During the creating process of my tabletop role-playing game Prowl, I chose to write stories within the world to better understand the inner workings of the different creatures and cultures. This is one such story… (12 minutes)
Our five heroes get into a heavy wooden card, attached to two thick ropes. A wheel on the inside is turned by the powerful bear. The cart slowly rises to the top of the cliff.
|Bosa: More than fifty years since any of them were seen, and what has our purpose become? Delivering mail, transporting valuable cargo and playing bodyguard to the rich…|
|Spoose: I like to think we stand for more than that. We mustn’t let the absence of threat steer us away from our oath. We swore to keep this land safe, and safe it is.|
|Pitora: Oh boys, stop it with your never ending arguments, just get us up this thing, I want to get there before it gets dark.|
Going up farther along the cliff side, the heroes become fully aware of their location. Slowly making their way up to the edge of the gargan – the massive walking island. At the top they find themselves stepping out of the cart and into a busy ridge-side village. Worry covers Spoose’s face.
|Cotton: What’s wrong Spoose? You’ve been on a Gargan before haven’t you?|
|Yes of course I have! But that doesn’t mean I like the idea of being so close to it’s edge.|
|Don’t worry little Spoose, if you fall here you’ll surely die of fright before you head hits the ground – haha|
|Don’t joke Bosa, and leave him be.|
|Excuse me for a moment, I think Naidó needs my help.|
|What’s the matter?|
|…Someone is trying to have a conversation with him.|
Naidó is standing away from the group, deeper into the town, where a richly decorated fox is talking to him.
|Mayor Pibo: Hello, master Frog. Welcome to my little town, was your journey hard?|
|Maybe your group is weary and would like to stay at our inn for a night or two?|
|Or do you have pressing matters to attend to? Maybe I can be of service, I could-|
Pitora joins the conversation.
|Hello, you must be the Mayor of this fine settlement. We already heard tales of travelers about the charms of this town.|
Just then, a nearby fence falls over, bursting old paint and dust into the air.
|I’m sure you have, I invite you to stay of course.|
|Unfortunately we cannot, we have tasks to perform elsewhere. Am I right in thinking that there is a town called Greenwing less than two days inwards?|
|You are indeed. Thought I would shame to see you go.|
|Likewise, but we must.|
|May you have a safe journey then.|
|Thank you kindly.|
The Mayor walks away, as the other three heroes join Pitora and Naidó.
|See, that’s how you talk to people Naidó. You don’t need to go all silent and creepy on them.|
|Well then, let’s travel on-wards.|
The group eventually travels out of the town, into grassy plains with soft rolling hills. The sun is down, but enough light shines from the three moons. They continue walking, until the moons are almost at the horizon, and darkness slowly sets in.
|We should make camp before darkness sets.|
|I’ll go gather some wood then.|
|No, little friend. Why don’t you just stay with the group, I’m sure they have other tasks that requires your assistance. You could stand guard for instance.|
|Just because I have large ears doesn’t mean I always have to be the lookout!|
|*laughter* …But this time it does.|
He disappears into a patch of trees, as the rest of the group unpacks. Spoose stands a few steps away form the group, looking out over the horizon. A few minutes pass.
Bosa finds himself surrounded by strong branches, too thick to break off. Picking up the dead branches from the ground, and collecting them in his massive claw, Bosa notices a shadow in the corner of his eye. Ignoring it, he continues his search for wood. Bending over to grab a branch, Bosa hears the zinging of an arrow flying over his head. It lands hard in the tree next to him. Dropping the branches and twigs his hands reach up behind his back and grab a hold of his massive battleaxe.
Back at the camp, Spoose’s ears twitch.
|Uhm… Guys… I think there might be something wrong with Bosa.|
The words had not yet fully left his lips as a gust of wind blows his cape into the air. A figure dashes passed him, and it takes Spoose’s big eyes a second to focus. It is Naidó, in full sprint, running straight towards the patch of trees Bosa disappeared in.
Deep within the forest, Bosa still has not found his attackers. Looking around in all directions, he only just manages to dodge the incoming arrows. Nothing but shadows can be seen shifting between the leaves.
|Come out you cowards! … Ha! You might think you have the upper hand here, but I’m no ordinary Bear. You’re dealing with a Petalson!|
The magic orb in his hand starts glowing. It shines brighter and brighter, until all of the forest is as bright as the morning sun. Figures in the darkness are blinded and stunned by the sudden flash.
|There you are!|
Bosa rushing towards them, wildly swinging his weapons in his charge. He chops down two rats at the same time, and continues towards the third. But more now come crawling out of the shadows. One of them, painted black to mark its rank, lifts its massive bow and aims dead ahead. The arrow looses, and flies straight towards Bosa. He reaches up his hand in a feeble attempt to stop it. A moment passes, and still no pain has reached his arm. He takes another look at the archer, and finds the arrow floating in mid air in front of his hand. Beyond the rat stands Naidó, one hand out with a magical glow, the other with a dagger through the neck of the blackened rat. Naidó leaps from target to target, leaving only shadows behind.
Eventually the rest of the team come charging in, and the remaining enemies are quickly defeated. A couple flee, surely to be seen again.
|Rats… at least eight of them, but some might have fled. Cowardice folk…|
|Well you got what you wished for I see. We could go chase them down, it’s better than delivering mail I agree.|
|No, we should go back to the camp and be watchful of the darkness. Where there’s a couple of Rats, there a bound to be more. And we all know to whom they swore allegiance.|
|But… You don’t mean…|
|I doubt a single pack of Rats can be seen as an omen of the return of the Carrion Eaters, master Cotton.|
|No of course not, but nonetheless we need to be careful. Who knows what else is skulking about these lands.|
They go back to the campsite, and eventually find some rest. At the start of sunlight the heroes pack their things.
|Thanks for staying awake and keeping us safe, you are as important as ever.|
|Just doing my… *yaaaawn* …job, master Cotton.|
|And you’re doing it quite well I might say. Here, this will help to get your energy back.|
Cotton’s magic orb brightens, and Spoose feels his body re-energize.
|Don’t forget to drink and eat something. Pitora, what is the weather going to be like today?|
|It is definitely going to rain, but I think we’ll get to Greenwing before then.|
|Than let’s pack our things and be on our way.|
They continue their journey, walking past lakes and hills. Eventually, they walk across a dusty road through a grass landscape, with mountain ranges on the background; They have reached the village.
|Finally we’re here, I can’t wait to take a hot bath.|
|That will have to wait, we first have to establish contact with the delegation of the Inner Forest.|
|You mean to say there are Deers all the way out here? Away from that sanctum they call a home?|
|Yes Bosa , and I do hope you’ll let Pitora and me do the talking when we meet them.|
|Wouldn’t want it any other way…|
Entering the town of Greenwing, the villages look up at this strange group – their eyes full of awe. Cotton walks ahead of the group, eyes forward straight at the goal, whilst Pitora walks voluptuously behind with eyes full of secrets and desires. Bosa walks as broad as he can, intimidating any out of approaching. Lastly, Spoose shuffles behind, timid and shy, and Naidó seems not to even notice the people around him. They enter a building, and are greeted by a deer and a squirrel. They sit behind a giant table, covered with papers and scrolls, ink pots and quills.
|Hello, Wisemen. We have come from far to answer your calling. We are the Petalsons you have requested.|
|Seseran: Ah good… Show me the gift bestowed upon you by my ancestors, please.|
Both Cotton and Pitora but the back of their hands forward, showing the magic orb.
|Very good, welcome Petalsons. Nalusil please give them their assignment.|
|Nalusil: Of course, it’s rather simple. We have had trouble with raiding parties attacking food peddlers on the road. It hasn’t come the point where we are at a shortage, but to prevent that from happening we need you to find out who these villains are and stop them.|
|Master, we came across a pack of Rats on our journey here.|
|Ha! Nonsense, those vile creatures don’t roam these parts. I’m quite sure you could not find a single Rat on this entire gargan.|
|We meant not to lie, master. It is just what we thought we saw. These attacks, where have they been happening?|
|North of here… We really need to stop this, it’s scaring the villagers. So get to work quickly, I would see you on your way before darkness falls.|
|But of course, we’ll part right away. Thank you.|
Cotton and Pitora walk back to the other three and the leave the building.
|That went as well as could be expected I presume.|
|Don’t get me started…|
|Is there time to do some shopping? Some of these shops look very interesting.|
|I’m afraid not, they want us on our way north right away.|
|Then I’ll just have to shop when we come back.|
The heroes walk out of town, towards the long flat grassy plains that are only broken by the dusty roads that lead through it.
Beyond the group’s sight, much further along the road, a peddler travels with a cart of wares. He’s carrying all kinds of goods. Sunshine slowly passes as moonlight fills the sky. A soft rain falls from the sky, and the peddler halts. With fearful eyes he slowly rotates his head to see where the strange noise came from.
|I guess it’s dinner time…|
The badger throws his sword above his head, holding it firm with both hands, ready to chop up his victim, when suddenly one of the barrels from the cart flies through the air, hitting the badger in the back of the head. Pitora lets go her grip on her magic orb, as its glow resides. The rest of the party surrounds and protects the peddler, as Bosa steps up to the badger.
|He’s only knocked out I think. Turn him over would ya.|
Spoose kneels down to turn over the knocked out badger. Instead of a right eye, the badger has a black opal, glimmering in the soft light of the peddler’s torch. Spoose retracts his hand as if touching fire, and looks at Bosa, not fully believing what he’s seeing.
|Master Cotton, come look!|
|What it is? Does he still pose a threat?|
|More than you could imagine…|
|That’s the sign of the Carrion Eater right? I must be, it looks exactly like in the books I read.|
|It is indeed, I remember it all too clearly.|
|What does this mean?|
|It means we must be on our guard, and make haste to return to town and warn the-|
Their conversation is broken by a long an chilling howl that fills the air. All five of them stare in the direction of the origin of the sound, frightened as if having seen a ghost.
|Don’t tell me I heard that correctly…|
|I’m afraid so.|
|We’re all going to die aren’t we…|
|Then lets die with honour.|
|Just stay brave a little while longer. We might not know what is coming for use, but we’ve been trained. My good Squirrel, move as quick as your feet might take you. Now!|
They form a circle, looking in all directions. The peddler runs away into the bushes, screaming, but those screams suddenly stop. The bushes rustle, and small clouds of dust rise up behind it. The threat is coming closer, and light drizzle turns into rain.
|There are too many… We can’t handle this many…|
Figures move behind bushes and boulders, quickly escaping sight whenever ever one of the heroes lays his eyes on them. Darting shadows come ever closer.
|Naidó… Pitora… What do you say we give our friend here some time to escape?|
|A good plan.|
|Such an heroic deed should not go to waste, my dear Spoose. Spreading word of this threat is most important. Let us make haste and warn the Deers before it is too late.|
Spoose and Cotton run away, towards the town, as the remaining three close ranks and watchfully scan the area around them. Cotton’s old bones can’t seem to keep up with Spoose.
|You continue on-wards. I’m slowing you down.|
|But master Cotton…|
|Don’t you worry about me, I still have enough brawn left in me to survive.|
|Okay. I’ll move as quickly as I can…|
Suddenly the rustling of nearby bushes becomes much louder.
|Wait… What was tha-|
A giant figure jumps up from behind a large bush, and makes an impressive leap. A hulking blade shines in the moonlight, swimming down at Cotton. Spoose notices only the movement, and holds out his magic orb – closing his eyes, afraid of what he would see. Was he in time?
Spoose opens his eyes, and finds the sword pushing against an invisible wall right above Cotton. The old tortoise makes a roll backwards, only now fully aware of the ambush.
|It can’t… Spoose, run. Run now!|
Spoose’s knees tremble, as the hulking figure slowly walks closer to Cotton, who’s still half crouched on the ground.
|GO! Tell them the Wolves have returned!|
Art by Isabella Koelman.