Venturing outward may have been a mistake.
I’d earned enough coin from one terrifying adventure to avoid being evicted from my humble lighthouse in Cierzo.
For days I rested and hunted pearlbirds in the relative safety of the shadow of Cierzo’s palisade walls, careful to steer well clear of less feathered two-legged foes. Harvesting and cooking brought humbly modest coin into my pocket as I pondered my next steps.
Once, one of those bandits came up unawares and it was too late to hide, so I engaged in a furious scrum for my life. Victory was won by a thread.
Then there was the time I came upon the corpses of two such highwaymen, who had lost their own battle. The bloodied bedraggled hyenas who had won jumped me before I could salvage anything from their bodies.
That haul was pretty good, though it near cost me my life once again.
Tiring of such pursuits, I set out further afield to seek other settlements.
I met a strange hermit in a cave.
I was near savaged by two hyenas who ambushed me shortly after. A strange man rescued me and left me to recover atop a mountain by a campfire. Nearby was a door.
I sought to enter, thinking him further within, but a terrible ice witch froze me and left me for dead at the entrance. I gathered up the scraps of myself, my dignity, my torn apart gear and body, and assailed her once again. This time, I was victorious.
A rope led deeper down into the mountain. But I dared not venture further and left instead to find more peaceful environs to set up my tent, generously gifted by the hermit, and rest.
The view was… really something.
Since I was already on the mountain, I thought to climb to the peak to see if my erstwhile rescuer could be found there.
He was not. A strange stone-like mantis creature guarded the summit, beside a rusty sword in the stone.
Perhaps one day they will tell the tale of how I courageously stood my ground against the creature and traded blow for blow against its uncrumbling hide, until I pounded it back into the earth and took my prize.
The truth of the matter is… I ran. It followed.
I ran in a circle around the stone, and it chased me.
I ran behind the stone and it chittered angrily at me, trying to decide if it should climb the rock or go around. I took advantage of its hesitation to snatch the sword, wondering if I should attempt to use it against the monster.
Then its pincer claws were upon me and I thought the better of it.
I ran further and it came after me.
Somehow, it lost my trail.
I doubled back and crept past it, as stealthily as I could. It had left the peak unguarded, and I searched the rest of it, greedily stuffing whatever I could salvage into my backpack.
Then I turned around and snuck ever so quietly past it again.
Laden with my haul, it was time to return to civilization and sell some of the goods I had uncovered.
I could have taken the path back to Cierzo.
Oh, how I wish I had.
Instead, I took the other path to a stern and rich-looking fortress, hoping to find new merchants and trainers.
“Hello?” I looked about the castle furnishings, hoping to find live people, rather than the walking bones of unquiet undead. To my relief, there was a black-armored dwarf or a short human sitting back in a chair, and he made no hostile move.
I tremulously approached and conversed with him. He welcomed me heartily.
I told him I sought a place to rest, and he cheerfully replied that I had found it.
Then the world went black.
And I woke up. In a bed. Fleabitten. Iron bars formed one wall, and rock the other three.
Confused, I checked my gear and found nothing but tattered rags. I stumbled out and realized we were ‘guests’ all right. Guests who would be working in the mines for our daily loaf.
The two other slaves I talked to were wryly accepting of their lot.
The main exits appear to be closed and guarded by armored men. I fear I might be here for a while.