The Omen

As our adventurers climb upward out of the Tarot Grove valley towards the top of the ridge: The thick, angry, young, deciduous haunting trees with the large, obnoxious, tangled roots grow sparse and surrender to stands of tall, friendly, white, elderly pines. The pyramidal pines roll forth a blanket of soft bluish-green needles that cushion each footstep. The wind gently whistles through the pines in harmony with the warbles and trills of tiny tree sparrows. The party continues walking along the ridge-line for about a mile or so, at which point a white billowy cloud begins to drift in front of the sun. A large, dark shadow slowly stretches across the land until the sun is completely blotted out from the sky—suddenly a goshawk swoops down in a frightening descent to snatch a helpless tree sparrow in his talons.

Galdor: “<soberly> An ill omen.”

The party becomes deafly quiet as the cloud slowly passes and the rays of sunlight slowly emerge again. After several hundred more yards, the party begins to descend over the backside of the ridge, where yet a new landscape springs forth: Twisted, tangled, woodbine covered braes. Yogi grits his over-sized ogre teeth as he limps along on a swollen, bruised leg. The leg is frequently snagged in the twisted woodbine, and with each painful step the head of the arrow carves itself deeper into the gaping wound. Bloods saturates the bandages and trickles down his leg.

Many more hours pass as they make their way through these woodbine hills. They finally descend into a land of muddy wallows left by nocturnal trolls. The wallows soon pass and the terrain transforms into a shallow mire littered with large stumps. Their feet sink into mud, the caked-wet muck makes their feet feel heavy… heavy… very heavy. The miniature horses carrying the captive gnomes are mired down in the wet mud. Then there is a sound. What is it? That sound? Oh no! Giant alligator lizards emerge from the stumps.”

Galdor: ” Alligator lizards usually only come out after sunset! But wow, they really like horses.”

The Guardian of the Forest

Galdor departs and marches deeper into the heart of the Tarot Grove. After about 1/4 mile he finds a large tree where he sits down at the roots and pulls out his wooden flute. He begins to play an entrancing melody whereforth a winged long-silver haired elf slowly materializes.

Forest Guardian: “Galdor! You disgrace us by bringing an ogre to our forest. You know the ogres violated the oath long ago, we drove them out at a great cost to our people, do you not remember?”

Galdor: “I do remember, and I wish to honor their great sacrifices. But this ogre is different, he knows not what his ancestors did, he was not bred into hatred, and he seeks no vengeance. He was raised in captivity by the gnomes of Thraxis. He knows nothing about life, except that of a prisoner. He has commited no crime and would you have us return him to Prattler’s Cove to condemn him to a lifetime of captivity? Would we then be no better than those who enslave our brothers and sisters within the Elgarian Nation? The very same animals who enslaved my father and took away his will to live?

Forest Guardian: “Well spoken Galdor. You have until the 2nd sunrise to remove the ogre from my forest, after that I will not be responsible for what the trees do to you and your friends. Now leave me in peace and be gone!”

The guardian of the forest dematerializes and becomes one with the trees.

My, what big teeth you have!

With the Sea King’s rangers gagged and bound, Galdor tracks down their horses with his hounds. He returns to our illustrious band, with the reigns of the tiny steeds in his hand. Tlat! tlat! tlat! the horses canter round and round, over and over the campground sand. Meanwhile our adventurers pack their gear, in preparation to meet up with the crystal seer. They leave their camp and the trail, marching onward toward the ridge at the edge of the vale.

They leave their camp and the trail behind and enter Tarot Grove’s uncharted wilderness. Destination: King’s Blood River. Along the way old gnarled, knotted, crooked wooden signs nailed to twisted trees read “Danger, Keep Out!”, “Beware of Trolls!”, “No Rangers on Patrol”, “Enter at Your Own Risk!”. Sign…sign…everywhere a sign, yet our party pays no heed. Galdor is a brave tree-elf and no foreigner to these backwoods, the forest is his playground. His confidence is contagious. They march ever forward towards the river. After several miles the large twisted ominous tree roots become dense, the roots look alive, some appear to quiver and shake.

Galdor: “The trees are upset. Quick! We need to take a detour.”

The adventurers alter their direction, the going is very tough: steep hills, rocks, tangled roots, underbrush. The trees become more frightening. Our adventurers’ fear becomes reality when the trees begin to groan eerily “Go Home!”, “Ogre Not Welcome Here!”, “Turn Around!”, but our courageous band of adventurers trod ever onward until the roots begin to lash out at the ogre’s feet. With the arrowhead still buried in his leg Yogi falls to the ground. Finally Galdor speaks.

Galdor: “Here is a flat rock where you can rest, I will be back shortly. You will all be safe with this.”

Galdor removes a glowing blue arrowhead on a leather string from around his neck. He lashes it to Yogi’s wrist, puts the arrowhead in the cusp of the ogre’s large palm and then gently closes Yogi’s fingers around it. Yogi smiles exposing his overgrown pearly white teeth.

Galdor: “All of you huddle together around Yogi and hold hands. This arrowhead will hold the trees at bay until I get back.”

Yogi: “Where you go?”

Galdor: “To seek the guardian of the forest, for I fear the trees will never let us pass otherwise.”

The Edict

At the crack of dawn morning dew fills the cool and silent woods as our adventurers rapidly pack their belongings and prepare to leave camp. But before they are able to depart, Zelda and Trex become tense. They begin pacing back and forth while Radar sniffs upward in an easterly direction.

Galdor: “Everyone quiet!”

He raises his left hand up in the air motioning the group to be quiet while he cups his right hand over his ear. He kneels down and drops his right ear to the ground.

Galdor:(quietly) Riders approaching! Tharq! Quick take the ogre and get behind this rock. Harold you take Zelda, if she bares her teeth run and hide back here with us, otherwise walk out there to greet our new visitors.”

Yogi and Tharq hide behind the huge boulder that parallels the road while Galdor leaps up and perches himself on a ledge above them. Galdor drops to one knee, and strings his bow. Trex and Radar follow. Meanwhile Harold and Zelda stand on a long 4’ high ledge that blocks north-side access from the trail to the area where the others are hiding.

Harold looks longingly down at Zelda with hopes that she will bare her teeth so that he has reason to run and hide with the others, but lady fortune has other plans and leaves him to his own devices.

Tlot, tlot, tlot, tlot! The horse-hooves, ring clear; Tlot, tlot, tlot, tlot, in the distance! Down the ribbons of the morning light’s rays and over the brow of the hill, two riders approach. The sound of cantering hooves go silent, a horse neighs and its breath rises as steam from its flared nostrils in the brisk morning sun. Harold twitches in anticipation.

Stranger #1:(statedly) May I see your adventure pass?”

Harold notices that the crest of the Sea King is branded into the upper-left corner of the stranger’s boiled leather armor, this is a clear indication that he is a ranger, a gnome warrior sworn to protect Ced’s great natural treasures; even unto death.

Harold: “Yes sir, here you go.”

The ranger looks at the pass then looks again back at Harold.

Ranger #1: “What is a harlequin doing out in this neck of the woods?”

Harold politely shrugs, and the ranger continues to address him.

Ranger #1: “Everything seems to be in order. Are you traveling alone?”

Harold: “Yes sir.”

Ranger #1: “Last night a yellow-spotted ogre escaped from the zoo, it’s extremely dangerous to be out here alone. We will safely escort you back to Prattler’s Cove.”

Harold: “No disrespect sir, but I prefer to take my my chances here. I’ve been planning this trip to Tarot Grove for quite some time and I am not going to let some stupid escaped ogre ruin it for me.”

The 1st ranger reaches into his leather saddle bag and pulls out a small yellow rolled up parchment. He raises a monocle up to his right eye as he reads:

Ranger #1: “My fair citizens an emergency edict pursuant to Article XI, section 14.1b has been issued for Prattler’s Cove and all surrounding areas as of 3:30am this morning. I regret to inform you that last night a flesh-eating ogre escaped from the Prattler’s Cove county zoo and is believed to be armed and dangerous. The threat level for Prattler’s Cove and all surrounding areas has been elevated to Orange. Additional guardsman have been brought in to reinforce the local militia at Prattler’s cove and in the interest of public safety all non-essential personnel are to be evacuated from Tarot grove; effective immediately. Furthermore…”

Yogi #1: “Hic-up!”

The 1st ranger looks quizzically at his partner.

Ranger #2: “What was that?”

Harold puts his hand on his stomach, jerks his head back violently and uses his ventriloquism talent to simulate a hic-up.

Harold: Harold: “Hic-Up!”

The rangers appear to be buying it.

Ranger #1: “Ahem…where were we then? Ah, yes…furthermore all citizens…”

Yogi #1: “_(louder and more pronounced)_ HIC-UP!”

The 1st ranger looks towards the rocks while his partner unslings his crossbow.

Ranger #1: “Hey! What’s going on here?”

The 1st ranger looks towards his partner and draws his short blade from its scabbard.

Ranger #1: “Cover me while I go check this out.”

  1. The 1st ranger hands his reigns to his partner who ties them around his saddle horn.
  2. The 1st ranger then attempts to slide out of the saddle while the 2nd stretches his crossbow to set the bolt.
  3. The 1st ranger attempts to clumsily roll his short, pudgy, leather armored gnome torso onto the 4’ ledge while his partner finally starts the tedious process of cocking his crossbow.
  4. The 1st ranger finally is successful rolling himself on top of the ledge. As he stands up and Harold steps in front and tries to use his body to block access to the back-side of the ledge, but the gnome ranger strong-arms Harold aside and marches forward with sword drawn. Harold tries to discretely trip the ranger, but fails (so far in this brief campaign his highly esteemed dexterity and acrobatic talent have had disappointing results).
  5. The ranger then hops down off the back side of the ledge, as he lands Yogi charges at him. The ranger is startled, his short blade falls to the rocky ground with a clang while he instinctively raises both hands to protect himself from the on-rushing ogre. Yogi pounces on him, the ranger falls flat on his back and is pinned him to the ground. The ranger his crushed by the blow and nearly suffocated under the weight. His partner can not get a clear shot with his crossbow because Harold is still standing on the ledge with Yogi and the 1st ranger lying prone on the ground in wrestler fashion back behind the ledge.

Ranger #1: “What the ???!!!!”

  1. The 2nd ranger in frustration tries to gracefully slide out of his saddle, but he fails and crashes to the ground with a thud; his fat gnome body, crossbow, heavy leather armor and all. He dusts himself off, picks up his crossbow and starts walking towards the ledge. As he tries to pull himself up onto the ledge Zelda growls and stares him in the face. However the ranger is determined and manages to roll himself all the way up onto the ledge. But this time Harold is ready, leaving discretion to the wind he openly trips the ranger. The pudgy gnome falls face first onto the rocky ledge, Zelda takes advantage of the situation and pounces on him with her front two legs and pins him to the ground. He struggles to push himself back up, but Zelda snarls, aggressively baring her teeth while Trex and Radar leap up on the back-side of the ledge to encircle the ranger. He realizes the futility of his actions and collapses back down face first on the rocky ledge.
  2. Meanwhile Galdor returns his arrow to his quiver, slings his bow over his shoulder and hops down from his perch while Harold removes the weapons from the 2nd ranger while Tharq does likewise with the 1st. Galdor securely ties up the two rangers. Tree-elves are taught a variety of knots at a very young age; Galdor is extremely proficient at this task.

Harold:(smiling) That’s a wrap.”

To be continued …

Zoo Trouble

Harold: “Now what? We can’t return the ogre to the zoo, they’ll think we’re poachers. The spotted-ogre is on the endangered species list and protected by the Sea Baron’s Game Wardens.“

Galdor: “I told you that making friends with a prootwaddle was a bad idea. You should have let him drown.”

Tharq shamefully hangs his head.

Galdor:(back-tracking) I’m sorry Tharq. I shouldn’t have said that. Besides you know I feel the same way you do about cages.”

Galdor points at Harold.

Galdor: “Blasted Harold! You’re the one who wanted adventure!”

Harold: “You know that this isn’t the type of adventure I meant?”

Galdor:(smirking) Then next time be more careful what you wish for.”

Galdor:(sarcastically) Look at us! What a lot we turned out to be: An escaped yellow-spotted ogre, a run-away prootwaddle, a hair-brained harlequin, and a wild, long-eared tree-elf. Ha! All we need is a ringmaster and we’ll have our-selves a traveling circus.”

Tharq: “I hate to interrupt this little spittle-spattle, but we need to concentrate on finding a healer for Yogi.”

Galdor and Harold turn to look at each other, then grin ever so slightly. Harold and Galdor high-five each other and chant in unison:

Galdor and Harold: “Ferdinan, the purple gnome hedge wizard!”

Tharq then lifts his head and smiles wiping away his tears. Yogi seeing Tharq grins from ear to ear. Zelda, Trex and Radar begin wagging their tails excitedly while letting out a couple of friendly barks. Zippo, the shrew perched on the pouch rim looks around excitedly, squeaks then continues to sniff the air with his long nose.

And so it is that the adventures of Harold the Harlequin and Galdor the long-eared, Tree-Elf begin…

Vengeance Anyone?

Tharq introduces the ogre to Harold.

Tharq: “Yogi, this is Harold. Harold, this is Yogi.“

Yogi reaches out his arms in Frankenstein fashion to hug Harold who instinctively back peddles to prevent being accidently hugged to death. Unfortunately while back-peddling, despite his athletic talents he accidently trips over a rock. Lying prone on his back he stretches out his hands to protect himself from the approaching ogre. It is at this point Galdor enters the scene. As you can imagine Galdor thinks that Harold is being attacked by the ogre. Galdor leaps out from behind the trees with his bow strung in heroic fashion.

Galdor:(yelling) Don’t worry Harold, I’ll save you!!!.“

Galdor:(yelling) It was a flesh-eating ogress that killed my father, I must avenge his death!!!“

Galdor:(yelling) Eglerio!!!” (Galdor’s hounds code word for kill.)

Harold and Tharq:(pleading) No!!!“

Too late the arrow hits the ogre square in the back of the calf and Yogi yelps in pain as Galdor’s hounds Trex and Radar charge forward. Zelda, the Elgarian Hound runs interference between her on-rushing companions and the injured ogre. She turns to face her companions head-on, snarling, fangs showing and froth dripping down her chin. Galdor quickly realizes his mistake.

Galdor:(yelling) Posto!!!“

Trex and Radar come to a screeching halt, less than a foot from Zelda’s gaping jaws. Tharq runs over to the giant ogre and hugs him. Do to Yogi’s unusually large size and Tharq’s small size this means hugging Yogi’s uninjured leg.

Tharq:(sobbing) I’m sorry Yogi.“

Tharq switches over to the injured leg.

Tharq:(tenderly) Hold still while I pull this out.”

Tharq begins yanking on the arrow. Unfortunately he breaks the shaft, leaving point still lodged in the ogre’s leg. Tharq turns to look at Harold and Galdor.

Tharq:(squeaky) Help?”

Prootwaddle's Have Friends?

As the crackling of the fire slowly subsides, yet another sound prevails. It is the sound of light wind rustling leaves of near-by trees. Harold finds a spot close to the dying fire, curls up and is lulled into a deep sleep. He dreams of mounted gnomes chasing him though a haunted forest. Despite being a fast runner, gnome horsemen soon over-take him. One gnome reaches out to grab him, miraculously the gnome’s pudgy hand grasps nothing but thin air. Other gnome horsemen flank him and dangerously lash out, but again it as if he were invisible. Then he lets out silent screams as horses hooves seemingly trample him; he feels no pain. Over time he slowly becomes accustomed to a new found invincibility, and his fear of the on-rushing gnome hordes slowly subsides. But then, cold bony fingers, they abruptly latch onto his forearm and begin to shake him; his heart beats violently. Harold swings his arms wildly to break free.

Harold:(yelling) No!!! Let me go!!! I’m too young to die!!!”

He abruptly awakes in a pool of sweat and stares up into several blurry Prootwaddle faces staring down at him. His head slowly clears and the faces focus into one, the face of his friend—Tharq, the prootwaddle saucier .

Tharq: “Harold! Wake Up! I have news!”

Harold:(groggy) Uh, oh.”

Tharq: “Not bad news.”

Harold: “Good.”

Tharq: “Not good news.”

Harold: “Bad.”

Tharq: “I have a new friend”.

Harold rolls his eyes upward in disbelief, then turns his head sideways where he is relieved to see his friend Galdor’s hound Zelda wagging her tail rubbing up affectionately against Tharq’s leg.

Harold: “Yes Tharq, wonderful. You and Zelda have been getting along fabulously. Can I go back to sleep now?”

Tharq: “No, you silly harlequin! I mean a real friend, you know, like a person friend. (smiles)

Harold sits up to scan the surrounding area. When he is satisfied that there is no one else around the campsite, he lies back down.

Harold: “Tharq, maybe we can meet your friend later today, I’m sleeping right now.”

Harold closes his eyes and pretends to snore.

Tharq:(sigh) I was really hoping I could introduce him to you right now.”

This time Harold sits up more abruptly and actively surveys the campsite. He is startled by a big head bashfully peeking out from behind a large tree. The head quickly disappears again.

Harold:(yelling) What was that?”

Tharq:(gulp) An Ogre?”

Harold leaps to his feet cynically laughing aloud. He then grabs Tharq by the shoulders shakes him vigorously.

Harold: “Tell me you’re kidding.”

Tharq: “Relax Harold, don’t have a cow. Spotted-Ogres aren’t meat eating carnivores like their cousins, they’re omnivores. You know, OMNIVORES, they eat vegetables.”

Harold shakes the prootwaddle even harder.

Harold: “Tharq! Look at me! Look at me lad! Omnivores eat both vegetables and MEAT!!! Do you get it? MEAT!!!”

Tharq’s head droops down low, he begins to sob. He tries to wiggle free of Harold’s grasp and run away, but Harold simply out-muscles him. Harold places a hand over the prootwaddle’s mouth to muffle the whimpers and the cries.

Harold:(scolding) That’s enough”.

Tharq bites Harold’s hand.

Harold: “Ouch!!!”

Harold instinctively releases his grip and suddenly has a revelation. He begins frantically turning his head this way and that, as if searching for something.

Harold:(alarmed) Tharq? Where’s Galdor? Dammit!!! Where’s Galdor?”

Tharq:(stuttering) uh… Maybe Yogi ate him?”

Harold:(angrily) Yogi?”

Tharq:(stuttering) uh… The ogre?”

Harold grabs Tharq by the shoulders and stares him straight in the eyes.

Harold:(yelling) What in Praxis’ name have you done lad?”

Harold shakes Tharq.

Harold:(screaming) What have you done? ... Tharq, what have you done?”

Tharq interlocks his fingers and and places his hands over Harold’s mouth. He then peeks over his shoulder in the direction of the ogre. Harold turns his head to look in the same direction. They are surprised to see the ogre playing with Zelda. The ogre is down on all fours and Zelda is lying on her back. Meanwhile, Zeppo, Harold’s pet shrew pokes his head out of his leather pouch, points his long nose up into the air and begins sniffing. The red-elf and the prootwaddle look at each other shruggingly.

Harold: “I can’t believe this is happening. (rolls eyes upward)

long pause…

Tharq: “Yogi, come over here—it’s ok. I want you to meet my friend Harold.”

Yogi: “Ug! (smiles)

Harold: “uh…Tharq, mind if I ask where you found this… uh ogre?”

Tharq: “The zoo.”

Harold: “You’re kidding? You stole the ogre from the zoo?”

Tharq: “Oh come on now, I wouldn’t exactly call it stealing… let’s just say that Yogi doesn’t like cages. What was I supposed to do? Just walk away and leave him locked up like some kind of ferocious animal?”

Harold: “Well..uh… yes, the thought had occurred to me.”

The Tale of 2 Story Tellers

11th Day of the Harvest in the 32nd Year of the Sphinx

Harold the Red-Elf Harlequin and Galdor the Elgarian Tree-Elf sit beneath the light of the full Harvest Moon amid crackling firewood and dancing yellow flames. They tell each other stories of their youth and dream up fantastic tales of adventure. They are avid story tellers, students of Prattlers’ Cove and gypsy caravans. And Harold, he graduated with honors from the Tharquin School of Elven Arts, where he studied 4 years under a prominent master bard. Yet despite the intensity of their tales, the night marches on and their stories eventually wane old. They retire to staring into flames, mesmerized by flickering firelight and dancing shadows.

A muffled crash of a small campfire branch collapsing under it own weight breaks the silence and throws a shower of sparks into the cool midnight air. Harold ponders aloud, “Galdor—look at that. What if we could find something to spark our lives? What if we could become part of the adventures of which we so eloquently speak?”

Little tongues of flame trapped beneath the fallen branch begin to lick out. “We are imprisoned in daily rituals, chores, and traditions. We need to reach out from under the foundation of our boring lives; we need to find something that ignites us and allows us to make a positive difference in other peoples lives.”

Flames soon engulf the fallen branch from all sides, and the dying branch throbs and glows an eerie red. Shortly thereafter it crumbles into ash, and remains forever disguised among the other cinders. Two young elves ponder on through the night…


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