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Hearth Fire

The smell of fire wafted through the village. To many, it would be indistinguishable from a normal camp or hearth fire, but to Atep Oatcaller, Chieftain of Pack Stonesong, it smelled different. It was different because he knew how to burn wood to make charcoal. Some consider it a superstition or an old mate’s tale, but those who manned the furnaces to make the coal needed for the Clan’s metalworking network knew.

Hazemane village, located on the northern/northwestern border of Ironmound territory, was back to producing charcoal and he knew that his Clanleader would be pleased and that his Pack had gained much honor and renown for their efforts. Production had only just begun, but it will continue in earnest once the rest of the Pack arrives.

Atep was reviewing some of the production logs and scribbled some notes, his belly reminding him that he was late for his usual dinner time. He had two tasks to do before he settled in for the evening. He reached for a new piece of parchment and took his pen, preparing to write a letter. He hesitated for a moment and thought back on the night that he arrived in the village, trying to collect his thoughts.

He remembered the men and women sent to help them, driven by promise of payment or in helping out his Pack for a good cause, they were there and they were instrumental in protecting his Pack. In the beginning it seemed calm and easy… negotiate a fair deal for use of the Phoenix wagons, coordinate with members of the Rangers or the Crimson shades or other adventuring groups, organize the work that needed to be done… and quickly turned into a life and death situation. None of them knew of the danger the mordok would present that night, of the fear of being hunted and captured one at a time and dragged off screaming into the night. Despite the fear, the group worked together and fought for his village. He remembered the human smith who stood in the middle of the fight and kept his hammer striking metal despite the danger close by, the many times someone had an arrow pulled out or a gaping wound closed by the strange syndar healer in the warehouse, and the Pack Stonesong warriors who used their training to defend the village after being taught by the mercenary human and fierce ulven veterans. They stayed and helped even if some of them did it only because of the promise of silver. None of them got any sleep that night but in the morning, the mordok were gone. It cost him his entire coffer of silver metal, but in the end the village was intact and his Pack now safe and back into full charcoal production. The adventurers moved on shortly after that, some of them afflicted by corruption.

Snapping out of his thoughts, Atep put his pen to parchment and wrote the following letter.

—–

Gustave Ironmound, Clanleader of Clan Ironmound

It is with great haste that this message is sent. On the trip to Hazemane Village the caravan was slowed by the large force of villagers and children. I therefore took a smaller force with the Daughters of Gaia and support to go ahead of the main group to set up and get started. This is when the group of adventurers who accepted the contract had met us and helped us take supplies to the village.

We arrived at the village and set up charcoal production, tradesmen began blacksmithing new tools and repairs, and we searched though out the village for tasks we needed to complete. We found no bodies of the fallen warriors or any that our Daughters needed to tend to, but shortly after arriving we were attacked by Mordok. They have established a corruption site that is extremely powerful and they were more organized than I have ever seen before. They attacked repeatedly, but not to die in battle as they always have done before. It looks as if they didn’t want to kill and eat but to capture our warriors for their foul magics and corruption. They captured 7 of our defenders, including one of my own, a brave hunter by the name of Oto Twotalon. They were taken to the corruption site, corrupted and tortured, and then returned to the village. At this time we cannot cure this corruption.

We were attacked all night and some of my Pack members were injured. Several outsiders were dragged off into the night by the mordok. When morning arrived, all was quiet and the mordok had vanished. We will secure our village of Hazemane and force out the Mordok in the area once the rest of my Pack arrives. I believe they are be gone, but the corruption site will be there and it has great power. We will try to cleanse it, but my concern is that it is too powerful for our Daughters. The strategies of the Mordok are also a concern; corrupting but not killing our warrior and using skill and cunning never before seen.

I, Atep Oatcaller, will rebuild my village of Hazemane, and charcoal production will increase immediately. My pack is shaken, but resolved to make Hazemane home. I commend the actions of the Rangers scouting and loyalty to our mission. The Phoenix were brave and helped greatly in transport of our supplies and arranging the defense of the village. The healers and Daughters of Gaia were indispensable as many warriors were injured. I will send more information as soon as I can and the first loads of charcoal should be ready by the end of the following month.

Atep Oatcaller, Chieftain of Pack Stonesong

Satisfied with the message, Atep folded and sealed it with pineed wax and tucked it into a pouch. He would deliver it tomorrow to the courier who would run the letter to the nearest settlement and see it delivered. Again, his belly reminded him of an overdue dinner.

“Not yet, old friend.” Atep said to himself absently as he walked out into the main yard of the village. On the way out the door, he grabbed a torch hanging on a metal holder by the door to his house.

Gathered in the main yard were the other Pack members of Pack Stonesong, the ones who came with their Chieftain ahead of the rest of the Pack. They were assembled this night around a pyre and resting on top of it was Oto Twotalon. The young hunter had been captured, mutilated, and afflicted with corruption by the mordok. Despite the Daughter’s best efforts, the corruption had sapped his life force and killed him.

Atep walked forward with the torch, taking his honored place at the head of the pyre, preparing to speak out the deeds of the fallen ulven.

– END

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