Morwindl - Darkness Falls
Tobias - Bryce
The year had started off amazingly. I wasn’t the best wood worker, but Gerholt had told me I was improving greatly and that he trusted me to travel to the neighboring village to inspect how the waterwheel was holding up after the recent flooding. “Whats the use of being a Journeyman, if you don’t journey?” It was his way of telling me that I was officially no longer an apprentice. I packed my resin kits and my tools on the off chance that I would need to make any spot repairs and headed out the next morning.
It was a couple of days walk to the village so I knew I would be needing to camp out a night along the road. I was prepared for anything I may have encountered. Or so I thought. Thankfully the way there was uneventful. I met with the mill hand to inspect the waterwheel, and though it had been under heavier strain than normal it was no worse for the wear. I added layer of resin to the joints to make it seem like I knew what I was doing and prepared to head back the way I had came, without staying. I had gotten into a little tussle last time I stayed at the inn, and did not want to have to ask if I would be allowed to stay.
I returned to where I had made my last campsite. No use having to clear out another fire pit when my last one should be fine. Along the way I saw a few travelers with a cart. The cart was shut though I could see it bouncing along the path. How could I have been so blind? I guess I was just so happy about being made a journeyman that I wasn’t thinking clearly.
The next day I reached my village.. or rather what was left of it. The town has been torn apart. Bodies… bodies were everywhere. I ran from building to building checking to see if anyone had survived. No one had. At least not unchanged.
I had never seen any of the “living dead” and most people thought they were just stories told to keep children from wandering where they shouldn’t. That night I learned that they were indeed quite real. A man I recognized only by the brown smithy apron he wore shambled after me, his foot twisted at an odd angle, half of his face missing.
“Karl? Karl you’re hurt, let me help you” I called to him as I backpedaled. He just kept advancing moaning under his breath.
“Please Karl. I don’t want to hurt you. Just go away!” My words seemed to have no effect as he plodded towards me. I had thought I was prepared… I guess nothing can ever really prepare you for the things you must do to survive.
I pulled my kukri from its scabbard and attempted to beat him back. He seemed bewildered and confused, the blows barely phasing him. After what seemed like hours I had finally hacked enough of him away that he seemed unable to support himself. Yet still he crawled towards me, his tongue lolling through a hole in his jaw. I was finally able to put him out of his misery with a blow to the head.
Grabbing a few belongings I quickly fled the town, the moans of more of my now deceased friends followed me as I ran.
I followed the road back to the neighboring village as quickly as I could manage. Whatever had assaulted our town may still be in the area and they mush surely be warned. I made the trip in little under half a day, my fear pushing me through the night. As I approached the outskirts of the village I saw the first signs that things were not well. The carriage I had seen in passing lay in shambles. The sides torn apart by monstrous hands. I did a quick check to see if anyone had survived. That was when I noticed that the carriage had been torn apart from the inside out. I staggered in disbelief. These were the ones who had ruined my home. They passed me after they had done their dirty work. They had made passing jokes about the weather. How could they? Exhaustion finally caught up to me. Unfortunately a creature caught up with me simultaneously.
A creature shaped as a wolf, but with a malevolent gleam to its eyes. Blood dripped from its mouth as it opened its mouth in a terrifying howl. I ran. I ran like my life depended on it. The next few hours were a blur. I ran, the beast chased, and I ran more. I could hear more of them in the distance, but I only ever saw this one. It followed me for a long ways, never seeming to hurry just following me with a dogged determination. Until finally I knew I would not be able to continue much longer. If I was going to go out I was going to take out this beast with me. I turned and fought for my life. I clipped its shoulder with my blade. It seemed startled that I had given up on running, but being startled didn’t stop it from tearing into me. It jumped higher than I have seen anything jump in my life. It easily cleared me doing a somersault off of a nearby tree and leaped towards my back.I spun trying to intercept it with my blade to no avail. It dug its jaws into my shoulder and started tearing, ripping away the flesh from my upper arm. I attempted to punch it away, but it pinned down my arms with its massive paws. I knew then that I was going to die. I deserved it for letting these beasts make it to Effingham without a warning.
My thoughts trailed as I felt my life ebbing away. Only to be punctuated by a clear sense of meaning every time I felt its teeth grab hold of my skin. I believe it had made a game out of devouring me. It seemed to enjoy this new game and began tearing away smaller and smaller strips of skin.
It had made it through my arm and was beginning to make its way down my chest when I felt it. To this day I am not sure who or what it was and I attribute my rescue to Obad-Hai, but whatever it was It reached through me and into my arm. I felt a burning sensation where before there had only been the pain of exposed flesh, and suddenly the world exploded in light that seemed to emanate from the torn remains of my arm. It shot into the creature and ripped away part of his face revealing what I believe to be the true monster. It was only revealed for a moment before the light began to char away any discernible features. It turned tail and ran far faster than a wolf should have been able to run.
As quickly as the light had entered me it left. I continued laying in the soft moss, sticky with blood, knowing that I would be gone soon. My arm continued to throb and it was much harder to think. I lay that was for what seemed like years. Until I felt a gentle licking on my wounds. I slowly opened my eyes to see a great she wolf licking at me. I figured “out of the pan into the fire”, but her ministrations to my arm seemed to make it feel better. Whole. As I watched her tongue pass over my torn flesh I saw that what she left behind was no longer my skin, but something akin to a saplings bark. An energy filled me that erased my fatigue. Enlightened me to the world around me and heightened my sense of the forest. Here was life and that creature that had followed me here had been wrong. Wrong on so many levels that it had awakened the forest to my plight. This she wolf was no mere wolf, but the guardian of the forest and she had chosen to spend her power to heal me.
She finished renewing my skin and sat down. She seemed tired. Tired by pleased with herself. It was then I noticed she wasn’t alone. Around her feet chasing her tail as it wagged was a small pup. He looked at my arm and began laughing. Looking at the she-wolf I knew what she expected of me. Standing, I gathered the pup in my arms. I swore on that day I would avenge her and all of the fallen. The pup squirmed slightly for a moment, but settled easily. We walked out of the forest that would soon become just another wasteland.
Months passed and the pup, I called him Axle even though he insists that in his language its pronounced closer to Aragh, had grown strong. I kept my arm hidden from sight lest someone become frightened or worse attack me for being different. I returned once to Effingham after having gathered more strength to find that it has succumbed to the waste. A few skeletal remains were to be seen, but mostly it was just run down and gone. Gone but not forgotten.
I had long since lost the tracks of the creatures to the waste, but figured they may keep traveling in the same direction. Along the way I have picked up a few useful tricks to help me combat the creatures when I find them. Notably the ability to transform into an animal. This has allowed me and Axle to travel much faster and more unnoticed. We have recently met a lady by the name of Lindy. She seems to be hunting a pack of creatures somewhat like the ones I am hunting. It may not be the same ones, but if I assist her she said she will assist me.
First found our party in the outskirts of Ornthalas.