Hogar’s Journal (Translated from Giant)
Year 781 of the founding of the City
15th Day of Meloramensis – Part I
Thunderspire Mountain – Silverkin Manor
I awoke face down on a cold stone floor. I opened my right eye and saw nothing but pale blurred white light. Gradually this coalesced into grey flagstones and a wooden chair leg, all masked by a screen of unruly hair. I tried to draw breath. As I did so something caught in my throat and induced a coughing fit. As my body shook and juddered white hot needles of pain lanced into my eyeballs, phlegm flew from my lips and snot dribbled from my nose. Carefully I placed the palms of both hands on the flagstones and pushed myself up. A gentle suction resisted the separation of my left cheek from the stone floor. As I prised myself upwards I felt something drip from my face to the ground. Turning my head I noticed some stew or broth or something in a puddle where I had been lay; generously cut bits of turnip or carrot in a thin sauce. I drew in a breath to let out a groan on behalf of my aching head and the acid tang of vomit invaded my nostrils, betraying the substance for what it truly was. I could only hope that it was in fact my own.
The smell made me choke and retch. I rolled into a sitting position to get away from it. Placing my head in my hands I started to run my fingers through my hair and had to stop when the resistance of encrusted vomit halted progress. I became aware of sound. A low bass thrum, rhythmic in its intonation. Singing in a male voice. Glen’s voice.
“Oooh… a course lass she was,
lewd and abrupt.
She jumped upon me,
And right there we fu…”
“Glen!” I interrupted, my face still buried in my hands. “Could you please, please be quiet?”
“Orkshpawn!” he exclaimed. “Yourrup! Hadda hav a little resht, resht, resht…” I peered up through my fingers to see him sat atop the table, boisterously waving about a tankard in his left hand, liberally spraying the room with foamy beer. There is no more sure sign that a dwarf is drunk than when he spills beer without mourning the loss. In his lap was a small barrel of beer which he caressed like a mother with a new-born babe. . “Hadda hav a resht there didya?” He raised the tankard to his lips and took a deep, long draught.
It was difficult to tell what time it was. Jacob had boarded the windows of his mansion up long before we ever came here and Glen’s friends Bob and Eric had not seen fit to open them up in the time they had stayed here since. A halo of light surrounded the thick timbers boarding the aperture up, highlighting the motes of dust that danced about in the ancient room. The sun was up but how long it had been so I could not tell. The permanent gloom of the place was held at bay by a myriad of candles; on candelabra’s adorning the massive table, in sconces and in a large and grand chandelier suspended from the high ceiling. Their dancing light illuminated a table strewn with platters of leftover food, overturned tankards, dirty plates and one raucous drunken dwarf.
“What time is it?”
“Lllong past the time I drunk you under the table ranger. Llllllong past! Here,” he plonked the barrel on the table with a thud and began to fill a tankard with foamy ale. “have another.”
“Don’t you think we’ve had enough?”
“Well he certainly has.” Glen gestured to the other side of the table.
I stood to get a better view. Lying flat on his back on the cold stone floor was Minron. He was fast asleep with his mouth open and his tongue lolling out to one side. His right leg twitched occasionally as he gently snored away. Glen hopped off the table and marched up to Minron to try and awaken him with the toe of his boot. The big minotaur rocked gently from side to side completely oblivious to the dwarf’s efforts. Undeterred Glen placed his tankard on the table with the exceptional care of the steaming drunk and stooped to try and lift Minron to his feet. I turned away in search of water just as Rodney entered the room.
“You three are still at it are you?”
“Just the one but he’s very persistent.” I said nodding towards Glen. “What time is it?”
“About a quarter of an hour after dawn. I hope you’re all going to be ready to hunt some displacer beasts.”
“Jacob has a cure for Eligos does he?”
“Yes but we need to go and get a few things for him, displacer beast tentacles being one of them.”
“When do we leave?”
“Jacob is gathering a few things for us and then we’ll be off.”
“You hear that dwarf?” I called over my shoulder. “I hope you can sit straight in your saddle.” There was no response. I turned to see Glen nesteld into the mighty shoulder of Minron, sound asleep, a faint smile curling at the corner of his mouth.
“Perhaps we should just collect those two on our way out.” Rodney suggested.
I trudged outside to the well to clean the worst of the previous night’s excesses from my person. Suitably refreshed I made my way to the library to find out how the preparations were going. I pushed through the doors and stopped short as I strode into a goblin clad in boiled leather armour that lurked just inside the entryway.
“It would be sensible for you to stand to the side of the doorway.” I grumbled after colliding with him. “You must be this Splug I have heard mention of.”
“Thith ith indeed Thplug.” He lisped. “Mathter Hogar and Thplug met latht night. Though perhapth mathter Hogar does not remember tho much of latht night?”
“There are a few gaps.” I admitted. “It was a pleasure to meet you I’m sure. In future when you skulk try to do it somewhere out of the way.”
Rodney, Eligos and Krevath were gathered around a desk in the corner of the library. At the desk there lounged Jacob Silverkin and at his shoulder stood the elf Eric.
“I have gathered provisions enough to last you for a few days.” The old lord intoned. “I would suggest that you head into the forest in search of displacer beasts first and make haste at that. You will soon become the hunted if you try to track down displacer beasts at night.
Ah!” he broke of his lecture as he noticed my approach. “the belligerent one has awoken. I trust that you gave your comrade a good send off?”
“From what I recall it was suitable enough. Are our plans all set out?”
“You are all set to go. I need a displacer beast tentacle, some hydra scales and some glowing moss. I have marked the likely locations of these on your map and I have some items which you might find useful.” He slid open a desk draw and took out a scroll, some leaves and a metal lantern.
“Leaves?” Krivath asked. “What are they for?”
“To help you find hydra of course! This is a treatise on how to track displacer beasts,” he passed the scroll to me, “and this will light your way.” He gave the lantern to Rodney. “Now hurry! You must go whilst you have the light.”
Despite our protestations and confusion the old man would discuss no more and ushered us out of the room.
“Rook.” I called on my way out. “Are you coming?”
Busy came his curt reply.
We left the library, walked out of the front door and headed towards the stables. There a grumpy looking Minron and disconcertingly spry looking Glen awaited us having been collected by Splug.
“I’m afraid there’s just no dealing with Jacob sometimes.” Eric advised us. “When he gets set on a train of thought there is no diverting him, you just have to go with it. You shouldn’t have any trouble locating the forest, you can see it in the distance from here look, just on the other side of the Ogrfist Hills.”
“I can navigate my way over a hill to a forest.” I told him curtly.
“I’m sure you can but just in case you have any problems Splug is going to join you. He, Bob and I have done some exploring around here and his local knowledge may be of use to you.”
We set off, heading south under a looming grey blanket of cloud. A stiff breeze whipped over the plains from the mountains to the west and the air had the crisp smell of impending rain. Before we had gone an hour flecks of water began to fall building first into a fine mist and then into a stinging downpour. For most of the daylight hours, or what passed for daylight under that low thick sky, we tramped over wet scrubby grassland. I let Splug direct us as I took any opportunity available to scrutinise the scroll Jacob had given me. To the old man’s credit it did contain some useful information on how to track displacer beasts.
The grey light had started to take on purple hues as we entered the shelter of the forest canopy. Rain hissed upon leaves of all colours from verdant green to brittle brown and darkness began to creep all around us but still I could find no sign of our quarry. Eventually, through the increasing gloom I noticed tell-tale scratches on a tree stump. There were unmistakable tracks nearby, so clear and so freshly left that we had a chance to find the creature before night truly set in.
Splug had demonstrated that he was the only other member of the group capable of moving quietly so he and I moved off ahead of the rest of the group, leaving behind markers for the rest of them to follow. Quickly the trees began to thin out as we moved onto more rocky ground. We made our way from tree to outlying tree towards a sheer rock face about ten feet in height. We crept up to the last tree before a large pool of water that crossed our path. A day of rainfall had turned the shallow layer of earth and moss beneath our feet into a sodden marsh. As the marsh disappeared into the pool of water so too did the tracks vanish.
This did not prove to be an issue as a feline roar drew our attention to the top of the plateau where a large male sat preening himself in the rain seemingly oblivious to our presence. The beast was largely obscured by the sides of the platform upon which he rested. I signalled for Splug to wait whilst I proceed to climb the tree in search of a clear shot at the creature. The tree was old, its trunk and branches thick. Hand and footholds were not difficult to come by and the fierce wind did not cause it to sway over much. I attained a point, near to the crown, where I could stand steady, see the beast clearly, draw my bow to its fullest extent and was still hidden behind a reassuring curtain of foliage.
As I drew back the slick black feline was stretched flat on the ground industriously licking at its left forepaw. Two tentacles protruded from its back just beneath the shoulder blades. They draped down his flanks on opposite sides, curled around behind his rump and crossed each other over his tail. They then lay alongside each of the beasts flanks coming to an end either side of his head. On the end of each appendage was a flat leaf shaped pad, the inside of each serrated with countless needle sharp points.
I loosed my arrow and it flew straight and true towards the beast’s heart. But rather than strike home it thudded into the dirt. The creature, or what I had thought to be the creature seemed to flicker and I caught the briefest glimpse of the beast’s genuine location a little way to one side. Cursing myself as a fool for forgetting that these beasts are able to disguise themselves with illusion I drew another arrow ready to strike again. As I did so a commotion sounded in the forest behind us. It was Minron and the dwarf blundering their way through the trees making enough noise to wake the dead from their slumber.
The displacer beast sprang to attention upon hearing this noise. But rather than set eyes upon the perpetrators he fixed his gaze upon Splug at the foot of my tree. With astonishing speed the creature rose to its feet and bounded across the seventy feet or so that separated him the goblin. Within no more than a couple of seconds he was upon Splug, throwing himself from the height of the plateau in a snarling, frenzied attack. The creature must have been savouring the prospect of tasting goblin blood. I had already written the goblin off as dead, but Splug did not meekly wait for the attack to come. In one fluid movement he drew his short blade and leapt forward to meet the attack. This bold action caught the beast, and everyone else, by surprise, it roared in pain and anguish as the goblin’s blade sunk into its flank up to the hilt.
As Splug danced away from the beast, Minron came barrelling into the fray closely followed by the rest of my companions. The displacer beast managed to avoid their attacks and retreated a few steps. Blood dripped from the puncture mark where Splug’s blade had bitten deep. The beast raised its muzzle and roared, long and loud towards the sky. Lower pitched calls answered his from the gloom of the forest. Fallen leaves rustled to the rhythm of footsteps and two smaller female beasts padded into the clearing to surround us.
Glen and Rodney tried to attack these new arrivals but were foiled by the flickering illusions that they cast. For his troubles Rodney was lashed repeatedly by the tentacles of the two newcomers. A flurry of strikes left the mage dazed and bloodied. Eligos and Glen both rushed to his aid. Eligos charged into the nearest beast and knocked her flat before continuing into the second and lashing it with her flail. Glen followed up close behind and chopped his ugrosh down into the prone beast. Before the downed creature could raise herself in search of revenge Slug was upon her with a dagger in each hand. His arms were a barely distinguishable blur as he stabbed the hapless creature countless times. When the goblin paused to draw breath the beast was dead.
Whilst this was going on I loosed my second arrow at the large male. Splug’s attack seemed to have dispelled the illusion that protected him and this time the arrow struck home. It jolted in surprise at the attack from an unseen opponent. Its head spun around and its eyes locked onto mine. Whilst it was distracted a burst of energy from Rodney struck him full in the side and sent the creature staggering. Krevath followed Rodney’s spell with a fireball of his own that singed the fur from the beasts hide. The flames had not yet cleared when Minron charged into the beast. The large male lashed out a spiked tentacle in an instinctual act of defence. Minron tried to block it with his dragon-tooth shield but such was the impact of the lashing tentacle meeting the charging minotaur that the shield flapped uselessly to one side. The spikes continued towards Minron and raked viciously across his shoulder and neck. Undeterred Minron crashed into the beast and thrust his sword into its side. Minotaur and displacer beast crashed to the ground in a tangle of limbs. As it came to rest in the sodden moss I sent an arrow into the beast’s side for good measure. As the beast lay on the ground dazed, breathless and bleeding, Splug sauntered up to it and buried his blade in its gullet. The beast did not make so much as a sound as the life drained from it to mix with the water now pooling on the stony ground.
The last female was circling warily around Eligos and eying the rest of us with a mixture of fear and loathing. The spectral figure or a ram’s head slammed unceremoniously into the beast’s side closely followed by a fireball. As the creature reeled from these she suddenly found Minron’s longsword protruding from her neck, the deadly result of another attack from my charge-happy minotaur friend.
With all of the beasts dead we had more tentacles than we could have hoped for. Glen set about the grizzly task of separating them from their previous owners and stowing them away.
“You did well.” I said to Splug as I dropped from the tree. “Quite some reflexes you have there.”
“Thplug is grateful for your praithe mathter Hogar.” He replied with a fawning bow. “Thplug hath had to dodge many attackths in hith life.”
“Really? I do find that surprising, you seem such a charming little creature. Come on, we have hydra to hunt.”