The leafy canopy amidst sharply angled branches of the towering oak cast a cool shadow over the center of the town square. The tall and gaunt priest once again returns to give sermon.
“We should be dead,” he shakes his head solemnly.
“We should all be dead,” he continues, gesturing at the townsfolk gathered around.
“Beyond the walls in the unforgiving wilds, there is yet another threat to the good people of Nyrheim. Across the waters to the north, there lies a pack of fierce and ravenous gnolls.”
Some in the crowd gasp, others perk up, and still others continue about their business paying no attention to the crazy priest.
“These gnolls (with gnashing teeth, razor sharp claws, and a barbed cunning) have set up numerous camps less than a day’s journey across the waters. The only thing that keeps them from beating at Nyrheim’s walls is a prayer that they don’t take to the water to satiate their hunger. If they had their way, we would all be dead.”
The priest gestures nonchalantly, as if no one should worry, and continues, “But people of Nyrheim, don’t fear. Don’t fear because you have prayed, and your prayers have been answered.”
He spreads his hands out to his side and repeats himself, this time shouting, “Yes, your prayers have been answered!”
“Only weeks ago did your King send a new guard to protect the city from what lurks unknown beyond these walls. This new guard, or Nyrgärde, has vowed to take arms against those creatures that would seek to do harm to the good people of Nyrheim.”
“Please good people, give thanks to this Nyrgärde as they have served you already numerous times out there beyond the walls.” He gestures around the crowd to give recognition to any of his companions that happen to be in the square.
“Just recently this Nyrgärde ventured to the northern islands. I accompanied: Joryn the untamed fury, Khyzer a halfling of short stature but never lacking in skill, and the studious and brilliant Syndar.”
“There we met a pack of gnolls gnashing their teeth at each other, quarreling over a spigot of some meat I pray the gods were gracious enough to grant a quick death. As soon as we came upon their pack, they snapped their jaws around, some charged us while others fired at us with crude bows.”
“It was all a blur with tooth and fur at our throats,” he grits his teeth and gestures clawing at his throat.
“Their poison-soaked arrows found Khyzer’s gut and brought him down. Joryn’s fists and Syndar’s magic brought down the toughest of them, but only for a brief moment. For there were other, nastier gnolls that skitted their way to down to join in what they thought would be a feast upon our flesh.”
“The gods granted me a boon and with a touch,” he raises an outstretched hand and places it on an imaginary Khyzer before continuing, “…and with a touch, the halfling was on his nimble feet again, ready to face certain death a second time.”
“I don’t know how it was done, but the brilliant Syndar kept the largest and most gruesome gnoll at bay with a magic that brought out its truest nature. The gnoll broke out in a blood curdling laughter at the mayhem and gore of the battle.”
“All the while Joryn gracefully lept from one gnoll to another buffeting them with fists and fury bringing down one by one.”
“Then, all of a sudden,” he slams his hand into his chest with a loud thud, “an arrow struck me and everything went black.”
Closing his eyes, his voice becomes more reverent, “It was then I heard a woman’s voice, as clear and beautiful as a moonless night. A shimmer of hope in the darkness that surrounded me. She simply said to me, “it is not time.”
“It is not time for me to die, I imagine she meant. It is not time for any of my companions to die. It is not time for any of you good people to die as long as we have each other.” He motions around to the gathered flock of people.
“Then, miraculously, I awoke and rejoined the fray with my companions. You see, we of the Nyrgärde didn’t let any of us die that day, especially at the teeth and claw of the murderous gnolls.”
The priest clasps his hands almost in prayer, “So please, if you do see one of these newcomers, any of the Nyrgärde, please do take time to give them thanks. And, if you can, please give what you can to aid them in the many battles to come in the unforgiving lands beyond the walls.”
He lowers his head and whispers an inaudible prayer to his goddess.