" A little while before sunset would do, just in case. " Emil corrected them gently. He stood up and extended key to them. " Remember - if you come a moment after sunset, we won't be able to open the doors for you, and your best chance to live would be to flee as far as legs can carry you, kind strangers. You look trustworthy, though, so we will trust you to follow our wishes. " he said, and he bowed his head lightly in respect. " At a side, you have an old concealed bridge, that goes beneath the waterfall. You can reach the other side by passing upon it, though I have a feeling you'd figure out how to get there easily anyway one way or another. " child just smiled a little, indicating that, whatever they are and whichever their means of travel was, that he won't pry to find secrets of their origin.
Emil stood up too, and he took the tray with finished tea, and, with quite strength for a ten year old, he playfully also took and carried his chair in another hand, leaving them.
After one adult came after him to carry remaining chair and table, Xia transformed so she could carry him to other side again. Erdel seemed more quiet after the tale, and thoughtful, but he followed them to other side is step too.
" From miasma and danger involved with being in its presence, it seems demon. It eats people when it's upset, so it goes more for theory of demon, I guess, though he sounds too nice for a demon... " Erdel murmured with a frown, seeming withdrawn and thoughtful. " There is a war between demons and spirits, and whatever he is, he seemed to have been defeated by the other side- if he was Spirit, demons found and attacked him, and if he was Demon, Spirits found and attacked him... That part of story checks out, I think. I am not as sure for the rest of it. It's a bit eerie to me, sire... But I don't feel any heartbeat inside. Maybe it's protective spells they talked about.... "
"That's what confuses me," Svarik said. "It sounds like a demon, but the thing that comes out after sunset and makes the land dangerous sounds demonic as well... even more than him. I guess we will find out if he decides to show up."
" So, we are going in? Definitely? " vampire asked slowly - he seemed to be torn, as on one side he really wanted to do so, but on the other, everything in situation seemed shady, so he was worried for king's safety. " We must be careful then... Maybe I should go first.. We don't want him to eat you if he gets upset or something... And should we tell Xia to grow smaller again not to possibly upset him? "
"That's questionable. She will want to protect me too, and this we we can fly away quickly. Even if smaller, he will sense which she is anyways. I think I would let her to choose the form she finds best for the situation when we get there..." Svarik said thoughtfully. "And yes, we are going. I would like to see who this forest god is, and if we can help him somehow. But you can go first, and if something happens, we fly out..."
" They wouldn't let us in, if they thought we can do anything to harm him, so we ought to be careful in any case.. I will go first, and you will carry the key, so he sees you are allowed in... " vampire murmured, and they did so indeed - Svarik used elegant key to unlock the massive doors, and they cracked a little as they opened. Vampire slowly went in first, while Xia followed Svarik in form of a winged fox, in step.
The place seemed as if it was trapped in time - the period was clearly archaic, but fabric decorations on walls that survived were scarce, but carried weight of the past in which they were once bright and pretty, in beautiful combinations of black and emerald. The tables, the cupboards filled with ancient books, corridors, stairs, it was all very nice and neat, even though air was chilly on same familiar way - king could feel it as familiar scent of miasma, though, unlike one he felt with Ben Temallion, this one was just sedimented and dissolved in the air, making it a little harder to breathe, but not appearing as if something that could harm them actively.
Place felt somehow sad, though. Only light coming was from the torches lit around walls, and while it wasn't dark, lot of plants were planted in pots all across the rooms - and creature apparently used some of its own powers to make them grow, but plants still seemed kind of unhappy and dry, as it was unhealthy for them to bloom in complete darkness.
As they walked around, it was apparent one thing that slowly started to make them feel a little eerier indeed - no matter how far they went and what direction they took, it seemed as if corridors were somehow moving and changing their direction, because there appeared to be no way out. They had feeling something was observing and watching them, and in order to do so, not letting them find way out....
"Hello," Svarik said quietly, knowing that whoever is in the fortress can hear them. "We are just travelers who came across this place, and would be pleased to meet you. Would you like some music?" he asked, waiting for an answer in the form or wind or flickering torches, like Emil told them.
Nothing happened, and nothing disturbed him, only the focus upon them grew firmer - whatever was observing them, seemed to grow more intent, following with bathed breath what they were doing and giving them permission to do so.
Svarik nodded a bit at the lack of refusal, and took out his flute. He started playing a nice calming melody. It had no words, but the scent and feeling it brought suggested it is a song about green forests and growing trees.
The song seemed to linger strongly within the magical creature, and at one point, they could hear a noticeable sigh of content and longing - it seemed to sadden, but also please him.
It seemed the soft tune convinced him to show himself. Slowly, wind started to blow through the halls, as creature materialized slowly close to them, elegant slow streams of power washed around them... And around the corner, they could feel a presence of some creature, watching them. It was hiding behind wall, and peeking out carefully, following their reaction to him, observing them from afar still where it felt safer.
With his words, slowly, the creature came forth - it seemed somewhat thin and sickly, but still, it was kind of strangely pleasant to look at it, as there seemed to be some kind of silent gentle dignity and softness both bound to him, that made him appear rather graceful and much of a balm for the eyes. It seemed to be some sort of satyr with long elk horns, and soft emerald fur overgrowing skin filled with lot of ancient scars. Both its beard and hair were emerald, and his big vulnerable eyes were bright emerald too - though, judging by his nature, king could feel he was unmistakably a demon, no matter how beautiful he looked outwards.
" I would like that... " it whispered in thick southern accent, with a little rough tone of someone who doesn't speak many words - observing the company with timid vulnerable curiosity beneath the thick brows, tense and fearful, as if he could flee any moment, at any rough unkind word... But he was rubbing his hands nervously and glancing at king's peculiar flute, in sad hopeful expectation.
Creature leaned against a wall, and silent, it listened for a while, enjoying the intricate pattern of melodies and shivering a little under their weight - it was rather sad and pitiful to observe how longingly he accepted it, it being something he lacked so deeply, the scent of the forest and warmth of companionship.
At one point, though, he made dismissing gesture with his hand, and suddenly, Svarik's flute lost its sound, silenced by the creature's powers. Demon apparently found the empty Hall a no place to make them stand like beggars - and he turned slightly, and gestured them with an elegant wave of his long fingers to follow him somewhere, with the act officially acknowledging and accepting them as his guests.
Creature walked more slowly, limping a little, it seeming that it brings it some pain to move. But in end, soon it brought them to some kind of little cozy living room. Furniture was old, but it looked comfortable still, as it was soft and kept clean, being one of rooms creature must have spent lot of time in. It sat them down upon two armchairs at the table, while it left to the cupboard in corner of room. Creature looked much bigger from up close, at its around 2 and a half meters of height, and using edge of its long sharp claws, it started to cut out some food carefully for them, silently making them a quick meal, doing so slowly, as his hands seemed to be trembling.
Other animals were happy to just hide in a bag, while Xia seemed rather curious, though little fearful, not laying eyes away from their mysterious host.
Soon, he came back, carrying trays for Erdel and Svarik. He put plates before them, with same ellegance and in same silence. It held lot of peculiar strange sorts of odly colored kinds of fruits and vegetables, some grown by him and some by his priests, his part of the harvest, coming from inside of fortress without sunlight, having an apparent dimmer color and drier look, though it had astonishingly great. Amids vegetables that were fresh and numerous, and bread that was still warm though probably baked in the morning, there was a big chuck of overcooked meat on honored place on the plates of them both - it did not appear as fresh, but as creature probably had lot of vegetables, but little meat in its diet since the priests didn't groom many animals here since long ago were eaten by the monsters... through reluctantly, demon smiled a little contentedly as it gave considerable part of its meat share for them to eat, probably in its eyes it being a rare treat it wanted to share with them as a good host.
Erdel indeed didn't seem too happy, doing this apparently weighting on his conscience. Seeing vampire's frown and hesitancy seemed to make Forest King anxious, though.
" You fear tricks, do you not? " he bid quietly and sadly, observing the vampire with intent look, some cold wind lingering around him as he was a little upset. " There is only little, little salt in the meat... But it is low trick. I would never... " he said - sensing Erdel's distress, he probably assumed vampire may not want to eat because he fears he will be bound by power of salt in the food and be tricked to do something he doesn't want to, and he felt unhappy about that.