Forgotten Gods and Uncharted Lands
We all gathered up together and pressed on further into the woods after the encounter with the mad driven boar Tuskgutter. We spent a whole day pressing forward, still on guard after the events prior. That it could possibly be a sign of things to come. Though lo and behold that the further we trekked into the green, lush forest, the more peaceful and normal it felt. I could only hope that this was a sign that I was right, with the words that I spoke of to Kurgar. That that there could be no worse that these forests could throw at us.
A whole day went by without a hassle. No bandits on the path, no eerie feelings, no rising suspicions, nothing. The whole way there I still went without any wine or whiskey. Stonehands started to grow a bit bothered by my sudden sobriety. I assured him that I was fine and just needed time to focus as much as I could. Him being a dwarf he made the argument that the best way to focus was with a tank full of mead. I do not know exactly how a dwarf’s metabolism functions but it certainly does not have the same effect on me as it does him. Adra was giving me a few more glances than usual on the trip, as if making sure that my head was in the game. One point I was drinking from the waterskin and she just stared and pointed at my flask. I shook my head and smiled to her holding up the pouch of fresh water. She simply shook her head in a disagreeing manner and went about her usual business. Odd woman. Berates me when I drink wine and berates me when I drink water. No way to please that woman.
After a long day traveling, we settled down near the edge of a swamp. With darkness approaching we did not want to proceed further for there would most likely not be any stable dry land to set up camp for a while. I had the night to sit alone and talk with Darius. Going over what it took to build peace out here. Who I could bring in? It’s all I could think about as of late. Trying to create a safe haven from everything that is happening in Rhestilor. I would not even know where to start. This was the first time I was pseudo-leading a group. I would not know how to start up and lead a small colony. Darius mostly just laughed, called me jaded, said war would come to where because that is usually how nations are. Least to say, he was not entirely helpful at all. Cheeky bastard. Maybe some inspiration would hit me after a decent night of sleep.
Awoke the next day, not being struck by any new ideas but Morgan with my flask. Morgan kept trying to push it closer to my mouth while making little noises. “See, even the small guy agrees you need ta drink up” said Stonehands. I just gently pushed Morgan and the flask to the side and made my way to take a piss outside. When I came back from my morning routine, Kurgar had everyone gathered up to tell them at a small fey creature visited camp last night. Seems he had a previous encounter with the thing and it was partially helpful before. He relayed that the fey talked about a being further into the swamp, a boggard and a giant pet frog. Seemed docile but….we I would judge that when I see it.
About a few hours into the swamp we started to come across partially more stable land.and the bare bones of building foundations. After a bit more we started to come across actual dilapidated stonework buildings that were sinking into the marsh. We heard this is where the boggard was settled at so we all began to press on with even further caution. Boris and Stoney took the lead and scouted the area up ahead. “This…is very uncomfortable” Adra grumbled as she trudged through the muck, trying to discern what was sludge and what was not. “Pretty, little, princess misses her castle walls” chuckled Kurgar. Adra just stared and Kurgar and went back to walk cautiously while we waited on our scouts.
We heard a loud croak and followed by another bellowing, deeper croak. A garbled voice rang out from one of the near by buildings. I could not exactly hear what was going on from the distance but I could faintly make out Stoney trying to be cordial and calm. Boris just stood next to Stonehands keeping his eyes fixated on something around the corner that neither of us could see. After what seemed to be a long minute of discussion, a giant frog man plopped down from an opening in one of the old buildings and made his way next to Stonehands and Boris. Around the corner was a humungous giant frog that bounded towards our allies. I went to pick up speed and charge until I saw Stoney turn his head, smile and give a thumbs up. Oh thank you, no fighting.
I made my way to the others and heard the boggard in his throaty voice “Me, Gorum, this, Slurk!” as he gestured from himself to the abnormal sized pet frog. We all made our introductions to the odd creature and tried to ascertain information the best we could with him. It was shocking this creature knew common, albeit broken common. Still though it was something. We could only make out the bit that he thought the surrounding marshlands to be his kingdom. I saw Adra restrain laughter as she eyed the buildings insensitively, completely unimpressed. I never pressed the issue, mattered not to me. It would feel like criticizing a child that his imaginary kingdom was nothing but mounds of broken brick and dilapidated stone halls.
After declaration of kingdom, the bogard asked if there was interest in trade. I needed nothing, I could not see what this creature would have to me that would be of use. Though Boris and Stonehands started sifting through their pack to find anything that caught the Gorum’s eye. Stoney reached pulled out a fairly new bear trap and demonstrated it to the bogard. It laughed as it said “Good, catching kobold!”. This then drew out a conversation from all of us that there needed to be careful consideration on eating the Sootscale kobolds to the west. I do not know if Gorum entirely understood the conversation. The bogard just nodded happily and chucked a blue gem at Stonehands while taking the bear trap.
Boris on the other hand produced from his pack, the illicit bag of drugs, in hopes of trade. “Why do you still have that thing” barked Adra. “It is useful. Here, Gorum. This is medicine” said Boris. “No that is not medicine, that looks to be cocaine” I followed up. The bogard crept closer to Boris, inspecting the bag of drugs. “I would not trade drugs. It is immoral as it de-purify the body. I would never do such a thing” Boris replied. Boris held out his hand as the bogard replaced with it a green gem in his palm. “Boris, we kept telling you it was drugs, we know it is drugs. I thought you threw that away” I said.
“Now. I am beginning to wonder why a devout paladin and inquisitor supposedly know so much about illegal drugs. Tell me. What does that say about you two then?” Boris spat back. Adra stomped forward and got in Boris’s face. “What we know and how we know it is not relevant. What is relevant is the fact you still kept it when we kept telling you what it was.”
I turned to see the bogard inhale the bag of dust and share with his giant, pet frog. Gorum’s eyes began to dilate. His body tensed up and started to twitch. Just great. I walked up and parted Adra and Boris, trying to clear the air. I heard Kurgar laughing to himself about the small dissension in the group. I shot him a glance and turned my attention back to our cleric. “Boris this is on you. If we have to deal with a drug, addled bogard in the future it is wholly your fault.” Boris just smiled as he put his gem away and patted me on the shoulder. “There is nothing to worry about Cedric. This bogard will be fine. Plus who knows what he might have contracted from this place. The medicine could help him with that.”
Adra went to reach out and grab Boris as he turned to walk away but I pulled her back to the side. “Leave him. It is helpless. Let’s just make sure things like this do not happen in the future.” She glowered at Boris’s back and then stared up at me.”You protect his ignorance to much.” I turned away to look back to see Boris handing Stonehands his gem so he could inspect it. Boris smiling and admiring his shiny, new acquisition. I shook my head and replied back to Adra. “We have to keep an eye on him. Protect him. We have to teach him. Will take time.” Adra hissed through her teeth and delivered her words with clear annunciation. “I will have no part in looking after him.”
Ah. Is there ever a day where things can just go right. Just once. Guess not. Gorum urged us that we could stay the night and that he was happy to have friends. We all did not entirely like the idea but the bogard seemed docile enough. Plus this was the only place where it seemed to have stable, solid ground for miles. It was the only suitable place to rest. So we obliged with the offer and stayed the night. While at camp the bogard stayed with us for a few and told detail of giant snakes and an old statue to the south. Naturally Boris was interested in fighting these snakes to further prove his devotion to Balinor. Well atleast we had a vague idea of what was to come.
The next two days we ventured further south without any incident or anything remarkable to note. There was still some animosity between Adra and Boris. Though it was entirely on Adra’s side. I understand her conviction, to uphold the law. Though Boris could argue that he was not breaking a law, since these lands were lawless. What upset her more though was the refusal of his belief in our knowledge. I have been through slums, cities, towns, and ram shackled villages. I have seen a wide variety of dealings of narcotics in my span of ten years. No doubt Adra has seen it as well. With her being a meticulous inspector and all.
After a while on our third day out into the marshlands, we started to finally come across an overgrown clearing with solid soil. The clearing had a certain, empty calm to it. As though it remain unburdened. Silent. Still. Though not in a way that would make men uncomfortable or worrisome. An oddity in these parts, where wild life seems to find a way to crawl, trot, gallop and scurry over every inch of land.
In the middle of the clearing stood a giant, derelict statue, covered in vines in the middle of area. Boris jumped off of his horse and scampered over to the statue. Seeing him in the helm that he took from the Stag Lord, bobbing and weaving back and forth as he rushed towards the statue looked kind of funny. Like a small child running towards a father he has not seen in years. “Balinor! Ha ha! A statue in his honor!” The area looked to be and felt like a bit of a safe haven. Though like the temple in his name we found a month and a half ago prior, it looked abandoned.
Kurgar plopped down and sat on a log to light his pipe and began to mock Boris. “Seems your God is really popular around these parts” in a sarcastic tone. Adra sneered at the statue and added her own words. “I can see he is truly loved. His temple and now this is a shining example.” Boris’s ever lasting smile partially faded, as the words hurt him. “That is enough” I whispered to our crude dwarf and inquisitor. Boris just looked around the area with concern and slowly began to clear the statue and the immediate area..
“It is sad in a way isn’t it? To see a god you worship, abandoned and forgotten” Stonehands whispered. Me and him watched Boris muttering to himself while working diligently. “To be honest I have not come across a temple of Dol Arrah in a while. It is better than seeing a temple of her’s mistreated and neglected.” Stonehands and I were silent for a moment as we saw Kurgar and Adra slowly setting up camp. “I am glad the Flame has a huge following. Nobody seems to ignore the flame like parts of da Host.” Stonehands began to caress the Silver Flame necklace he now wore ever since I met up with him again back in Brindol. I got up and moved towards Boris and the statue. Flame or Host, it is not acceptable either way.
I pulled out my sword and started cutting away at all the vines and shrubbery that surrounded the statue and its area. Boris looked up and gave me acknowledgment. “Why would anyone leave Balinor. He has been so good to me and my family” he said with a frown. “I cannot speak for others Boris, I do not know” I reply. After a while Stonehands came up and started to help clean things up. I gave Stoney a look of thanks and went back to talking with Boris. “These lands need to remember the gods. Only through the Host’s guidance can people know peace” said Boris. “So why Cedric, are you and Mr. Bloodbeard helping me? You follow a Goddess of Law and War. He follows the Everlasting Flame. Why help The Hunt?”
“Yes I and faithful entirely to another but Balinor is of The Host. I respect that. I respect any religion or faith that seeks to better people and not bring harm to the innocent. For Stoney…he is probably just doing it because he feels bad for you. “Thank you Cedric.” After about another hour or so the statue was cleared as was the field. After our efforts there seemed to be what felt like a blessing wash over us. Boris looked up at the statue, put the stag helm under his arm, and bowed, as his smile finally returned. Our camp that night was arguably the most peaceful night we had our in the forest. Seems all that Balinor needed was for a devout follower to pass by and restore the faith. I went up to the statue and gave thanks before we left. If it was a statue of my goddess, I would want anyone else to do the same……
We spent the next day searching further south. We seemed to be passing by a wolves den when all we could hear was howling all over the area. Boris wanted to go out of the way to find this pack of wolves and deal with the. All Boris wants to do is hunt. So when he heard animals in the distance, he wanted to kill them in honor of his god. The way I saw it that they were just a pack of wolves looking after their area. I did not want to go out of my way to kill them for no reason. Though hey, different gods, different beliefs. We all have our own codes and principles.
After a day of walking further south, the howling got out of earshot and with that, Boris’a constant suggestions that we find them and kill them. The wooded area started to fade and recede back into marshland. We got to an area of the swamp where it became deadly quiet. There was a sunken clearing, smoldering plants, all accompanied with a vile and putrid stench. Smack dab in the middle of this, is what appeared to be a dead unicorn of all things. We all steadily approached the unicorn, getting through the squelching ground. The closer we approached, the more eerie the scene looked.
The odd part was about this macabre scene was that for something to be dead in the wild, by now, it would be crawling with something. Bugs, insects, worms, scavengers. We all kind of stared in amazement. Never…seen a unicorn before. Now here it is before us…dead. Odd to see something that you hear about in fairy tales at your feet, keeled over. What ever it was in the area, it unsettled Boris’s horse Panther. The other horses were uneasy but Panther was picking up something else which made him act out a bit more than the other horses. “Ugh…this makes me uncomfortable” said Stonehands.
Adra pulled out her healing kit. No surprise that her’s looks better than mine. She settled down with caution next to the unicorn and began to examine it. After a while she got up and sighed. “Well. I don’t think I needed to say it but…this was not done by normal means. Most likely…..this was death magic.” Well that would explain why nothing wants to touch the body. Stonehands began to mumble incoherently about something and began to pace himself. “Ugh…Ya know. This sounds a might tad familiar” he began to drawl. “There used to be stuff they whispered about. The erg…fey magic. The dark sort of variety. This kinda thing seems like their sort of deal.” Adra gave him a look that made it appear as if she was insulted. “How would a dwarf from the holds even know about anything like this?”
It does not matter at this point. The creature is dead. We have to settle it. Finally Kurgar who was eying the unicorn the whole time hungrily spoke up. “Ya know I am tired of rations and crap. Boris you don’t hunt for a damn. Now we got ourselves some mystical unicorn meat. I’m digging in.” So much for that unicorn going untouched. Boris tried to step in between Kurgar and the unicorn. “No, do not do this. It is tainted meat. It is not pu-” when Kurgar finally shoved him aside. Kurgar pulled out a blade and cut out a piece off of the unicorn.
It was a disturbing sight to say the least. Kurgar cutting off little piece by piece of the unicorn and downing the horrid flesh. This was arguably the most disgusting thing we have seen him do. That is saying a lot. “Ya know Kurgar…this isn’t smart. I mean…if Boris won’t eat it…you shouldn’t eat it.” Kurgar just laughed at our pleads for him to stop. Well me, Boris and Stonehand’s pleas. Adra I am sure had this mix of horror seeing the unicorn get eaten but also a sadistic curiosity to what it’s flesh would do to his body.
We got an answer all to soon. Kurgar began to sweat profusely. His skin turned ghostly white. Even whiter than it was when we had the encounter with Tuskgutter. He tried to get up and only stumbled. Wow…the meat was really working it’s way through his system fast. He fell down and vomited until it started to turn a shade of red. Me and Boris got up to help him but he pushed us away. He scampered up before we could get to him and jumped on his horse. He said he had to go back to Fort Serenity immediately. I yelled out he would be mad to take off with him being sick as he was. Between him being in agony and his violent vomiting. I do not think he heard me.
Boris sent a message on his scary, undead bird to the fort, saying to be on the lookout for Kurgar and that he was very, very ill. “Well…that was more than enough. Hey…Ced. Gimme er hand” said Stoney. “This thing needs a proper send off” as we walked back towards the unicorn. “I…think it would be best to leave it be” interjected Adra. “I am with Stone here. We can’t leave it like this” I replied. Me and Stonehands tied a rope around the unicorn and dragged it’s body out to the closest dry land we could find. Upon finding said land we both felt that as if we needed to say a few words. I just doused the body in some holy water, gave it a small blessing as Stoney was the one who was trying to muddle up together a proper speech.
After we splashed the body with oil and began to set it ablaze, something….interesting happened. While we were watching the body burn, Stonehand’s bunny ears and tail began to vanish and to replace it, archaic fey tattoos appeared on his arms. Stone grew to like those ears of his and even the tail made him chuckle. However their disappearance did not seem to bother him as he seemed plenty appreciated with the tattoos that popped up on him. I watched as the mark of fey trickery vanished and was replaced by something that seemed, to me anyways, respectable. I took off my helmet and scratched at the green fur that has been on me for a few months now. How long am I going to have this on me I wonder….