Valraven reached the edge of the forest after a week's journey through the desert of the anti-alchemists. They were the tinkerers, the builders of infernal mechanical technology and automatons. They were no longer allowed in the cities or towns of this land, as they bred their machines like bacterium, a dark rusted mold that covered everything and infected everyone with what they referred to as 'convenience'. When he encountered wandering bands of the anti-alchemists it was always a battle. They knew he and his kind were the greatest threat to them, that not even the vastness of the desert would be safe if Homo Magicalis set their sights on their destruction. This day could come to, as they were thieves who had stolen the energy source for their machinations from the spirit world. Some day, it would call its people to bring that energy back to it.
Weary and scarred, Valraven strode out of the desert and onto a brief field, that swiftly gave way to trees of massive girth. The sun dappled at first was blotted out almost completely a few hundred feet into the Forest. Here is where he would find the bat, the Phoenix in her Forest form, and be led to the Forest Crypt, or the opening to the underworld. The being in the lion skin robe had given him a Yantra, and he pulled it from his within his purple cloak and it buzzed to life, alternating between geometric and cloud formations. He watched it and focused his breath, in count of 1, out of 2, on until 10, and then to 1 again. He sharpened his conscious mind until his unconscious made contact with the device, at which point its shapes slowed and it evolved into a point leading through the forest in the direction of the Bat. Dropping his hand, the Yantra continued to hang there in front of him and as he walked, it led the way.
The forest was cool and filled with food, berries along the ground, fruit hanging low from trees, water pooled into the creases of ferns as big as a man. He refreshed himself as he walked and soon his trails and battles in the Desert of the Unreal were healed by this forest bathing. It wasn't long before the Yantra led him to the beginning of a footpath deep in the forest, so far now that it was all he could see in any direction, trees and the ultraviolet call of birds and shadowy rustle of small mammals in the brush. Walking along the path was easier, but as he suspected, this path came with its own perils.
He saw the figures well before he was upon them, and they stood in their position motionless, waiting for his arrival. There were three of them, one on the path blocking his way and two off to the sides on alternate paths - a crossroads. When Valraven reached the intersection, he heard a woman's voice behind him.
"Traveler, how have you found this path?" Valraven turned and looked behind him to find all ways were now blocked. The woman that spoke looked as if she lived in this forest, in fact, had been born here. She wore little clothing that was made in the city, it all appeared to be fashioned from forest materials. Around her neck and wrists hang loops and loops of dried herbs and animal bones.
Valraven replied to her question the best he could, "Traces of the path are found in the natural patterns of our inner world as well as the patterns of our interactions with each other."
"I am the Hedgewitch." The woman spoke again. Behind him, the man blocking his way spoke as well, "and I am the Cunningman." He was dressed in a similar way as the Hedgewitch but seemed to be dirtier, older, more broken.
"And you?" Asked Valraven of the man on the path to the North.
"I am the Merchant of Venice and the King of Thieves." Came the reply of the man who was dressed in the finest of clothing and fabric, and to the South, the woman on the path whom was dressed all in white robes with golden bands and chains spoke "and I am the Priestess of Alexandria."
"What would you have me do, masters?" Valraven asked. The Yantra now pointed nowhere, returning to its amorphous cloud dance, this crossroads and the encounter with its guardians was his destination for now. He understood that they were the gateway to a greater complexity and they should not be dismissed or engaged in battle, for that was a fight that he, even with his ability to refine and separate his consciousness into magical defenses, it was a fight he would not win.