They are making tough going of it, but I don’t care. I don’t care that none of them are likely to see the next inevitable attack. Don’t care that whoever is leading hasn’t a clue how to pick a trail. Right now I wouldn’t care if a swarm of giant bugs descended upon this party. I would welcome the opportunity for blood. Welcome the opportunity for vengeance.
Something has to pay for what they did to my Ash.
A shout ahead. Goblins, they say? My hands go to weapons and I drag myself into a run as we hunt, leave the edge of the stream.
The forest is dense here, but there’s a clearing ahead, sunlight penetrating the leafy gloom.
A tree-splitting roar. And then the forest lights up in fire and the world goes to hell.
Death is overrated. There really is nothing to it. I wonder what the priests would say? Better not push my luck. After all, I was only dead for minutes, so they tell me.
One moment, asleep in our camp. The next, smacked awake by an impact on my legs. Pitch dark. People shouting. Ash barking. I conjured light, more by reflex than conscious thought.
And there, over me, some kind of giant praying mantis. A blur of movement and I was out.
And then I was back. As energetic as a wet blanket. Groggy.
You died, Alix said.
We gave you the stone, someone else said.
A memory. The priestess of Elloran making amends for their betrayal, the stone of resurrection. I’m amazed they gave it to me. I must’ve done something right. Thank Faldhu.
And so I live.
Live to keep trudging through this infernal forest. A wee trade with Abra yielded more ink.
Under the protection of an ent — think about that for a minute, it is some kind of special, a far cry from picking pockets of poor merchantmen down the harbour, eh — I got to put said ink to use. It took hours to transcribe the spell from the late Calwyn’s grimoire.
And now I get to put my newest spell to use.
Goblins, running to a village, to raise their forces against us. The fireball kills all six of them, sets two hovels on fire.
It feels… marvellous. All the skulking, all the denial — burnt away in one fell conjuration.
Every part of me sizzles. This is what it means to be Vahdrim!
The goblins sue for peace, we make a deal. Food and safe passage, the gift of a sword to keep their chief in the tribe’s good favour. I could kill them all. But where’s the profit in that? We have to find this troll, and then this evil tree. And evade the Testerris dogs. Or not. I imagine the old enemy’s robes will burn just fine.
At least now I know there is nothing to welcome us on the other side of the veil — no paradise, no afterlife, no purgatory. Just silence and the dark. There is warning and comfort in that.
This is all there is. Make the most of it.
ZILLAH AND SQUIRREL
On leaving the goblin village…
S: Hey, Zillah, that fireball got their attention, eh.
Z: Why did you do that?
S: Because I could. (Grins) Been itching to throw one of them since I was a just an apprentice playing with cantrips. Nice to be bargaining from a position of strength for a change.
Z: Yeees… OK, I’ll give you that. You probably saved our arses. Turned out there were a hell of a lot of them. And thank blessed Emrys they have food they’re willing to part with. But… dammit, you killed creatures that weren’t attacking us. Yes, OK, I know they were goblins, but still… It was rash, Squirrel. Rash. (Frowns)
S: He who casts first, casts last, as my father used to say.
Z: I suppose I should be glad we didn’t have to fight them. There’s been too much fighting in this forest. But… Dammit, I’m totally lying. All I wanted to do was hit something! Lots of things. Goblins. Really hard.
S: I know you wanted to go with me to parlay —
Z: — maybe not parlay —
S: — with the goblin chief, but it was pretty clear he just wanted to strike a deal. Food for safe passage through this stretch of forest was a good deal. And I was happy to throw him a bone for the sake of our convenience. Letting him save face with a bit of theatre was the least we could do.
Z: You’d better cursed well look after my shortsword now you’ve given him yours.
S: Pick your fights, that’s what Mother used to say. The goblin chief made a deal that allowed him to save face, and his people — and his own skin! Still, it was good to know you and the others had my back. That’s a new experience for me. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I’m just enjoying being able to pull more of my weight, eh. Take some of the burden from you and Alix, if I can.
Z: Hmph. Yeah, OK. Maybe they would have kicked our arses. Or maybe you saved me from butchering a goblin colony — and no matter how much I would have enjoyed that just now, I’m sure I’ll be thankful later.
S: Plus it saved our resources for the big fight. We’re not done fighting yet. Not with the troll and this ‘Dark Tree’ ahead of us.
Z: Yeah, that troll is another thing entirely. I do believe I’m going to relish that encounter. (frowns) As for the Dark Tree… What did you make of the tree ent’s demand?
S: I’m still getting my head around the fact that we stayed a whole day under the ent’s protection. I know you and Alix have seen some wonderful, some amazing, stuff. But an ent — that’s awe inspiring. I’m guessing we’d find leaving the forest difficult if we don’t do as it demanded, so we’ll have to try to weed out (wink) this Dark Tree.
Z: (groans and punches Squirrel in the arm)
S: And after all the pain it has caused us, I’m all for that. Besides, if that thing has been harvesting everyone who has come into the forest, it must have reaped some pretty interesting gear. And of course, from yours and Alix’s perspective — and mine too, for that matter — there’s the issue of the link to the other Broken Forest and the older magic that’s poisoned that. So yes, I think it’s in our interests to take care of the troll, and then the Dark Tree. Hey, the axe the troll has taken from Climber might come in useful against an evil tree, right? And there’s always fire. Fire is good.
So this is part 2 of our recent session and there’s still, er, more to come. Jason Nahrung and I got a little carried away… Thank you, Jason, for channelling Squirrel for this post.
All earlier posts can be found on the D&D Chronicles page.