King of the Stolen Lands

Pilgramage Journal 3

Regreting Clever Titles Already

May a gaggle of grue make their home in the beard of whatever dwarf that decided we should exile our lowest cast, our thieves and mentally deranged. They clearly didn’t think of what that would do to the image of the Dwarven race to those who don’t live under the safety of a mountain. I have managed on this travel to meet the off spring of one who must have been kicked out a few generations back, and clearly has never learned the way to act in the company of others. We met the lout heading into the brush after we had found that gold vein. He was traveling with the group of soldiers House Garress was in charge of. He was standing out in the field that had been one of the bandit camps that the other group had cleared out. When we came in view he began to twirl his weapons about. While I know many military groups use these dazzling displays to show their prowess with a weapon, I have not seen the fancy weapons display really equate to fighting skill.

Riding toward the Dwarf before there was time for things to escalate one way or another, Garress called out that he knew us and that the men should stand down. I guess the dwarf does make a fine enough distraction because I hadn’t seen the men coming out of the surrounding woods with their bows drawn. Happy to see that we were not bandits hoping to use the campsite, and us happy to see that the campsite had not been picked up by new bandits, we had all decided to make use of the site for the night.

Boris right off the bat started making proclamations about how he would teach the troops tricks with their ropes and setting up camp. The soldiers seemed happy with this, especially seeing that it seemed to my untrained eye that Boris was basically just setting up all their tents for them again. We surveyed the area, everything seemed well cleared out. Eventually figuring out that he was just doing others work for them, Boris decided to investigate a broken down wagon that had been left at the camp. After repeated efforts to find a use for it, none of which panned out, some loose dirt was pointed out; someone had clearly dug something and planted the cart there to make sure no one could easily dig it up. Cedric and I put our backs into it though, and give it a mighty shove, and the soft earth fell on my ass.

We hunkered down real good though, and gave her another push and the wagon slid over enough where I was able to dig up. The bandits had buried their good stuff, not wanting to lose it to one another in the night. We found a bunch of bottles of Absinth, some firs and earrings and a nice music box. Garress’s men cracked one of the bottles open right away and began to pass it between one another, as did Cedric and I. The night passed in song and food, with enough men to keep the watch that everyone got a chance for good sleep.

In the morning the Dwarf, Kurgar declared that seeing that he was supposed to be getting his money by working with the parties that are working for the Sword Lords, he would be joining us. I can’t say that I was beaming at the idea of having someone so… rough around the edges. We travelled deeper into the brush and came across the most interesting cave. It had the face of what at first I assumed was the Stag Lord over it, but as we approached I knew that know bandit king would be able to arrange for that level of craftsmanship in a mountain side. It was the face of Balinor, Boris’ god himself; though the priest didn’t speak much on it. I can only assume he was deep in silent prayer.

I assume he was praying because a bear shuffled out and seemed to lay eyes on Boris right away. He of course prayed at the bear and the thing just became enraged, I swear the thing tried to cover its ears. Figuring a lost church of Balinor might be the perfect place for some kind of intelligent bear to make its den, I offered the thing a pair of my ear plugs. Boris continued to pray though and the bear ended up going at him. Cedric put himself between the bear and Boris without putting any thought toward his own safety. I don’t want to say that his big heart makes me proud because I want to slap the lunk-head for endangering himself. I took up the flank behind the beast, it managed to get a good swipe at me while I climbed the stairs though; was a nasty swipe of the claws but nothing as bad as Cedric got. I didn’t see him go down, thank goodness. I don’t know how my heart would take losing that boy now. Flame preserve him when I heard he fell I realized he is really the last bit of my old life I have left, and I don’t think the family would take too kindly to me after I deliver his fallen body to be with his ancestors.

Throughout the fight Boris kept on praying, which kept angering the bear. I didn’t see any other results until he presented his holy symbol and my wounds were healed. That alone makes for me to not be able to hate the guy, but I was really starting to question why the great hunter was not hunting and was just praying. Maybe I am just taking to the way of the Silver Flame quickly; I wanted to see him in action, not trying to get his gods to fight his foe for him. I am not sure what the others did exactly; the ass of the beast for the most part blocked my view except for Boris who was away down the stairs. The fact that a few arrows fell from the bears corpse as it began to melt away and that the other Dwarf was standing there as Cedric regained consciousness make me figure they were probably steadfast in the battle and not willing to abandon us fools who rushed into combat.

I was going to say anything when we first had beat the bear, I mean, I had heard of the creatures before, but I had never fought one, so I wasn’t sure if bears melting was a normal thing. I mean, I really figured it wasn’t, or at least that there had to be ways to prevent it from happening. I had seen them stuffed and mounted. Think I even made some armor out of one of their hides once. It was confirmed for me when we got back to Oleg’s, not that I want to get ahead of myself. But I guess the man was a former priest and was cursed to be a bear or something…. All in all I think I would rather not make too much more a habit of visiting the cave.

We did make our way into the cave, or chapel, temple? Look I never took a religious studies class, we went into the place where the holy once happen and it was not that bad though. It seemed that along with the outside and the water fonts and such purifying themselves, the inside was cleared of the bears taint as well. There wasn’t too much special in the cave, but while Cedric and I searched the place he paused and looked at a large font on one wall and walked over to it his eyes seemed set on his hands. As he washed his hands his own blood, and the blood of the bear, of his fallen prey mingled with the water until it seemed the whole thing was filled with thick blood. Then a small panel in the wall slid open revealing a set of armor that I will forever make fun of the look of. Cedric looks so dainty with the leaves covering his tender bits. I did admit to him that it was indeed a fine set of armor. I made comment to Boris that night that it was benevolent of his god to reward Cedric or his keen heart and his handling of the bear, despite Cedric leaning toward others of the pantheon.

Two days of travel with him hadn’t quite endeared me to him, though I guess I will say after what happen that night (Dravago 9 for the record) well after that, in the morning he wasn’t the last thing I would want to see. It all started with us setting up camp that night. When we were setting things up music started playing, coming from the woods all around us. Boris had decided to investigate, thinking that it might be gypsies or bandits, or something that really I wanted nothing to do with, but I didn’t think that we should let the ummm… the … our healer wander off into the woods at night on his own. Further inciting my own personal ire, he took one of our bottles of absinthe. Cedric and I went after him, and things go weird. The forest was odd, I had to push past the vines of the willow trees, which I hadn’t noticed any of before and then again, I guess I didn’t get that close to the trees.

So if you’re gonna follow a fool into the woods at night, and you have a compass in your bag, grab you compass! We ended up wandering through the woods, through some horrible swampy mud that would have swallowed me whole if it got a chance I swear. I had never felt malicious earth before, but there was something about it that time…. I was able to lead Cedric and me through dry spots though, while Boris seemed to always be rushing ahead. Fortunately we crossed a river after that, which was good for washing away the mud off us, but oddly my axe seemed to get caught in the current no matter what way I faced. Finally after fording that, we made our way to a rickety rope bridge. Boris just sprinted across it like a man under a compulsion. After seeing a board fall under his foot as he scampered across Cedric and I refused to go any further. Boris went forward without us, and we wished him the best of luck. We turned away, tempered our nerves to face all that again, and ended up slipping down a ditch that I hadn’t noticed before and well I guess losing consciousness.

Even in the warmer months, when you are outside, and the sun is down, when the morning dew forms and leaches your body heat away, there is only one thing that can keep you going; non-verbally consensual platonic cuddling. Adra woke us up at the edge of the edge of the camp, not sure how we made it that far, but it looks like we had something looking out for us. We had to prove to the Lady that we were indeed ourselves though. While I won’t fault the lass, I think it is a bit paranoid. We proved ourselves to be ourselves and Boris came bounding out of the woods looking none the worse for the wear. He proudly showed off the gift he received, and produced a skeleton of a small bird. I tried to spot any dried blood about to show if he had hit his head but I couldn’t find anything. (Later I saw just what exactly the bird was, but I’ll get to that when the time is right.)

Then again, to be honest I am surprised Adra accepted us to be us as freely as she did. When Ced and I were returned from the forest we were…. Altered. Cedric was covered head to toe in a soft green fuzz. Closest the boy has gotten to a full beard yet. On the other hand I was given a pair of rabbit ears, I assume I wasn’t given the fuzz treatment because even the silly fey respect the fecundity of my beard. Cedric went off to shave his face and the hair almost instantly grew back. Fortunately enough I guess, when he touched his cold iron sword the fuzz withered and fell away, so he got a cold iron blade from somewhere, certainly hope he didn’t try to shave with a long sword, and that time it seemed to take.

Like so much of life, the situation was not as bad as those I chose to spend my time with made it. I got used to the ears twitching about rather quickly, except for the fact that they seem to press themselves against my head every time I catch Adra looking at me. Her nonverbal scorn might be a bit scarier than Boris’ snickering and Kurgar going on for hours about having to cut the ears off. How they’ll probably grow back like the fuzz and he’ll just keep cutting them off for me; saying that the ears would be nice and soft for wiping his ass. Yeah, dealing with that may have put me on edge.
We rode for another night, until the scent of warm sulfur started bubbling up from the air.

We had found some hot springs. Adra was happy to get a warm bath at long last. I wouldn’t mind letting the muscles soak myself, and while Adra might be a bit bony, it has been a while I wouldn’t complain about getting an eyeful.

Any way all our hopes of enjoying the pools were shot when we noticed big ass frogs lying at the bottom of the pools. We all surveyed the land finding a lack of clear pools or little else in the area we would have been able to just move along, except for Boris’ desire to eat some foul, sulfur marinated meats, and as best I can figure, he is hoping to get credit as a hunter with his family by taking credit for our actions. As he continued to whine about the lack of hunting we do, so I figured the frogs aren’t gonna do anything to him while there in the water, and the easiest way to get a moments peace would be to throw Boris in. Unfortunately I figured wrong.

As we rode out, we I spied with my Dwarven eye a thicket of berries. Boris who wasn’t eaten by frogs, dear reader, I am sorry I was only able to give you that short moment of hope, began to do the only hunting I have seen him pull off which was fill his shirt with berries. While he busied himself with this I found a large stack of stones. I wasn’t sure if it was one of them burial rock things, we don’t generally have that under the mountain. But it is good to see that some of the people of the great open have smarts enough to get under the ground in death. I used my Omni-tool to pry up some rocks and found a body. I was going to cover it back up but the green ring on the finger of the corpse caught my eye. I mumbled an apology to the departed and left him a few old to replace the ring. As I slid the ring onto my finger and felt a rush of water flow over me, and the smell of the river, I had an idea. I turned around and Boris was in my face, bits of berries splattering my face as he spoke. “What’s that ring you got there? Let me pray to Balinor he can tell me what the ring will do for you.” He stood there still for an uncomfortably long moment then spoke. “Oh yeah, that ring will help your ability to swim, you’ll swim with at least plus five more skill with that on.”

Dumbfounded I suggested we head back to Oleg’s.

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