Tales of Agora - Saving Winterfest P.2
We hope you enjoyed part one of our latest Winterfest adventure. Narbash continues his story in part two of the latest Tales of Agora installment below.
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Saving Winterfest (P.2)
By: The Paragon Lore Team
When Narbash arrived at the Nimmrud village several hours later, the ogres were having a party. They had departed their feast tables to sing and dance around the village in wild formations. Their movements were distinct, and the beat stuck in Narbash’s mind. He couldn’t help but hum along as he approached, careful to stay hidden behind the trees that bordered the village. Humming kept his mouth warm beneath the beard of snow he had packed onto his face.
“Bet no one back home knows the Nimms are a festive folk,” he told Greep. “On any other day I would’ve joined along. But war’s a pretty important business. How can everyone celebrate the day before all that bloodshed?”
He made his way through the huts and toward the center of the celebration, unnoticed amidst the revelry. There was a large rock between two huts—not as large and sturdy as the Holy Slab, but it would do. Narbash climbed atop it, carefully patting his head of white snow hair to make sure it stayed in place, and started loudly clearing his throat.
After half a minute of clearing his throat, he had the Nimmrud tribe’s attention. It was quiet, which was eerie to him after all the singing and dancing. Narbash quickly gathered his best impression of a wise old man and started speaking.
“Well, uh, salutations! My, the young ones look so handsome nowadays,” he coughed, while the crowd of festive ogres stared up at him in puzzlement.
“Who are you?” shouted a man with pink lines painted on his face.
“I come from beyond the plains to educate you all on a matter of great importance.”
“Better dance moves?” one woman suggested.
“Oh, I’ve got it! The true meaning of Winterfest!” shouted the woman next to her.
“You must be Old Saint Rik!” yelled a child in the front, to joyous applause from the crowd.
“Uh, well...” Narbash started. He realized he could use this misunderstanding to his advantage. “Sure! Yes! I’m Old Saint Rik!” He placed Greep on his hand and held him out in front of the tribe. “And this here is my hip young friend, Greep. One of the Holy Plains Frogs.”
“You mean the frog that Uncle hit with a rock?” the child asked, resulting in a wave of hushed comments. Narbash saw the child’s mother scold him.
“Well, not that frog,” Narbash answered, petting Greep affectionately. “But one of her cousins. He’s been mourning the incident for some time now, along with the Norgudd tribe and all the other tribes who celebrate the little guys as bearers of growth and fertility on the plains.”
“Those Norgudds won’t accept an apology!” yelled an old man wearing the decorated robes of a chieftain. “If they only showed some respect in turn, there would be no need for war!”
Others murmured and nodded in agreement. “The Chieftain is right!”
“Well, you see,” Narbash started, choosing the wisest words he could think of. “I think the Norgudds want you to understand where they’re coming from. Not just apology, but uh… empathy! They want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, you know?”
Some members of the crowd nodded, while others grumbled. Chieftain Tervic retorted, “Those dirty smooth-tongues just want an excuse to go to war!”
“Now, you can’t go throwing around accusations all willy nilly,” Narbash said. He put Greep on his shoulder and placed his hands on his hips. “It’s just not very sportmanslike of you.”
“My Uncle is great at sports!” the child piped up, breaking free of his mother’s arms. “He hit the frog when he was practicing for the rock-throw competition! It went so far, he didn’t even know until the No-goods declared war!”
Laughter and mutters of agreement brushed the crowd.
“Well, I know that! I’m Old Saint Rik, after all!” Narbash replied, stroking his snow beard, which was getting softer by the minute. “I just thought that, being the spirit of Winterfest himself and all, if I came by here and told you it’s not merry to go to war—well, I thought you’d listen!”
“If you’re Old Saint Rik,” said the child, “Make the snow crackle, like you do in the stories!”
“I, uh, only make the snow crackle on special occasions!” Narbash fumbled with his snow beard as a chunk threatened to break off. “And especially not before a war.”
“Doesn’t Old Saint Rik wear a thread of magic lights?” one woman asked.
“I always thought he was too jolly for an agenda!” said another.
“Agenda?” Narbash said. “I don’t know what you mean by that. I’m just trying to spread some goodwill among the plains tribes, in the spirit of Winterfest.” He gestured out across the plains, and a sheet of snow slipped off his chin to the ground.
The crowd gasped. The child screamed. A stone mug cracked loudly against the ground.
Near the back of the crowd, Chieftain Tervic raised his voice in anger. “A Norgudd spy has interrupted our sacred winter dance to coerce us into bowing to his kind!”
“Now, that’s not-” Narbash began.
“Capture him, and feed him to the winter fire!”
The Nimms discarded their drinks and picked up weapons from all around the village. They ran toward the rock Narbash stood on, their festive face-paint turned frightening with bestial rage. Narbash barely missed being skewered by a spear as he slipped off the back of the rock. He squeezed between the trees and out toward the plains. The entire tribe was chasing him.
Somewhere behind him—with the spearmen at his heels, he didn’t dare look back—Chieftain Tervic shouted, “Our sacred dance summoned an enemy! In accordance with the scriptures, we march to war now!”
Cheers erupted. Narbash could still hear a flurry of footsteps behind him. He didn’t think he had ever run so fast, and his lungs were telling him he wouldn’t be able to keep it up for much longer.
He saw what looked like a large, rotten branch sticking out of the snow. He yanked it out as he passed, and hurled it over his shoulder into the small group of ogres who were still chasing him. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the branch fly into one ogre’s stomach and knock her into her companions, pushing them all over in the slippery snow.
Their shouts faded into the distance. When Narbash stopped to look back, wheezing for breath, no one was chasing him—but an army with torches and clubs had formed outside the village, ready to march.
“I have to warn my village,” Narbash said to himself. His heart skipped a beat, as he feared that Greep had been trampled in the commotion, but the frog hopped onto his shoulder and croaked. “Oh, thank the Elder! I thought I’d lost you. Real quick turnaround, huh? Those Nimms sure do have a lot of passion.”
Narbash started walking, his legs sore and his heart heavy.
Then it all hit him.
He imagined the Nimmruds charging into his village with weapons raised, spilling blood all over the feast tables. He saw Soothsayer Naya praying to the sky as a mace flew toward her, and Chieftain Lorga’s stoic face as she fought, striving to protect her tribe. What could Narbash do to stop such a massacre? All his efforts had only made the situation worse.
He fell to his knees and looked out across the snowy plains. The sky was turning red with the sunset, but the Nimmruds—fueled with meat and wine—clearly had no intention of letting the evening darkness stop them.
“Normally, things just work out,” he said weakly. He felt Greep hopping up and down upon his shoulder. “Is it like that for you too, Greep? Or is it because I’m the Chosen One that all this time I’ve had it easy? Since things were good for me, I never really thought about it.”
Narbash sighed, hanging his head. He heard footsteps in the snow—and wondered impulsively if a Nimmrud warrior had caught up to him. If they had, would it be better to just let it happen, and spare the plains from his mishaps once and for all?
“No way,” he told himself. He turned around to see a human woman clad in fur and leather emerge from the trees and kneel on the ground. Two gnarled horns protruded from her knitted hat, which rested upon a head of soft white hair. She raised a curved dagger and brought it down into the body of a snow hare. Dark blood splattered across the snow.
“Whoa,” Narbash said, standing up. “Hey! Are you alright over there? It’s pretty cold around these parts, and you don’t have ogre-skin like me.”
The woman turned to look up at him, narrowing her eyes.
“Are you, uh…” Narbash said, approaching her. “Hunting for a winter feast?”
“No,” she said, the word deep and drawn-out. She remained knelt in the snow, her bare, blue-skinned knees seemingly unaffected by the cold. “The creature was long dead. The beasts smell its disease and leave it to rot. Its body deserves a better purpose.”
“Uh…” Narbash stared at the bloody hare, wondering what kind of profession this woman was describing. “Well, okay then. As long as you’re doin’ fine, I have to scurry by. Big tasks ahead. Gotta figure out how to stop a raging warband.” His enthusiasm dwindled mid-sentence, ending with a sigh. What if he just made things worse again?
“Your titles will not help you, Narbash,” the woman said, gazing into him.
“Uh- Wha? How do you know my name?” Narbash said, looking up. “Who are you, by the way?”
“You may call me Morigesh,” the woman said, turning her attention to the ground. She ran her hands over the bloody snow to press it into a smooth surface. “When I look into the waters of my Drowned Forest, I see things—glimpses of life beyond my borders. You have been the center of much commotion, ogre.”
“That is what your people know you for. You cannot hope to convince them without respect,” she said, her voice quiet, as though she were no longer speaking to him. Narbash peered over her shoulder, but saw nothing in the snow except the hare’s blood. “You have a special power, but it is not what you think it is.”
Narbash thought about this for a moment. Her last sentence didn’t make much sense to him, but her comment about respect did. “If the Chosen One and Old Saint Rik aren’t enough, then… You know what, I think you’re right! I just have to impersonate someone even bigger!”
Morigesh placed the hare on the ground and twisted dead vines around it, creating some kind of talisman. “It would not be the first time someone has used my wisdom to step backwards.”
What does she mean? Narbash thought, but realized he had no time to contemplate. The Nimmruds were probably marching already, and they would reach their destination before the night was done.
“I have a long road ahead, and no time to lose,” he said. “Thank you, Miss Morigesh!”
As Narbash jogged ahead, Greep hopped onto his shoulder, looking back at the icy woman.
“Do you know her, Greep?” Narbash asked. “I’m sorry, little buddy, but I can’t turn back now. And actually, if you don’t mind participating, I could really use your help in my next plan. You’ll see how much better than the last one it is!”
Greep croaked agreeably, and they traveled once more across the plains, the winter sun descending on a red horizon.