On the Need for Better Training Methods
Also, All Insects are Terrible
William Carver, a human of upstanding character and broad competence with whom I have had the pleasure of adventuring more than once, felt the call of shadow and cunning in his heart. He wished to add to his self-sufficiency as a Scout by unlocking the part of his Pattern that wished to be a Thief.
To that end, he sought out one Bos Humblespark, who is quite an exciting Dwarf, I am told. She informed him that he would have to prove more robust than her last apprentice, who had disappeared during their previous training exercise - one that involved him attempting stealth in a place known to be occupied by creatures with unusual senses (CWUS).
William wisely sought the help of other dwarfs, specifically Dubhan Goronich (a Wizard of some growing repute in the tunnels of Throal), and myself. Together, we set out for the southwestern end of the Throalic mountains.
It was quite a pleasant journey, at first, as we circled through the rolling foothills at the base of our beloved mountains. But when we turned into the mountains, we were met with a rude surprise.
The rudest of surprises, it turns out, is when an unexpected ogre charges out of cover and smashes you so hard you worry that your children will be born with broken ribs. That is precisely what happened to me. I am a Weaponsmith, not a Warrior! I am not ashamed to admit that I thought I might die in that moment.
Fortunately, Dubhan's magics made us swift, and William's accuracy both enraged the ogre and kept it at bay. We arranged a fighting retreat, with the intent to regroup and try again. Upon doing so, we ran into Zil, the Windling Elementalist. He had been scouting these mountains for mystical ingredients and valiantly agreed to join in our endeavor.
Rested, fortified, and now armed with a plan somewhat more robust than 'walk face-first into the ogres', we assayed the grove again. This time, we approached stealthily. I made some noise in an attempt to separate one of what were now three ogres from the pack. And William used his intimate knowledge of nature to make the single most hilarious sound I have ever heard in my life. It was like a baby screaming in rage. I'm told it is the sound that fawns make when in danger.
If you had heard that sound, you would not blame me for laughing. Which is good, because I absolutely could not help myself from laughing. This had two effects. For the first, it broke my cover. For the second, it accomplished the goal of luring the ogre closer. Dubhan, William and I engaged this one ogre, while Zil used his elemental tricks, magical ice, and the power of his wings to dance around the other two ogres and keep them busy.
This was, perhaps, the most tactical engagement I have had since I first ventured out of Throal and it worked very well. I was thrilled to see how cooperation and collaboration among intelligent Namegivers could achieve such success. Suffice to say, we defeated the ogres. This time, it was Dubhan who ended the fight wounded - it is always Dwarves who take on the burden.
We camped nearby. And now, reader, I am ashamed to say that my love of my own Discipline led us astray. I was on watch, but found myself hypnotized by the dancing embers and dreaming of fire and iron, the elements of my own Pattern and Discipline. And thus, I had no idea what was creeping up on me until horribly sharp fangs sank deep into my shoulder.
We were ambushed by lions! I was gushing blood before we even engaged. It was a fraught, worrisome fight, with both Dubhan and myself quite hurt. Still, there were four of us, and we were able to kill the one and drive the other off.
Somewhat dispirited but not at all deterred, we bound our wounds as best we could and continued on. Others would complain about the long journey, but I was grateful as it gave us the necessary time to heal. William's unerring senses led us to the clearing where he suspected the apprentice to be. It was late, and so we made camp, this time with Zil wisely sheltering in the boughs of one of the nearby trees.
Accursed sleep! During our journey here, we had found ourselves beset by the strangest of sensations. At times, I felt as safe and warm as if in my mother's arms, lulled to sleep by her rough but loving voice. And then, on the edge of slumber, I would find myself beset by uncomfortable thoughts and shaken awake. By the time William's unerring senses led us to the clearing where he suspected the apprentice to be, we were all exhausted.
And yet, it was near time to camp and, so, camp we did. It was on William's watch that we discovered what might have happened to the apprentice. Suspended on threads of silk, terrible worm creatures, Hell's own caterpillars, were descending to devour us. Fortunately, William has keen eyes and, as proven by the hilarious fawn episode, a clear voice. We bolted awake and the battle was on!
With reinforcements joining, there were three worms, each the size of a large hound. They sprayed a curious sort of toxic silk at Dubhan and myself. The silk bound our limbs together, and seemed to be coated with a soporific saliva. Fortunately, the worms had miscalculated. Nothing holds a good dwarf down! Both Dubhan and I were able to break our bonds, with some considerable effort, and resist the poison as well.
As you are reading this journal, you can correctly infer that we survived. And, further, we found the poor apprentice cocooned and hanging from the tree - a long-lasting feast for these terrible worms. He was quite thoroughly dead. We burned his body (after checking to see that nothing had laid eggs in him - nothing had). We also saw the body of what might have birthed these things, a worm the size of a fatted calf. I also collected some of the silk. I have no idea what purpose it might serve, but it is an interesting substance that can no doubt by improved upon by Namegiver craft and ingenuity.
Dubhan and Zil were quite convinced that this area was influenced by a Horror, perhaps one that was feeding on the suffering of wanting to sleep and not being able to. This area will need to be cleansed, some time in the future.
We returned to Bos Humblespark to deliver the sad news. We were rewarded, and William began his apprenticeship.