The Southlands

The First Stop on The Pilgrimage

“You’re in no brothel sir, that coin won’t get you into these robes. And if you think to force yourself upon me you’ll find this dagger between your ribs so fast your fucking head will spin. There’s more than one decent man in this bar that would have your head if harm came to me, and many more without honor who would do the same. After many unspeakable acts to be sure.” Tush calmly uttered as her dagger thunked into roughhewn and dirty table.

Every head in the establishment turned at the sound of steel. The man slowly backed from the table and the pace and hum of drinking and cavorting resumed.

“Now where was I?” The lady pondered after a long draught of ale. “That’s right, here, I was here. It was the morning after we had returned from that cursed cemetery and I met back up with Scarborough the dwarf here in the tavern. He was with two strange men, well not men exactly. One was another dwarf, a strange little spellcaster, the other an elf. The elf seemed out of place in the bar, some sort of woods priest or druid I suppose. Scarborough introduced us and we soon found out these men were here for the same reason as I, fortune and fame by means of adventure.”

A shabby dwarf sauntered up to the table. “Ah, Tush, trying to entice these fine young men to your bedchamber, or just one of them?” He laughed, taking a seat across from Tush with the three men. “She’ll tell the tale of our deeds true enough men, but don’t believe a word of her if she’s looking to undue those trousers.”

“Get buggered Scarborough. Boys this is my compatriot Scarborough. Don’t mind him, he’s spent a lot of coin in the tavern tonight and seems to have a loose tongue. One I’ll loosen from his mangy gob entirely if he keeps at it.” Tush coolly said behind a wry smile. “As I was saying, we found two men who sought to join us in hunting treasure and monsters. The story is that many who have been making the ‘Pilgrimage’ lately have been going missing or ended up dead. And after testing our mettle at the cemetery we figured this was the job for us.” The three young men inched closer to the table, enraptured and ready to get to the heart of the tale.

“We met Tucker at the gate, a man from town whose wife had gone missing on the pilgrimage. Kidnapped by lizard men, so he said. We had borrowed his talking ass, and were still using him, with the promise we would return with his wife. It had been two days since he recruited us, and the lot of us, Tucker included, were grim about the prospects of finding her alive. Setting off for the first stop on the journey we encountered nothing on the trail.” Tush’s voice quieting, her cadence slowing.

“Coming upon a large hill upon which the first stop along the pilgrimage stood, we encountered a pack of Hyenas. I was just as happy to skirt around them as they fed upon a corpse we couldn’t make out, but that little elf fucker had other plans,” She glowered, “Going into a trance he was able to coax the alpha male out of the pack towards himself. He seemed to have made a bond with it after about half an hour. That’s when I sent a spell exploding behind the other animals, sending them fleeing into the grassland.”

“Ha! The look on those mutts faces when that spell went off!” Scarborough laughed.

Glaring down Scarborough Tush resumed her tale. “With our new companion we began climbing up the large hill. Reaching its zenith, we came upon a good sized pond surrounded by an oak grove. There was a large boulder at the other end of the pond with some other smaller rocks surrounding it. Nothing was amiss and it was quite tranquil, save for a large amount of blood that had flowed from the top of the large boulder to the ground. It had poured over a large stone face that was carved into the rock, the face of a woman it seemed. When approaching the boulder to investigate two of the smaller ‘rocks’ turned out to be fucking bug bears! One was so startled it took off through the trees, the other was deftly felled by a single arrow from Scarborough here.”
“Deft indeed,” Slurred the dwarf through a mouthful of bread, cheese and ale.

“Jumping onto the rock I saw a man, his throat seeming to be clawed open, sprawled in no particular fashion upon its top. He was a man from town, no one special, but dead none-the-less. Searching him revealed little, as did a probe of the area for tunnels, hidden alcoves or signs of how he had come to his end. The dwarf mage, Mane, disrobed and took the opportunity to swim in the still, clear pond. I thought it a wonderful idea and disrobed myself,” Tush gave a wink to the young man nearest her. “Diving in the pond was quite invigorating until the little twat brought up some sort of stave between my legs and then cast a weak charm spell on me. If I hadn’t been so bewildered by the staff he would have never charmed me, I’m still cursing myself for letting that one get by. And before you open your half-witted mouth, yes, I’m sure it wasn’t his cock,” She said with leer in Scarborough’s direction.

“Bringing the staff to shore we investigated. Twin snakes carved up the length, topped with antlers. We couldn’t discern anything special about it other than its beauty and the dwarf mage took it for his own. I clambered back up the rock, dressed and gathered my gear. The puny elf druid nicked the iron dagger I had taken off the corpse. It wasn’t anything special but I’m still sour about it. He can get fucked by a tree for all I care,” She spat out.

“Not a second after I had belted on mine own dagger and picked up my staff, five lizard men burst out of the undergrowth into the clearing around the pond. Three of us stood upon the rock, Scarborough, the druid and I. The other mage stood on the ground, taking cover behind the smaller rocks near the face carved into the boulder. What happened next is somewhat of a blur,” She said with a sigh, seeming to ready herself for the telling of the battle.

“I was just readying a spell that would have easily killed one of the lizard men and maimed another when I took a glancing blow from a thrown javelin. It was painful as hell but only a flesh wound, I lost my grasp upon my spell though. I felt more than heard the dwarf mage fry one of the beasts with some sort of electric spell. It made the hair on our arms stand on end and the air around us buzzed with magic and electricity. I had just enough time to ready a fire spell I learned as a child when one of the lizard men approached my side of the rock. One touch of my hand on his arm as he tried to spear me sent him up in flames, running through the forest and flying off the edge of the large hill that we stood upon. With two down the druids’ hyena companion wrestled another into the dirt tearing out its throat and entrails, only two left. They were both close. Arrows felled one, and the other was dealt a death blow from the end of my staff, crushing his reptilian scull,” A large smile crept over Tush’s face as she recalled the event.

“We didn’t find much upon them, some spears, javelins and a bit of gold. Thanking the gods and leaving an offering, we left the once serene grove and made our way back to Bruise.”

“Wot ‘appened next?” Piped the man, nearer to being a boy, in the middle.

“We got back to town you dumb bloody cunt!” Declared Scarborough, slamming his now empty flagon on the table, and let out a belch only a drunken troll could rival.

“Aye, we made it back to town safely. Now, you boys look stout, and you seem like you know which end of a sword to stick the enemy with. What say you of taking up an adventure? There’ll be gold and danger aplenty.” The beautiful Tush asked of the three young men.

“I’m in,” Said the ugly one sitting next to Scarborough.

“Aye, me too,” answered the young one in the middle.

“And what of you handsome?” Tush inquired of the man sitting nearest her as she rose from the table. “If you’ll be joining us on the morrow, our own little adventure can begin right now,” she quietly said over her shoulder with a wink, as she sauntered towards the exit hips swaying.

“I’m in!”



ChristopherCrawford ChristopherCrawford

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