The ankhegs came up right next to the wagons- they would have been directly under if not for the warning. I threw my spear at the closest one, still a handful of yards away. The spear pierced into its shell, enough that the head was mostly in. Unfortunately, that also meant it was harder to retrieve. Using Return Weapon, I tugged it out, but it took about twice as much effort as normally retrieving it. On the other hand, it was better than getting close to their acid-drenched mandibles.
As my spear pulled out, green ichor spurted from the open wound. One of the regular guards took the opportunity to shoot the same wounded spot with a bolt from a crossbow, and the ankheg fell with a thud.
The strange insects were almost the same size as the horses, and didn’t seem to care much for tactics. One of them directly attacked the nearest horse, biting through its neck. Fortunately it wasn’t mine, but one of the caravan’s.
Kasner blasted one of them with lightning- its carapace wasn’t sufficient to defend it. There was only a small black spot on the outside, but the smoke emanating from it told everything necessary.
Socks actually tackled one of them. It certainly wasn’t a decision I would have made, but her teeth and claws scraped at its carapace while she managed to keep its mandibles away from her.
All that happened in the first few seconds, and I picked another target.
Soon enough, the battle was over. While their armored carapaces were tough, they weren’t impenetrable. The total casualties were one horse and a few injured guards. Alhorn’s shield sustained a bit of damage, but that could be repaired… maybe with a bit of magic, since it was a bit melty around the edges.
The battle made me notice how much lower my Strength was. I probably could have thrown a spear all the way through them at my peak. Not that I was weak, but I had to take it into account when I fought.
Once we arrived in Sradena, we spent the first day asking around about elves. They did have an adventurer’s guild, but besides a few passing through every month, they didn’t know of any elves in the area.
It was possible Alhorn’s aunt had moved. It was also possible that Khyrmin was his aunt. Given the lack of information he had, there was no way to know for sure. Either way, she was our best bet. If that didn’t work, we could put in a request at Sradena’s guild for someone who spoke elvish.
The next morning we set out towards Khyrmin’s ‘cabin’. Since I’d been there once before, I had a better grasp on the route. It was still a long hike, but I wasn’t worried about arriving before dark- especially not while riding a horse. My legs still wanted me to get there as soon as possible.
“These trees are huge,” Halette commented.
“They aren’t even the biggest ones…” I responded, “I also heard that there might even be larger trees in elven lands, of different sorts.”
“I mean…” Halette tilted her head, “I heard about trees like this, but seeing them is completely different. They’re as wide as a house! At least, a hut.”
Kantrilla nodded, “They are big enough for being a decent shelter on their own. Though, attempting to live inside one might be problematic.”
“If they get much bigger, you could fit an entire tribe of halflings inside. Just hollow them out and you have a giant tower… though climbing down twenty or thirty floors to get to the bottom would be a bit of a pain.”
“It’d get rather narrow at thirty floors…” Alhorn commented.
“Not for halflings. Our floors aren’t so wastefully tall, you know. Thirty was rather conservative. That said, we don’t like stairs. Or living in monster infested forests.”
Halette patted Socks her head- an action made easier by her being on a horse. “Nothing has come near us. It’s a relatively peaceful area, all things considered. Though we have been avoiding things on purpose.”
There was no reason for us to get into a fight- we might get experience, but we couldn’t really bring much in the way of materials back with us, even with Carlos. For example, if we ran into a giant boar we could at most take the tusks and some meat, leaving at least half of it behind.
We arrived at Khyrmin’s cabin the late afternoon. “I’m not sure if she’ll be there…” I said, “She might be in the dungeon for a while.”
“Right…” Kasner said, “That cabin… keeps getting bigger.”
“It’s actually made from these redwoods? How?” Halette looked surprised.
“Magic, apparently,” I shrugged, “Maybe she had some help too.”
We pulled up in front of the gigantic building and I knocked on the door. I had no idea how she heard the door the first time. Perhaps she had been on a lower floor. I knocked as firmly as I could- and I wasn’t worried about breaking anything because the door was not even close to being flimsy.
We waited for a minute and I knocked again. Then we waited a few more.
“Perhaps she isn’t home,” Alhorn suggested, “Should we wait at the dungeon?”
Then the door opened. Khyrmin stepped out and looked around at us.
“Greetings!” I bowed, “My friends and I are here because we have a request…”
Khyrmin’s glare cut me off. “Mhm,” she acknowledged as she stepped forward. Then she stabbed her rapier at Alhorn. Of course, she drew her weapon too, but that happened so fast I couldn’t see it.
Alhorn barely managed to step back and draw his weapon… and then Khyrmin’s rapier was at his throat, sticking through the gaps in his armor.
“I don’t often get elves coming to visit me,” Khyrmin said. She didn’t sound particularly happy about it, either.
“Well,” Alhorn said carefully, “I’m only half elf… though that doesn’t usually make anybody happier.”
“Hmph.” Khyrmin turned around and stepped inside, “You can bring the animals inside if you want, but you have to clean up any messes. We can talk about what you want as we step inside.”
I followed after her first, slightly surprised to not get the same treatment as Alhorn myself. Then again, maybe she knew I was expecting it.