Most of the Talo Rangers have an animal companion. It’s part of their training to be able to communicate with the animals so during the apprenticeship they’re encouraged to talk with and be friendly to all the creatures they encounter. If an animal and ranger are able to form a firm friendship, then they can formally bind themselves together with the Pini ceremony, where they each share a tiny portion of their souls. Though Ffion could speak well enough with animals, none ever showed much interest in her and she in turn found them dim witted and dull. It became part of her reputation amongst the other trainees that animals were afraid of her and the gossip began about why she was so frightening to them. Ffion had to work to move past the social isolation but those looking to become rangers aren’t the gregarious type.
Ffion was on the last patrol of her apprenticeship when she found a grove of trees that had been felled by an explosion. In the crater was a tiny curl of smoke without a fire that moved like a snake. Intrigued, Ffion set her weapons aside and reached out to the creature. Sensing her compassionate interest, Xeda came to her and danced around her fingers. Ffion fed it some ash from the burnt trees and the little smoke snake has been with her ever since.
No one is entirely sure what Xeda actually is. The druids of the Talo steppes believe it to be some kind of elemental but aren’t able to say which plane it comes from or how it got to Trasnverne. The high ranger was very wary of allowing Ffion and Xeda to undergo the bonding ceremony, saying that they simply didn’t know enough about Xeda for it to be safe. The pair had to wait six months to prove that Xeda wasn’t a danger to Ffion or anyone else. The ceremony went entirely as usual except that Ffion discovered her hair was now growing as black instead of the pale brown it had been.
Xeda has continued to grow and learn to control theri form. They usually manifest as a trail of smoke up to 3 metres long but can become up to 20m long. As a smoke creature, Xeda, isn’t much use for riding or carrying anything but they can wreath Ffion in dark smoke to almost completely conceal the pair in shadows. Being mostly incorporeal, Xeda can also infiltrate anywhere that isn’t airtight, though they are easily affected by the wind. After the pair got caught in a storm, Xeda has taken to hiding in Ffion’s bags when it rains.
The Talo Rangers have asked that Ffion be part of a team that is investigating a spate of killings linked to darkness and shadows. The trail has led them to Sootdenn where though there is much artificial lighting, there are plenty of dark places and deep shadows. Ffion’s particular patrol area encompasses the industrial suburbs, so Xeda is finding themselves quite at home amongst the smoky chimneys. Whatever they’re hunting is making a kill exactly every eight days. Where once it was moving across the countryside, it has settled down into Sootdenn, leaving corpses that are completely drained of all their fluids. It’s grisly and unnatural and the local guard have come to hate the almost weekly search for the victim.
Image Credit – Archer by linlinklepon – CC-BY-SA-3.0