Monday, July 12, 2021

Durendewood: The Rituals of Lesser Beings

It was shortly after midnight and Ruin had just finished the night's trancing when someone pulled the ties loose on his tent and swept the tent-flap aside. 

"Martini?" he asked in breathless whisper, silently drawing his kukri. It was a guess: Geddy or Azrael would probably use a cantrip to alert him if something went wrong; Martini was the only one who might come in person. He put his free hand on his sword and made ready to get his feet under him. 

The woman outside the tent wasn't Martini, but she was an elf: a true elf, by the looks of her, wearing a very nice dress that looked out of place here in the depths of the jungle. She also didn't look as if she was about to attack him.  "Do I know you?" he asked. 

"It's Rita," she said. 

"Rita?" For a moment he was puzzled; then he let go of his sword so he could clap a hand to his forehead. "So that's why Eva was so insistent that I should pitch a tent instead of trancing in the carriage."

Rita smiled. "She was trying to help us out." 

"I seem to be getting a lot of that sort of help lately," Ruin observed, but he smiled as he said it and motioned for her to join him in the tent. 

She ducked down and gathered her skirts, then slid inside with him. He straightened and reached past her to refasten the tent flap, then turned to look back at her. She was studying his face, clearly able to see despite the absolute darkness of midnight in the forest. Then she smiled, and gestured to herself. "What do you think?" she asked. "I've never tried being an elf before."

"Well," he said judiciously, "for a majestic dragon, you make a singularly attractive elf."

"Flatterer," she smiled. "You know why I'm here? You don't object?"

"Studying the rituals of lesser beings?" he asked. 

"Something like that. It's less scholarship and more personal curiosity, though."

"Nothing wrong with that," said Ruin. "And no, I don't object."

"So how do we go about this?" 

"Well," he said, "first, we disrobe." He reached down to unbuckle his breastplate, and watched as Rita fumbled with the laces of her dress. 

"Oh, my," said Rita, looking him over when they'd finished undressing. "Do all elves have so many scars? Should I have added some to this body?" 

Ruin shook his head. "Your body is just fine," he told her. "I just have an unusual knack for getting myself injured."

"How do you mean?"

He shrugged, and pointed to one that cut across the left side of his chest. "Well, that one was a barbarian with an axe. Annoying, too, since I was invisible at the time." A jagged scar on his leg: "Bitten by a wererat there." A row of parallel scars across his belly: "Mauled by a bear." A slice across his right bicep: "A particularly desperate hobgoblin."

"Oh." Rita reached out, traced a line down his cheek. "This one?"

"Sword. A fighter from a band of human mercenaries who called themselves Los Muertos."

Rita stopped. "Were they undead?" 

Ruin shook his head. "Just humans."

Rita looked puzzled. "Then why use the Dwarvish word for...?"

Ruin shrugged. "I think because they thought it sounded scary. And by the time we left them, they actually were dead." 

"Oh." Rita looked at him. "Well then, what about those two?" She pointed to a pair of thin scars that crossed each other on the back of his left forearm. 

"Human with a knife. One of the ones who murdered my sister."

"Oh," she drew her hand back. "I'm sorry." 

"Don't be," said Ruin. "I wouldn't have answered if... it was a long time ago, and they're all dead now. And I've met some good humans since then, but I still have trouble trusting them. I'm glad you chose an Elvish body for this." 

"I'm getting sidetracked, aren't I?" asked Rita. "I'm sorry. I think..." She tilted her head, thoughtful. "I think I might actually be a little nervous about this. Huh." 

"Understandable," said Ruin, "but don't be. We'll take it slowly, and you can stop at any time. Deal?"

"Deal." 

He put a hand out, traced his fingertips down her arm to her hand, then lifted it to his mouth and kissed her knuckles. "You see? Done right, it should be pleasant and enjoyable." 

"Should I be feeling this... this sense of urgency?" 

"Yes," said Ruin. "The gods know, I certainly am. But taking things slowly and letting the urgency build makes it even more pleasurable."

"Very well," said Rita. "Show me." 

* * *

It was an hour or so later when Ruin lay back and asked, "I don't suppose you'll join us in ambushing the caravan and taking the artifact, will you?" 

Rita lay back as well, catching her breath, and then shook her head. "No, but I'll keep an eye on you from a distance. They might still have some way to enslave a dragon, and if that happens again I want to be in a position to come to the rescue, rather than being enslaved myself."

Ruin considered that and couldn't find fault with it. "Fair."

"So is this... I mean, that was very enjoyable. Can we do it again?"

"Ohhh, yes," said Ruin. "That's also part of the fun."

* * *

"Do you want to tell me what happened to your sister?" asked Rita, the next time they stopped to recover.

Ruin shrugged. "We were staying with some friends out near the edge of the forest. Ilora went for a walk to get some time to herself; when she didn't come back, I went looking for her. I wasn't much of a tracker, but I found her... she told me what had happened before she died. Some human hunters had come into the forest, and stumbled into one of their nets. They... had their way with her, then left her broken and dying in the woods."

"Had their way with her?" 

Ruin looked at her and shrugged. "Kind of like what we're doing, but forced. And violent. Among humans and elves, it's a pretty horrible thing to do."

"Oh." Rita's attention turned inward, and he could almost see her thinking that through. "Like with the Orb." Her expression hardened. "Do you want my help in hunting them down? Or..." She glanced at the scar on his arm. "...is that no longer needed?"

"No longer needed," said Ruin. "I traced them back to their camp, caught one of them alone in the woods, and killed him. I took another by surprise when I burst into their camp, and killed the remaining two in a rage, almost before they could find their weapons." He glanced down at the scars on his arm. "Almost." Then he looked over at Rita. "But you offering to help... that's pretty hot."

"Hot?" 

"It means it makes me want to do more of... what we've been doing... with you."

Rita said, "I would not object to that."

* * *

It was nearing dawn when Rita rose and started pulling on her dress. "I thank you for showing me this. I confess, I've never understood why your people would want to have such soft-skinned bodies, with no wings and no tail; but I think it makes more sense now."

"Thanks," said Ruin. "It was a pleasure to get to know you, too."

"I will go and talk to Eva now," she told him. "Then I'll return to our lair. I'm glad you and your friends are watching over my baby sister. I know what you do is dangerous, but I can almost see her growing up as she travels with you and yours. I think knowing Geddy has been good for her."

He nodded. "I'm glad." Then he smiled. "And... Come back any time if you want a refresher."

Rita considered that, then leaned forward and kissed him. "I might do so, at that."

Yes, Ruin thought as he watched her slip out of the tent. It's a good thing Eva had me pitch my tent out here.Whatever Azrael got up to with Wendy, I do not want to have to explain this to him...


I firmly maintain that this whole episode is our DM's fault. I know for a fact that he read this, and now he's had us head right back into the jungle? Yeah, this encounter was really inevitable at that point. 

Also, if we ever do a follow-up campaign for this, I want at least one whole party composed entirely of Ruin's offspring. Possibly they've all come together to search for their father... though that would also depend on how this campaign ends.

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