First Sword, A One Shot, Introduction

Words might describe the horrors you now leave behind, but you choose not to speak them. Images that others could never understand flash in your mind with every mud-soaked step you take.  It isn’t that you are tormented by the nightmares of war on the battlefield; the stories that might haunt a lesser soldier, the moments of battle when you stood side by side with your brothers, and sisters, or charging into the ranks of your enemy. Those were worthy of retelling. Those were the stories of triumph, for even though many of your fellows would not make it, you had. And their moments of glory still lived in you.

It wasn’t the moments of bloody gore and glory that kept your mouth silent in the pubs and inns you wandered into and out of the elements. Like magical oases, each as surprised as you are to find one another in the wilds. No, there, when a warm meal is put in front of you, you do not ruin an invitation to eat well with stories of another sort.

The stories you keep locked inside you are the other moments. The ones no goodly soldier would brag about. The ones no goodly soldier would want to relive.

Wounded in your last offensive, you all received the award for Heroism from your commander while serving on the front lines of the Inpenetrable Mountains. As one of the highest honors that could be bestowed, you were given a chance to return home to your families. You took it, knowing that you wouldn’t otherwise get a chance. Maybe you wear it as a badge of honor, maybe it was your ticket off the lines.  However you saw it, the offensive cannot spare a caravan and one is not going to be leaving any time soon.  As you all have now earned your battle scars, you decided to leave together and travel home. Maybe you are all companions with a backstory, perhaps you’ve been brought together by fate. Maybe you don’t believe in those kinds of things, and you just don’t want to find yourself on a deserted path in the Outer Wilds while the sun is setting.

Along the way thus far, you’ve lost already several members of your party to the wilds. Sometimes death came on wings, sometimes death stalked through the woods, leaving fewer of you in the morning. Twice you dared not turn in, backs to the campfires, swords to the darkness. Two more comrades you lost to a terrible disease, a death that crept through the waters of the bog, into and through the skin.

The King’s highway here in the outer wilds was neither much of a highway, nor did it belong to the king in most places.
Without a cleric of the flame, you had to watch good men die and you had to leave them in the earth, while you ran or walked away, the cold biting your exposed skin. In these elements, in your condition, to do your duty would have meant your death as well. No Celn wanted to tell a tale that involved leaving a comrade behind, instead of back to the Light with honors in your realm’s most sacred ritual. The Outer Wilds had a way of making beasts of men, just as the old Celn tales told of them making men into beasts.

You are now on your way to a town known as Three Bales. Light willing, you may indeed have survived the toughest part of your journey home, wherever that is.  Nevertheless, it is one of the remotest areas that are known to the realm, that one can still call the realm, and so you can expect Celn food, music and entertainment, and with a bit of luck, Celn ale.

You aren’t asking for gratitude. You aren’t asking for safety even. Just a chance to spend a few coins, and if you’re lucky, eat a warm meal in silence.

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