We left the small grove in silence aside from the sound of the ground burning where Vinzahk walked. It took us until we walked back past where we made camp before anyone said anything.

“What language was that and where did you learn it?” Zrith finally said.

“It sounds scary,” Tarja added. “Your eyes are still black also.”

I sighed, “I’m not sure I’d never heard or spoken it before. I just suddenly knew it when Vinzahk spoke I understood everything he said like I’ve been speaking it my whole life.”

Vinzahk spoke, “I can’t speak their language, but I can understand most of it. We speak Shadow Realm only a few native races on the plane were gifted with it.”

“He says it’s called Shadow Realm.”

“It can understand us?” Fay said then looked disbelieving at Vinzahk , “Can all of your kind understand us?”

The nightmare snorted fire out of it’s nostrils and shook it’s head. Fay seemed to be satisfied with his answer and fell back into her silence. We were almost out of the forest when Zrith stopped us.

“Chaos you should not repeat the name of that language to anyone else or tell them how you knew it. It could get you killed if you tell the wrong people. Especially since you already look like a Darklin. Although your eyes,” he glanced at me. “Are something else entirely.”

We continued on. It seemed like everyone knew more about me than myself. Even Vinzahk the Nightmare seemed to have some knowledge about what I might be which I was beginning to understand was something different from anything else. I was unique in some way I only hoped it wasn’t something bad. Even the dead unicorn who told me I could shift between two realms and called me dark one knew something about me that I did not. I sighed not knowing my origin was beginning to become even more of a problem. I remembered she said I needed to practice my gifts and I suddenly wondered if she meant my strange magic. My father said it was unique to me. Honestly all I ever wanted was to fit in and have friends. This was my main motivation for coming to The Hall to try to fit in or at least meet people who would accept me for who I am.

I thought of something and turned to Vinzahk. “How am I supposed to ride you if you’re on fire?”

He let out what sounded like a hearty laugh, “My flames only burn those I don’t want to touch me.”

We strolled through the woods and out back to the path headed toward The Hall. The entrance to the hall was more than big enough for Vinzahk to get threw. They could probably fit six and a half wide of him and four of him stacked on top of each other. The Hall was made so that most all beings could fit inside easily and so that multiple people could come and go at once. Many people stared curiously at the Nightmare and myself. We walked in not having to worry about Vinzahk burning anything accidentally since some of the creatures on the planet were fire based; so there weren’t any rugs on the floor to burn. We made our way to the dome where groups turned in their quests and received new ones.

“I can turn it in,” Fay said and walked up to one of the few free spots in the circular counter where a member of The Hall’s staff stood waiting for the next person to approach the counter.

She proceeded to have an animated conversation with the elvish teller who seemed exhausted and drained by her antics. Tarja sat down on the floor and wrapped her tail around her planting her chin on her knees. She looked like she was pouting or maybe sad. Vinzahk seemed to noticed too and he started playfully nudging her then when she ignored him he decided the best course of action would be to lick her. She started laughing and then started petting him.

“I didn’t think that threw…” he coughed, “So much fur,” he said.

Fay came back to the group shortly with five pieces of paper, a pouch, and a sealed letter. She handed out the papers and then shoved the letter into her ample bosom. I raised an eyebrow in curiosity as she had many bags. Why didn’t she put it into one of those? It was sure to get crushed where she put it. I looked at the missive I had been handed and read it silently.

“The group below is to travel to Featherbrough City and investigate the growing sickness. This sickness seems magical and is only spreading. They are also to take a letter of instruction the the Capitan of the guard.”

The missive listed our group’s name and our names and class with a official seal at the bottom.

I rolled up the letter and stuck it in my backpack. Fay handed out our share of the gold coins to each of us.

“This should be enough for us to restock any supplies or buy food and maybe save up for something.” She said dismissively.

I looked at the money and then pocketed it. The only way I’d be able to buy food was if I found a market that sold fresh blood or live animals. The only markets I knew that sold fresh blood were Orc markets because they used blood in some of their stews. Most live animals would be overpriced so hunting my own food would probably be more cost effective.

“There won’t be a market until we get to Featherbrough City so we should leave now. I think there’s an inn along the way if I remember right,” Fay murmured.

Zrith nodded in agreement, “Yes we should head out right away.”

We left The Hall while it was still light and walked for miles briefly talking about various things. Tarja’s favorite time of day was sunset although I already knew that, Zrith came from a Dark Elf only city, Drog’s other half was half Orc which explained his massiveness that he got from both sides of his heritage, Fay was only a Fire mage or so she said, but I expected more after what Vinzahk had said when he first saw her. I told them I was raised by a my adoptive Father Veshnar the Shaman wanderer of the Northern Troll tribe, and that aside form visitors needing help it was mainly the two of us. I left out practically all the details of my past just summing it up into a brief sentence or two. The Sun started setting and a building came into view; it was small for an inn. It had a stable, and a second story although it looked like it could house maybe eight people if everyone took separate rooms.

I stopped about eight feet form the building; I could smell the aroma of food cooking and hear voices coming out of the Inn, “Vinzahk and I will find shelter nearby and meet up with you guys again early in the morning. I haven’t had much luck with anyone other than you guys and he might accidentally burn down the stable.”

Fay went inside without acknowledging what I’d said, Zrith nodded at me and then continued to the inn with Drog.

Tarja stared at me for a minute with wide eyes, “Will you be ok?”

“I’ll be fine.”

She whined a little and looked worried then followed the rest inside.

“What do you eat?” I asked Vinzahk.

“Fresh meat. You?”

“Blood.”

He laughed, “Fine lets hunt then.”

He sat down next to me and I realized he wanted me to ride him. I climbed on top of him and realized as he stood that he was just the right size for someone as tall as myself. He ran off at a startlingly fast pace into the woods that surrounded the path. I hooked a hand into his mane surprised that it was solid enough for that. His hooves pounded the earth leaving behind little arches of fire when he stepped. I could hear hoof beats ahead, but they were smaller delicate and were running opposite of us probably alerted by the thundering sound of Vinzahk. He was swift though and caught up to what we were pursuing it was a Doe. I knew we would overtake her, but I wanted this to end quicker. I moved my free hand and summoned dark ribbons up from the earth entangling her. She whined and Vinzahk quickly overtook her rearing up as he had tried to with Drog and delivering a killing blow to her in the head. I jumped off of him and pulled my side pouch open pulling out a bowl and unsheathed a knife from my belt. He knew exactly what I was about to do and bit into her haunch lifting her up so she dangled over the bowl. I slit the already dead Doe’s throat and bled the animal till the bowl was almost full.

“That’s more than I need you can have the rest,” I said staring at the bowl. At least I wouldn’t see someones memories.

I lifted the bowl and drank from it. Next to me Vinzahk and started ripping into the Doe’s flesh chewing and eating savagely. When we finished with our meal I spoke, “We should find shelter for the night.”

“Yes…we won’t need fire I should be warm enough.”

I hoped on his back and we ran threw the forest as various animals scattered in the brush. We eventually found a medium sized den that we’d both fit in. It was dirty and bare of anything other than animal tracks. Vinzahk entered the cave first and layed down. I pulled out a small bedroll from my bag and lay it next to him. Curled up close to him I didn’t even need blankets; he was very warm. I slept and dreamed of the mystery of who I was unraveling.

I woke up to the smell of fire and soft grasslands; I felt warmth in front of me and behind me. I opened my eyes noticed a spotted furry arm wrapped around me. I sat up and looked at Vinzahk who was awake and then to Tarja who was out cold and not disturbed by me moving.

He laughed, “You’re blushing.”

Tarja put her leg across me and tried to pull me closer but just succeeded in pulling herself closer to me.

“When did she get here?”

“Late last night you were asleep, and I didn’t see any harm in her being here.”

Her tail started wagging furiously thumping on the ground kicking up some dust. She nuzzled my side and then yawned as her eyes lazily fluttered half open. “Your eyes are still black,” she muttered and then appeared to fall back asleep.

The sun was already starting to rise and we needed to get up; awkward situation or not. I grabbed her shoulder and shook it a little and she whined.

“Tarja we need to get up and get back to the others.”

She grumbled and then flipped over falling back asleep. I scooted her off the mat and the rolled it up. I attempted to wake her up again with no success. I figured I wouldn’t be able to ask her why she came out here before we got back to the others if she stayed asleep; even though I was very curious. I picked her up and walked out of the cave. Vinzahk stretched his muscles and then trotted along beside me. I looked at Tarja who I carried in my arms and wondered why she wore the giant beaded necklace making her as a healer or had so many earing denoting rank if she was trying to avoid being found. I’d never really seen a gnoll this close before in person only in her memories. I guess she probably wasn’t worried about running into too many gnolls out here. I tried to recall if all of them had mohawks or only her tribe.

“Why don’t you two get on my back we should be able to get there quicker.”

I agreed and he knelt down so it was easy for me to get on his back while still holding Tarja. I griped him with my legs as we rode back to the Inn.

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