I should have fled. I’m not talking about hiding out in the forest while the inquisitor’s men came to town, I should have saved my soul and ran far away from Chuton.
The town came together to discuss how they would outwit the coming Swords of Astrid and accompanying soldiers. Mayor Izzy offered up a suggestion that we split into groups with some working to engage with the men of the inquisition and a small group should hide out in the forests. Even though the town had come to understand that I am a gentle being, there were concerns that the swords of Astrid would be quick to judge me based on my appearance and likely put me to death.
As much as I felt the New God would watch out for me, the realisation of the situation bore weight and I joined the elf, Vert the tavernkeep, Jack of the woods, an older orc I was unfamiliar with, and that untrustworthy little orc child Raya who followed me to Ashbourne previously. I should have fled.
As we started into the woods I immediately sensed Red Leaf’s presence. It was only two days ago I had been in these woods and their presence hadn’t crossed over the river but now it was all around. They had reclaimed the Soldier Forest so quickly.
With no real destination in mind, we started walking through the forest, trying to keep low and out of sight. I don’t know if it was Jack’s little yappy dog that gave us away, but we were found out by a group of three of the Swords of Astrid. The elf, older orc and I seemed to be the only ones that were spotted as the others hid among the trees and low bushy scrub.
The Swords of Astrid all looked the same, just as they had the last time I witnessed them, with their large fit bodies, shaved heads, robes, and obviously itching for an altercation by caring ominous spikey chained mace weapons. They asked us about where we had come from and if we knew anything about the happenings in Chuton. I didn’t speak much, only to state that I was there as a servant to the Elf, which would normally be a believable story. The orc on the other hand wasn’t too clever and started talking about being in Chuton and after saying a bit too much, raised the ire of the lead Sword.
The next thing I knew, the nasty little orc girl comes rushing out of her hiding place to bash one of the Swords of Astrid. In turn Vert shot out with a crossbow bolt just missing the one who was doing all the talking, and Jack dashed at the other but should have kept in hiding as he was not connecting at all with his stick.
I’ve been learning about and following the New God for the past few years and I feel that I have turned my back on all the teachings Father Bert provided. In an instant, I failed the wisdom of the prophet and I drew upon the power of the shadow and an inky wispy black dart shot out of my hand and struck the face of my religious brother causing blood to trickle down his neck and clouded his perception.
The young orc girl was knocked to the ground, and the older orc stepped in between her and the Brother she was attacking, and the older orc was able to swiftly send his opponent’s soul towards its next life. The Elf cast an odd charm onto the Brother that was fighting with Jack which made him a bit discombobulated… when I say fighting, it was more like a choreographed encounter in a pantomime I once saw, as neither Jack nor the Brother he was engaged with seemed to connect.
I’m not sure who finished his life, but the Brother I had lashed out at and subsequently struck with a sling stone was on the ground. The last remaining Sword of Astrid called out in prayer and a beam of glory struck down from the sky incinerating him and blasted Vert and Jack away from him. I felt a searing pain as the fires of Astrid licked my forehead and I remember thinking at that time, ‘what have I done.’
I subsequently learned that the older orc was a priest of the old faith as he healed himself and the young orc child, whom which he has formed some sort of racial bond with. Jack called on the power of the forest and he also healed himself as the fires of Astrid seemed to have burned him quite badly.
I heard some sounds in the distance and was in a bit of a panic. I’m not sure if it was me that suggested it, I mean, it could have been as I was totally out of my wits. Even writing this now I am shaking with fear as I do not know what impacts the outcome of our next actions may cause. Not on a physical level, as there is no way anyone will ever know, but I am worried that my soul is stained.
Anyway, we placed the bodies of the fallen under some vines that were the same as those we found in Ashbourne. Vines that I know are a manifestation from Red Leaf. As we placed the vines over the bodies, we offered them up to Red Leaf to show that we were not there to do harm, and in turn the vines started to entwine around the fallen Swords of Astrid. The Elf called forth a clamouring sound and loud chanting to draw the attention of those searching through the woods so that they would find the bodies and think that the vines had decimated their fellow brothers. We ran off following a large vine deeper into the woods.
There was a loud commotion in the distance where we had left the bodies and later found that the apostolates who stumbled upon them were slaughtered by Red Leaf.
We travelled until coming to a clearing and the Elf noticed some prints in the ground of what he described only as a creature of lore and that if it was what he thought, then we did not want to go after it as it would surely mean our end. We all agreed to not follow the path and started to head back towards Chuton.
The sun seemed to be swallowed by the forest and darkness washed over us all. We decided it best if we camped out until the morning. During my watch, someone started to approach our encampment so I opened my mind trying to sense thoughts of anyone around and I could feel that the entire surrounds were alive as one mind. The ‘person’ approaching ended up being one of the Swords of Astrid we previously encountered, although it was dead and had been animated by Red Leaf with vines ripping through its body giving it a semblance of movement. I stirred my companions from their sleep and we spoke with the vestige of Red Leaf. In return for our safety and for that of the villagers of Chuton we agreed to act as a guardian of sorts.
I can’t believe that I was put in a position where I felt I had to bargain with one of the Fey as I knew that if I did not, my body would be torn asunder like the zealots who happened across the bodies of the Swords of Astrid we dispatched.
This morning when I went to a pool of water to fill my flask, I pulled back my cowl and peered down to see where the flames of Astrid had touched my forehead to make sure I was ok as I still had a bit of pain. I thought maybe the New God had marked me with a blessing, as in the reflection of myself I didn’t see a burn mark, I saw a circular symbol of the snake eating its own tail. I became elated as I took it as a sign that maybe those who we defeated in the forest were not pious or worthy of the New God’s love and that I had done a righteous thing. However, staring at it further the symbol looked broken, almost as if the head of the serpent has been cut off.
I should have fled.