Intercessor

Colonial life is notoriously dangerous. The business of attempting to establish a foothold on the shore of an unknown territory is fraught with peril. It is a sad fact that colonists have a tendency to live short lives full of toil and hardship. It is a sad fact that has become increasingly well known amongst the general populace of our homeland, The Kingdom of Hiblondia, long may it thrive.

The Kingdom of Hiblondia, long may it thrive, had undertaken the goal of expanding its holdings throughout the scattered unsettled wild lands that dotted the coast of the great Southern Sea. The illustrious Crown Prince Thranthro had ordained, in his wisdom, that his just and benevolent rule should extend to all portions of the world that had not already been securely occupied by other powers, such as Sona-Nyl, the blessed land of dreams, or Great Zak of the terraced temples.

The increased awareness of the unpleasantness inherent in colonial life had become an obstacle in the crown’s efforts to extend its influence to the rugged wild lands. Thus it was that his majesty, Crown Prince Thranthro of the Great Kingdom of Hiblondia, (long may it thrive), had set forth a new policy which made mandatory the sentence of “exile to the colonies” for offenders who were found guilty of all manner of relatively minor offenses. This policy had a tendency to result in a rather poor average character in our kingdom’s colonists, but it succeeded in fulfilling the crown’s set goals in colonial recruitment.

Even the nobles of our lands were not exempt from the new policy. The crown needed governors for the new colonies and apparently felt that the rowdy sons of the nobility would serve the purpose well. The younger sons of those families, the sons who were not firstborn, and thus not the heir apparent to the father’s title, were considered a fine catch by the crown. It is rumored that the king was so eager to force these young men into servitude as colonial governors that he paid a special bounty to all constables who collared one of these young men committing a minor offense.

It was, no doubt, due to this avarice on the crown’s part for these men that my young master, Rivlan of Dostmouth, youngest son of Lord Rivloch of Dostmouth, was apprehended engaging in a drunken duel with the young son of a rival noble family. The constables who swept down upon the match were positively gleeful to be able to snatch up two birds with one swing of their net. As my young master had forced me to act as his second in his ill-fated duel, I was taken into custody as well.

As punishment for his ill-considered transgression, Rivlan of Dostmouth was transformed in Lord Rivlan of Yodd. Yodd being a colony on the far side of the great Southern Sea. The seat of power for the Lord of Yodd was a fairly new colonial village named Yoddport. The last lord to have ruled from Yoddport had recently perished, having ostensibly contracted some nasty jungle fever. This fever had greatly diminished the population of the young colony, and so many of the rogues recently captured were enroute to that far off land.

I was, unsurprisingly, sentenced to serve Lord Rivlan as his personal servant and secretary. Thus it was that several months later we disembarked from the grungy deck of a barely sea-worthy supply ship onto an equally grungy, poorly constructed dock – the only dock in Yoddport that had survived a recent spate of typhoons along the Yodd coast.

My master and I were less than pleased to discover that our lodgings were not the typical stone castle works which the lords of our homelands inhabited, but rather a rather rickety and slapdash, oversized shack. This “manor” was set apart from the other hovels in the infested mud pit of a village by the fact that it was surround by a teetering wooden wall. This “palisade”, which was apparently meant to provided some allotment of protection to the colony’s sovereign, in truth seemed more likely to pose an increased danger to His Lordship – due to the fact that it seemed likely to fall over on him at any time.

His Lordship’s manor was also differentiated from the dens of the colony’s commoners by the fact that it was a two-story structure as opposed to the single story, which could barely be boasted of by the various ill built lean-tos and trash piles in which the other colonists abided.

We were fortunate to arrive long after the outbreak of the devastating fever. Having thoroughly ravaged the colony, the contagion had apparently tired of wreaking its carnage and petered out. We therefore seemed only in danger of being eaten alive by the various grotesque and oversized insect life that was native to the area. These pests were voracious and exceedingly durable. Even after one had squarely placed one’s palm upon the vermin with great force, one could not be assured of the creature’s demise. It was common that one would have to grasp the stunned little beast with some implement and set it aflame with some nearby candle or torch. Otherwise, the vermin may recover and decide to have another go at you.

The populace of the hamlet was a motley mix of cutpurses, debtors, unruly drunks, and harlots. Our local law enforcement was in the hands of a sheriff who had been caught red-handed engaged in accepting bribes from smugglers. As there was nothing to smuggle in this impoverished community and no one able to pay for smuggled goods, it had been deemed safe enough to allow the rascal to function in the post to which he was accustomed.

Lord Rivlan and I spent our first several months attempting to consolidate his position of power in the chaotic settlement. We conscripted several of the larger soldiers from the general garrison to act as His Lordship’s personal guards. These personal guards had various duties assigned to them that included such things as protecting the “manor”, escorting His Lordship, and quietly beating to death anyone who appeared to be a rival for the leadership of the community.

After several months of eliminating the citizens who seemed threateningly competent, my master had succeeded in reducing the population to a fairly manageable assortment of spineless weasels and unambitious toadies. The only person who might have still been considered a threat to Rivlan’s station was the priest who had been assigned this festering harbor as his parish.

The priest was a man of small stature but prodigious girth. He was renown for his rambling and generally nonsensical sermons and the self-serving and lecherous penances he invariably assigned to the various harlots who constituted the colony’s women-folk.

The priest – His Holiness, Vicar Thrumble – was surprisingly well liked by his flock. This was probably largely due to the fact that he never attempted to use his position to, in any way, abrogate the tawdry doings which served for entertainment and socializing amongst the morally defunct populace.

The popularity of the priest would have made him somewhat difficult to be rid of in any largely unnoticeable manner. We were fairly sure that word would have leaked back to the High Priest of the Grand Temple back in the kingdom. Then we would have, no doubt, been forced to deal with a new vicar who might have been of stronger character. Not wanting to take chances on the arrival of a priest that would try to interfere with the population’s activities – and thus cause a riot, we decided that Vicar Thrumble should be allowed to remain intact.

My master had, what passed for, the reigns of power of the colony firmly in his grip by the time the next wave of emigrants arrived upon our decrepit little dock. We were pleased to note that the new arrivals appeared to have been beaten down and dispirited by the long and grueling journey across the sea. Those that had survived the crossing were weak and largely disoriented. None of them seemed likely to be able to pose any sort of threat to Lord Rivlan’s authority.

Most of the newcomers were allowed to take refuge in the remains of huts that had been left uninhabited by the latest round of starvation, (which had been caused by the colony’s crops being devoured by some manner of swarming toads – unfortunately the toads proved to have toxic flesh and were thus unsuitable to serve as a replacement for the lost crops within our larders).

Having satisfied ourselves that Lord Rivlan’s authority remained unchallengeable; we were less than pleased when we discovered that several of the colonists had gone missing. It seemed unlikely that they would long survive on their own within the thick and rotting vegetation that choked the stagnant swamps that formed the coast of Yodd, but the idea that someone just might be trying to form a rival colony was highly unpalatable to His Lordship.

Therefore, we bothered to conscript a number of men to form a search party. The rather despondent members of the search party were driven forth into the jungle by His Lordship’s personal guards. They had been instructed not to return until they had either located the missing men or lost at least half their own members to the perils of the festering marshes of Yodd.

We were surprised when they returned the next day bearing the remains of the missing colonists. The cadavers that they bore had been mauled nearly beyond recognition. However, they were assumed to be the corpses of our missing people due to the fact that there were no other known human settlements along the whole, inhospitable coast.

As I was the most highly educated member of colony, His Lordship assigned me the unpleasant task of examining the remains and determining what manner of ruin had befallen the men. Not wanting to chance contracting some horrible infection from the putrefying bodies, I forced several of the local layabouts to act as my assistants, thus freeing myself of the necessity of any contact with the corpses.

As we examined the cadavers, I became increasingly apprehensive. We were aware of several species of large and dangerous beasts within the swampy jungles, but none of the cataloged fauna would have been capable of inflicting the massive wounds that had shredded these unfortunate colonists. I began to worry that a new type of dangerous native creature had moved into the area. From the size of the wounds, it appeared that the thing would have to be a behemoth. Its claws and fangs would have been of greater size than any blade wielded by our garrison. Its apparent strength would surely allow it to brush aside the colony’s defensive fortifications without any effort. The fact that the bodies had been found so near to our settlement clearly indicated that we were in danger.

It came as no surprise when a gaggle of workers from some outlying fields came rushing into town screaming that they had been beset by some manner of horrible monster. The thing had devoured fully half the number of the workers that had been laboring in the area – it had eaten seven men! The survivors claimed that the gargantuan beast was so swift that it was impossible to outrun. They averred that they had only managed to make it into the village because the creature had apparently been sated by the men it had feasted upon and had not bothered to pursue the others further.

The entire colony was suddenly plunged into chaos. The settlers refused to set foot into the jungles to work the fields. They all demanded that the village’s small fleet of leaky fishing skiffs be loaded up with the entire population and set sail back across the sea to the homeland.

Obviously, the skiffs were not seaworthy for such a voyage. However, by the next morning, about a third of the population had overpowered the harbor guards, seized the small boats, crowded aboard, and set sail for the high seas.

One of the craft capsized and sank within view of the town. Several of the tougher individuals managed to swim back through the rough seas and past the ravenous sea creatures. Those individuals were seized by our guards. His Lordship decided that these deserters would form the vanguard of the force that would be sent out to hunt the monster. Some wreckage drifted back to the shore from several other of the craft. No corpses drifted into shore; no doubt the drowned occupants of the wrecked ships had been quickly devoured by the great carnivorous beasts that inhabited the Southern Sea. I doubt that any of the skiffs were successful in making the voyage. Any that actually proved seaworthy enough, would have had so few supplies aboard that the survivors would have definitely been forced to dine upon their compatriots to avoid starvation.

His Lordship had the hunting party armed with whatever armor, pikes, and crossbows the guards could spare. Unfortunately, this left most of the hunters armed with little more than clubs, torches, and poorly sharpened sticks.

We were rather disheartened when we discerned that the hunters’ quarry was located near enough to our village that we were actually able to hear the hunting party’s dying screams. The creature was nearly upon us.

With the loss of our fishing vessels, and the creature causing our fields to be inaccessible, it became obvious that we would either starve or the creature would decide to enter the village and make a meal of us in the village square. His Lordship was at a loss for any workable solutions to the colony’s dilemma.

We were shocked when a man approached with a suggestion. The man was a very elderly rogue who had arrived upon the last of the supply vessels. No one had noticed him much as he had never caused any trouble. Neither His Lordship nor I were aware of what crime the old codger had committed to have been sentenced to our colony.

The old man declared that his name was Goretch and that he was willing to venture forth into the swamps and try to parley with the creature. He suggested that the monster just might be more intelligent than it appeared. He felt that it was a worthwhile gamble to send out an emissary and attempt to communicate with the horrible beast.

We, of course, assumed that fear had driven him off the edge of sanity. The idea of that murderous terror actually being an intelligent species that would be willing to deal with creatures who were obviously powerless against it was, quite frankly, daft. However, in the hopes that sending the monster a snack might keep it from entering our village for a bit longer, we encouraged the old lunatic to attempt to parley with it.

So, Goretch went teetering off into the steaming bogs in search of his own doom. We waited for several hours, hoping that we could gauge the nearness of the monster by Goretch’s screams.

We felt a small ray of hope when the guards reported that Goretch was in sight, returning to the village alive. Perhaps the beast was cowardly enough that it didn’t dare attack the fortified village and had gone off to some other lands to hunt different prey.

We were completely taken by surprise by the news that Goretch relayed to the community. He declared that he had met with the creature and had managed to somehow communicate with it! He claimed that the monster was a being of extremely high intelligence. Goretch said that the creature had mastered our language in a little over an hour of attempted communication!

Goretch went on to relate that the being was, in fact, a god! This god would apparently spare our lives if we worshipped it and gave it offerings. He further stated that god, whom he called The Holy Wurgon, had declared that Goretch would act as its High Priest to the people of the village. Goretch would be our Intercessor and would dictate what and who would be sacrificed to our new deity.

Vicar Thrumble was outraged by the idea. When he began his protestations, he seemed to be arguing that it would be blasphemy for us to bow down to this so-called god, but as his rambling diatribe continued, it seemed that he somehow ended up in favor of worshipping this new god but felt that he should be its High Priest.

Goretch patiently listened to the vicar’s lengthy and digressive dissension. When Thrumble’s speech finally came to a rather confused conclusion, Goretch informed the vicar that His Holiness was perfectly welcome to go inform The Holy Wurgon that Thrumble would be acting as the new god’s priest, despite the deity’s expressed wishes. Goretch intimated that Wurgon seemed to be somewhat temperamental and violent, but if Thrumble felt strongly called to act as The Holy Wurgon’s priest, perhaps the god would refrain from utterly devouring the holy man.

Thrumble hesitated for a moment, blinking rapidly and sweating visibly. Finally he coughed several times and declared in a rather pinched tone that he would tolerate the existence of this new faith. He then stated that, although the members of the community may venerate this new god if they wished, he still would be expecting them to pay homage to the god of their forefathers as well. Having delivered his final word on the subject, he shuffled off back towards his ramshackle little temple.

Lord Rivlan then took Goretch aside and informed the old man that, if he truly could ensure the safety of the colony, the lord would endorse his position of the priest of The Holy Wurgon. Goretch duly assured the liege that as long as the colonists obeyed the wishes of their newfound object of worship, they would be free to live in peace.

Thus it was that Lord Rivlan gave official sanction to the worship of The Holy Wurgon, even going so far as to name The Holy Wurgon as the patron deity of the Lands of Yodd.

Goretch’s first official act as the High Priest of The Holy Wurgon was to announce that his divine master had ordained that the men of the Yoddport must build the god a temple. Moreover, this temple must be built of stone – a building material that was fairly difficult to locate in the swampy coast of Yodd. Goretch further directed that this temple must be at least three stories in height and contain living quarters that were a fit and proper domicile for the High Priest of a mighty god.

The assorted rabble, riffraff, and lay-abouts that constituted the populace of Yoddport were initially aghast at this news. The labor that would be required for such a structure to be raised in this steaming swamp would be extensive. The colonists generally were hard put to merely survive, much less erect such an impressive edifice. The fact that colony did not contain even one competent engineer would make the task nearly impossible.

After a moment’s reflection, however, the group came to the general consensus that undertaking the monumental task was preferable to being ripped to pieces and ingested en masse. And so, the normally shiftless and indolent colony began the backbreaking effort of constructing The Great Temple of The Holy Wurgon.

Suffice it to say that the effort went poorly. The men, though initially inspired by the dread of vivisection, were by nature slothful. The memories of the mutilated corpses that had bore witness to the immense and razor-like talons of The Holy Wurgon seemed to fade from their minds with remarkable rapidity.

The pathetic pace at which the new god’s temple was being raised apparently awoke the ire of the fell deity. For his High Priest, Goretch soon mounted the low mound, which served as the settlement’s highest point, and announced that The Great and Holy Wurgon had made known unto him that a blood sacrifice would be required from among the people of Yoddport.

The malingering and otiose “laborers”, who were mostly just milling aimlessly about the construction site of the new temple, paused apprehensively as the words slowly sunk into their perpetually muddled minds. Goretch dramatically held forth the length of dark wood which he had recently taken to carrying – slowly lowering its tip until it pointed directly at a particularly shiftless fellow who was, at this point, goggling at the High Priest in open panic.

“This man is the sacrifice whose blood will sate the wrathful voracity of The Great and Holy Wurgon!” Goretch exclaimed loudly.

The ill-fated man’s cohorts hesitated for several moments, as if unsure of what their next course of action should be. Finally, several of the larger fellows stepped toward the doomed victim and seized him. At Goretch’s direction, they carried him a short way in the jungle and bound him securely to a thick tree trunk.

The unlucky scapegoat was soon reduced to a blubbering wreck. He pled for mercy and deliverance in a barely intelligible wail of despair during the entire sordid process. As the others trotted quickly back to the edge of the settlement the man’s wails of despair soon were amplified to screams of utter terror. In short order, his screams of terror were reduced to a sort of rattling gurgle, as if very little of his lungs were still capable of operating in any sort of serviceable fashion.

As the villagers peered out from behind the various ill-constructed structures that stood nearest the scene of the carnage, they were able to discern the movement of a massive creature amongst the thick vegetation. It was noted, by those who dared to occupy the closest vantage points, that a terrible odor of burnt and rotting masses of flesh permeated the air when the beast drew near. No man within the village, however, dared to be near enough to witness The Holy Wurgon’s acceptance of their sacrifice. Many of them actually fled to the far side of the settlement, lest the monstrous god decide to add them to its repast. Even Wurgon’s own High Priest, Goretch, seemed to have crept off into some place of concealment.

When The Holy Wurgon again retreated into the vast and trackless fetid swamps, not a single man ventured towards the spot where they had left their offering secured. It seemed that none of them were particularly eager to witness the fate that might become their own at any time. The few men among the rabble that possessed minds of at least some perceptiveness, soon realized that their very lives were being lived solely at the discretion of Goretch. Therefore, the construction of The Great Temple of The Holy Wurgon was soon, once again, proceeding with great haste.

It was not long before His Lordship, Rivlan, also came to realize that Goretch held the power of life and death over the people which were supposed to be Rivlan’s alone to govern. This revelation did not sit well with my master.

“My good and faithful servant,” Lord Rivlan spake unto me, “I am troubled by the influence which this Goretch has come to wield over my people. I would have it that you would seek out what is known of this self-ordained priest. Mayhaps there is some trifling matter that might be brought to our attention that may aid us in bringing him to heel.”

I genuflected before my liege and replied that it would be both my duty and my honor to investigate the matter. Upon taking my leave from my master’s chambers, I proceeded directly to a cluttered storeroom within the “manor”. It was within a trunk in that rubbish choked closet that all official documents that had been sent from the crown had been stored.

I pulled the trunk free from the chaotic heaps of detritus, pushed open its heavy lid, and began to sort through the various lists, charters, bills of lading, and manifests within the container. The document which I sought was a list of emigrants to our colony which the officials in Hiblondia, (long may it thrive), habitually forwarded to us. This list tended to provide a small measure of information regarding each of the arrivals, most notably the crimes that had led to their exile.

In due time, I managed to locate the document which mentioned Goretch and the crimes of which he had been accused. According to this official report, Goretch had been apprehended for committing fraud and for pursuing arcane knowledge of a most unwholesome nature. To my surprise, the document also noted that Goretch had been found innocent of all the charges that had been leveled against him! This notation dumbfounded me. If he had been found innocent, why had he been sent into exile?

I was also surprised to note that his arrest had been made in a district of our homeland that was referred to as Giirloth. Goretch was plainly not a citizen of that district. The natives of that area spoke with a notorious accent that resembled nothing so much as an attempt to speak with one’s tongue firmly planted within one’s cheek. The garbled enunciation of these folk was easily recognized by the citizens from every other section of Hiblondia, (long may it thrive). Goretch spoke with no such accent.

However, I recalled that the ship upon which he had arrived had also born a knave that did speak with the accent of Giirloth. I immediately set out in search of this individual, in the hopes that he may have some tale to tell regarding our newest High Priest.

I soon managed to corner the peasant. The fellow was, unfortunately, of slightly greater stature than I. Thus, when he proved to be too afraid of Goretch to risk divulging any information regarding the priest, I was unable to use strong-arm tactics to compel his cooperation.

Frustrated, I was forced to abandon my efforts to pry a useful story from the man’s sealed mouth. Of course, I considered this merely a minor setback. I soon, once again, had the oaf backed into a corner, but this time I had brought along an escort of His Lordship’s personal guards. A few broken digits later, the knave was ready to begin his narrative.

The fellow, who claimed that his name was Vorp, related that Goretch had been imprisoned at about the same time that Vorp had been taken into custody for failing to repay his debts. Vorp contended that Goretch was a foreigner to that region who had made a bit of a nasty reputation for himself soon after his arrival.

Goretch was rumored to be a necromancer and soothsayer. For a price he would tell your future, or cast a curse that would supposedly cut short the future of one’s rivals. Unfortunately for the newcomer, he somehow managed to run afoul of the local priesthood. The priests denounced the occultist to the local constables who duly arrested the troublemaker.

Vorp went on to state that Goretch had somehow managed to enthrall the will of the judge who had tried him. The judge, under the domination of Goretch, had declared that all charges were nullified and the defendant was to be set free immediately.

Despite this ruling, the Lord of Giirloth apparently felt some unease at Goretch’s presence within his lands. The lord, therefore, directed the jailers to place Goretch on the next ship heading to a distant colony, rather than setting him free.

Vorp also managed to communicate, despite his ridiculous dialect, that Goretch had been rumored to summon demons in the past.

The fact that Goretch was apparently something of an effective sorcerer led me to wonder why he had not earlier acted to seize control of the colony. Our isolated little village boasted no official mages capable of dealing with magical threats. Our priest, Vicar Thrumble, was a bumbling fool who couldn’t conjure so much as the tiniest of shades.

I set the question to Vorp, who responded that Goretch was also known as something of a bumbler in his magickal pursuits. Goretch seemed to have mastered only a few charms of rather limited power. He said that Goretch could bewitch a couple of men, but did not have the prowess that would be required to control an entire town.

I also realized that if Goretch were to openly seize control of the Crown’s settlement, it was possible that it would not be long before several of the King’s personal mages paid a visit.

I contemplated and considered the information that had been laid before me. Could Goretch, despite his shortcomings in the arcane arts, still have managed to use his limited powers to tame The Holy Wurgon? If so, then our position was still weak. No matter how Goretch was holding the beast in check, we would still have need of his services.

The next morning, Goretch announced that he was going into the wilds to commune with his deity. The workers, upon hearing the announcement, redoubled their efforts in the temple construction – obviously fearing that the Wurgon’s wraith might again be visited upon any of them that dared to allow his diligence to slacken.

I decided to use the opportunity to risk entering Goretch’s abode and searching amongst his personal affects. I carefully observed Goretch as he set out to meet with his god, daring even to follow him a short distance, so as to ensure that he was actually leaving the vicinity.

I then hastened back and entered his hovel. It was my good fortune that our poor community had no locksmith, (many lock pickers, but no locksmiths). I was, therefore, unhindered in entering Goretch’s shack and rifling through his belongings. I was initially frustrated in my search, finding nothing that seemed useful. However, I eventually turned my attentions upwards and located an old tome that had been secreted within a particularly dry alcove of the leaky roof.

I reached up and plucked the volume from its cache. As I performed this act, I felt my hand contact an invisible, but easily penetrated field of energy surrounding the folio. The field gave an unpleasant sensation, but quickly dissipated with an audible “pop”. Although the field was an obvious enchantment, no doubt meant to safeguard the book, I noted no ill affects whatsoever from the contact. I was left to assume that the weak spell was simply set in place to alert Goretch that his property had been tampered with.

It was immediately obvious to me that this book was none other than a sorcerer’s grimoire. It was entitled The Suant and Unerring Grimoire of Gwoloq the Thrice Grand. The grimoire was quite thick. I knew that I would not have time to read through the entire work before Goretch returned. In fact, the spell I had encountered may have even made my intrusion immediately known unto the maladroit mage.

Being pressed for time, I made use of a little trick I had encountered over my long association with tomes and other bound documents. I had discovered that when a work contained a section of special interest, and was thus laid open to those pages often, that the binding of the work would tend to become somewhat distorted. This distortion resulted in the peculiar phenomenon that when the closed book was balanced upon its spine and allowed to fall open, it would tend to open to the section most often perused.

Therefore, I balanced the thick work on its spine and allowed it to fall open where it would. I quickly began to scan the pages that the opening grimoire laid bare. In moments I discerned that the section contained an incantation that would allow one to transform oneself into a great and hideous monster. This apparently powerful enchantment, however, was hampered by a strict limitation in how long and how often it could be employed.

The transformation could not be effected more than once per day and would last no longer than about ten minutes. Thus, for a very limited time, the sorcerer could lay waste to his enemies, but when that time expired he would once again be reduced to a mere human.

Goretch had obviously been using this incantation to play us all for fools! The Holy Wurgon was none other than Goretch himself!

I closed the grimoire and immediately stole back to our “manor” with the tome tucked under my arm. Upon my return, His Lordship inquired as to the progress of my investigations. I duly informed him that I had found that Goretch was a known fraudster and I was beginning to suspect that he was somehow, once again, involved in some manner of trickery. However, I chose not to reveal the secrets I had gleaned from the arcane volume.

After a few moments of contemplation, I decided that the best course of action would be to retire to the concealment of the nearby jungle and observe what actions Goretch might perpetrate upon his return.

I selected a well-screened vantage point in a tall tree that overlooked the village. I bore the grimoire with me in a sack that I had tied to my belt. Having located a comfortable and serviceable perch, I sat and awaited the next act in our little melodrama.

I was not surprised to note that upon entering his hovel, Goretch immediately re-emerged appearing extremely distraught. He had obviously determined that his tome had been pilfered. He approached our “manor” and regarded for some time, as if contemplating what his best course of action would be.

It was only natural for him to assume that those who had absconded with his valuable book would have been either my master, or myself as we were the only two other people in the whole settlement who were literate. Although the village was filled to bursting with all manner of burglars and miscreants, the fact that none of them had access to a fence that would pay them for such a work ensured that they would have absolutely no interest in taking the tome.

Finally, Goretch seemed to come to a decision. He strode over to the construction site of the temple and announced to the workers that Lord Rivlan had displeased The Holy Wurgon. Goretch then stated that he had attempted to plead with the god to spare the liege of the settlement, but that the god had seemed intent on wreaking vengeance on His Lordship. He informed the laborers that, as their intercessor with the deity, he would ensure their safety if they refrained from attempting to interfere with the god as it unleashed its mighty power upon their infidel governor. Goretch then proceeded to march back into the jungle, ostensibly to plead one last time for leniency from the ersatz deity.

As I expected, The Holy Wurgon soon made its appearance, charging out of the jungle from the same general area that its supposed priest had so recently entered. The populace of the village scattered in every direction as the Wurgon made its way directly to Lord Rivlan’s “manor”. His Lordship’s personal guards proved to be no hindrance to the great beast. To a man they took flight at its approached, not a single one of them making an effort to defend the doomed lord.

The Holy Wurgon made short work of the “manor”, quickly reducing it to kindling and plucking His Lordship out of the wreckage. Without hesitation, the monster shredded the nobleman and flung the bits and pieces of aristocratic flesh and bone in all directions. It then began to desperately sift through the remains of the building, apparently seeking my own person.

Not surprisingly, before ten minutes of time had passed, the Wurgon dashed off into the brush, frustrated in its search for its second intended victim.

The commoners and guards began to drift back into sight, slowly emerging from their various places of refuge once it became obvious that the act of vengeance had been completed. Several moments later, Goretch himself appeared, emerging from some thick vegetation near where the Wurgon had made its exit.

Goretch approached the wreckage, obviously attempting to appear saddened at the loss of the community’s lord, but actually appearing more apprehensive than sad.

As the surviving members of the settlement gathered near the wreckage, he approached them, obviously intent on delivering yet another message from his “god”. At this point, I began to surreptitiously descend from my perch and make my way through the brush to a point near where the throng was gathered.

Goretch climbed atop a pile of debris and began to sermonize on the divine might and wraith of The Holy Wurgon. As he spoke, he was craning his neck, obviously searching the crowd for someone. When it became obvious that I was not among those that were assembled, he proceeded to announce that The Holy Wurgon had decreed that I had likewise incurred the god’s wraith. He decreed that I should be found, bound hand and foot, gagged, and offered as a sacrifice.

As he made this decree, he was startled to hear a massive form of some sort emerging from the vegetation behind him. The expressions on the faces of his rapidly retreating audience quickly informed him that something extremely unpleasant was approaching him from behind.

“High Priest” Goretch was manifestly startled and mortified when he turned to see his “god” bearing down on him. He was even more distraught as The Holy Wurgon growled out a divine decree of its own. Goretch was reduced to a quivering pile of cringing terror as The Holy Wurgon loudly announced that Goretch would no longer act as his priest. The Holy Wurgon then announced that, rather than being sacrificed, I was to act as the god’s new High Priest.

Having issued its divine edict, The Holy Wurgon reached down and casually chopped and diced its ex-priest – quickly and efficiently reducing Goretch to a gruesome and unrecognizable mass. The monster then turned and made its way back into the jungle.

Out of sight of the settlement’s populace the Wurgon soon assumed a rather different size and shape that size and shape being my own. I retrieved the arcane tome, still in its sack, from the nook in which I had placed it, and strode back into the village.

I confidently walked over to the makeshift podium that had so recently been occupied by the fleshy heap of remains that lay near it. Striking a pose of divinely inspired confidence and stature, I announced that The Holy Wurgon had made it known that I would now be acting as his High Priest. Moreover, due to the unfortunate demise of His Lordship, I would also be taking on the responsibilities of governing the settlement.

So it came to pass that I now rule Yoddport from my fairly opulent chambers within the Grand Temple of The Holy Wurgon. Acting as both High Priest and Lord of the Land of Yodd, I have molded the originally shiftless and indolent population into an industrious and somewhat terrified work force. I am happy to report that Yoddport is becoming increasingly prosperous despite the obvious drawbacks of being situated in a swampy jungle.

I am expecting a new young nobleman to arrive aboard the next supply ship to take the reins of power as the new Lord of Yoddport. However, as High Priest of The Holy Wurgon, my “auguries” have invariably indicated that the new lord will, most likely, quickly incur the wraith of my god. If such an unfortunate event comes to pass, (and I can’t help but feel it will), rest assured that I will surely not shirk from, once again, taking up the burden of governing this land.


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