An Unintentional Savior

Written by SpoopyOugi

A Light in the Hungry Woods

Many travelers have returned from the Nege with tales of a creature that, when all felt lost and futile, led them along a path outward and alive.
When I thought I had got near my destination, I realized that it wasn't there and I was lost. I spent near an hour retracing my steps before I realized how pointless it all was. I had stopped for water and a small meal when I spotted it - a faint orange glow coming off some animal hanging on a tree. Our eyes met and it made a high-pitched cooing before scurrying off. I dropped my half-eaten food and went to a full sprint after the creature. Before I realized how long I had been running, I saw a break in the trees and there is no doubt in my mind I was dead if it weren't for the little guide.  
— Djunda, Nege Harvester
Few sightings fail to mention the odd orange and red luminescence of the Guide, many note the feather like tail flicking about as it jumps from tree to tree, and most note the bone mask stretching across it's face to the nape of its neck. Once enough of these sightings accumulated, folk began referring to the creature as a guiding spirit that brought lost wayfarers to their families. Bones of dead Guides or their luminescent feathers found in the Nege were considered lucky to carry around and many attribute small fortunes or fortuitous finds to their tokens.  

A Tuft of Bloodied Feathers

When the Guides gained enough notoriety that civilizations far outside the outskirts of the Nege heard of them, an influx of poachers braved the Nege in search of a prize. Initially, there was little concern from the people who revered the Guides as saviors, but more hunters broke the tree line dangling these creatures from their shoulders. Some only brought out the tail or the skull of them, knowing well that those were what drove profits among superstitious folk. Rapidly, the trophies were referred to as blood tokens by locals. They shunned the poachers out of town, refusing service and throwing stones at them until they fled. Eventually, more hunters started disappearing, successful, hardened, or otherwise, one by one all traces of them vanished.
The last I saw of Dharka was 'im wanderin' in the Nege. You'll have to look there if expect to find 'im, even then I 'magine he's a goner. Sorry.  
— Local conversing with a poacher's kin
In the wake of this, more people noticed similar tragedies befalling those carrying blood tokens. The carriers would start a journey to another town and never make it, or they would stay a night at an inn only to vanish without a trace, or worse yet they would stroll through a town and an accident would leave them mangled or dead. These phenomena proliferated until no-one dared carry a Guide's token in fear of the disaster that followed them.
When I was young, my grandmother had told me of the time when her husband went to harvest the Nege. The fool had lost his trail even after doing that for a decade, but he prayed on his token for a Guide to take him home. According to him, he prayed for a full day before he saw the familiar orange glow and whipping feathers of old tales. Of course, he made it our or I wouldn't be here today, but I spit on the fool for ever owning a token. You hear me dear, don't even trust a man who owns a Guide's token.  
— a grandmother passing on the family's stories

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