And it is in a field in central Rikea that our story begins as boon companions Heath and Honky Dorry. The pair had been together for sometime, though there is some speculation that Dorry originally joined with Heath because he thought the elf lonely, and in truth, he probably was, for Heath could remember nothing of his past. He had simply woken up in a field, with only his sword-a Frost blade he christened The Beast of Blood-and he then just began to wander. Heath does not know the date he awoke, nor exactly when he met Honky Dorry, nor does it matter to the friends.
Their story begins as they found themselves lost in the wilderness. The two had been journeying for some time, to nowhere in particular. However, supplies were beginning to run low and the two were desperately hoping to find a Trading Post. However, their road had brought them dangerously close to the border of Azan.
As night approached, the pair settled down for camp. Heath foraged for food, while Dorry started a fire. Heath wandered into a thicket where he found some particularly plump berries. As he picked them, however, he could hear the sounds of heavy boots moving through the thicket, breaking branches and causing loud thuds among the hard dirt. Heath spun around to find himself surrounded by a large group of orcs; a border guard from Azan. Immediately, they sprung into an attack formation. Heath was a swift, agile, efficient fighter and magic blade sung that evening; it flashed blue in the twilight as it drank orc blood. However, skilled a fighter as Heath was, the sheer number of Orcs was becoming too much for even his skill. However, just as hope began to fade, another figure burst into the thicket, roaring like a madman, mighty axe brandished high above his head: Honky Dorry, in a barbarian rage, leapt into combat. “Nice of you to arrive,” Heath said with a smirk as Dorry took his place at Heath’s side during a moment of respite, “I was beginning to think I’d be hogging all the fun to myself.” “My axe was thirsty and you know me,” Dorry replied through gritted teeth, “I’ll never deny any soul a drink.”
The two companions fought a hard battle, and though many fell, the Orc’s numbers never seemed to dwindle. Understanding the futility of further engagement, Heath spun, scarring the face of the Orc Lieutenant, named Lokar, and boundning through the thicket in escape, Honky Dorry close behind. The Orcs gave chase, but it looked as though the Heath and Honky Dorry would safely escape—until they came to a cliff face. Heath looked over the edge, the river running swiftly more than fifty feet below; then he looked over his shoulder at the rapidly approaching Orc patrol, black spears glistening in the moonlight. “What’s your call, boss?” Dorry asked. “Jump!” Heath cried as he leapt over the cliff edge, diving perfectly into the river. Honky Dorry shrugged, turned and dug his axe into the belly of another Orc before jumping off himself, though he hit his head on the way down, falling hard into the water. The orcs wildly threw their spears and shot arrows into the water after them, but to no avail.
Heath, amidst the falling spears and arrows, saw Dorry fall into the water. Quickly, he swam to Dorry, bringing him to the surface and dragging him to shore. Knowing the Orcs would be crawling all over the shore within hours, Heath carried Dorry a short distance into the forest beyond, The Black Wood of Azan, where they hid in a shallow pit. They were not there long, however, before footsteps could be heard in the brush at the top of the pit. Heath produced his blade, ready to defend his unconscious friend to the death, but was surprised to see that instead of the pug-like, ugly face of an orc at the pit’s edge, there was a frail-looking old man leering down at him. “Hey there, sonny,” he said, as if he had been expecting them, “Looks like you’re friend’s hurt.” Heath did not reply. “I understand that you’re leery about trustin’ folks out here in these parts-believe me, I understand-but your little friend there is hurt and I can help you.” “How do I know this isn’t a trick?” Heath asked. “You don’t,” the old man said, a kind look on his weathered old face, “But if you don’t trust me and you stay in this here pit, he gonna die.”
Heath long considered his words and against his better judgment, picked up his friend and climbed out of the pit. “Lead the way.” he said.
The Old Man had a cabin somewhere nearby, he claimed, and he led the pair deep into the wood. Just as Heath’s suspicions began to rise, they arrived to the Old Man’s cabin: little more than a run-down old cottage. It was long and wide, and the windows were all shuttered and boarded up. The front door appeared sturdy and as they began to walk inside, Heath could see they were covered with scratch marks. “Ghouls,” the old man said as they entered the cabin, as if he could tell what Heath was thinking, “They come around these parts at night; they roam the woods in packs after dark. Don’t worry, though, Sonny, you’ll be safe here.”
The Old Man’s cabin was cozier on the inside than it appeared on the exterior. There were several beds, comfortable and just the right size. The food and drink seemed to be endless and the Old Man always insisted they eat and drink their fill. Heath was reluctant at first but after he saw Dorry was even healthier now than before after having his fill-with no ill effects-and found himself reinvigorated and refreshed afterward. The Old Man was especially proud of his “Patented” Moon Shine.
As the night went on and the moon began to wane, Dorry went to bed while Heath and the Old Man talked to one another. Heath could not press the Old Man for much information about himself; the old man would not divulge his name, nor would he speak of his past. All he did say was that he was an adventurer of sorts once. Heath did not know exactly what the make of this enigmatic old man, except that he could see a sort of youth in his eyes. However, their talk was cut short when a howling could be heard at the edge of the old man’s property. Ghouls had arrived. Heath barricaded the doors while the old man woke up Dorry. The three took positions as the undead began to surround the cabin.
The door burst in quickly. The three of them fought valiantly behind their cover of dressers and the couch , and many of the slathering, ravenous ghouls fell before them. However, when the windows shattered and Ghouls poured in through the windows. Dorry left his post and attacked them: a boiling kettle to one, a frying pan and axe to another, while Dorry swung his axe wildly in an attempt to fell the other two. However, one of these pinned Dorry to the ground, biting him. “Argh!” the gnome shouted, “You son of a bitch!” Dorry slammed his head into the Ghoul’s face, crushing it’s skull. Dorry threw its dead frame from on top of him and, axe in hand, rejoined his comrades.
The three of them fought for what seemed to be hours behind their makeshift barricade. Finally, as the first traces of dawn could be seen outside, the ghouls retreated into the woods. Cut, scratched, bruised and aching the three heroes finally got to rest. However, the Old Man insisted he look at Dorry’s bite wound: it was black as pitch now, and puss was still dribbling from the wound in his arm. The old man declared it was infected with Ghoul Fever—which meant that in three day’s time, Honky Dorry would die and rise again as a Ghoul. The wound was beyond his own powers to heal. He did know another, however, an old friend of his named Merlyn, who lived not far from them. Without any slack, they gathered some food and the old man sent a messenger pigeon ahead to inform Merlyn of their coming.
They walked along decidedly cheerier roads and encountered no fell beasts or dark magic along the way, although at night, Heath could swear he could hear something following them, just off the road.
Finally, two days later, they came to a two-story house where a bent old man, dressed in long brown robes with a long silver beard and matching hair. His eyes were a sparkling silver as well, and his face was gentle and wise. He welcomed the old man, and he immediately took Dorry in. It took a short time, but after the application of herbs, pastes and some noxious-smelling liquids, Dorry was healthy again.
Merlyn warned them to go no farther East then they already were. He gave Heath a map and told him to follow the Northern road, and if they do, they will arrive in Victoria, Rikea, in nine days. The Old Man shook hands with the two adventurers, imparting on them biscuits, jam, jerky and sturdy canteens filled to the brim with his Moonshine, for the road. Heath and Honky thanked the two for all they had done. “You’re most welcome,” Merlyn replied with a courteous bow, “Though I feel we shall see each other again before all is through.” “Before what is through?” Heath asked. Merlyn shook his head. “I suppose that’s what we all need to find out, isn’t it?”
The two then turned and walked away, down the dirt road, into the horizon.