I’m Sorry – Short Fiction by Chad, the Fool

The Writing Prompt:
-They say you die twice- once physically and once the last time someone says your name. Write the story of a second death.-

The Story:
Staring out the small, frosty, window, it was hard to believe this was how life could end. I said my goodbyes, snapped the visor on my helmet into place, tucked the wooden box under my arm, gave a nod to my co-pilot, and made my way through the airlock. I moved away from the lander and prepped to watch the only other surviving human this deep in the solar system lift off, break orbit, and survive.

It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Space exploration had been met with so many successes, that failure seemed out of the question. Success had become routine. As a kid, I had witnessed the transition from wonder and excitement at the mere mention of the next manned mission, to the routine nature of humanity’s successes pushing deeper into space.

How could strapping yourself to a rocket and reaching another body in space become routine? I truly don’t know. It had always felt wondrous to me. Mars, Titan, Cruithne, and several other asteroids in the belt had not just been visited by humanity, They had humans living there! Humanity felt as if it were on the precipice of inhabiting the entire solar system. With each mission, complete system colonization seemed inevitable… Until now.

After watching the lander lift off, I walked several hundred yards to the east and easily found the edge of the jagged fissure that had started this whole mess. I sat down, legs dangling over the edge, and placed the old wooden box in my lap. It was the only comfort I would have in the end. The ground beneath me seemed to rumble in affirmation.

As I opened the box, the words of my mother raced through my brain. “They say you die twice. Once physically, and once the last time someone says your name. You’re going to be immortal.”

I sat there for a moment, staring at the collection of baubles inside, sick from the realization that my mother was right. Its comforting to know she wouldn’t have to witness my immortality. Especially since it would come at the cost of theirs.

I fumbled through the box, cursing the bulk of my gloves. It took a minute, but I finally pulled out a small plastic sphere. My mother said it was supposed to resemble a fishing bobber, from the late 20th century.

“Richard”. My Great Great Grandfather was the first of my family members to have a portion of their ashes placed in a trinket.

I returned it to the box, fumbled again, and picked up an Angel.

“Diane.” My Great Great Grandmother. Richard’s Wife.

Placing it back in the box I fumbled again, to sieze another trinket. This time, pulling out a small 20 sided object. My mother had told me it was supposed to be resemble a ‘D20’, a popular die, used in roleplaying games when her grandfather was a young man.

“Chad”. My Great Grandfather.

As I placed it back inside the box, the rumbling underneath me grew. I knew time was short. I tried to be purposeful, and quick. I didn’t want to be interrupted. I fetched out the small Key.

“Athena”. My Great Grandmother.

Then, a small Hammer Shaped Bauble.


Then a small Rose.


Then the small Rocket.


The rumble came again, and I closed the wooden box, lifting my gaze towards the horizon. The ground on the other side of the fissure heaved. Time was growing short. I looked down into the fissure and could faintly make out one of my crewmates. They would share my immortality.

The ground heaved again, and the fissure started to collapse. Before I could even think, I lept from where I sat, and moved away from the edge. Even knowing the end is coming, and there is nothing you can do about it, your body’s self preservation instincts are strong. I took a few steps back, clutched the box to my chest, and gazed up into the sky. As the next rumble began, I could feel the tears falling from the eyes.

“I’m sorry”.

The Backstory
In a recent episode of the 2 Fools Rushing Podcast, I promised that I would submit a short story in the Writing Prompt SubReddit, and that I would also make it available here, on the site as part of our Month of Fools celebration.

Well, here it is. You may know the names. You may have an idea of why I wrote it this way. I haven’t edited the story at all. I don’t think I can. If I do, there is too much of a chance that I’ll just decide it should be taken down.

But, promise kept.


After we left, Part 13

I think it’s been about a week since we first entered this place. Until we woke this…. I assume morning we’d been drinking and just generally having a good time. All that time wandering across the desert had worn us out physically and spiritually, though Gnoman had endured it all better than Shojin and I. I think it was his meditation dancing kata or whatever they are. At any rate I woke up with a killer headache that day and minimal memories from the night before. I vaguely remember some deep uh… throat singing I think Shojin called it. Not sure what he was singing about but it was deep and dark and sad.

Gnoman was just sitting there smiling at some far away thought as I came to and saw that Shojin was still sleeping. Gnoman and I went to obtain some food while he slept in. Upon our return he was sitting mostly upright with his hand on his head. Maybe my recollections of the last evening were accurate.

Today was a day that required more focus. We need to find this Vendor, who a week later we still hadn’t gotten the name of, I don’t think. Once he was finally upright and more or less mobile, we got some food into Shojin and when there was no worry he wouldn’t be able to keep it down, I once more got directions to the merchant and off we went.

Jerry never explained that to get there would require some level of athleticism to navigate from one, which was just the thing to help one finish sobering up. Why would anyone ever choose to live in this place. It was madness. We’d never have made it where we needed to get it Jerry hadn’t given us very explicit directions. At every stop on our trip, I keep a count in my head. The count mattered because you had limited time to get from where you were once you made it onto the rock you were now on and when you needed to be ready for the next one. Everything was done in a “Counts of Minn’s Teeth” fashion that I hadn’t done since I was a little girl playing hide and seek.

Shojin nearly missed the third jump and it delayed us ever so slightly and I lost count. I knew the next jump was either fourteen or forty Minn’s Teeth. So we made it where we needed to be, but were forced to wait because we had just missed the first option. Which was okay, but making the jump at forty would mean having another jump added in to get us back more or less on track.

Thankfully throughout all of this the merchants shop remained in sight and every stop ever closer. Maybe we didn’t need to race, but I’d only bothered to find the fastest route. So townspeople were just kind of staring. And it was then that it clicked. I had not seen a child since we entered this place. I wondered at the significance of that, but didn’t want to lose count again.

And three jumps later and we were standing breathless in front of merchants. The large sign with glowing letters said simply Keirnan’s. And as we stood there catching our breath a gnome with the reddest, wildest hair came opened the door and just stood there staring at us.

“And you three are on a mission to save something?”

I was confused.

He turned around and walked back inside.

“Payday bring your friends inside.”

How in the hells did this many know me?

And as we climbed the stairs into Kiernan’s like a flash, I remembered everything. I also decided at that moment that I was done drinking. It only seemed to cause trouble and make life more difficult for my friends. I could be clear headed and still set things on fire.

After we left, Part 12

I want to skip over this next part and just pretend that Shojin was fine and we went about our business in this little town got what we needed and went on our way. I want to do that but I can’t. It would be a lie. Shojin was not ok. He was softly crying while Gnoman has his hand on his shoulder in a way that was intended to be comforting but just looked awkward. Gnoman wasn’t made for emotional comforts. Or was he? Questions for another day.

I sat the wine and the glasses down on the table and called Shojin’s name. No response. I tried to be funny and was gonna peck at his head through one of my birds but as soon as I tried to look through their eyes I was hit with a blinding pain behind my eyes that nearly brought me to my knees. Ok so not doing that again here.

Head down and hands palm up on the table Shojin softly wept. I called his name again. Still no response. I grabbed one of his hands and gave it a squeeze. He finally looked up at me. I smiled at him and he weakly returned the smile. I took the opportunity to punch him in the shoulder the way one does a sibling.

And the next thing I knew I was on the floor looking up at the ceiling as the world slowly came back into focus. I guess this was what Jerry meant by sanctuary. I should have asked more questions. But, the lesson was learned.

Gnoman helped me up to the table while Shojin had gone back to being nearly catatonic. Jerry was softly chuckling from the bar. Dick. Though it was my own damn fault. Gnoman poured us each a healthy pull from the bottle of wine. It smelled like summer. As I slowly took sips from the glass I began to explain what Jerry had told me minutes before. Shojin took it all in and looked at me. Really looked at me.

“I can’t feel it Payday. It was there and now it’s not and I don’t know what to do.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant but I had a suspicion. We had both died or been so close as to not have mattered and we had both come back. I knew what that felt like. It changed you. And I think his thing was kinda like my thing. We had a calling of sorts. Mine to the lady and his to some weird bearded dude he met in prison. I know that being in prison can change a person so I have never really pushed him about what his relationship with that guy was like. I don’t know what he had to do to survive and I don’t know what he means to Shojin. I figured that now was the time I was going to have to cross that bridge and find out more.

So I just asked point blank if he and the old man had been lovers. I wasn’t judging and it didn’t bother me if they were. I was just trying to understand what he was going through. He just started laughing at that and said simply no.

“It isn’t like that. He is just a friend. A friend who saved me when I needed saving.”

That stung a little and I don’t think he meant it to. I’d been trying to save him in that camp. Well, everyone was helping. But we’d tried. We almost had him before those bastards struck him down. And yeah, this guy saved him I guess. But it didn’t make my failure there hurt any less. He shouldn’t have even needed saving and I blamed myself for that. I blamed myself for a lot when it came to where we were.

And now I was crying.

“I tried, Shojin. I hope you know that. You are my best friend and all I wanted was for you to be safe.”

He took my hand and gave it a squeeze. I smiled and thought about how it must look that his tiny crazy friend was crying.

And we both cried and Gnoman just sat in silence taking it all in. No snarky comments or words of judgment. Just quiet acceptance. This has to be my favorite Gnoman. I wish I knew what his story was. I wish he knew what his story was.
But fair enough. We all need people sometimes and that one time when Shojin needed us, needed me, I wasn’t there. And I get that. I don’t like it but I get it. After we’d both been sitting there for what felt like hours, I filled him in on what Jerry told me about this place. I gave him my currently untested theory that even though our connections, whether to the lady or the manor whatever the hell was tied to him were still there, just waiting for us to leave this place. He took it all in and while not pleased it looked like it at least made sense, which was a start I suppose.

I still think the lady set this place in my path with a purpose. I just need to find out what it is. Maybe it was time to talk to the merchant and see what we could learn. Moreover we could see about getting the gear we would need to complete this journey. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long.

After we left, part 11

Shojin moved to the table farthest from the bar and just sort of dumped himself into a chair. He looked totally dejected. I had no idea what was wrong, but there would be time for that later. As I made my way to the bar it occurred to me that the bartender had to have the friendliest appearance I had ever seen on a human. At least I think he was human.

He looked to be taller than most elves and was built like a brick outhouse. I smiled and wondered quickly if he was single, but pushed that thought away. I don’t know if he saw the smile for what it was or just thought I was being friendly but he smiled even wider back at me.

I asked him what this place was and he waved an arm around the room and declared this place we were and said again that “Everyone is welcome at the End of the World.” I got it this time. This tavern was the “End of the World”. I chuckled at the clever word play of it. He beamed at my getting the joke. It was clearly something he was proud of.

Ok, so what about this place of islands floating in a sea of nothing. Apparently this village, such as it is, is known to those that know of it as The Archipelago. This place was just full of jokes. I was so curious how this place came to be here. We exchanged introductions and I learned his name was Jerry. It fit him well.

This is what Jerry told me.

‘Some time ago a woman, who might not actually have been a woman, and she might not have been from this world or even plane of existence, wanted to escape the world. She was escaping debtors or an evil husband or was abdicating a throne or was living a life in exile, came upon a small cave hidden behind a rock near the base of the mountain, much as everyone who came to this fantastic place did, and decided “Why not?” and so she made this place her home. However a simple cave wouldn’t do and so she made it more… interesting. When she was done the place looked much as it does now, however at that time there was just a keep-like structure on the center “island”. And over the years a handful of others, always escaping from where they were on a journey of one sort or another ended up here. There were maybe a hundred people living here.’

I’ve mentioned before that some of my gifts weren’t working since we got here and was told that this place has some special properties. First, this place exists a bit outside the normal flow of time and space. A week in here is a day out there. This was useful if you were trying to puzzle something out and needed the time to do so. The flip side of this was that most gifts of an arcane or holy nature failed to work here, but that didn’t leave people unprotected completely. This entire place was a sanctuary to those within whether they wanted it to be or not and there was something powerful that protected all in the Archipelago from harm so long as they were here. The only ills and injury one could sustain were those incurred simply by aging. That was reassuring in a way, but not being connected to the Lady was something I felt inside me and I didn’t like it.

I asked if there were any shops in this place and the man said that there was one but the cost was…odd. Apparently the cost varied from person to person so it was hard to say what it was at any given time. He said the only way to know for sure was to ask when we got there. He gave me directions and I thanked him. I asked if there were accommodations to be had at the End of the World and he just smiled and said but of course. For a slightly overpriced room, I did get a commemorative “I’ve been to the End of the World and all I got was this handkerchief” handkerchief for the cost. So there was that.

By then I’d realized I had wasted enough time in not finding out what was up with Shojin and wanted to deal with that before anything else had happened. Plus based off of how Jerry had explained time worked here it felt like we had some time. So I ordered a bottle of wine, got glasses for each of us and headed over to talk to Shojin who was currently being comforted by Gnoman, which was the easily one of the top three most terrifying things that I had seen in my entire life.

After we left, part 10

*Editor’s note: This entry and the next few that follow contain unverifiable information, due to the absence of proper identifiable characteristics in the landscape described and as such should be taken with a helping of skepticism.

By the gods, there is a village in the mountain. Words are going to fail me in describing this properly. There was a void as far as the eye could see in all directions and floating in it like corks on a bucket of water were little islands, most only big enough for one small building. A few had room for several small buildings or one large building. And exactly two had room for small castle-like structures. One appeared to be at the center of whatever in the hells this place was.

That in and of itself wasn’t all that strange. I’d heard of the island cities of the far off continent after all. What set this apart from those stories was that there was nothing here for these islands to be suspended in. Well that and all of these little islands (I’m just going to call them islands) were sort of moving in and through the void that surrounded them.

The three of us just stared like a trio of slack jawed fools staring at the spectacle of it all. After watching it for a while it became clear that folks were moving from one island to another by waiting for them to a pair of islands to move closer to one another.

A few more minutes and it finally clicked. The various smaller islands were moving in orbits around the center island. Moreover, they were doing so with a regular and timable pattern. The music we could hear from outside appeared to be coming from a building that looked like an inn about halfway between us and the keep at the center.

I nudged the boys and started forward. I think I had the timing down on catching and riding these various islands from one to another. We’d been noticed by some of the locals but none of them seemed all that concerned about us. They all looked far more put out by whatever was making the racket in the inn, though they did keep a healthy distance from us. It made me wonder if they could smell us. Or maybe they smelled the worgs. I’d ask someone when we could find someone who didn’t want to be away from us.

I looked down to make sure I wasn’t running around without clothes again. I’d stopped doing that but the heat of the desert and the exertion of the climb made me doubt my own ability to act civilized.

With nothing better to go off of and this being what was likely to be our only chance to try and resupply on our way up the mountain, the inn or tavern of whatever it was seemed like as good a place as any to start. It was at that moment that it hit me, I couldn’t feel my connection to the lady. And the bird that was hers was acting weird. I thought that without her I’d go back to being dead so I started to freak a little until I saw Shojin hold his hand to his chest. Ok, so I wasn’t in this along.

Gnoman, who at the most stressful of times is composed, whether with the cold and calculating nature of a stone cold killer or the calmness of a tranquil pond, spoke up with the smallest hint of concern in his voice.

“Something is wrong here.”

I tried to get the bird that was mine before I was the lady’s to fly around us in a lazy circle. Nothing. I tried to look through the bird’s eyes. Nothing. Well shit. I tried to call forth my ladies wings, the weird weapon I’d been wielding since I figured out how to make it. Nothing.

I figured whatever was going on and wherever we were, we were on our own. Thankfully there was no visible threat to our wellbeing. We exercised some caution in our approach to business and I slowly pushed open the door.

We’d not even made it through the door to what was now clearly a tavern and possibly an inn of sorts when a voice called out from inside.

“Hello travelers. Come in and take a load off. All are welcome in at the end of the world.”

I was curious to learn more. If people lived here it must not be that dangerous. Since the barkeep was smiling at us I figured he was the owner of the voice so I made a beeline for the bar without waiting for the guys to even make it all the way through the door.

I had faith in the lady that we were here for a reason, time to try and figure out what that reason was.

After we left, part 9

Three days later and the sand started giving way to rockier terrain and we were slowly gaining altitude over the desert sea we’d been on for weeks. Dead, desolate and empty. I don’t know that I’ll miss it.

More importantly I still don’t have a plan. I’ve been finding time every day to quietly pray to lady in hopes that she will offer something more than vague glimpses, but despite her continued cryptic images I just know deep down inside that we will make it.

This must be like what Ezrella and Z felt when they had faith blind in their gods. Just a deep feeling of knowing that they will keep you on the path you are meant to be on. I can’t see it but I trust that the lady will keep me on her path. It is why I devoted myself to her. Sometimes I feel like my birds are looking at me with her eyes. I don’t tell the boys this. I worry that they will worry that I am starting to lose my mind.

The boys don’t say anything as we make our way higher and higher but I can see the concern growing on their faces. We may have food to get us through, it tastes like crap by the way, but we don’t have any way to deal with the elements or if the destination is an island as the lady has shown us a way to cross the sea. We don’t have any real way to climb or descend a mountain depending on the need. And our meager supplies, the stuff we’ve had since we started this journey together are only getting us so far and only barely such at that. Next time I am planning so much better for a world saving quest. Like stopping at shops planning.

I spend most of the time pissed at myself. Pissed that I have acted so often like a petulant child. Pissed that I have been the easiest me and not the best. The lady deserves better. My friends deserve better. By the gods, I deserve better.

So as we set up our camp such as it was, during my watch I pledged myself to the lady anew and in that pledge I promised that I would be the champion my lady required, not because she required it but because she deserved it. She saved me from death. From oblivion. It doesn’t mean I can’t burn the place down. But now, I’ll be doing it for a cause. That’s better right?

Now that repledging myself to the lady happened last night. This morning we’d been walking/climbing for half the morning when we happened upon a most curious sight. Well it wasn’t just a sight.

It was a hold concealed behind some rocks. Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t have paid it a second glance, but under these circumstances and with these companions, we just had to take a look. It was just big enough for each of us to pass through and there was some noise coming from the other side.

So we went through the hole and found the most curious thing.

After we left, part 8

Ok, it has now been two full weeks with these disgusting asshole worgs. If I’d not been paying attention myself to the passage of days, I would have known that the time had passed when the worgs just stopped walking, dumped our asses into the sand and just walked back the direction from which we came. For a talkative bunch of shits they were uncharacteristically quiet at the end of our time together which made me wonder if they had come to hate us less than they first seemed.

We’d been seeing a mountain range all along the horizon to the south for the better part of a week and it didn’t feel like we were all that much closer at this point, but it didn’t matter. I had my mission and so we continued south. I checked the egg as I had been every day since it started to shift at my touch. All seemed well and I hoped we would get where we needed to get before this thing hatched. I didn’t know what we would do if it did. But that thought didn’t matter. The mission did.

So we walked. So far in this journey we had gone whole days at a time without talking. We went through the day through the muscle memory of having every day being the same. I’d seen death and wonder with these men and they were willing to travel with me to the end of the world on what had to appear to them as the whim of a tiny lunatic.

I can only tell them the stories I see so many times, but without their seeing and feeling what I had they could only just help keep me safe on this trek to visit what I hoped was a benevolent silver dragon somewhere over the mountains in front of us. We were closing in on our destination with every step we took and I kept avoiding what that meant. Was that the end of the journey? Was that just a stop on the way? How did it fit in everything we’d done and seen so far? I had so many more questions than answers. How were the two, now three of us expected to play a role in stopping something on what seemed to be a cosmic scale.

The lady had been giving me nightly glimpses of what lie on the far side of the mountain. In some it was a jungle peninsula and in others it was an island. I could only guess that they were from the past and the present or future but knew that I would have to set eyes on it to know for sure.

As night started to fall on our first day back on foot Gnoman spoke up.

“So there is probably gonna be snow on the mountain and it looks like we are about three days out from starting the climb. Do you have a plan for dealing with that?”

I said the only thing I could think of.

“The lady will give us what we need.”

I hoped I was right.

Shit. I needed to come up with something fast. At least I finally have something to distract me from thinking about how eventually I need to make things right for the man. The symbolism isn’t lost on me. He was just doing his job. I am just doing my job. I still feel like garbage about it.

After we left, part 7

A week into our journey through this nothingness I had two dreams in the same night. The first was like watching where we were but having the clock move backwards quickly. Eventually the desert became a dense land of the most verdant greens. There were lakes and rivers and I was seeing it above as if from the perspective of my birds. It was breathtaking. My descriptions are a shit description for the unparalleled beauty of this land. I figured that she was once again showing me things from the past and the intention was that it functioned as a history lesson, but I couldn’t connect it to our current endeavor. People just don’t talk about whatever the Wastes used to be. Only what they are.

The second dream was different. It was in the desert and I just somehow knew that it was in modern times. There was an old dwarven man. The top of his head was devoid of hair but his full white beard hung down past his waist. He stood beside a cart surveying the full extent of his current situation. A wheel had come off the axle. It didn’t appear to bother him. He took his hat off and wiped his brow with a dirty rag and set to work. That was how I knew he didn’t have hair. He had tools and was in the process of fixing it with those and some kind of magic I was unfamiliar with. He had no shortage of artisans tools in his cart. It wasn’t entirely clear what he was doing, but based on what was in the cart it was something both magical and manufactured. I didn’t understand it at all but it looked cool. He had a four legged mechanical beast that made no sense but appeared to be a travel companion of some sort. It had legs but no clear body makeup that I was familiar with beyond that. He was speaking to it and it appeared to understand and respond to him. I could hear what he said and I had no idea what the lady was trying to tell me showing this.

I told Shojin and Gnoman about both dreams in the morning. They listened as companions do, Shojin clearly the more interested of the two, but neither of them had any explanations for what either dream might have meant. Not that it mattered. It was just around midday that day that we met the man.

He was something called an artificer. I greeted him warmly and insisted that we help him right his cart. The boys did not object… too much. I asked for him to tell us his tale in return. His name was Sanchun and he was apparently something called an “Artificer” and his four legged thing was equal parts assistant, travel companion and he claimed friend. He came from under the mountains in the north. He was out searching for any of his children that were still alive. He explained that his children were a dozen magi-mechanical men, something he called “Warforged”. He said that he had made them to protect others, but had miscalculated when they were needed.

He said he still had one son still at home, but he was trying to collect the others. He’d caught word here and there of strange mechanical men, and had the misfortune of finding the remains of one along the coast on his journey. He called him December. While clearly saddened that his son was in this state, he didn’t seem too concerned that he appeared dead. He believed he could fix him once he returned home. It was something that he had apparently had to learn how to do over the years when some of his more ambitious children had bitten off more than they could chew in a fight.

For our troubles he gifted us with a simple looking box. He said that each of us just needed to touch it every evening when we made camp for the night and in the morning there would be enough food for each of us to survive the day. It wouldn’t be fancy, or flavorful but if it was the difference between eating and not, it could be a lifesaver. He showed us the food it made, as he had another one for himself, and it looked like a bar of compressed sawdust and didn’t smell a whole lot different.

We thanked him profusely before heading on our way and he on his. Strangely, the worgs behaved themselves throughout the entire encounter. It almost seemed like they were wary of this strange lone man in the middle of nowhere.

One final note on the day, if the lady was now showing me not just things that had happened but things that would, I’d have to go back and read through my notes on the lady’s other dream messages. Maybe there were other things that didn’t make sense because they hadn’t happened yet.

After we left, part 6

It’s been a couple of days since I was able to write in this. I need to make a couple quick observations should this work serve others at some point in the future. The desert that feels like it is going to fry you like cheap meat at the local tavern through the day is downright bone chilling at night. And with a general lack of fuel for a campfire it has forced us to stay closer together than the three of us are comfortable with when we make camp for the night. It keeps us warmer than if we didn’t though so nobody really complains. There was a weird conversation about it on the first night and it was just not a thing after that. It’s just what we do.

Gnoman talks in his sleep. Different accents, voices and languages. I’m confident that one night he was speaking something demonic, but not speaking those languages myself I can only guess. I don’t question it or even say anything. I just accept it. He’s Gnoman, just like all the others that are Gnoman. His hair smells like burnt meat and honey. It makes me miss home.
Another thing we don’t talk about is our dependence on the worgs for survival. They patrol/hunt every night. We get their scraps. It’s not enough for us to live on forever, but it’s better than nothing. It’s usually mangled enough that we can’t tell what it was in life and they refuse to tell us. Which is a whole other thing. Apparently if you aren’t strong enough for them to fear you or respect you, they call you food. It’s a joke to them. They constantly insult us for not being dangerous predators. They also talk constantly to each other as though we aren’t there. Every once in awhile Gnoman will laugh at something they say, but when asked what was funny and he explains it doesn’t make sense to Shojin and I.

I was able to get them to call Shojin Jenny so maybe they aren’t that bad. The smell is though. They smell like a wet whorehouse filled with warm fresh shit. It is not a smell I’m getting used to and I fear the day that I do. I attribute most of this to their returning to camp covered in gore nightly from their hunts. They rarely eat in front of us but when they do there is no mistaking that they are wild beasts. It’s both awe inspiring and utterly disgusting. Tearing flesh from… something. Eagerly licking their lips of whatever blood and other juices is left there. I look forward to never having to watch them again.

The best thing I can say about that trio is that they are fiercely loyal. To each other at least. They regard us only slightly better than they do humans which they view as something, according to them, so beneath them that they are only food should nothing else be available. This is apparently the highest insult amongst their kind.

The only thing that lets us know we’re heading in the right direction are the sunrise and sunset. We know we’re heading due south. Every night I pray to the lady and hope that she shows me something, anything that lets me know that we are heading in the right direction but so far if I am having any dreams I don’t remember them when I wake. Shojin has been dreaming about his mom most nights. I think it’s sweet and I’ve tried to talk to him about it but it’s something he’s not really wanting to talk about. I can tell it makes him sad but I don’t press.

Every night when we make camp, Gnoman does something he calls Caw Ta’s. He moves his body like he would in a fight but much slower. It’s all very deliberate and beautiful to watch. He said it helps him keep centered and “stay in tune with me”. I have no idea what that even means, but on the third night of this I asked if he would teach me. The lack of a real scrap was getting me a little squirrely and so I figured I could use the opportunity to stay on task. I talked Shojin into it as well and it felt good for the three of us to do this together.

All in all, it feels like the solitude of the desert is bringing us together.

After we left, part 5

No sooner had we shut the door than there came a scratching upon it. And growls. So initially we decided to just move some of the rubble in front of the massive double doors with the thought being that it should hold until morning at least. And it appeared to. Nothing attempted to force entry into the outside.

There were some noises though from deeper into what we suspected was a tomb. So, you know, cool. I sent one of the birds to check for a source to the noise deeper inside, but there was no light so they couldn’t find anything of note, other than a tunnel that was collapsed, so there wasn’t a whole lot of investigating that could be done deep inside this place which was fine because we didn’t have much time for any sort of a respite before there came a series of three sharp raps on the doors to the outside. Initially we ignored it and nothing came of it.

The darker recesses of the room we were in, upon further inspection were littered with remains. Bodies of various sizes and in various states of decay. Mostly humanoid, but some, the fresher ones had arms that appeared to end in blades.

The knocking on the door again. This time accompanied by a muffled voice none of us could make out. Gnoman moved closer to the door to try and get a better vantage should the voice speak again.

Then came the howling as if from a pack of wolves. Again though, muffled by the doors.

Eventually though, our waiting was rewarded. The voice called out again. It worked out that Gnoman was at the door, he was the only one who could translate what was said.

Apparently a goblin warchief called Bloodtusk was informing us that we were in his territory and our choices were to pay a usage fee for travelling in this part of his domain, or face his wrath.

Being not in the mood for a fight, Jenny and I agreed that we should try and find a nonviolent solution. So negotiations ensued. I heard both Gnoman and a chorus of voices on the outside erupt into laughter at one point so I assumed that everything was going well. When asked what was so funny, Gnoman said it didn’t translate well into the common tongue from Goblin and proceeded to say something about the blood of the innocent and bathing in a puddle of piss. Yeah, I didn’t get it.

When it was all said and done, Gnoman had gotten us mounts for the next fortnight as well as assurances that we would be left unaccosted for the duration of our time in the warchief’s domain.

Completion of the deal did require opening the door though, and this… war band… was a sight to behold.

There were a dozen or so goblins of various sizes and it was clear who the leader was. The goblin in front with the bloody tusk emblazoned upon his leather armor. He stood fully a head shorter than any of the others in his group. Respect for the small.

It turned out that mount was a somewhat loose term and that we would be riding on Worgs. Jenny had a slight frame and I’m not big so we got fairly standard looking ones. Gnoman’s though, was a thing of nightmares, and thing is an accurate descriptor for the trundling and massive beast that seemed to peel itself away from the darkness. It growled from somewhere deep inside it’s chest, and spoke because apparently Worgs can speak.

“Sleep, food. We leave at first light.” The other two laughed at this.

Blood tusk and his group stayed for the remainder of the night and they weren’t so bad once you got to talking with them. Jenny loved his group’s cooking, but it looked like people stew so I politely declined. They did give us a few days worth of food when they finally departed though.

And in the morning we set out south once more, but not until after what felt like hours of watching Gnoman slowly sweep his arms though the air collecting the ambient moisture into canteens for us all, mounts included. He said he’d do this as needed on our journey, for which I was thankful. We’d never bothered to stock up for any kind of actual duration on this journey through the desert. Crap.