I am Moll Rabban. Today my tale is of the discovery of Hide and Savory Flesh, which help my clan become more powerful.
I am a Kush1te from the humid lands of the south. My clan members say I am tall and dark, never once realizing they are short and pale. I do not hold it against them, they learn respect from the wide swing of my maul. Kallas is a woman fighter like I, good with the blade but corrupted by her ritual consumption of human flesh. Old Bone is a cowardly man, always shooting arrows from his bow rather than facing his foes in battle, but smart in the ways of the world and content to worship his snake god in silence.
We are exiles, castaways, prisoners released into a new life. We gather in the verdant valley along the shore of a lazy river under a broken bridge made by our ancestors. Life is simple, we have crocs and turtles to hunt and cook, a stone shelter for our beds, plenty of water to drink and wood for our dancing fires.
The spirits move us to continue forth, especially the discovery of a tribe of savages who camp below a corrupted aqueduct. Our discovery of that place was our first adventure, and the mystery of the corruption was our first riddle.
We prepared ourselves overnight. I took a bedroll, filled my canteen, and made sure my simple equipment was in good order. Old Bone cooked us steaks from the grill (I did not take what Kallas offered from the fire). Dawn rose and it was bright enough to travel.
We went west to the end of the canyon and climbed past the sentries of the corrupted aqueduct. Up the sandy hill gave us a view of the desert highlands, marked by ancient and huge walls many times taller than I. Who made these? We will never know. We climbed up the slopes and along the base of the walls, then slid down into a wide expanse of sand.
Scorpions. We knew of them but have never seen any the size of women. Old Bone fired his arrows and Kallas put up her shield. She poked at the giant creature with her stone sword but it vanished beneath the sand - erupting suddenly to knock her off her feet. I ran into the fray swinging my massive cudgel. I swung over and over, pummeling the scorpion and also Kallas, killing the beast and also nearly killing my clanswoman. She lived but was not happy.
Old Bone took out his knife and hacked the creature into chunks. He knew right away from the size and structure of the meat they would make succulent steaks, better than we fed on in the valley. We gathered as much as we could and headed out. We would fight more scorpions in the sands. They slowly took their toll on our health, and we ate the steaks to recover.
The desert became rocky and we wound our way up and onto an outcropping of yellow stone. Dry trees were here, and short brown grasses, and chips of rock. We wandered and explored and time blurred. It was hot. There was no water so we drank from our canteens.
I spotted some tents so we explored. The desert was behind us, now it was hard rock and twisted plants all around. The weathered outline of a small camp was here, ragged red cloth flapping in the wind. Ghosts danced here and we danced with them to learn their powers. Far below we saw a larger village full of tribals. However, our supplies were low and we did not like our chances against their half-dozen warriors. We crept back along the ridge.
It was late afternoon, the sun was low. We started to trace a line down back to the valley. Then we heard the howls.
One hyena approached. Old Bone knocked an arrow but the dog ran towards us faster than he could aim. Kallas drew her sword and charged, cutting into it solidly. I paused, knowing my hammer could do as much harm as good. Kallas exchanged blows with the hyena, each cutting each. She called out and dove back, my sign to attack. I connected with a solid downswing and wounded it. It lept and bit me, knocking me to the ground and slashing me again. Old Bone struck it with an arrow and the dog fell.
The steaks heal us but there was no more steak. Kallas tore into the raw flesh she was carrying, she claimed her experience surviving in the wastes allowed her to eat it without being poisoned but I knew it was really foul magic. I munched on a few grubs, poor substitute for cooked steak. I was not healed.
It was dark now, the sun played tricks in these places. And then we heard more howls.
Three of them, three of us. I faced off against mine. It bit me more than I wanted - I have no shield to block their blows. But the dogs have no way to avoid the crack of their bones when my hammer smashes them. My companions were engaged, I was free to swing wildly. I gripped the shaft of the maul tightly and spun in my combat dance, pounding the hyena over and over. It died. I did not.
The blood was dripping from my face, obscuring my view. Old Bone took a torch from his pack and lit it or else we could not see. We hacked their corpses into pieces, discovering the dog’s thick hides were different from the thin-skinned beasts of the valley. Kallas knew she could use these to make us armor. We crept back and gathered all of the hides we could take.
More howls! We looked up and saw three dogs on the edge of a rock high overhead. The full moon lit the scene. They growled down at us. Suddenly, a tribal appeared on the ridge and the dogs attacked. We heard his screams as the dogs mauled him. We fled down the slopes.
Old Bone’s torch went out. It was pitch dark in these rocky canyons. I took a few pieces of fiber from my bag and re-bound the torch, lighting it for another precious few minutes. It lasted until we could see the glint of the moon off of the slow river of our home.
It was still dark when we lit the dancing fires in front of our stone hut. We fed until we felt healthy, then opened our sacks. We had gathered many fine pieces of meat, which we cooked to save for a few days. Better yet, the thick skins from the hyenas could be tanned and turned into leather, something that Kallas and Old Bone started right away. This meat and leather meant on our next adventure we would take less damage from creatures and be able to heal ourselves better, which would allow us to journey farther.
We danced by the riverbank until the sun rose. I walked upstairs beneath the thatch loft of our stone house, laid down on my simple cot and left for the world of dreams.
Next time - a new clansman and our search for steel-stone.
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