Completed From the Tangled Vines That Grow

Elinyra Derwinthir

Blightborn Champion
Character Biography
They passed down the old path one last time, the Hunter at their backs and the twisting shadow of a lost guardian before them. Softly whispered songs crossed their lips as they went, step by step, into the silent mist of the late evening. They mourned not their fate, only the legacy of corruption that called to them from beyond the Veil. Their homes and possessions were left to age and wither away, to tell others about the story they'd once lived.

"Listen now, and I shall follow..." the voices echoed long after the speakers had disappeared into the moonless night.

If it wasn't for the ribbon-draped oak standing in the midst of a perfectly circular grove of its peers, one might have thought that no sign of civilization had touched this area of the Valen Wilds. The village of Wetzlar lay only a day's journey away, but the path between them was easy to overlook, as if the trail itself wished to remain a secret. But the thin ribbons, flowing in many faded colors in the light morning breeze, seemed to wave the way to abandoned grottoes built into the hills and tree roots.
There were no words of worth that the man could conjure as he negotiated his way between the trees. Birds gently chirped, critters chittered, and a gentle morning breeze whispered, tickling his ears. Strings, like those of a deep cello, all but bellowed a low hum upon his eardrums. It was as if the earthen bed beckoned him back to rest, like it was evening all over again, and the man’s mind was trapped in time.

The air is so close… His own thoughts were an echo. Magic was thicker in the air, the very trees more alive than nature might care, and the animals with more wit than your average city’s citizen. There were no cities in the Valen Wilds as far as he could count, only towns, and the villages were just pinpricks within the forest.

All around him, as if a cloud that hung around as a shroud, was a song. A woman’s voice, surrounding the woodland noise; liquid lyrics, if languid, or perhaps that was just the man’s fatigue. If the trees were an orchestra, some symphony, he wasn’t much of an audience.

I hear you...sorceress.
Maybe it was the forest. Maybe it was his imagination. Towering sentries loomed over him, that man who walked across the earth in a dark green cloak, hood over head, wandering. If he was in a dream, maybe he would wake before the end of the day.

Then he saw them. Not a hunter, not a guardian, neither spirit nor mortal kin, but ribbons. Thin as a wisp of smoke, though colorful, like a dying rainbow. Were they real? I will see. If this mystery was a trick, if the shroud that stalked him wanted him in this instance, the drow would beckon it in for a challenge.

He approached the grove, his cloak giving nothing away as to what might lie beneath it. Abandoned grottoes in the distance, villages further beyond, toward the world’s version of civilization, but those ribbons were to him like a pearl. I am here…I have no fear.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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The only sound that greeted Zyndyrr as he came into the grove was that of oak leaves rustling and ribbons snapping in the playful grasp of the wind. All around him, paths snaked out through beds of sweet clover and low grass to doors left open to the elements. One of them presently squeaked against its frame as a gust caught it.

A small humanoid form made of straw and twigs lay in the dirt at Zyndyrr's feet: a child's doll left forgotten there, trampled by multiple feet all heading away northwards. The trail was fresh, probably not more than a day old. Other signs of recent and sudden abandonment could be found within the folk-made caves if the drow decided to look: fresh foodstuffs left in larders and even on tables; perfectly-good clothes hung out on a line between two saplings; a set of pieces left scattered in the middle of some unknown game.

Around the grove itself were signs and symbols of the people who had lived here: animalistic totems, carved of various types of wood or soft stone, were tucked into natural rock shelves, crooks of trees, and among the myriad plants that, to the observant eye, displayed careful pruned cuts telling of a tended garden.

A pair of dark eyes watched Zyndyrr quietly from the trees as he moved, blinking slowly and with effort, as they considered him.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Look to the woodland elves. Said a voice in his head to an elf as well. The forest is their heart and hearth. They are its warden. Yet what the hell did a drow care for such nonsense? His home was in the deep beneath the streets and roots both.

“Quiet.” He tried to blink that voice out of existence as he moved forth toward the grove, within it, and focused on the ribbons. Spriggans. He thought of those as he thought of elves. Just as well. Though there was no telling who the owners were.

Something that the trees had not made, if made from tree, lay at his feet. A dirty, dusted thing. It looked as ancient as the doorframe that squeaked in the breeze. Caves. The earthen surface version of them, anyway. Someone, something, had clearly made this place.

Where are they now? The drow looked around. He looked down. The fruit was not rotten. There was no mold on that loaf of bread. He was hungry. But he thought better about eating. Those clothes might have been worn only last evening.

“What have you left for me?” The man asked nobody. His words were given to the wind. He lifted a hand, fingers forming a fist, as if he had already forgotten what was in his grip. The doll, dead as a drowned dog, blinked back at him.

Why did he even have it in his hand? Why had he picked it up? The inhabitants of this makeshift village must have been out foraging, exploring, celebrating the morning away at a lake maybe. Yet…no one left? Not even a watchdog.

Perhaps something had happened and the residents had to abandon their settlement. Then again, perhaps he just did not give a shit. He shouldn’t…but he did. Something had brought him here, might even be watching him, but for now the drow stared off into the distance.

“I am free…” He breathed.
Her leaving me…
Eyes closed but not asleep.
Opened. What did Zyn see?

He saw that path at his feet.
The trail stretched northward.
There was a story where it leads.
Aimless, the drow walked forward.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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The path wound narrow around the edge of the abandoned settlement, cutting through part of a hill as it ascended through a copse of aspen trees. The tighly-knit grove was clearly sown not by the hands of any mortal race, but by the more ancient and indifferent forces of nature. A few leaves had already begun their seasonal change, standing out against the mosaic of pale bark and bright green like flecks of living gold rattling in the early autumn air.

The trees grew sparser and more diminutive at the crest of the hill, where they surrendered to a sunlit meadow of tall flowers and frizzy shrubs. The trail turned to the right here, following the edge of the hilltop before diving back into a darker forest of spruces and cedars. If he glanced through the trees, Zyndyrr might have spotted a patch of soft white shining in the trail, illuminated by the mid-morning sun.

A white horse stood in the middle of the trail, its large eyes staring at the drow as if in expectation. It blinked at him and huffed. It didn't seem to be scared of him; to the contrary, it held its ground in the path, lowering its head to nibble at a patch of clover growing alongside the trod dirt.

It might have been an average - though powerful-looking - equine but for the strange growth protruding from the flesh and hair along its neck and chest, as if a tree was trying to grow on the beast's hide.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Feet forward, these boots were made for walking, for the underground as much as for forests.
Northward bound, toward the scent of those who abandoned the settlement, the trail still fresh.
Where are you going? She whispered between his ears, within the shadowed hood of his cloak.
“Not now.” He whispered aloud, words hushed amid the wind, but a gentle breeze, rush of leaves.

A winding path, and round and round the drow went, past the aspen trees, somehow so ashen.
Golden leaves on their canopies, like a banner of billowing sunlight. But this air is so…stagnant.
Maybe it was just him. Maybe the voice within him was his imagination. Perhaps, yes, all along.
He brushed the thoughts aside. Focus your mind, Zyndyrr. The man told himself as he walked.

The woodland carpet carried the wanderer onward. The hands on the clock had all but stopped.
Hour. Minute. Second. Distant. They meant nothing when it came to this stillness. To this forest.
A sudden gust picked up and tugged at the man’s hood. Trees began to deplete at that hillcrest.
A verdant meadow greets a drow, unfazed by his race, defying his kind who might kill or contest.

No. He didn’t need to live in a cave. He isn’t the first deep elf to walk the surface. He knows bliss.
It was in darkness as much as light, where the trees were like the strings on a violin or on a lyre.
Then again, maybe he was just feeling the freedom of having no woman plague his mind. Liar.
He glanced back. Should he turn back? Where was he going? He didn’t know. Then he saw it.

There, screened between the trees surrounding, was the white on brown, sunlit, and stirring.
Movement. It was a word the drow may say when someone is in need to be slain by his blade.
The beast, however, looked like it was at peace, and he had no reason to murder it. Just gazed.
Though it was certainly not just any horse he’d seen. Brown and green, like roots, are growing.

Curious, the drow approached, his own movements slow, steady, careful so as not to startle it.
What have we here, then? It was as if the forest was trying to reclaim the creature’s flesh to it.
As if the earth deserved to overtake it. Whatever the musing theory, he moved in a calm circle.
“Shhhhhh…” Whether the horse was cursed, it was worth a closer look. Hopefully it won’t kick.
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The stallion's tail flicked lazily as Zyndyrr approached, but otherwise the animal remained at ease. Tame, or at least used to the two-legged beasts who wandered the land. He bit off a mouthful of the clover before lifting his head, pink-tinged nostrils flared to take an inquisitive sniff of the elf.

As Zyndyrr came close, he could see the features of the strange growth. It was like looking at a callous grown around an old wound, except that its branching edges were the texture and color of rough bark, and its center blackened as if touched by flame.

If the strange growth caused the horse any pain, he didn't show it, only pressed his muzzle into Zyndyrr's arm as if expecting a treat to be forthcoming, or as if to say come along now.

The Hunter crouched over the hoofprints left in the damp soil without expression. The escaped beast had passed this way without a doubt; his burden to find, his trophy to claim. So commanded the voice, and so it would be done. The unworthy must not find their way into the First World.

He'd once had a name, and a voice of his own, but now he was only a husk of a man - an effigy of cursed wood, his eyes hollow and sunken into the creased and cracked bark that was his skin. He didn't remember his past life. Only his gift. Only his master.

The Hunter moved on through the blighted trees at a steady pace. The many furs, tails and bones he'd collected covered his shoulders and back like a filthy cape. Soon he would add a bit of that ivory beast's mane to his collection.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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The drow had ridden enough horses, encountered more in the wild, to know that tail flick.
It generally meant agitation over something, or someone, despite the beauty in the swish.
Yet, this horse did not shift unsteadily—its movements lazy, as serene as trees and leaves.
The beast simply knew that it had a visitor. It remained to be seen where that would lead.

Despite the horse offering him its ease, Zyn moved in no less caution; a slow approach.
That tail might very well just have had a fly climbing it, but the drow maintained a distance.
“You’re a different breed.” He observed closer. It was ironic, really. Animals. These. Those.
He had put down thieves like they were nothing. Rotten meat. Horses, though, are different.

This creature in particular. What might have been a curse at first inspection may be inherent.
Certainly, there were animals of all kinds, from human to elf, horse to boar, and the in between.
Variations, especially where magic was a factor. If the earth hurt this steed, pain is not apparent.
One section of that ‘growth’ was like charred wood, ashen black. Curious. Closer. Then the whinny.

Does it like me? She or he? Zyn glanced beneath. It may yet help to address the beast properly.
“Here, boy...” He spoke soft and low as a breeze curled between his fingers and the steed’s mane.
He didn’t have much. He had even forgotten what was in his garments. But just then, he reached.
There you are. That doll. Why had he kept it? Not what he wanted. Zyn found raisins. And he gave.

The morsels of sweet fruit slipped between the horse’s teeth, eating out of the drow’s hand.
“All alone out here, hm?” Withdrawing his hand, Zyn looked into the distance. “Yes. Like me.”
For him, however, being alone never meant feeling lonely. I think we can relate. Looked back.
“Curse or no, this earth will not leave you alone.” Neither will 'she'. The horse gently breathed.

Its tail flicked again, in what way it would.
Zyndyrr narrowed his gaze within his hood.
“What is it..?” He turned toward those trees.
Something is coming… But he saw nothing.

We shall see. The horse turned again.
He was composed—if on the defense.
He began moving in another direction.
As you wish... Zyn followed as beckoned.

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Down the trail the horse led him, northward, into the untamed wilderness. Out of the burnt browns and golds of spent wildflowers and into the embrace of blue-tipped spruce and other ponderous evergreens. The stallion kept to an easy enough gait for Zyndyrr to follow, ears perked up at the bird calls and rustling of branches around them.

He carried himself with such familiarity that it seemed he must have travelled this path a thousand times before. Never did he pause to graze on a clump of clover, nor drink from a stream as they passed the clear tumbling water. He only broke his pace to look over at his elven companion with those fathomless pools of equine patience, to allow rest if needed.

The trail wound up and down, dancing in serpentine curves around rocky outcroppings covered in lichens from the era of gods; through groves of ancient cedars whose branches trailed curtains of moss. The morning passed, then the afternoon, marked more by the stretch of shadows than the oft-shaded sun, and the distant boom of an unseen thunderstorm.

They could both feel the faintest sense of heaviness alighting on their skin; that intangible weight of magic simmering in the air like waves of heat on sun-baked stone. It grew more intense as they came into an older section of forest where the old conifers looked bleak and sickly.

It was here, at a ragged edge between a healthy copse of trees and a patch of their cracked, gall-infested kin that the horse stopped for a moment with a sharp whinny. His tail twitched again and his ears laid flat against his skull. He did not like this place.

He turned to Zyndyrr with a huff before walking a few paces off of the trail and pawing at the dirt repeatedly. He would continue to do this until his companion decided to come over.

Perfectly preserved in a dry section of soil was another hoofprint, but cloven and quite a bit larger than the horse's feet. Anyone familiar with the wilds would recognize the prints heading into this desolate section of forest as those from an elk or deer - or some very large, primeval cousin.

Off in the gnarled, murky depths of the trees, something startled a flock of birds into flight. The horse bared his teeth with a low, irritated neigh.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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North. South. East. West. Only moments ago, the elf of the deep had been rather directionless.
Aimless. Purposeless. Wandering onward throughout this forest; a mind as blinded as blighted.
The Valen Wilds were not so alien to this drow, however. He had heard of Balewoods and blight.
Of Eldyr Tree and mysterious things; magic as thick as the air; spirits lingering in day and night.

Today, morning transformed into afternoon, and all around him the browns of the wild surround.
He was a victim in this forest, a pinprick, as meaningless as a drifting leaf in the wind, this drow.
Then again, other elves might teach that every leaf from any tree was worthy. He grinned at that.
“You do know your way,” Zyn mentioned to his equine guide. Both creatures walked; hand in hand.

Birds sang. Hummingbirds, as certain as the earth itself hummed, unless his eyes deceive him.
The drow didn’t know where either of them were going, of course, but stayed close, moved forth.
This stallion had a mind of its own, with its earthen growth, hoof in grass, a companion’s distance.
Look at this. He mused. We’re best friends already. Drow. Horse. Across moss. Before a looming storm.

Wood. Stone. Hello. Hood. Meadow. A lonely, lonely voice. A hollow voice. Oh, go away, you.
Branches creak beneath feet, leaves rustling, wind whistling, birds singing, disturbed trees.
The drow’s companion, that stallion, suddenly stayed his gait, offering the tourist a whinny.
That flick of its tail again, so certain in definition, so descriptive, as Zyn turned about to see.

The horse was agitated, but not with him. Stay alert, Zyndyrr. Was it her? He is…annoyed...
The drow turned back to the horse whose hoof stood in the earth, scraping at the very dirt.
“Shhhh,” Zyn whispered. Closer, fingers felt feathery mane, smooth root. “You’re okay, boy...”
The drow looked down. No horse’s footprint. Game. Elk or deer—whether prey or predator.

This stallion isn’t stupid. Surely there is more than meets the eye to get it so irritated.
Afraid, even. “What is it you see?” Fingers scratch the beast’s ears. “What do you hear?”
The drow were a species to be reckoned with, but still creatures, and beasts smell fear.
Zyn squinted into the forest, searching for something—composed, rather than agitated.

Then he heard the squawk.
And in turn he saw the flock.
He felt the breath of the horse.
One hand on his hidden sword.

"It's okay," Zyn reassured the stallion.
It's coming, Zyndyrr. He is a mountain.
He stood as still as stone, and watched.
The game is on. And it's his own thought.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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Such ancient anger. Is this what drew me back? That unwelcome voice commented in the drow's mind as he inspected the strange track. Was that a touch of fear, for just a sliver of a moment?

Keep your wits about you. This forest has fallen to a sickness that is both old and new.

Like a troll of elden lore, the Hunter moved with uncanny ease between the dying trees and dry undergrowth. His grotesque shoulders protruded in straight, splinter-like spines from beneath the mottled arrangement draped around him. The many small bones strung around his neck rattled like dry grass, but their tiny sounds were lost in the background of the wood - except to the most keen of ears.

More gruesome still was his arm, deformed by a woody overgrowth that superficially resembled a longbow. Man and weapon made one, imbued with a single purpose. If the half-mad creature that had once been a man could still be said to have such a thing.

Purpose. Ilse. That name used to mean something to him. Now it was but another stone at the bottom of a pond, but one drop of sorrow in an overflowing well. Ilse... Ilse? Was that the creature he hunted?

The Hunter pressed forward. He was hardly aware of the startled birds. Hardly aware of the sunlight, or the scent of decay, or the man's voice that spoke from the edge of the blighted forest. He no longer saw his world in colors, nor in shades of light and dark, but through the flare and flow of life energy.

Ahead, several forms shone like the beam of a lighthouse in the night. One was strange to him, but the other was one he had seen: the white beast.

He drew his other hand across the bow, leaving behind a sort of string that appeared neither vine nor spidersilk, but something in between. From near the trunk of a tree that oozed sap like tar, he plucked one of the growths from his shoulder like an arrow from a quiver and lined up his shot.

Watch out!

A splinter shot out of the decaying woods. The horse reared. What happened next, only Zyndyrr knew.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Bones. The drow had those. He had ears to hear too. He had both blood and wit. He will not lose either.
The environment he had been raised in was cavernous, no forest, and in its darkness roamed creatures.
The drow had followed this horse this far, moving as a shroud beneath woodland crown, eyes all around.
Watching him, following him. It's a sensation he did not forget. Then came frightened birds and stallion.

Zyndyrr’s ear twitched.
Rattling in the distance.
One sword at either hip.
This drow is ready for it.


The wind shifted in an instant.
Something is coming... It came.
Something whizzed by his face.
As he quickly shifted in position.

Zyn had stepped sideways to evade.
A splinter, a sliver, a horse’s whimper.
The stallion reared but he stayed near.
I am the cave. The blade. I have no fear.

Zyn was the mountain and the forest.
His equine companion kept at his back.
If that horse died, so be it, but not the man.
Sword in his hands, that drow faced forward.

Come, then!
He beckoned.
Come kill me if you can!
Battle stance, ready to dance.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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The Hunter's shot missed its mark. Deep down, he was glad of the man's quick reflexes: beneath the blighted bark of his flesh, he still longed for the chase. The bond of two souls caught in the passionate game of predator and prey; the mysteries of life and death drumming in the frantic beating of hearts; nature's never-ending trial of skill and wit. Even when all memory and identity had been erased, these emotions remained engraved within him.

But the beast didn't run. Nor did the man standing before it. They held their ground, waiting.

Was it a battle the cloaked figure, full of life and fight, demanded with the wave of his swords? Merely the hiss and growl of a cornered animal, the Hunter thought as he nocked another of his spines to the great bow with a twisted smirk.

This one flew straight for awhile before splintering into three - a fan of deadly spikes for his challenger. Calling upon his master's power, the Hunter quickly stepped into the nearby tree after firing. For him, it was a doorway. For his enemy, it might have seemed like an impossible trick.

A second arrow nocked and released from another position to the side of the first. Let him see what his prey would do when faced with the confusing barrage.

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His opponent was in the distance. That much was for certain. And they are an archer.
Of flesh, bone, spirit, male, female, something else, it did not matter. They would die.
Because, for a man like Zyndyrr K’yoshin, this encounter ends only with himself alive.
The drow heard a squeal behind him, the stallion pounding away, hooves in the earth.

It moved into the distance, whether to take off completely, upon leaves trampling.
Either way, Zyn’s hearing was distracted, taken into the distance—steadily breathing.
Swords up, a scimitar in either hand, brandished as if elven, but drowish in their craft.
Sharp, serrated, curved if jagged, black iron blades, and they could cut an arrow in half.

First shot, Zyn hadn’t known what to expect. Now he expected an archer to contend with.
Another projectile came his way as he listened to the wind. It breathed, and yet whipped.
Again, Zyn sidestepped to his left, aiming to evade the splinter—but there were yet three.
Concurrently, he brandished blades, slashing sideways so that arrows would be cleaved.

His evasion was successful yet again, but Zyn saw no enemy in the distance.
Where are you? In that instant, the stallion’s whinny was a scraping high pitch.
Zyn immediately turned around to face the steed, catching an arrow at his back.
He crossed his blades in an X and stepped just in time so that the arrow clanged.

It otherwise might have pierced his chest. Brilliant!
Zyn grinned. He was dealing with quite an opponent.
One who could teleport or one who had one assistant.
No matter. Chaos is a ladder. Zyn leapt in the distance.

He landed on a tree branch above his original position.
From here, the height would grant him with a vantage.
He could detect where any archer might next hit him.
Granted, if teleporting, his enemy had the advantage.

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Wielding a pair of curved swords, the slender figure deftly cut through the first volley with a quick slice. One was shaved apart as though put to a fletcher's knife, another sent ricocheting into the decaying forest floor. The last arrow parried just before impact. Then the figure was up, climbing as nimbly as a squirrel, to escape the Hunter's sight.

A greater threat than the horse - a more challenging hunt, a worthier trophy to claim. Trophy is power.

This was a phrase he'd repeated many times before, a mantra of madness that now only crossed his thickened lips in a guttural mumble as he stalked after the treed creature. He already had power on his side: the strength of a bear, the eyes of an eagle, the silent steps of a mountain cat, and the wits of a fox. At least, this was true in his blighted mind. For how long could his prey run without rest? How much a fight could it put up before tiring? How much could it bleed before it had no more to give?

The Hunter's life no longer had such boundaries. Now his breaths, like his steps, came slow and measured despite the excited quickening of his heart. His empty eyes glanced upward, into the branches of the trees, flicking to the betraying light of his enemy's life. Let the sword-wielder think himself hidden. Let him believe it until the Hunter's arrow found his heart.

I feel it using the trees, the blight... the voice in Zyn's mind explained as he crouched in the branch of one of the large trees. Do not pursue it into the blighted forest.

At least the forest behind them was still untouched by the strange disease. The tree in which Zyndyrr found himself in, too, seemed healthy and strong. Whether or not that was truly any defense against this enemy had yet to be seen.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Upon a smaller branch, the drow kicked off to land on a taller one higher above the forest floor.
Elves, above or under, were said to have the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox in their nature.
It isn’t much different for this one. With the ability to leap between trees, Zyn scanned downward.
The thick trunk of the tree he was on protected his back from a blind shot as he stood with sword.

More than one, of course. They were as much for offense as defense, serving to deflect—as proven.
This early in, there was no threat of running out of energy yet. Besides, Zyndyrr wasn’t here to hide.
He will find his enemy and cut through it or them like a knife through walnut pie. Yes, they will die.
The drow looked around, ready to leave his roost any moment to move on within this environment.

I feel it using the trees, the blight…
There it was. Her. That void in his mind again. A quiet chorus.
She is just a distraction at best though a curse at worst. Do not pursue it into the blighted forest.
Who is this? Witch?
Would the bitch even answer his question? I will pursue it into hell if I please.
‘Your unbridled arrogance has sealed your fate’, another drow had once told him back in the deep.

Yet here I am, Father... Yes. Here I stand.
He observed, looked leftward, rightward.
Searching for his foe, this expert archer.
To return the favor with a stab and slash.

Got you.
No. His eyes had deceived him.
Oh. You. Calm again is the white stallion.
It paced between the trees as if oblivious.
Or acting as an audience? Hello, my friend.

Elinyra Derwinthir
The Hunter's prey had leaped up to an even higher branch on the tree. Neither the tree nor its neighbors had been yet touched, and so he would have to rely upon his own two feet rather than the doorways his forest home provided him.

All the better for the chase, he thought.

He was still confident that the man had not yet seen him and took some time to deliberate on his approach. He could turn this into a waiting game - a game he'd become very proficient at over the years of his previous life - but the instinct of the man had been thwarted by the instincts of the beast. It took a contest of will to keep him from chasing his prey up the tree then and there.

From his position, the leaf-laden branches glowed more dully with life than the man, but enough to blur his outline against the backdrop of the canopy. It would be useless to shoot from his current position, so he altered course to continue his measured advance from the trunk side, where his enemy couldn't see him.

The horse paced anxiously through the trees, its energy ever-so-slightly tinted by the touch of the Gift. Vulnerable for a flash of a moment, then blocked by the girth of a tree. The Hunter would take the first shot that opened itself to him, he decided, regardless of the target.

Pressing himself close to the trunk's mottled bark, he readied an arrow and slipped around the tree, his form fairly well camouflaged by the texture and color of his reformed flesh. The man remained motionless above, searching the woodlands for his unseen foe. Obviously the prey had finer reflexes and senses than most folk he encountered, but he wondered how the man could deal with his other tricks.

The Hunter called upon the aspect of a stirge - a horrid bird-like creature that fed upon the blood of folk and beast - and felt its hunger flow into himself. Another set of spines sprouted from his shoulderblades. With a grimace, he broke off a red-streaked hybrid of plant and animal, and aimed for the tree's canopy.

The arrow would not fly straight, but rather it would seek his prey's blood amongst the tangle of branches. Let him cut it in twain at his own peril. If it struck true would take a fraction of his strength for the Hunter. If it did not... well, he had plenty more.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Finer reflexes and senses, yes, as befitted a creature of his species. Deep elves are yet still elves.
Naturally athletic, agile creatures, with or without magic as an enhancement, but not invincible.
Immortal, maybe, but this drow was on the lookout so as not to get shot and hear death’s bell.
A portal, maybe, is where his enemy would appear from. Question was: Is he indestructible?

In Zyn’s experience, any being could perish, and every being had a weakness. He will find it.
Keeping still, focusing eyes throughout the foliage, scanning around the trees in the distance.
The drow saw it. Heard it. Not the horse, not even the archer, but the projectile coming at him.
It didn’t matter what it did. His plan isn’t to stay and wait. Arrow came. He moved quick as wind.

Zyn’s objective was to determine his attacker’s position. Catching wind of an attack, he moved.
Just as the arrow had neared him, he leapt off his branch toward an adjacent tree, and he flew.
That arrow might strike the tree trunk where his back had been at. However, it instead curved.
Had the drow not sought to leave the tree completely, trying to dodge might have been worse.

As it was, a minor deviation in the arrow’s path had sent it slashing into that drow’s outer fabric.
It was the tail end of his cloak trailing behind him, skewering through an edge before he landed.
If his enemy had seeker missiles then that changed things amid these trees, there on the branch.
He had leapt forward, at an angle from where the arrow had come from, and he quickly scanned.

Hands still on hilts, Zyn swiftly withdrew from his person three shurikens and threw them as one.
Granted, he could not throw farther than his opponent could shoot, targeting toward his position.
Yet, as the flurry of shurikens spread, his intention was to instead gauge his enemy’s reaction.
With or without magic, his foe may not know. Hit or miss, Zyn spied where his foe ended up.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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The flurry did not find purchase in any enemy, but his plan bore fruit; a deep, cackling snarl came from the trunk of the tree he'd just sought refuge in. It must have seemed that the tree itself was laughing at him until a figure moved apart from the mosaic of moss and bark and resolved into the shape of a weird hybrid of man and plant - almost more plant than man.

The Hunter was as burly as a grizzly bear compared to the slender elf. Though he was standing about thirty feet away, he towered over his opponent. Even from this distance, other details quickly emerged that may have caught Zyndyrr's attention: The crooked visage of a smirk seemingly carved into his face; The greenish light glowing from behind his sunken eyes; The longbow-like branch melded to one of his arms, and the sharp projectile set to its string.

He was pulling back the strange weapon's string to fire again, but had not yet reached the tension to properly release it.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Standing on the branch, Zyn spotted movement, watched as his opponent came in sight.
His plan bore fruit—vegetables too, after a fashion. This man-plant was like that stallion.
Whether a spriggan, or a similar creature, this archer surely wasn’t just within Zyn’s mind.
He’d debate later on the hunter’s race. He already decided his enemy is prey, not predator.

Well, you’re a big one, aren’t you? The drow mused. An amalgamation of flesh and forest.
He wondered what a voice might tell him in the void of his mind but he heard no chorus.
No advice? Nothing witty? Go on, give me something witty. Zyn gazed at that grassy beast.
Caught him grinning. Returned it with his own smirk. Arrow drawn. Bowstring not released.

Suddenly, in that very moment, Zyndyrr remembered something. His father’s voice in a flashback.
‘I won’t flay her. Your pet wood elf will burn alive for her crime.’ His lord father was quite a man.
There were no trees in the deep where drow sleep, not like the ground where one now stands.
A breeze tickled his skin, leaves rustling, as either being was posed to make their own attack.

Maybe that arrow flew just then. Before or during or after it did, Zyn had moved. He, too, flew.
He did not leap to another branch but he fell from his current position to land below on grass.
As he did, Zyn’s left hand, still on hilt, unfurled three fingers, but this time no shurikens threw.
It was a bolt of flame that arced through the air to strike the archer around when Zyn landed.

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The arrow took flight in its chase, drawn to Zyndyrr's blood in the spirit of the monstrous creature invoked within it. But the elf it pursued was quick, and a second blighted bolt bit into the tree instead of its moving target. The Hunter already had another and was preparing to fire when Zyndyrr landed on the dying earth.

He snarled wordlessly upon seeing his foe. The elf replied with a projectile of his own that struck the Hunter's gnarled flesh in a flash of heat. He loosed the arrow in surprise, recoiling with a howl of rage as the fire hissed and fizzled against his hardened skin. Had it been a normal arrow, it might have buried itself in the forest floor, but this one righted itself and whistled hungrily for a target no longer shielded by branch and leaf.

The Hunter backtracked a few paces, muttering something incoherent, and a row of thorns started to grow along the length of his bow-arm.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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Both hands had grabbed at the handles of his scimitars as he landed and as his fire had arced.
Left hand occupied with letting that fire fly, Zyndyrr’s right hand was held high, blade raised.
Boots thudded on the earth, found purchase, grounded on the ground, amid a singed bark.
Or whatever it was that served as his opponent’s garment—rewarding Zyn as fire blazed.

Even if only for a moment before the Hunter had backtracked a few paces, within retreat.
That was enough of action to inform his own opponent that he was correct in his theory.
If it burns, I can kill it. Thoughts flashed by in a moment as Zyn landed within his crouch.
Timing was everything. An archer’s arrow flew, missed its target, while Zyndyrr flew down.

Archer prepared another hit for his target but was interrupted by the fire bolt toward him.
In that moment, Zyn was afforded a reaction, ducking low for the second surprise arrow.
It was a misplaced pluck of the string, not aimed, and that meant everything in archery.
The drow felt the rush of wind overhead as he crouched, and he got up the next instant.

Oblivious to the dynamics of his opponent’s person, along the bow-like branch on his arm.
Now is the time for action. So Zyndyrr burst forth, determined, dashing in between the trees.
He moved quickly, zigzagging, attempting to mislead his opponent, watching with every dart.
Every dash. The drow knew that his foe could vanish. For now, he advanced, rushing his enemy.

Elinyra Derwinthir
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The Hunter held his ground as the elf maneuvered towards him to close the gap, scimitar at the ready. Quick was the prey, but patient was the land and poisonous its barbs.

He waited until Zyndyrr was halfway to him before tapping one of the limbs of his bow on the ground. Thorns and brambles burst forth from where it touched the damp earth, covering the area around him in a dense layer of spiny overgrowth that reached to ensnare his enemy's eager feet as they ran or leapt.

Come, little squirrel, my teeth are waiting.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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In retrospect, Zyndyrr had expected his opponent to vanish once again or whatever he did.
Instead, the Hunter remained still in his position, raising Zyn’s suspicions for what is next.
No arrow came the drow’s way, no projectile to swipe aside, to break. No whip within wind.
Halfway to his prey, blades ready to parry, body ready to evade, eyes upon the earthen bed.

Spikes rose from it, like tangled vines of rose bushes bursting forth in treacherous thorns.
Even to a drow, an elf of the underground, with sunlight beyond rock, it's a beautiful thing.
That union of wood and bone, of leaf and limb, as Zyn’s opponent raised spikes for his feet.
Zyn didn't fall for it, so to speak, but he did leap; both forward and up, his hands on swords.

No matter the archer, a moving, arcing target is harder to hit in the air than on the floor.
Though perhaps his opponent would use a seeker missile once again. Blade ready, then.
Meanwhile the drow’s other hand produced three more shurikens as he glided overhead.
Coated in flame, the blades would strike center mass or either side the hunter moves for.

They would not cover every direction, obviously, but might serve as a distraction if anything.
Zyn, unless interrupted, would land a distance away from his prey, reaching another branch.
Thorns and brambles were little and less on the earth as long as he had a height advantage.
In elven agility, Zyn’s leap is yet not great enough to take him so high when he came to land.

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More projectiles flew for the Hunter, this time swathed in fire. But he was ready for it this time; the brambles shot up, forming a barrier of thorns that absorbed the shurikens' blows as the drow jumped for another branch - the supposed safety of his tree.

The Hunter grinned crookedly. The squirrel thought itself superior to the wolf because it did not understand that the wolf had friends.

The stirge had not served him - perhaps there was something unappetizing to this prey's blood - so he called on another aspect to aid him. There was another subtle shift to his character; the spines on his shoulders grown stiff like black hairs, with the slightest shimmer of something silken stretching between them; things probably not noticeable from the tree.

Moving away towards the first branch the elf had come from, he fired one of the black spines toward Zyndyrr, granting it the ability to split as he had with his first attack. Whether the elf dodged or parried made no difference, for what he was really aiming for was the branch beneath his feet, where the arrows would explode into a swarm of biting, harassing insects.

Zyndyrr K'yoshin
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