4.04 A Ranger Redefined

  In late spring, a curious note arrived at Izûn-Zîn’s cottage; a narrow scroll around the leg of an osprey. The scroll simply read: “Rasaford returns to the living nearby at the roots of the tallest cedar tomorrow at midnight. You are cordially invited.”
­  Izûn-Zîn decided to make sure he slept well that night. The following day he spent foraging and gathering the best the woods had to offer that day. By evening he had assembled a carefully prepared meal and packed it in a clean cloth tied tightly. He set out at dusk and made his way to the cedar tree early, sat nearby on a mossy stone, and waited, patiently and motionlessly.
  Gradually the tenants of the wood converged on the spot. Izûn-zîn found himself faced with a veritable conclave of animals, stag, badgers, bears, ostrich, unicorns, and even jackals—all peaceably gathering for the proceedings in the twilight hours. Thunderous footsteps heralded the arrival of a treant, one grown among cypress trees, from his appearance. All the while, Izûn-Zîn sat still in his place, impressed though he was at the gathering, his natural inclination to stay still and wait prevented him from betraying any reaction to the gathering of friends of the woods.
  After a while a humanoid figure emerged, a human woman a bit past child bearing years. She was dressed only in an uncomfortable looking cedar loin-cloth and an intricate network of runes traced in woad across her arms and bare torso. After surveying the scene, she reverently made preparations, laying a circle of rune stones in the midst of the gathering. Izûn-Zîn watched with intense interest the arrangements the woman was setting, the motions of his pupils hidden in his deepset beady black eyes. As the woman continued about the plotting circle, she lay a stone a yard from Izûn-Zîn's feet. She gave him an amiable nod.
  The lips of Izûn-Zîn's already wide mouth creased even further into an appreciative smile as he continued to watch, eagre for the ritual to unfold before him. The woman began an elaborate chant, pulling whisps of radiant power from the stones around her. The motions were practised, her phrasing immaculate; the druidess clearly was a master of the art of spellweaving.
  For the first time, Izûn-Zîn stirred. He stood with reverrant silence as the druidess wove her magic, drawing on the power of the natural. The process continued for some time, until the caster's body was glossed in sweat and the animals about became visibly restless. After a crescendo in her voice, the druid released a burst of white energy which orbited the cedar at blinding speed before darting away into the forest to the north. The assembled animals, as though breaking from a trance, fled the scene.
  Izûn took a single step back, and blinked, then looked back at the face of the woman, looking for an indication of her expectations.
  The woman, exhausted, sat down rather clumsily and cast a glance at the drughu, "It won't be long, he'll be here soon"
  The drughu nodded slowly, then raised his head and sniffed the air, looking around.
  Though Izun-zin realized first it took the druidess only a few more seconds to realize Rasaford's fate. A naked goblin had just come upon the oak, its shoulders proud like those of a civilized man. "I'm back, and thank you friends; have you two been properly acquainted?"
  "I suppose not," Izûn-Zîn responded.
  "Izun-zin, I'd like to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Ghleanna. Ghleanna, likewise for my companion Izun-zin…I hate to spoil a reunion but I'm rather famished; don't suppose there was a feast planned?"
  Quick as a flash, Izûn-Zîn pulled out his packed meal, and presented it to the goblin. "I thought you might be hungry."
  Rasaford smiled an exceptonaly toothy smile and sat down with the meal, the druidess watching in a mixture of shock and mirth. The new goblin began with the most civilized of intentions carefully unwrapping the first of the meats and breads but as his hunger failed to be saited, with each bite his eating became more frantic. A few moments later Rasaford had not only devoured the meal but most of the wrappings that came with it.
  Izûn-Zîn gurgled a deep hearty laugh. "Enjoyed that, did you? I wonder if it all tastes like you remember, friend."
  He sheepishly looked up at the drughu, "I hate to say it, friend, but I hardly tasted it, and I'm still famished…"
  The drughu nodded. He glanced back at Ghleanna, knowing that his "are you going to tell him, or am I?" expression probably wasn't apparent to her.
  The druid handed Izun-zin a mirror. "I don't think he realizes his new form yet."
  The drughu took the mirror and looked down at his own reflection. He sighed, and handed it to Rasaford slowly, facing it away from him. "When you are ready."
  The goblin snatched up the mirror, and upon realizing it wasn't food caught a glance of his reflection and gasped sharply. "Oh… oh dear…" the former werebear groused, "that's a bit of a step down the food chain isn't it?"
  "Don't lose heart, Rasaford. You are already the most noble goblin I know."
  "Ever heard the expression 'condeming with dim praise'?" inquired the anklebiter. "Perhaps we should discuss this further over breakfast."
  "It's quite an accomplishment." Izûn said in defense of his last remark. "It took you less than a minute. Think of what you can accomplish given time."
  The goblin grunted "Sure, sure, but did you hear about the food we're going to eat?"
  "Twice already, and I fear if we do not pursue it soon, I will lose count."
  Izûn put a hand on his new and old friend's shoulder and led him off in search of more sustenance.
  Ghleanna bowed to both of them and without a further word went to gather her satchel and departed to the north.

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