Chapter Twenty-Five - The Glamour and The Shadows

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DANIELLE AND JESSICA GRABBED GEORGE in a group hug as the members of both parties exchanged greetings. Stryker too was glad to see them, bounding around and nearly bowling them over in his excitement. But soon the initial joy of catching up with their brother became somewhat tempered by the news of Valen and Vaun's death and of Meriol's life-threatening injuries.

They made their way to the camp where Tayn kept watch on the wolves. Once there, Holt was able to administer some of his medicinal skills to Meriol. She still remained unconscious, but thanks to the healing magic Malin had used earlier the Gnome found her to be in remarkably good shape. He cleaned and bound her wounds once more, then left her to rest.

Tayn put the time awaiting their return, to good use. Using his hunting skills he caught several small forest creatures and with edible roots, nuts, and berries made a large pot of wonderful smelling stew. They sat around the fire eating and recounting the adventures that had brought them to this point. Malin told them how the Key Stones and the magic that once belonged to Lachlan Torqe now resided with him. Once rested he aimed to find his way to the Daemon city and complete the quest. George spoke up, vowing to follow and help him where possible. Malin nodded his thanks, but Danielle noted the Elf giving her a long sideways glance.

Upon George's announcement, Danielle's initial relief at finding him alive and unharmed turned to anger. It looked like her brother was under the thrall of the Elven magic. All she could do was try and break the spell. In her heart, she knew it would be a waste of time arguing with her brother. He was far too headstrong. But after chasing him halfway across the Elven continent, she decided enough was enough. She stood, grabbed Jessica and walked into the trees, motioning for George to join them. Reluctantly he stood and followed.

Earlier she warned Jessica to try and keep the Elves at a distance. Not to speak to them and not to let them hold a conversation with her. Now she berated George, telling him about Ceridwen's warning. That the Elves possessed a kind of glamour that they could use to enchant others into doing their bidding.

George just shrugged and told her he was okay. Once they transported the Key Stones that would allow them to strengthen the barrier surrounding the Daemon City, the quest would be at an end. Then, and only then would he return home again.

Danielle told him, in no uncertain terms that sneaking off looking for lost artifacts, being pursued by an ancient Elf hating Daemon, and generally putting himself in all sorts of danger, was not the way to go about things. Meriol was badly injured, Valen and Vaun were dead. Anyone of them could have been him. He needed to give up on this silly quest right now and return home with them.

George would not listen of course. Even when Jessica pleaded with him, he just laughed and told her not to be stupid. No one was controlling him. He did it because he wanted to and it was the right thing to do. With that, he turned and strode back to the camp.

Danielle decided there and then that it was useless reasoning with him. If he would not come voluntarily, then she would have to speak to Holt and Eldon about other ways of getting him home. She was determined that he would go no further. His participation in the quest ended here.

She followed him back into the camp, meaning to talk to Holt about her problem. He, Malin, and Eldon sat hunched around the fire, deep in conversation. She gasped, hoping that she was not too late.

A shadow appeared, it twisted and writhed, even darker than those of the forest surrounding it. Suddenly it coiled and began to fold in upon itself. A group of figures stood among the towering trees. Tendrils of darkness slowly dripped from their bodies, dissipating away into the warm moist air.

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