Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)
Year 781 of the founding of the City
12th Day of Meloramensis – Part I
I slept fitfully until Eligos, having taken the last watch, roused us to continue our journey. Bleary eyed and more tired for resting than had we pushed on I struggled to recognise the figure before me as Eligos. As my vision cleared the reason for this became quite obvious; Eligos had shrunk in height by a further foot and was now covered head to toe in russet scales. She looked remarkably like a kobold. As the situation dawned on Eligos her fury was uncontrollable and revealed quite adequately that, despite the change in her stature she had lost none of her physical strength or fighting prowess. After Rodney calmed her down Minron moved over to examine her. Turning her right hand over in his he noticed a puncture wound on her palm that suppurated some unspeakable fluid and was surrounded by a puckered ridge of inflamed flesh.
“The bell.” He muttered. “It brings change through disease, we never should have used it.” He produced a salve from his pack and proceeded to wrap it about Eligos’ hand.
“Why are they back to normal?” I asked gesturing at Glen and Vic, now manifestly without extra hair follicles or elongated teeth.
“Who knows why disease takes hold of some and not others?” He answered, shrugging his shoulders.
“Cretin! This is your stupid fault.” Eligos roared at Vic as the launched herself at him. Her right fist made a solid connection with his left temple and sent the warlock crashing to the ground. She would have continued to beat him were it not for Glen intervening. He lifted the now much lighter Eligos away from Vic and set her down with himself between her and the focus of her rage.
“This is not helping.” He said, gripping her shoulders tightly. “The disease can be reversed. Otherwise the halfwit and I would be in the same boat as you. Minron will fix you, isn’t that right?” He asked the minotaur.
“I will try but I am not familiar with the disease so cannot predict with any certainty what will happen. If there is a way I will find it.”
“We may not be able to cure you yet.” Rodney stepped forward and placed his hands on Eligos’ shoulders. “But we can make your equipment a little more practical.” The mage closed his eyes in concentration and slowly, slowly the chain shirt hanging loose about her shoulders and down to her ankles shrunk until it matched her new form perfectly. He continued to adjust all of the warden’s equipment. “When we cure you I’ll return it all to normal.” He said.
We gathered ourselves together and, with a sheepish Vic brining up the rear, retraced our steps into the corridor and moved further into the gloom. Before long we came to a set of wooden double doors framed in a halo of light. From the other side of the doors we could make out canine yapping and the dull thunk of loosed bow strings. Glenn sniffed the air excitedly.
“I smell bacon.”
“Bacon?” I replied. “All I can smell is wet dog.”
“Trust me. Bacon and pork chops are on the other side of that door.”
Glen opened the doors to reveal a chamber bathed in the light of a series of wall mounted torches. The walls were painted with time-faded murals of naked minotaurs in battle, tearing foes of various races limb from limb with hands, teeth and horns. We could not focus on the gruesome quality of the artwork for long however. From the left I could hear porcine snuffling and squealing. A glance in that direction revealed a large boar, its hide pierced with three or four arrows, confined in a wicker cage. The cage was encircled by four mangy hyenas who snarled and snapped at the trapped creature. To the right four gnolls armed with bows and arrows were taking pot-shots at the boar. They were safely separated from the feral hyenas by a waist high wall of straw bails. Vic, distracted as ever by his new dagger, was bought temporarily into the real world by the presence of the boar.
“There was a man in the hall who lost his boar.” He said quietly before wandering into the middle of the room. “This creature is not yours,” he bellowed gesturing at the boar. He was quickly surrounded by hyenas and struck forcefully in the chest by two arrows. He sunk to his knees blood dripping from his wounds and the corner of his mouth.
“Save that bloody idiot.” Rodney shouted with uncharacteristic emotion as he strode into the room. He raised both hands palm outwards towards the gnoll archers. The room suddenly exploded in a bright flame that ignited the hay bails and drove the archers back. Minron and Eligos moved to deal with the hyenas. As Glen moved to follow them he turned to grin at me.
“I told you there’d be bacon. And sausages. And a nice side of ribs!” He then turned and disappeared through the flames at a jog, heading in the direction of the gnolls.
The efforts of Minron and Eligos together with a few well placed arrows from me made short work of the hyenas. All the while Vic knelt on the floor with arrows protruding from his chest. When he was able Minron went to attend his wounds. As he dislodged the second arrow blood gushed forth from the wound to splatter upon the blade of the dagger that so enthralled Vic. The warlock stood, seemingly unaffected by pain and tried to wipe the blade clean with his sleeve. Try as he might though he could not clean his blood from it. From my perspective it seemed to almost seep into the metal, turning the blade a deep red colour. Vic’s eyes darkened into smoky orbs and without warning he plunged the dagger into Minron’s stomach causing the minotaur to double over in pain. His eyes cleared and Vic’s face became the image of shock; he clearly could not believe what he had just done. He stared at the knife in shock, an alien object in his hands. Upon viewing the knife his eyes darkened again.
“Vicrael, drop the knife.” Glen’s shout came from the other side of the wall of flames. The advice went unheeded as Vic plunged the knife into Minron once again, this time into the back of his neck. The minotaur lashed out in response, a back handed blow that sent Vic flying through the air to crash into the far wall. He slumped dazed into a seated position, the knife clattered to the flagstones at his side.
As Vic’s eyes rolled around in their sockets the flames that had kept the gnolls from us diminished. As they dissipated a weary and battered but smiling Glen was revealed. Two dead gnolls lay on the ground, wicked gashes on their torsos betraying the swipe of an ugrosh that had killed them. Two further gnolls, singed to the bone by Rodney’s fire were doing their very best to get away from the dwarf.
“Come back!” The dwarf called after them. “I’ve got a side of ribs over there waiting for me once I’ve dealt with you.”
As I drew back an arrow to shoot at one of the remaining gnolls I heard Minron grunt in pain and anger as he turned his healing magic on himself. I loosed and the arrow struck the gnoll through the heart killing him instantly. As I returned to my quiver for another arrow Vic’s voice screeched out over the din of battle.
“Possessed. I am possessed. I must hurt the ones I love.” He clambered to his feet, continuing to babble in this fashion and lurched to the cage containing the boar. Once near to the cage he raised his hands over his head. As the boar snuffled his bewilderment a snarl curled onto Vic’s face. “BURN” he screamed and a column of searing magic fire swirled inside the cage. Tortured squeals pierced the air as the boar charged around in an agonised frenzy. Glen dispatched the last gnoll with a nonchalant flick of his ugrosh and turned in despair at the unholy noise coming from the cage. We all called for Vic to stop but he was deaf to our pleas. The dagger lay unused on the floor, the blood colour having drained from its blade. It was not the knife doing this to the old half-elf, he had simply lost his mind.
Just as I was considering trying to incapacitate him with an arrow Minron regained his footing and charged at Vic with an almighty roar. He smashed headlong into the warlock piercing his side with a horn and sending him crashing into the cage. As Vic slid down the wicker bars in a daze the flames stopped and a smoking, scorched and angry boar crouched low to the ground panting. Seeing the cause of his misery slumped against the cage the boar rose to his feet and charged at the hapless Vic. His tusk viciously gouged the warlock’s back and Vic slumped to the floor, unconscious and bleeding profusely. With a look of disdain bordering on disgust Eligos walked over to Vic and dragged him away from the cage to safety. I held a knife to his throat as Minron tended him in case madness still held him.
Glen barrelled across the room, over the smouldering remains of the hay bails and up to the boar’s cage. Gripping the bars he babbled soothing noises at the suffering beast. I looked up from my task of securing Vic.
“I thought you were looking forward to a nice side of ribs?” I asked.
“Don’t say that to him.” He scolded me. “Don’t you listen to the nasty orc.” He cooed at the beast. “Glen will look after you now, no one’s going to eat you Sid.” The boar snapped and snarled and prowled around his cage. He was badly injured and obviously in a lot of pain.
“I think I can help him.” Rodney declared. He began muttering some arcane incantation and walked over to the cage door. To shouted protests from the rest of us he opened the door. Rather than attacking him the boar trotted meekly up to the mage and placed his head in his hands. Rodney closed his eyes in concentration.
“This boar and his dwarven master were captured by a group of gnolls and hyenas whilst prospecting in the tunnels. His master was taken by the tentacled beast that we faced earlier and taken down into its pit whilst the gnolls snuck past. They have been using the boar..”
“Sid.” Glen interrupted.
“They have been using Sid,” Rodney corrected himself, “for target practice and to train their hyenas. It has not been a happy existence for him.”
“How many gnolls?” I asked
“It’s hard to say.” Rodney replied releasing Sid who immediately trotted over to Glen. “Certainly this isn’t all of them. If Sid’s memories are reliable then one of them is winged.”
“No matter.” I said. “Even winged it wont be able to out-fly an arrow.”
Rodney placed Vic’s knife in his pack with the bell for safekeeping. We roused the warlock to consciousness and Minron healed his wounds as best he could. Vic is confused and more than a little addled but does not seem dangerous. We filed through a door on the other side of the room, the boar at Glen’s side and Vic taking care to be as far away from those tusks as possible.