Nissa edges forward, stepping between the thing and Eli to block Eli's radiance. "What Mazer has done is called 'casting a shadow,' little one. But he does not do it. Shadows exist because there is light, and it is blocked by a... thing, as you say, to make a shadow. Darkness comes about when all light is blocked. Are you made of shadow?"
Does the shadow mouse cast a shadow of its own? Is the "hole" in the ground smaller? Gone? Coalesced to become the shadow mouse?
The shadow (who does not cast a shadow of its own) is quiet for a moment. "I... guess so? I never really thought about what I'm made of. The old mouse in the cabin taught me a lot of things, but he didn't tell me that."
(Craven places his paw on the shadow's "face")
"Oh! This is... different. Your shadow tastes funny..." It slithers behind Craven and begins to pluck at the edges of the physicker's shadow. "Yup, definitely funny." The shadow dissolves into a pool again, then races back to Mazer, reforming into a small mouse shape.
"It's starting to get bright again. I liked talking to you, Mouse Guards." It hesitates, then envelopes the berries and roots in Mazer's paw. "Oh! So very nice and sweet. And just a little bit of... What is that word? That thing where you take a thing and make it so that someone else has it?"
Mazer takes the berries and roots, and brings them low to the ground. When he does this, the shadow is just about this size of the object. He points to the shadow, drawing the entity's attention to it. Then, he slowly stands up, and holds the bundle up as high as he can. Doing so increases the size of the shadow, roughly tripling it in size.
"Does casting the shadow this way make more food for you?", asks the dormouse.
"Sharing! Kindness! That's it." It beams at the five of you, then winces once again as it looks at Eli. Craven and Mazer ask their questions (one creepy, one searching), but the shadow mouse is distracted by the increasing sunlight piercing the canopy overhead; it slides around a sudden sunbeam and moves into the deeper shadows. "You are... kind, Mazer-Mouse-Guard." It beams again. "I... hope... I hope I see you again!"
And then it's gone.
(Keeper note: Eli/Nissa, I'm happy to retcon a bit in case you didn't get the chance to interact that you wanted)
Dawn has given way to bright morning light. In front of you (to the East) is the cabin (and your path to it is now unimpeded). The trail you followed through the darkest woods continues northward to meet up with the main road to the Peak. You are all exhausted, and you've just contacted something entirely outside of your experience. The cabin would be a safe place to rest and gather your thoughts.
Eli stayed silent during their encounter with the mouse guard shadow. Such a strange creature and experience. Nothing at the monastery had prepared him to deal with shadow creatures, so he thought it best to stay silent and observe. Why did it wince when near him?
Nissa stayed quiet, too, letting strange Craven approach the strange shadow mouse. When it disappears, a certain tension leaves her frame, and she sheathes her longsword, exchanging a glance with Eli.
She will approach the cabin carefully, then knock loudly on the door. Not waiting long (she suspects the shadow's caretaker has died, if she made any sense of what it was saying), she opens the door and enters.
You approach the cabin as a unit (fanning out, naturally, to better observe for threats). Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, you enter.
The dwindling flames in the fireplace and the morning sunbeams plenty of light. It's a modest cabin, but clearly well-cared for. The moulding between the sticks of the walls is clean and relatively fresh. The furniture inside is well-crafted, and there is a small wildflower in a bowl of water at the table. It's all one open room, as to be expected, and in the bed in the corner, there are clean sheets, a pillow (of all things), an elderly mouse who has passed away, and...
Oddly enough. You all didn't see the mouse at first. It's almost as though the body is just another piece of furniture. Now that you've seen it, it's obviously there, but something about it just seems insubstantial. It's takes some time, but eventually you realize that the mouse, like nearly every other object in this room, has no shadow.
Nissa will settle the old mouse, enlisting Eli's help to move him to Mazer's fresh grave. She will assist with covering him up, and stand quietly if Mazer wants to say a few words. Then she's all business, setting a perimeter, searching the cabin (respectfully, but clearly there is a mystery here that will need clues to solve), and eventually eating and sleeping.
The old mouse is surprisingly light. He's clearly only died recently- there's no evidence of decay, his body still slightly warm. As you all move him gently and respectfully from his bed, Craven notices a small notebook fall upon the floor (to be explored later).
Your service is (understandably) a quiet affair. The sun has climbed halfway up the sky by the time you've finished, and given your sleepless night, your recent battle with the stoat, a night of marching, and your encounter with the shadow, many of you are nearly ready to drop from exhaustion.
Of note: there are a few dead or decaying objects around the cabin (flowers, mostly). Sure enough, most of them lack shadows.
You all rest up (we'll call it four hours, not eight. You're guardsmice, after all!). The day is uneventful and you reconvene at noon recharged and ready to hunt down the other party before they get hurt- again. The old mouse rests in his grave under a small cherry tree near the cabin. Shadow and light push and pull at one another over the freshly-turned earth beneath the swaying green leaves...
You make your way out of the fringes of the darkest woods without incident. Either for good or ill, the shadow mouse is nowhere to be seen. The trail angles upwards as the trees give way to grassland. Looking back and to the west, you can now see the very top of an enormous tree: Kingreach, the squirrel capital. By your best estimations, you've lost virtually no time. You'll hit the main road up to the Peak before nightfall if you hurry, and based upon the tracks on the ground, the party you're pursuing is no more than a few hours ahead of you. With any luck, you'll meet them before they reach the road.
Thornbuck has been unusually silent since last night. He typically keeps to himself, but the distance he's kept between himself and the rest of you seems more solid, somehow.
Haul comes bursting into view with a happy chittering and clacking of his countless limbs. His chitin gleams in the midday sun.
Craven clears his throat a little as he is carried upon the mighty beast, “Everyone be shut shutting seed holes now, Craven story time!” Craven pulls out the journal of the dead mouse,
*"...It's been three days since the little shadow appeared. I had no idea that his consuming the shadow of my journal would erase the words within. So many notes lost. So many hours of sketching and observation for naught. At the very least, my conversations with the creature have finally become worthwhile. After allowing it to eat a portion of my shadow, it gained true faculties of speech. It is still very frightened of sunlight, but it has finally agreed to appear within the circle of firelight in my cabin.* *"It still knows nothing about what it is or how it came to appear before me in my little corner of the woods. It can only repeat that it came from high up and deep down. My only thought is that consuming more of my shadow will allow the twoof us to communicate more effectively. I have sent word of all of this along to my former captain, but-* [the rest of the page is torn] *"It's innocent. It is pure innocence. I worry that I have done a great and terrible thing in bestowing a mouse's intelligence to this creature. What right do I have to instill my memory, my violence in this-* [text is crossed out and illegible] [Several pages are torn out] *"-it's that damnable light on Firewatch. The shadow doesn't acknowledge it in the slightest, which is unusual given its remarks upon every little detail of the world around us.I still need time. Just a bit of rest tonight, and I should replenish enough of my shadow to discover more. Who would have imagined that this self-imposed exile would-"* [The rest of the journal's pages are ripped out]
”The end end.”
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DM - Elustran Days ~ Fate/False Revelation
Rex'aliha - Hoard of the Dragon Queen ~ Mozu of Worms- The Stormpoint Mountains ~ Muireach Maon- Shepherd’s Crossing ~ Crownsguard - Storm King’s Thunder ~ Gunnar Wayland -Boats, Rocks, and Ruffians ~ POUF!- Ex-Ravens ~ Pascal LaRoux - Long Road Dragon Heist
Mazer listens carefully to Craven's reading. "The late mouse thought the shadow creature was a product of the green light. If this is true, it is possible the light is changing the world and life itself. The urgency may be even greater than we thought. Let us march on."
Mazer gets up and gets ready to head towards the main road. If they find the other party, so be it, but the danger the light poses to the island is forefront on his mind.
Nissa raises an eyebrow at Craven's suggestion that everyone has secrets, but again, offers no comment. She's going to pay special attention to when/if the Nodder party diverges from our shortest route to Firewatch.