The Long and Winding Road
A gnoll oracle haunted by spirits while studying the moon
Alignment: Our pack has necessarily had to abandon the traditional gnoll values of selfishness and laziness. I still have some issues with the humans’ idea of authority, though. (Neutral Good)
Race: Call us gnolls lazy if you really want to – that only applies to MOST of us. We’re strong and tough otherwise.
Class: The divine curse of being an oracle is not as bad as it sounds….. but it turns out I’m also a spirit guide (summoner). Who knew?
Height: Gnolls tend to tower above most humans, even with our hunched posture. (7ft.)
Weight: Not exactly the bulky type, but I’ve got my fair share of muscle. (220lb.)
Languages: Up until running into the humans, I knew only my native Gnoll tongue, the demon language of Abyssal, and the devil tongue known as Infernal. Since our exodus began, however, I have been picking up on Common, Goblin, and Sylvan as well… and since meeting these guys, I learned Draconic from the little guy and Celestial from the lot of them (so Amorik doesn’t have that leg up on me anymore!).
Proficiencies: Mostly typical skills for dealing with the wild, but ever since becoming one of the chosen, I have had to learn quickly about beasts and creatures of all kinds.
Equipment: Gnolls tend to like chain weapons, which augment any force we put into them. In my case, I use an awkward thing called a “flying blade” – good for when enemies move, not so much when they’re staying still.
Strength: My leg injury has done little to stop me! I can still easily lift with the best of them, especially with this belt I found. (19+4)
Dexterity: Even before my crippling injury, I am what you would call “musclebound”. It’s a surprisingly common gnoll problem. (7)
Constitution: Surviving an attack by the dark god’s avatar and only walking away with a limp should say a lot about my durability. (19+1)
Intelligence: The dumb usually last longer than the smart. Has anyone noticed? That being said, gnolls are less dumb than the humans believe. (14)
Wisdom: A strong and durable mind is crucial to a strong and durable warrior, and my mind is stronger even than that of most humans. The civilized folks’ magic can enhance this further (15+4)
Charisma: Spirits tend to haunt me, I can frequently get help without asking, and the stars even lend me a boon of grace in times of need. All the hallmarks of a scion amongst the gnoll people. The humans’ magic can refine this even more. (17+1+4)
There’s really no beating around the bush here – gnolls are generally lazy bastards. We can hunt just fine but there’s an urge to steal prey killed by another, and our people still generally practice slavery when the empires around us explicitly abolished it. I’d almost call our habit of eating the dead an act of laziness, but there’s actual other significance there – eating the weak is just the course of nature, whereas eating the strong is a means of gaining some of their power.
In the case of several particular packs – the Starritts, the Moonshoals, the Sunfangs, and the Skyrans – eating the dead has a third purpose. See, long ago, those packs’ collective laziness led them to stealing from a dark god’s temple. Infuriated, the dark god cursed those packs to eternal torment. Now, what does that mean for us? First, unless we eat the dead quickly, they rise again as zombies out for our flesh. Second, demons and devils constantly hunt down our packs and anyone slain by their hands was gone. Forever. No magic could bring them or their spirits back. Third, any slaves we took would mysteriously vanish within the day. Even under direct observation, they just poof out of existence. Rather than accept our own destruction, we did the one thing we could think to do: we prayed for a miracle.
Surprisingly, the gods answered. We got back the souls of those slain by demons and devils, as the weapons needed to lay the undead and evil entities low. In exchange, we have to constantly work to exterminate these entities or we’ll lose the power. We still have to destroy the bodies of our dead in some fashion, though. And if we need help from the other races, we have to work just as hard alongside them. They weren’t slaves anymore so much as forced help in exchange for their recovery.
Yeah, hard work means survival for us and the four packs are generally the black sheep of the gnoll race because of our holy bargain.
There’s more, of course. Every generation, two warriors are born to these packs with a stronger connection to the gods – one from the Starritt or Moonshoal packs who guards the night, and one from the Sunfang or Skyran packs who watches the day. If any from the previous generation survive, they’re always a parent, but the gods will select a child randomly for their alleged blessing if necessary. I say “alleged” because these warriors are always destined to fight and die against the avatar of the dark god – a massive, hideous bat-creature, with eyes of crimson and claws like jagged pearls. A creature much like your human perception of vampires, but utterly unaffected by the sun – in fact, his presence blots out the sun entirely. Capable of liquefying bone and muscle through its feet for its sustenance. Anyone who tried to actively hunt the creature found itself going insane with rage. Up until my generation, none of our holy warriors, nor anyone we recruited for help, were able to deal a lasting injury or even a scar to the beast. And yet, destroying the beast is the only way to free us from the dark god’s influence.
One day, while I was hunting under the moonlight with a friend of mine, Dagmar, we encountered the avatar. Just the two of us there, with little hope of stopping the avatar. It landed on Dagmar, and in my haste to save her, I swept my blade across its side. The creature roared, and kicked out at my leg, breaking and partially liquefying it. I was crippled, and can only assume Dagmar was drained completely. Strangely, the beast did not consume me, and fled… but I couldn’t walk. I lay on my back, awaiting some predator to put an end to me… but all I saw was a massive squirrel, setting what was left of my leg bones and binding them together with sticks. The squirrel disappeared soon afterward, but I was able to limp back to my pack. They of course did not believe my encounter at first. Then, another Starritt gnoll crawled back with his legs and stomach completely missing, managing to relay that they’d run into the beast before collapsing and dying. I was swiftly given his brain to eat, because the gnoll had described the beast as having a cut along its side that dripped foul black ichor.
In other words, I was the holy warrior of the night for this generation, and the first gnoll to actually deal a significant blow to the beast. On the other hand, considering the aggression, the creature was making its move – it wanted to snuff out the packs bound by the holy bargain for good. Our fate would be decided this generation.
Fearing that the beast would then consume all other gnoll packs, and possibly destroy the world in the process, I immediately instructed our people to move towards human civilization, under the pretense that we could find warriors skilled enough to put a permanent end to the dark avatar. The other three packs under the bargain, it turns out, had not gone far – in fact, my first blow was a sign of hope to them, and they actively followed us. Most of the humans distrusted us, demanded we leave “their” territory – not realizing that if we failed, it would become the dark avatar’s territory. After almost two years of this wandering, we did eventually find a settlement a few days south of the city the humans call Marigold that was willing to take us in.
The human healers tried everything they could with my leg, of course. I don’t fault them for trying as they couldn’t have known, but they are dealing with a divine curse here. Even if I were to defeat the avatar of the dark god, the lost mobility in my leg is my price for being a holy warrior. A few of the humans reported seeing a giant squirrel near the settlement… mainly around the cabin where I was being healed, almost as a sort of ghost haunting me. This haunting was not unheard of in gnoll society – every once in a while, a gnoll with a particularly strong presence in the world was haunted by both high and low spirits, and would eventually become a spirit guide – but a spirit like this following us was always considered a bad omen. And yet, such a squirrel had saved my life nearly two years prior. Wondering what to do, I spoke with the other holy warrior among the packs, one Amorik Skyran. Displaying the intellect befitting a holy warrior, he told me that perhaps the humans of Marigold could solve the haunting situation… and maybe, just maybe, they had someone who could help destroy the dark avatar once and for all.
I still felt the squirrel’s presence, even in Marigold, and it scares me far more than any of these geese can. Wherever I go, trouble ensues. I was at the point where I would want to put myself in jail until I found answers… but it turns out I got caught by a gang leader and traded off to some crew. I’m taking a liking to the kobold, but it turns out the bird was a spirit guide and helped me get that squirrel out. I am liking this group – they may give me the edge I need. They don’t even want to call me a slave, despite the fact that I am still technically one. But there’s even more to it. One of their mages has a power akin to divination, and she… she has identified the packs’ enemy. Xibalba. Amorik has so much he needs to be told – our packs’ enemy, Ratatoskr, the red dragon… I have sworn a blood oath to my new pack, though Amorik may be best not doing so.
Especially with the revelation that I am, in fact, the reincarnation of Bogdan Starritt, the one who initiated this mess with Xibalba. I have the power to manifest his magic… at the cost of having to use strange language for my incantations. I mean, “Crawl united, return entire”? I know the first letters spell “cure”, but did he really have to lock his true magic behind a code? Couldn’t he have done an inversion? Whatever, the hunt is drawing closer and closer.
There is… also another concern. In the process of becoming a holy warrior, most of the time there is a modest contribution of wealth from the rest of the pack. However, this time, with knowledge that the evil avatar is both ready to strike and potentially vulnerable, the four packs pooled everything they had in order to outfit Amorik and myself with the best equipment they could afford. They are willing to put themselves in poverty because if we fail, they’re all dead… but I can’t continually leave them in that state. I need to send some wealth back to the pack at some point – I need them to live on even after the dark avatar’s demise, because my purpose to the pack may be done at that point.
Furthermore, I also need to be ready if I do return triumphant. I told them no close contact unless I succeeded… and made the mistake of addressing that statement to the whole pack. I may have all of them all over me if we win.