"They were spotted just inside the northern forest...near the Forgotten Grotto." A woman said, pointing towards the map in front of the group. A flower grew up out of the map- on the location, the woman was referring to. Violet flowers looked as if they grew naturally onto the woman in the shape of a slim fitting dress. The woman, named Adra, had tanned skin with long, dark brown hair flowing freely behind her. Her emerald eyes darted from one person to another in the room, awaiting responses.
The group of three was standing inside a four-walled, roofless building. The walls looked as if a bunch of roots just shot out of the ground and twisted together. In the center of the building was a large, flat wooden circle. It looked as if someone cut a very large tree perfectly smooth. A map of the local area was built into it.
"No one has had contact with the Imperium since they took over the Centaur lands almost two decades ago...for what reason would they suddenly scout out our forest?" Azkaet, a stouter elf responded, looking around to his comrades. He wore hefty, intricate, white wood armor.
"They tried to push south before and were unable to reach our forces...they must think they have something to tip the odds in their favor." The third elf, Phasvi, added.
Adra looked worryingly at the marked map again before speaking, "I sent Branwyn of the Aravan Clan to investigate further, and if possible...to dispose of the intrusion. Humans must learn they can no longer pursue their crusade."
The pattering of dozens of hooves could be heard drumming on the forest floor as part of the Earthbound Herd made their way through the forest.
"We are getting close..." An elderly Centaur said, his eyes glistening over and turning into a cloudy white. The herd all stopped moving for several minutes as the elderly Centaur froze.
His arm would raise, pointing east. "There. They are settling down in what seems to be an old Elvish settlement." The elderly Centaur, Arcoros, said.
"This must be quick and clean, I am sure the Elves will not appreciate us trespassing in their sacred forest." He added with a huff, looking to his fellow herdsmen with a nod before they started to gallop eastward.
Branwyn watched the forest floor from the branches of a great oak tree. Elves in dark armor filled the trees, some wielding bows and others carrying sharpened spears. Two of their number stood below with their hands pressed to the tree Branwyn sat in. These wore lighter armor and were wrapped in cloaks that seemed to be made from giant leaves.
She knew that the intruders would have to come through here. The Druids had spoken to the forest and encouraged the trees to rearrange themselves. The forest may not be able to see what approached, but it could feel the heavy steps of a large group of hoofed animals.
Her ears perked up, the sound of the intruders reaching her ears though they were still a good distance away.
When they reached fifty yards from her position she whistled to signal the others and readied her bow. To unsuspecting intruders, it would sound like a bird call. The other elves prepared their weapons, those with spears moving to hang from vines halfway down the trees.
Beneath the great oak the ground began to rumble. When the Centaurs were within twenty yards giant roots sprang out of the ground, writhing like the tentacles of a sea monster. The roots moved to block the path of the intruders, leaving them nowhere to go but back the way they came.
When the eldest Centaur looked around the herd for approval, one of the younger Centaurs, a chestnut colored stallion with a matching beard and mullet named Claudius, shook his head. Of course, he thought as he followed the rest of the herd, that leaves open the question of why we’re in the Elves’ sacred forest in the first place. Only reason I am is to make sure the rest of you don’t get yourselves killed. The Centaur sighed as he hefted his spear and shield. Just need to make sure I do my job and hope it’s enough.
It was only a few minutes later that the roots of a giant tree burst out of the ground, waving menacingly in front of the herd.
“Hey, everyone,” Claudius said, getting the rest of his group’s attention, oblivious to the elves that were surrounding them. “I think that’s a sign that we’re not welcome here. Let’s get out of here before a bunch of elves jump out of the woods and point weapons at us.”
Before any of the other centaurs could respond, Branwyn signaled the archers to stay in the trees. She gestured at the spearmen to reveal themselves. All around the centaurs, elves with heavier armor stepped out of the trees and pointed spears at the centaurs. They moved in a tight formation with their shields forward, forming up into a U shape in front of the invaders.
Branwyn grabbed a vine and slid down to the ground. She walked to the center of the line of spearmen and stood behind them. “I am Branwyn Araven, daughter of Zanesan of the Araven Clan, heir of the Chiefdom, and Apprentice to the Commander of the Rangers. I will give you one chance to turn back.” She yelled in her best authoritative voice.
The group of Centaurs stood in shocked silence as the elven spearmen and the Princess commanding them popped out of the trees. After a few moments, Claudius coughed, pointed back the way they came, and said, “So, yeah. Let’s get out of here, before the elves decide to not be nice enough to give us a path to retreat.”
Before the older Centaur could respond, the chestnut colored stallion looked at Branwyn and smiled sheepishly. “Thanks for not just shooting first and asking questions later,” he said, “Just so you know, we weren’t going to attack you or anything. We were going to deal with the Imps that came in here. Good luck with them, by the way."
The centaur behind Cladius parted ways, revealing a large, gruff centaur. As the new Centaur passed the others, they bowed their heads. He had long, white hair that fell to the middle of his back. His skin was a pasty white with dark gray war paint scattered across his body. Some sort of bones hung on torso armor he was wearing, whether from friend or foe is unknown. Maroon leather protected his body with bags and vials dotted across his belt of various colors. The pattering of his hooves on the dirt floor could be heard as he approached Cladius and the shield wall in front of the group.
"Cladius, get back!" The newly arrived Centaur barked, raising his spear high- pointing it at the talking elf behind the shield wall.
"We apologize for the intrusion into your sacred forests, Branwyn of the Aravan Clan. But I am Alillos of the Rainfire Herd, and I will not send my people back anywhere. We will leave once we finish our task...and I suspect you know what the job involves." He said sternly.
The centaur all around him stood ready for any sort of orders Alillos may tell them. They look exhausted and enraged by something.
Branwyn watched the young Centaur awkwardly try to convince the others to retreat. She knew that there were also humans in the forest, so it was possible he was sincere. His tone was far too familiar for her taste. She was wanted to remind him of his status, but time was a luxury they didn’t have at the moment.
She listened impatiently while the Elder spoke. His refusal to leave the forest would have been met with hostility in less chaotic times. “If what you say is true, Elder Alillos, then it would appear that we are allies. Considering the current situation, I am willing to overlook this intrusion, but I cannot allow you to roam freely in our lands.” Branwyn declared. “We will escort you and ensure that you depart once the Imperial presence is eliminated.”
She shouted something in the language of the Wood Elves and the elven soldiers relaxed, lowering their spears. The tree roots disappeared back into the ground, the exhausted Druids leaning back against the trees. Only the archers kept their weapons trained on the Centaurs.
Branwyn whistled sharply, prompting the soldiers to form up into lines on either side of the Centaurs. The stomping of nearly two hundred hooves echoed through the clearing. Moments later, massive white elk with ivory antlers knelt in front of the soldiers. They didn’t move an inch as a cat, almost as big as they were and covered in elven armor, silently appeared in front of Branwyn. It bent down and she climbed onto its back.
“Follow me. I know where they are.” She called out to Alillos.
Yeah, it would have been too easy to just walk away, Claudius thought with a sigh, as the elves got on their pompous mounts and prepared to ‘escort’ the herd to their destination. You’d think they’d be able to handle the Imps by themselves, what with…4ish dozen soldiers? Especially if they got back in the trees and got all stealthy again, instead of prancing around on those elk.
The Centaur shrugged as he got ready to follow Alillos along with the rest of the herd. At the end of the day, Alillos is in charge, so we follow him. I’ll just make sure to make a lot of Imps die for each Centaur. And further check out the Princess, hopefully without being obviously caught.
Alillos examined the small elf princess as she climbed atop of her mighty white stags. He normally would be more skeptical of a wood elf being friendly, but these were dire times.
"Very well," Alillos said to Branwyn, nodding slightly. As the elves began to charge off, he mumbled a phrase to himself and soon enough fire started to emerge from his hands. He sent the flames flying upward so everyone knew they were moving out. It would also serve as a warning to the Imperials if any were to see it through the thick brush and trees of the forest.
Alillos started a gallop, jumping over branches and bushes to keep up with Branwyn.