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11.2 Chrysanthemum

# 2162 11 - 14 mins. 8

We hopped out of the tree and crept past a sleeping Tigala and Zef on our way over to the tent. It was eerie, walking through the dense fog in the middle of the night. No one else was up except for a few guards patrolling the walls. With the rate that this fog was spreading though, they would be out of eyeshot soon.

We rounded the back side of the lodge, closest to the farm exit. It was closed, but there was a smaller door built into the wall for individuals.

I looked at the tent and couldn't tell whether it was open or closed. "Do you think she already left?" I whispered to Lolan.

He whispered back. "I don't think she'd risk it. The fog isn't heavy enough yet."

I nodded and leaned against the ruined building, waiting for Tallesia to emerge, that is, if this fog was actually being created by her.

We waited there for a few minutes as the fog slowly grew. It got to the point that I could only see a shadow of the palisade when I finally heard a noise. It was subtle—the slight crunch of earth beneath feet. It could have just as easily been someone rolling over in there tent, but we were ready for something to happen.

We stayed where we were against the wall of the building and watched as Tallesia came into view. She was fuzzy through the haze, but I could still make out her long blonde hair against dark clothes and the confident bounce to her step. She walked toward the gate, and once she was out of view, I headed after her and gave Lolan a tug to follow.

We walked slowly, trying not to alert her or the guards of our presence. I felt around with my magic to try and place the plants nearby so that I would avoid stepping on anything that would make noise. I still held Lolan's arm, so that we didn't lose each other in the fog.

Tallesia exited through the small door in the palisade in the direction of the fields and closed the door behind her. We waited until she was through and then did the same thing, trying our best to be quiet and also keep up with her. Lucky for us, the fog worked both ways. It kept her from being seen, but it also kept her from seeing others.

We crept along outside the walls on the dirt path, Tallesia's silhouette in the distance. I ducked off the path into the fields just in case she decided to disperse the fog, but we were still probably too close to the colony for that.

She walked, casually ahead of us, and we followed behind her without her knowledge. By the time we reached the treeline, the fog was more spars and it was easier for us to hang farther back and take cover behind trees. She walked out to the clearing in the woods where we had met with Rodrigo that same day and stepped into the middle of it. There was no one else there from what I could tell.

Lolan and I crept along the side of the clearing, trying to get to a good vantage point without being in the way of her if she decided to go back, and I was glad I did too.

A moment after we had found an old log to hunker down behind, I heard a crunch of leaves in the direction we came from. A figure stomped through the woods lacking all of the grace that Tallesia displayed. He stepped into the clearing where the moonlight showed his tattoos and spiked hair. Galia. Lolan was right after all!

"Heya," he said. "So what are we doing out here?"

"Patience," said Tallesia. Her voice was crisp in the night air.

"Ugh, I should have slept in longer. I hate being early," said Galia.

More footsteps made their way through the forest. It sounded like more than one person, though they were still quieter than Galia. The shadows glided through the forest and then stepped into the clearing, one at a time.

First was a shorter Elf. She was about up to the height of Tallesia's neck and had light skin with dark hair. She carried with her a bow and shortsword and wore dark clothes that were hard to make out in the limited moonlight. Behind walked a tall male Elf. He had long brown hair and a cloak that hid the sword scabbard poking out at the bottom of it.

I squinted to try and get a better look at him. That was the Elf that had helped us escape when Lolan had broken into Galia's tent. They're working together? I thought. I gave Lolan a look and saw that he recognized the Elf as well.

"So nice of you to join us," said Galia sarcastically, looking at the tall male Elf.

"We were further down in the colony, and got the signal late due to the distance," said the tall Elf. "I'm sure Tallesia understands."

"It's not a problem," said Tallesia. "We all made it after all. Did anyone have any problems sneaking out?"

The tall Elf shook his head, as did the shorter one.

"No," said Galia. "Those guards are stupid." Tallesia did not respond to Galia's antics.

"Well then, we can discuss details," said Tallesia. "Tomorrow night, during the Dwarven funeral will be our best chance to strike. They will all be preoccupied and won't be paying much attention elsewhere."

"Hah, that's cold, even for you," said Galia.

"She wasn't finished you dimwit," said the tall male Elf.

"Hey. You wanna say that again old man?" said Galia, looking up at the Elf.

"Cut it out," said Tallesia. "I don't want anyone to notice I'm gone. Let's make this quick." After a moment, she cleared her throat. "I'll be the one to go after our target, but I need the rest of you to run interference," she said.

"What does that mean?" said Galia.

Tallesia drew a deep breath and rolled her eyes. "It means that the rest of you will be making sure I don't get caught. I need you focusing on the weather so that I don't have to." She pointed at Galia.

"Luvon, you can do the same, but try and stay on top of the hill to get a bird's eye view of what's going on." Tallesia spoke to the tall Elf.

"And Leena. You can come with me," she said to the short female Elf. "We need a small group so that we can get in and out without notice and you seem to be best suited for that."

Leena nodded and said, "You got it!" in a very feminine, high pitched voice. It was almost cheery despite her rough exterior.

"Luvon, you'll need to help out with weather conditions, okay?" Luvon nodded. "We'll want it foggy like tonight."

Just then something happened that I was unprepared for. The log that we were leaning on gave way beneath me. A branch snapped off and sent my chin slamming into the top of it. Tallesia and her group heard the noise and stopped their conversation. All heads turned toward us.

They waited a long moment staring in our direction. We didn't dare move.

"Spread out and search the area," said Tallesia.

Her team fanned out and all started heading in our direction. While I was terrified to move, I was more terrified to stay and find out what they'd do if they caught us. The other footsteps in the forest made it a little easier to go unnoticed now as well. I put a hand on Lolan's shoulder to tell him not to run, and I began stretching bushes to cover the view of our escape, they emitted a green glow, but it was faint and I tried to only affect areas hidden behind trees so that our pursuers wouldn't spot us.

Once I had slowly moved a few branches and twigs into place, I patted Lolan and we both headed for the nearest forest edge. We walked slowly and kept low to the ground as the other Elves closed in on our hiding spot.

"Over there!" shouted the short Elf, Leena. She was pointing in our direction. "I see them." Again, her cheerful tone did not match the look she wore. But there was no time to think about that now.

Leena started running after us as she drew a shortsword. We didn't have time to play it safe, but at the same time, if I used my magic blatantly, there would be no doubt that I was one of the people who had been spying on them. And if Lolan used his magic, well, it would be confusing for them, but I wasn't sure we wanted to burn down the forest.

We ran as fast as we could. The chase was on now. Behind us, the group of Elves charged through the forest with Leena in the lead. She was quick too.

As I was checking for her over my shoulder, I wasn't paying as much attention to my surroundings. I tripped on a fallen branch and went skidding through the brush. This seemed to give Leena increased vigor as she raced after me. Lolan stopped and came back for me, but it was no use. She would be on us in seconds.

Well, here goes nothing, I thought. I used my magic to swing a full tree branch at Leena. In the darkness and with the confusing green glow, she hardly knew what was happening. The branch caught her in the stomach and launched her into the darkness of the forest. I used the opening to get back up and continue my run with Lolan.

The rest of the group, however, was still catching up. One point in our favor though was that they seemed to be having trouble placing us. I was pretty sure they had cleared all clouds from the moon to get more light to work with, but the moon was only half-lit and the trees blocked a lot of its light from the forest floor.

Luvon was in the lead now. He ran swiftly through the forest. Even his long hair flowed with elegance. He ran up to our left side, trying to flank us as we ran. We couldn't afford to let him do that. If I could just get him out of the way, maybe we could sneak out of here the rest of the way. I hated having to use my magic again though and make it plain as day that I was the one out here spying on them.

The Elf was succeeding in flanking us on the one side. I heard a crunch off to our right and saw another figure close by there. They were boxing us in until they could corner us. We had to do something.

I didn't want to attack Tallesia, because she would know it was me and she was the last person I wanted to know. So I went for Luvon instead. He had helped us before. Maybe he wouldn't tell anyone if he saw the green glow. Yeah, it was a long shot, but hope was all I had.

I swung another tree branch at him. This one I swung low, at his feet. He jumped and managed to land on top of the branch, riding it like a log. I pulled the branch back the way it had come from, knocking Luvon onto his back. Then I pulled up vines to bind him in place.

We ran his direction. Not close enough that he'd see us, but close enough that we'd be able to lose Tallesia and Galia pretty quickly. Once we had passed Luvon, who was clawing at magical vines, Lolan grabbed me and pulled me behind a tree. He quickly fired an arrow closer to the edge of the forest. For a moment, there was no sound, and then I heard it impact the forest floor. It was stopped by a dry bush that shook and rattled on impact.

I used my magic to swing a branch in the area where the arrow impacted as well. It was enough to make the green glow faintly visible through the trees. I heard Galia say, "I see them," as the footsteps continued past where we hid behind a tree. When they were far enough to not hear our footsteps, we made a slow escape to the edge of the forest.

Once we reached the edge, I grew a vine up a tall tree on the edge of the forest. We climbed it and I wrapped vines around higher branches as seats for Lolan and I. The tree overlooked the dark farmlands and the distant hazy view of the palisade surrounding the colony. We sat in silence and waited.

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