Monday, October 31, 2016

Pray That The Woods Forgive, Part 3

Please keep in mind that the stories I post here are considered "rough drafts"  and will be different from the "finised product" but I like to post them here to share what I am working on and to show how I "interpet the AD&D 1E/OSRIC gamme world.

Viktor walked at the rear of the group as they headed up the road back towards Kerren's Landing where they had been robbed, cheated and forced to leave just the day before.  The unusually large half-Orc was often subject to fits of reason and philosophical reflection, from an Orcish point of view.  His size was a matter of contention no matter where he went. Both Orc and Human society tended to shy away from him for a variety of reasons.  One of his relatives on the Orc side frequently boasted that he had to have some Uruk-kai in him to be so large and so capable at battle.  Viktor wasn't so sure about the Uruk-kai, and even if there was some of that line in his veins, he didn't think it was necessarily something to be proud of.  Uruk-kai didn't care who or what they killed and that included Orcs.

His disdain for Uruk-kai was also in their fighting style.  They were essentially beserkers.  They observed little to nothing in the way of strategy and tactics.  He was proud of his Orc lineage that allowed him to be such a capable warrior.  He was equally proud of the human lineage that allowed him to out think most enemies he came across.  His Human family was steeped in military traditon with several of them having been high ranking soldiers in various well known and successful armies.

This odd pairing of Orc physiology and Human mental discipline had come together to make an ideal killing machine.  What most people didn't know, and that included his current companions, was that he was a voracious reader.  Being literate was not common anywhere and being half-Orc and literate only brought more scorn and suspicion if people ever found out.  Because he liked to know things, being especially fond of military history, he had perhaps a little more information on Druids than his companions.  His learning told him that the Druid they had agreed to help defend these Kindred Woods from the town of Kerren's Landing wasn't as simple as he seemed to be.

He had been carefully watching the small Druid since they left his "meadery".  In the roughly two hours they had been walking up the road, at a seemingly casual pace set by the Druid due to his small stature or perhaps intentionally, There had been an almost alarming amount of activity with all sorts of small to medium sized animals, birds and even insects coming and leaving from the Druid's presence.  Occasionally  the Druid would wander off the road and head into the trees, telling the group to keep going and that he would catch up.  Sure enough anywhere from ten to twenty minutes later they would see the Druid walking back from the woods to the road where they were walking from a point ahead of the group.  Never from behind where you would expect someone to be "catching up".

From his readings on past battles where armies had met up with Druids, things generally never ended well for the armies.  In some accounts, Merely having a Druid show up in between two warring armies was enough to prevent the battle entirely,  Usually in some notable ecologically important place like a forest or woods, even a swamp in one story.  Other stories were told by a handful of survivors who defied a Druid and crossed said Druid's line in the sand.  Every story was one of terror and tragedy.  This seemingly amiable little fellow that they were following indicated no real threat.  He liked to make a show of having a 'dark side' but they had really seen was a temper tantrum or two in his opinion.

At the same time, there was something he couldn't quite put his finger on about the little Druid.   A few times he was sure he had glimpsed large, menacing looking creatures at the inner periphery of the woods and the Druid would walk over to their spot and seemed to be talking with them in a language of what sounded like grunts, growls, hoots and piping, depending on the creature.  Each time the monstrous sized beasts would leave at his bidding.  None ever accosted the group on it's way.  On another occasion he swore that the miniature Druid walked straight into a large Maple tree.  He walked directly at the tree and then seemed to just...disappear... into the tree.  He came out ahead of the group a short time later looking very pleased about something.

It was on those occasions that Viktor suspected that the Druid's jovial and friendly demeanor was just an act for their benefit.  He could smell that their Druid wasn't just human.  There was another scent to him that he couldn't quite make out.  All said and done, he was reminded of an old saying in Orc tradition,  "With friends like these, who needs enemies?"

His current adventuring companions seemed to have taken well to him.  He was treated fairly by them, even the Elf, half- Elf, Elsa.    They all seemed curious about the Druids activities but also a bit awestruck by him at the same time.  Once, the soldier Mikal fell back alongside him and talked with him about how things were going.  "Viktor," Mikal said questioningly. "I notice you prefer to always take up the rear in a group.  Have you observed anything notable so far?"  "Only that the Druid is very well connected to his woods." Victor replied in a low and deep, rumbling voice.  "There are things in these woods that none of us ever noticed on the way down here yesterday."  He continued.   Mikal looked around thoughtfully.  "Well, we were in a hurry and in the middle of a thunderstorm.  I'm sure there were many things we did not notice along the way."  He added.

Viktor looked Mikal directly in the eyes.  He wanted to see if his eyes were glossy or clouded as if under a spell or enchantment.  "You are aware that Druids are supposed to be able to influence the weather, if not control it outright."  He stated a bit more quietly.  "Are you suggesting that Behr deliberately caused the storm to send us to his waiting arms?"  Mikal asked him quizzically, eyebrows raised as he realized what Viktor was implying.  "I don't know." Viktor grunted.  "I can't say at this point that I would be surprised though."  Mikal frowned slightly at that, then his face lightened up again.  "Thank you for taking the rear on this trip.  I am going to move up and take point I think.  Maybe I will see some of these larger creatures you have observed."  he reached up and clapped his hand on Viktor's much larger shoulder then winked and he started to move up into the main group again.  He stopped and chatted briefly then moved up ahead of everyone, leading them by about thirty paces.

Suddenly, Viktor heard a loud crashing in the woods, just to his right.  He stopped and looked around, his hands instinctively going to his sword strapped at his back.  The crash happened again and this time the rest of the group stopped walking and began looking around as well.  Viktor was about to head toward the sound when seeming to appear out of nowhere, Behr the Druid was right next to him.  He reached out and placed his small hand on Viktor's armored side.  "Ssshhh, don't make any sudden moves or you'll frighten him." Behr said in a hushed voice.  'Me frighten him?' Viktor thought.  Something huge is out there in those woods.  Something gigantic and the Druid was worried that Viktor would frighten it?  He was torn in the moment.  Part of him insisted that he had to go see what it was.  Another part of him, deep inside of him, absolutely insisted that he didn't want to know what it was.

The group stopped and waited as the little man went ut into the thick tree line and disappeared from view.  A few more crashes were heard and felt as they shook the very ground they stood on.  No one moved the entire time.  It seemed as if no one even dared to breathe.  Then, straining to hear, the voice of the Druid came to the road.  It sounded as if he were singing or maybe chanting aloud.  The singing, it definitely sounded more like singing than chanting, continued unabated for nearly thirty minutes and no one moved the entire time.  They were nearly as motion-less as statues as the song seemed to ensnare their minds.  But to what purpose?  Viktor couldn't help but to think this wasn't targeted to them, this was only a side effect of something meant for whatever huge creature it was that was just out of their sight.

The singing tapered off slowly and soon nothing could be heard again.  After a few more minutes, the crashing steps started again, heading away from them abut moving ahead of them.  Behr came back to the road casually, as if he had only stopped for a chat with an old acquaintance and heard pleasant news.  "Everything's fine everyone."  Behr said loudly to everyone.  "Things are shaping up splendidly."  The look on the Druid's face was both devious and satisfied at the same time.

These types of activities continued for the next three hours as they walked on toward Kerren's Landing.  They had to be only abut twenty minutes away from the edge of town, even at their painfully slow pace, at least, that's how Viktor felt about it,   Behr called for a halt and everyone came to a pause in a circle around him, waiting to hear what he obviously he had to say to them.

"I appreciate everyone's patience and tolerance of all the things I'm sure you thought were a bit strange."  he began.  "We are going to move off the road at this point and make a camp just a bit to the West and inside the woods.  Please have no fear.  Anything you have seen, or think you might have seen is your friend here."  The Druid paused at that and then he corrected himself. "Well, they are MY friends here but they mean you no harm as you are with me.  After we make camp which will be sort of a base of operations for this effort, we will discuss my plans and I will ask for your input and inform you of what I would like for you to do as a part of this.  Any questions?"  Behr paused, listening and peering at each member of the group meaningfully as he looked around the group.

"Do you plan to attack the town then?"  Brother Thelonius, who had been silent and watchful for the entire trip asked.  "Good Brother," Behr started in reply.  "The entire reason you young people are here is to prevent the need for any attacks on anyone.  If you are successful, this will end well for everyone involved.  However, if you are not able to accomplish your tasks in this endeavor, well then, let us just say the I am prepared to end it quickly and decisively."  Everyone except for Viktor was a bit wide-eyed at that statement.  Viktor had expected that, or something like it for some time now.  He wasn't surprised in the least.

"Good then."  Behr pronounced.  "Let's get camp set up and we can enjoy a good meal and lay out our plans to make this a win-win for everyone."  At that, he turned abruptly to the right and headed into the tree-line.  He paused only for a moment to look back once at the group and motioned for them to follow him.  As the group began to set off into the woods, Viktor wondered if the 'Kindred Woods' were really the peaceful place the name suggested.

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