Iwene could have easily panicked, if she had turned around to count the growing number of orc centurions chasing her - with her heart pounding faster, she just kept running without looking back. Her options were limited, as she felt her legs getting heavier with each step, while carefully carrying several bags of the precious cargo she had been tasked to retrieve. Iwene realized she would have to get help from others if she was to survive, until she noticed the enormous flying griffin scowling, now blocking her path to her fellow druids at the nearby rings.
Making a difficult decision in a split second is sometimes necessary when you're running for your life, and you don't have time to second guess yourself. At first she thought about running straight toward Dragoon Zytl, who would easily make mincemeat of the orcs - but the Teir'Dal shadowknight would likely then turn his attention on disemboweling this young wood elf druid. She also thought about following the road and running toward the Freeport Militia guards - but then she would likely be coerced and shaken down for toll tax, which would raise suspicion about the bags she was carrying.
Just then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed a party of adventurers scuffling with the nearby encampment of Dervish Cutthroat bandits. Without delay, she ran straight toward the unsuspecting party, into the arms of a wood elf bard that she almost knocked over. Quickly picking up her bags, she pleaded desperately, "Help, fellow brother! I'm being chased by these orcs, and I can't run any further carrying all these heavy bags." The adventurers quickly jumped to her rescue, narrowly avoiding death themselves among the brouhaha of the three-way scuffle. After the battle, Iwene helped them with her healing powers, while thanking them profusely as she departed.
Arriving back at the entrance to the tunnel in the East Commonlands, Iwene handed Yendorina the bags one at a time, while the dark elf opened the sealed bags carefully for inspection. "You have done well, young Iwene. The pies are all intact. I trust you did not run into any trouble?"
"Nothing I couldn't handle. I had a bit of a run in with a few orcs, but I was able to get some help." Iwene replied, quietly breathing a sigh of relief. "Luckily, there was a band of adventurers at the nearby dervish camp that was willing to help me."
"Excellent - very good thinking. As promised, here is your reward - 50 platinum pieces for your trouble, for retrieving these pies." Iwene beamed a smile as her eyes opened wide at the sight of the riches, "Thank you! This will go a long way in helping me purchase my new spells. Feel free to reach out, if you need anything in the future!" she replied bubbly, "I'm going to shop around near these vendors now, and see if I can find some new clothes!" Yendorina bowed, as the young wood elf druid sauntered down the tunnel with her shiny new coins.
Lady Mizree slowly and gracefully walked up quietly to address her underling. "Excellent work, Yendorina. This new recruit appears to be exactly what we need - eager, resourceful, and easily corruptible", Mizree said in their native Elder Teir'Dal tongue. Yendorina nodded and replied, "Yes, our operatives said she showed no remorse with her reckless endangerment of the innocent group at the dervish camp. And the fact that she was willing to retrieve these pies without questioning our identity or our motives, for a mere 50 platinum pieces, indicates she can be easily bought. Her selfish motives will serve us well."
Mizree replied nonchalantly, "And.. she is quite young and fresh. If she does not work out, we can still fetch a handsome price for her from Ambassador Rylan at the Maiden's Fancy. He has both deep pockets, and an insatiable appetite." Both of the dark elves took a moment to chuckle silently.
Mizree continued, "The pies I trust are in pristine condition? Bring them straight to Farlain Stonethrower in the foreign quarter - he will use these to snare more traitors from the Leatherfoot Raiders to join our ranks. And your... usual reward... awaits you in your bedchambers." Yendorina perked up excitedly in anticipation, as she stammered, "As.. as.. you wish, Mistress", before regaining her composure.
Mizree commanded her, "Now depart quickly! Your... powers of persuasion... are beginning to attract the wrong type of attention". Yendorina was too distracted in her thoughts to notice a small crowd of knee-high male halflings and gnomes that had begun to gather behind her. She left at once, making a beeline straight toward the Teir'Dal city of Neriak, trying hard to contain her giddiness.
Iwene continued alone down the long tunnel, emerging into the merciless sunlight glowering at the desert of Ro. She dragged her feet, one sand dune after another endlessly - but slowly her feet began to lift off the ground, as she began to run faster and faster, higher and higher - over scarabs, spiders and madmen that wandered aimlessly beneath her feet, until she stopped as she reached the shoreline, with seemingly nobody else around... except the young bard she had run into at the dervish camp.
"I had to make sure you were not followed, and that we did leave any tracks in sand. Excellent work, Iwene - the swap went exactly as we rehearsed. They will not suspect a thing", the bard said.
"Are you sure she won't find anything out is of the ordinary, if anybody were to take a bite out of one those pies?" Iwene asked worriedly.
"No, we did not poison those substitute pies - we only left a marker on them, that is undetectable to all except our trained pack of werewolves, which we are currently raising up. The werewolves alone can detect this scent, which will allow us to track their movements, and find out who this traitor is. Nobody moves this many pies through the tunnels, without the Pie Collective getting wind of it. The Asp Tooth Posse's* days are indeed numbered. But you need to be careful now - they will certainly reach out to you again, for future work. Trust nobody else, not even another wood elf bard - just look for our message at the bottom of the pie tin."
Iwene frowned as she thought about the bard's words. The Asp Tooth Posse's motives were clearly sinister - but an organization that is willing to taint something as wholesome as a pie, and also raise up an army of werewolves? Was the Pie Collective really any better? In any case, if she was ever to find out the truth about her family's fate, she would have to keep her stories straight, her wits about her - and refrain from eating any more pies she did not bake herself, at least for the time being.
*Author's note - The Asp Tooth Posse is a purely fictional entity, with no relation to any crime syndicate, real or fictional. Any resemblance is purely coincidental. The author is under no duress in making this statement.