Sunday, August 23, 2009
The group wakes up, having camped outside the house of Joseep the woodcarver. Having protected him from werewolves while he was suffering from belladonna poisoning, he was grateful for their assistance and wished them good luck on their travels.
Travelling during the day was uneventful. There were a few additional farms farther north of Joseep, including some cattle farms, but this eventually opened up into the Skarna plains. Some sparse woods were spotted here and there and Jelena and Raizix were able to get track some game.
That evening, however, proved to be more eventful. Raizix, during his watch heard a buzzing noise and alerted his companions at once. A swarm of 13 stirges quickly flew into the torch light.
Most that approached Raizix were killed straight away, but two landed on Jelena and one was dangerously close. Darwin dispatched them with bolts of magical energy, and Raizix cut in twain the remaining airborne stirge.
After returning to sleep, and then waking the next morning and breaking camp brought another surprise. A dozen riders on horseback were approaching their position, with weapons drawn and a menacing appearance. Raizix responded first by firing an arrow from his new longbow, and Jelena followed likewise. The range was not easily overcome however, and they both missed their targets.
Darwin didn't have a similar problem, and downed five riders and their horses with a fireball. All the horses were apparently dead, and all but one of the men was either killed outright or unconscious.
Reacting quickly, the remaining riders split up, moving left and right, with only the apparent leader of the group riding straight for them. Two of the riders slowed their horses and turned around to aid their fallen comrades.
Ember slowed the leader by causing the very grass to grab the ankles of his horse, slowing and eventually stopping it.
One of the rider, not wearing armor and clad in bright clothes shouts out over the din of battle and charging horses, "you'll pay for that, wizard!" and methodically shoots his longbow and Darwin, narrowly missing with each shot.
Two of the riders that were now in the lead were obviously not human in their appearance as they did not wear helmets. The group could make out orc like features in the face, and were reminded of the half-orcs that attacked them recently in Zoa that were in the wizard Daresh's employ.
Using arrow and spell, one of the half-orcs was killed at a distance, but the other made it to Raizix from the south-west only to be deterred in his attack by Deekin who commanded the warrior to flee, and in his haste to depart opened himself to a fatal attack.
At about the same time, a human approached the group from the south- east and announced, "Surrender yourselves and face the charges of crimes committed in Zoa!" with no response, he charged toward Jelena but his horse pulled up short before he could slash at her with his blade.
Darwin seeing that the riders who had turned back were approaching again, targeted the wounded but conscious man and his benefactor who had brought him up on his horse. This second fireball blast was lethal to him, but the other rider remained lucid and landed on the ground, not far from his now dead companion and horse.
The brightly clad man then shouts again, "Wait! We surrender!" He backs up his actions by throwing down his bow, and the remaining men do the same, save one.
"I'm not paying you to surrender! Attack them!" Realizing the futility and precariousness of the situation he was in, the rider turns his horse around and rides back south.
Raizix pulls the nearby rider from his horse and pulls up Darwin behind him onto it. Ember takes the mercenary towards the remaining group. The leader shouts out again, "the one on horseback isn't my man! Permission to tend to and aid my fallen comrades-in-arms?"
"Granted!" shouts out Raizix, spurring his new mount toward the remaining rider.
Darwin, not intending to wait, says, "slow the horse." Raizix complies, and shortly thereafter Darwin intones the words again to cause a small bead of fire to race towards the rider and erupt in a fiery explosion. The horse falls dead on the ground, and the rider quickly stands and continues running.
He eventually slows, choosing to face his opponents directly. Darwin casts another spell, causing the man to stop, unmoving.
Raizix disarms him, and then pins him on the ground. While atop of him, Darwin intones once again, and upon touching Raizix, causes him to grow to much larger proportions.
The man starts to move in a short time, and twists his head around to get a better look at both Raizix and Darwin. Spying Darwin out o the corner of his eye, he growls and attempts to break free of Raizix's grasp. Raizix begins punching him in the face, until he falls unconscious. He then ties him up, and he drags him back to the waiting combined groups.
"Who are you and why did you attack us?" asked Raizix of the unarmed and unarmored man.
"I am Treon and these are my men. We are from the mercenary guild of Zoa. We were hired by Xeff, the half-Orc over there to track you down and bring you to justice."
"What crimes did he allege we commit?" asked Raizix.
"He said that you freed several prisoners and left several guards dead in your wake."
"That couldn't be farther from the truth. Have you heard of the wizard Daresh?"
"Indeed I have, but I fail to see..."
"We have been attempting to stop Daresh and her quest for power. Even now she is amassing an army here in Skarna to attack Zoa and perhaps attempt to take the entire region. Xeff must have been one of her minions."
"Do you have any proof of this?"
"No, I don't, and I don't need to explain myself to one such as you. Gold is the only reason you need."
"That's not true. Me and my men aren't evil. We choose our contracts. We don't relish fighting or killing," Treon says, looking at Darwin. "So, are we your prisoners?"
"No, you may return to Zoa, but we will take the horses. What will you say when you get back?"
"Keep the horses. Xeff paid for them. When I return I will tell three widows that their husbands died under my command, and for that I am grievously sorry."
"If someone asks, we were headed east," says Raizix, handing the man a bag with 50 gold coins inside.
"If someone asks, I'll tell them to burn in the nine hells. We don't take kindly to being deceived. Farewell and good luck."
With that, Treon takes his men aside, and they make shallow graves for the three dead men and the horses. They then leave on foot, not once looking back.
The group then waits for the human to wake, intending to question him. He eventually awakes, and finds himself tied to a tree, and a hood over his head.
"Who sent you?" starts Raizix.
"Daresh, as if you didn't know."
"Where is she?"
"It doesn't matter. You can't stop her."
Raizix hits him on the side of the head with his armored fist. "I said, where is she?"
"Castle Triumph, to the far north, in Natfal."
"Now, do you look forward to death's sweet release?"
"Daresh will punish failure, even after death. No, death is no release."
"Very well," and Raizix nods to Ember, who draws her dagger against his neck, killing him almost instantly.
They begin to mount up, and Deekin joins Raizix on his horse. "Raizix? Deekin is concerned...Darwin is becoming scary. Deekin thinks it is the coin."
"Perhaps. But he's our only chance against Daresh."
"Just make sure the price isn't too high," warns Alafarus, the intelligent short sword hanging on Raizix's belt.