Oddbeard is still here. A lightly-armored crusader approaches him and they go off to the side and speak. Oddbeard gets our attention and says he has news. He had not good luck in getting local information about Auciell but a small group of scouts returned from the Worldwound after taking losses. Auciell was seen with a group of cultists and demons holding her prisoner to the southwest. They were heading toward Zelmisdria’s Boudoir, a meeting-place ruled by the infamous succubus.
I mention to Oddbeard that I wonder if Socothbenoth may have gone after non-Iomedae high priestesses in Kenabres… Auciell and Eloise… since Baphomet and Deskari conspired for the majority of the plunder, why not a third demon-lord. He says it is a decent theory. It may also be that Socothbenoth heard about it and played his own game. In any case it does not matter to us. So he says.
We figure out the purchase of two weeks worth of food and saddlebags. I will summon horses each day for everyone except Susannae who has her own horse.
Neva, Kostner, and Halved listen in as a crusader captain lectures his troops about the Worldwound. He says not to eat or drink anything except what you bring in with you and that disease is everywhere and will be extremely deadly.
We wake in the pre-dawn hour and take boats across the river. We see the hardpan of the Worldwound spread out before us. I summon a grey horse for Neva, the color of the sky over a bloody battlefield; a brown mare for Kostner, the color of a healthy, strong oak, king of the forest and full of life; a red blood bay gelding for Halved; and a midnight black stallion for myself. Susannae calls for Sonja, her celestial white mare, and we ride out away from the city I have inhabited my entire life and into chaos made real.
There are winds from every direction, dispersing clouds of varied colors all across the landscape. The temperature seems to shift whimsically. What vegetation staggers from between rocks seems alien and struggling. After a few hours we see a pair of figures traveling west to east which will cross our path, not human. Susannae wishes to make haste but we do not alter our trajectory.
As we get closer, we see they are tall, muscular humanoids with the heads of goats – schir. Warning the others that my horses are not bred for battle I dismount and see them preparing themselves to charge, increasing their speed with magic. As they lope toward us, Kostner plugs one with a couple of arrows but his horse beneath him gets skittish.
Susannae and Sonja charge with lance and shield but miss the second one. As the first gets near enough to gore me, I say, “Oh no. A cow. I thought I’d ordered my burger well-done. This one sucks.” He freezes in his tracks and after a moment, vomits all over himself in terror. Then he is shot again by Kostner. Sucks to be you, pal.
Halved and Susannae tangle with the other one and I step up to the sickened one who recovers and, despite his fear, slashes me with a halberd covered in some unsettlingly filthy crud. Neva finishes him off.
“Hey Bossie,” I call the remaining one. “Check out your friend. Your next.” This unnerves the other and Kostner’s arrows and Halved’s demonbane sword take him down. I glance down at my wound. It does not look like it will do well. I think Susannae can cure disease but she hasn’t been speaking much to me.
We mount up again and try to outrace a dark dust storm as we approach some caves which look like they may be shelter. Near by we see a crusader on the ground, barely keeping it together. He looks diseased. As we try to get his attention we hear a voice from the caves say, “Don’t go near that one!”
Susannae goes to heal him and as she lays her divinely-powered hands upon him, he cries out and his flesh bursts open and a dark sinuous form rises up.