Small Packages: Hylidia'a Choice
Hylidia was filled with nervous excitement as she walked up the docks of Briar Hills. Halflings were noted for their culinary prowess and they had long domesticated a variety of insects. The anticipation for a well spiced bowl filled with wriggling fare had carried the travel worn grippli botanist for the past week. She was also a bit nervous knowing that the most powerful known druid would likely immediately sense her secret and not understand what she had done.
Everyone was hungry as fishing only brought so much food and stopping at the docks of most port cities meant a possible confrontation from powerful slaver’s guilds. Many of the jungle folk aboard the Branded Betty had plenty of fight in them but as a whole the group was poorly armed. Rations had gotten smaller and smaller and for the last couple days had disappeared entirely.
When Hylidia had joined the embassy staff for the vanaran embassy she had expected a dull job that afforded her the opportunity to study plants outside the normal grippli territory. The vanara had indeed cultivated several fruit bearing plants she had never encountered and they had an elderly herbalist that taught her dozens of new herbs and applications. She had also introduced Hylidia to the variety of mushrooms that both consumed and animated organic tissue, a knowledge that saved her life.
Down the docks an elderly swashbuckler who Hyldia surmised was likely to be the infamous Jared Twist awaited them. After all how many half elf half goblins would be in Briar Hills anyway? The humans had sent Calvin as their bardic spokesmen, the vanara chose Korra one of their finest warriors, Hylidia was sent by the grippli on the basis of her education and station.
Hylidia’s curiosity led her to a minor act of will, releasing some spores that would be invisible to all who did not have a specially grown pale moss over their eyes. The light pale film interfered slightly with normal visual perception but she could see a variety of spores and pollens and how they interacted with the world. The spores came from the rare life saving fungus she had chosen to allow to grow directly into her liver. Thanks to botanical regents she drank on a daily basis it had a slight effect on her health but was not eating her into an early grave.
Hylidia’s spores would interact with all sorts of energies in different ways. She could easily see magic but was still learning to discern different kinds of magic from the subtle variations in color. Intelligent beings had something of an aura she was also still learning to read and interpret.
Jared’s aura was overwhelming and somehow heartbreaking. There was a power and light beyond anything the grippli had seen but there were also bleeding wounds seeping a kind of darkness that threatened to strangle the whole thing. If Hylidia had tear ducts she would have been weeping in that moment. The man before her was practically a force of nature yet he was struggling with an inner darkness that was fed by the trauma of his famed struggles.
Korra’s wrath tested the hero, but it was like watching a cobra fight a tiger, under the perfect circumstances the cobra could win but the tiger was simply too much. For all her rage and swollen pride she was a candle in a hurricane and the brief fight ended swiftly. The tiger of a man demanded information and like a scruffed youngling the vanara acquiesced.
Korra knew the important parts of the tale if not the details. A bunch of undead jungle orcs attacked the vanara. The zombies were easily defeated but their bite spread a fast killing infection that also made the dead rise, this happened quickly and soon the vanara were retreating to a secret city protected by having the only land passage being through the empty magma chambers of a semi active volcano.
Slavers happened upon the fleeing refugees and made easy pickings overfilling a small fleet of eight boats. Grippli and vanara being not enough for the greedy men they traded in a smugglers cove for more human slaves kidnapped from their swamp homes as well.
Unfortunately for the slavers they had picked up a stow away Hylidia and an infected orc in their haste. Figuring they could still sell the zombie they thought keeping it in a cage was adequate, it was not. Soon enough even the bulk of the slave ship’s crew was ready to mutiny which is when Hylidia made an approach to one, the rest was getting a set of keys and sheer numbers. The captain, his officers, and the infected were dumped overboard.
Hylidia saw the darkness threaten to overwhelm the hero’s aura as he reacted to the vanaran’s tale. She saw the light inside him brighten and dispel the dark thoughts he must have had in that moment.
“I am Jared Twist, General and Head Diplomat of Briar Hills. You will turn around and return to your ship as I confer with the Elder council, this dock is under quarantine and will be until you are cleared by our healers. I will send you ample food and water supplies and you will be able to send folk to pick it up at the end of this dock. Should any of you take a step off this dock that person forfeits their life, should a second and third try it you will find yourselves burning in our harbor. Is that clear?” Jared looked directly at Hylidia in that moment, his razor like focus was hard to bear as she saw his aura bright and dark in accord over his words, he would kill them all if they tested him and he’d not feel a bit of pity or remorse. He was in alignment with his convictions and deadly serious.
Before Calvin could speak she croaked out an exasperated yes. Calvin cleared his throat and looked down and Korra simply nodded. Hylidia realized she now spoke for the entire ship, that weighed on her as much as her secret as she turned heel and walked back down the planks of the dock, her companions followed.