“It’s right this way, Master, you’ll see for yesself soon enough!”
My guide is a short, wiry fellow, with dirt-caked skin and a crazed gleam in his eye. He refuses to give me a proper name, insisting the I call him “Maebolg”. We’re currently shuffling through a narrow crawlspace underneath his rather ramshackle home, where his mother (Doris Clatchey, 58) and two cats (Misty and Whiskers, ages unknown) currently reside with him.
“Here we are, Master! Behold! The dread idol of SARNOCH!”
The crawlspace has opened up into a sort of root cellar, and ‘Maebolg’ has prostrated himself in front of a crude… altar is the best word, I suppose. A rough plank has been laid across two sawhorses, and a pair of guttering tallow candles give the dread idol a sallow glow. The idol itself is clearly the motheaten head of a cat inexpertly sewn onto the body of a leffit, and sawdust has leaked out around the stitching. I thanked ‘Maebolg’ (real name Peter Clatchey, 32, as told by his mother) for his time and left, skirting a sack of potatoes on my way back to the crawlspace.
Talk of daemonic cults has been on the rise lately in these frontier towns, and they have been blamed for everything from soured milk and ruined crops to murdered children and wives. Almost every villager I have spoken with knows someone who knows someone that has had dealings with these cultists, but the closest I have gotten to any actual cult activity has been Maebolg and the dreaded Sarnoch. I sincerely doubt that they are capable of murder, but I can vouch for the soured milk – the tea Mrs. Clatchey offered me had chunks of it floating on the surface.
I spoke with County officials to determine what the government stance on the issue was. The harried clerk at the local constabulary (Timothy Harper, 22) confirmed that no cultists have been arrested, jailed, executed, or even brought in for questioning. “Quite frankly, Mr. Belleme, all this ‘cult’ business is simply rumor and superstition. People out here have enough trouble without dragging daemons into it. Last year it was evil spirits, this year it’s cultists, and who knows what the peasantry will come up with next year.”
Walking back to my lodgings at the local inn, I considered what I have seen so far. In the interests of objectivity, I cannot say that daemonic cults do not exist. But I can certainly say that whatever truth there may be in this story is buried under a mountain of falsehoods and tomfoolery. And clearly my lines of inquiry have brought me to the attention of at least one of the local pranksters, as a scroll of oddly pale leather has been shoved beneath my door while I was out. A rather dark brown, flaking ink has been used to draw what I believe to be a crude dagger, pointing downward, bisected by three horizontal lines. “Get out of our town, scrivener” is written below this rather sinister picture. Clearly just another variation on the theme of the ‘dread idol’, but nonetheless… I believe I hear the road calling, and the beds here are not the most comfortable. Time to take my leave.
-Trug de Belleme