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[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/KCiSlpi.jpg?1]] [font "Times" [size15 That bone-white visage stood still, flickering across from the fire, the black, barely visible figure that held it difficult to see with the flames in front of her eyes. And the noise, in the brush around them, was something else. It stood, arms still held slightly aloft, so still, as the thick film of power in the air moved like the blur of heat shifted the figure's stature. The hands were pale, five-fingered, bluish, ashen, streaked with something black and thick.
The bonfire smelled of heavy, perfumed herbs with a sharp, acrid edge of burn on them, among the smell of hot, iron, and burning hair that cut through. The sizzle of burning fat, giving a wrong sort of savory smell, moved suddenly closer from the surroundings. The shift of what looked like barely glowing embers, dripping off of this shape that wasn't easy to see.
The figure behind the fire moved, suddenly, producing some handful of dry, sandy leaves and tossed them over the fire. The smell of blood thickened, as did a burnt green smell. There was what sounded like a cough, and the shrouded figure shifted again, pushing their hand over the mask, pointing to the hunter intruder.
With that, the underbrush near Eleonora parted all at once and the bulky, shivering form of a beast pushed out, head swinging around, blindly. The face off of what looked like a canid with too many teeth had been stripped, skinned, strips of flesh still clinging to the cut, ribbed neck. The interior of the skull, maw opening wide, glew with that same hot ember that had been skulking in the bush around the fire.
The things head swung, blind-looking, and snapped suddenly towards Eleonora. The figure shifted, the magic swelling and dropping to a different frequency, like taking a hill at a gallop too quickly. The creature's muscles bunched and it lurched fluidly forward, looking unsettled, moving as if pulled by strings, too quickly, hard to see, head shaking slowly as it moved.
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[tab ] [i Great.] Eleonora thought to herself, the hairs on the back of her neck rising slightly in apprehension as she heard the rustle of whatever she was dealing with disappearing from her view into the underbrush of the surrounding area. [i That could be anything. This could be a cult- a forest spirit, an entity-- hell, this could even be a pissed off fae. That's not totally unheard of...] All she was certain of was that she didn't want to be caught off guard in this much of the swamp-- if she needed to fight or even run she needed stable footing to improve her accuracy.
[tab ] The image of the skeletal face of what seemed to be a deer's skull remained etched well within her mind as she tentatively stepped closer to the fire, placing a hand at the ready to the sword on her hip, taking in the smell of smoke from the flames and trying to identify anything in the scent of the fire- trying to focus in on if this were the burning of herbs or incense in a more traditional ritualistic fashion, the more objectionable scent of burning hair or fur, or that metallic scent of blood, and all the while feeling that thick blanket of magic that permeated the air. Overall she was just trying to find something-- anything that would give her a hint of what she was dealing with as she kept her eyes on the edge of the lit clearing.
[tab ] She did not want to draw her bow, only to have something lunge at her- nor her sword to unintentionally throw out intentions of a fight- nor even dare to speak in this place, not yet anyway. If there had been anything she had learned over the years, it was the power held in the illusion of bravery, as well as with her features skewed below the edge of the hood of her cloak- the illusion of being a man- which helped particularly in dealing with [i human] type monsters. As such, she found herself carefully glancing back and forth between examining the area around the fire and back to the surrounding forest area, hand on the hilt of her sword, waiting.
[right [pic https://i.imgur.com/KCiSlpi.jpg?1]] [font "Times" [size15 Well within the swamps, the fire stood, flickering through the thick trunks of the trees, tall in its wide berth. What initially was a reflection off of wood turned into an open, shimmering flame, accompanied by the sound of voices. Not of a group, no bodies were seen around the flames, but they came from the air itself.
Coming around one of the wide, gnarled trunks revealed a glimmer from behind the fire. A pale, white face, a figure, shrouded in black, with the skeletal face of an antlered creature, reaching bone white up and shivering with strings of beads cast between them. The tall figure stood still, the only movement in their arms, long fingers curling as it took view of the emerging hunter.
With the fire between them, it was difficult to see what made up the head of shadow that was between them, but it was something before the shrouds of the figure that was sizzling in the heat near the flames.
The air had the acrid tang of magic on it, hanging thick and heavy in the air, and on its stagnant current were carried those voices.
"[B Something stirs,]" came the whispering rasp of an ill-used voice as the hands began to fall from their aloft position.
Something in the heap at the base of the cloaked figure's body, on the other side of that fire, shifted before streaking in darkness into the woods ensconced in shadow away from the fire. Elle could hear it moving out in the underbrush somewhere in her periphery.
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[tab ] [b "Be wary of the woods now, y'hear? People've been going missing, likely drowned in the swamps- best for a girl like yerself to make a point to avoid it, stay out of trouble."] It was warnings much like these that were a kindness to all passing travelers, stopping within the settlement to rest briefly, perhaps to stock up on some supplies, before continuing onward with their journey. It wasn't exactly the sort of place that screamed 'bustling upcoming town'- no one would go out of their way to come here.
[tab ] Except of course, perhaps, Eleonora- who had already heard the tales of the supposed creature cursing the swamps surrounding the town from travelers three cities over- and as one of the few who had actively chosen the path of seeking out trouble and generally ridding the country of their monsters, she had found her way here, specifically, and had taken up a room in the tavern, intending wholly on reaching the bottom of this.
[tab ] So yes, the warning that the tavern keeper had gruffly given to her which resonated through her head even now, having left behind her horse in favor of being able to traverse through the swampy undergrowth a bit easier, not realizing she was looking for trouble, had been helpful-- it told her exactly which direction to go in order to find what she was searching for. The plan was to find whatever or whomever was in this swamp, take care of it, and collect the bounty for making the forest a little less lethal during the evenings for travelers, even though she was strongly of the opinion that if one couldn't take care of themselves traveling at night, they would do best to simply not travel at night.
[tab ] She had left the settlement following in the general direction people had told her to avoid around the beginning of the time that the daylight began to fade in the sky, and pushing forward into the woods, until she almost required a torch to be able to see the next placement of her footsteps, but now she had caught sight of the smallest wisp of light ahead of her, causing every rational part of her to go [i 'you're going to get snatched, fool'], signaling that she was going in the right direction.
[tab ] The wisps lead her forward, deeper into the wood and over a treacherous path full of mud and muck, dotted with the occasional undergrowth and fallen tree, until eventually she spotted the outline of a small clearing and a distinct crackle of a fire, which she warily approached, trying her best not to let her feet betray her as she tried to get a closer look.
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