to be cured in some kind of high-salt sauce. It is in fact completely uncooked, and has a sharp metallic taste contrasted with salty flavors and savory spices that you can’t place. It is… something of an experience.

The cryptid elf takes the chopsticks with deft hands. You don’t know if it’s ever used them before, but it handles them like a pro despite having fingers longer than the chopsticks themselves. It takes a few bites of crab and places them in its mouth, chewing quietly for a few moments. Suddenly, its eyes go wide. It pauses for a few moments, then basically gobbles up everything but the shell in a few seconds.

“I… like this.” It comments.

Staurois has eaten a lot of odd food in his lifetime, but this “sausage” is sure something else. He manages to not make a face, somehow, and grins joyfully when the cryptid proclaims that it likes their crabs.

The cryptid elf is not much one for small talk, but unlike usual, it stays standing where it is for several minutes eating before ghosting instead of doing so the second your back is turned.

Dave sits down next to Baijani, ducking past a wing. She sets a bottle of alcohol on the table and nudges it towards the winged elf. “So, how much bullshit have you dealt with this week?”

Baijani takes the bottle and pours a generous amount into her cup, “Enough for a lifetime, and I say this as an old woman. You’ll note our scoutmaster isn’t here. He’s off doing last-minute wrangling and getting his corp ready to move at dawn. You?”

Dave laughs. “I hear you. It’s been crazy among us, too. Steve keeps going on about omens, Dust expects the impossible, Pebble is irrationally cheerful and I want to strangle her, and the goats are their usual stubborn selves.” She pours a similarly large cup. “To safe travels.”

“Goddess hear you,” Baijani agreed.

“Oh, I know Dust was planning to offer, if you need a hand with pack animals so you don’t have to walk with them, we’re going to be following the river for the first leg, and should have people to spare after to take them to your destination. We’d ask for some mapwork in return, and if you come across anyone with interesting dyes, can you let us know?”

“Ah absolutely. Shadimon was going to ask Staurois about traveling with them for awhile. We may have three groups heading the same way, which is fine by me.” She reaches for the bottle and refills both their cups, and anyone walking by for the next while hears an exciting amount of profanity and complaining.

And speaking of alcohol, the river elf Navigator Smilisca, is deep into his cups, drinking without being paid any attention to.

“I apologize for the delay,” the Hunger says, carrying over a plate loaded with turnips. He slips back into his seat and drops the plate off near Ehra. “Be careful. I warmed it up a bit.”

“No worry at all!”

Ehra reaches for one of the turnips, though if there’s a pause because he’s carefully examining it to make sure it’s not some kind of root vegetable based booby trap, it’s hardly perceptible.

The turnip is smoking hot, but not a trap, and is sweet and mushy and rich -- almost more of a dessert than a main course. The Hunger watchers Ehra's cautious examination with some amusement.

“Feel free to share; I brought plenty. We're rich with turnips these days. And it's the best use of agave I've found so far. Well… that and alcohol.”

Ehra cuts the turnip open slightly, allowing it to cool the inside slightly before eating it.

“Hah, a little warm for me, but things do cool some with time,” He considers the flavor, “Actually, I see the point about serving it hot. The flavors blend well.”

“It’s always best to strike when the fire is hot.”

“Don’t you…” Katiin starts to comment,

“Nevermind,” Ehra waves at her, “I think I’m going to simply enjoy my turnip for a few moments.”

Eina leans over to the Totem Elf she’s seated next to and offers a hug.

“Mon cher, it’s good to see yall before we roll away. I do hope it won’t be too long before we see you again, me.”

The blond female smiles warmly and takes the hug with exuberance. “Of course, small friend! It won’t be long at all! Do not worry, our paths will cross again soon!”

A piece of food hits the blond totem elf on the arm. “Don’t squish the poor thing, Fierce Moose!" Rising Bear calls in jest.

She glares at Rising Bear with playful anger. “Hush, you! My friend and I are saying farewell for a time! Respect that and ‘buzz off’!”

A snort is heard from down the table from Squirrel Boy. “Yeah, Rise. ‘Buzz off’!”

Without missing a beat, Mad Wolf bops Squirrel Boy in the back of the head. “Behave.”

Eina hugs back with all the determined strength at her disposal. It’s not an inconsiderable amount.

“Hope it will be a safe journey for allayall! Will we be seeing you again at the new year?"

Fierce Moose smiles back in kind. "You give good hugs! I like that! You will be seeing us at New Year unless our alpha says nay! And I look forward to another hug then!"

“I look forward to it, me!” Eina grins happily. “Is there any whats yall wan us to keep a peep out for on the way? We ken git all kindsa great stuff.”

Shyrendora is now hovering off to the side of the room, her back leaning against a wall. She seems content to people watch while taking sips from a bland flask that was very likely nabbed from Greg before they split off.

“I’m sure the dreamdust elves could do something to make that flask more interesting,” Shadimon comments, coming over to stand with her.

A wiry smile crosses her lips as she responds, “I’m sure, but Greg does have a curious way with his alcohol.” She takes another sip before holding it out in open invitation. “What brings you to my corner of lurking, good Shadimon?”

He takes the flask and sips it, making a face, “I would ask what’s in this, but I don’t think I want to know.” He hands it back, “A question, actually. We’re heading further inland; the map says there’s a river canyon system by the mountains, and we’re going to see if we can settle there. But, we’ve only ever worked with wood; stone is going to be an entirely new problem. I was hoping you could lend us a few of your people to teach us the basics?”

“A wise choice,” there is a hint of a chuckle to her words as she takes the flask back. She tilts her head and thinks for a moment about the question, weighing options in her mind. “We had plans to try and make it to the caldera just further north of the river canyon system you speak of. As my people are not well versed with surface traveling, it would be wise for us to join you. If you don't mind us taking up space while searching for tunnels, we will be more than happy to help with any building related tasks you require.”

Shadimon laughed, “We’re already going to be traveling with the river elves and dreamdust elves, what’s one more group? Well, we can work out details on the way, but thank you.”

Entirely unconcerned at the tension surrounding the interactions between the Fire Elves and the Blade Elves, Staurois calmly packs doggy bags for the masked leadership. He makes sure to include go-cups so they don’t miss out on the provided alcoholic beverages as well.

Katiin, apparently bored with poking at fire elves, sits down at the table next to Litoria. She pats the baby hippo on the snout absently and smiles.

“It’s good to see Sauver. I’m glad she’s growing well. How are you?”

Litoria gives her fellow Warmaster the closest thing she has to a smile while slipping the emotional support hippopotamus another stalk of celery.

“Days are slow, but weeks are rapids. Eina thinks we’re going to be able to build this thing even better than it were Before, but I don’t think it possible, me.” Sauver snorts and nudges her hand again. “This will be different. It ain’t right to compare.”

Katiin frowns slightly “Yes, I know what you mean. Eternal optimists… listen, Ehra’s wise, maybe more so than anyone here, but… well, he’s taking a very um, elven view of time. Hunger may be just trying to get a reaction, but he’s right… and so’s Staurois, for that matter. There’s doubtlessly going to be hard times ahead, in the very near future. Is there anything your people need? Anything you’re low on that we could help with?”

“We can always do with anythin’ you can tell us bout the water round these parts. There ain't much useful on tha map.” Litoria gives a sad shrug. “We have a lot to learn on this side a the world. Errything‘s different. We exchanged our familiar crocodiles for exotic alligators and it feels almost like it's close nuff ta fool ya if ya don't pay attention. I fear we may make mistakes if we assume it's all the same as it was, me.”

Katiin nods solemnly, “Yes, nothing’s ever going to be the same, that much is for sure. Unfortunately, I don’t think we know anything more about the water than the map says. We’ve been so focused on keeping it together here at the fort, I don’t think anyone’s been more than a few miles from the walls. I’ll ask Taavet, though. Maybe his rangers have been further. I’ll ask him to give you what his people know in the morning.”

Katiin frowns again, “Maybe I’m just being paranoid. Ehra’s so determined for us to have a good time, but… I can’t shake this feeling, like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Litoria pauses, and chews a bite of turnip. Her focus fades, and for a moment she seems far away, her mind elsewhen. The hippo leans against her and she startles back to the present.

“There’s always somethin’ waiting.” She grits her teeth. “I’m told the worst is behind us, but it’s still here.” A pause again, and the hippo lips at her knee. “I’m still here.”

“The worst could be behind us, and we’d easily still have a rough time ahead,” Katiin pauses and looks at Litoria with poorly concealed concern, “But… maybe Ehra has a point. And, well, you’re right. We’re still here. We’ve accomplished so much, and well… maybe we do deserve to just sit and enjoy food and friends, just for a couple hours.”

Katiin glances at the food, “Well, enjoy food that wasn’t prepared by us. I thought we were doing so well, but wow, we have a long way to go.”

Litoria looks down at her almost completely consumed turnip, and then looks between it and the potato also on her plate, barely touched.

“Sometime I don’ actually believe yall two are relatives. An’ then I see ya fightin at a family fete and it’s obvious yall are.”

Katiin opens her mouth as if to protest, then looks over at the Hunger across the table.

“Okay, actually, I see your point. That makes it seem a little more surmountable. I just don’t get them, but… well, I guess there’s a good reason why.”

“Just yall don’ casserCajun-French: To break up a party specificially by starting a fight. this one.” Litoria gives her opposite another almost smile. “We don’ need to leave all honteCajun-French: shame.”

Katiin gives an extremely puzzled look, “Uhm, no we... sure don’t. I don’t think they actually want to cause trouble, but well, maybe with all they’ve been through they just don’t want to be ignored. I think I can understand that.”

“I think we can acknowledge the pain without rollin’ in it like dogs, me.” Litoria sighs. “Is what I’m workin’ on anyway.”

“That, my friend, is a damn good goal. I’ll join you in that.”

Litoria raises her mouthful of turnip in toast. And in doing so, catches a glimpse of the navigator looking a little more tipsy than he ought to be the night before an important task of his. Her chopsticks snap as she grips them a bit too hard.

“Excuse.” She stands and heads in Smilisca’s direction with an aggressive posture, pausing to grab a cup of water on the way.

Katiin glances towards Smilisca, then to Litoria as she passes, “Hey, if you’re talking to Smilisca, I think TerjeEconomy, the closest a blade elf gets to being a hippy.
In a on-and-off apparently solid relationship with a river elf.
was looking for him, sounded important…”

She trails off as Litoria storms towards the drunk navigator. Katiin shakes her head and takes a bite of turnip.

“Family is right….”

Pebble sat down in a chair beside the Cryptid elf. “Hello again!” There was a small bleat from under her arm. “I’m not sure we were ever formally introduced. I’m Pebble. This is Namib.” She patted the kid. “What’s your name? Are you enjoying the food?”

The cryptid pauses for a moment, considering Pebble's words.

“Yes, this is… good.”

He stares at Pebbles for a few seconds more.

“Please call me Ink???
Apparently crippling social anxiety

“Ink, huh? Good to meet you!” She waved her fingers at the cryptid elf. “So, I think a bunch of us-- the winged elves, and river elves, maybe the dark elves?-- are all heading south from here. Have you decided where you’re headed?”

“Yes,” Ink answers rather flatly.

“Oh good! Can you tell me where? Or is it a secret?”

“It is,” Ink says in exactly the same tone.

“Aww. Well, I hope we’ll see you around! We’d love to get to know you better.” Pebble nodded to herself. “And the goats! You can’t pet goats if you aren’t around them!”

“I cannot,” Ink peers at the tiny goat, “Hello Namib. I will find you.”

Namib bleats loudly. Pebble holds out the kid. “You can pet him now, if you like.”

“Yes.” Ink gently places a long fingered hand on the goat. After leaving his hand there completely still for several seconds, he moves his hand back to the plate.

“Thank you, Namib and Pebble. This is… good.”

“Goats usually are. Except when they’re assholes. But that’s the adults.”

“They are themselves,” Ink stares at the goat, “We are what we are.”

Pebble considers that, nodding solemnly. “True. If we weren’t, we’d be other people, and that would be weird.” She takes another bite of pastry. It appears to be one from the “Drugged” platter.

“Yes,” Ink looks at the pastry, “That would.”

“What would what?” Anasatri joined them. Her white and tan feathers were dyed? painted? with multiple shades of blue and green. She pushed over one of the chairs and climbed up to sit on the back, her feet on the seat, and wings spread for balance. “There. Eye-level. Is that a goat, Pebble? Really?”

“Of course she’s a goat, what else would she be? This is Namib!” Pebble gestures at the goat. “And this is Ink!” She gestures at the Cryptid elf. “I never asked for a name before, I feel bad about that! We were just saying that if we weren’t what we are, we would be other people, and that would be strange.” She nods firmly.

Anasatri tilts her head, “That would be strange. I like learning about other people, but I don’t think I’d want to be someone else.” She looks at Ink, curious, “Pleased to finally meet you, Ink. I’m Anasatri. I’m not sure what this is that you brought, but I like it! Any chance you could tell us what’s in it? Or is it a family secret?”

“Hello…” Ink takes a few steps back from the perched elf. He seems somewhat startled, almost as if he is afraid of the tiny flappy that is barely half his height. For a fraction of a moment, his edges seem blurry. Then, he closes his eyes for a moment.

“Hello…” He opens his eyes again, and looks at Anasatri, “Hello, Anasatri. I am… called Ink.”

He pauses a few seconds more, “The food is… not a secret. It is what we can make it, now. It is… should be… safe, for us both.”

Anasatri tilts her head the other way, considering Ink for a moment, “Of course, and thank you again for bringing it.” She turns her attention to Pebble again, “From what I hear, we might be traveling together for awhile!”

Ink relaxes a little, almost deflating a bit as attention is turned away from him. He snacks.

“Yes! It’ll be fun! I’m looking forward to traveling with everyone!” Her enthusiasm is palpable.

The doors slap back open, as if pushed by a hurricane, and a half-dozen ornate food trays -- clearly claimed from a fancy Lycan kitchen -- float into the room, accompanied by a wave of warm, dry wind, tinted with the smell of charcoal. A red-haired Fire Elf saunters in just behind them, a flame-shaped bronze mask obscuring the top half of her face; the tassels on the edges of her chiton glow orange as she steps inside, flickering out a second later and leaving thin lines of smoke trailing after her.

"Sorry I'm late," she says, grinning, as if addressing the whole room. "I lost track of time."

She waves an arm at the blue table, and the trays slowly meander to it, dropping into a few of the remaining open spots. Two of them feature meat -- an assortment of shanks and steaks, most rare to the point of almost being raw. A couple more feature slices of thick, hard bread, as well as a seasoned oily dipping sauce, and a thick chickpea-heavy paste on the side; the Blade Elves among the party recognize the bread as a variation on old ration bread, which, hard and semi-inedible in the best of times, appears to have been baked harder still. The last two carried some type of flat, crumbly pastry, covered in pomegranate seeds and sticky with honey.

Her first stop is not the seating area, but rather the elf packing doggie bags in the back. "Staurois!" she says. "Packing up already? I'm not that late, am I?"

“Oh FuryArcane Leader, loud, erratic! I’m excited to see you!” Staurois grins and snags some additional food from the newly arrived trays. “Can’t have them two missin’ out what with the masks an all. There’s so much ta try, an sure they’ll want a bit of it all.”

“I’d be careful with that,” the Hunger says, stepping behind Staurois from around the table and gesturing to the crumbly pastry he has just grabbed. “That’s mostly cheese.”

"Oh, I'm sure they'll thank you -- and it all looks so lovely!" Her eyes dart around the table. "...Are there any of those Dreamdust Elf pastries left? I love those!"

The Hunger eyes Staurois, and shakes his head insistently.

"Anyway, Staurois..." the Fury says, "I heard your flotilla was heading southward tomorrow. You know you're welcome to visit the North, too? We're not all as unfriendly as the Hunger. ...Because seriously, you're not allowed to just ignore us. That would be super-rude."

“A’ course!” Staurois politely puts the pastry to the side at the warning. “Wi’ tha late start we’re gettin’ we needed to push off in tha firs’ ‘vailable river. Other courses for other years, yanno. Since it’ll be awhile to get there, anythin’ yall’d like in particular fer us to pick up if’n we see?”

"Wood," she said flatly. "There's not going to be a lot of it where we are, and even with geyser activity, we'll need fuel. Food, too; hot springs are lovely for us, but terrible for plants. If we could set up a long-term trade agreement--"

"That will have to wait until we have something to trade," the Hunger interrupts. "This is all theoretical right now. In both directions."

The Fury frowns. "Right. Once we're settled, and you're unsettled," she grins, "we can look at some long term trade agreements. Food for stonework, minerals... the mountains have lots of potential, and you'll be the primary traders between the whole of our colonies at that point."

“We’re lookin’ forward to providin’ transport fer ya.” Staurois nods. “Wood should be simple enough to move. Does float.” He looks thoughtful for a moment. “But I need to check wi’ th’expert ‘afore I promise anythin’ asure, me.”

He looks over toward the Smilisca and Litoria. The latter is pushing a cup of water on the former, who to his credit, looks a lot less intoxicated than the empty jug next to him might indicate.

“Mayhaps, not tonight, no.”

With the fire elves distracted, Shadimon slides back into one of the seats across from Ehra and pushes a plate of innocent-seeming pastries over. “All of us leaving should take the pressure off of you now. Will you all be alright here?”

Ehra turns to Shadimon, apparently having been giving the Terror's back a contemplative look, “Thanks to you, I believe so. There are… going to be challenges, but getting enough to eat won't be one of them. I believe we will be stable enough here, at least for the immediate future. Long term… that remains to be seen.”

“That at least is true for all of us. The next few years are going to be...exciting.” He looks around the room at the others, “We aren’t all going to be impossibly far away. If you need help…”

Ehra smiles warmly, “Shadimon, there was never a doubt in my mind that I could depend on you for aid. The same goes for you.”

Shadimon smiles slightly, “It’s partially selfish, I’ll grant. If we get into any kind of fighting trouble, we’re going to be hiding behind you if we can.” He grins suddenly, “You should come visit once we’re settled in. We can get you there in style. Have you ever flown before?” He laughs at Siiri’s strangled noise of horror, “We have to carry our own children; it’s as safe as we can make it!”

Siiri opens her mouth as if to say something, but Ehra interrupts.

“Siiri, I've gone toe to toe with raging bloodthirsty werewolf warriors. Several of them. At once. I think I can handle a little elevation. See, Shadi says babies can do it. I believe I'm a little more competent than a baby.”

Siiri sights and rubs her temples, “You also weigh more than a baby, grandfather. That ego might weigh them down.”

Ehra gets a laugh out of this.

“Sorry, Shadimon. It's not that I don't trust you, it's just that someone keeps forgetting that the last time he went toe to toe with several elite lycan soldiers was nearly a century ago.”

“Details,” Ehra waves a hand.

Shadimon has his mouth covered, and his feathers are fluffed from the effort of not laughing. “I know Siiri. We tell Baijani the same thing, and she immediately tells us where we can shove that kind of talk. And she threatens to fight you, which is just a no-win situation. Either she wins and you’ve been beaten up by an old woman, or she loses and then you’ve beaten up an old woman. She uses her age like a bludgeon. I do mean it though,” he adds. “About visiting. We have plans, and if we can make them happen, it’ll be a sight to see.”

Siiri sighs, “This one uses his age more like a scalpel. You'd be amazed at what he ‘forgets.’”

Ehra laughs, “In seriousness, travel is becoming more difficult for me. I would, however, love to see what you make of your new home. Perhaps if Siiri isn't afraid of heights…”

Siiri shrugs, “I go where you need me, grandfather.”

“... we would be glad to come, once we are able.”

As he sees the conversations start to wind down, Ehra looks over the rest of the group pensively. He takes a moment to look at each group of elves- and give another quiet consideration to the Terror. He turns back to the rest of the group.

Ehra places his hands on the table and slowly stands.

“Friends,” He begins in a voice loud enough to carry over the whole room. He pauses briefly to let conversation die down.

“I thank you for indulging an old man’s wishes. We have all been through a very long period of pain and loss, after which none of us are the same. We are all in a precarious position. We have times ahead of us that will no doubt test our limits once again. For tonight, though… we are at peace, for the first time in a very, very long time. Even by my standards.”

“Tomorrow, we spread to the wind, and while it may be easy to fear the future, I have confidence. We have all proven that we have strength far beyond what outsiders seem to think. And it is important to remember that more connects us than pointy ears.”

Ehra places his hands on the tablecloth. Siiri gently touches his sleeve. Ehra grumbles at her.

Oh it’s alright, it’s just a party trick, I can manage.

Ehra gathers the edge of the tablecloth in his hands, takes a slow breath, and pulls with a sharp motion.

The tablecloth smoothly flies off the table, leaving the remaining plates and platters where they are sitting. The various dishes had been spaced evenly, mostly around the edge of the table, with the quite large central portion of the table now uncovered.

The table is covered with a layer of polished steel- polished so fine that it appears to be a mirror. The steel has been cut in a rough approximation of a shattering mirror, one of the symbols of Calestros. The spaces between the shards of shattered “glass” have been filled in by brass polished to the point where it shines like gold, giving the impression that the gaps in the mirror have been filled.

“I know that we have our differences,” Ehra continues, “And that many of us have our… conflicts with our heritage. Despite all of this, we are all children of Calestros. Though we, like her, have been shattered, we were once all one people. I believe that that can happen again, though in a way that will be new to this world. I wish for us to be a mirror reforged- stronger and beautiful in a way it never was before.”

“We cannot succeed without each other- if not directly, at least in awareness. We are all now weak, and we must keep watch over our cousins. I invite and request that you all to return to this room one year from now. At that time, we may address the issues that no doubt will have arisen by then.”

Ehra pauses,

“I wanted to do it in silver and gold, but we didn’t have enough.”

Ehra sighs, “Perhaps I am an old man wishing for things that cannot be achieved… but I hope that you all understand me.”

"...Brass is stronger, anyway," the Hunger says, after a pause. "And more fitting. We're not lavish Lycan nobles, we're elves; we don't need riches to denote our strength."

He turns to Ehra, giving him a short bow. "Thank you for your hospitality, Ehra. I, at least, intend to see you by this time next year."

And with that, the Hunger sweeps from the room.

A few paces away, the Fury's lips have curled in what is most certainly disgust. The Terror, meanwhile, is still standing by the fire, as if she has failed to even notice Ehra's speech.

Eina reverently runs a finger along the brass-filled crack near her. She looks ready to weep.

“Keep it polished, cous’,” Staurois speaks for the cleric can not, “smooth thing like this, it take the rust real fast like. We’ll come back an pass a meal o’er it when we can.”

“Well done, that,” Baijani says with a firm nod. “Come on, my children, plenty to do still before tomorrow.” As Anasatri and Shadimon take their leave of friends, Baijani pauses to pat the younger cleric on the shoulder. “Just do your best, love, and She understands.”

The river elves linger to help with the cleanup.

After some quick tidying, the winged elves take themselves out through the windows, quickly disappearing toward their camp, one of the few well-lit areas surrounding the fort.

The dark elves also help tidy up the area, Shyrendora running her fingers over a line of brass on the table. “Here’s to a hopeful new future.”

Rasputin loudly says his goodbyes while Greg physically yanks him out of the room by a loose part of his clothing. Shyrendora ghosts out of the room not far behind them.

Ink has been completely silent since it was last spoken to. You may have even believed it wasn't even there anymore. It steps towards the table and leans towards the surface. It gently runs a long fingered hand over one of the mirrored surfaces, starting at it silently for several seconds.

Suddenly, and without a word to anyone, Ink steps back from the table. It walks swiftly towards one of the darker corners of the room and disappears suddenly- even if you were staring right at it.

The Fury straightened up. She had been leaning against one of the walls since the party had started to die down, deliberately facing away from where Ehra and the other Blade Elves were standing. Now she was stock-still, her eyes fixated on the corner Ink had disappeared into.

She muttered to herself, tapping a few fingers against the palm of her hand, and then turned and swept over to the hearth.

The Terror nodded to her.

"Shadow Walk," the Fury whispered. "A planar transversal spell used for traveling--"

The Terror nodded again.

"A very powerful piece of spellwork," the Fury continued. "Either it’s far away, or he's in a hurry."

The Terror eyed her, and then turned and very pointedly stared at the door.

"...Right." The Fury rolled her eyes, and slipped back towards the door, the Terror trailing close behind her.

As the Terror is leaving, Staurois makes certain that two boxes of food ends up in his hands.

“Can ya make sure that Hunger gets to eat some of this? At least take some for the road.” Staurois gives the mute general a friendly grin.

"I better take those," the Fury said, biting her lip. She scooped the boxes into her arms right out of the Terror’s hands, tipping both boxes sideways for a second, and only narrowly catching the top one before it could slide to the floor. "He'll get one, trust me," she continued. "Even if I end up shoving it down his throat..."

The Terror hadn't moved, save for almost imperceptibly rolling her eyes. She gently nudged the second box back into the Fury's arms with her elbow, and then marched forward, giving Staurois an ever-so-slight nod as she passed.

Current year: 1