Book One: Ordered by Gods
CHAPTER TEN:
Taint of the Devourer
Cuthberta Umberfreeday & Umbersularday

The Taint, the Boar, and the Big Yellow Hat - An Accont by Thalazaar

Now the hat really wasn’t that big, recalled Thalazzar, but the wearer’s ego certainly was. He remembered thinking he looked a bit like a yellow mushroom but even the wizard would never have said anything. Loifen Three-Feathers would have stuck several knives in his chest with a laugh before he could finish saying anything about his favourite hat. It was more a pillow really than a hat – plush, tasseled, and with three long, blue, elegant hippogriff feathers making the bearer seem that much taller. And he needed it because Loifen was less than three feet tall.

Loifen was one of the rare hobbits who succumbed to the Yondering, an affliction to the majority of his people where a young hobbit wandered away from home and hearth to see what lay beyond the next hill. More often than not, these hobbits eventually returned to their village, retired to their hobbit-holes and wrote their memoirs. Loifen, recalled the wizard, had been so successful a Yonderer that if he ever returned to his pastoral roots, Thalazzar imagined that it would be in a golden carriage surrounded by mercenary hirelings, his fingers dripping with gems and fine Hankuan silk covering his ever-so-slight paunch. Not to mention what his fortune would have done for any hobbit economy. But he had been so quick with his knives and he had been an engaging person to work for.

The hobbit had earned quite the reputation and even more gold as a Bostikan privateer serving the various Gallantish courtiers who played their intrigues within the River Baronies. Thalazzar had worked for a short time as part of his retinue, providing minor arcane defenses to his privateers as they enforced Bostikan shipping memorandums on rivals trying to run the Devil’s Horn Canal without paying their dues to the barony fleets. Thalazzar had first encountered gnolls when working for Loifen extorting gold from a Federation-flagged vessel at sea guarded by brutes hired after the Selunaport Piracy Protection Act was enacted. Loifen had joked that hobbits might have introduced democracy to the Federation, but that didn’t mean he voted for it!

The gnolls had been wearing too much armour for service at sea, betraying that they were new to Lake Seluna, and were drunk on Trudorean Fire Spirits. They had braided and dyed their hair purple and were among some of the most garish looking beasts Thalazzar had ever encountered with their mottled brown and yellow hides. He distinctly recalled how much fun Loifen had had swinging about the rigging, flinging knives, and pushing the beasts over the sides of the vessel into the murky depths, his oversized yellow hat never leaving his tiny well-groomed head. Thalazzar couldn’t have imagined gnolls looking worse until a horde of dismembered, decayed, undead brutes rushed them in their final moments in the Devourer.

While the gnolls had been only a minor irritant compared to the evil elemental that had beset the party, Thalazzar could only stare and twizzle his moustache in amazement. He hadn’t had to do much fighting. Now that he had unlocked a summoning ley line to the rocky, mist-filled realm of Rhodoxia in the Nine Hells, he had an inexhaustible supply of toothed manglers to fling at his enemies. Some wizards evoked fire or ice, Thalazzar summoned devils. Some wizards had pesky owls for familiars, some wizards searched the planes for minions of legend. Arek had ensured that these brutes stayed dead, far more quickly than Loifen ever could with the power of Moradin behind him, and Tiberio found his stride in combat felling both an undead champion and the elemental with swift strokes from Domaldi’s enchanted blade.

The Devourer had not been so eager to let them escape its clutches, however, and had left several of his companions tainted with evil. This necessitated an excursion to the glade of a sylvan ally of Folha, some sort of elfin tree spirit, who was quite taken with the beggar and cleansed the party of their taint. The dirty beggar had given her a sapling representative of the sacrifice of Domaldi and the return of life to the marsh. This, however, was not before the companions fought the evil bramble creature, Garasoth, once again, quickly destroyed this time by gnomish alchemical fire and the powerful claws of yet another Rhodoxian toothed mangler. Thalazzar had considered a horde of Ysgardi wildrunners from the forests of Nidavellir or barbed ice beasts from the Kulhucitani glacier, but they would have to wait for another day, and other foes.


Garasoth Attacks!

As the party finally trudged south much to Tyconderoga’s delight, they replaced one new companion with an old one. While the lizard Janarl seemed willing to escort them south through his tribal lands closer to the Wall of the Righteous, Gunther decided to return to Goesse to clear Domaldi’s name and the charges against Thalazzar and his companions. The returned companion was Inigo Tarrega with a warning that That Which Stalks the Night was very near. The party broke camp in the middle of the night and prepared to face their next challenge. But Telemar, the Order and Tallim were finally getting closer…

Next!
Janarl the Hunter's Tale

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