Here’s a little more story for you guys. Hope you’re enjoying it.
Niona did not know enough forest talk to be conversational, but the dryad knew an archaic form of Elvish that she could parse out. Julius felt a little like a third wheel,but every so often Niona would give him a synopsis of the conversation. The dryad’s name translated to something like “the first ray of light passing through moring dew”. Which Niona mashed around into Dew Beam after his suggestion of Sunny Dew was voted down. Dew had been in that part of the forest for a very long time and seen much. Not the origin of the temple in the valley wall, but many things none the less. She didn’t have an accurate count of time, or perhaps her perception of it was different, but Niona couldn’t pin her age down. Generations older than either of them at any rate. More recently she had seen the first scouting party enter the temple gate, but they never returned. A bad sign to be sure. Of course, if foul play had been involved it was still possible that the surviving party members slunk away after backstabbing the rest. Julius had to admit, however, that theory seemed unlikely. In her loneliness Dew Beam seemed to have kept a close eye on the visitors.
Once the conversation switched to being about things like how pretty Dew thought Niona’s hair was, and displays of her ability to mimic the humanoid body, Julius excused himself. By the time the sun began to set he was sure the rest of the team wouldn’t be arriving. It was doubly irritating since he’d gone to so much trouble to get there at the appointed time. Niona arrived at his makeshift camp as the last light of the setting sun faded away beyond the walls of the valley. Dew Beam had offered to guard the campsite on her side of the valley wall, so Julius put his back to it on his portion of the night watch.
Niona stripped down to her small clothes with no outward consideration for modesty, and it took every ounce of Julius’s will not to leer at her in hopes that her image would sear itself into his eyes forever. Once she was snugly rolled up in her noticeably clean and ostentatious bedroll he was able to settle in for a boring few hours.
The forest was alive with sounds. Which is much better than a quiet one. When nature goes silent that means something isn’t right and tonight every nocturnal creature seemed completely at ease, and willing to give away its general position to who ever might be listening. It was all Julius could do to stay awake. Eventually, as his mind began to wander, his eyes fell upon the crumbling temple gate. It was barely visible in the firelight. He’d set up camp as far away from it as he could in fact. Something about it was wrong. He was more and more sure of this feeling as the light had begun to ebb away. Being far from it seemed like a very good idea. Now, under the light of the stars, it looked the very picture of ominous dread. The longer he looked at it the more it seemed like he could hear the sound of slow breathing. Eventually he turned back to the forest at large, but some portion of his consciousness continued to monitor the gate from his periphery for the rest of his watch.
Eventually Niona stirred and cheerfully relieved him, although she did so without putting on any more clothing, which made falling asleep a herculean task afterwords. Exhaustion eventually overtook him though, and he settled into a decent sleep. When he woke up he was on his side, leaning against a warm, soft, something that was doing likewise to him. He rolled over to see what it was and nearly passed out as Niona slid her back snugly against his belly in her sleep.