Green Hell. The Beginning Of It All.
It has only been an hour since we left the bandit camp. Already I can see what Lt. Garress meant when he referred to Kurgar. Within our small amount of time traveling with him, he has already effectively irritated the group. He has mocked Boris plenty on many matters from practices to appearances. Stonehands he seems to completely ignore as if trying not to even acknowledge him. He was already rude to me when I tried to be courteous to him. Then to top it all off, he actually, I kid you not, started to rub one out while riding. He kept riding up next to Adra and make lewd comments to her while trying to show off his “progress”.
What bothers me about all this is that I am not exactly put off by his behavior in the manner that he acts like this. What gets to me is that he seems to be purposely going out of his way to act like this. A crass man is a crass man, I can get that. This is definitely a man who has great social issues and no concept of boundaries. Although I already feel wearisome about having him along, this man was sent to help us by Keston Garress. There has to be something redeeming about him……right?
Boris rides up next to Stoney and I, missing that smile he usually always shows. “Why is it that most dwarves are always so bawdy?” he said. Stonehands shook his head at that comment while rolling his eyes.“Hey here now kid, most of us are not like that. That guy, he is just a bad example.” We all look over to Kurgar, who turned to just scowl at us. “It’s true Boris. I have spent a lot of my life around dwarves. Though a bit on the rough side, they are like anyone else. They have their good and their bad” I add. “Yes but Stonehands here is the only one I have met that seems approachable. I thought all dwarves were like Kurgar though.” This visibly pissed off Stonehands.
“Ya know why that’s thee case? It is because thee holds, clans, kingdoms, what have ya, usually kick out assholes. So a lot of us that ya see roamin alone are usually thee outcasts.” Boris just gave a slight nod to Stonehands. “I apologize, when you see something consistently, its hard to make a judgment of something that does not fit.” We did not even notice that during this whole time, Adra had pulled back near us, listening in on our conversation until she actually decided to speak up. “Why are we keeping this one again? Because your house-kin gave him to us?” she to me, keeping her eyes on Kurgar. “Well I would not turn down extra help. Plus he has been down here for a while with the previous group. He might know something we do not.” I kept my eyes on Kurgar, trying to make the most of our new group addition, trying to see the upside to it all. At certain times you just have to make the most of a situation and deal with it the best you can instead of groaning about it.
I ride past the group a bit to make my way side by side with Kurgar, who gives me a disinterested look then stares back to the path ahead. “So, the previous group you were with. Seems you did some good here.” He stayed silent for a moment. “Yea, I guess.” This would be awkward talking to a man who obviously seems to want no part with anyone. Though if I was to be working with him, I might as well try to be on even ground with him and learn what he knows. “So how many of you were there and what came to be of them” I said after a few moments of silence. Kurgar sighed, probably at mention of the group or knowing I wouldn’t just leave him alone. “We had some deranged kobold, a smelly ass gnome with his head far up his ass, a sissy elf, and two crazy bitches. Wretched, filthy gnome” he muttered under his breath. “So what became of this group. I only assume one of the ‘crazy’ women was Jessi, the half elf?” I said. “Ha ha well the sissy died. The gnome, I don’t know nor care. The kobolds ran off to start their own half-assed attempt at society. Yea Jessi….she was one of us. Our cleric, the other female manling, I have no clue.”
“So what do you know of this area then?” as I motion around us in the forested setting. He snorted and smiled. “Not a damn thing. Furthest I came into the woods was that camp back there. Only the stupid would want to venture out into these parts.” Well crap. There goes any hope of us knowing what we were going to run into here. “Well the kobolds did a decent job. They are building fine in the caves to the south. If that means anything to you.” I said. Kurgar gave me this indifferent expression. “OK and? No it means nothing to me. Look if you are not going to have anything useful to say, could you just stay away until we run into something we have to kill.” This was an obvious cue to stop here with anything sociable. I attempted to be cordial with the man, that was enough. I just shared a bit with the rest of the group. Boris and Stoney just shrugged it off though Adra detailed every word in her book while riding. She was also very adamant that I explained his tone and mannerisms of his response. Detailed woman….
We rode for about another thirty or so minutes before we started to come to a massive clearing. What stood before us was a peculiar find. There in front of us stood a relatively large temple with a large, oval pool near the front entrance. Above the entrance was a large stone which carved into it, was Balinor in his elk form. Oh Boris was going to have a field day for sure. Just like I thought as soon as the site of it all settled in, I saw Boris’s smile return as he dismounted his horse and searched happily amongst the temple compound. “My god’s temple. What a splendor of a find!” he jubilantly said. As we moved more into the front area the whole grounds had this partial gloomy feeling that hung over the place. Stone and Kurgar were dismounting their horses to tie them up but Adra just sat there on top of hers shaking her head.
I could not blame her. The area looked abandoned. Forgotten. The pool contained a large, thick deposit of algae. Though this was supposed to be a temple of a god of nature and the hunt, the woods have over took much of the area. While nothing dreadful came to me as I reached out with my senses, just my basic intuition was telling me something was not right. I gave a look to Adra, summing up that I felt what she felt. A temple of a god, forgotten in a far off land is usually never a good thing. In fact I cannot remember when an instance of something like that was even remotely decent. If someone forgets, secludes or shut out a place of faith, there is usually a reason for it.
This gloomy feeling as I described it then started to settle amongst the rest of the group. Well it was more that they were actually beginning to talk about it. Boris looked around concerned now. “What happened here. Why are their no priests. This place was left uncared for.” Kurgar walked right up to the bottom of the steps that lead to the inside of the temple. “That is the first thing you have said that was on point” he remarked to Boris. Boris’s shoulders squared, he now looked determined, and focused. “Well there is something here that is not right. I wish to seek the problem and eradicate it hastily.” He pushed his way past Kurgar and started walking up the steps. “Uhhh letting you know, walking into a dark, creepy abandoned place usually doesn’t end well” Stoney shouted out to Boris. I walked up to the steps and turned to the group. “I agree with Boris though. There is something off. We have to look into this.” I lit up my ever burning torch, placed it on my shield sconce and drew my blade. Everyone nodded in agreement and proceeded to do likewise.
I followed Boris into the temple and was only a few feet in when I heard a thunderous, deafening roar. The rest of us approached in to see a well lit main room, with Boris who was now standing probably 25ft away from a giant, pissed off, sickly looking grizzly bear. “Begone foul beast! In the name of Balinor, fear me and leave this holy place!” he screamed while bring up a divination of his. The bear roared in fury at his words. It’s eyes then glinted with a hint of intelligence as it recognized what Boris was saying but did not care. The bear then took charge towards Boris with enraged purpose. I sprinted forward, placing myself in between Boris and the bear, then braced for impact. “It is a bear. I do not believe it will show fear” I yell out to Boris.
The bear took aim at my head with its paw, to which I stood prepared for and swiped away with my shield. I seen at this moment one of Kurgar’s axes just fly overhead with Stoney moving into position behind the giant beast. An arrow struck the bear in the hindquarter as it turned to take a bite at Stoney when he passed by. Stonehands let out a loud grunt. Dammit, he was hit. I kindly return the favor to the bear taking a slash to the ribcage, trying to regain it’s attention. The fight moved at a hectic pace, between another axe taking flight, bouncing off the bear’s shoulders, another arrow hitting true, Boris behind me still shouting to his deity for empowerment. Beyond the roars, Boris’s shouts, a deep, rumbling voice began to sing beside me.
The bear then took charge, pummeled me down with primal force and let out a bellowing shout filled with hate, at my face. I stood my ground and let out my own war cry to the bear, making sure it stayed focused on me. It is funny how a fight goes. Some say it happens to fast that it is just a blur. Though for me since I have been in tons of them, it processes differently in my head. Though they never last that long, the strategics of it all, the nuances of it and the details come to me with ease in the matter of milliseconds. I know Stoney is now behind the bear, leaving the bear exposed. Boris was now behind me, keeping me upright with his divine healing. Though I could not see our Inquisitor, I knew she was far back enough out of danger but still raining arrows. Then there was Kurgar beside me, singing and swinging war-axes with ease as he was wielding sticks instead.
As all this was processing in my head, while healing myself, I couldn’t act fast enough to take on the bear’s next barrage. It was not holding back, a creature gone mad, bit into my armor, clawed at me furiously, and then wrapped me in its arms. Being in the grips of a giant pissed off bear would usually be scary to most people. For me, though a less than ideal situation, was not the worst predicament I was ever in. I slashed relentlessly with my free hand, hoping to bring down the bear. The bear had struck hard, vicious blows and I was feeling winded and hurt. The giant massive bear easily broke a rib and I could feel something hot and sticky run down my arm inside my suit. The bear placed my head inside it’s mouth and then tore off my helmet with ease. An arrow then hit right into the shoulder of the bear, making it madder. That was the moment the powerful creature whipped me to the ground followed by my head smacking hard on the stone floor. Fuck me. First fight in nearly two months and this is what happens. A damn bear. The room swirled around me as I felt the cold floor pressed to my cheek. Then it all went black.
“Really now? Of all things, a bear? Come on man, you’ve grown soft” whispered Darius. “Oh now now, get up. Big baby” he chided me. This was never good. He usually only speaks if I got into some serious crap. How hurt was I? Did the bear finish me off? I awoke and stared at my sword, still clutched in my hand. “Pfft damn, you missed the rest of the fight. You owe me brother” I heard him remark. The whispering from the sword stopped.
I started getting up moments later when a warming sensation came over my body. Boris’s work no doubt. I shook the cobwebs off, body wracked in pain to see right in front of me a pile of ash and a concerned Stonehands staring at me. “Where is the bear? What?” as I look at Stoney. “The bear turned into a naked guy, then became that ash” replied Kurgar. Stonehands approached me and stared down at my right arm, which I now noticed was leaking a few droplets of blood. “Kid…” he shook his head. Boris came up to his and patted me on the back of the shoulder. Dammit, I was just bit there. I grimaced in pain while he noted where he just hit and then worked up some more healing powers. “It was a great hunt was it not? Balinor would be proud” Boris said. “I did not do this to please ‘your god’. This had to be done” said Adra. Kurgar was recollecting his throwing axes as Adra was taking small samples of the ash and putting them into a small vial. Stonehands was still giving me that same worried look.
“Don’t give me that. See look, I am ok. Boris fixed me up good” I said trying to comfort my friend. “If you say so kid”. Truth be told I did not feel ok. Thing is about healing magic is that yea it heals you, mends flesh, heals bone. It does not take away from the pain. I still feel the crushing blow in my rib where the bear struck, the back of my head where it hit on the landing, and the bite that sank into my flesh and muscle. Pain was something that lingered even after the magic did it’s job. The temple now looked to be…peaceful since the creature was killed. It had that calm setting that a temple should bring. I made my way to the back of the room which held a small fountain. I went up to take a drink and caught a glimpse of my battered face in the reflection of the water. I took a sip from there and noticed that my wounds slowly begun to recede. In the reflection I caught a look of what was a suit of armor in front of me. Though in front of me there was only vines and a wall. I approached the wall, pulled at the vines to see only gypsy looking garments entangled in the vines. Upon touching the clothes, it shimmered and turned into a suit of armor.
“Ooh. I think I found something I might like guys.” The suit of armor was plate-mail, to which looked like my exact size. Adorned on it was Balinor adorned engravings, decorated on it all were green summer leaves. I looked at my now battered armor and smiled that something evened out for me here. Boris appeared behind me and said gleefully “Take part in the hunt and Balinor rewards”. Indeed, even if he is not my god in question, I will not deny anyone of the Host if they want to reward me. A slight sensation came over me. Everything faded to gold, as I felt someone grip my shoulder from behind and heard a lovely whisper of my goddess. “Heh. Seems one of my champions garnered some interest from others of my kind. I am proud of you.” I hung my head a bit in shame. “Proud of what, I was beaten to unconsciousness by a bear” I responded to her. “Well still you fought well” Boris replied. I snapped back to everything around me. I took off my beaten up armor and changed into the lovely, pristine armor in front of me. We packed up and headed off into the rest of the green lush that was before us.
A few nights went by in which time nothing big happened. I got to talking to Kurgar a bit more, finding out he was in an 8th cohort platoon working with House Kundarak. Military training was nothing to scoff at and even though he was not the greatest to be around, he proved to be instrumental in the fight we had nights prior. Boris repeatedly went on about killing game then suggested that Adra shoot a deer that was fifty feet out in front of him. Adra smiled and whizzed a shot by Boris’s face and missed the deer greatly. “Oops. Poor attempt on my part” she grinned. Boris made no attempt of hunting with her since. Stoney when we had downtime was fiddling with my broken suit of armor. Must have been hard for him. See a suit he once built but is now having a hard time putting back together. Can’t be easy to lose a skill that was everything to you. I could only imagine it would be like being cut off from my Goddess.
One night when I had a bit to much a drink, we all heard singing and instruments playing in the woods. I thought it would be a good idea to check out. If it was a party that we should partake in a little fun or if it was a bandit camp of some sorts that we should be even more cautious on our move forward. Adra ridiculed me as did Kurgar. Boris happily popped up and ran off into the forest and then came back to retrieve some of the absinthe we found to bring if there was a party. Stoney was grumbling about it the whole time saying it was a horrible idea. “Yea cause going off into the creepy forest at night always leads to good things” he glowered. We three took off into the woods in which I than began to sober up rather fast and begun to hate my decision. This all happened when we came to a bridge which I could not muster up any faith in if I tried.
“Ok I’ll admit I screwed up, lets go back” I said to Stoney. “Well we can’t leave him here” he motioned towards Boris. Boris was already making his way across the bridge, in which a few of the floorboards were coming off already then actually fell off. “Come on over, the bridge is fine” he yelled. Me and Stoney looked at each other and shook our heads. “I’m not crossing a rickety ass bridge. This is how usually fairy tales start. They also never end well” said Stonehands “Well..it was good knowing him” I said as we headed back. “Oh I am sure by some stroke of luck that he will be fine…..somehow” I replied with false hope. The night got hazey there as we slipped into a river bank and awoke the next day on top of each other at camp, with Boris’s greeting us.
Through some horrible sense of humor these parts had, our group pointed out something to us. I had green fur all over my body and I do mean all over my body. Stone was laughing at me until I pointed out that he looked like something Boris would eat. In place of his ears, Stonehands grew rabbit ears. This was obviously a trick of the fey. Should have known when my cold iron sword was being grasped at last night through the woods by branches and vines. Stupid green hell. Sure enough I was right when testing my theory of it being fey magic, the fur would not regrow if I shaved it with my cold iron blade. I spent a few hours carefully shaving myself in the river nearby to get of my prize for being stupid and wandering off into forest.
Boris proudly showed off something he got from the fey. In his hand he held bones of a bird. We all thought that he went on a bender and just found a dead sparrow. That is until he said he wished he could send a message to Oleg to say we were fine. At that moment the bird screamed, muscle began to grow, as the body twisted and contorted. Letting out a horrible agonizing cry of pain, the sparrow finally gained full form and flew off. Boris watched happily as the bird flew off. The rest of the party stood horrified at the damn thing. “If we catch that, we burn it” said Adra. “Yea…second that” Stonehands nodded.
Shortly after that whole debacle, the next day we came across a foul smelling hot spring. Adra was delighted that she might finally be able to have a bath until we noticed giant humanoid sized frogs in the springs. We all agreed if they were not attempting to harm us, we should make no effort on encroaching their territory. Boris however looked at these hideous things as food. He was persistent that we should kill them and eat them. This prompted a minor scuffle between him and Stonehands, to which Stonehands issued “He wants to eat the frogs, he should meet the frogs”. This attempt to throw Boris in the hot spring ended as fast as it started. Hostility was growing, we needed to get out of the forest soon as tension begun to rise.
Sure enough even out of the damn forests something else has to happen. On our way out, Boris started messing with a berry bush when we all just wanted to make way back to Oleg. Stonehands found nearby said bush, a mound of rocks to which him and Boris began to dig up. I got off my horse and made way towards the two. “This is a bad idea. I would not mess with those rocks.” Adra came up behind me to ask what was wrong. “Well in more primitive parts of the world, a mound of rocks is usually a place of burial” I said to her. Sure enough the two uncovered the body with Boris going through the body and Stoney pulling off a rather interesting looking ring. “You two that is enough. Put those back and let’s leave” as Adra walked up to the mound. She did a partial blessing to the mound either our of pity or paranoia. I am guessing the latter and finally made our way back to Oleg’s.
After being gone for about a week and a half we returned but to some rather dour news. Lt. Garress informed me that our house was at war with the Mhedyevs. To which Boris was given word that his family ancestral home was burned to the ground. There was no other word but that. Boris apparently stricken with mad grief, seemed to try to deflect the news with utter obliviousness. He found out his horrid bird actually came to Oleg to send a message and he apologized for scaring him. The man seems to be pushing back or repressing the issue that he did not even respond of what happened to his home. That never bodes well to hold so much back. It will only compound matters. I tell the lieutenant to keep me informed on any further developments. Wonderful. Barely been here and in all this time, I nearly get killed by a bear, my house is at war, I get pranked by fey, came across a revenant and nowhere closer to finding this Stag Lord. I can hear Darius laughing at me. I look at my sword and tell him to shut up. “Oh man, you just began and already you are in so much shit” I hear him whisper. He was right. How much more hell is there left out here for me.