Entry 20 Part 1: Riloth 19th the 17th
I made some decent headway into Halflings, Full Hearts, but as ridiculous as the events of the story were, my mind kept returning to Edgewater. I should probably get through recapping that.
The book did have some new things I should avoid doing; I should refrain from foaming at the mouth, walking around barefoot, and chasing down wealthy halfling heiresses in the woods. I think I can manage.
Illunia 20 - Road to Edgewater
The giant man collapsed and the soldiers all turned to Daulf in unison. He stood from where he’d braced against the wall and looked the fallen man over.
"Let's bring a cart back up here and load him in,” he said, the men jumping to obey. “Keep scanning the water for more survivors."
While we waited for a soldier to fetch the cart, I examined the form of the unconscious giant. His eight-foot frame was like a statue from the Age of Heroes, with muscles seemingly chiseled from stone covering every inch of his lightly clothed body. Even the backs of his hands showed the visible contours of muscle. I held out my own hands to compare and see if I had the same muscles, if obviously less defined.
I did not.
He wore a bear skin cloak draped over his shoulders, and affixed to his back—seemingly by magic—was a massive wooden paddle shaped club. The handle was almost two feet long; the entire weapon had to be over seven. Obsidian blades stuck out along the edges of the club, honed to a razor’s edge. Intermingled in the obsidian blades rested the teeth of beasts. One looked to be from a massive shark and the other a canine from some large predatory beast. The flat surface of the club was inscribed in a flowing pattern, very similar to the tattoos that covered its owner’s body. Set into the flat face of the weapon sat three stones, with slots for two more. The central stone was the same purple-black as the obsidian blades, cut into a faceted sphere two inches in diameter. The stone closest to the hilt was an inch in diameter and looked like a ball of water: the clear blue of the ocean, and perfectly round. The last was the smallest, the size of a copper bit. It was a deep brown, almost black, and it too was spherical and smooth.
When the wagon arrived, it took three soldiers and Daulf to lift the massive man into the back of it. Aside from his bulk, the task was made all the more difficult by the wooden sword inexplicably secured to his back. No one was able to remove it. After careful and strenuous labor, they eventually got the man onto the wagon bed. The wagon headed back down the bridge with its slumbering cargo. When it was halfway down, the strange sword fell off the man’s back of its own accord. A soldier ran to retrieve the weapon but struggled to lift it at first. The center of mass was far from the handle, and there was no other safe place to hold it. Eventually he was able to drag it onto the wagon bed, the blades slicing off a part of the cart with unnatural ease.
When I got to the place where the weapon had been dragged, something on the ground caught my eye. Leaning down to inspect it, I saw a chip freshly cut from the floor of the bridge, and a long scratch leading from it to where the weapon had been placed on the cart.
That strange weapon must be magical. That barrage of debris didn't harm the bridge, yet the weight of this weapon cut this free.
The soldiers and I remained atop the bridge for half an hour, searching the water for any more survivors. After the initial surge, the flow had shrank from a torrent to a small stream. I examined the debris that had been left behind in the muddy banks. I’d first taken it to be twisted tree trunks but on closer inspection I discovered they were massively overgrown vines. Whatever force had caused them to grow so large, had also covered them in unnatural burl growths. The bark was twisted in a disturbing pattern and staring at it too long left an uneasy feeling in my gut, forcing me to look away.
When it became clear that the flow was not strong enough to bring any more shipwreck survivors, we continued once more towards Edgewater. Somehow I wound up driving the wagon with the strange slumbering man. When we started moving, Trish appeared next to me on the bench and gestured to the man. "Who's the beefcake?"
I shrugged. "I don’t know, all he said before passing out was ‘I’m debted.’ His tattoos look magical though, his sword-club-thing too. I’ve never heard of magic tattoos before."
"Well you just keep attracting handsome men, don’t you? Or maybe I’m attracting them,” she stopped talking, looking me up and down. “No, not me.”
I ignored her barb, and when she saw I’d not taken the bait continued, “Well, while you were playing the hero, I got the full rundown of the attack on Landing. Pay attention because if you want to keep your cover intact for Handsome Man Number One, you need to know what went down."
"That’s a good idea. Alright, I’m listening," I said.
Once sure she held my full attention, she began to recount the events of the "Fall of Landing". She seemed particularly proud of the title. I couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a pun or not and was afraid to ask.
"The raid occurred nine days before the night of the goblin attack. It began just after sunset. Chaos broke out all over town. Buildings burned and dragon cult sorcerers ran rampant through the streets, killing indiscriminately. Hundreds of cultists appeared throughout the city at once. The city watch didn't know what was happening. By the time they'd recognized the sorcerers as the threat, the fires couldn't be contained. The nobles mustered their house guards to assist the city watch while the citizens battled futilely to put out the flames. The bulk of the city’s military was out on patrol and the guards were pulled from the locks to help with both tasks. Somebody organized a resistance, and the city started to fight back, but each cultist’s death only added to the destruction. With each slain, they unleashed death spells, channeling their life into a massive spell in the moment of their death. The city abandoned efforts to stop the blaze, and instead moved to containing it. Blocks were torn down before the flames could reach them as the city's forces organized safe zones. The sorcerers harried these attempts, but disappeared into the city when confronted. After hours of battling fires and sorcerers in hit and run attacks, the sorcerers ceased their assaults. The peace lasted less than an hour, but any hope of victory died when the dragon appeared."
"It came from the lake, the water below it freezing with each beat of its wings as it skimmed over the waves. The dragon was covered in dull white scales that glowed red in the light of the burning city, but they did not shine like the dragons of legends. The monster’s wings spanned fifty feet, gently beating as it glided lazily along the shore, killing the bucket brigades with casual ease as its icy breath turned people into frozen pillars in great swaths. The Tower wizards in the city had exhausted themselves fighting the fires and battling the sorcerers, but when the dragon came, they at least tried—which is more than I expected from those Tower fops. The Grand Magus rode out with Daulf to face the dragon. The Magus shot the wyrm with a massive bolt of lighting that lit the entire city for a brief moment, and succeeded only in drawing the dragon’s ire. The thunderous boom of the attack was heard by all and briefly heartened the defenders. The dragon abandoned its attacks on the citizens and came for Daulf and his charge. A magical duel ensued between the Magus and the dragon. Daulf shielded the Magus with his Blessing, the dragon’s icy breath parted before Daulf like waves around a ship’s prow, as the Magus unleashed a barrage of magical attacks into their foe.”
"Eventually the dragon tired of the ranged back and forth and closed in. It grabbed the Magus with its claw, Daulf’s shield only proof against magic. Wizard in hand, the great white lizard ate him whole, leaving Daulf to battle alone. With only a sword—and his perfect butt—Daulf charged the beast. A regular sword wielded by a regular man would have proven no threat to a dragon, but our Daulf was no regular man. While the dragon was snacking, Daulf swung at the monster’s hind leg, his sword glowing brilliantly with the power of his god amongst the flame-lit night as it cut a deep gash. Surprised by the pain of the attack, the dragon batted him aside and took to the air, blood pouring from its wounded leg. By then the city watch had trained the ballista on it, and there was hope that the tide could turn, even if it was clear that the city was lost."
"But then, it got worse—much worse. Demons burst forth from buildings throughout the city; giant humanoid monsters composed of twisted amalgamations of the creatures of Kaltis. The cultists had retreated only to summon more allies from the Realm of Fauell. Those still fleeing the city were cut down in droves. The defenders still standing, the remains of the watch, some of the nobles’ guards, and Daulf the Dragon Wounder gathered on the main thoroughfare to clear a path for any who could make it."
"While battles raged on the road to the gate, the dragon retreated to the deserted locks and began to freeze the water pouring down its spillway with its icy breath, and coated the mountainside in ice and snow. Once done, it dug into the newly formed mountain of ice to nurse its wound and sat out the rest of the battle."
"By all reports, Daulf was spectacular—and his martial prowess was nothing to sneeze at. He led a fighting retreat, making the demons and sorcerers pay for each block, eventually making a last stand at the gate. Around him the city burned, and the tide of refugees had turned into a trickle, but still he held the ground. The fire attacks of the cultists burst harmlessly off his protective magic, the lightning attacks struck the ground at his feet, and the ice shards shattered on contact, leaving him unharmed. He cut through their ranks, ignoring their death spells as easily as he did their regular magic as he cut them down in waves. The tide had begun to turn when the demons entered the battle. Many were small, monkey shaped creatures with tentacles and other mismatched appendages, and the soldiers met their charge with one of their own. Behind them, walked a behemoth, taking its time and reveling in the destruction. This demon stood ten feet tall, with the head of a shark and the body of a gorilla, but instead of fur it bore patchy scales that oozed puss—ew by the way. In its grotesque hands it held a club made of bone, and when it saw Daulf, it let out a hissing howl. The horror charged through the ranks of demons and cultists, heedless of their fates, and Daulf broke from his battle to meet it."
"They met in a brilliant burst of light. Daulf’s sword glowing once more, and the demon’s club burning with the energy of Fauell. The Chosen of Illunia traded blows with the spawn of Faust’s children, and with each clash of their empowered weapons the light on the battlefield grew, until nothing could be seen but the white and red glow of their clashing weapons. It was chaos, the soldiers shielding their eyes from the lights, and the demons shrieking in fear of the power Daulf held. Until suddenly, the red light flared bright, briefly flooding out the white. The battle paused in that moment, as both sides took in the power of their champions. When both lights faded, a haggard and weary Daulf stood surrounded by the burning remains of the demon. All around him the ground was scorched, save for a small ring below his feet. And then, it was over. The city was lost as the fires raged unabated, but some of its people were saved. The surviving cultists fled into the burning side streets, and the demons were cut down by the soldiers. Daulf organized the remaining army, and sent them out on patrols, scouring the area nearby for survivors of both sides, and eventually he turned west, on the road to Edgewater, where he saved our lives.”
I sat in silence, listening to her recount the tale. The Seeker was far more fearsome than I expected. I’d heard of Blessed Seekers that could shrug off magical attacks, but if Trish’s recounting was accurate, Daulf seemed almost immune. Being unfazed by the death spells of the sorcerers really showed his power. When a person dies, there is a large expelling of Will, orders of magnitude more than the person could channel in life. Some speculate this is the soul leaving the body or the body expelling the Will it contained but couldn’t access. No one knows for sure, but that's not important. The important part is that this Will can be channeled by a sorcerer—or suitably prepared wizard—to bring about destruction far above their ability to control. During the Dragon Wars, the Fel Dragons used this—and the disposable nature of their followers—to great devastation. Each sorcerer's death on the battlefield became a devastating attack against those who had slain them.
I really need to avoid this man's notice. Maybe we can sneak away in town.
We reached Edgewater near sunset, my passenger remaining silent the whole trip. A few times I’d worried that he had stopped breathing, but Trish checked his pulse each time to allay my fears, reporting it as "strong, but very slow," which was weird, but not the strangest thing about this giant man.
Edgewater was a logging town at the confluence of two rivers. The river from the west was called the Meena, and it was fed from a low point in the mountain range that held The Ocean at bay. When we reached town, this river was once again flowing. The northern river, the Fess, was still dry and was fed from a cave that led through the mountain and into the depths of The Ocean. Where they met, and Edgewater sat, they merged to form the Sisters River.
Both rivers were large, nearly four hundred feet across, and the dry bed of the Fess River was like a deep canyon with steep rocky banks. We arrived at Edgewater on the opposite bank of the Meena River. Evidence of a non-dwarven bridge could be seen, but it had been recently destroyed.
That explains some of the debris in the water.
Across the river, on the opposite side of the Fess’ dry bank lay a small army encampment, laid out in neat rows. Around the military camp lay another, less organized camp. This one surrounded the orderly row of tents with a mass of bodies, scattered carts, and the occasional fire. The army encampment lined the river, centered at the base of the bridge, and spread out from there, leaving a wide road from the bridge’s base.
A scout set out from the camp, crossing the river in a small boat to meet us and assess our group. Daulf and another soldier went to meet her and after a brief conference the scout rowed back to the opposite bank, while Daulf came back to the group of soldiers that had gathered around my wagon. I don't know why they gathered around me, after the incident on the bridge they started to hang around the wagon. Maybe the oddity of the man they had rescued?
Daulf spoke to the group, "Great news! Captain Mobear is alive and in charge of that camp. They returned to town from drills after the attack was underway and deemed they could best serve Landing by protecting its fleeing citizens from the creatures of the wilds. They have a hundred soldiers over there and nearly a thousand refugees. They will be sending boats across for us to come join them. They haven't been allowed to cross into Edgewater; the mayor has been—" he paused, choosing his words carefully, "—difficult."
In short order the soldiers brought a mismatched assortment of row boats, fishing vessels, and barges across the river to transfer our group of survivors. A ramp was set up for the wagons and I drove the unconscious stranger onto a barge and was carried across the river.
When all others had crossed safely, Daulf finally crossed himself and came to stand by my wagon to watch the rest of our group disperse. On the camp side of the river, our soldiers had already integrated into the larger encamped body, and our refugees were directed to the chaos of the refugee camp set up beyond the military encampment.
In all the ordering about, no one told me where to go, and I sat there atop the wagon, unsure what to do. Trish had slipped away with the other refugees, leaving me all alone.
A retinue broke off from the camp and headed towards our landing site. It consisted of five men on horseback who headed straight for us. The leader of the group wore the Landing town guard colors, gray and green, and bore the rank of captain on his armored shoulder. The other four were city watch of various ranks I didn't recognize at the time.
The captain removed his helmet, revealing a smiling face. His hair was thinning but still dark brown, and he had a thick beard trimmed just enough to not extend below the rim of his helmet. "Daulf my friend! I'm so glad you made it out of that alive. I'd heard reports of what you faced. It's spectacular. Daulf Dragon's Bane they are already calling you."
With an embarrassed smile, Daulf replied, "Hardly, Dragon Scratcher is closer to the truth."
"Far be it from me to argue truth with the Chosen of Illunia,” he said with mirth. “Well, Scratcher, I could use your help. We have a few wounded that might not make it through the night, and the pompous ass of a mayor won’t let our people cross the bridge. He can’t exactly stop us, but I was hoping to handle this more diplomatically than throwing him into the river."
"Of course, let’s see to the wounded. We have another patient for the medical tents as well," Daulf said, gesturing to my passenger, and we set off towards the camp.
On the way, Mobear told us how he had been out of the city on a training exercise when the attack occurred. When they returned to find the battle lost, they focused on gathering all the survivors. He’d sent half his command south to protect any who fled towards Lake Side, and escorted those he found here. When they arrived, the leader of the town, Mayor Pitsmark, had barred their crossing of the bridge. He threatened to destroy it, which was bold posturing at best, since the dry riverbed made the bridge purely symbolic. Daulf in turn told Mobear about his recollection of the events of Landing. His account was much in line with Trish’s, even if it had fewer comments on his own butt.
Once in the camp, I saw that the barrier between military and civilian was not as stark as it’d looked from afar. Families with children occupied the majority of the tents and uniformed bodies covered the floors of those few occupied with soldiers as they slept in shifts throughout the day. Mobear led us to a medical tent, filled with patients on cots.
After considering the feasibility of removing my passenger from the wagon, it was decided the best solution was to simply pull the whole wagon into the medical tent and untether the donkey. No cot would hold a man so large in any case. Daulf quickly got to work tending to the seriously wounded, and I was inexplicably dragged along to ‘assist.’ Which is to say, I stood around watching Daulf close wounds and purge them of infection with his Blessing. In the case of the second, the infection oozed from the wounds before closing. It was disgusting and smelled horrendous, and I was tasked with cleaning it up. I estimate Daulf saved another dozen lives or limbs that night—though some may have survived without his aid few would have prospered. After all the healing was done, Daulf found a pair of unused cots in the back, and we settled in for a few brief hours of sleep before the sun rose.