Chapter 03: Verithna

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Session Number: 115
Date: Sunday 4 December 2011
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian? Rog1/Clr10? (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren? Rog11? (Yeran) (kills: none)
Lionel? Rgr6/Wiz1/ArcA4? (Ash) (kills: 1 wolf)
Rowaine? Pal11? (Craig) (kills: none)
Troll? Wiz11? (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The figure is female with brilliant white hair, and of an indeterminate race. Something slow-moving about her head gives off starlike light, illuminating her and silhouetting the massive four-legged beast that obscures her lower half.

"Be careful!" the half-elf shouts out in warning. "There are lots of wolves around here. They don't seem to be very friendly!" The sun elf considers shooting at the wolf between himself and the female, but chooses another to avoid possibly hitting her. The arrow lodges in a wolf with a thunk and a yelp; the wolf survives. The blonde elf fells another of the wolves with an arrow in its throat.

The dark-haired elf keeps a watchful eye on both the wolves and the newcomers. The heavyset creature breaks the wolf line and advances threateningly into the centre, whirling this way and that as it bristles with raw fury. The wolves ignore their treebound prey, splitting their attention between the creature and the female. She moves fearlessly behind the creature, muttering something like snarls, yips and yelps interspersed amongst a language none understands. The firelight and the blond elf's sunrod reveal her to be an elven woman. She stops under the half-elf's tree. He climbs half way down, sword at the ready, fearful that the woman will be set upon by either the wolves or this new creature. What does she think she is doing?

The largest of the wolves moves into the centre, keeping a wide berth around other creature. It stops, close to the woman.

"That beast has vicious teeth," the blonde elf thinks to himself. "Definitely a meat-eater." He looks down at his ruined calves, blood dripping freely from his own lacerated meat.

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire," the sun elf thinks. He shoots at a wolf, who is bowled over by the missile but quickly regains its feet.

The woman throws a furious glare in the sun elf's direction. "Stop that! I am trying to save your life!" The creature beside her growls, as if punctuating her words. The woman reverts to talking in the strange language of growls and yips. The group watch and wait. As she continues to talk, the wolves stop their circling and yelping. The largest wolf steps forward and snaps, bearing its teeth. The woman makes strange noises again. The wolf huffs then lopes off, the others falling in behind. The other creature follows in their wake, a growl ever-present in its throat.

The sun elf lowers his bow. The woman moves to the centre of the group, her eyes seeking them out in the trees. The group see something flitting around her head. It looks like a very large firefly.

"Who have we to thank for the rescue?" the half-elf asks.

"You first!" the woman retorts. She appears old, but her movements and demeanour suggest no weakness. She brandishes her quarterstaff. "Who be you, out here at night in these lands of all places? Come down!"

The half-elf lowers himself out of his tree. The blonde elf observes the creature that stalks back towards the woman. He is somewhat reminded of a badger. But if it indeed is a badger, it is the biggest, most badass badger he has ever seen. He can tell that it seems to be picking up on the tone of the female's words and has resumed its growling. The sun elf climbs down to the forest floor, bow in hand but lowered.

"Up to no good I expect," the woman spits. "Explain yourselves!"

"We have lost our memories," the dark-haired elf says. "We woke up here. Where are we?"

"A likely story. So what is it? Poachers? Vagabonds?"

"None of us can remember anything about our lives," the half-elf says. Look at the back of our heads."

"What?"

"Look at the back of our heads! We all have the same injury, we all have no idea who we are or where we are. Just look!"

The woman observes the half-elf for a moment. "Approach." The half-elf does so, very warily. The badger moves to her side and the half-elf takes fright, moving back towards his tree. "If you are telling the truth, Wane will not hurt you. But if you make any moves against us… it will not go well for you." The half-elf hesitates. "Quickly," the female says, "or I shall leave you here to your own devices. I care not for your company."

The half-elf approaches.

"Lay down your sword."

The half-elf draws his sword, evoking a fierce snarl from the gargantuan carnivore. He can literally feel the creature's hot breath in his face. The sense that he is moments away from a gory death makes him tremble. He very slowly crouches down, places his sword on the ground and stands up.

"Turn around." The half-elf does.

"Kneel," the female says, holding her staff tightly in two hands. The half-elf does that, too. He feels a hand on his neck. The creature's snarling crescendoes as the hand touches. The contact is brief.

"Stand up. Another of you! Do you choose to corroborate this story?" The dark-haired elf approaches.

"Show me the back of your neck." The elf complies. The beast moves closer, puts its maw near his neck and sniffs deeply. The woman tousles a ruff of the beast's fur, then lifts the elf's hair and looks at back of his neck. She looks up. "And you?" she says to the sun elf. "Are you the same?"

"Aye."

"What has happened here?"

"We don't know," the half-elf says. "I woke up near these people. I have no idea who they are, or who I am."

"Have you seen these marks before?" the sun elf asks.

"No."

"Where are we?" the dark-haired elf asks, careful not to turn around or make any sudden movements.

"You are in the forest in Larellian lands."

"Who are the Larellians?" asks the half-elf.

"They are the ruling family of this area. You have no knowledge of this?"

"I do not know the name," the half-elf admits. "They are elves?"

"You are in our kingdom. Yes, they are elves."

"I'm pretty sure I'm an elf," the sun elf says.

"Oh, you are an elf most certainly. A spellcaster I'd say." The woman looks around, her eyes lingering on each dead wolf. She sighs. "I guess I must call this self-defence."

"May I stand?" the dark-haired elf asks.

"You may," the woman replies. "Wane, go sit over there, there's a good boy." The creature whuffs and does as he is told. The dark-haired elf gets up and moves away, retrieving his thrown daggers. The woman's eyes bore into his back.

"You have no knowledge of why you are here?" the woman asks.

"I don't even know my own name," the half-elf replies.

The dark-haired elf checks on the girl, who has climbed back down and seems in a better state of mind. The sun elf checks whether any of the prone wolves are still alive. None are.

"A stranger tale than I was prepared for this night," the woman says as the group reassemble. The beast moves closer to the woman and sits, looking up at her.

"This man is badly injured," the dark-haired elf says, indicating the blonde elf. "Is there a way you can help him?"

"It is up to you to help him," the woman says. "It is not my business at all! My business is to see what your business is in these lands. All of you, come here. I would like to see what you bring into my lands." She starts with the half-elf. He hand over his sword and necklace.

The woman next looks at the blonde elf. "Come here."

"I'm rather hurt, you know," he replies.

"Serves you right, for piercing my wolves with arrows." She looks the elf up and down. "You be a ranger. You have the look of a ranger about you. Does this mean anything to you? You should know better."

"It means nothing to me."

Next is the girl. "Lady I bear this," she says, presenting her axe with two hands, "the armour I am wearing, and not much more." She circles on the spot, then places her axe on the ground.

"You!" the woman says to the sun elf. "Lower your bow. You are in the presence of a 'lady!'". The sun elf does so. "Come here," she says. "What do you bear?"

"These weapons, a waterskin, these clubs on my belt…"

"Clubs," the woman says, her eyes narrowing. "If they are clubs, I'm a dwarf. You have a book."

"Yes I do. It doesn't have any words that I understand."

"Turn around, sun elf." He does so. The woman quickly glances at all of them. "Not poachers, then. Or if you are, you are exceedingly stupid poachers. You have not the equipment. And yet you have more equipment than I would expect you to have were you on the run from some sort of prison. I cannot make it out."

"Neither can we," the half-elf says. "I think the girl and I have some connection because we speak the same language."

"Well, I cannot just leave you here without an explanation. Would you be responsible for… no I don't think so. Where are you headed?"

"We were waiting for daybreak so we could find higher ground to see what is around us," the sun elf answers.

"We are not adequately equipped to stay out here overnight," the half-elf says.

"Nor adequately skilled, it would seem," the sun elf adds, "because we don't know anything."

"That much is plain! Had I not heard the pack, I daresay you would not have survived the night. Even if they had not arrived. You honestly do not know where you are? You have not heard of these lands?"

"Well, we knew we were in a forest," the sun elf says, "and you say it is an elven forest."

"It is a forest in elven lands, but very few elves live here. It is not known for its hospitality. This place is bursting with life… and death."

"Is there anything nearby that we could have come from?" the sun elf asks. "A town or village, a dwarven mine, a river that we could have been on a boat?"

"The capital is four days walk from here," the woman says. "I daresay you did not arrive from there overnight."

"Anything within a few hours? It was dark when I woke."

"Nothing you would call civilised. I don't see many people here, they tend not to come. People tend to call this… a dangerous place. I like it that way."

"I'm very happy for it to be a dangerous place and for us to not be here," the sun elf says. "Is it possible we have come from something close at hand? I am not particularly cold or hungry or thirsty, therefore we must have arrived here recently. So we must have come from somewhere close."

"You looked for tracks," the half-elf says, looking at the blonde elf, "and found nothing. It's almost as if we appeared out of nothing."

"The other alternative is that we came here by magic," the sun elf says, "meaning we could have come from anywhere. So if there is nothing close…"

"Did you travel to these trees?" the woman asks.

"We arrived here."

"To the best of your knowledge, you have not travelled anywhere but here?"

"That's right."

"Sit down," the woman commands. "Don't move." She whispers something into the creature's ear. It looks at each person in turn. The woman walks away, disappearing into the trees.

The creature sits there, licking its chops noisily and looking supremely nonchalant. It yawns, revealing its very large teeth.

Three minutes later the woman returns, from a different direction than which she departed. She stands beside the creature. "It seems you may be telling the truth, at least about arriving here. Unless you can fly, but why then would you be sitting in trees? I saw the pack's approach, I saw where they left… There was nothing else of any recency."

"Thank you," the half-elf says. "You are really helping. Then it is likely that we arrived here by magic. We all feel sore, achey and with headaches… Were we dropped here?"

"Curious," the woman says. "What do you think, Wane?" The bease licks his chops, gets to his feet and walks over to the dark-haired elf. It sniffs him, then moves to the girl. She lets out a small squeak as the beast repeats the procedure with her. One by one, they are all given the once-over by the creature. Finally, it returns to the woman's side, sits down and yawns.

"Well, I can't leave you out here alone," the woman says. "You wouldn't survive the night! I do take it you wish to live?"

"Yes," the half-elf says.

"We seem to have been magicked a long way from where we were," the sun elf says.

"To kill us?" the half-elf asks. "If so, then not straight away.

"These lands were supposed to kill us," the sun elf surmises.

"If what you say is true," the woman says, "then whoever has done this to you is certainly no friend."

"Maybe they were?" the half-elf says. "Was there something more dangerous back where we were?"

"Unlikely," the sun elf says.

"Is there somewhere we could go?" the half-elf asks.

The woman thinks. "It has been a little while… I suppose I could have visitors."

"We would be most grateful," the sun elf says.

"I live about an hour from here. Do you have sufficient light? Very well, follow me."

The woman leads the group through the forest on no discernable trail for close to an hour. It feels like it is early in the morning rather than late at night. Verithna stops beside a bank, into which a large hole has been dug.

"This is my home," the woman says. "I trust that you will respect the hospitality that I have extended to you. Believe me, if you have any ill intent, you will find it will not go well for you."

"Fair enough," the blonde elf says. The creature walks a way to the left of the hole and disappears amongst the brush.

"It appears you are unable to introduce yourselves," the woman says, "but you may as well know my name. I am Verithna."

"We are in your debt, Verithna," the half-elf says. "May I ask what it is that flits about your head?"

"A friend of mine," Verithna says. "A shimmerling, a fey creature. She comes along with me on these occasional midnight strolls of mine."

"And what was that big thing?"

"That was a badger, I think," the blonde elf says.

"That's Wane. Actually…" she says, pausing and listening. "Hold on a sec." She looks off to the left. The others hear scuffling and growling, then Wane appears. Behind him is another badger, slightly smaller than Wane but still over three hundred pounds. "This be Wax. I wouldn't get too close to Wax, she is a little protective of herself at the moment shall we say?"

"What kind of creatures are Wax and Wane?"

"I'm not from here," Verithna says. "The badgers from here are a lot smaller. These be dire badgers, but even dire badgers from here do not get to be this size."

The blonde elf somehow knows not to piss off a badger because they can give you a nasty nip. This thing could rip your face off. By accident.

dire_honey_badger_dont_care.jpg

"But do come in," Verithna says," indicating the hole in the bank. The shimmerling flits off into the forest. The group enter, followed by their host.

Verithna's dwelling is an earthern burrow, or den: a single oval room with one litter on the far wall, one chair, and not much else. It is dry inside, and surprisingly comfortable. Three equidistant globes that give out dim light are set into the earth walls at Verithna's head height. Above each is a small rolled-up cloth.

Verithna digs under her bed and pulls out a number of blankets, throwing one to each of her visitors. "Anyone care for some tea?" She moves to one side of the room where a metal frame stands with a kettle. She murmurs a word, snaps her fingers and a fire appears under the kettle. She then searches through two small wooden chests on the floor and collects some earthenware vessels. "Now, where did I put that?"

A few minutes later, Verithna hands everyone a simple earthenware cup with some sort of steaming steeped beverage. "Dandelion tea," she announces. "It is all I have, and why not? It is my favourite." The tea tastes tastes like grass clippings, not in a particularly pleasant way. The group drink the beverage politely.

"Make yourselves comfortable. We will be cramped in here," Verithna says, "but we will be warm and safe. Wane will see to that."

"Excuse me," the girl says, "but might you be able to help me out of my armour?. Verithna looks at the girl quizzically, then with some sympathy, then helps. Once the last of the dandelion tea is finished (a process that takes some time), Verithna gets up and pulls down each piece of cloth above the light globes, shading their illumination. "Good night!" she says, and lies down on her litter with no further ado. With not much else to do, the group wrap themselves in their blankets and fall asleep.

The sun elf is the first to wake up. Their host is not present. He wakes the others. The blonde elf heads outside to see what time it is. One of the two dire badgers stands ten feet beyond the entrance. It eyes the elf intently, then licks its chops. He nods, hoping the creature has already eaten, then looks at the sky. It is early morning. He heads back in. The short excursion makes the blonde elf's legs ache and fresh blood seeps from jagged wounds. In hindsight, sleeping on an earthen floor with his wounds uncovered was probably not the best idea. On the positive side, the group's headaches have disappeared. The sleep, while far from luxurious, appears to have done them some good.

The sun elf rips up some clothes and applies a field dressing to the blonde elf's legs.

"We need to come up with a next step," he says as he ties the bandages. "We need to get back home. From what we've seen, I believe that it is a long way off."

"Perhaps we can ask Verithna to take us to the nearest town?" the half-elf says.

"How are we going to get home when we don't even know where that is?" the girl asks. "I don't even know what to call you. Or myself."

"Well, until we remember our real names, why don't we make some up?" the sun elf says. He looks at the girl. "You are officially now 'Blondie,'" he says with a smirk.

"'Blondie,' huh?" the girl replies. She looks at the sun elf and the smirk on his beautiful…

"'Face,' she says. You will be called 'Face.'"

"Call me 'Bowman,'" the blonde elf says, holding up his long bow. "And we'll call you 'Half,'" he says, indicating the half-elf.

"Fine by me," Half says. "And our dark-haired friend?"

Blondie regards the unnamed elf, his ruffled but well-groomed hair, his expensive-looking dark leather armour. She remembers how quickly he scaled the trees last night.

"'Flash,' she says. "I think I will call him 'Flash.'"

Verithna returns some time later. "Ah, you're awake," she says as she moves around her sett, uncovering the light globes.

"We are beginning to think about what we should do next, Verithna," Half says.

"First things first!" Verithna replies.

Oh, no. Not more tea…

"I have breakfast prepared," Verithna says. "I hope none of you are vegetarian?"

"I don't know!" Half says.

"Come on, before it gets cold."

Verithna leads the others outside and into the forest. The dire badger is no longer there. Fifty yards in, there is a clearing with the remains of a fire. Above it is a boar cooked on a spit.

"A meal of as much meat as you can stand," Verithna says. "Whatever you don't eat, don't worry about. Wax and Wane will take care of the leftovers."

The group set into breakfast. "So," Verithna says between mouthfuls of meat, "what are your intentions?"

"Get our memories back," Face says. "Find the bugger that did this and … tell them off."

"Strange business."

"We speak dwarven," Face says. "Are there any dwarves around here?"

"Not for many leagues."

"Are there any healers? We need to find some clerics."

"How is your leg, boy?" Verithna says to Bowman. She takes a look at the leg he extends. "Who in the green earth did that to you? You poor boy! Sit down!"

Verithna carefully takes the bandages off Bowman's legs and looks at the wounds. "Yes, that is beginning to get infected." She says an incantation and the wounds close over, good as new.

"Thank you," Bowman says. "Could you do this as well?" he adds, gesturing to the back of his neck.

"Ah yes," Verithna says. "The strange wounds you all bear. Show me?" The others gather around as Verithna removes the fabric wrapped around Bowman's head and inspects his neck wound. It looks like a raised abcess, or an infected pimple.

"May I?" Verithna asks.

"Yes."

Verithna gives the wound a thorough going-over. Three times she utters words that the others do not understand: either it is a spell, or she is nuts. She looks inside Bowman's mouth, then back to the wound.

"I don't like the look of that. Whatever it is, it's not natural. Come here?" she says to Half, beckoning him over. She looks at his wound. "Yes, it's the same. You say you have lost your memories? If I didn't know any better, I'd be very suspicious of that, your wound. It is not a blow to the head that has caused you to lose your memories. It is something else."

"A spell or curse?" Face asks.

"No curse I know would leave a mark like that."

"Could it be a parasite?" Bowman asks.

"It could be…"

"Why were you looking in his mouth?" Half asks.

"You can tell a lot about a person by looking in their mouths."

"Do the wounds look different or bigger than they did last night?" Face asks.

"They look to have healed some."

"It sounds like these are beyond you…" Flash says.

"I said nothing of the sort," Verithna says.

"Can you help us with these things?" Half asks.

"I might…"

"Is there any way we might convince you to decide in our favour?"

"You would have to show me an act of substantial goodwill… I would need to prepare for it."

"Tell us what you need," Face says.

"Hmmm, well, since you seem to be so hell-bent on getting killed in my lands anyway, there is something you could do for me. A few nights ago I noticed a strange creature moving quite purposefully. I followed it for a time and then disposed of it, but the thing that attracted me to it was its noise, and I have since heard more of them. They are not things that I am familiar with, not things that I care too much about. If you would investigate this for me, then I might be inclined to help you."

"What is your definition of 'investigate'?" Face asks.

"These things are not natural. I would have them destroyed. You will do this?"

"Yes," the group answer, almost unanimously.

"I'm not that interested in hunting down good things," Face says in dissonance.

"They are neither good nor evil," Verithna says. "I have not seen their like ever."

"Can you describe them?" Bowman asks.

"Large metallic bugs, about the size of a cat. If I didn't know better, I would say they are some form of mindless construct, but these moved with intention and grace and intelligence far more than a mindless construct does."

"How likely are we able to take these things out?" Face asks.

"I dare say that if you met one, you would fare well…"

"How about two?"

"I have not seen you in combat," Verithna replies. "I have seen you climb trees… I have a suspicion that would not help you against these."

"Well," Face says, "if it means getting our memory back then I'll do my best. How many of these are there?"

"What do you want?" Half adds.

"They have no place in the natural order," Verithna says. "I only saw one."

"How do we know when we are finished?" Face asks.

"Are there other dangers in this forest?" Bowman adds, overtop Face.

"So many questions at once!" Verithna says. "Every forest has dangers, boy. If you are familiar with the rhythms of the woods then they should not cause you any trouble. I'd avoid the top of this ridge, though. Owlbears. They are happy enough if they are left alone."

"Owlbears?" Half asks.

"More or less as the name suggests," Verithna explains. "Some say they are an abberant cross of an owl and a bear. They don't fly."

"Are they natural?" Flash asks.

"I think they are, although many disagree. As for what these other creatures are up to, I have no idea. If you find and destroy any you come across, then I would consider our bargain struck. If you find out more than that: why they are here, where they are coming from… then I would be in your debt."

Face looks at each of the others in turn. "We agree to help."

"There we are, then," Verithna says. "From here, in the morning keep the sun over your right shoulder and follow this ridge for an hour and a half. That's where I found the first one."

"You say they make noises?" Face asks.

"Yes. A sort of a scream every now and again, like metal being dragged across metal. It carries quite a long way. I think if it happens within half a mile, you will hear it. They are quite canny creatures; if they don't want to be found, you will find it difficult to find them."

"Is it fairly easy to find our way back?" Half asks.

"My sett is at the base of quite a large hill with an oak forest on top," Verithna says. "Hard to miss."

"May we borrow your blankets?" Half asks.

"Of course."

"Then we shall be off," Face says. "Farewell."

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