Welcome Traveler…

Down the winding path you stumble on. The night so thick that it strangles the light from the moon. Encasing it in a fog of gray cloudy plumes that drift slowly across the blackness of the starless midnight sky. Thick as the smoke of a dieing funeral pire.

You hold your lantern out to greet the darkness. The subtle glow of it’s blue flame beckoning you further down the beaten trail. Tall looming pines and unforgiving patches of razor sharp thorny brush mar your vision on either side.

Then it grabs your eye. Directly ahead a tiny pinpoint of light caresses your iris. Just a miniscule speck at first. Smaller than a firefly but more pronounced. Not a flicker, just a solid glowing ember. Sometimes orange and welcoming. Occasionally flashing green, red, or purple as if tiny explosions were erupting to life only to die away in a fevered flash.

You stop as you stare into the tiny speck of light. So alien in the  thick darkness that surrounds you in this entangled fortress of natural terror. Slowly you steal a glance to the rear. The place where you’ve been. The bustle of the markets and merchants. The blood and shit lining the gutters. The cloaked figures in the filthy back allies and side street pubs. Calmly awaiting the perfect moment to follow an unsuspecting fool with a belly full of ale and a head full of dreams into the still night to help alleviate them of the burden that a full coin sack can bring. Sometimes the unfortunate souls would awake in a puddle of blood with a splitting head. Sometimes they would not.

Far too much time have you wasted in this wicked den of greed and Chaos, and even now Greyhawks’s foul stench infests your nostrils. Even here alone in this desolate forest the cries of dieing men and beasts echo in your mind’s ear.

That’s in the past now. You’ve made your choice. By this time next week Greyhawk will be a distant memory. No longer can you dissern the lantern’s glow from that dark pit.

But what of this new flicker set in your path. Could it simply be a trick of his weary mind? A menevoleant spirit beckoning to the solitary wanderer. Calling your name in a wicked chorus of  “come hither” flashes and sparks.

Suddenly, you are torn away from the light emitting from this far off anomaly that you must undoubtedly confront if you intend to distance yourself from the Hawk’s bitter reek. To your left the underbrush burst to life with snapping twig and rustling bush. From the still silence comes a battalion scuttling mystery. First on one side then the other. Now seemingly all around you Traveler. The tall looming pines shake with a violent pulse. As if this ancient wood had just received a adrenaline shot in the heart. Bursting to life and looming with death.

Shrill screams fill your ears sending your head spinning. You real around in a partial circle staring into the blackness and you curse that damn Bard who relieved you of your weapon and most of your gear back at the Hollowed Horn Tavern. Most of all you curse your foolish weakness for the dice that allowed him to do it.

That was a moot point here and now though as you stand unarmed in the night like a damned fool, terror fully taking hold. As the trees rattle like a drum and the screeching hiss of the unseen murauders swirl around. Louder and louder by the millisecond you spot two new specks illuminating  the darkness. A burning green as full of natural essence as the emerald chloroplast in the leaves of a new spring sapling, but burning with a rage and malice that could only intend wickedness and suffering to any one unfortunate enough to fall into thier carnivores gaze.

Wood Goblins, without question. One of the road such as yourself was no stranger to thier threat. A horde could desomate an unsuspecting caravan. The filthy stinking little beasts can seemingly materialize from out of nowhere and swarm like giant razor mouthed hornets before a party even knows what hit them. Looting, plundering, and maiming. Picking clean the bones of both unlucky merchants, and thier precious cargo.

In the black booming terror one set of eyes becomes two. Two becomes four. Four becomes how many? A hundred? A thousand? You have no way to know and no time to debate the matter.

This is the moment when your courage fails you. You may be a fool that gambles away your gear, but let no one say that you are fool enough to stand ideally by and be a midnight snack for a band of wood Goblins.

So you do what must be done. You run. You run faster than your feet have ever carried you. Troding down the narrow path. Starring directly into the tiny flashing light that had captured your inturege and wonder only seconds before. It doesn’t matter now what this mystery ahead may hold. The approaching doom that surrounds you at this moment takes precident over whatever may be creating these colorful fireworks in the road.

As your heart pounds hard in the pit of your chest, you can feel the greasy clawed mitts grasping at your sweat soiled tunic. Ripping and tearing at the batterd worn cloth. You smell the sour breath of the horde and feel it’s steamy heat.

As on you run the light ahead begins to take form. It slowly becomes distinguishable. A small hut. Overgrown with lifetimes of neglect. If not for the illumination from the small dirty window of the tiny landmark, it would appear to any onlooker to be a lost remnant of times forgotten. Abandoned for eternity. But this is clearly not the case.

You puff in the cool night air and release tufts of horrified exhaustion. The horde of little green killing machines hot on your heels. As you approach the hut a fleeting thought occurs to you “What if what’s inside this forgotten shack is a worse fate than being torn to shreds by goblins?” ‘Is that possible?” Of course it is, but with the screaming demons inches away from clamping into your flesh you suppose that is a chance that you must take.

You burst through the decrepit remnants of what was once a sturdy wooden gate. Now laying here and there in bits and tatters. An ancient cobblestone walk lay half buried, half protruding from the lichen covered forest floor. The door is nearly within reach. You stretch your arms out wildly gripping for a solid handle in which to gain admittance.

That’s when you slipped. Your right foot planting firmly on a large jagged moss covered stone and sliding straight out in front of you causing you to do a nearly full split. The tendons in both legs stretching to thier limits. A rip of pain tearing your groin like an overtaxed rubber band.

Before you hit the ground the disgusting creatures are upon you. A white hot flash of agony grips your left calf as one of the beasts sinks it’s jagged fangs in deep. As you touch down your right temple finds a home in the bottom corner of the large oaken door you have fought to reach and the world goes red. Blood pools from the resulting gash and you kick, punch, bite, and scratch madly at the small ripping teeth and claws that swarm you. You know this is the end. Consciousness begins to allude you.

Just then, as you prepare to accept your horrible fate. The oaken door burst open. A huge flash explodes into the thick night like a cannon. Rocking the world around you. As you slip into the dark recess hidden behind the lids of your blood filled eyes the shrill pain filled cries of dieing goblins pound your eardrums like a spike in your brain. You smell the pungent aroma of charred flesh and singed hair. Then all is still. Quiet. The ground gives way beneath you, and you feel as if you are soaring. Weightless in a dark abyss. Time and space no longer exist as far as you can descern. Nothing matters now. You simply are. In that moment you are lost yet you are found. The black starless night claims you as its own and you slip away…

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