"We leave for The Darkwood on the morrow," You announce.

Your companions look back at you blankly for a moment, sleep depravation robbing them of their wits. Neither of them say anything, but Alkar lets out a grunt of disapproval while Yornalla smiles with a bit of triumph. Her smile is short lived however. It's hard to smile when you've seen your entire village lead around like puppets hanging from strings.

When the sun breaks over the sky, the three of you rise on weak limbs and walk through the foggy dream-like state that you've been in for two days. You started your journey from the village on horses, but realized the folly of that all to quickly when the steeds turned on you.

Whoever is controlling the dreams, can control the animals as well. And now they know that the three of you are searching for them. Hopefully they have lost track of your party by now. You look to the trees with suspicion, who knows how many eyes they have watching you...

Your feet are heavy, and your mind is numb with a lack of sleep. The longest you've ever been without sleep was a day and a night, and you ended up sleeping for much of the next day.

You look over at your companion as you move. Alkar has never been what you would call a friend to you. As you grew up in the village back home, he was your greatest rival. The two of you competed in everything.

Yornalla was once your woman.... Until Alkar came along. He stole her from you, and no matter how diplomatic and friendly he tries to be with you; you will never forget that. All you feel is pain when you look at Yornalla, where before there was so much more.

You think about Makka, the fourth man who avoided the initial take over of the mind. You traveled with him for a day, but he fell asleep in the night and rose from his slumber under control of whatever evil being was doing this. He attempted to kill you. To kill all of you.

But you stopped him before he could do anything. You caught him in the head with one of the spikes on your club. It was hard to do, but it had to be done. He was your brother; your flesh and bone.

You continue towards the Darkwood on sore feet and heavy limbs. Your companions look equally weary. Alkar is far less graceful than ever. You try not to look at Yornalla. There is always hurt when your eyes catch hers, always a pain on the inside.

The further you walk, the more trees begin to line the trail. At first there is but a dense line of sentinels guarding the path on either side, but the land becomes more and more populated the further you go.

In less than an hour of additional travel, the thickening line of trees has become a forest. A canopy forms from the interlinking treetops and block out all but a few stray beams of sunlight.

The wood is silent save for the sounds made by the six dragging feet of you and your companions. The scraping of your feet on the ground seems to echo all around you and you cringe with every step.

You suddenly hear the flapping of wings above you and notice a black bird settling on a tree branch high above. It caws once, as though to make sure that the three of you have noted its presence.

"One of Velrye's, I think" Yornalla says.

Alkar nods his head. "This is her land, I believe you're right."

"I can't wait until we kill her and are finally able to sleep again!" she says.

You can't help but agree with her. The delirium is almost unbearable. You are certain that every step you take will be the one that drops you face first to the ground. Sometimes you feel your mind start to slip into unconsciousness, you start to feel little tugs from some unknown source, and that seems to startle you awake again.

The bird follows you, its wings and caws the only sounds aside from those made by you and your companions.

Yornalla and Alkar look just as shaken as you by the soundless forest. Something is not right in Darkwood. Something far worse than the presence of a witch.

"How far is her fucking cottage?!?" Alkar asks in exhausted frustration.

"It can't be much farther," You reply, trying to sound reassuring.

Your estimate was far from accurate, and the three of you march through the wood at the pace of zombies. Night is starting to fall when you see the faint glow of light emanating from cottage windows.

Alkar draws near to you and whispers in your ear. "How do you want to do this?"

You take a quick look around and whisper back to him. "I don't think it matters how we do this. The witch has been watching us this whole way and is already aware of our presence."

Your rival grunts and nods. His mind is not so sharp without sufficient periods of rest. You gloat inwardly on the advantage you have before you realize that you are suffering from the sleep deprivation just as much as he is.

"I say we knock on her front door and be prepared to fight." You tell both Alkar and Yornalla. They nod in agreement with your simple plan of attack.

"Let's do it," Alkar says.

You walk the last several dozen yards to the door and rap your knuckles upon it four times. You stand there for a long time, awaiting an answer that does not come.

You knock upon the door again, this time more forcefully. The door swings open inward on creaking hinges. You peer into the little house and see the fire burning brightly in the fireplace, and an old woman fast asleep and slumped forward in her chair. She looks so peaceful in her slumber that you almost don't believe that she is Valrye. But you remember her face well. This is indeed the witch who tried to poisoning the chieftain's brother.

You motion your companions in and lead the way into the flickering light of the hut's interior. Alkar has his spear in hand and points it at the witch's throat.

Before anyone does anything, Valrye's big yellow eyes flare open, large with fear and confusion. Alkar steps back in surprise as an inhuman hiss comes out of the witch's open mouth.

Instinctively, you knock her in the face with the flat side of your club, and she sprawls to the ground, taking the chair down with her. She lay still on the ground, not moving save for the shallow rise and fall of her chest as she breathes.

"So much for questioning her," Yornalla quips.

"We can question her when she awakens. I say we tie her down first, just to be safe," Alkar says.

"I say we tie her up and burn this little hut to the ground." Yornalla retorts.

"Let's have Borkka decide, then," Alkar says. They both look to you, trusting that you will make the right choice.