Forgive me, and forgive my evil shadow…
The Festival of Forgiveness went smoothly enough, I suppose. These New God rites are strange. Everybody seeking forgiveness for things they were willing to announce publicly. All the while knowing that there were plenty more things that you'd never announce, that the crowd would never forgive you for. Someone said as much. Seems stupid really, given most of the village worship the Lady and her Lord.
Almost forgot – there was an Elf there. A misbegotten Fairy – as large as life. Strike me lucky – I almost forgot what I was supposed to be getting forgiveness for. I so wanted to ask him… so many things.
Before I got a chance, though, I started choking. It was as if the secrets I couldn't say were welling up inside me. It wasn't just me, either – everyone there was choking and mewling and dying. I guess this village holds more secrets than I thought.
Turned out it was a stinking Fairy trick. Someone had secreted five pots of garbage around the hall, and that was what was choking us. It was a spell, and it was coming from somewhere in the village. We broke up into groups to sort it out.
Bad Booze at the Rusted Crown
When things went haywire at the Festival of Forgiveness, we took one look at the pots and knew who was behind it. Everyone one of those garbage bins was in a tankard from the Rusty Crown. I knew the hog-piss from there tasted bad, but this was beyond the pale. Good ol Rusty had some answering to do.
I drink there, Dot sleeps there, Vert works there, so we knew exactly where to go. I'm not sure why Teller and Owen came along, but I was glad that they did. Always good to keep an eye on the blacksmith.
Rusty was his usual surly self – he's such a miserable bastard. Worse than I thought, as it turned out. We put him to the question, but he was having none of it. Finally Vert took us down to the celler. It was cold and dark down there, and in the dark something was scratching at the kegs… from the inside.
I backed off quick smart, but ol Rusty was too close. A scrawny dead arm smashed out of one of the kegs and grabbed him by the throat. He was a goner, for sure. The others tried to fight, but Dot and I knew what to do. We raced up into the bar and found the most flammable gut-rot there. Dot was messing about, stuffing rags into bottles. No time for that – just splash the stuff about and set the damned place on fire, for Gods sake.
That done, I ran back to the stairs to warn the others. Rusty was gone – eviscerated by the demons, but the others were holding there own. In fact, they had things well to hand, except for Owen. He was fighting Rusty's monstrous shadow. In a moment of madness, I jumped down to save him. My mind was in turmoil – Owen fighting zombies, the inn burning, me in the middle of it. Fire, for Gods sake – what was I thinking! Of course, he didn't need me, did he? Story of my life.
Vert and Dot put my fire out, thank Gods. Owen smashed all the kegs, revealing that they were stuffed with the bodies of Halflings. Turns out the Halflings had been coming to the inn, and Rusty had been stuffing them in the kegs in some mad ritual. Teller found a book that detailed all of it, and a strange fetch that Dot identified as some sort of powerful spell.
Of all of us, Vert ended up coming out of it the best of all. Turned out that Rusty hadn't just employed him, he'd adopted him as his son. So now Vert is the new Rusty, running the Rusty Crown. God knows if anyone will ever drink there again, though.
Toughest Hop Fight ever!
We all gathered in the hall, and it turned out that there had been trouble all over.
Trouble all over, and it wasn't over yet. We were congratulating ourselves on a job well done when the gravedigger's shadow sort of … grew. It turned into an enormous thing – took up half the hall it did! I could see that those poor souls in there were doomed, so Dot and I scarpered (along with half the village, I don't mind telling you).
It was clear that those poor souls were doomed. There was no way that force of arms was going to be able to overcome that monstrous thing. So we did the only thing we could do – we set fire to the hall.
I couldn't tell you what transpired inside that hall that night. That is someone else's tale. Heroes they were – that's all I know. They fought that thing and defeated it – Gods knows how.
Too late to save the hall though. Lucky no one was burned to death, now I come to think about it. Pity about the hall.
I'll tell you one thing for nothing – next year, I'm not going to any New God Festival of Forgiveness. I don't care what anyone says.