‘Wild’ Erp: Episode 1: What We Lose
My name is Erp. It used to stand for Ruck Erpine, of the Hammerknell Erpines. Now days it just stands for Erp. I’ve decided to keep this journal in the hopes that it will help me understand everything that’s happened to me recently, and to provide truth to combat the lies that have been told about me. I’m getting ahead of myself, why don’t I start from the beginning?
For a while I had it all. I was a member of a respected Dwarven clan until shortly after my 23rd production day. By then I had fallen in with a fairly rough crowd and I had decided that the life of a tradesman just wasn’t for me. I left Hammerknell and the disappointment of my family behind for good, or so I thought at the time. Over the next six years I travelled all over Telara with my friends, exploring the wilderness until we’d stumble upon a town, then we’d wench and drink until we were run out of town. I broke more than a few hearts during those years, and more than a few faces.
Eventually I settled down in a small vale on the eastern edge of the Moonshade Highlands, my peoples ancestral home. I wasn’t getting nostalgic though, in fact I was downright disgusted by my kin. By this time I had developed a rather large following, near on 30 men at my beck and call. Most of them were rustlers, rapists and thieves, but we had our share of builders and farmers. That’s how the Wild Keep was born, a small stone mansion surrounded by a little village of huts for the farmers. We had to run off a few landsteaders, but with my small army it wasn’t much of a feat.
Things were going great for a while, my men began calling me ‘Wild’ Erp, and the local brothel got new girls everytime we raided the nearby towns. One day a messenger from Hammerknell appeared under a white flag of truce, to the surprise of no one. Truth be told I’d been wondering what was taking them so long to respond to my claiming of their territory. The messenger brought news of an army marching from Hammerknell, but not toward the Wild Keep, instead they were headed to the Empire of Methosia. One of their insane leaders had unleashed the fabled dragon of death, Regulos, and the peoples of the three great kingdoms were marching together to put an end to it, and to save the world. Hammerknell’s messenger brought with him an ultimatum: Rouse my army and follow the Dwarves to battle Aedraxis and his army, or suffer one of two outcomes. Either Regulos would breach the Ward and destroy Telara, or the armies of the Dwarves, Elves, and Mathosians would march north after the battle and lay waste to the Wild Keep and anyone in it.
Needless to say my army was marching south within the week. We were nearly one hundred strong by now, though most were farmers and craftsmen wielding poorly maintained weapons. It was one hell of a hassle keeping my men from pillaging every village we came across, but the unspoken promise that, should I help and win, the Wild Keep would be officially sanctioned, kept me going. I won’t get into the details of the battle, suffice it to say that it was the most gory thing I have ever seen in my life. Men were disemboweled by the hundreds, blood stained the grass for miles, and the sky bled black as the fighting wore on. The last thing I remember was lying face down in a pile of bodies, four spears stabbed straight through my chest and my arm twitching just at the edge of my vision, no longer connected to my body.
The next thing I knew I was waking up in a church, whole and confused as hell. There were others around me, but I’ve never been one for company, especially when I’ve just come back from the dead. The truth is that I ran from there.
I’m not proud of it, but there it is. Chalk it up to being ripped out of nothingness, peacefulness, and being thrown into a body that no longer feels like your own. I didn’t stop running until I escaped from the church and got a glimpse of what was outside.
The mass grave brought me up cold. It was only then that I noticed the war wasn’t over. Boulders imbued with ghastly magicks streaked across the sky, destroying buildings and people alike. The people around me weren’t right though, they walked wrong and looked deathly pale. It wasn’t until one of them noticed me and ran, howling a throaty roar like some animal, that I saw it’s face was rotting away. I nearly gagged from the smell, but I hadn’t spent my life perfecting my fighting style to die twice in one day. I felt the rift tear inside of me, and in seconds I was next to the abomination, my dagger aiming for the place it’s heart used to be.
The blood that gushed from it’s wound was putrid and I stumbled back as the smell assailed me with more force than the corpse had. I covered my mouth with my hand and bent double, trying to keep my composure. That’s when I noticed a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, knife poised for a strike, but stopped short when I saw the blind woman before me. With no weapons of any kind it was ludicrous that she should be here, alive, and in another time I would have simply pushed her to the ground and continued on my way. There was something about her that forced me to stay, and my mouth opened and the words came out before I knew what I was saying.
“Lady, what are you doing in the middle of a warzone. War is no place for cripples. Head back into the church and bar the doors, do not open them for anyone until you are sure the fighting is done.”
“I believe I am in better shape than you are Erpine, after all, I haven’t died yet today.” Erp stared at her incredulously, but all he managed to force out of his mouth was a simple:
“It’s Erp…” She let out a soft laugh like a chime and placed a hand on Erp’s shoulder.
“I think we should talk.”