The forest was calm and quiet around them. The sky had only a few dots of clouds and the sun was beginning to set in the horizon. The wind was soft and refreshingly cool. But it brought little comfort to the ragtag group of survivors that made their way through the woods. They were what remained of mages that had tried to start anew in the elven village. Their number was barely a bit more than a dozen, not even a third of what they started out with. Desperate and confused they simply wandered forward, to where none knew, only that it was away from the elven forces.
With one arm around the neck of a fellow mage named Harald, Yornar limped forward the best he could. The arrow stuck in his thigh hurt but he had gotten so used to the pain that he barely registered it anymore. At least it was a relatively harmless wound and no artery had been wounded. Not like another mage that had been hit in the shoulder and bled to death an hour ago. Without enough magicka to heal her and for fear of the elves catching up with them they had simply left her behind. The fear and the desperation was all too familiar to Yornar. He hated himself for letting happen again, even though there was nothing he could have done. The elves had come in a well organized and too large a force. None except Yornar had had any experience with battle, and his experience did not extend to open battle or defending a settlement. It had not even been a battle but instead a desperate escape with the mages mostly only protecting themselves as best they could. Only a few even cast any spells in retaliation, though few managed to even really hit anything. Yornar had been the most successful among those and that had only made him a bigger target and was why he was currently limping forward with no magicka to properly heal himself.
None said anything on their entire journey. No questions about where they were heading or what was going to happen to them. They only stuck together for unspoken agreement that each and everyone of them would likely die on their own. Though Yornar knew that agreement was frail and that if they were attacked they would scatter like dandelion seeds to the wind.
After much wandering they stumbled upon a small cabin among the trees. It looked like it had been abandoned for a few years and judging by some of the stuff lying outside it had been a small hunting lodge. It wasn't much but it would at least provide some cover for the night, most importantly hide the light of any fire of theirs. Not that they would need a fire for more than light. It wasn't that cold outside and they had no food for them to cook. There was no well or stream nearby that they could see but they knew one must be nearby as no one builds a house too far from a water source. But it was of little comfort for empty bellies and as such no one bothered to go look for it.
The door was ajar and the inside of the cabin was oddly untouched. There was a small wooden table in the middle with two stools on opposite ends. On the table was a couple of platters and mugs. There was some sludge form of dirt on the platters that might once have been food. The mugs were however empty. The roof had a few holes in it and spiderweb covered more than a couple of corners. There was a bed in the far right corner with an animal fur on top of it, but the fur had long since become dry and stiff, more fit for bugs that did their best to eat holes in it. In the middle on the far side wall of the cabin was a small hearth that was filled with ash and soot. A layer of dust and dirt covered much of everything inside the cabin.
Harald led Yornar into the cabin so Yornar could sit down on the bed. The arrow made it impossible to sit straight and instead Yornar had to sit slightly sideways so it wouldn't touch the bed.
"Just give me a moment. I can handle this. Done it before," said Yornar with a strained voice. "You people should go look for food. Can't wander forever on empty stomachs."
"Alright, we'll give you some room then," replied Harald before he turned to the rest of the mages that did their best to fit into the small cabin. "Come on people, get out there and put as many trap runes as you can. With some luck we'll have something to eat come morn."
Everyone except Yornar began to shuffle out of the cabin and soon enough Yornar was alone. He waited a listened a bit to everyone leaving and then scattering into the woods, hoping no one would run into the elves or get lost. But Yornar knew there was nothing he could do about that and instead shifted his focus to the more hurting matter of the arrow in his leg. With one hand he conjured up and prepared a healing spell while he grabbed the arrow with other. He braced himself and counted to three, then pulled as hard and quick as he could. He ripped the arrow out of his flesh, which caused him to squeal painfully, before quickly applying the healing magic. The spell was soothing and after a while his leg even felt whole, although the pain still lingered.
Slowly Yornar stood up and tried to walk around the table in the cabin to test his leg. It hurt a bit extra every time he shifted his weight to the leg, but it felt he could still walk without any real problem, and hopefully run if it ever came to it. After his little walk Yornar began to look around the cabin for anything that might be useful. On the inside he found just nothing but an old, half rusted dagger and a fishing pole that had a line he wouldn't trust to hold even smallest of fishes. On the outside he found a small shed on the back of the house where old and half rotten pieces of firewood sat neatly stacked on top of each other.
Yornar picked out the best and least rotten pieces and brought them inside. He cleaned out the hearth with some magic before placing a couple of pieces in it and the rest next to it. Though he decided to wait with lighting the fire till after the others had come back and instead used his magic to clear the dust and dirt on the floor. When that was done he simply sat down on a stool and waited for the others to return. Time passed and nothing happened. Yornar did not know how much time had passed when his eyelids began to grow heavy as he began to long for sleep. Yet he fought to stay awake to at least wait to see if the others would find their way back. Eventually though he decided to at least rest his eyes and head for a little on the table with his arms as a pillow.
He remained like that in a state of half sleep for what felt like seconds, or maybe minutes. Then suddenly he felt a chill in the air and an unnatural and eerie sound that sounded almost like how a strong wind does when passing by one's ears. Yornar recoiled upwards from the table, almost falling backwards from his seat. He opened his eyes to see a skull with a loose and tilted jaw floated in the hair in front of him, opposite of the table. It bore a translucent shroud that covered the scalp and slowly wavered in the air behind and below it. With dead and hollow eyes it looked straight at Yornar.
Fear and a sense of futility gripped Yornar as he locked eye contact with the wraith. He wanted to conjure up a spell to banish this creature. But he didn't know what spells would be effective and he felt if he cast wrong spell first he wouldn't get a chance to try out a second. So instead he simply sat there as if frozen. His mind tried to rush through the spells he knew but was continuously distracted by a fear and wonder of what the wraith might do. Then he managed to break eye contact with the wraith so he could see the door to the side behind it. He wondered maybe he could escape instead. But almost as soon as he had broken the eye contact the wraith lowered its jaw even more than should have been physically possible and let out deafening shriek. Yornar covered his ears in pain with his hands and recoiled in fear and chock so much so he fell down from the stool. Feeling he could do little else he closed his eyes and simply hoped the ghost would go away.
"Yornar!" he then heard in the distance from outside the door. The shriek ceased. Yornar opened his eyes and the wraith was gone. Soon the door opened and Harald walked in with a couple of other mages in tow. "What are you doing on the floor?" said Harald, looking a bit puzzled.
"You heard it?" asked Yornar, doing his best to hide his fear.
"Heard what?" Harald now looked even more puzzled.
"I guess I just fell asleep and had a nightmare," said Yornar as he got up. He doubted his own words but it felt somehow more plausible than the others not hearing the shriek. "Cleaned out the floor so we could sleep on it. Also prepared for a fire in the hearth. Though I suppose you didn't manage to catch anything."
"No we didn't," replied Harald. "The other might have though. Hopefully they will be back soon."
"Yeah, let's hope so." Yornar put the stool he had fallen down from back and sat down on it. Harald went up to the hearth and with a wave of the hand a flame ignited the logs. Soon enough they had a nice and cozy fire going. And after that the rest of the group trickled into the cabin one by one. All of them had made it back. A few of them even brought some berries. It wasn't enough for everyone or even a few to still their hunger. Yornar passed on the the berries with the excuse that they should have it more than him, though the truth was that he wasn't really hungry anymore. The memory of the wraith still lingered in his mind. He wondered if it had really been a dream, and whether or not he should tell anyone about it. In the end he decided against it, figuring he shouldn't bother and scare the others unnecessarily. Instead he opted to take the night's watch. This time he managed to stay awake much more easily. The night's hours grew long and Yornar passed the time by thinking and pondering; on what he should do, on what he could do, about the supposed ghost and the elves. Ideas were formed and discarded. Then when he got the silly thought of somehow sending the wraith against the elves he got an idea.