Years of fear and ostracization had left Gravefoot prepared for many things, but one of them was not being around other people. Although he had come to know his companions well, there was still so much about them he didn’t understand. In addition, there was her.
The broken half-breed had always had his devotion to shield him against others. Horrified looks of passersby, shrieks of children, and the out and out berating by a drunken soldiers would always fade from his mind behind the chants to Pharasma. In those chants Gravefoot could find his center communing with his Lady and finding respite. But now there was no peace. As Gravefoot chanted his litanies, traversing the ever so familiar paths through his mind, Captain Javair was always waiting for him at his center. She stood there, all at once the vulnerable mourner of a winter night long past, and the battle-hardened swordswoman that he now knew.
“Nine Hell’s,” Gravefoot shouted. Shattering the quiet of the secluded glen he had found to meditate. He pounded his huge fists into the ground at his sides and opened his eyes. There before him, he noticed ethereal humanoid forms lazily surrounding him, as if curious. They dissipated at the edges in the dusky light, and glowed a green-gray like old ice.
Gravefoot shot to his feet scrambling for his mace, all the while chanting the verses of protection afforded to him against the restless dead. His huge hands closed over his mace, and with a great roar he swung at the nearest ghost, his mace dissipating its form, but only for a moment. Grunting louder, Gravefoot began to swing wildly, enraged by his impotence against these restless dead, the greatest enemy of Pharsma. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one move to flank him. Waiting until he was certain the fiend was directly behind him, Gravefoot turned on his heal and charged head long, right into the gray-brown bole of a mighty oak. Pain shot across the entirety of Gravefoot’s face and he could suddenly see the tip of his nose out of his left eye, his mouth flooded with blood.
“Ahhahaha,” Gravefoot heard a hissing laugh from the edge of the grove.
As his vision cleared he saw a kobold sitting on his haunches, a long spindly staff draped across his scaly knees. From his staff many different fetishes swayed lazily, and he noticed one the creature’s reptilian eyes was milk white, and bore a scar.
“Begone rat-lizard,” Gravefoot growled. Although I care not for the likes of you and your tribe, there are fouler things about,” indicating toward the vaporous forms still lazily surrounding him.
The kobold shifted his head like a lizard to see Gravefoot with his good eye. “You no know my tribe! And you no good at spirits!”
Gravefoot braced himself, and with both hands set his nose with an audible “pop”. His eyes swam again, and he infused just enough healing magic into his nose that it would ensure the bone would mend with no infection, although whether it came back straight or not was something else entirely. It wasn’t like he was getting any more fair anyway. Still keeping an eye on the spirits around him, Gravefoot rose and approached the kobold. As he did, he noticed none of this one’s scales were marked in black or soot as all the others in this area were.
The kobold kept Gravefoot in his good eye and examined him as he towered over him, seeming unafraid. “Big as him. But mind not as big him,” the kobold muttered. “You are seer?” The kobold asked, angling his snout up slightly to indicate Gravefoot should respond.
“I am servant of Pharsma, mistress of-“
Quicker than anything Gravefoot had ever seen the kobold launched from his haunches like a coiled serpent, crashing the tip of his spindly staff into Gravefoot’s newly broken nose. Tears flooded Gravefoot’s eyes as he roared, waitng for his vision to clear. When it finally did, Gravefoot saw the kobold sat again on his haunches, still and unafraid.
“Death has no mistress for our people,” the kobold said with such conviction and authority that Gravefoot suddenly found his anger slipping away. He needed to hear this strange creature out, though he wasn’t sure why?
“The soft-lings, the food-lings, for them death is the end, and so they say their prayers to she you serve. You can’t help it, it is in your blood. But only half your blood. The other half is the blood of the mighty-people. The crushers, the takers, the burners, the sackers, and the ravagers,” as he spoke the last his hissing voice rose in fervor and pitch, and the reptilian eye that held Gravefoot fast seemed to alight with fire. “To mighty-people, death can’t stop. We return. To guide, advise, and fuel the rage of the next generation.
“That is nonsense,” Gravefoot said. “The Verses of Gant tell us that all souls go to Pharasma when they pass.
“Not all,” the kobold countered, sounding disappointed. “Behind you, they there.”
Gravefoot saw the spirits lingering and anger surged in him once more. “So they are restless dead!” He shouted. They must be vanquished and their spirits freed.
“All big, but stupid, like ogre,” the kobold sighed. “There is none spirit freer than those.”
After a few moments of silence Gravefoot asked, “What are they doing here? To whom do they wish to do harm?”
“No harm, not now,” the kobold snapped. “They likely confused. Ogre-mind call them, then try to chase them off with mace. They must recognize Ogre-mind is new, more patient then Ogre-mind deserves.” With that the kobold stood muttering and begun to leave.
Gravefoot should have been glad to see the beast shamble off. Taking note that the pain in his nose was now a burning throb, he though to turn away himself, but he couldn’t.. As he watched the kobold leave, somewhere within himself Gravefoot felt a longing. Like he was losing something that was a part of him.
Suddenly the night air filled with a rumbling staccato drum beat that at first Gravefoot thought was thunder, but the skies were clear. It came from deeper within the woods and Gravefoot looked to kobold to see if he was up to something. The sound stopped the kobold cold, and for the first time Gravefoot saw the creature look afraid.
With a heavy sigh and a sag of his bony shoulders the kobold turned to Gravefoot, “Come with me Ogre-mind,” the kobold said, his distaste evident. “He will have me teach you much this night.”
“Where do we go?” Gravefoot asked, but for some reason, he already knew he would follow this creature.
“Follow fool!” the kobold snapped. “Maybe I eat you! Rob you! Kill you! We mighty-people do as we want. It is the way. And Ahghir not want answer Ogre-mind’s questions here. Move, now!”
Gravefoot could only gather his things and follow the strange creature into the darkening wood.