2nd Roadside camp, The Worgwood
I don’t think any of us will be sleeping tonight.
The Worgs have been hounding us since just before dusk and now, even as I write this, we hear them all around us in the darkness. Flitting shadows the size of small horses move among the trees at the edge of the firelight, giving us just a glimpse of flashing eyes and snarling teeth before they fade back into the gloom. I can see well enough in the dark, mind you, but sitting in a circle of bonfires makes it difficult to focus beyond the light. They are startlingly fast and agile for their size as well, darting deftly through the massive trunks too quickly for us to count. If only we’d seen some sign of danger before we had passed the hostel at the halfway point.
This morning’s travel had been uneventful, serene even as our wagons trundled down the sun dappled road. When we reached the walled sanctuary around noon the guards stationed there had reported that the Worgwood had been quiet for days. They did still urge Paws After The Fireflies to stay and camp within the safety of their walls, however. Our stubborn leader would hear nothing of it of course. Instead, the guards report seemed to dissolve the last of the Tabaxi’s reservations. Paws After The Fireflies even led us all in a few bawdy verses of The Huntress Kneads the Baker’s Wife as we set off again after lunch!
Then, around mid-afternoon as a light breeze began to pick up, the animals started acting skittish. Seraphine shifted nervously, flaring her nostrils towards the tree line. The donkeys started braying loudly and I heard the ox’s harness jingling as she shuffled and stamped. After a few moments, the wind shifted again and the animals calmed.
Had we had turned back then we still could have reached the safety of the hostel before dark. If only we had… Paws After The Fireflies, still humming merrily, was intent on making up every mile we could, so we choked down a dinner of dry trail rations as we pushed on into the evening.
I felt Seraphine stiffen suddenly beneath me. As I reigned her to a stop, I followed her wild one-eyed gaze into the forest to our right. I couldn’t tell what it was, but I saw something moving in the shadows for just an instant. Then it was gone.
“Paws After The Fireflies…” I called out softly.
“I see it,” they hissed, staring back down the roadthw way we came.
Confused, I turned in my saddle and looked behind us. A huge black Worg was standing boldly in the middle of the road about a quarter mile behind us. It wasn’t crouched low or trying to hide. This Worg stood tall and defiant, staring right at us. It threw back its head and let out a blood curdling howl, then turned and slowly loped back into the trees.
“Dark Ancestors Below,” I swore shakily, “That was brazen!”
“Quite,” Paws After The Fireflies murmured, “and a deliberate message, I think…” They turned back towards the caravan and shouted in an iron voice, “Wimmek, start looking for the widest spot we can find to make camp! We must get the watch fires lit before dark.”
We were already pushing far beyond a normal day’s march and everyone was tired, but Paws After The Fireflies was right. This section of the roadcut was so narrow that the watch fire ring would butt right up against the tree line on either side. We would definitely need more warning than that should we be attacked.
As Wimmek coaxed more speed from the exhausted animals, his apprentices and the guards began collecting fallen limbs from along the roadside. Paws After The Fireflies stood watch on top of the rear wagon with a light crossbow in their hands ready to fire, and three more loaded and lined up on the empty driver’s bench. With Seraphine hitched to the back of the wagon, I worked with the rest, dragging dead branches back to stack onto the front wagon for the watch fires.
The Worgs continued to dog our heels, but none were brave enough to step into the open again. Instead they growled, howled, and rustled the bushes – taunting us and keeping our hearts constantly in our throats. If one of us strayed too close to the trees, the Worgs delighted in lunging out of the shadows, jaws snapping and snarling. Just exposing themselves enough to scare the 9 Hells out of whoever strayed to close and sending them racing back to the wagons. Then the monster retreated back into the shadows before Paws After The Fireflies could line up a shot. Somehow their raucous, barking laughter after one of these scares was more terrifying than the growling and snarling.
After almost an hour of this torment we were all ready to drop; either of exhaustion or heart attack, take your pick. When the roadcut finally widened out enough for us to have distance and visibility from the treeline Wimmek finally called a halt. There was no rest for the weary, however. The other three guards and I immediately began building the ring of watchfires that would hopefully keep the Worgs at bay. Meanwhile, Wimmek and his two remaining apprentices started the central fire and set up the rest of the camp.
Through all of this Paws After The Fireflies stood like a sentinel, scanning the trees with a calm, deadly focus. I couldn’t help but be impressed. In our few days together I hadn’t seen anything from the Tabaxi that even hinted at martial prowess. I’m ashamed to admit that I had even envisioned them hiding under one of the wagons if we ran into real trouble. Instead, they looked like a coiled spring, tail twitching and ready to pounce. A sleek and deadly jungle cat waiting for the dogs to come to them. Paws After The Fireflies’ undaunted vigilance galvanized the rest of us, fanning our flagging courage higher as we fanned the flames of the watchfires.
The bastards waited until full dark before they started calling out to us by name. They weren’t just toying with us all evening, it seemed – they were listening too. And now, every few minutes, the Worgs slowly rumble one of our names from the blackness in a growling, singsong whisper. Like the mocking taunts the killer calling outside your window in some scary children’s story. And, yes, by the Gods, it is just as terrifying as I had imagined it would be! I only ho —
Sorry for the interruption, we were attacked. Tested is probably more accurate. The Worgs started taking turns charging out of the wood from one side of the road, then the other. They didn’t actually try to cross the circle of watch fires, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. Paws After The Fireflies put a crossbow bolt into at least two of them, though, and I think I may have hit one as well. That seems to have quieted them for now.
I sincerely hope, dear reader, that this story doesn’t end for you with an interrupted sentence.
Gods, it must be getting close to dawn. If my horns droop any lower they’ll be in the fire soon, and the Worg’s show no sign of letting up. They’ve tested us several more times, but have yet to commit to an all out attack. I think the hellspawn are still just toying with us. Wearing us down until we are too exhausted to fight back before they move in for the kill.
26th of Loversmoon, 278 AB
Roadside camp, Outside the Worgwood
Good news, dear reader – I survived the night!
The damn Worgs waited until just before dawn to attack. The clever bastards even went completely quiet for an hour or so first, allowing us just enough peace for our heads to begin to loll. Paws After The Fireflies barely managed to call out a warning before the first Worg leaped over the watchfires and into our makeshift livestock pen.
One of the donkey’s screamed in agonized terror as the Worg bore it to the ground.
The ox shattered the makeshift fence stampeding away from the predator back down the dark roadway.
Two more Worgs leapt into our ring of fires as the other two donkeys and Seraphine raced off after the ox.
Wimmek let out a strangled cry and rushed the animal pen brandishing a wicked looking cudgel.
Paws After The Fireflies cooly dispatched the first monster, firing a bolt through the back of its skull with a sickening crunch. Its body slumped forward over the dead donkey it had been mauling.
“Let them go, Wimmek! Stay in the firelight!” Paws After The Fireflies shouted as they reloaded their crossbow.
Two of the other guards rushed one of the new Worgs with drawn short swords, but the beast was unbelievably quick. It dodged the first guard’s attack almost lazily. The second guard managed to land a shallow cut on its shoulder, though, as it tried to slip aside.
Everything was happening so fast.
I saw the third Worg circling my fellow guards to flank them. My weapon training finally kicked my sluggish muscles into action and I raised my crossbow, firing reflexively.
The bolt flew true and sank into the monster’s side. It gave a startled yelp and turned towards me. My hands were shaking so badly I dropped my next bolt as I struggled to reload.
The Worg crouched low and sprang straight at me! I threw myself to the side and his gnashing teeth clashed so close to my face that foam and slobber spattered my face.
Then its full weight crashed into my chest, slamming me backwards to the ground. The stink of the Worg’s filthy, matted fur made me wretch as I futilely tried to scramble out from under it.
Cramming the stock of my crossbow between the Worg’s jaws was the only thing that kept me alive. Its claws raked deep furrows into my arms as it tried to dislodge the weapon and its weight was crushing the air from my lungs. I had no idea how I was going to get out from under the monster, but its teeth couldn’t reach me.
Then the Worg was suddenly lifted off of me as Seraphine sent it flying towards the edge of the firelight with a ferocious kick! Praise the Gods, my sweet girl had come back to rescue me!
I scrambled to my knees, finishing my reload, and fired a second bolt into the fallen Worg’s chest. It howled in pain, but still struggled unsteadily back to its feet.
A quick glance around me showed that the two guards fighting the second Worg were both bleeding badly, but they had driven the monster back to the edge of the watchfires. Wimmek was standing over the still form of the third guard, and as I watched he bashed a fourth Worg in the face with his cudgel. Paws After The Fireflies was still standing on the wagon, reloading and firing faster than any of my instructors at the College had been able too.
The Worg facing Seraphine and I suddenly lunged for Seraphine’s underbelly. She danced backwards with a shrill scream, and I set my next bolt just in time to shoot the monster again as it landed almost beside me.
At nearly point blank range the bolt sank between the Worg’s ribs fletching deep with a meaty thunk. The great beast managed two more steps before finally crashing to the ground.
“Withdraw!” barked a huge Worg as it materialized out of the darkness at the edge of the firelight. This was the defiant Worg that had howled its challenge at us in the road. Its sleek coat was coal black and its eyes seemed to blaze with amber light. The great beast was at least half again the size of its brethren. “Useless whelps, she’ll likely skin us for your failure! Go! Now!”
I heard the sharp twang of Paws After The Fireflies’ crossbow fire to my right. The great Worg danced fluidly to its right, letting the bolt sail harmlessly past. It sneered at the Tabaxi contemptuously before turning and disappeared back into the night.
The two remaining Worgs immediately turned tail and ran after it, tails tucked between their legs.
The fallen guard was dead, his face and neck an unrecognizable bloody mess. All the animals but Seraphine were lost in the darkness. And it was still too dark to venture out of the firelight. But at least it was over.
We huddled together, feeding the fires to build them back up, and waited for dawn.
Once the sun was up it didn’t take us long to find the bodies of the other three donkeys and the ox. They hadn’t made it far before being slaughtered in the darkness. With only Seraphine left, I reluctantly agreed to hitch her to one of the wagons so that Paws After The Fireflies didn’t lose their entire shipment. We delayed long enough for them to sort out which goods to leave and which to take, then loaded the fallen guard’s body into the wagon and set off as fast as our leaden legs could carry us.
We only made two hours out of the forest at most before Paws After The Fireflies called a halt. There was still plenty of daylight left, but none of us could go any farther. Between the heavy pace of the past three days, no sleep, and fighting off the Worg attack everyone was staggeringly exhausted. Paws After The Fireflies had hoped to be in Stonehome by midmorning tomorrow, but stopping this early means we won’t arrive until late afternoon at best. We had pushed through the forest, risked all of our lives, and lost the day anyway.
Ah well, I am just grateful to be alive to tell the tale. Until tomorrow night, dear reader – after a hot bath, a long nap, and a good meal…
If you missed any of the previous journal entries, you can find them all here.
In these postscript sections I will loosely discuss how the random events generated by The Adventurer’s oracle decks inspired the journal entry you just read. If a solo play journaling rpg sounds like fun to you, pick up a copy of The Adventurer and start writing!
Today’s entry detailed Reverly’s and Paws After The Fireflies’ encounter with the sinster Worgs of the Worgwood. This encounter was planned out vs played out with dice as I toyed with how to present combat in an “after the fact” journaled writing style. The above combat’s actions are divided fairly accurately to represent the initiative order of the short combat. Until Revelry loses track of the action when he is pinned beneath the Worg, at least. It was a lot of fun to work out, and for Revelry’s next combat encounter I will be setting up a full 5e encounter and rolling out the results based on 5e’s combat rules.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope you are enjoying the Tales of Revelry the Bard!
We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions so please leave them in the comments. Some answers may have to wait until the appropriate journal entry to be revealed, but we will be as responsive as I can! 🙂