Boom! A dim wakefulness stirred from murky depths within the dreamless void of a stunned unconsciousness. Insignificant awareness wrestled against the blackness of oblivion. The prone figure lay as if errantly discarded upon the leaves and mud of a splintered, unfamiliar woodland on Tigalda.
A sudden flutter of light shone brightly enough through shut eyelids for the prone figure to imagine he could still see. Boom! The sounds of magical battle again reverberated from the distance. The still figure instinctively knew that the battlefield had shifted to what must be a safe distance away, even as a throbbing headache threatened to erode what little hold of his senses remained.
Cold, wet ground soaked through his hair, cloak and soft leathers as he again became familiar with the soft sound of a light drizzle. The humidity of the woods made the air thick and heavy about him as he managed a meager, weary sigh. Throb! He winced with his first movements as billions of nerve endings screamed to recoil from the pulsating headache and aching body.
A decision to either rise and rejoin the fight alongside Ord-laf’s men or remain prone a few precious moments more presented a difficult choice that was rudely interrupted by the sharp sound of a crisply cracked branch. Erth’s mind raced to ponder the possibilities of just what horror may have caused that branch to break as his body dawned with feeling once again. Throb! The fleeting thought of how a goodberry would ease this torment was forgotten as a guttural growl chased away the thought of the broken branch and the momentary dread that accompanied it.
Lingering ambivalence over how to proceed quickly evaporated as relief washed over him. Rising into a seated position, surprise greeted his newly opened eyes both at the size of the crater before him and the gaping gash in his familiar’s hindquarter. There could be no doubt that he and Ulee, his wolf companion, had been of greater fortune than the few soldiers who had been striding ahead of him when the fireball had landed. He realized now he must have been blown back and struck unconscious as he considered the scene before him.
Ulee limped closer and pressed his snout gently against Erth’s neck as if offering comfort, to seek healing or both. Moments later the druid’s healing had the two companions solidly upright and striding onward toward the lingering sounds of battle. Erth resolved to see this conflict through so that this distant isle might be free of unnatural beasts and those with unnatural designs. Then, he and Ulee would somehow go onward still, toward other lands in hopes of the fruitful discovery of plant life. Yes, nature’s path would no doubt be full of signposts.