Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with a wonderful story from Olthadir. It is entitled
The Darkness in the Forest
Background music “Ashes and Dust” by Holt Ironfell
Chapter 1, “The Forest”
What I am about to write down I do so only so that others do not find themselves in my position and having seen what I have seen. There are things in this world, perhaps all worlds, that should remain secret; hidden among the mists and dust of timeless ages.
It is no secret that I would rather read a book than engage in combat. I would stay in Ardoris my entire life if it were not for my need for coin and a foolish desire for exploration. I am afraid that it was my naive curiosity that caused me to be in the state I currently am. Again, let this be a warning to those who are as curious as I.
I have traveled far and wide. I’ve seen most of Novia, not its entirety – not yet, and maybe not ever, now with the weight I carry. I have walked among the dead of Necropolis and seen the bones of a dragon chained in the Epitaph along with the large troll within. This is not a boast, I know many Outlanders who have done the same and more. Instead it is a touch of my credentials, proof that I have seen some things. But none of them prepared me for what occurred in the woods.
It began in Aerie, in Vyrin and Womby’s Bookstore. I find myself there when I wish to read books that I have not read before. They have quite the book collection and I peruse the collection when I get a chance. I was reading some of the older books that Lord Vyrin had collected from a traveller. They were quite old and I was very excited, and careful, in reading them. They spoke of ancient relics of the Obsidians, things of power and wonder that would confound the minds of their enemies.
This was an idle interest of mine. I had no interest in power. This was curiosity at its best. The tome I held spoke of Midras at its height. It described its fall as if it was recent history. There was no mention of ruins as they were still used and full of life at the time of the writing it seemed. I read of the Avatar of old and the quests the Avatar went on. I read of the Obsidian Eye and the power he wielded. I read of the horrors the Obsidian Empire created, twisting humans into new forms and meddling in death magic. I read of the armies created, not raised, used to conquer the lands of Novia.
To me, they were stories. History, yes, but stories that I could read and close the cover to and return to my life. The life where Obsidian abominations were but a periphery to me.
This all began with a journey in mid Octobre. I find it difficult now, sitting in the gardens of Ardoris to recall the details of the journey. Even the sweet scent of flowers on the wind and the comfortable, familiar atmosphere is not healing me at this point. My mind returns to the forest and the darkness within.
I know that I was in Kiln at one point, and our next destination was North. The Outlanders I was with were leading me northward and rarely used the roads. We stopped in Kiln for a time to rest and replenish out stores. The journey was not long or particularly distant. We were simply being prudent. I look now at a map of Novia, trying to bend my mind to that night. In my shaking hand, I believe we ended in Savrenoc Timberland, but my memory is not very clear of the locations, only the events. I say this not to invite you to explore, but to warn you to stay away. Savrenoc Timberland may seem safe, if it is indeed the location of that horrendous discovery, but what was discovered is not.
My friends were looking for treasure, rare resources to sell to crafters or to craft with themselves. I accompanied them as someone who cared only for a few pelts to tan and perhaps some meat to save me some coin. They allowed me to come as I told good stories.
The woods, which could be the South Majestic Forest, perhaps, were kind to us at first. My companions gathered what they wished, and I gathered what I wished as well. We were pleased. I told them of my research which contained some mysterious and powerful artefacts that the Obsidians had, and used. They bantered and laughed, spoke of how they would use such tools to thwart their enemies, and reclaim dangerous areas for Novians. I shook my head at them, and now I feel like screaming at them through time, demanding they refrain from such wishes.
The time had pressed on and the sun set. We continued to wander the forests, cutting down choice trees and collecting flora, hunting wildlife and telling ancient tales, both from our Earth and Novia. We were tracking a wolf that ran off when we heard kobold voices in a clearing ahead. My allies chose to investigate. They were not friends of kobolds. Some of my allies were miners and they despised the kobolds nearly as much as they despised us. They wanted to sneak up on them and attack. I wanted no such thing. I feel sympathy and compassion for kobolds, even more so after the events I am about to describe. I should have left. I should have turned away and hoped my companions would follow me, but I was foolishly curious.
The kobolds were a small group that were digging in a clearing that they had seemingly made. There were a handful of them, enough that my group hesitated for an all-out attack. I wonder if the attack had happened and we emerged victorious: would things have ended differently?
They were working in what looked like a hurried archaeological dig; there were tools strewn about and areas roped off to mark them suitable for digging or already dug in. There was a bespectacled kobold that was clearly leading them, holding an ancient map and tome in her claws, a bag slung across her chest that – to my trained eye – carried additional books.
I felt an immediate kinship to the leader of this group. She was curious and had an adventurous streak in her. She had found something, tracking it to this location and was bent on discovering it. My curiosity grew and I wished I could go towards them and offer my help. I should have left, though. We all should have left. A much as I wanted to see what the fruits of their labour was going to be, my very bones called out to me to run away from this place. My allies felt it too as one of them suggested, only to have their suggestion waved away with a nervous, uncertain laugh by our leader.
“This might be one of those trinkets Olthadir spoke about,” He said. He wanted to see what they would find too, but there was uncertainty in the bottom of his voice.
The bespectacled kobold yelled to her workers to continue digging, then to dig faster. Her broken and hissed English sounding extraordinarily odd in the night. She was anxious too.
I wanted to leave. I looked up to the heavens and the shattered moon. The stars themselves screamed at me to leave the clearing. Leave my friends, leave everything if you must, but get out of there! I was just about to turn and flee when one of my companions said: “Olthadir, go and talk to them.”