A conversation with the undead scoundrel Kiromer, where he recounts his death, recent return to Thistle Hold and the first leg on a journey into Davokar.
There is a heavy sigh and a moment’s silence before he speaks:
“I hadn’t been back long, in Thistle Hold. It’s tiring having to hide so much around people but arguably safer than hanging around outside the walls… or sitting in the forest for that matter. Spent a few days mostly trying to keep my head down. Nursing drinks in the bar to keep up appearances and such. Pretty cheap way to live, but still costs money so unless I was planning on walking back out there and waiting to die again I needed to keep busy. I had considered going back to the Guild but… too many familiar faces there. Too many questions. Wouldn’t be long before someone put things together and either accused me of killing them all or finding out what really happened. They generally hunt things like me so, not so sure they would’ve been keen to see me again.”
A pained look of boredom crosses the dwarf’s face opposite, before a voice dripping in sarcasm cuts through his monologue. “Because I’m sure you were a beacon of joy before…”
The two are sat at a simple table in a room of The Ruin Inn. It’s late into the night but no fire has been lit, leaving the room dark and cold. Other than his gear hung up the hook on the wall, the only other noteworthy object in the room was a large open chest, set next to the bed. The two had been up for a while now, mostly Kiromer asking questions and receiving pained answers in response.
He scowls at the sarcasm. He wasn’t sure why he had started telling her all this, but he carries on anyway.
“I was down in the bar when Yagaba came up, saying she had heard I may be of some use to her. I was concerned she seemed to know of me but I couldn’t let the opportunity for work go. Said she needed a guide to go with some people back out into Davokar. Not thrilled by the prospect but beats sitting here and slowly rotting I guess.”
“Well you’re doing that anyway…” she says before mumbling. “And now I have too as well apparently.”
“Anyway…” he presses on, “Yagaba added me to a group heading into Davokar to return some crown to a tomb, the one we found you in… suggesting we take a boat and head to these ruins the Ordo Magica are in via the Malgomor. I was inclined to agree; that’s a long way to go on foot and there are things in the deep forest that we are best to avoid. I said as much since they hired me as a guide. Did prompt Dani to start asking questions though, like how much time have I spent in the forest, how did I end up like this — they actually all realised what I was as soon as we left.”
“You don’t exactly hide it well,” she interrupts again, wrinkling her nose. “So, why aren’t you more—” she gestures vaguely at the man “—dead?”
Kiromer remains quiet a moment. “I don’t know. I remember we were hunting… we made camp. Then something attacked us from the darkness. Next thing I remember is sitting up, covered in frost and gore…and everyone was dead. What are you supposed to do in that situation? So… I started walking—”
“And you came back here?” Longenuff says with a huff, “You were better stayin’ dead.”
That garners a smile from Kiromer. Though the way the tight, pale skin pulled over his skull with the expression was slightly disconcerting.
“Probably… well, maybe she can help find some answers as to why the hell I’m still here. Maybe she just wants a new toy to experiment on though, who’s to say… In any case, they weren’t rushing to burn me—”
“No doubt some idiot will soon enough,” she cuts in, not attempting to hide her dwindling patience with listening to his story.
“Anyway…” he cuts back in. “So we set off for Kurun and used a contact Yagabba gave us for a boat. Then we set out North along the Eblis into the forest before heading up the Malgomor, only having an asshole in a patrol group stop us and shadowy figures watching us in the night. Nothing too out of the ordinary for the forest really… Eventually, we reached the outpost for the Ordo, finding it all boarded up. We started poking around, realising two students had shut themselves in, claiming that something was hunting them. Dani and Ansela tried to call them out but only ended up getting the attention of the two-headed dog abominations they were hiding from instead… I was convinced I’d be walking back to town again, covered in gore, but the others turned out to be able to handle themselves well…”
She says nothing, not appreciating his appraisal of these strangers.
“—but with the dogs gone, we finally talked the students out and wrangled them into acting as guides to the main site the Ordo have been working at. Wasn’t far from where we were but we didn’t want to risk missing it. So we head off, deeper into Davokar…”
Continued in Part 2.
Cover art by Martin Grip for Järnringen/Free League Publishing