Saturday, 3 April 2010
The Wretched Earth Chapter 1 : Taken to the Cleaners
Artwork by Emma Yam (mlynnz)
The tiny state of Dog County was an affiliate of a larger coalition, which went to war with some unspecified Pirate nations. Dog County wasn’t obliged to send troops, but got rich on the back of huge war commerce, making uniforms and rations. The residents of Dog County, and the small farming town of Dog Leg became very rich. Unfortunately, the war ended (although their side won), and all the orders dried up. Dog County was plunged into poverty.
With Dog Leg on a miserable subsistence existence, a group of about 12 of the young men of the town- led by local tough guy, "Barry the Fist" - left town to seek their fame and fortune as adventurers. Nothing was heard of them for many months. A year later, Barry and some of his party returned, driving large carts of livestock, ale and booty for the town. They were given a heroes’ welcome, and several days of partying and revelry ensued. All the boys in town wanted to be Barry and his gang, all the girls wanted to be their groupies. After the excitement died down, they left to take on another quest.
The excitement and glamour of the returning heroes was too much for the remaining youngsters of Dog Leg. A collection of former magical, clerical and fighter students (pulled out of school and university when the money dried up) got together determined to follow in their elders’ footsteps, led by Barry’s cousin – Chops, and the leader of the town band, Toot.
None of the would-be adventurers had ever been involved in real fighting before, or undertaken any kind of adventure. The first few days were filled with hope and excitement, with Toot the warlord egging the group on with talk of tactics and plans. Indeed, Toot and Chops emerged as the two charismatic leaders of the 30 or so strong group.
After walking for three or four days through familiar lands, spirits were high, even though one or two souls turned round and headed home. After a week, when all the rations ran out, a few more left – disillusioned with the realities of life as adventurers. After a few more days, things became desperate. The lands were still relatively civilised, and a lack of foraging (and the skills to do so) became apparent. The group took to stealing barsnacks from pubs, but feeding 24 people on pork scratchings and slices of lemon is something of a feat.
One evening, after sharing a cold meal of maraschino cherries and the very last KitKat, spirits were low. The group huddled around a campfire and set up a guard rota. It was Drum the ranger that saw the intruder on the edge of the camp. A small stealthy humanoid – almost certainly armed, and no doubt with murderous intent. Shouting out a warning to rouse his fellows, Drum fired his first ever real hostile arrow – and missed by several hundred yards. Pandemonium ensued in the camp as two dozen adventurers scrambled around for weapons. Toot sounded the call-to-arms on his trumpet and the battle was joined. The humanoid rushed away through the undergrowth, but Drum’s second arrow was true, striking the creature cleanly. It tried to escape across a stream, but was cornered by several of the party who hacked and smashed it to pieces with weapons, cauldrons, cutlery and rocks. The party looked down at the remains of the creature. It seemed to be armed with a small stick and clothed only in a loincloth, and resembled Gollum – only less well presented. As the campfire crackled away behind them, the party took the only logical step – and proceeded to cook and eat the creature.
The following morning, with a good meal inside them, and a light continental breakfast of Bombay Mix and lime cordial, the party sent Drum the ranger to search for tracks. This proved relatively easy as the creature was clearly not well-versed in the ways of the woodlands, and had left large and obvious tracks. A smaller group of six, led by Chops followed this path, whilst Toot and the remainder guarded the main camp. The trail led the adventurers to a large clearing a mile away through the forest. In the centre of this clearing stood a stone mausoleum.
Chops took it upon himself to jog a circuit around the building, and as he did so found two more of the wretched humanoids at the rear of the building carrying out menial washing and cleaning duties. Chops completed his jog and gathered the rest of the party for an assault. Defending themselves by throwing bricks and plates, the humanoids were quickly overwhelmed by the party's firepower.
Giddy with success, the group descended into the mausoleum. Inside, they were confronted by the bosses of the wretchlings - a trio of brutal beastmen from the "Hyena Death Clan" who were a lot tougher than their slaves. A violent and lethal struggle ensued, with both sides close to death, but the Dog Leg posse prevailed, and emerged as blooded adventurers.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, Toot and his band had encountered a large woodland bear. A melee had ensued, resulting in the annihilation of the bear, although there were some injuries to Toot's mob. These pivotal events eventually became a schism in the Dog Leg party, the Tomb Robbers obviously having faced the greater challenge, but having to co-exist with the Bear Killers who were certain of their equal warrior status.