The Borderforest

8th day, 1st ride, April, 1372 DR

Our night’s rest was interrupted by howling of a pack of wolves. I had only just traded my watch with one of the others and taken their place in one of the tents were had pitched. The sounds of their baying took me back to my homeland, where, before the war, wolves were considered to be the scourge of the countryside, much more so than orcs and trolls were. Large parts of Damara are nothing more than grasslands, with sparse bits of trees to contrast the wide open spaces, for rides across. They used to say that if you headed north from Steppenhall, where I was born, you could walk on grass until you reached the point where land and sky met, only encountering wind, wolves and plainstriders. When the war came, and Damara was flooded with Zhengyi’s troops from neighbouring Vaasa, goblins were seen riding grotesque black wolves that we soon learnt were called Wargs. These creatures had an intelligence and malevolence to them that was unknown in normal wolves. I always thought that they were normal wolves, trained and bread for war, but when we were attacked last night, I realise I had been mistaken. A dozen or so hungry wolves set upon our makeshift camp, most likely lured by the smell of our food, and the blood of our hunt. I briefly mistook two large ones as the leaders of the pack, until I had engaged one and truly noticed their size and cunning. While the camp erupted into a flurry of activity as everyone was contributing what they could to our defenses, I realised that I should have a talk soon with Abel, for I would greatly appreciate his leadership in all matters, not just matters of negotiation. We were all caught out fighting one or two wolves and nowhere was a concerted effort made, no formations were kept, and no attacks were concentrated on a single target. Roland was, like me, paired up with one of the Wargs, and wasn’t faring so well. I would’ve come to his aid if it hadn’t been for the stiff opposition my own enemy was giving me, and before I could reach him he fell under the onslaught of the large wolf. It seemed the only person to be doing well in the fight was Abel, unleashing angry bolts of searing hot light upon any wolf that stood in his way. There is a strange duality to him in battle; on the one hand he has to power of the sun at his beck and call, and on the other hand he’s so frail that it seems like I could punch a hole straight through his chest if it pleased me.

Eventually, we managed to dispatch all the wolves, but not without sheding some blood of our own. I was hurt and still bleeding, and so were Roland, Wren and Ebon. I had tossed the carcasses of the wolves off the ledge where we had made camp and went to tend to my wounds when I noticed Hazel was looking after the others. I had noticed her response to the scrapes and bruises we brought into the Teshford Arms the first evening back from Anathar’s Dell, and her willingness to tend to them, so I suspected she knew her way around a fleshwound or two. I wasn’t so keen to be treated by her as it would’ve meant I had to remove my armour and expose my body. My scars are mine, and I’d rather avoid explaining how I came about them. The story is incredible anyway, and I would hate to be laughed at by my companions. No, it’s best to keep them to myself.

I had considered, some time ago, to see if Abaddon would grant my his healing powers to remove the damage to my leg and torso, to get rid of the scars and repair the limp. I decided against it because it was that fateful day, north of Talagbar, where my inexperienced, undermanned contingent was vanquished by Zhengyi’s troop of Orcs, Ogre and much worse, and I was found, broken and torn, by Heron, priest of Abaddon. It was there that I felt Abaddon’s touch. In a way these wounds lead me to Abaddon, and so I shall not turn away from them, but cherish them and carry them with me until the end of my days. I might not be as fast as I used to be, I get frequent feverish spells as the pain in my legs return, and those scars still itch and throb, especially on cold days, but they were the key that opened the door and lead Abaddon into my life. He gave me new life and left me with these scars and aches to remind me of that.

The rest of the night went by without incident, though I did let Abaddon’s healing energies flow through me and into some of us who were most in need. We still have a task to fulfill, and a forest to patrol, so I believe my prayers to Abaddon were not in excess.

The following day we broke camp and continued journeying deeper into the Borderforest. It had previously occured to me that while my bandages are professional, they could be improved. While working as a medic in the armies of the Bloodstone Gate, Heron often supplied me with different herbs that prevented infection, soothed wounds and eased the pain of the wounded. While I remember many of their names (dreamfoil, earthroot, silversage, plaguebloom, wintersbite, and so forth), I never gathered them, and always handled them in their crushed form. I wouldn’t know how to recognise them, or process them and distill their useful components. Hazel’s druidic knowledge proved to be an immense source of information about the different forms of plants and the restorative qualities, and I am determined to learn what I can about these plans in order to improve upon my bandages. I realise that Abaddon grants me the power to heal wounds, minor as well as serious ones, and even cure blindness and diseases if it pleases Him, but if I am capable of a mundane way of taking care of these things, I feel I should. He teaches us to persevere, and if I were grant everyone His blessing, I would take away the honour and pride one can derive by persevering.

And so, while Hazel spoke, I listened. So did Ebon. He seemed very interested in plants and herbs that were harmful to the human body, and I’m slowly starting to get an idea of who he is and what he does. While Abaddon doesn’t perscribe a particular morality, I, myself, are only too easily reminded of how King Virdin was betrayed at the Ford of Goliad, by Felix, his lieutenant who was secretly in league with the Guild of Assassins. After King Virdin’s defeat Zhengyi and the guild leader quickly consolidated their victory by slaying many of the powerful Damaran nobles by sending their assassins to claim their lives. I have no love for death-dealers, but as long as I don’t start to get suspicious of the kid’s intentions towards me and mine he can do as he pleases.

After we had decided on a patrolling pattern through the part of the Borderforest we had been assigned to we quickly came upon a dried up riverbed. Hazel noted that the forest had turned quiet – too quiet, and we quickly went to investigate. Abel sent his cat to scout, and with a nod, Ebon was moving up the embankment to the most likely spot for ambushing. Pretty soon we discovered a Zhent camp up ahead, and we heard that piercing screech of Zandos’ flying bird overhead. It seems we were destined to meet once again.

The Zhent camp holds a handful of soldiers who are building a platform much like the one we had found during initial forray into the Borderforest. Zandos was there, but left relatively soon after we discovered them. We were trying to form a plan, but first we’d have to get more information, and so Wren and Ebon went scouting. They have just returned with a more accurate layout of the camp, and we’re now discussing what the best time to strike is.

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