Rashtun of Zinar Kevok was fretting about his small dwelling, double and triple-checking the contents of his travel bags, and reviewing all the different possible routes to the area he’d agreed to travel to. It’s unusual for a member of this Yasiear¹ to be so visibly concerned with a situation, but it’s also unusual to be going out into the world on your own for your first real job, which is exactly why Rashtun was so worked up. While he had certainly done what he felt was a good job negotiating the contract, he was feeling less than confident in his ability to complete the job, he had many concerns not least of which being the fear of traveling into the Whispering Wilds alone.
Choosing the quickest route to the Whispering Wilds, Rashtun decided to leave shortly after sunrise. He was running late after turning back to pick up some rope, a toothbrush, and some forgotten reagents. With a quick goodbye to his pet lizard, he darted through the city and out into the dry plains. The sun was above the horizon as he finally made it past the city gates to carry out the rest of his journey. His thoughts drifted to his family momentarily, they would already be up and headed towards the markets to strike up deals with some of the best poisons around. Shaking his head he put his mind towards getting out of the Dynasty and into the Whispering Wilds.
Over the next few days, while setting up and tearing down camp, Rashtun’s thoughts repeatedly drifted to the various tales he had heard of the Whispering Woods. How the rocks, trees and even the dirt seemed to be alive, the landscape itself would occasionally just pick itself up and move around, but worse than that would be the inhabitants ruled by an insane pixie who prided herself in the ability to rip down city walls with her mind and throw the rubble onto people when angered.
It was a hot day as usual and the temptation to sunbathe on a nearby rock was strong but Rashtun continued on relentlessly. By late afternoon he had reached the hills separating the Dynasties from the Whispering Wilds. Nerves suddenly racked through him. What if he couldn’t find a gnarlwood in time to give it the potion? All of his work would be for naught.
The other side of the hills was as different from the plains as could be. The trees were thick, the air moist and the jagged rocks were difficult to maneuver around. Taking a deep breath and patting himself down he stepped into the woods, trying to find anything that could lead him in the right direction. Muttering to himself he began inspecting the trees. He was looking for one with a thicker trunk and roots sticking out of the ground to help it move around. Finding any treant would be useful, but the potion would only theoretically work on the related gnarlwood.
During his search, Rashtun, also kept a lookout for any signs of rot, death, or decay. After a while of searching, he came across an odour so wretched he needed to see if the source was a gnarlwood. Instead of a large tree what he found was a swarm of green and orange butterflies eating away at the flesh and organs of a dead bear. A powdery substance was falling from them as they swarmed their meal and Rashtun could taste the potential of a powerful potion when he flicked his tongue.
Thinking of his options Rashtun thought of throwing his net upon the butterflies but realized his wouldn’t be fine enough to keep them contained. Scrambling for an idea of how to capture them he began to pull his bed rolls off of his travel bag. Quickly untying the knot he pulled out vials, rope, candles, a lamp with a few pints of oil, a bar of soap, and some cookware. If he could capture them he might be able to keep them alive for multiple harvests of that paralyzing powder.
Looking back at his nearly empty bag he realized that the largest piece of fabric he had with him was his tent. Resigning himself to sleeping under the stars for the rest of his journey he began to assemble the poles. Having become efficient at setting the tent up alone, it only took a few minutes, but by then the butterflies seemed to have consumed a significant portion of the bear.
Looking around Rashtun found a tree branch nestled high above the ground and began to climb his way through the trees with his fully assembled tent. He struggled as on more than one occasion the tent became entangled in branches. Looking almost straight down upon the swarm of green and orange carrion insects and remaining entrails he knew this was his only chance. Tying back the door loosely, he quickly moved the tent into position and dropped it door first over the entire grizzly mess.
A dozen or so of the butterflies manage to escape, flying off deeper into the woods. However, the tent had captured a few score and now needed to be sealed to keep them inside. Dropping down from the tree branch Rashtun went towards the tent, closing his nostrils against the smell. As he got closer he raised his leg and kicked his tent making contact with the corpse within. The butterflies scattered around trying to escape the assault giving Rashtun time to close his tent properly.
Feeling accomplished Rashtun returned to his travel bag to pack up his belongings again. Slipping his arms through the straps he turns to his prize only to suddenly become dismayed, he was going to have to drag the tent around with him through the wilds. Determined not to lose them he grabbed onto the tent and began half dragging, half carrying the makeshift trap as he continued to look for rot and decay.
Setting up camp that evening was simple as he only needed to unroll his sleeping bag. The woods surrounding him were filled with the sound of life but surprisingly no insects bothered him. Once or twice, during his restless night, he thought he may have seen some fae flitting about. As the sunlight first touched and shone through the morning dew Rashtun heard new noises that sounded as though they were approaching.
Surveying the trees in the direction of the sound he noticed the plants looked as though their vitality was being drained, the shrubs and trees appeared to be pushing each other over to make a path. Along that pathway was scattered bones of animals. Rashtun couldn’t believe his luck. Not only had he just captured rare butterflies with the ability to paralyze almost any living being, but it appeared that he wouldn’t have to go searching for a gnarlwood, one was headed his way.
¹Yasiear – A Family derived tribe.