From the rice farms to the catacombs of the Wolfscar Clan, here we are. We two, once three, missing Dillus, the poor boy — brave as he was, I couldn’t rescue him and Mondaal both from the tri-headed hell-dogs. It feels so long ago now, but I’ll never forget the screams, the growls and the yips — kobolds and dogs both, and that evil trap of theirs. But I’m getting lost in the reverie; this is a tale for the moment.
Here we are, so improbably, with a clan of orcs — pig-headed man-beasts that they are — but I’ll grant they make a good stew. Put some of it down myself. Full of all sorts of interesting spices and scents. Turned my head but for a moment and the Bootwhip was hovering over the bowl looking ill. Could swear it tasted a bit more flavorful after that. Who knew orcs could make such a filling meal?
I’m getting lost again. We spent some nights traveling with this caravan of a clan, moving as they were into a better spot to strike at their hated enemies, the goblins. All but the fourth night, of course, as that was rutting night. I dare not repeat here the travails of being in earshot and eyeshot of such sordid revelry, though little Pimpernel seemed undue fascinated by the acts. Perhaps he’s studious of shamanistic rituals, as I am — Oxtix approves of getting all the senses involved, especially the smells. The glorious smells! The scents I never had the chance to encounter back on the rice farm, except when Dillus — well, nevermind that, and speak not ill of the dead.
The fifth night, trouble brewed instead of stew. Woken ill from our slumber in the ‘beds’ of hay — I’ve had a night or two in the stables, and what they gave us was no bed — we were parceled weapons and encouraged to fight. Up to the sight of a row of orcish buttocks did we sprint, only to find their opponents not the goblins we’d hoped, but a band of humans! Just as we arrived we heard the shrill scream of one of their number cut down — Norrington, I was later to learn of his name — and then as the clash of metal rang around us we were forced with a moment’s decision. Cut down our own to stay with the orcs, or turn the tide positioned as we were to stab them, quite literally, in the backs?
Once we realized Brogan and Krogan were among them, the choice was made. Pervince, our dashing halfling, bladed blossoms of black blood with his knives while Jack the Bootwhip, curious name, put on dark displays of a different sort with a cutting beam of obsidian unlight that ripped through one of the fighting line and struck him down. I remember only that one of the dwarves — Brogan, I think — charged with a terrible battle cry only to slip in the muck of the blood already shed, and then I made to cast a spell on Diego, our fighter — then all gets hazy and I’m standing in a pool of orcish vitae with a blood-soaked spear in my hands some twenty yards from where I’d stood before, the battle won. One orc remained, who seemed willing to parley — apparently he’d turned on his own beforehand to secure himself a better position in the tribal culture. Such curious beasts, these! He ordered us not to loot the bodies — I noticed Diego helping himself anyway — and told us he would ritually burn the corpses and tell us we won despite a grotesque slaughter of orcs. I saw not how this would turn will in our favor, but what other choice did we have but to strike him down and set out alone? So we complied, Hernandius engaging in the surprising support of sundering Norrington’s dead head from his shoulders and taking it back with us to provide a boost of support for our story.
Unfortunately, this orc — a runty thing by their standards, and of the name Cur Dirtnap — had either little skill in politicking or had suffered some concussion from the battle, as his best explanation for the gathering orcs as to our deeds was “Trust Humans! Humans good!” Even our outsiders’ perception could see this was about to get ugly, especially seeing as how we were now sheltering a pair of orc-despised dwarves. Thankfully, in a shuffle of bone-encrusted robes, Orchimedes dispelled the building ire with a wave of his hand and a gesture of support for us. “Kill orc, kill goblin, kill human,” he growled, “not matter. Gruumsh say these destined to help us.” With the threat of orcish dismemberment dispelled, our day went much better from there.
We left with the scrawny orc Cur towards the home of the Wolfscar Tribe. Along the way, he expanded upon his plans. “Cur smallest of Dirtnaps,” he muttered in the echoing halls of the caverns, “but among goblins, he biggest. Cur take over tribe of goblins instead, rule over, steal their magic,” and here he spoke of the magic the orcs claimed supported the goblin tribe and kept the orcs from wiping them out as they felt should have happened long ago. We had little time to go into more detail when from above, death dropped. Crab spiders!
The devilish things, likely some wizard’s cross between the two species, hulked each nearly our size and sported venomous clawtips. Of sheer luck, Hernandius glanced up in time to drop into a roll out of the way of the one hovering over him, and we waged a brief and ichor-stained war for the hexagonal room in which the monstrous creatures laired.
Trial by fire must have tempered our fighters considerably, as we cut down the beasts without a single gruesome injury. Jack the Bootwhip failed a spell rather spectacularly — the first failure I’ve seen him suffer, curse mine own smoke-eared luck — and turned a rather glossy shade of shimmery oilslick. So far, it hasn’t seemed to wear off of him. We’ll have to be careful to keep him hidden when trying to stay out of sight in the future. Either way, he made up for his mistake with a skillful — or lucky — sling stone that punctured straight into the center of one of the crab spiders, dropping it like a sack of very dangerous, poisoned spines, and leaving Diego to finish it with a downward thrust.
So far we had evaded any ill fate. This goaded Hernandius into a shameful display of hubris which the universe promptly punished. In the next hall we did find a shadowed, evil beast of unspeakable horror — a chimera, if my lore comes to me correctly — a three-headed monster of human, leonine, and draconian heads. It left us alone — alone!, to think of it, in a place this dangerous. At least, until Hernandius tried to shoot it with an arrow.
Praise the dwarves, and especially Brogan, rest his metallic soul, for they held the line until we could flee. Brogan died crushed under the evil grip of this soundless teratomorph, his sword snatched by his brother who promised vengeance. Hope springs eternal, so the saying goes, but I do not think we will strike down such a beast anytime soon.
I am told my time to write comes to an end here, for I’ve gone on rather overmuch in the story. So we will say that we stayed to rest and remember a short time in a dingy closet of sorts, beside a roomful of gargoyle statues perched upon pillars, and allow another to take up the task of scribing in my place. I must study hard, for ill luck or no, I will defeat this curse that prevents me from casting any magic spells successfully. How can I say I am a wizard without more than puffs of ash and periods of black-out?
Ah well. We all bear trials, and I should be grateful I do not rest yet with Dillus.