Kellid names are as brusque and percussive as their Hallit language, and most use two or fewer syllables. Second names are rare and typically limited to those who distinguish themselves through some great deed or draw from an especially significant lineage, though Kellid clan members hold their clan’s name in even higher regard than their own. Common male names include Dron, Gurog, and Kronug, and common female names include Belka, Inkit, and Yala.


 -From Savage Lands and Those Who Live There: A Study of the Barbarian Tribes of Golarion. 

Larch drew herself up. 


“In the name of the Wood and Wilds, I, Larch, formerly Leshka, daughter of Mara Eyes-Of-Ice and William Blackpaw, will help you achieve this task, Doctor Amaranth Sharpe- come what may. May the spirits and my ancestors bear witness to this vow.” 


Flower snaps her head to Larch in surprise. Then she says, formally, “So witnessed, Shaman of the Wood and Wild.” The spirit bows her head to Larch at the same time Larch bows hers to Doc. 


“You have my help.”


-Larch to Doc

The scrags were an annoyance but not, yet, a problem. They’d left Miri’s boat behind; they didn’t want to damage it. Even the hordes of little scrags and the Naga didn’t worry Larch. 


But an aboleth was a different kettle of fish all together. Nearly thirty feet long and over three tons, the water was just barely enough for it- the creature seemed to have found a deeper bit and still took up a massive amount of space. Tentacles waved in the air hungrily. Worse, there was a hideously intelligent, cruel mind behind the three red eyes and a mouth of teeth as long as her hand from fingertip to wrist. 


And when it takes Glaz, a cold fury prickles up her spine and neck… tinged with a bit of fear. 


Because of course. That was its plan. 


The pieces fell into place neatly. 


Glaz could counteract the slow with his Haste spell, and provide more information on the team. He would undoubtedly point to Bolke and, worse, Doc as their heavy hitters. And if they got turned- 


Bolke, cleaving Mallory in half with her axe, hot blood and intestinal stink on the wind. Doc, masked and expressionless, ripping Larch open from nose to navel, sinking his claws in and cracking open her ribcage to-  


The shadow of old terror knocked at her door. She shoved it back ruthlessly. There was no time. There was no time for that. The image, the possibility was her absolute worst nightmare, but there was no time for that. It was coming, and unless she did something, it would take the others like it had taken Glaz.  


And in the heels of fear came fury. 


I will not let that happen. 


How dare this creature threaten my war band. 


A shaman protects the tribe. 


The keen mind and cool logic that generally characterized Larch flicked on. Her eyes darted from Mallory to Flower, Bolke to Doc, to Glaz above, and then to the Aboleth and the two scrags with it, rapidly assessing. The scrags would be a problem, but she had to stop that thing from casting. 






….It could work. 


If it didn’t kill her. 


If I do nothing, then I will be dead anyways. Bolke will kill me harder if it takes her, but the Doctor can fly, and I will be dead in seconds if he comes for me. Mallory has healing magic. I am not essential to the survival of the group. They managed without me before and can do so again. Flower has the Moly to dispel magicks if it takes me or someone else, and if I fall, she might can heal me. As soon as I am finished, I can Dimension Door away thanks to the Black Book. It fits. Logically, I am the most expendable and the only one who can do this in time to all of them at once. 


All I need to do is… not die. 

She moves. 


Haste is a lovely spell. With the moly given to Flower, she has what contingency plans are possible to set in place. The only thing left to do was act. 


That was simple. 


Flower can feel the magic gathering, every plank of wood and flooded tree in the town giving Larch thier attention. “Sprout, what are you-?” 


Sorry, Flower. You can yell at me later, she thought through their link. The spirit’s eyes went wide, a half second of horror as she suddenly knows what Larch has planned. The shaman shoved past Mallory, past Doc (a bit more carefully here, so she doesn’t jostle his wings), running in front of Bolke. There is a noise of shock from someone, some kind of protest, that she ignores. She slides off the roof with a splash into the water, the wind whippi by around her, leaves and magic circling. It’s to her chest here, and the scrags turn as one toward her landing. 


So do three baleful, hideously intelligent red eyes. 


It truly is monstrous: writhing tentacles and those terrible red eyes and a presence more felt in the mind than anything. There is the sense of arrogant curiosity, as if she was a particularly interesting bug. 


Just a little closer. 


Four steps. The scrags turn, raising thier hands for a blow as Larch darts forward. The world is clear and cool and strangely calm; she’s made it this far, and she knows what she has to do. There is a wordless enraged roar from as the scrags seize the moment to swing at her. They are only slightly smaller than the aboleth -each eight feet and change, weighing in at half a ton of malice- but they have claws on each finger the size of kitchen knives. 


She flings herself to the side. Somewhere, Flower is yelling, distantly registered and then forgotten. One hand comes down with horrible  force, spraying water and mud and debris as it misses by an inch and carved furrows in a shattered floating log instead of her own fragile body. The second scrag’s attack comes at an angle, catching the top of the water- and her. Her bad arm can’t get her upright in the waist deep water fast enough. She throws it over her face instead. 


It was already half crippled. An acceptable loss.


The claws cut her arm to the bone, but her arm is more replaceable than her eyes. Instead of gouging one out, it leaves deep cuts that score her eyebrow up to her scalp, slicing that flesh to ribbons. Her glasses cut into the bridge of her nose. Pain bloomed behind her eyes, hot blood sheeting down her face. It sent her flying forward with the force of it and splashing down, water closing over her.


Contusions, lacerations. Not fatal. Blood loss might be a problem. Eye intact. Disinfect later, this water is a cesspit, she thought somewhere in the corner of her mind. The flood swirls around her, whacking her with the debris in it, threatening to knock precious air from her lungs. Get up. You have work to do.  


She staggers upright, gasping, in time to see the aboleth lash out with a tentacle at her. It threatens to take her head off as she ducks down. 


No, wait. Not a duck. 


The movement of her arms is deliberate if fast, taking a black length of root or vine from her hair that grows rapidly in her hands. The magic around her pulses, wind whipping the disgusting water into foamy tawny caps around her. Flower, on the rooftop, suddenly goes still as her eyes flash emerald, the spirit glowing with the same green power that wreathes Larch like a nimbus. The tentacle hits empty air above her as she slams her hands and the now basketball sized root ball into the water and below, down into the mud at the bottom. 


Please, Larch says, as the power of wood and wild surges through her, rattling her bones. Everything that was paying attention before suddenly focused on her. She could feel their regard, each of the spirits who lived in this decimated place: the trees slowly gasping for air, the houses furious at the insult and intrusion, with their waterlogged wooden floors and beams and roofs and corpses, the drowned seeds of newly planted spring crops reaching for her anger with their own rage, theirs the fury of a dying helpless child. 


Please! She asked- 


And around her the water exploded. Chunks of mud turned water around her browner as the spell asked, and the spirits answered. Thorny tentacle-like roots and vines turn the area around her into a writhing hellscape with Larch at the center of the maelstrom, bloodied by the scrag’s blow and snarling defiance, her green eyes alight with power that stood stark against the blood streaking her face. Her glasses were cracked and slightly askew, but her disheveled appearance is less funny and more dogged, iron determination than anything else. The vines and roots that ring her are hard dark wood, the darkest mahogany or maybe ebony, black and knotted and curled and as thick as her thighs, some as thick as her chest. The wicked spikes there are ruddy reddish color like cedar or blood but duller than the crimson matting her hair to her skull and staining her robes. Larch looked the aboleth straight in the face from a mere ten feet away and brought her magic to bear, eyes bleeding green flicks of fire, the vines in her hair raised and waving of their own accord. 


The black roots and vines swarm the scrags, going up legs and seizing arms, grappling them in steely grips that sunk the thorns deep into thier flesh. The aboleth is not exempt, either. It makes an unearthly noise of pain and rage as wooden wrath incarnate wraps around it too, despite its struggles. The vines and roots raise thier victims up and slam them into the water with crushing force, raising them up again and coiling tighter for a second blow. The aboleth makes that terrible noise a second time, pure hate in its eyes as it fixes them on Larch. She smiles in return, wild as her magic, triumphant and almost savage. Being waist deep in water doesn’t seem to impede the magic any- Larch stands at the center of a kraken of her own making, teeth bared like the bristling she-wolf she resembled in that moment, as she matches the aboleth and the scrags blow for blow. 


Above her somewhere is more yelling. That would be Glaz, whooping in that madcap joy of battle he often displayed, yelling “LET’S FUCKING GOOOOOO!” As he (apparently) shook off the effects of the Dominate spell. Possibly others were yelling as well, but she paid them no mind at the moment. She rode the magic and the magic rode her now, a shaman unveiled in full, channeling the spirits in a way few ever saw and lived to tell the tale. 


The fear in her -and she was afraid; she was no front line fighter, and the things before her weighed ten or twenty times as much as she did- was there, but the spirits demanded revenge for the devastation. There was literally no room to feel that fear. All of her was roaring power at the moment, wild and fierce, and what she felt was the rightness, the goodness of this moment.


And good luck casting anything now, you son of a bitch, when everything you have is being used to keep ME at bay. 


It bought them precious precious time. Mallory turned to the littler ones threatening to swarm her, and Bolke waded into the fray as one scrag ripped itself free.  


Behind her, a voice she knew by heart yelled “Larch, duck!” 


She did. And then she laughed, as the Doctor’s creation burst forth in flame and a tangling pitchlike viscous liquid. The flames seemed to draw strength from the water, and she grinned. With a thought, the vines slam slam slammed their victims into the flooded street, causing small explosive bursts of alchemical fire each time. The aboleth screamed, muffled by the crushing grip of her spell.  


“Oh, well done, Doctor!” She called, and heard a small, answering chuckle behind her. I should remember this- it’s a very efficient combination!


The party closed in, and her heart swelled. This was a strong warband, her strong warband, and the enemy was stuck fast. 


She didn’t stay; the spell was here and would be so no matter what she did, and she wasn’t inclined to push her luck. Larch backed up, the vines and roots forming a stepping stone like platform out of the water and on to the safety of the roof. As she backpedals, she gives the seething aboleth the one finger salute with one hand, and with the other pulls out her Black Book. 


It’s eager. Aboleths are new, after all, and cold air coalesced around her. She’d make some notes on it later for the spirit, she promised, as per their agreement. 


The snowball was more ice than anything, hurled with magical force, and Larch took time to carefully aim. It hit it squarely in its middle eye and sent the creature howling fury anew. Definitely time to go, she thought, as she saw Doc rise up in the air, wings flapping. 


“Tag, Doctor, you’re it,” she said mostly to herself, as he swooped in for the kill. 


It was later, returned to the boat, that she fully came back to herself. The spirits were sated, their home avenged. Only Larch remained, the magic lingering in her nose and mouth like crushed sage and mint, as she sat on the deck unnoticed for a moment. Flower climbed into her lap; the spirit had some stern words with her earlier, about recklessness and how hard it was to train a new shaman properly, and now it was time for purring and reassurance. 


She was soaked, still, with floodwater and her own blood. Not that she was bleeding anymore- Mallory had seen to that- but the scars would remain. And her tunic was ruined, stained red-brown and and filthy with dirt and muck and who knows what from the water. The injuries themselves, the lacerations, would heal more fully with time. The clawmarks cut into her bad arm and from her left eyebrow into her hairline. They’d be obvious things, but she didn’t mind them, honestly. 


She’d earned the scars. And something more. 


Larch never thought she would have a second name. Not after everything. Her tribe, of course, was gone, fled (hopefully) to safety. 




The team had seized on the idea of granting her a name, and her heart felt too big in her chest. 


I wasn’t supposed to get attached. I didn’t want to. But… these people are swiftly becoming very, very important to me. 


Is that bad? 


I don’t know. I’m not theirs- right? And yet… 


…Could I be their shaman too? Or is that selfish? Would it be too much to ask of fate, that my tribe be safe and I acquire… this… in the meantime? 


I do not know. I did not dare hope for something like this. Like them. 


One day at a time. They will name me, soon. Leshka was a child, precocious and naive and helpless in the face of evil. Larch survived, a wolf pretending to be his dog until the moment was right and I made my escape. Larch did what was necessary. Larch does not get attached.

I do not know who Larch Secondname will be. I do not know what to call this feeling. 


I guess… I will find out.

Author Cael
Game: Pathfinder
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