Return Of The Bulls
Chapter V: Friends Reunited
Bjarn finished his supper and left the campfire. He walked through the woods in the dusk until he came upon a small gurgling creek. With a sigh that sounded very much like a groan, he splashed the cool water on his craggy face, washing away sweat and dirt, but not his deep exhaustion. For the last three days, he had been having councils with many Forestmen and women, learning the ways of the Elk Man, the high leader of the League of Forestmen.
Rosa and Shainya stayed in the background, talking among themselves and becoming fast friends. They knew not to bother Bjarn for the time being.
Bjarn kneaded his forehead, trying to rid himself of the pounding that had settled behind his eyes. No matter how confusing it was right now, he was glad that he was finally settling down to a duty that did not require him to wander the world from day to day.
I’m getting old... thought Bjarn, I just can’t travel like I used to...
Bjarn got up and returned to camp. Gonderin was waiting for him.
“Bjarn, it is time to return to the mainland, Delvarden Gard is waiting…”
“When do we leave?” he asked.
“Tomorrow.” replied the elf.
Delvarden Gard, the capital port city of the Forestmen and location of the League of Forestmen headquarters was situated in the Varden Swampland that eventually connected to the Fell Sea. Narrow, flat-bottomed boats could traverse the swamps far inland and also across the normally calm Fell Sea, giving the Forestmen a contact link between the mainland and Forestdweller isle. Delvarden Gard was built mostly in the tops of the gigantic trees that flourished in the swamp, but the main fortress was built upon a large outcropping of rock.
As Bjarn’s flatboat pulled up to the mighty fortress, he could not help but be impressed. Drullen Bell Keep was massive and gave Bjarn the fleeting impression that the old ship Shadow had been turned on it’s end and turned into stone, for the curving walls looked very much like the smooth lines of a ship. Creeping vines climbed it's walls there were torches in every window and arrow slit.
Many Forestmen and women lined the dock, and as Bjarn clambered out of the rocking boat a cheer erupted from the crowd. Bjarn flushed and turned to help Shainya and Rosa out. He was not used to all this attention and he felt uncomfortable.
After taking a deep breath, he turned back to the crowd and held both his clinched fists to his forehead, giving them the Sign of the Elk.
The crowd cheered again and returned the sign. Bjarn grinned and he, Shainya, Rosa, and Gonderin proceeded forward into the keep. Once they were inside, Gonderin turned to Bjarn and said, “There will be a grand feast for you this evening. You and you friends are welcome the bathe and rest until then. I'll show you to your rooms.”
Far from Drullen Bell Keep, the Forestmen Harquin and Defyll were on patrol when they smelt smoke on the breeze.
“That’s not a Forestmen fire, no good Forestdweller would burn wood that smoked and smelled the most and heated little.” stated Harquin.
“You’ve got that right, Harq,” agreed Defyll, nocking an arrow on his bow, “Who do you reckon? Falcons?”
“Falcons are smarter than that. I’d say they were Crusaders, but they are awfully far north…” mused Harquin.
“Either way, we’ll know soon enough…” grinned Defyll.
They crept forward though the brush until they came upon the little line of water called Grurrulugurul Creek.
“Holy megabloks…” gaped Defyll.
“That…” said Harquin slowly, “Is one ugly guy…”
“Who is he?” asked Defyll.
“I don’t know and I don’t care. He looks like he could throttle us with one hand. We will need the rest of the troop to get this guy.”
Defyll’s brother, Dafell, joined them and whispered, “That fellow is not alone, there are about two dozen other people in that clearing just yonder, both Falcons and Bulls.”
“Bulls?” asked Harquin, “I thought they died out years ago…”
“Looks like a few are still left.” muttered Defyll, “Anyway, I’ll go back and get Thrallen and the rest, Gonderin’s ordered we are to take any trespassers to the capital, and it looks like these fellow will put up a fight.”
“There is not need for a fight, Forestman. I only wish to seek council with a Forestman by the name of Bjarn.”
Lord Barbod was standing on the other side of the creek, fully dressed and unarmed. He spread his arms wide as if to reaffirm his lack of weapons.
“I do not wish to fight.” he repeated.
It was a short time before Barbod was joined by the Lone Falcon, and their men.
“Who are they, Barbod?” the Lone Falcon asked.
“They,” Barbod said, “Are who we’ve been looking for.”
“Forestmen?” asked a Black Falcon.
“Yes.” said Barbod.
Moments passed before they were joined by a troop of Forestmen.
“We will escort you to the Varden Swampland, where our capital lies.” one of the Forestmen said, “But we must blindfold you, for the safety of our fellow Forestmen.”
They proceeded to tie blindfolds around each Bull and Falcon. The Forestmen then surrounded Barbod’s troops for the march to be safe if Barbod was to attack.
It was a long march, and it began to stink after a while.
This must be the swamp thought Barbod, trying to block the smell from his mind.
But soon after the smell faded, and the ground stopped being squishy. It was hard. Wood. Barbod's blindfold was removed, and the light hurt his eyes.
“We’ve sent for Bjarn.” said one of the Forestmen, “Wait here.”
Barbod stood about and stared at the keep, impressed. He had waited only for a few minutes for Bjarn to appear, followed by Shainya and Rosa. Bjarn did not say anything at first, a slow grin spreading across his craggy face. Then he ran forward and grasped Barbod’s hand tightly.
“By the brick, Barbod, I thought you were dead!”
Barbod grinned and slapped the old Forestman on the back. “I got quite close once or twice, but I am still hanging in there!”
He stepped back and looked at Bjarn admiringly. “Leader of the League of Forestmen, eh? You’ve certainly gone up the ladder of progress, my friend!”
Bjarn grinned and nodded at the Bulls and Falcons behind the Bull King.
“No longer the King of a nonexistent empire, are you? You’ve finally gotten some followers!”
Barbod grinned back and pulled forward the Long Falcon, who was looking at Bjarn with a slightly puzzled expression on his face.
“If it wasn’t for the Lone Falcon here, I would be spitted on Faolan’s megabloks saber!”
Bjarn looked worried for a second, but then smiled. “I’m sure we’ll be able to catch up on our adventures over dinner. Come! My celebration feast is about to begin!”
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