“I’m truly sorry, as I say, Deacon,” Ashaziel says apologetically to the frumpy, balding priest of the Light, “Burlok was a truly brave and pious man, and we are all sad to lose him.”
Ashaziel, a local peasant in his early 30’s, brushes his hand back over his forehead, all the way back through his mid-length long hair and finally stopping at the back of his neck, as if the act will help him draw forth his memories. “He was new to town and looking for a bit of adventure I think, you see… not that he didn’t enjoy his life at the church, he always spoke well of it and especially the good cleric Mazlor… and ever since I lost my mentor, Asgrim, I’ve felt it was time for me to be striking out on my own, but I’d never gotten up the nerve. So, in a way, Burlok is to thank for our leaving town in the first place.”
“Not that Burlok was inviting the tragedy that followed… He seemed to enjoy life, and certainly had a fine taste for, erm… strong spirits. But for some reason, he found my stories about all of the kinds of fish I’ve managed to catch at the local pond as a bit boring, though I can’t imagine why. At any rate, Grel the holy warrior and a fellow named Tip that also knows how to handle a blade had been planning on going out to take a look at that Crystal Lake that half the town seems to be talking about, so it seemed a great time for Burlok and I to join them.”
“Of course, we might have had to call off the whole thing if Kallista hadn’t just returned from deep in the Kingdom. Where the rest of us were down to our last coppers, and couldn’t afford the woolens we’d need to keep ourselves warm from the cold fall weather quickly coming on, Kallista had a nice pouch of gold and agreed to lend us the funds to get the necessary gear. She even hired a fighting man named Parix to come along, who seemed to me slightly… bloodthirsty. He scared me a bit.”
“At any rate, things were fine at first; we camped north of the old Inn our first night out, and the only thing strange we ran into the next day was a circle of trees that seemed to have grown extremely close together. Kallista investigated, and said that she heard a cranky voice say something like, ‘I can hear you but can’t see you’ when she got close. Since it seemed that we weren’t going to be invited in, we moved on.”
“That’s when tragedy struck. We saw what looked like a group of small statues standing in the distance but was in reality a large group of animated zombie corpses of ko-balds. Asgrim had told me of such things, but they were truly gruesome. Before we knew it, Burlok and Parix were down, and their flesh was being feasted upon. We fell back, and fortunately were fast enough to stay ahead of them far enough to set traps for them with oil and fire. Eventually we whittled down their numbers until my friends could finish them off with steel, and so we had won… or so we thought.
“The lake itself seemed placid and there were buildings to provide shelter when we arrived, but we wanted to explore the nearby cave we had heard about. Unfortunately, shortly after going in, the resident LIVE ko-balds didn’t seem too eager to let us pass. Instead, they wanted food, and our 2 days’ rations apiece wasn’t enough; they demanded ‘many much more’ of it, so I suggested we do what I do best… go fishing.”
“Fortunately, the lake is well populated with fish and a simple enchantment into the water put many of them quite asleep, and we were able to gather them into one of our bags. This seemed to do the trick with the ko-balds, and we made a rough agreement in which we would fill the bag again for them each time we wanted to pass.”
“Luckily, we were able to find some valuables further on into the cave, if for no other reason than to allow us to pay the toll sir Reynald has imposed to allow us back into town! Not so luckily, we were attacked at night on the way back here by the skeletons of the very undead that we thought we had destroyed! Being only 4 of us left, we ran away, then ran away some more! Luckily again, we were able to go back and recover our valuables the next morning.”
“So, as I say, we are sorry about the loss of Burlok. He was a fine drunk, er, cleric, and was a fine example of the best of the Church of the Light…”
Ashaziel’s rambling tale trails off, as he realizes that the Deacon he was been talking to has fallen asleep.