I shrugged and pointed out, "You're carrying a spear."
"Hmm. Good point." So he invited us to meet the rest of the group. They were traveling with a young women who was doing some sort of coming-of-age quest. She asked us to help her explore her self and who she wanted to become, which we attempted to do (without huge success, I'm afraid, but she was gracious anyway).
After we had done this, the brute warrior told us that he had a perfect sphere of fire! "I never use it," he told us, so he cheerfully gave it to us. Finally, we had found one of the artifacts we needed.
The woods, it turned out, were becoming much more hazardous. On our journey from the Macai to the tavern, we were attacked three times by groups of wolven. The fights were fierce and frightening, and several of us sustained injuries. Sunflower did a great job of putting us all back together, but she was beginning to run out of spells. We needed to replenish them quickly.
Fortunately, my pockets were practically bursting with coins from all of the monsters we had dueled. Just across from the tavern was a small spell-shop -- we just needed to get there. We saw one more group of wolven as we headed there, but we avoided them. We didn't want to risk confronting them when we had no way of healing.
At the spell-shop, Sunflower and Cedric listed the spells they needed to replenish their repertoire. I found enough money and jewels in my pockets to cover everything -- Rutger had some coins as well, but he saved them so we could pay for the evening's meal. I was pleased that we didn't quite need to sell all of the jewelry I had found... I had grown very fond my silver swirled clasp I took off of one of the first monsters we killed.
Our spells replenished, our wounds all healed, we walked out of the spell-shop with renewed cheer. It didn't last long though -- we were attacked by a large group of wolven right in front of the spell shop! I briefly wondered whether they were in cahoots with the shop owners, but then I had no time for speculation as I devoted myself to fighting for our lives.
Eventually we conquered these wolven as well, but once again Sunflower's services and spells were needed. It was a good thing the monsters were carrying plenty of coins stolen from other unfortunately travelers, because we needed them. We walked right back into the shop and replenished Sunflower's spells. Again. Fortunately the second time we left the shop we were not attacked. If we had been, I'd have been suspicious indeed!
We decided to head back to the gypsy camp and talk to Esmerelda. On the way, we thought we'd stop in the holy clearing where we were going to perform our ritual -- if we ever found the rest of the required items, that is. We figured if we familiarized ourselves with the place and practiced it, we would be better prepared.
Right near the holy ground was the hill where I'd found my treasure box that morning. I don't remember what that path was called, but lots of people said it was haunted or cursed. I don't know about curses, but it sure was profitable. I looked where I'd found the previous box, and to my delight I found another treasure box! This one was booby-trapped, but I was alert and disabled it without harm. Then further up the path Rutger spotted yet a third treasure box -- and this one didn't even have a trap! Cursed this place may be, but the curse of being rich is a curse I'm willing to risk.
I started attempting to pick one of the locks, when Lauren called a warning -- wolven approaching! We were ready for this though. We were just a few yards from the holy place, where we could not be attacked. We didn't have time to fight more monsters; we had a ritual to prepare for! My hands full of treasure boxes, my sword tucked under my arm, my companions around me, I sprinted to the holy ground.
We made it with time to spare. The wolven stood on the path and mocked us, but they couldn't enter the clearing. They called for us to come out and fight, instead of hiding like cowards. They should have been thanking us -- at least we didn't kill them, like we'd killed every other wolven we'd encountered.
I fussed with my new treasure boxes for awhile, half-listening while the others in my group discussed the ritual. I didn't have any initial success picking the locks though, so I put them aside and joined the group. We plotted out who would stand where, who would hold what, and what to say.
We relaxed a bit in conversation, then another group of wolven spotted us from the path. "Come out and fight," they cajoled us. We were finished with our planning anyway, so we approached the path, swords drawn. Among the wolven was an archer. That made them harder to engage, since they had the advantage of distance. An arrow hit Jonah right in the neck, and he dropped to his knees. This was a pretty dirty trick, because most warriors in the land have a code about not hitting the head or neck. It's not honorable.
Then Cedric cast a spell -- a teleport spell -- on me. Time froze for a moment, and I could move wherever I chose while everybody else was motionless. I quickly darted right behind the archer. When everybody "unfroze", I used the one semi-magic skill I possess: I sapped him. If I can sneak up on a person, I can render him unconscious with a touch of my hand. The archer crumpled like a discarded toy, and I immediately struck a killing blow. Then the odds were in our favor, and we quickly took care of the rest of the group.
I guess even wolven have some honor though, because as I was searching the archer afterward, he gasped out, in his dying breath, "Tell him.... I'm sorry.... for hitting his neck!"