Gwendolyn hustled out into the private garden of the Warden’s headquarters, her cloak hastily tossed over her shoulders. Turgis had a goofy smile plastered over his face as he waved in greeting to her.
“What the hell are you doing here?” She asked fiercely, pulling him away from the window and down a well-forested path. Turgis laughed at her discomfort, gesturing behind him to where Keita hid in the woods. “I thought you were smarter than this, you know most of the Wardens here wouldn’t think twice about turning you into fertilizer for trespassing.” Turgis rolled his eyes.
“Aye, well, I wanted to see you again.” Gwen snorted.
“Right after I caught you with a new lady? You might be dumber than I thought.”
“Bah! I’m old enough to be Keita’s father. I was just trying to keep her out of trouble.” Gwen gave him a doubtful look.
“So why are you here now, with her?” She stopped walking away and turned to stare at him. She’d led them to a small grove beneath a huge willow tree, the leaves drooped dense and green around them. “The truth this time.”
Turgis gave her a mischievous smile. “Stirring up some trouble.”
“So let me get this straight. She needs to see the Oak of Ages for this quest of hers. That doesn’t really explain where you fit in.” Gwen said, one explanation later. Turgis shrugged.
“I’m helping. She seemed a little lost.”
“Hey!” Keita exclaimed beside him. “I just got here, I would have found my way eventually. I’m not that helpless.” Turgis sighed.
“Keita, look, are you going to do this whether I’m here or not?”
“Of course I am!” She said, hands set on her hips.
“And will this be significantly easier with my help?” The girl fell silent, glowering. “Then I suggest you start accepting my help and stop worrying about the why. I have my reasons.” He turned back to Gwendolyn, who had watched the interaction. “So, can you help us out?”
Gwen arched an eyebrow at Turgis, “Well, I can certainly help bring you to the Oak of Ages, come this way.”
Keita fell into step beside the druid as she led the way through the woods. Gwen smiled at her. “The Oak is actually open to all visitors, so your elder should already be there. The Oak is the center of the power in Cetrius, that all the Wardens draw from. Without it, all the plants across the neighbouring kingdoms would wilt and die.”
Keita listened to Gwen’s speech curiously. “So, what’s to prevent someone from trying to destroy it then?” Turgis snorted from behind her.
“She is.” He said, gesturing to Gwen. Keita sized up the young girl, taking in her flowing hair filled with flowers and short stature.
“She doesn’t look that tough.” She said dismissively, “I could probably take her.” Gwen raised an eyebrow as Turgis chuckled.
“You think so?” Gwen asked, glancing around at the surroundings. Keita puffed out her chest.
“Yes, any time, Warden.” She said condescendingly. Gwen sighed, shrugging at Turgis who was still laughing.
“Is this a good place to fight, Keita?” She asked, gesturing at the clearing. Keita took in the area, a sparsely wooded clearing about 20 feet across.
“Perfect.” She said, breaking into a wide grin. “Back off, old man, I don’t need you coming to my rescue this time.” Gwen gave Turgis’s back a hard stare as he retreated further down the path. Gwen backed off several steps from Keita as Turgis signalled the start of the fight.
“Start!!” He declared from a safe distance. The barbarian lunged at the small druid fiercely, but tripped just short of reaching her, with a vine wrapped tightly about one leg. She went to rip it off, but no sooner had she torn free of that one that another had wrapped itself firmly about one arm. Soon she was buried beneath a squirming mass of vines that writhed around her. Turgis nudged her with his toe.
“Do you give up?” He asked, holding back his laughter. A low growl emerged from the greenery, and a hand quickly shot out towards his leg, jerking him off feet. He landed heavily beside the girl, a pair of grey eyes glowering out at him from beneath a thick vine crawling along her eyebrows.
“Don’t look at me like that, you’re the one who wanted to fight the Warden beside ‘Their source of power.'” He said, kicking a questing vine off his ankle as he stood up again. She growled at him, still struggling against the vines as he backed away.
“Should we keep walking?” Gwen asked from across the clearing. She held one hand tightly clenched at her side as the flowers in her hair glowed faintly, but otherwise seemed unconcerned with the blight of the barbarian girl.
“I suppose we may as well.” Turgis said, heading towards her and the path. As he reached the path, he heard Keita cry out.
“Enough!” She yelled, now having struggled her way onto her knees beneath the vines. Gwen relaxed her fist and the vines abruptly stop moving, though not retracting. As Keita tore the remaining vines off, Turgis reached out and lightly touched on of the flowers in Gwen’s hair. It broke off into his palm, the glow having faded away. He looked at Gwen curiously, but she shrugged it off.
“It’ll grow back.” She said, unconcerned. Keita came up, pulling weeds from her hair and set off down the path, with Gwen falling in step beside her. Turgis tucked the delicate blossom into his cloak as he followed after the two girls, now animately talking.