The Proposition

The days passed. The wounds healed. The headaches slowly subsided.

Mossbeard saved you from those horrible green hell spawn. He also saved your leg from the rot. Goblins were disgusting creatures, and a bite from one carried more then a mouth full of serrated daggers. It carried disease, infection, more often then not amputation. Fortunately for you the gruff dwarven alchemist’s herbalism is far beyond up to snuff. A lifetime amongst the pines had led to a profound knowledge of herbs, roots, berries, and all manners of natural elements and thier medicinal properties.

It had been nearly two weeks since the goblin attack and your strength had nearly fully returned. The limp that had at first been so debilitating had now almost subsided. As the days scurried along and your vitality steadily retuned your thoughts began to drift to the reality of your situation.

You are all in all still just a boat adrift. You still have no money, no direction, and the only thing from your forgotten past that your well battered brain can summon up is Elwood, the elusive gnome in which it appears you had been traveling with when you were apperantly attacked. The sinking question burrowing it way to the forefront of your mind is “What now?”. Where do you go from here?.

Your host could offer you little counsel in the matter even if you had enlightened him on your unique situation. Which you surely hadn’t. In fact the last two weeks had rendered little more then strained, uncomfortable small talk and questioning uneasy glances.

Despite the uneasiness and lack of conversation, Mossbeard had been a genuinely hospitable host. He had provided meals, shelter, clean linens, and basic accomodations. The dwarf seemed to give freely with no question of payment or repetitions. You couldn’t help but ponder, alone at night lying on the cot the short stocky landlord had provided mostly, how long could this be unwarranted generosity last. What did this unselfish saviour want of you? For in this harsh cutthroat, dog eat dog world no man (or dwarf for that matter) gives away food and ale freely without an alteriar¬† motive.

You arose on the tenth morning of your stay in the ivy covered house outside of Greyhawk to the¬† aroma of frying meats. From the small cook stove in the corner you could hear the sizzle of grease popping and cracking wildly. Next the distinct “click, click, click” of eggshells being tapped firmly against the cast iron, followed by a loud hissing eruption as fresh yokes hit the pan.

You pull back the feathered Owlbear blanket under which you have spent the best part of the last two weeks. Quickly slip into your meager clothing and slide on your battered road worn leather boots. Without haste you arise make up the small cot and head hurriedly towards the intoxicating smell.

“Ah, so it lives.” The dwarf said as you approach the rough cut hardwood table in the center of the room. You offer little more than a grunt in return. Mossbeard pays little notice to your unsociable breakfast table manner.

“I’ve prepared us a fine lot this morning. Buzzard’s eggs and boar sausage.” Between the fabulous aroma and the way that Mossbeard spread the words, like jelly on toast, you find yourself nearly salivating at the thought of such lavish woodland delicacies.

He flipped the eggs once, sprinkled an unknown spice over the untouched former underside, waited a minute, and with the savvy of a renound chef scooped them from the pan and onto the two awaiting plates. Where they were joined shortly by the beautiful brown boar patties and some large fluffy biscuits that had been waiting ideally on a small table to the right of the cast iron stove.

The grub hits the table and you are certainly not shy. Mossbeard’s cooking had become something you found yourself looking forward to. He apparently had no problem acquiring provisions, as he always seemed to have an ample amount. Even with supplying an unexpected house guest.

As you shovel down the remnants of your buzzard eggs, the rich gamey flavor perfectly complementing the ground boar, you notice the dwarf casting a satisfied glance in your direction. “Fine thing, boar sausage. Ground and seasoned it myself.” He said, as he pulled a small clump of emerald ivy from the weave of his mossy green tinted beard and tossed it to the side. Your appetite suddenly began to faulter as your imagination began to stir and you find yourself liking the idea of this mouldy fellow seasoning the meat less and less.

“I stuck the beast with a hand made arrow. I knapped the flint point myself. I skinned it, gutted it, butchered it, rendered the fat into lard, and stretched the hide to be made into leather. The bones I will boil for broth or splinter them down to make needles and other tools. So in the end I will use the creature’s bones to sew its own hide into boots. You see… I killed the beast only for necessity. I take no pleasure in the deed and do my best to make use of as much of my fallen brother as I can. You see friend, I have lived amongst the flora and fauna for much of my life, thier way is my way, and my way is thiers. To kill for enjoyment is a disgrace and to waste a kill is to disrespect the animals spirit. That is not my way.”

“I then take the remains that I can make no use of and throw them at the base of a ridge to the west of this place. He continued. The buzzard’s roost there. They swoop down, eat the boar remains, get fat and happy, and produce large succulent eggs. I climb the ridge every now and again and grab what I need to keep me going. Then I compost the eggshells and fertilize my garden, and the cycle continues.”

“Now, I’m not just giving you an ecology lesson without reason my full bellied friend. The moral of my long winded speech is that doing all of these things take a good amount of work and effort to achieve.”

“An extra mouth is extra work. I won’t fault you for the time that you’ve spent here. I chose to save you from becoming goblin fodder of my own accord. I took on the weight of boarding you when I opened that door.”

“Now I don’t know much about you friend.” He said with a questioning eye. “But I know what running off in the night looks like. It also appears to me that you don’t seem to be in a hurry to get on your way, and I can’t recall you ever mentioning where you were headed.”

“You haven’t given me any cause to think you intend to do me ill, and you don’t seem to have a thief’s eye, so I see no reason to put you out. You are welcome to stay if you’re willing to pull your weight. I suppose you could consider it an apprenticeship of sorts.”

“You see I’ve lived a long time Traveler, and I’ve learned many useful skills. Mostly natural abilities hunting, fishing, botany, and survival skills among others. I’ve also acquired some less conventional skills that take a bit more then the world that can be seen by the eye can provide. But these lessons are for another day. So what say you Traveler? Will you sign on as my apprentice or will you be on your way?

Safe and Sound

It had been nearly a month since you had awoken battered and lost on that icy stretch of cobblestone.

Greyhawk had proven a harsh mistress. A city of vile patronage. A poor damn fool that couldn’t even remember their own name was an easy mark. Even for a fairly inexperienced con-man. For three and a half increasingly inhospitable weeks you fluttered about that den of sin. You attempted to mount a ill planned investigation, but no one that you questioned had any knowledge of a Gnome named Elwood, and you had seemingly not encountered anyone who had recognized you.

As the days passed your morale quickly faulterd and your taste for the drink flourished. The small leather coin pouch that you had scavenged from the ruins of the cart tagged “Elwood’s Emporium” grew increasingly lighter by the day. Gems were swapped for tankards of grog and coins flowed through your hands with the greatest of ease.

Then there were those damned dice. You found them in the little satchel shortly after you hit town. Mixed amongst the glimmer and shine jewels and precious metals were seven distinctly shaped objects. Each with a different number of sides and engraved with numbers ranging from one to twenty.

These had proven a powerful evil in which you could not seem to overcome. One evening whilst draining a pint you found yourself enthralled by the tiny onyx game pieces. Grasping the seven stones above the hardwood table that had been holding you upright for the better part of the evening, and then releasing your grip allowing the enchanting little bits to tumble this way and that. The golden shimmer of the numbers and sleek black hue sparkling like the first morning sun. As you sat examining the results of one of your meaningless drops, you glanced up from your Ale hazed wonder to meet the gaze of a kindly looking old fellow watching intently.

“Some fine workmanship on those.” the thin white haired man said with a glint of admiration in his deeply set bloodshot eyes. “Have you ever played for coin?” You then informed this fine looking old gentleman with the big friendly smile that not only had you never played for coin, you in fact have no idea how to play the game at all.

Well wouldn’t you know that this  saintly old soul in which you had been speaking happened to be somewhat of an expert on the subject, and out of the kindness of his gentle, completely unbiased, caring heart, he selflessly voluntered to teach you  to roll the dice. For coin of course. “After all a game of dice isn’t a game of dice without coin.”  He reassured you with a smile.

By the time you left Greyhawk on the night of the goblin attack, you had gambled, ate, or drank away everything but those cursed onyx  devils. Including the leather chest piece that you had been wearing when you first hit town. The gentle little fellow with the friendly smile had raked you hard over a bed of coals.

He taught you the art of the roll. You were a natural. Hand after hand, it seemed that you couldn’t lose, that fateful night in that stuffy little canteen. One by one,  roll after roll you watched as those sparkling gold bits began to stack higher and higher. It was incredible. As if some great wealth enchantment had been cast upon you. Greedily you cast the dice again and again.

Then your luck seemed to abandon you. The wonderful little stacks that had thrilled you in a deep hidden spot that only those with “the itch” can truly understand, were slowly depleting. Roll….you lose. Roll…another loss. Roll…winner. So on it went. Winning one in three if you were lucky. One in five or six more often then not. Soon the coins you had sat on the table were gone and you found yourself digging in your battered coin pouch for replacements.

As you rolled you drank. As you drank you lost. The more you lost, you guessed it, the more you drank.

Your not exactly sure when the kindly looking crooked man finished humiliating you, but you do know that when you awoke in the ally behind the tavern with some unknown grime smeared down your face and caked on your clothes, your coin pouch was nearly empty. The old con-man had allowed you to keep your complete set of dice, the sight of which made you immediately ill, and five small gems, all of differing color and shape. Perhaps the crooked little man was kindly after all. He swindled you out of your coin but he left you these bits to trade for food. At least for a few days.

They went quick, and when they were gone you traded what bit of gear you had remaining towards food and lodging. Once that was gone things had been less than accommodating. You stretched as far as you could. Then you broke. You had been unceremoniously removed from your room at the inn, and the tavern owner told you that if he caught you bumming a tankard of all off of his paying customers one more time he was going to have his bouncer, a large angry looking orc with one broken tusk and a large purple tinted scar zig-zagging down his left cheek, adjust the shape of your kneecaps.

No Greyhawk had not been a pleasant experience in any aspect. That’s why you left. That’s why you were in that gods forsaken forest when those little demons got you… Did they get you? Are you dead, torn to shreds by razorblade wood goblin teeth? There was something else. An explosion. The horrible smell. The blinding light.

Just then a scream begins to rise. Softly at first. Increasing more and more by the second until it pierces into your brain like a bolt from from a crossbow. You jerk suddenly awake from your foggy dreams of ventures lost and pasts forgotten.

You open your eyes and sit upright briskly. Pain rips through your calf and a spike of agony punches your brain like a stake driven by a mallet. You immediately fall back onto the cot in which you had sprung from.

“Easy there! You’re not ready to dance a jig yet wanderer.” A strange crackling voice blurted from the foot of the cot. “It’s only the tea kettle don’t strain yourself.”

“Gonna be a day or two till your feeling yourself again. Lucky you made it here when you did. Your little friends out there nearly made a fine meal outta you.”

You lie still and the splitting pain in your skull subsides a bit. You scan the room. It seems to be a small musty smelling hovel. The natural wood paneling that covered the walls began to turn green as the lichen from the outside world had found its way through the tight seams of the wall. Various plants hung from a string line stretched across across the room, drying to be used in some sort of herbal conjuration. Against the far wall was a table that housed a winding array of vial, beakers, burners, tubes, and lines.

“He’s an alchemist.” You deduce. On the left hand wall sat a desk with a  hodge podge mismatch of  objects, tools, and stacks of old, fat, ancient looking books.

You reel to the foot of the cot and spot the owner of the unknown voice. A stout Dwarven fellow stands proudly planted. He smiles a cracked, coffee stained smile as you catch his gaze. His long beard assuredly would have been a snowy white if not for the mossy green tint that much uncleanliness and a lifetime living amongst the mould and ivy of the deep forest had adorned it. He wore a tattered brown shirt and baggy green trousers. both stained with decades of unaccounted for spills and explosions.

“Mossbeard is what they call me theses days. That is the few that call. I don’t do much socializing. Time wasted socializing is time lost learning or discovering. Lucky for you as little as I think of socializing I think a damn spot less of watching goblins rip someone to shreds on my doorstep. It makes an awful mess and the stain lasts for years.” As he said this his lips, hidden beneath his evergreen moustache, curled slightly upward at each corner in a ribbing smile.

“So I saved your hide. Have you ever heard of “The Blinding Essence of Ezekiel”?” He eyed you, waiting for a response. “No.” You croak out realizing how difficult it is for you to speak.

“It’s an explosive potion. It’ll burn ye retinas out if you get a big eyeful at the peak of the blast. It does a bit more to the little green murderers of the forrest. Kinda hollows them out I guess you could say. Burns there eyes out and chars there bloody wicked brains. Scorches them good and crispy. I drug you in while they were still squalling and screeching. You was pretty rough. Busted your dome good on me door. Hell of a knot. They were making lunch of your leg there too. Looks like they got you three or four good times before I charred um. I doctored you up before the rot set in. Goblins are filthy beasts and an untended bite can be a death sentence even if you manage not to become the main course.”

“And here we are. You survived. I’m out a bomb potion and a healing tincture or two. But I suppose that’s alright. You can make it up to me in a few days when you get your legs back under you. I have a few chores and errands that an extra set of hands might just come in handy for.

“Now I may be an eccentric old kook that lives alone in a shack in the woods, but I know the path whence you came and I know the wicked deeds that transpire in Greyhawk. I also know that honest folk don’t generally run off into the woods in the dark of night. So I’ll tell you this once stranger and I suggest that you take it to heart. If you find yourself feeling a bit froggy and think maybe once you heal all strong and fit that you may do old Mossbeard dirty. Whether it be thievery or something a little more sinister, I give you fair warning you will curse the day you ever thought of pulling such a foul stunt. I will boil the hide from your bones before you have a chance to soil your underthings my good wanderer.” With this the smile returned to the dwarfs lips, but it was not the joking playful grin from before. His emerald eyes gazed into your own like he could read your soul like an open book. It was a reasurance that the green bearded fellow whole heartedly meant this warning and would not think twice to follow through with the penalty if it should come to that.

“Enough small talk.” He said as he turned and waddled to a wood stove with a large cast iron pot on top. “It’s nearly supper time and I’m off famished.” He pulled the lid from the top of the pot and produced a large wooden spoon with which he began to stir the glorious smelling contents inside.

“Boar’s haunch and brown beans!” He said with delight as he sampled the soup. “I made a lot. I was figuring you to be a hungry one. After all you’ve been down for two days with no more then the water I could get you to take without drowning you. I’m fairly low on ale, and that’s not a state I like to be in. Maybe once you get a bit of strength back you can help me remedy that. But that’s for another day. Tonight we eat and get aquatinted. After all you fell into my door for a reason. All things have a reason. The universe doesn’t make mistakes, and accidents are never an accident. We just need to find out where we fall in to each other’s story. Sit up if you can and I will make you a bowl…

To be continued……..

Moss Bearded Giver Of Life

He places paint to pallette. He feels the power rising as he briskly turns the pigment. Folding the colors into a blend of custom magic. Stirring and applying Earth’s crystal clear liquid essence to the mix until it becomes a velvety pool of mystic life granting slime.

The peculiar short, stout figure stops stirring. He glances at the small tool he holds in his right hand. By the light of his single burning candle he examines the small glob that hangs from the curved end of the tiny implement. He turns it one way, then the other. Catching the lights reflection. A small satisfied smile pulls the corners of his musty emerald stained beard slightly upward. Revealing his coffee and smoke yellowed teeth.

“This will do fine.” The Dwarven unkempt little folder of time and space muses to himself. “Orc skin. Tonight my little friend you live.”

He reaches into a small oddly marked package resting on his cluttered workbench. Symbols endow the tiny paper box. Scrawled by the hand of another of great power. A creator of empty vessels awaiting the pigment of life. A tiny golem of resin, erected from the nothingness of a three dimensional void box capable of creating nearly any object that the the master of the code can imagine.

The power of the the 3D printer is not one held by the scruffy individual that we now intrude upon. So through the invisible web of power that such holders of the divine spark use to communicate, he relies on merchants of the orient to obtain the small figures in which he plans to breath colorful life.

The lichen bearded dwarf, we must hold in mind, is no adept in Pigment Magic. It’s a new skill that he has recently acquired and he has much to learn, yet by trial and error he gleefully intends to hone this ritual of lights and darks to the furthest perfection his abilities will allow.

He begins by collecting the tools of the craft. The crude implements that he has chosen for his task are far from fine or of distinguished brand and I’m sure that many of more experience and skill would scoff at the thought of using such products, but for this mossbearded twister of dimensions they will do fine.

He begins by preparing the piece. Slowly, carefully shaving away the parting lines with a sharp razor knife. He slips at one point. the sharp blade sinking into the pad of his thumb. He shakes the wound, utters a few well groomed curses, clots and continues.

He makes the choice to assemble the tiny pieces before beginning the painting process. He may alter this approach in future endeavors but that is yet to be determined. Common super glue works best to achieve a strong fast bond.

After he has skinned the tiny unwanted lines from the small figure to his satisfaction the stout hairy enchanter takes from his tool kit a common toothbrush. With soapy warm water he cleanses the piece. Gently scrubbing the entire surface of the figure and then rinsing away all soap residue. He then set the piece aside and left it until it had dried thoroughly.

After it had dried the time had come to begin. The Dwarf then took the figure, paying attention not to handle it too much to avoid oils from his hands from contaminating the cleaned piece, and adhered it to a makeshift handle with tacky putty which can be found at any local merchant. This will reduce handling.

He then draws a bag of brushes from a musty drawer filled with countless unknown wonders. He applies the primer. In this case, the dwarf uses the mix known as Matte Pewter Grey Acrylic from Apple Barrel. It is a cheap bottle of paint but he is satisfied. He makes sure to thin his paints for a smooth uniformed application. He then applies thin even coats until he is satisfied that all is covered well.

After allowing ample time for the primer to dry he then begins applying some color. As he is new to this skill he is still trying out various brands and types of paint. Verde Jade from Game Color by Vallejo has proven a fine product creating a strong, resistant coating with a very vibrant attractive hue.

Slowly, patiently, the tiny creature is given life in a rainbow of color. This process may be faster for some, but for this novice it can take awhile as dry times and life’s interruptions can slow you down or at times turn you around completely. So he is patient, he is maticulous in his details, and he is ever thinking of his color scheme.

Applying a wash adds depth and texture to the tiny orc. The thin viscosity causes the wash to lay in the creaves giving a shadow effect. For this project the dwarf has chosen Vallejo Dark Green Model wash (mostly because it was left over from his last project) for the leather and clothing and Contrast Magos Purple by Citadel Colour for the skin.

As with any budding talent there are mistakes to be made and lessons to learn. The shaggy dwarf is no exception to the rule. He attempts to imbue a glowing aura on the cannon using low dollar Folk Art glow paint and finish. After a struggle covering the target areas the result was a disappointing glowless green hue. Luckily it’s not a terrible color and didn’t damage the overall eye appeal of the piece.

Finally the finishing touches are applied to the paint. Gold and silver accents saved for last.

Now comes the protective coating. The dwarven painter applies a coat of a thick creamy substance called Mod Podge. He smears a genrous amount of the goo all over the tiny orc, taking care to avoid pooling in the creaves and creases. Mod Podge is actually a water based glue that can also be used as a sealer or finish. They offer a few different options including gloss, matte, satin, and sparkle to name a few. For this piece he has chosen matte.

Don’t be put off when you begin applying the Mod Podge. It appears at first that you are ruining all of your hard work by rubbing what looks like Elmer’s Glue all over it, but never fear, as it dries it loses its white hue slowly becoming a nice smooth clear protective coat. If you allow it to pool it will dry in an ugly white clump so make sure that you sop up any excess.

So there it is. He cleans his brushes with cool clean water. He wipes the unused paint away from his pallette. Instruments he certainly will wield another long night when the desire strikes him.

From a lifeless mass of plastic he has erected a character. Into grey nothingness he has breathed colorful spirit. A story begins. A new day dawns….

The Forgotten One

You sway on the murky sea. Drifting to and fro. You stir and shift uncomfortably. At times it feels as if you are falling. Or is it flying? It’s hard to tell the difference. You open your eyes to see what has happened. Where you are.

The smoke billows into the coal night sky. You struggle with little avail to lift your splitting head. “My skull has been cleaved in two!” Is your first fleeting reaction as crippling agony roars through your swelled cranium. You return your face to the cold unforgiving icy forrest trail upon which you sprawl.

You lay there still. Time shambles along like a band of undead on a damned march to eternity. Finally you muster the remaining strength that you must harness. Lest you lie forever, or at least until the wolves (or something twice as horrible) smell your now curdled  blood and decide to take a closer look. You push yourself onto all fours and remain there for a time. The smell of a dieing fire tickles your nostrils and you slowly glance around the immediate area.

To your left, and in the center of the hewn stone forrest path, lie the smouldering remains of a wooden merchant’s cart. Now no more than a skeletal pile of burnt rubble. There is a half charred banner that had somehow survived the onslaught. In the common speech the words “Elwood’s Traveling Emporium” shine silver and gold on the deep crimson cloth.

“Elwood’s Traveling Emporium”. The words resonate in your mind. You try desperately to recall this glamouros tapestry and how you have came to lie with it in it’s apparent final resting place.

“Elwood….hmm….is that me?” Even in your disconnected state this doesn’t click as true. No your not Elwood. But then who are you? To your horror the answer alludes you. You can’t remember. In fact short of waking up in a pool of dried blood you don’t seem to recall anything of your life on the other side of a knock on the head.

It seems aperant that you must have been traveling with this traveling snake oil cart, and it seems even a fool can see that there was some sort of raid or attack. Further then that all is shrouded in mystery. Any signs of the mysterious Elwood or the goods that he carried have apparently vanished without a trace. All but this burnt rubble of a cart. The horses that drew it here evaporated into the black night like the rest. You pull yourself heavily to your feet. Wincing as fresh bolts of pain rock your spinning head, and you teeter on your unstable legs. After a moment of intense pain and a go at emptying the remains of your aperant last meal, venison and peas so it looks, you gain enough balance and composure to stumble about. Searching for clues to this forgotten wagon or your misplaced identity.

The bench seat remains partially in tact. Sitting atop the scorched heap like the ruined throne of a burnt kingdom. You approach the bench and shove it with the toe of one heavy leather booted foot. The reminence easily topples over. It seems that whoever picked these bones made sure that they were clean.

Suddenly a fragment of a memory, or maybe just a dream, spikes you in the back of your head. A vauglely formilliar, yet incredibly hazy scene rolls in your minds eye.

There is a small bearded individual in a golden yellow cloak. He appears to be smaller than a dwarf yet more trim and slender then those of robust haffling stock. “A Gnome” you identify quickly enough. “Elwood. Elwood Mandrake.” The name seemingly illuminates itself with no effort or strained concentration.

In the memory you see the well dressed little fellow going about his preparations. Loading the wagon with countless mystery crates, bottles, and kegs. “Looks like it’s going to be a long journey.” you speculate silently. Then as the short thin creature climbs aboard the thoroughly stuffed wagon you witness something that grabs your attention. The road savy merchant takes from his pocket a small burlap sack, barely larger than a ladies coin purse. The Gnome then reaches under the thick padded slab of the bench seat and withdrew a thin removable slice of wood, revealing a false panel carved into the think piece of timber. Elwood places the small sack of unknown treasures and a ragged sheet of yellowed parchment into the hidden compartment and then slides the thin panel securly back into place. The secret space now invisible to all who doesn’t know it’s hidden tale.

You stare now at the smoke blackened bench in which you have just toppled. It’s one in the same. You kneel by the rubble and rub you hand across the bottom of the thick hearty slab of timber. As your fingers move gently along the grain you feel a piece slide slightly to one side. You’ve found Elwood’s stash. Luckily who or whatever had ambushed the small wagon had overlook this unknown horde.

You remove the contents of Elwood’s travel stash and peer inside the small bag. Gold, silver, and a handful of shining jewels that glowed even in the dark burlap sack hidden from any reflection of the moons rays. Beside the sack is the parchment. You carefully unfold the crisp document and look it over intently.

It’s a map. It has suffered a bit of damage and though the trail and destination are still clearly marked, the starting location seems to have been singed away as the wagon burned. You’re lucky to have salvaged this scrap in time. At least you know where you intended to wind up.

Greyhawk. The name holds little weight in your scrambled thoughts. You stare at the name scrawled on the charred parchment for a few moments, pocket the sack of goodies, and make your decision. Standing alone in the dark with dried blood cracking down your temple isn’t going to get you any answers. If there are any to be had, you surmise, Greyhawk is where you will find them.

So you begin to walk. Following the cobblestone trial into the frigid night. Praying silently to unknown gods that the answers you seek will be found along this lonely road in this unknown berg.

Just then a sharp warm aroma fills your nose. It smells of boiling tea leaves and must. A thick heavy air enters your lungs and your head spins. Again you are falling. Not falling asleep. Not falling down into a pit of dark nothingness. You are falling upward. Yanked like steel to a powerful magnet. You are falling back into the realm of the tangible. Pulled awake from a fevered slumber to close to death to be of any rest. All is green…all is warm….and it seems that you have survived….

To be continued…..

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…