She is not comfortable with friendships, Foluwa thought to himself, and is probably unused to the attention. The druid smiled as he looked at the group. I am unfamiliar too, but I welcome the companionship.
“What has you so happy?” Luther said from his reclined position next to him. Foluwa glanced at the boy, unsure how to answer. How do you explain what it’s like to live as an outsider to your own tribe, and to yearn for nothing but a place to belong?
“I would not know where to start.” Foluwa replied, all the more aware of his accent, in the silence of the room.
“Why not start with the Whitefeather family?” Arobyn asked, “Tell us where you know them from.”
“I am not from around here,” Foluwa started hesitantly, drawing chuckles from his new friends, “I come from very far away.”
“Chult?” Scribe piped in quickly, excitement evident in his voice, “Is it true?”
“Yes,” the druid responded, and he almost smelled the thick jungle as his mind wandered back to his homeland, “My tribe dwells deep in the jungles of Chult.”
“I hear the island is infested with fearsome giant lizards, called dinosaurs. There were pictures in a book I read, and it was simply unbelievable!” the young bard gushed. Foluwa nodded at the boy.
“It is true. Some of them stand taller than castle walls. The are terrible creatures that can kill a man in mere seconds. They are best avoided, this I know,” Foluwa frowned, and stared down into his hands. Even the bravest of his tribesman had run in terror at the approach of one of these beasts, but the druid did not tell this to Scribe. There was no need to frighten the boy, as it was highly unlikely he would ever meet one.
“But you asked about Joss and his family, and the truth is, I never met them until today, sadly. And to have to deliver such terrible news..” Foluwa‘s voice trailed off as he thought of the trembling weak voice of the Harper agent, Joss. How he begged the tribesman to find his family, and tell them of his undying love for them, with his very last breath. The druid wondered, not for the first time, if Joss would have ever left his family if he thought there was a chance he would not return.
“An order of mages, called the Red Wizards of Thay, set upon my people in Chult. Their desire, likely, was some sort of experimentation, using my kinsmen as test subjects. I was not in the village when they took my tribe, but I followed, determined to stop them. When they reached the coast, they were set upon by Harper agents. I joined the fight, and my tribe was freed, fleeing back into the jungle. Some of the agents escaped, and I was taken captive by the Red Wizards, along with a Harper agent named Joss Whitefeather. We were dragged into their sea ship, and they fled Chult with us buried in the belly of their wooden beast.”
“The crossing was rough, the sea angry. I have never before been in a ship, in all my life, and this I know, I do not wish to be on one again.” the druid shuddered, remembering the screeching iron and groaning wood of the vast vessel. The feelings of stark terror that overtook him, and the calming words of Joss Whitefeather, who tried to keep him sane.
For a moment, Foluwa was filled with intense sadness at the thought of Joss. The storm was more terrible than any jungle beast, and it tore the ship apart like it were no more than a fragile toy. The sounds of screaming men, including himself, were everywhere. Death had come for him, and it had come with the icy cold hand of the merciless sea, pulling him into the depths to die forgotten and alone.
But he was not alone. When he had given up, it was Joss that had saved him, somehow. Foluwa could not even remember the details, just the tearing of wood, the air full of stinging splinters, and sucking in lungs full of water as he desperately attempted to breath. And then darkness and calm, only to wake afloat on debris, with an exhausted Joss keeping them both together. The druid wanted to tell them, but the words caught in his throat.
“The boat sank,” was all he could manage to them, his shoulders trembled slightly, “Nature, it seems, did not agree with the Red Wizards. Their power was nothing, compared to wrath of the sea. This I know.”
It was a long pause before Foluwa sighed and continued.
“Joss had saved me from the sea, and we somehow managed to wash ashore on the coasts of a great desert.”
“Correct. But Joss was weak, sick from exhaustion and wounds he took in the crossing. It took every ounce of my will to keep him alive and cross the desert. The burning sands of that place, the relentless sun, the thirst…” Foluwa himself was amazed that he could keep them both alive as long as he did.
“I carried him in the end. He could not walk. For days. More than I can account for. When we finally reached the end of the desert, something I did not think we would see, he died.”
The silence in the room was deafening. Where is the laughter? he thinks to himself, mourning it’s absence. He shouldn’t have told this story now, not after so much mirth had been flowing.
“But not before he tasked me with finding his family, and passing on his last possessions. It was important to him that his sons received his family ring, and his Harper medallion. So I traveled north. From the desert, and up the infamous Sword Coast. I saw the many splendors of your vast cities, and I walked the paths of your deep forests. The wilderness of these lands are like nothing I’ve ever experienced. And they are wonderful. This I know.”
“Will you return home now?” Scribe asked, his curiosity getting the better of him. Foluwa almost winced, but did his best to hide it. How to explain to the boy that even at home, he lived apart from his own tribesman? Did I ever truly have a home?
“I think not,” the druid said, nodding his decision to Luther, “I wish to explore this world more. And besides, I think I have found myself a new tribe.”
Arobyn looks to Luther, the two smiling their approval, and despite his cleverness, it seemed to take Scribe a moment to realize what ‘tribe’ Foluwa is referring to. The druid lays his hand on Luther‘s chest, his face serious.
“And this is why you must rest! My mother used to say, if you wish to run all day, you must first rest all night. This I know.”