Chapter 2 | A New Pack

Ruh Ruh lived for nights like these, when the forest slept in harmony and the fire danced on the logs and the mead warmed his body from the inside.

He glanced around at his current companions, a more unique assortment of people than he was used to leading in the forest. It was just his luck that he had stumbled upon the paladin and the towering dragonborn — or rather, they had nearly stumbled upon him, as they wandered aimlessly among the trees, disheveled after an apparent scuffle in the village. The woman named Akra took a liking to him immediately, scratching him under the beard and behind the ears, and her scaled hand felt pleasantly rough against his skin. The paladin had been predictably stubborn, insisting that they could make their own way, but resigned to the decisions of his companion. Ruh Ruh found that paladins were often stubborn.

It was another stroke of luck that he encountered a fellow outlander, with two of his own strays in tow, both of whom wore clothes far too ornate for exploration and looked significantly less comfortable in the forest.

Run Ruh had a don’t ask, don’t tell philosophy when it came to those lost in the forest. He was a protector of those who needed it, and that made everything simple. When wanderers sought his help, he led them to a campfire, showed them where to hunt, helped them set up camp, and assisted them back to town in the morning. For his services, he was given various tokens of appreciation.

His favorite tokens were always ones that he could drink.

The bard named Hoben presented him with a flask of tart red wine and a flourished bow, to which Ruh Ruh had grunted an enthusiastic thanks, and clapped him on the shoulder.

The wine helped Ruh Ruh remain pleasant even when the outlander introduced himself as Phaedrus Wolfsbane. He puffed out his chest and shook Phaedrus’s hand anyway, gripping it harder than he intended. Phaedrus, too, kept his face neutral as they greeted one another.

And anyway, mead was the great equalizer. There was nothing that couldn’t be settled over a drink, and even the ranger began to warm to him as they each downed another horn.

The night was quiet and pleasant and cool, and Ruh Ruh reveled in his new companionship, however temporary. This was how life was meant to be, surrounded by new friends, at home among the trees.

Hoben plucked at his lute, and the music and the mead made Ruh Ruh’s eyes heavy. He pulled his fur around his shoulders and let it lull him to sleep.

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