Ingerland

Interlude 8: Counsel from a Priest

The shepherd and smith seek wisdom of Jhod

Two days from Oleg’s Brian Shepherd and Doug Smith arrive at the Temple of the Elk. As they neared the temple, Jhod could be seen chopping firewood next to the temple’s entrance.

“Jhod!” Brian called out.

Jhod waved back and settled his axe hard into an uncut stump. Then he dusted his hands on his shirt as he approached them.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Jhod asked.

“We’re seeking counsel from a priest of Erastil,” Brian answered.

“Well then, you’re in the right place,” Jhod replied with a smile. “Please, rest yourselves. Sit down next to Erastil’s soothing waters.”

They did sit, Doug making a bit of a ruckus as his armor-burdened frame hit the ground. He pulled open a large sack he’d had knotted around his belt. From inside, he pulled a small package wrapped in burlap and a small keg.

“We brought you some of Svetlana’s breakfast biscuits and some ale, in case you’ve missed it,” Doug said, handing him both items.

Jhod laughed. “I’ve never considered myself a big drinker, but it will be nice to know it’s here should the urge strike me,” he said. “Thank you both. I’m afraid I have very little to offer in return, but you said you were in need of counsel.”

“Yes,” Brian said, “and that will more than repay us. We have been given a charge to dispatch the Stag Lord, who appears to orchestrate much of the banditry in this region.”

“Oh my,” Jhod said with concern. “Yes, I’ve heard of him. I…I mean I have the highest confidence in your success, of course.”

“Of course,” Doug added flatly.

“How could I possibly help you with such a task?” Jhod asked.

“We have scant information about the Stag Lord, but what we do have seems to point toward a connection between Erastil and the Stag Lord. The descriptions we’ve received of him have all mentioned him having a large set of antlers, much like those etched up there,” Brian said, gesturing toward the large carved antlers that adorned the temple.

“Hm, yes, I see your point. It is a fair question, but I fear my answer will not be much help. Erastil is a god of farming, hunting, commerce, and family. He would not willingly condone such activities as banditry and murder. If there is a connection between Erastil and the Stag Lord, it is a corrupt relationship.”

“Are there any weaknesses or enemies of Erastil?” Doug inquired. “Or are there any weaknesses of his enemies? We’re trying to find anything that might translate to a practical advantage for us in a fight.”

“I’m sorry,” Jhod replied, shaking his head. “Nothing comes to mind that would have any application you could exploit. This Stag Lord is already committing the most grave attacks on Erastil’s ideology.”

“Hmm,” Brian pondered, rubbing two fingers around the tip of his left tusk. “Could we ask you some more general questions, nothing about Erastil particularly?”

“Of course,” Jhod nodded.

“Have you heard of Nettles Crossing?” Brian asked.

“No,” Jhod answered. “Forgive me, but my dreams drew me to this region and I am not yet familiar with all within it.”

“Well, maybe you can still help,” Brian explained. “It appears to be haunted. A spirit there demands the body of the Stag Lord.”

“Ah, well, it is not uncommon for spirits to cling to this world in order to seek revenge for some past transgression,” Jhod explained.

“Would such a spirit be chained to a particular place?” Brian inquired further.

“That is typical, yes,” Jhod replied. “They will haunt the location the event occurred or where their body lies, if they were never put to rest properly. You might talk to Oleg about the particulars of Nettles Crossing. He’s lived in the area many years.”

“Of course,” Brian responded. “We should have thought of doing that before we left.”

“Since we’re here,” Doug interjected, “Do you have time for a few more questions?”

“Please don’t hesitate, my friend,” Jhod replied.

“Thank you, father,” Doug responded. “Have you had an opportunity to examine the statue we told you about last month?”

“I have not,” Jhod said apologetically. “I’ve just had so much to do cleaning up around here, but I hope to soon. From your description, I believe it is a statue to Erastil. I would have to meditate at the location for some time to be certain. The Greenbelt was first settled hundreds of years ago, so it is not unreasonable that it might be a remnant of some bygone civilization for the region.”

“I understand,” Doug replied. “We also happened upon a small burial mound to the northwest. Brian believes it dates back to the Tiger Lords of long ago. Is there any chance that it has anything to do with Erastil…and by extension any corrupt relationship with the Stag Lord?”

“Oh, I highly doubt it,” Jhod answered. “The Tiger Lords are named after tigers that used to live in this region. I have never heard that they have any relation to Erastil.”

“Thank you again, and just one last thing,” Doug said. “We ran across a starving warg very close to Oleg’s; plus our horses were attacked by wolves on another occasion, and we ran across quite a lot of wolf tracks down south. Is it possible this has anything to do with the Stag Lord?”

“Well, now this is interesting,” Jhod replied. “Wargs are no strangers to this land; so, by itself, your encounter may not be significant. However, if this Stag Lord does indeed have some sort of corrupt relationship with Erastil, it’s possible that he has somehow bent these beasts to his will.”

“Great,” Doug replied flatly.

“Jhod, thank you again,” Brian said. “We would stay, but we can probably still get in a half-day’s ride and we mean to make it to Nettles Crossing on this journey.”

“Of course,” Jhod replied. “I understand. I wish you both a safe journey, and remember that I am here should you need any injuries dealt with.”

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