The KoraKora found us yesterday, and now we have lost two members of our party… gods be good, it only gets worse from there.
The day started out like any other with the exception of Bolton’s condition. He was in a great deal of pain, but seemed to accept the loss of his arm with a surprising level of calm. Starlark scouted out the surrounding area while we packed as usual, and that’s where things began to go wrong.
He found a Bangara’s bed not thirty feet from where we had slept. And then, within moments, he found another.
We were anxious the entire morning, expecting Bangara to attack us nearly every step of the way. How could there be two? Did they hunt in packs? There was no way we could stay still, and thankfully, though Bolton had a difficult time of it, we were able to make progress.
Balthandar kept feeding him Martingue broth he had saved in the empty wineskin, and Kantoo served as Bolton’s crutch as much as Kantoo’s bamboo did for him. We made it the whole morning without any new threats revealing themselves. Until the KoraKora found us.
There was only one scout, as surprised to see us as we were him. Starlark put an arrow through his throat before he could sound his horn. We immediately picked up our pace.
It didn’t take long for the KoraKora to find the corpse. Horns began sounding behind us with responses coming from a multitude of directions. We were not surrounded, but they were on our every flank.
Then came the drums. The KoraKora were on the hunt.
We ran then. We had no choice, even though Bolton’s stitches threatened to split. This time I was not buffered from the terror by illness. My mind was clear, my senses unhindered. The world slowed down around me to match my fear.
Then the KoraKora were before us. It was a small party, maybe twenty of them. We fought, but as we killed them Starlark saw more coming from the southeast. We broke off and ran north, pushing Bolton ahead of us as quickly as he could manage. I don’t know how he kept his feet when Balthandar wasn’t carrying him.
As we ran Dionus and I dropped back sporadically to keep the pursuing KoraKora at bay. Each fight grew more ferocious, and soon they were driving us back faster than we were able to hold them off. It was then that I heard Balthandar shout for me.
We ran north. It was there we came into a clearing where before us stood thousands of KoraKora. At the center of their line was their chief.
The KoraKora beat their drums, screaming and hollering in chaotic fervor. Behind us more yellow-painted KoraKora began to line the edge of the clearing.
The chief of the KoraKora slowly raised his arms, the drums halting as they aligned with his shoulders. Bones. He was covered in the bones of men, pierced by them in a dozen different ways. “Come now villains,” he boomed in the common tongue. His twisted grin formed the words. “Let us bring justice upon you.”
The KoraKora cheered. They rushed forward as one. And then the Bangara attacked.
There were three of the giant monsters, and they must have seen our confrontation as a feast. They rolled through the ranks of KoraKora like cats in the snow. The Bangara served as a distraction, but they were not the solution to our problem. While many KoraKora turned to the new threat, most of them did not.
They rushed in on us from south and north. Dionus now had room to work and began to let out even more violent attacks than he had been able in the confines of the trees. Starlark forsook his bow immediately and drew his sword, while Balthandar began skewering the KoraKora two at a time on his spear.
We had a real fight on our hands. Gods… we had fight.
They crashed upon us with terrifying weight, throwing themselves into our midst with no regard for their own lives. We slew them by the dozens, their weapons no match for even our light armor and their zeal no match for our skill. Still, even with the distraction of the Bangara, their numbers were overwhelming. We could not hold for long.
I was tempted to take matters into my own hands, but Dionus caught my eye from above. No. And that was all I needed to hold back. Not yet. He pointed to the east and shouted that the way was clear. With a loud series of snaps and booms, the KoraKora between us and the east were sucked up and blown into the trees.
We disengaged and ran.
Dionus was like a god. He stayed above the battlefield, hovering over us as he struck down at the KoraKora again and again. Batting them back. Slicing their front rank, and slicing into them again. His efforts bought us the distance to the edge of the clearing.
We were forced to carry Bolton then, running with him between Balthandar and myself. I do not know how Kantoo kept up with us on his crutch, but he managed.
Starlark started to pull ahead, scouting for the enemy, while Dionus worked to catch up from behind. Bolton came to in a start and started struggling against us until we had to put him down.
“I can carry my own damn self,” he said with a glance to his shoulder. “What’s left of it.”
So we let him.
Balthandar ran immediately behind Bolton, pushing him to move as quickly as he could, with Dionus immediately in front in case the KoraKora circumvented us again. I brought up the rear. We were running single file, and then Kantoo was screaming.
I turned to find that Kantoo had stopped running. He was almost out of sight between the trees, and it took a moment for me to understand what he was shouting: Deadwood.
I turned back to see my companions entering a white forest, a white forest within which I had already began to run. I only had an instant before I would lose sight of them. I made the choice without hesitation: better to enter the Deadwood than lose my companions forever.
And so I plunged after them, keeping them in sight and yelling for them to stop. As soon as I lost sight of the green jungle behind me, I never found it again.
Balthandar stopped running and began shouting for the others ahead of him to do likewise. Bolton was immediately at hand, and Dionus was just a little farther on. Starlark was nowhere to be found. We shouted for him, and though at one point we could hear him shouting back there was no other sign of him.
After an hour of this we decided to take the risk of the KoraKora and tried to retrace our steps. We had only been a few hundred feet into the Deadwood, surely it would be only a few hundred feet back the way we had come. Yet the edge of the jungle was nowhere to be found.
Bolton needed rest desperately, and I was unwilling for any of us to let us lose sight of the others, so we bedded down for the night. But we could not make a fire, for the ashen vines of the Deadwood will not burn. As darkness fell the trees became no less visible to our eyes, as though burned into our vision like bright flashes of the sun. The jungle became as a forest of bones.
The pervasive silence around us turned to the sound of a light breeze, yet the air moved not. And as we sat in the Deadwood waiting for sleep to take us, our fears turned to other things which might claim us instead. I never thought I would wish for those familiar trees of green to sprout up above me. I am more terrified now than I have ever been in my entire life.
I have written this by first light. I hope it is not my last entry.