Tirel did, indeed, assume human form as they neared the village the next day. Garkhen was pleasantly surprised to find that his appearance brought relief rather than fear to the villagers. He understood when one of them introduced himself as a former member of the army who had mustered out at the end of the conflict.
He quickly explained that several people were missing—they had went out to care for the sheep flocks that sustained the village and never returned. Tirel asked if they could see one of the places they had gone.
After they were out of the village a little ways, Tirel asked, “Did you hear of me in the army, too? The tiger man?”
The former soldier’s eyes grew big. “You’re him? But… I heard you were…”
Tirel shifted into his Wyre form. “More like this?”
Their guide nodded mutely.
The Wyre started looking closely at the ground as they walked—searching for tracks, Garkhen realized. As they neared the place, Tirel suddenly stopped and pointed.
“Here. He was attacked… see the dried blood? And then he was dragged this way…”
He started jogging off to one side, Garkhen and their guide struggling to catch up. He looked back and pointed at the former soldier. “You don’t have any weapons on you. You should stay behind.”
The villager stopped and grimaced. “You’re right. Uh… good luck!”
Garkhen had caught up by this point, but Tirel’s pace quickly left him behind. Again the Wyre turned. “You’re too slow, my friend! Here, ride.”
He shifted into his huge tiger form and knelt. Hesitantly, the half-dragon mounted. Tirel growled a bit, and Garkhen shifted his weight a bit, trying to find a way to ride both securely and without hurting his friend.
He almost fell off when Tirel started running, and then every time he turned a corner. He only ran for a couple minutes, but the battering and bruising made it seem much longer. As soon as he stopped Garkhen dismounted.
Tirel returned to his Wyre form. “I’m never… doing that… again,” he panted, “At least… not with you… in armor.”
“I apologize,” Garkhen replied.
Tirel waved a hand in annoyance, dismissing the apology as he looked about. “Something else happened here… I think it was a demon that jumped the guy, and here he handed him off to some undead…? And then they went this way…”
“I am glad you are skilled in tracking, Tirel,” the Warder said as moved to follow Tirel, who was again jogging in a different direction.
Apologies for not posting last week, but I managed to sprain my shoulder somehow. It’s feeling mostly better now.