The thylacine was surprisingly light for its size and attitude. Stefan set the creature on its back, its legs tied up in a bundle over top. “Uh.” He looked around. “What should I do?” They needed the rope back to drop to Kyrie, but releasing the creature in its current state seemed unwise.
Giles stepped forward and drew his sword
"Well there is only one thing to do with the beast, we take it a bit into the forest and let it go not that it will be easy so ill need help doing it"
Giles removed his cloak and passed it over the thylacines head and picked up the rope
"If anyone has an objection to this they will have to go through me."
Zeran sat on the ground and grumbled a bit as he watched his bleeding leg. "Do I, get a say?" He asked if with a bit of a snark. He was angry and glared at the beast for a moment before sighing and shaking his head. "Oh f**king forget it let the damn thing go." He struggled up and favored his good leg as he hobbled back to the wagon. "I'll need someone to take a look at my injury when you're done playing with the animal please." He wasn't an evil person the poor thing was as much a victim of circumstance as he was, he let the hurt feelings go and simply sat on the back of the wagon waiting for whatever the group decided.
[Should note, if approached and asked Zeran will more then likely help try to calm/tame the beast enough to make sure it doesn't eat us or attack.]
A little something to put the fear of Ch. 2 in you.
Thylacine Pit; F3
Kyrie waited patiently at the bottom of the pit. Without her armour she could probably have managed the climb out, but she preferred to wait the extra couple minutes until a safer route could be presented.
No one opposed Giles as he lifted the bound thylacine. The animal couldn't have been much more than a hundred pounds of lean muscle. It seemed to have tired itself out for the moment, and didn't struggle as he carried it away with Miguel's help, each carrying their sword in their free arm.
After five minutes of walking Giles called a stop. The men set down their bundle. Miguel carefully cut out the bolt Giles had fired. Kyrie would have done a better job of it, but it wasn't like the beast was particularly wounded. They just needed to keep the bolt from digging deeper when they released it.
“Okay, this may take more than one try, but once the spell takes hold, we'll have three minutes to untie it and get out.” Miguel told Giles. The soldier nodded and stepped next to the creature, keeping just back enough that the spell would burn out on the beast before it reached him. Miguel stood further back.
The thylacine shook off the first spell, but succumbed to the second casting. Giles worked quickly to retrieve Miguel's hemp rope. As soon as their task was done they ran.
Several minutes later they returned to the pit. Kyrie steadily climbed the rope out of the pit. With a notation made on the map and a couple minutes examining the scrapes on Zeran's leg to ensure it wasn't going to fall off spontaneously, the group carried on their way. (+11hp Zeran Full)
By the end of the day (+6sub Kyrie) (+6sub Miguel) Kyrie and Miguel tended to their own wounds with magic before retiring (+16hp Kyrie Full) (+8hp Miguel Full)
Exploration & Mapping
Hexes: F2 --not finished exploring--
The next day the party moved west into the region marked on their map by a large bend in the Skunk River. Whatever the river smelled like, it was an excellent place to cool off and wash away the recent week's grime.
The summer solstice came on the thirtieth day of Sarenith this year. The first day of summer began mildly, with moderate weather as they explored the tract of forest, but the first summer night bore witness to a bone-chilling event.
Night (as it always seemed to be when these kind of things happened) on the solstice was warm and quiet. The sky was clear and the stars shone bright where they peeked through the forest canopy.
It was on Frodrick's watch that the night stirred with a loud shout of bestial frustration, resounding from somewhere not too far off.
The old dwarf quickly and quietly woke his companions. Whether or not the voices came any closer, they would gain nothing by waiting for whatever it was to come closer. As the rest of the party rose and gathered their equipment, Frodrick listened carefully.
What he heard made his blood run cold. More voices, at least three, maybe four, all growling in harsh tones. Worse, Frodrick recognised the language they were speaking. Giant.
With a soft word he commanded Jargon to stay exactly where she was. Frodrick didn't wait for the party. Taking care to keep a low profile between the trees, the dwarf climbed the hill in the direction the sounds were coming from. Just behind him the others quietly followed.
Over the top of the hill, laying on his chest, Frodrick saw exactly what he feared. Four large humanoids down the far side of the hill, walking along the edge of the river. While the party could only make out their forms in the darkness, Frodrick immediately recognised that stooped form, with arms long enough that they practically dragged on the ground when limp. They were trolls.
By the look of them, two males, and two larger females, each carrying a large bundle of what seemed to be deer, or perhaps elk. Only Frodrick could understand what they were saying, but he relayed the translation to the others later.
“Where's that damned shallows? My pissing arm is going to fall off.”
“You shut up or you'll wish it had. It'll be around here.”
“Why did we ever come this far? All this walking never did no good for no one.”
“If you hate walking so much, maybe we should leave you here!”
“Well I'm hungry. Why don't we just eat a little of the catch? No one will ever know.”
“You stupid meatbag, why don't you think with something besides your stomach for a change—hey, don't bump me!”
There was a brief exchange. It was hard to tell what was going on in the dark, but it seemed one of the trolls shoved another. There was a loud, meaty thock that echoed through the area, sounding disturbingly exactly like a side of beef being struck with a sledgehammer. It seemed like one of the females had punched one of the males in the face.
“Ow, my friggin' nose! I should tear your guts out for that!”
“QUIET, BOTH OF YOU. I should tear both of your guts out and tie them to the top of that tree over there. Now shut your gobs. The river shallows shouldn't be much farther.”
In tense silence all trace except the monstrous footprints by the river had faded. Whether it was just luck or that the trolls were too occupied with their own petty squabbles to be bothered, they had not noticed the party's camp at all.
Long after the trolls had gone, though, their impact remained. Four trolls. That was four of them, ostensibly working together. Probably with more wherever they were headed. Both male and female. Under normal circumstances trolls typically lived solitary lives, too bad-tempered to stand one another's company for long. Even in the rare occasion that they banded together in a small gang, it was rarely more than 2-4 members, and usually composed entirely of females and their young. Stories sometimes mentioned larger troll clans, but the very idea was rare and terrifying.
Their only relief was that if such a tribe of trolls was forming somewhere out in the wilderness, it would have to be much further south, and likely still very new. This close to the upper Greenbelt would have had the hunters talking of much more than stories of old Tuskgutter and the Stag Lord if indeed these trolls were from anywhere local.
Exploration & Mapping
Hexes: F2 +25XP Each
(EDIT: There are only 30 days in Sarenith; it is the 1st of Erastus)
The tracks of the trolls were still clearly visible in the soft earth on the river bank the next morning. Though the giants were long gone from the area, across the river and on their way back to whatever lair they spoke of, the party nevertheless continued exploration with extreme caution whenever they spotted the tracks again in their travels, leading further up river.
Less than an hour after midday the Greenbelt Charter party came upon what was no doubt the 'crossing' referred to by the trolls. Along the west-flowing segment of the Skunk river, a several miles downstream from the boggard's mire, there was a natural choke point, form out of a series of sandy islets.
Skunk River Ford; F2
Narlmarches; Skunk River
The trolls' tracks led up to the natural ford and disappeared into the river. Approaching the ford the explorers noticed an unusual amount of debris—thick piles of rubble, branches, and leaves—caught trapped by the narrow passages of the ford. If the piles of debris were more organised and better maintained, it might have been taken for a beaver dam across the shallows.
At least up until the point that it became obvious some of the branches were not branches, but piles of chewed animal bones. Whatever had fashioned the loose debris-strewn nest across the river shallows was a voracious predator, if the leavings were anything to go by—or worse, an extremely territorial killer, regardless of need for sustenance.
Miguel spotted it first—at the same time it spotted them. Poorly hidden but well camoflauged atop one of the sandy islets in the river was a 6' long reptile, basking in the afternoon sun. Giles and Frodrick caught sight of it immediately. It had a dragon-like spiked head, and a long serpentine body, with two stubby arms tipped with grasping claws.
Frodrick spurred Jargon into the river, drawing his axe. “There on the little island. Cut off it's head and we'll have ourselves a trophy fer Oleg.” Jargon splashed into the river between the south bank and the larger islet.
The tatzlwyrm, half slithering, half dragging itself across the debris with its stubby claws, crawled across its nest to the far end of the large islet. Giles and Miguel leapt out of the carriage, drawing their swords. They ran down the sandy riverbank just to the edge.
“It's a kind of dragon—weak, but stronger than it looks,” Miguel called. “Watch for its poisonous breath. It'll try to grab you with its jaws.”
(It's so refreshing to fight monsters by day, don't you think? A lovely change of pace. Also for what it's worth, now knowing that this ford is here enables you to make plans to travel through this area to the west of the Skunk River, including heading north without going the long way around)
Tatzlwyrm Den; F2
Narlmarches; Skunk River
Jargon splashed through the river and pulled up on the large islet. Frodrick reined her back at the top of the islet with a slight pressure with his heels. “Alright, you great beastie, you want a piece of this salty old dwarf? Well come and get it!” He banged his axe against his wooden shield, goading the dragon.
At the same time, Stefan drew his bow, riding hard along the bank. He took a shot which landed wide in the ground next to the tatzlwyrm. It hissed and snapped at Frodrick's squire, but never took its attention from the knight himself.
Exactly as Frodrick hoped, the wyrm sprung at him. It launched itself, clawing furiously, with surprising speed. Frodrick almost didn't have time to react—striking a glancing blow off the tatzlwyrm's scales as it tried to latch onto Jargon with its teeth.
Jargon's tough hide—both armour and natural—stopped its teeth from gaining a hold, but one of its tiny claws managed to draw a scratch (-4dmg Jargon).
The rest of the party ran to catch up to the showdown happening on the island. Zeran loaded his gun and ran to the riverbank while Miguel and Giles came up on either side of Frodrick. Giles silently called up his power to pronounce destruction upon the dragon in preparation for the battle as Kyrie crossed into the stream shallows behind them.
Kyrie wasn't sure if the weed from earlier was more frightening than the tatzlwyrm. What she was sure of, though, was that in the face of uncertain danger, she needed to face it directly. After all, being directly in the way means that other people aren't being attacked. Usually.
Except, Frodrick got to the front before her. Guess there is quite the speed difference with having a ride. Kyrie thought, trusty shovel in hand as she stubbornly continued her way forward.
She would make it to the melee! Eventually. When she did get there, she'd try to swipe at the wyrm's neck with the edge of her shovel. The goal was to get its head, right?
Tatzlwyrm Den; F2
Narlmarches; Skunk River
The draconic monster shrunk back as Jargon rose up. She stomped the ground around it, forcing it on the defensive. The tatzlwyrm hissed at the horse. Frodrick swung his axe roughly at the thing's head, not aiming to hit but to distract it from Jargon.
Stefan nocked another arrow in his bow as he guided Uriel across the thick of the nest behind the wyrm. He drew, aimed so that he didn't threaten Frodrick or Miguel, and loosed, driving an arrow into its serpentine body (-5dmg Tatzlwyrm).
Spurned on by anger and pain, the tatzlwyrm struck with vengeance. It lashed forward, up at Frodrick, giving the dwarf exactly what he wanted, but surprising his defenses. It came in under his upraised axe arm and clamped its jaws down on his exposed ribs and shoulder armour. Frodrick's breath was driven out of him and several of the metal scales popped off from the crushing force (-15dmg *crit* Frodrick 19/34).
Frodrick gasped for breath as the wyrm's lower body hefted up in attempt to wrap him. “Oh, no ye don't!” Frodrick smashed the butt of his axe into the tatzlwyrm's forehead. It released and dropped back to the ground, annoyed.
At that moment, without warning, the party found that the tatzlwyrm was not the only occupant of the large nest across the ford. A second tatzlwyrm burst out of the river, appearing suddenly from the nest debris immediately next to Miguel. This one was longer, at least 8' long. Before Miguel could react to defend himself properly, it—or more appropriately, she, the larger of the mated pair—latched onto Miguel's upper arm with her teeth. Automatically her tail wound out of the river and began to wrap once around Miguel's body (-8dmg Miguel Grappled).
Giles waded through the river, keeping his distance from the tatzlwyrm until he came up on the bank behind it, across from Frodrick. Undistracted by his allies, standing at an enemy's back, Giles was in his element. He took advantage of Frodrick's positioning to distract the wyrm while he lined up a precision strike for its exposed flank (-9dmg Tatzlmale Bloodied).
Miguel twisted in the tatzlwyrm's grip like a bardic monkey. He knew he didn't have much of a chance of getting out of her grip. He would have liked nothing more than to be out of the dragon's mouth, but failing that, he saw the utility in having a foe that couldn't dodge him as easily. It was merely a matter of who passed out from pain and bloodloss first.
Miguel hacked at whatever of the tatzlwyrm's scaly hide he could reach. His blade bit into her flesh at the same time her teeth held onto him (-9dmg Tatzlfem Injured). In his peripheral vision he could see Kyrie come up behind him. Reinforcements, to Miguel's relief—very few 'weeds' retained their thorns after Kyrie plucked them.
Tatzlwyrm Den; F2
Narlmarches; Skunk River
“Yer goin' to have to bite harder than that if you want a piece o' this old leather!” Frodrick bellowed. He tightened his defense up close. Now that he had the thing's attention, he would buckle down while the others destroyed it. With a command he directed Jargon to interfere when it attacked, so that it didn't find purchase (Frodrick Total Defense).
Stefan maintained his position atop Uriel on the nest. The area was getting crowded, but he still had a good position. He tried to put another arrow in the tatzlwyrm's tail, maybe stop it from climbing all over Frodrick, but as he fired, the wyrm moved and his arrow went into the ground.
Despite the bleeding wounds showing its condition, the tatzlwyrm moved like a dragon possessed by a mad frenzy. Continuing to ignore anything but the mounted dwarf, the male uncoiled, latching onto Jargon's armour as if to climb the horse in pursuit of the dwarf meat. It rose up to Frodrick's level, resisting his attempt to beat it off with his shield, and locked jaws around his midsection. The wyrm's long teeth punched through the broken scales in Frodrick's armour and made to eviserate him—if not for Jargon roughly shoving the wyrm off her, clubbing it with her head (-12dmg Frodrick 7/34; crit threat fail)
The female wyrm, meanwhile, was working to overpower Miguel. Bracing itself against Miguel's arms with each claw, it released its bite and breathed out a cloud of noxious vapour directly into his face. Miguel couldn't help but inhale a breath of it or choke (-1Str Miguel Poisoned). This was the very problem Miguel had warned the others against.
The female would soon learn, though, that she should have tried to kill the bard while she had the chance. Zeran could not wait for a better shot. He reloaded and fired again from where he was, trusting his aim to luck. Luck was with him on this shot. The large tatzlwyrm took the ball across the back of her neck, cutting off her poisonous breath attack with a cloud of blood spray (-8dmg Tatzlfem Bloodied).
Miguel coughed and his eyes watered from the poisonous vapours. For a second all he could see was distorted images, but when he could see clearly again, he very clearly saw Giles' sword cleave into the body of the male hardly five feet from him. The soldier thrust the tip of his sword into the tatzlwyrm's back just at the position of the arms (-11dmg Tatzlmale). The wyrm turned to Giles, as if noticing his presense for the first time. It half moved to snap at him and half shuddered, then collapsed (Dying).
One good dragon mortality deserves another. That was a saying, right? Miguel didn't care—he continued to swing, one handed, at the female holding onto him. He thrust his duelling blade again into its scaly hide (-7dmg Tatzlfem Badly Wounded). The combined wounds on its body were beginning to show their effect, but it showed no sign of giving up or withdrawing. Miguel worried that she might not actually fall first.
His worries were for naught, though. Kyrie, finally catching up, slogging through the river in her 35 lbs of armour, splashed up beside Miguel. With several moments' worth of anticipation built up in her tough body, Kyrie joined the fight with a grand slam. She poured her single-minded drive to protect into her swing, connecting the flat of the shovel with the side of the tatzlwyrm's head (-17dmg *crit* Tatzlfem). As her mate lay bleeding out next to her, the female wyrm's skull partially caved, flung sideways into the river from the force of the blow. She landed stone dead (Dead).
Frodrick 7/34 – Aid +2AC, Total Defense
Jargon 15/19 –
Giles 29/29 – 20 bolts, Destruction
Kyrie 34/34 –
Miguel 17/25 – 19 arrows, Grappled, Ability Damage -1Str (no effect), Poisoned (1)
Zeran 27/27 – 28 bullets, -2Grit
Stefan 11/11 – 17 arrows
Uriel 13/13 –
Tatzlwyrm: Dying, Male
Tatzlwyrm: Dead, Female
A moment later Miguel's body cleared of the lingering effects of the poison (Save), suffering no more than the slightest weakening in his limbs.
Miguel 17/25 – 19 arrows, Ability Damage -1 Str (no effect)
(Seriously, I rolled four 20s over the course of this battle, 3 of them revolving directly around Frodrick. For his initiative I got a 20 (adding up to a total initiative count of 20), then the male crit him, and then came very close to another if not for his boosted AC... the last 20, of course, was our showstopper, right when the female only had a couple hit points left XD)
(Note that despite what the description might imply, the damage to the female's head is not so significant that it ruins the potential for mounting. It just gives a little bit of a story to tell. Technically the bounty is only for one head, but I'm sure we can throw a second in for half off and come out with a good deal)
Oh, yeah, that's 300XP and 75 for Stefan. Also Loot.
Posted on 2014-05-30 at 20:27:35.
Edited on 2014-06-01 at 20:35:53 by Sibelius Eos Owm
While Miguel was tending to Frodrick's wounds, the dwarf noticed something of a shiny glint from under the water that had nothing to do with the light reflecting off the river.
On further inspection the party found a skeleton, half buried in the mud just under the tatzlwyrms' den. Despite its apparent age, the suit of scale armour it wore appeared in remarkably good condition, if a little waterlogged, and its bony hand remained clutched around a masterwork longsword made of the same material as Tartuk's sickle—cold iron.
After a second to make sure the skeleton was of the non-animate variety, the Greenbelt party retrieved the armour and sword, and in doing so stirred up even more of the dead adventurer's equipment.
A rotting leather backpack, buried even further in the rubble and mud, came loose with a stash of more treasure. Inside the skeleton's backpack were handfuls of coins, a pewter drinking stein, a silver ring, a jade carving of a nude elven monk, and a watertight scroll tube, which proved to contain a partially completed and fairly accurate map of the northwest corner of the Greenbelt, seemingly indicating that the traveller had come from that direction and worked their way down the Skunk River from the headwaters.
The map proved to cover mostly areas that the party themselves had already explored, though it was missing the barbarian cairn that the fairies had marked on the party's map (yet to be explored), and included an area just to the northwest of the river ford they were at, marked as containing a large statue of the god Erastil. The map doesn't indicate what it might be doing out in the wilderness or any speculation on its relation to the (not found) Temple of Erastil.
Two cure spells and two lay on hands (+6hp,+6hp,+5hp,+8hp Frodrick 32/34)
One cure spell (+4 Miguel 21/24)
Posted on 2014-05-30 at 21:03:02.
Edited on 2014-05-31 at 17:52:45 by Sibelius Eos Owm
Giles waited to see if anyone would take the cold steel sword and when no one did took it up himself examining the blade and its sheen before placing it into a frog on his belt along with his other sword.
"Well now that that fun little adventure is over I say we continue on across the river and explore the lands over there as well as the fairies treasure spot before we head back to olegs to claim our prize for our newest dead pets though Im open to anyone's else's suggestions"
Zeran picked up the statue waving off the rest of the loot. "I can't use that as good as the est of you. I want this though." He held up the jade statue and looked it over. It was female and he liked the carving off it. "It'll go good with my music box." He said with a chuckle and a light sight thinking back to their battle at the bandit camp, and how he had gotten the box one of his few personal trophies. Zeran nodded at Giles and shrugged. "I don't really care where we go, just point me in the direction and I'll keep the cart moving." He said stretching and making his way back to the cart.
[Statue is female since Owen didn't get back to me on it XD]
Kyrie doesn't know much about decomposition of animals
Once again, Kyrie's shovel proved its worth, giving a very final smack to the wyrm that had preoccupied itself with Miguel. "You okay there, Miguel?" She asked, holding out her hand to keep him steady as he untangled himself from the now-dead creature.
After a pause to relax in their victory, the question came up of where to go from there.
Kyrie scratched at the back of her head, "Well, we wanted to get the boar's body back as quick as we could because it would've rotted, should we do the same with these things?" She asked, indicating the wyrms. "I know they're more scaly, but if we cut off the heads, it does make a big opening to their inside, which I think rot first. Like spiders."
Walking up to Frodrick she lay a hand on his shoulder, "I know you're sturdy, but don't push yourself too hard, okay?" Kyrie gave a smile, letting the healing energy flow into the dwarf's body (results already covered by GM post above). "I'll have to jog more to train myself to keep up." She chuckled. Knowing Kyrie, it probably wasn't a joke.
Frodrick spat up some blood as the last of the wurms gave its death throes. Getting onto the bank, he slumped off Jargon and dug his axe into the dirt as he knelt down. He breathed deeply. His one eye going over the two carcasses. “Stefan me boy, use yer own axe to get our trophies. We be cashin’ in when them heads cross into Olaf’s shantie.”
Closing his eye and breathing heavily again, Frodrick was offered magical aid to tend to his wounds. “To be honest I prefer letting the ol’ body mend itself, and now that I be drinkin’ ale again, I think some o’ that would help too. But since we’re in these woods with monsters coming after our arses every night, I suppose we can’t be waiting now can we?”
Frodrick accepted the healing, and as the mending magicks washed over him, he became more attentive with his surroundings once more as the pain was blurring his vision. In the water he saw a shimmer, walking over he dug in the mud a little and gave a guffaw. “Looks like we be hitting pay dirt today. Everyone look about the mud of the nest and around the area. There be gold in that there water!”
Hexes: F2 – B5
In order to secure the heads as quickly as possible to guard against the possibility of lost value from decay, the party turned once again back to Oleg's border fort. They travelled north, giving a wide berth around the boggard's mire and taking the shallow ford across the Thorn River.
The weather took a turn cooler, and a breif midday thunderstorm brought the party respite from the otherwise hot work. Except for the change in season it was easy to forget they were already entering into their fifth month travelling and exploring the Greenbelt region—and they were almost done mapping the plot of land alotted to them.
With the map of the northern part of the Greenbelt almost complete, they were getting close to achieving one of the main objectives set out in the charter. One by one, too, they were dealing with the major threats in the region and making the land habitable. With hardly any sign of the bandits to the south, other than in stories of trappers and hunters unlucky enough to cross their path, their presense and control over the area was clearly diminishing, as well.
Of course, it was far too soon to start imagining that this colonization project would ever be 'easy'.
On the 5th day of Erastus, as the group travelled the northeast horn of the Narlmarches where they once found a patch of moonradishes, they found something to set them ill at ease. A Sootscale kobold, dead and covered in blood. This in itself was nothing new, but the manner in which the body was disposed—pinned to a tree with its own spear through its leather armour, hands and feet bound with twine, and covered in dozens of shallow cuts. The kobold looked as though it had been tortured to death. It could not have been very old—perhaps even that same day, maybe longer.
To make matters more interesting, that evening they were visited by some of the forest's rare non-hostile inhabitants. Tyg-Titter-Tut and her companion, Perlivash, appeared to the company at high speed, shooting out of the foliage. Their high pitched voices keening over each other in fright.
“They'rebackthey'rebackthey'reback!” shouted Tyg, landing next to Zeran. “Killthemkillthemkillthem!” Perlivash landed on Kyrie's head and clung there tightly.
After a few moments they were calmed down enough to speak one at a time and in full sentences.
“The mean biggenses, they're back! You came and you slew them foreverago, but they have returned!” Perlivash squeaked.
“They've come back for revenge! Round two! Take no survivors!” Tyg added. “They came, five of them, and the one—black like the heart of a demon—killed the scaly kobold one while the big-like-and-ox laughed. Their leader was frowny and grey and made faces at them, then they left. We were too scared to look! We were running home but then we saw you! You must kill them!”
The grig panted for breath. It sounded like the bandits were making a move, finally. Apparently not quite so cowed after the sudden and utter loss of their northern camp, they were not ready to relinquish ground to the invaders.
After the fairies were done their story (and any exchange you want to have) they left quickly, flying in the direction of their nest to the northwest. The guard that night was particularly tense, but nothing came to kill them while they slept.
Oleg's Trading Post; B5
South Brevic Borderlands
Surprised to see the party back so early from their latest foray, Oleg was only too happy to increase the reward he set for a mated pair of tatzlwyrm heads he could mount. He gave the group half again as much as the bounty poster listed.
Despite the dire portents of the previous day, Oleg's post was not under any special alert. They had not seen heads or tails of any bandits in the area in the last two weeks since the feast of the Tuskgutter. Heeding the warning, though, Kesten briefed his guards to be on the watch for any suspicious activity outside the walls that night.
“Five riders from the south—they look to be coming from the forest!”
Kesten and his men quickly joined their comrade on the wall. After hardly a moment watching the riders approach in the twilight, Kesten ordered the gates to the fort shut. Luka and Tanya closed and barred the wooden doors at his command.
With a glance at the party he called for them to stay off the wall, but be prepared for a fight—if the riders didn't know the party was in, maybe they could work that to their advantage if things turned hostile.
Before long, Kesten called out to the riders. “Halt! State your names and business with this border fort!”
Through tiny gaps in the wooden beams that made up the palisade and door, the party was able to get a good look at the strangers.
Five men, as advertised, all mounted, two carrying lit torches.
“I am Akiros Ismort, lieutenant of the Stag Lord.” The man who spoke looked to be the leader of the party. He was the best groomed of the group by far, with a short, trim beard and greying black hair.
“These are Lieutenants Dovan and Auchs.”
“That's Dovan from Nisroch,” hissed the man on the right. He was dressed in black leather except over his several black tattoos, which he left uncovered.
The third lieutenant, 'Auchs', lived up to his name. He was either a small giant of a monster of a man, and if appearances were anything to go by, even stupider than he was massive. Both Auchs and Dovan flanked Akiros, with the unmentioned torchbearers completing the formation.
“And what does a filthy bandit outlaw like the Stag Lord think he wants with a respectable borderfort of Brevoy?” Kesten demanded of Akiros
“No need to play the fool,” Dovan cut in, “we happen to know your little adventurers are out and not likely to come back for another week. Don't worry your fearful little hearts, though. Even though we have you trapped like rabbits in a cage, the Stag Lord is not without his mercies—.”
“Dovan, that's enough.” Akiros told his fellow. The former shut his mouth with a bitter look.
“Our liege, the Stag Lord, has commanded us to deliver a message to the owner of this fort. I suggest he heed it well. Tribute will resume on the first of next month. He is prepared to overlook the previous transgressions of this fort, but the amount owed must be repaid in full—”
“The hell it will!” Oleg himself appeared at the top of the wall. “I will never bow to that craven bully again! Oleg Leveton bows to no master, you tell this 'lord' of yours that. Let him come tell us himself and we'll see how he likes it when he doesn't have a pack of cronies to hide behind.”
“You insolent cur!” Dovan reached for his rapier out of habit, but left it sheathed. “I will enjoy personally cutting that tongue out of your ugly head while you beg to make me your master.”
“Dovan.” Akiros said. The man in black shot his superior a withering glare, but relented.
“I hope for your sake that you change your mind before next month, Sir. We are only here to deliver a message. The next time we meet may not be on such friendly terms.”
At Akiros' command the group turned and left for the forest.