Travel Log Day 1
I lie here reflecting on our journey so far from the obsidaman village. Not much else I can do. Dorn has caught up and healed from his journey. I smile in camaraderie at him, but he only recognizes it as competition or weakness. No matter. I see he’s wearing the jeweled sword I pressed into his broken body after we cut down those orc raiders. I can see for him, all things must be earned, even smiles and shared jokes. Trolls don’t just give their trust. I’d have it no other way – since those who trust easily can put their faith in dangerous place. But it’s a positive fact that it’s worthwhile enough for him to come find us in these woods and join up again with us. That’s something. That and he’s pulling my stretcher.
While Dorn drags me along, I think about the snail creature we killed. Had we not had extra weapons from the orc raiders both I and Olwen would have certainly died earlier. Xyla’s fire spell on Olwen’s sword turned out to work quite well, and Olwen performed quite the spectacle, cutting down half a tree while leaping from branch to flaming branch. The two of them know how to make life, art. And keep us alive while making art. I wonder if they know just how otherworldly their performance was.
Judging by their self-assured smiles, Olwen’s occasional scornful look, and Xyla’s boasting – I’d bet money they do. I worry what will happen if either of them meets someone…or something…that finally catches them, cracks them. They’re not used to failure.
For the moment, I don’t have to worry. Xyla avoided the fire and the slug, its sticky body, and even its acidic spittle. Never got close to it. And Olwen used the distraction well, easily avoiding it with acrobatics. Boaz, he’s turned out to be quite the surprise. Never mind his cooking. While it’s decent, out here without a kitchen and few herbs, I hate to admit to him: it’s been unimpressive. But his fire, now there’s a culinary art that we need on this trip. I should have guessed the Overland Trading Company wouldn’t pay such fees for us to eat well. He burned the slug straight through it’s thick coating. Just moments before that he sent a blast of fire so big, so intense, I thought it would rip my legs clean off. It left just a few scant singes on my boots. Cleaned the creature’s mucus straight off.
But the thing eventually caught up with me. It couldn’t catch me at first, and missed me once with its spittle. Boaz helped when it got my feet, but it kept coming for me with a singular doggedness. That’s good. I did my best to keep it focused on me and got my reward for it. After it finally encased me in its mucus, it slid over me and strapped me to its back. Its tendrils. Dipped underneath my skin. Dug into me. Today I was lucky. Almost burned alive with it. almost a desiccated corpse. Food for creature alien and familiar at once. It’ll happen. One day. But not today. Still alive.
We escorted the single surviving obsidaman. Boaz collected mucus sacs with Olwen’s expert help. Returned to the trail. The lot of us. I wonder when their stomach for this sort of work will give out. I wonder why I myself am drawn to this work. It’s not like I’m as grim as that dwarf in Throal. It’s not like I don’t enjoy Theran grapes, a stolen glance at Olwen’s ankles, the thrum of the obsidaman chant. But for some reason, there’s something more. I’m left unsatisfied. Fool that I am. I don’t even know why. Why throw your life away fighting nightmares?
Travel Log Day 2
I opened my eyes. They were the first small pieces of my body I felt – encrusted with dirt, mucus, blood, and sweat. Then it came back to me. The gnasher’s jaw had clamped down on my chest – gotten past my shield with incredible speed. Found the soft flesh underneath. Crunched through the hide armor like it was tough chicken skin. Crushed my ribs. Torn my flesh.
I was only just healing from a few days earlier, when the digestive slime had immobilized me, and the creature had sucked some of my strength. It was turning out to be a bad stroke of luck. Luck, as Heron would have told me, has nothing to do with it.
No one is battle ready who has not felt their body broken and leaking onto the ground. Who has not picked the pieces of their body up and mended them, however poorly and jaggedly. Who has seen their teeth fly from their face then felt the delayed, searing impact of their opponent’s mace in their jaw.
Heron said I was too pretty to give my life to this work. The physical pain and disfigurement would only be the first, most gentle symptoms of this work. I’d best find other work. Heh. I was full of back talk then. I told her she was beautiful. She told me I wasn’t looking at her real self. That inside, she was marked.
Travel Log Day 3
So today, and these past couple days, were just a couple of what will probably be many bad days. Luckily, Xyla provided by pulling at the threads of our simple food and making miracles from it. It radiated soothing warmth when I touched the unleavened bread to my lips. I found out they had finished the gnashers. By the time I fell, almost all of them had been dispatched. I had served my purpose then. And I would have the opportunity to serve again.
I have a very good feeling about this group. After all, most would have run from horror constructs. Let’s see how they do when we get inside the kaer. Now if only I could walk. Oh yes, the first bite had weakened me, and cracked my leg. The numbing is wearing off. Now the intense pain. Oh yes, there it is. I’d better rest.