Serpent's Skull

My Travels with the Slayer Volume 9 – The Deep Jungles

Our travels saw us nearing the city of Kalibuto the only other one on the landmass from what we were told. Nearing the place we could see it from the top of a small rise and where it was not the largest city we had ever been to it was impressive. A bizarre network of docks wound their way over the river connecting one side to the other and it was clear that the two sides separated by wealth and status. We made our way closer when we spotted a tree hung with the burned bodies of the dead, nearly fourthly bodies hung from its blackened limbs. The warning from Azura game a bit late as several of the bodies animated and dropped to the ground rushing at us wielding their broken bones a weapons, as they ran their blackened flesh flaked off in great chunks of ash. They slammed into our wall or martial power known as the Slayer and Kev and both dwarfs laid about them with and abandon. I watches as Snorris axe leapt out like a striking viper cleaving rib cages and smashing arms and legs but the dead would not cease their attack and they gave as good as they took. Elani yelled at us to destroy the tree but it appeared that was easier said than done as more bodies dropped to the ground and rushed to attack. The Slayer collapsed under their unending weight but he had done enough damaged that the rest of us could finish off what remained. With the tree shattered by Azura’s thunder Kev helped me throw bodies off the Slayer. She reached him first and laid a hand gently on his chest, after a moment she looked up and declared he was not breathing. My heart skipped several beats, was this it? Was he dead? Was it possible?

Elani stepped forward and uttered a quick prayer and touched her scythe to his chest and with a snort the Slayer shot to his feet looking around for more foes. I let go a breath I didn’t realize I was holding as Elani explained that the Slayer had not died simply been knocked out which he seemed to accept, gingerly he crawled upon the wagon and we made for the city. Upon arriving we found the gates wide open and we pasted into what could only be described as a paupers city. Thousands of people mobbed around us begging for coins or food, their flesh clung to their bones so starkly that I feared we faced an army of the living dead once more. When Vaughn leaped from the wagon and began to fish out golden coins which he handed to these poverty stricken people I feared he would be ripped apart but the crowed kept a respectable distance and not a one touched him. Seeing this the Slayers mouth dropped open in sheer shock “Does that fool know he is giving away gold!” he uttered and I assured him that he quiet likely did and it was a tenet of his faith. As we pushed on through the crowd I noticed him looking around and upon seeing a small child he waved her towards the wagon and dug out a silver coin which he offered her if she could take us to a place to rest and to find a healer. This was nothing new to me behavior wise for in almost every large city we ventured into where we found urchins seeking coins the slayer would pick on and hire them. It seemed to be what he would call a weakness or flaw but to me was something more profound, almost as if he was tried to use them to feel a small void in his heart one where maybe a child of his own once was.

But I pushed such thoughts away and turned them to the city as a whole and the dwarf we were sent to find, it wasn’t hard finding him and for once it was the Slayer who took umbrage with him and not the other way around. I wasn’t sure why either but when the man took us to his house where we could rest and be safe the slayer refused to take beer with him or use his offered beds or rooms but he insisted the small child get one as well as much as she could eat. That night as we sat by the fire together while the others slept up stairs we stared into the small fire while he smoked his pipe. “It isn’t you manling I despise so much as it is the race of man.” He said catching me off guard and pulling me from the edges of sleep. He waved one meaty hand as of gesturing to something only he could see “Someday all that will be left are your people and this world will be their’s to inherit and what a fine mess they will make of it. Always running blindly ahead swinging your arms hoping to get somewhere, that is how man moves through this world but at least the long ears and my people are still here to guide you.” He let out a barking laugh for some reason “Not saying that you don’t all deserve this world because gods know my people and the long ears wouldn’t make a better job of caring for it. Nope, we had our chance we did and see where that got us? They huddle in their forest realm never coming out nor letting others in battling ever day to contain a monster they helped create. And how many of our sky citadels are left do you think?” he asked to which I had no answer though I expect none was wanted. “We drove to the surface and in the process we made our own worst enemies, enemies which to this day still beget us like a thorn. But what irks me most manling is how you can treat each other like you do. Look out there beyond these walls, you see the starving the sick and the dying or those held in chains by others of their own race and for what reason? Man is no better than Orcs if you ask me, but a least those green skinned bastards at least understand the children are the future of your race so they need some caring for.” He took a long draw on his pipe and blew out a few smoke rings.

“Don’t get me wrong, every of often someone comes along who shows what your race can be if they could just pull themselves over that last step. Men and women who will strive to greatness and will drag those near them along kicking and screaming if need be. The Wizard, the Witch, that Cleric and even you Manling,” he paused a moment “well maybe not the Witch, something just aint right about that one you know. BAH! Either way you are the best your race can be but sadly so many never see it.” With that he lapsed into a great silence puffing away on his pipe and I glowing with the warmth of the greatest compliment he offered me before I drifted to sleep.



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