The forest gave little warning of the approaching newcomers, their announcement coming in the form of an annoyed grumbling already among the heroes. “Ugh. More adventurers.” Prince Otho snapped about to see a pair of squat things, no higher than his waste and textured here and there with bark and moss that blended into the forest floor, as if they’d sprouted and grown where they stood. The more bulbous of the two, with a bold nose like a cypress knee protruding from under his domed hat, kneaded his temples before continuing. “A’right, folks. Ya can’t be prancin’ through here like ya own the place. ‘S dangerous, and as guardians, we wanna keep our streak going.” He pointed to his slighter partner that reminded Otho of a twig, who enthusiastically produced a parchment from his satchel and held it up proudly for all the company to see. It read: Days without Accident: 18 … 2. “Now,” the stocky one continued as he approached Otho to stare up at him with scrutiny. “You’re powdered enough t’be in charge. You a primp?”
“Uhm, Cyrus,” the second spoke up timidly. “You mean prince?”
“S’what I said, Teek! Don’t interpret me, lemme talk.”
“He’s a little rusty in the common tongue,” Teek offered to Otho in a whisper.
“I said hush!” Cyrus let his glare linger on Teek a moment before turning back to Otho.
“Prince… I’m…” Otho stammered a moment under Cyrus’s gaze, then seemed to remember his status and jutted his chin into the air. “I’m Prince Otho Fancy, heir to--”
“S’what I guessed.” Cyrus rolled his eyes as the prince was deflated of his gusto.
“Now, see here,” Otho scolded, furrowing his brow and stamping his foot. “Who do you think you are?”
“Told ya. Guardians. Sprites o’ the forest.”
“You don’t look like a forest sprite to me,” Otho said, as if he had the creature caught.
“Ya ever seen a sprite before?” Cyrus, annoyed, turned his attention elsewhere as the prince stuttered to find a response to save face. “Oh, knots,” Cyrus said as he surveyed the camp. His eyes settled on Lady Bloom floating about. “If that one ain’t interrogated.”
“You mean intoxicated?” from Teek. Cyrus spun his glare on him, then pointed a finger at the bouncing lady as an order.
Teek promptly scurried toward her, rummaging deep in his satchel until he produced a bundle of dark mushrooms. He proffered them as high as he could manage to the aloft Bloom. “My Lady! My Lady, these will help.”
“A’right!” Cyrus pitched his voice to carry throughout the camp. “You’ve dallied and now the sun’s high.” He tugged at his trousers. “And I’m startin’ to chafe in this heat. Let’s get into the shade of the forest.”
Prince Otho scoffed before speaking up. “Am I to believe you’re here to guide us through the Hapless Forest. To protect us free of charge? Our guardians?”
“Not you,” Cyrus sneered. “Our charge is the forest, and we’ll be guarding her from you lot.” He turned back to the camp. “Now, ‘s any of you creatures persistent to venom? We need someone to walk point.”