They were a mixed batch if nothing else; a traveling party of four: An anthropomorphic warforged, an undead, an old drunk wearing furs who clearly had PTSD; and the strangest of all - a normal, healthy, little girl who claimed to have fallen out of the sky.
The three strangers somehow found themselves keeping care of a little girl, because each one knew the dangers of the land around them and she was blind to all of it. She described it as 'magic' or 'enchanted.'
"It's the air quality," spoke the warforged. He pointed out to the distant orange-colored fields and up to the boughs of the apple trees in the breeze. "She's a biologic, human. If she's not of this world as she claims, she's not seeing it for what it is."
"Braaaaains--" the undead groaned taking a few more steps towards the girl.
"Of course, Scarecrow, the Wizard will get you a brain, as soon as we get to The Emerald City," the girl said as she skipped ahead.
"Did you see her pupils," asked the drunk. "I haven't had a high like that in years." He took a swig of his bottle and followed close behind her with his staff in his other hand.
The warforged yanked the chain of the undead man in motley, disintegrating clothing. "'Scarecrow' seems as good of a pet name as any for you."
The four kept making their way down the road, walking. The sulfur stones of the roadway used to seem like a good idea to the living populous. The warforged understood enough in his history and basic insight processing to know why the undead crawled out of the mines and why he was built. Protecting a lone child, and keeping an undead on a chain for her; the irony was not lost on him.
As the forest began to thin and the wild, over-grown poppy fields began to expand; the old drunk put on his face mask in time, but it was too late for her. He tried to explain it to the little girl a couple times, but she either didn't understand his slurred speech, or she was already too drugged-out and she ran into the fields until she completely passed out. The old drunk picked her up, slung her over his shoulder, looked at the warforged and bemoaned, "I tried. She was too fast for me."
"Between the load of her and the pace of Scarecrow, it's going to be a while until we are through this," replied the warforged.
"More than an hour but less than half a day, I reckon."
"Braaaaains..." the undead pulled towards the drunk and the girl. The warforged yanked the undead back.
"Can we sever it?" the drunk asked.
He processed the question. "Negative. His scent wards off other undead and I'm not sure how an opium-addicted child is going to react when her 'pet' has disappeared."
Hours later, the wild poppy fields thinned out, and the abandoned-looking towns grew more frequent. The drunk and the warforged kept their eyes clear as the four of them were not easily hidden; chances were, the residents were hidden. Their traveling party was odd enough, and keeping an undead among them was horrifying at best to the residents. The warforged would check for the water sources for the drunk and the child. The warforged failed to convince the drunk to pour out his alcohol in favor of water for him and the girl; it was a long shot, but worth a try.
The warforged's efforts were all for naught; when the girl became conscious again, she was unharmed, seemingly un-addicted. He took a reading of her vitals; while she biologically did not seem to match 100% that of other native humanoids, the medicine results were good: she was still drugged and high, but un-addicted, and still in good health.
The pair decided that the cheery outlook of her was better than masking her nose and mouth which would cause her to sober up and see this awful place for what it was; at least for as long as it was safe...safe enough.
The old drunk recognized the factory in the distance first. It was less about the visuals, for his were lacking, but instead, the powdery ash that began to cover the ground like snow. He took a longer drink as the ash neutralized the opium in the air and everything got worse around them. He didn't want to be there - the horrors of what this place had become and what it had done to the land he knew as a boy was long forgotten. He coughed through the ash and tried to hide a tear, but even in her stupor, the little girl noticed, "Don't worry Cowardly Lion, we will get you some courage. The Wizard has to, he must!"
"I don't know if I believe that." He couldn't bring himself to lie to her. He tried to be honest without contradicting her too much. He had seen what had happened to the children in the villages. She was pure, so innocent, and he hadn't been for a long, long time. He reached under his old dog pelts and rubbed his skin. He felt the scars there from the old chemical burns and the memories along with the occasional shooting pain ached him. The thought alone haunted him and he took another drink.
He looked at her drawing shapes in the fresh ash, "That's Toto, come on Toto!" She skipped ahead a little further and appeared to truly believe a small animal was by her side. He looked down at her drawing in the ash and he couldn't tell if it was a dog or a cat. He didn't care. He didn't care about anything anymore.
The warforged caught up to him, focusing his watch on the girl. "Her charms may be lost on me, she says I have no heart, but she's important. She's uncontaminated. Drugged, but uncontaminated. She's too good to be used for a cure. She wants to go home, we'll get her home."
The old drunk chugged his bottle, threw back his furs off his back to reveal the wiry-muscular body in a stained gi. "We're not alone. Harpies. Two of them."
The infernal creatures could not be seen by the warforged's vision. "Can you handle them?"
The old drunk and readied his staff in his hand, "Put the chain of the undead on a post and protect the girl."
"Flying monkeys!" the girl yelled.
"I am going to need everybody to roll for initiative," said Morgan. "And that's where we'll leave off for tonight."
"Ooooh," groaned the rest of the game group: Deana, Rain, Jackson, and Tara.
"Two harpies? How are we supposed to defeat them next session?" Deana asked Rain.
"Not sure what you and your undead are going to do, but Tara and I will have to go over our strategies," Jackson said.
"This may be the most fun homebrew I've put together in years," said Morgan.
The four left Morgan's apartment, the four of the traveling party. Morgan put away what was left of the snacks and the last of their equipment and thought to themselves: Is it Sunday yet?
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content