I felt so sick that I drifted off to sleep shortly after we stopped for the day – which means that I didn’t activate my Censer and consequently was plagued by nightmares. I’ve heard some people claim that they can wake themselves up when they’re having terrifying dreams, I’m not sure if that’s true but if it is I sadly lack that ability. Throughout the night I was tormented by visions of pain and suffering inflicted on me by twisted alien creatures of shadow and sharp spines. There was no escape from them, anywhere I ran there they were to warp my limbs and stab at my flesh. I don’t know if it was real or part of the dream but I felt the Whiterock ring throbbing on my finger as I twisted and turned in my troubled sleep. When I woke in the dark hours of the night I realized that I was no longer in the camp, I was deeper in the forest and I got the feeling far away from Tamad and his men. I could see shifting forms in the shadows, large and willowy, but if they were just trees moving in the breeze or actual beings I couldn’t tell.
The only thing I could see clearly was the most immense worg that I have ever seen – it looked to be the size of a warhorse. It had ruddy brownish fur which seems unusual, all the worgs I’ve seen so far being either wolf-grey or very dark. What it did have in common with the other worgs I’ve seen is the scars – clearly the life of an intelligent giant wolf is a hard one. It looked like its nose/snout had been badly wounded at some point and had healed back in an odd fashion, making the nostrils upturned like a pig. Its ears were ragged and almost gone and one eye was surrounded by scar tissue, making it peep out like through the slit in a visored helm. None of this did anything to take away from its aura of power – these blights didn’t make it seem weak or damaged, instead they made it look dominant and strong – a veteran of many battles who will win many more before the end. When it spoke I could feel its low rumbling voice reverberating around inside my body.
“You’re the singer.”
I was too weak to even sit up “Is this real?”
“Everything is real. “
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at that “Yeah sure it is.”
Its massive head dipped for a moment and it sniffed at my face “You’re dying.”
“I’m just sick, I’ll bounce back. I forgot to light my thing to keep the bad dreams away.”
“No, the sickness has you. I can smell death on you. Without help you’ll die. Do you want to live?”
“Of course I do, what kind of question is that?’
“The only question that matters. Why do you want to live songbird?”
“Every living thing wants to keep living, it’s pretty normal, I’m not sure what you want me to say here.”
“What is your reason? Living just to live is no reason.”
“I have things left undone.”
“In a century what will those things matter if you did them or not? You will be dead anyway, and all those you know, whether you do them or not. You have betrayed your nation, your city, your kin, you have betrayed all you have ever known. Why should you be allowed to continue in this fashion?”
“My nation? I have no nation. My city? I have no city. I have no kin, not really. I haven’t betrayed anyone or anything, someone has to be on your side before you can betray them, and no one has ever been on my side. I don’t give a shit about the Kingdom or Vieland or Ulpine or anyplace else because they don’t give a shit about me. They betrayed me before I was ever born. My city? Which city is that? The place where I was born isn’t a city, it’s not even a town, it’s just a farm that isn’t even there anymore. You mean Palador? That rotting corpse? I’d burn that place to the ground tomorrow and not feel bad about it in the slightest – it’s a sewer of human filth.”
“What about your kin?”
“I’ll admit that thing with my cousins was a bit of bad business, but they got what they wanted, and all we did was play together when we were kids – they’re basically strangers to me. I have no more loyalty to them than they have to me. The bonds of blood don’t mean much to my people.”
“Not to you clearly. What about your grandmother?”
“What about her? She’s dead.”
“You betray her memory.”
“No. I’m doing exactly what she taught me to do, I’m surviving – that’s all you can do. Survive another day. Would she be proud of me? Probably not, but she’d understand that I’ve done what I had to do to get by. She knew that pride was a luxury that people like us can’t afford. She’s the only one who ever looked out for me, without her I’d had been dead years ago, I owe her everything. Don’t tell me that I betrayed her, what do you know about it? The trees tell you things? Well what the fuck do trees know about anything? They’re fucking trees! You want me to give you some grand theosophical reason for living? There isn’t one. I want revenge on the people that wrong me. I want them to suffer for what they did to me. And then I want to live a long and happy life of luxury doing whatever I want. That’s all there is to it. Nothing special. You have to understand that, living here in the woods hunting and wandering wherever you wish. There’s no greater purpose, no meaning, you live as long as you can and that’s that.”
“That’s a grim outlook.”
“You’re a giant killer wolf, this can’t be news to you. So did I pass the test? Are you going to help me or what?”
It’s hard to tell because of the darkness, and also because it’s a wolf, but I could swear the great beast smiled “No test, just conversation, we were always going to help you.”
It’s head dipped again and it grabbed up the back of my clothing in its jaws, lifting me off the ground like I was no heavier than a leaf and carrying me dangling like a wolf cub.
“Hey, careful with that fabric, it’s expensive!”
It paid no mind to the ripping fabric as it carried me hanging in front of it like a marionette for a few minutes before depositing me not that softly into one of those rings of big stones that nature people and faeries seem to like so much. I’m not sure what’s so great about a bunch of enormous square rocks set on end but then why do these dirt worshippers do anything? There was enough moonlight in the clearing that I could finally see some of the spindly forms at the edge of my vision were in fact tree giants, and furthermore after a moment I realized that the moths flitting around were actually tiny fey beings with luminous moth-wings. I know there’s some rhyme about these moth-fey, something about them being good luck if you do one thing but how they’ll carrying you off the feylands forever if you do another thing, but I couldn’t remember it.
I was expecting the tiny moth people to fly around me and sprinkle me with magic fey flower petals or for a nymph to come out and heal me with her sissy nymph powers but nothing like that happened. It seemed that nothing at all was happening and I was about to ask the worg what the deal was when I noticed that the hill beside the standing stones was moving. It was shifting so slowly that I didn’t notice at first in the darkness, but it was slowly moving. And the way it moved immediately made me ill at ease – it wasn’t flowing like the earth itself was shifting, instead if was crumbling and falling as if some colossal beast buried underneath was waking up from a long hibernation. For a several moments I could see nothing else, but then I saw the dirt part – at first I thought it was an eye, but I quickly realized instead that it was a mouth. A tiny mouth compared to the size of the shifting mass, but still wider than I am tall.
It was a perfectly round mouth filled with smooth impeccably white needle-like teeth – like something you would see on a parasitic fish. Out of that mouth extended slowly, like a turtle coming out its shell, what at first I thought was a tongue but I realized was instead another extendable pharyngeal mouth – a pink tube like thing with a scattering of random jagged looking teeth. Out of all the horror I’ve seen in the past year nothing frightened me like seeing this . . . protuberance coming towards me. I heard the rumble of the worg from somewhere in the distance.
“Please do not be alarmed. You are about to be healed. Please do not move while the healing is happening. Moving will disrupt the healing process. Please wait while you are healed. Please do not look away. Looking away will disrupt the healing process.”
I tried to scream but no sound would issue from me other than a pathetic soft squeak. Using all the strength I had in my body I rolled over and tried to crawl away from that restlessly groping tentacle-mouth-thing, but I had no strength to pull myself forward. I felt something bump into my boot and I knew that it had reached me, and finally I screamed – my face down on the ground and wet grass slipping into my mouth. I screamed as I never had before. The next thing I knew I was laying on my back in the woods, the stone monoliths nowhere in sight, and it was almost dawn. The worg sat patiently like a loyal hound instead of the deadly killing factor that it is. It glanced over at me as I sat up, feeling very nearly well again.
“You are healed. You will not die now. Not from that.”
“Have you ever heard the expression that the cure is worse than the disease?”
“I will take you back to your companions. Be wary of them, they have the smell of abnormalities about them –foul magics hang on them like rancid clothing.”
“I’m used to it, happens all the time. Are they all like that? What about the older fellow who carries no weapons?”
“The savage woman, and the beast that walks like a man the stink of dark glamour the most, the old one you ask about is not attainted in the flesh but his mind is overthrown.”
“You can tell all that just from smelling them?”
“I have much wisdom.”
“What about me? What does my aroma tell you?”
He chuckled in a very humanlike fashion “Any words of mine would mean nothing to you, if you keep any counsel other than your own I would be very surprised. Mount up, we need to get you back to your strange friends.”
I approached apprehensively “I’ve ridden worgs before, I can’t say that I care for it.”
“Other worgs are but a pale imitation of my perfect form, I assure you it will be exhilarating.”
“I’m not sure I can handle much more exhilaration today.”
Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Stone of Good Luck, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, potions of cure moderate wounds (5), Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Campfire Bead, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Deck of Curses (four cards used), Ring of Urban Grace, Bewitching Gown, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Token of Summoning, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, Red’s Riding Hood
Courtier’s Outfit, noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring, pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), severed hag head, gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, glass vials of something awful (8), disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa