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File: 1660056021358129.jpg (76 KB, 564x797)
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It is night. You have set up camp in the hollow of the roots of a great tree, resting your weary feet from your wanderings in this immense and labyrinthian forest. You are Khazad the Dwarf, and you are lost. As you pick absently at the small, merry campfire, you hear something rustle in the trees. Your heart leaps to your throat, hammering painfully like dwarven wedding drums. You snatch your sword and hold it before you, gripping it tight with both hands.

"Who's there?" you say. "Show yourself!" Then you repeat the command in all the languages you know. The last one, used by the human merchants that sometimes come to trade with the mountainhall, is answered by a weak voice, something between a rasp and a moan.

A man stumbles out of some bushes, his face briefly illuminated by the light of the campfire. Dark circles hang beneath his half-lidded eyes. His lips are chapped in the extreme. As he steps forward, he gasps for breath like a man who has just surfaced from a long dive. "Please..." he says. Then his eyes roll back and he collapses to the ground.

All is still. You cautiously poke the man with your sword, but, though he breathes, he does not stir. He seems to have only lost consciousness, likely from exhaustion, for you can see no injuries, no blood or wound—except for a strange bruise on the back of his neck, in the shape of curled fingers. You turn him over. He has a pair of daggers on his belt, and is dressed like a common traveler. He also has a satchel, as tattered and patchwork as your own knapsack, and a piece of yarn around his neck on which have been threaded a set of shiny lockpicks.

>Choose all that apply:
[ ] Rifle through his satchel
[ ] Take any valuables
[ ] Slit his throat
[ ] Monitor him through the night
[ ] Share some of your provisions with him
[ ] Inquire about his bruise
[ ] Write-in

I'm back. I wanted to give this another shot. I think I know what I did wrong the first time and I think I can do better this time around.
>>
>>5412177
>[ ] Monitor him through the night
>[ ] Share some of your provisions with him
>[ ] Inquire about his bruise
>>
>>5412177
[X] Slit his throat

Initiate Operation Murderhobo
>>
>>5412177
>[ ] Monitor him through the night
>[ ] Inquire about his bruise
>>
>>5412177
>[ ] Monitor him through the night
>[ ] Share some of your provisions with him
>[ ] Inquire about his bruise

Give him a spot of dwarven liquid courage, see if it numbs the pain and gets the tongue moving.
>>
>>5412207
support, dwarves love their drink
>>
>>5412177
>>5412180 >>5412187 >>5412189 >>5412207 >>5412287

First, you drag him closer to the fire. He was shivering (though the night is not so cold as the nights in the mountains) and his skin is icy to the touch, almost like a corpse. The heat does him good, for the color returns to his cheeks and his breathing calms and steadies. You keep watch over him, keeping your sword naked in your lap, sharpening it with a small stone whenever you find yourself nodding off.

He wakes a few hours later, a little before dawn. He sits up, rubs his eyes, looks about him, does not notice you sitting there, at first, and then jumps to his feet when he does, swaying like a drunken man. His hands dart to his belt, but you've already taken his daggers. You hold them up, and throw them at his feet. Does he consider you the enemy even after you saved him? These big folk really are lacking in manners. He crouches down, slowly, grabbing the daggers, his gaze resting on the sword in your lap. You try and introduce yourself, first in your tongue, then in a broken version of his.

His name is Elfric, son of Elwund, and that's as far he gets before he staggers back and falls. What he needs is a bit of liquid courage, a drop your plumberry brandy. You uncork the wineskin and hand it to him. He sniffs it suspiciously, shrugs, then takes a bold swig. His eyes widen with pleasure and he takes another, and might have taken a third if you didn't unceremoniously snatch the wineskin from his hand. He presses his hands together and bows his head, in contrition and thanks, both of which you dismiss with a gruffly mumbled "welcome".

You repeat your questions, and suddenly, he draws his daggers, and, quick as a silverfin's tail, he throws one. It spins through the air, above your head, hitting something behind you which shrieks with pain. "To me, master dwarf!" says Elfric. You leap over the campfire, turn, and draw your sword. Then you see it. It comes into the circle of firelight: a human, but not a human, a corpse, but not a corpse. It's skin as pale as winter's rime, with dark blood flowing from its nails and mouth, and with no eyes, no nose, only holes that seem to draw into them all light, all heat, all hope.

"Undush," you whisper, slipping back to the dwarven tongue. You've read about these in the historical archives, eaters of spirit, twisted offspring of the god of death. Their touch siphons vitality, the living spark, and they are immune to all but what are banes to death's host: silver, fire and enchantment.

The dagger in Elfric's other hand, which had been poised to throw, now clatters to the earth. "Hilde?" he says. Tears spring to his eyes. The creature hesitates at the mention of this name, perhaps its own once upon a time, then it calmly removes the dagger stuck in its chest and proceeds with its fell business, undeterred.

>Choose all that apply
[ ] Protect Elfric
[ ] Use fire
[ ] Flee the campsite
[ ] Grab your knapsack
[ ] Attack it
[ ] Write-in
>>
>>5412316
>[ ] Protect Elfric
>[ ] Use fire
>>
>>5412316
>>5412336
Support.
>>
>>5412316
>[ ] Protect Elfric
>[ ] Use fire
>[ ] Attack it
>>
Got chewed out by my boss today and feeling too depressed to post right now. Sorry friends. Will try to continue over the weekend.
>>
>>5413049
Bosses suck, don't worry about it, I understand.
>>
>>5412316
>[ ] Flee the campsite
>[ ] Grab your knapsack
>>
>>5412336
>>5412520
>>5412556
>>5418260
You sheathe your sword, knowing its uselessness against such a creature. You must protect your new friend, as he seems too shocked to protect himself. Snapping off a branch from a nearby bush, you hold it over the campfire until its leaves ignite, and then brandish it against the creature. Slowly you circle to your knapsack, grabbing it, thrusting the makeshift torch to keep the creature at bay. The Spiriteater shrieks, shrinking back from the flames.

Her cries are answered by others like it in the woods, and she is soon joined by another eater, a man, and what appears to be their master: a creature whose flesh has entirely rotted away, a skeleton, wrapped in a red cloak with a high collar, with dark pits in the hollows of its skull. Its speech is a hideous amalgam of clacking and the gnashing of bones, of a language so ancient and pure that it conjures its meaning directly into your mind, in images, without the interference or requisite of comprehension. It shows you Elfric as the companion of the other two, before they were made into eaters, trespassing into the tomb which it has been tasked to guard. For that trespass, they must serve as his thralls, immortal slaves to his will for all eternity. He demands you give him up, so that he might complete the ritual he has already begun. Interfere, however, and he will add you to his list of offenders.

>What do you do?
[ ] Take Elfric and flee, only a coward or a scoundrel would give up the living to the undead
[ ] Strike a hard bargain: Elfric's life in exchange for a gift of dark enchantment
[ ] Toss your plumberry brandy into the fire, hoping to destroy it in the ensuing explosion
[ ] Write-in

Sorry for the late reply friends, it's been a tough few days. Ended up quitting my job.
>>
>>5418399
>What do you do?

[ ] Toss your plumberry brandy into the fire, hoping to destroy it in the ensuing explosion

Then

[ ] Take Elfric and flee, only a coward or a scoundrel would give up the living to the undead

Don't stick around to see if it worked.
>>
>>5418399
Throw our alcohol at the monsters to soak them with it and then attack them with fire.
>>
>>5418541
Support
>>
>>5418541
Support.
RIP drink, you were a good friend, your sacrifice will be remembered.
>>
>>5418541
>>5418699
>>5418757
>>5418774

Your grandfather, a retired fortress guard, once hanged you by your feet over a gaping chasm for two days and nights, without food or water. You were only a little dwarfling, but the offense, in his eyes, was severe enough to merit such terrible punishment: you had abandoned your best friend in his hour of need, left him to the suffer the blows of a local bully. If you were but a little older, your grandfather might have flayed you and left you for dead. Instead, he cured you forever of your timid heart.

You cannot accept the spirteater's offer, but fighting him is certain suicide. You must run. To escape, you will need a distraction, and so, with great reluctance, you throw your wineskin of brandy into the fire. This confuses everyone, for at first, nothing happens. Then the skin glows with heat and its contents ignite with a burst of flame and sound which throws everyone back. You and Elfric are mostly unharmed, though Elfric has again lost consciousness. The eaters have been set ablaze. Their master swears a dread oath against you, spawning images in your mind of cold knives and a white altar, but when you flee, tossing Elfric over your broad shoulders, they do not follow.

Not until the first light of dawn do you stop for breath. Such creatures of the night are diminished beneath the sky-god's eye and it is unlikely they will appear now, though there are dangers enough in the woods to worry about. On the bright side, your violent flight has brought you to the bank of a fast-flowing river. Pink-bellied fish leap out from its stream, not so large as the blind silverfins of the netherworld, which can roll whole schooners in their wake and feed whole families, but big enough, indeed, for breakfast. And when there are such waterways, civilization is not far behind.

>What do you do?
[ ] Rest here for a few hours, have breakfast, and wait for Elfric to wake up
[ ] Follow the river downstream, toward civilization. Staying here risks further danger.
[ ] Leave Elfric here and retrace your steps, hoping to pick up the trail of the spiriteaters
[ ] Write-in
>>
>>5418859
>[ ] Rest here for a few hours, have breakfast, and wait for Elfric to wake up
>[ ] Follow the river downstream, toward civilization. Staying here risks further danger.
Eat to regain strength, refill water flasks, and carefully follow the river, Elfric will eventually wake up.
>>
>>5418859
>>5418869
And maybe throw some cold water on his head, that should do the trick, just don't drench him.
>>
>>5418859
>[ ] Rest here for a few hours, have breakfast, and wait for Elfric to wake up

Prepare breakfast for him too.
>>
>>5418859
>[ ] Rest here for a few hours, have breakfast, and wait for Elfric to wake up
>[ ] Follow the river downstream, toward civilization. Staying here risks further danger.
>>
File deleted.
>>5418869
>>5418870
>>5418886
>>5418916
Throughly exhausted by the night's travail, you decide to rest here a few hours. You lay Elfric down a little ways from the water, with your knapsack for a pillow. You take out some rope, tie one end to tree trunk near the river and the other around your waist, then you kick off your boots, cast off your leather tunic and trousers, and wade waist-deep into the river. The cool rush of water takes your breath away. Curious fish slide against your bare shins, and more than once you nearly slip, remaining upright only by the assistance of the rope. As you scrub off the accumulated grime of three days' travel, you muse on how you will proceed from hereon. The woods are sparser by the river, and gazing upward, you can see the great mountains rising in the north and feel their enduring pull. But you cannot return there now, not without a small army behind you.

After washing, you attempt to catch some fish. They are plentiful enough that you do not need the aid of traps or nets, requiring only your bare hands and the natural quickness of your race. You throw a half-dozen to shore before you tire of the game and turn to gathering firewood instead. The smell of frying fish finally wakes Elfric from his slumber, and after some panicked confusion, he joins you by the skillet.

"Breakfast?" you say. He doesn't understand your dwarven tongue so you switch back to your broken Symian, aided by simple gestures. The fish is supported by some other provisions: a few biscuits, a handful of dried beans boiled in a little pot, a bit of plumberry jam, some horsehawk jerky, and (courtesy of Elfric) some very excellent broadleaf packed into a long pipe and passed liberally between the two of you.

There's little in the way of conversation, no mention of what passed the night before, but at one point, Elfric stands and, with an elaborate motion suggestive of ritual, bows his head before your feet. Having saved his life, you are now its master. He is bound to your service until the debt has been repaid—until he saves your life or sacrifices his own in the effort—and no words or dismissals will persuade him otherwise. It is the most sacred custom of the Symians, perverted in the cities (or so you've heard) by exchange of coin—the weregild—but among the simple and impoverished, observed with barbaric zeal. He only asks, with tears in his eyes, that you help him take revenge on the spiriteater and put his former companions to rest. No easy task, as well he knows.

>What do you do?
[ ] Accept his service
[ ] Refuse his service
[ ] Accept his request
[ ] Refuse his request
[ ] Write-in
>>
>>5419010
>[ ] Refuse his service
>[ ] Accept his request
>No insult meant, but Grandfather taught me you are supposed to help others because it's the right thing to do not because they will owe you. If I go against that his ghost might show up and kick my ass.
>>
>>5419010
>[ ] Accept his service
>[ ] Accept his request
>>
>>5419010
>[ ] Accept his service
I don't think he would listen to us anyways, and acknowledging it now will at least let him feel like he has someone to count on
>[ ] Accept his request
Even if Elfric didn't ask us, I don't think we can just let some ancient undead try to complete a spooky ass ritual. That sounds like something that'll just hurt people
>>
>>5419010
>[ ] Accept his service
>[ ] Accept his request



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