Devoted Lady Elanor winced as pain lanced through her head from temple to temple. The buzzing in her mind had been constant for the last several hours, growing steadily as she and the Brotherhood force she commanded rode deeper into the Twilight Glades.
If they weren't on patrol at the Mage Queen's behest, she would have deeply liked the opportunity to admire the verdant woods around her. The trunks of many of its trees were as wide as the cottage she'd grown up in, the canopy so thick it shut out much of the noontime's sunlight. It was shadowy but not frightening. Or at least, it hadn't been until the buzzing had started. Now every scampering rabbit seemed a leaping assassin, every birdsong a dirge.
She shook her head, trying to shut out the droning sound. Her sister in the Devoted order, Melanie, rode up with the same hollow eyes and wearied expression Elanor knew she must be wearing.
"I hear it too," Melanie stated.
Elanor managed a pained smile. "I thought I might be going mad."
"No. Though I fear we may not avoid it if this damnable noise doesn't stop soon."
Elanor raised her left hand to signal a halt. Behind the pair of Devoted, Sir Lambert dipped the bright standard he carried to relay the message to the rest of the column. One of the reconnoiterers was returning from up the little-used path they followed, his form shifting from bright to dim as he rode through the columns of light that punctuated the boughs above.
"Up ahead, my lady," he said quietly as he drew close. "A ruined tower, just as the elven general said."
"And the standing stones she mentioned?" inquired Elanor.
"I saw them." He shivered in his saddle despite the warm air. "There was something... odd about them."
"Magic?" asked Melanie.
"Maybe but none I've seen before. It's just...."
His eyes became glassy, voice distant. "It's odd, my lady but I... I smelled brimstone, heard the roar of a hundred Abyssal throats. I could see them coming at me just like... well, just like my first battle." He shook his head, eyelids clamped shut. His composure returned as he opened them. "Something's moving around there though. Something real."
"We must investigate," Elanor stated. "The task of protecting these stones was assigned to us by our hosts. We cannot refuse it." She looked to Melanie, who nodded her agreement. The buzzing in Elanor's head increased, as if her skull had become a hive of raging wasps. She ignored it.
A quick glance to Sir Lambert and the order was given. The Brotherhood column formed up into a loose battleline and began picking its way through the trees.