The sun was shining and the day was clear, De-val could hear the birds singing as he walked towards Winterhaven. The ‘Adventurers Wanted’ scroll was tucked into his leather backpack, never far from his thoughts. What a find, an opportunity for fortune and glory. A way to write his name upon the tomes of destiny.
When he rounds the bend in the road and sees the cart his first thoughts are of requesting a lift into town. Once he draws closer, he notices the strewn debris and that the cart seems to be lopsided- his thoughts immediately turn to danger. Suddenly he notices the birds seem oddly quiet and while the sun still shines he feels no heat on his skin.
Stealthily he circles around the cart, moving through the forest to its right. From this vantage point he can see that the horses are dead and the cart’s canvas top is torn. He sits for a moment taking in his surroundings- no sound emits from the cart and as there are no obvious signs of danger, he carefully approaches to see if there is anyone in need of aid or if there’s anything of value to be found.
As De-val sifts through the goods that are scattered around the back of the cart he finds one object that seems most strange: a head, but not a human head; it seems to be made of stone. As he picks it up and turns it from side to side the eyes begin to emit a strange red glow, as if powered by some far-off source.
As its red eyes start to fill it asks: “Please reattach me.”
De-val hides his shock by asking: “And you would be?”
“Grumble.” the head proclaims in a tone deeper than the voice of any severed head has a right to be.
While regarding the head with some suspicion, De-val throws back the back flap of the cart, only to have one question answered and another asked.
Inside a masculine stone body sits without a head. It is obviously comprised of the same materials as the head and otherwise is completely intact, a sword is buckled to its belt and backpack tucked behind it.
Next to the body, taking up the remaining space of the cart, is a large wooden box, covered in ornate arcane symbols. Having studied magic in Kryral, De-val recognises these as protection wards- he notes that the box has also been tied closed with ropes. To keep thieves out? It dawns upon him that this box looks a lot like a coffin- perhaps to keep something in?
As De-val knocks gingerly on the casket, he hears muffled movement and then a return knock. A high pitched cry from behind De-val breaks his attention from the mysterious cart. He feels the hiss of air as a blade narrowly misses his back, he spins around to find a Kobold glaring at him.
A four foot lizardman rocks back to take another swipe with its rusted blade. Its mismatched armour would be comical if not for the blood stains.
Reacting on instinct and years of academy training, in one smooth move De-val tosses the stone head over his shoulder and thrusts out his other hand calling the powers of ice and death into being.
“Ray of Frost!”
A shimmer of power emits around his hand before the air turns brittle- the Koblod is covered in a fine layer of clear ice and the force of the arcane spell tips the lizardman backwards. As it hits the hard dirt road it shatters into a million pieces of frozen meat.
At the exact same time as the ray of frost hits the Koblod, the strange sound of stone on stone came grinding from the cart, as De-val turned back he saw the head had landed square onto the stone robot’s shoulders as was now reattaching itself.
In a voice like gravel being crushed it rumbles: “Thank you.” Its mechanical arm whips a sword out an in an arc that slices the ropes from the coffin, the coffin lid explodes spewing shattered wood splinters. A haunted figure sits up, waxen in complexion and dressed in full black. He seems disorientated.
De-val barely has time to notice the golden tinge to the eyes of this stranger when from further down the road a guttural roar is responded to from the surrounding woods by the same sort of high pitched cries of the now slain Koblod.
De-val steps back from the cart to give the machine man Grumble room to step out, only to be hit in the head by a bola.
He winces in pain, noticing Koblods are rushing from the forest just up the road. Standing on a boulder further still up the road is a huge Koblod barking orders in a foul language unknown to De-val.
He sees the Koblod that tossed the bola ducking down behind a rock, as it pop its head up to throw another De-val again calls fourth icy death only to have the incantation miss and cover the outcrop of stones in ice.
Grumble grabs the cart and tries to upturn it to provide cover from the oncoming threat. Unfortunately due to the missing wheel the cart merely lurches forward a few feet before becoming embedded intp the ground.
The figure in black leaps through the tattered roof of the cart and balances on its beams, notching a bolt to his crossbow and firing into the shoulder of the huge koblod leader. The leader bites the bolt and pulls it from his shoulder, barking further commands.
The bola koblod made De-val pay for missing and again hit him with a skillful throw.
Suddenly behind the koblod leader two tall elms began to bend in an unnatural way- they twist around each other until they have made a complete circle. Soft green light ripples from its centre. A figure steps forth, elfin in appearance and strikingly beautiful. As she approaches the koblod leader, she calls out to the forces of nature and summons a bear from beneath the earth. The bear charges forward and in one great swipe kills a koblod and disfigures the leader, parts of his face hanging by mere sinews.
Grumble rushes to the front of the cart taking on two koblods. One is almost as large as the leader, he swings his sword, channeling power through its blade, but misses. They both strike out at Grumble, their blades bouncing off his stone skin seemingly doing little damage.
The figure in black somersaults off the roof of the cart knocking larger koblod down, as he rolls to the ground he fires his crossbow into the back of the smaller koblod, killing it instantly.
As De-val had moved to the back of the cart to avoid further bola’s he now closes his eyes and draws the power of storms unto to himself. The light goes dim around him and the sound of rolling thunder can be heard as if it’s both far way and crashing onto you. Across his body are carved channels of light, “Arc Lighting!” A forked bolt of lightning springs from his hands, it curves over the cart and strikes a kobold coming from the forest. The explosion sends chunks of charred meat showering the trees, the other bolt hits the downed larger koblod. It writhes in pain, vomiting on Grumble’s feet.
The koblod leader swipes at the bear stabbing into its flanks. The bear attacks again this time finishing the job and clawing what little remained of the leaders face away. His lifeless body sliders from the rocks.
Only the downed koblod, the bola koblod and one other small koblod remains. Grumble steps up onto the cart and leaps off, hammering his feet down onto the downed koblods neck, a pulping noise heard as the head is forced from its body.
The figure in black unsheathes his sword and strikes out at one of the two remaining koblods. As his sword struck both figures clutched at their heads, blood pouring from their eyes.
As De-val looks around for other threats the elf walks towards him. As she draws close he notices that while she resembles an elf, an elf she is not. Her skin has a fine bark quality. He realises that she must be a Hamadryad. When she speaks her voice has the clarity and conviction of one who is at peace with nature, “Why are you in these woods?”
The fight had gone well enough, Grumble mused. Not brilliantly but considering his head had only just been reattached to his body he thought he had done okay. Being separated like that had been a little unsettling, more so since the ‘How I came to be that way’ memory seemed to be missing.
“Why are you in these woods?” the Hamadryad asked again, but she wasn’t really talking to Grumble. Mostly real-born didn’t ask many questions of Warforged other than “Who sent you?! Arrgh!” he thought. The one that had come from the coffin was silent as the crystal-haired man explained that his name was De-Val and told of a small piece of paper and a missing prince.
The bear that Grumble had seen fighting the kobolds was trampling some clothes while De-Val looked on, ashen faced. De-Val had mentioned selling them and since he had been the one to do the reattaching Grumble decided that this electric blue man would be his new companion. Loyalty was of the utmost importance and you couldn’t be loyal if there was no one to be loyal too. Grumble picked up the muddied rags.
The coffin man, De-Val had called Sulky-face, asked what the date was and then struck De-Val when he said Wednesday. Grumble moved to stand between them, but wasn’t sure of the group-status of this man, so did not strike back. Had not Sulky-face fought with them in the battle just now? “It is 1479 DR.” This answer seemed to startle him.
After some deliberating the others seemed to come to an agreement on direction and Grumble followed along with the bear until the five of them reached Winterhaven. Approaching the gate towards last light Grumble noticed many villagers hurrying to get into the keep. These parts must not be safe after dark.
They entered a Tavern and De-Val ordered rooms. The Hamadryad, Valsharress, bought a drink for Grumble, who took it with some surprise. Though he didn’t drink he knew that real-born saw this as a gesture of companionship rather than a simple goblet of liquid and could count on the fingers of one hand how often it had been intended for him.
After making a big show of offering his companions a room (which no one took up) De-Val went to bed and Grumble took up watch within the small room. Several hours later Amon Al’abun’na-ir entered and had a restless, fitful sleep.
If Amon had learnt anything from the past few hours it was this; his own personal hell seemed to look very much like The North.
First there had been darkness and confusion. Then he had been freed from his confines and instinct had swept him along in its violent wake. He had killed hundreds of times before, but this was new, and he had felt that things were askew even before a Kobold had fallen screaming at his feet after only a glance. Where once his killing was in the name of order, the pure antagonism that poured out of him felt connected to something else. It was as if he were merely a puppet or a tool. A blunt object of unrelenting force and violence.
He had found himself in the company of a chatty Genasi, a simpering Warforged and a far too-trusting Hamadryad. It was no more ridiculous to travel with them for the time-being than it was to be new-born after nearly a century of death, so he had followed along to the township.
That night, in the Inn, he had met an old man named Valthrun. He offered answers but wrapped them in further mystery.
Later, Amon slept fitfully and rose early. Whilst his new companions argued about trading and whose personal objective to pursue, Amon kept his own counsel. As much as he wanted to know more about his resurrection there was a nagging feeling in the back of his mind… He fairly shook with a desire, a need, for… something…
Amon was not disappointed when his companions eventually accepted the task of slaughtering more Kobolds from the local lord.
And so they had set out to the East.
It was not long until they came across a further group of Kobolds, alongside one of their less evolved brethren. The battle was short, but bloody. The Genasi endlessly attempted to electrocute the Kobolds by luring them into the stream. The Hamadryad and the Warforged battled extensively with the Kobold Commander amidst some mystical ruin.
All the while Amon fairly delighted in his skirmish. Each blow he struck chattered through his nerves and settled his longing. Each blow he took allowed his festering black blood to spew forth, a reminder that he was no more truly alive than he had been when he was in a coffin.
After the battle, he sat quietly in the clearing, surrounded by the detritus of the beasts he had slain, bleeding but unbowed. And for the first time since he had risen he felt almost at peace. Nearby, he heard his new companions chattering excitedly. There were further creatures to kill beyond the waterfall.
Somewhere at the back of him mind, the longing returned; quiet, but insistent – an itch needing a scratch. Amon pulled himself slowly to his feet and followed.