(work in progress – MarkL, GarethS)
It was just after midday, as the sun began it’s languid descent, when the observant Finn noticed something watching the caravan from great height. A reptilian creature soared, perhaps several hundred feet up, on the warm cushions of rising air, dipping and circling, then rising again.
“It’s been there for some time”, said Finn. Mor’den squinted his eyes at the sun and muttered, “I don’t see anything”.
But it was there. Finn had seen it, Tevaak had seen it, even the gnome had seen it.
As if the flying creature knew it too was being observed, it ascended and moments later disappeared into the glare of the sun. But, for the party, the sense of being watched lingered.
The wagon strained and creaked along the dusty road. The merchant’s shouts, whistles and, occasionally, a crack of his whip keeping the beasts in check.
“The King’s Forest”, he grunted as if answering an unasked question. The party looked ahead as lush foliage and tall trees came into view. It was certainly a welcome sight, not only would the tree tops provide much needed shade, but the caravan might be shielded from any aerial observation.
The party ate lunch on the road: dried meats and fruit. The hulking Tevaak more than happy to share his fresh bread and ale; something which the little, insatiable Badger took full advantage of.
Tevaak, being the most battle hardened, took up the lead through the forest, keeping several paces ahead of the wagon. Badger had bartered with the merchant to ride up front, but after some scowls he settled for a place upon one of the oxen. Mor’den, and his man servant John, took up the right of the oxen, while Finn and his wild dog took the left.
Perhaps it was the lay of the land, the large granite boulder or the density of the forest that made Tevaak uneasy. “This is ambush territory”, he said to himself as his eyes scanned the dense undergrowth.
Rounded the boulder he was expecting an ambush, and was not disappointed. In the middle of the road stood a man, human, about 6 feet tall. His feathered hat gave him a flamboyant look, or perhaps it just made him look more like the scoundrel he was. A look accentuated by the crossbow in his hand and the snarling, salivating beast beside him.
Tevaak shuddered at the sight of the creature. It was some manner of dinosaur; perhaps shoulder height to a fully grown man, and certainly stronger than all four of the oxen behind him.
The merchant shouted, reigned in the oxen and slowed the wagon to a crawl.
Mor’den walked ahead to give support to Tevaak, while Finn readied his wild dog. Tevaak, showing his battle experience, calmly shrugged off his pack and readied his weapon and shield.
There was no pretenses as to what was happening.
The highwayman hailed Tevaak, “Greetings friend! I should inform you that you and your group are surrounded.” The highwayman trained his crossbow on Tevaak.
Mor’den was scared, and this made him angry. “Clear your mind. Focus.”, he told himself. Just like in training, just like every morning. But he couldn’t calm himself and he reacted, perhaps a little too soon. He reached out with his thoughts and felt the bandit’s mind – too quickly. What should have been a gentle touch turn into a tearing grasp.
The highwayman’s nonchalant smirk contorted in confusion and fear. His eyes turned upward and squinted in agony as if pleading with some merciless God for relief. None was forthcoming and his, now limp, body crumbled to the earth. Blood streaming from his eyes and ears pooled, like a crimson halo about his head.
Then all hell broke loose.
The dinosaur charged Mor’den, while two more bandits, realising they were in trouble, attempted to flee. This merely revealed their positions, which allowed Finn to set his dog on them.
Tevaak and Mor’den fought side by side to try bring the dinosaur down. It was ferocious and unlike anything any of them had faced before. It’s razor sharp teeth and claws glinting and flashing as it tried to avenge its master’s death. Mor’den, the agent of his downfall, was hard pressed to avoid the scything claws. In desperation, he called forth a solid plane of mental power, and focused his every effort on holding the beast mere inches from his face. Tevaak struggled to find a crack in the scaly hide, repeatedly opening small cuts and slashes in its side and legs. Badger, standing upon the back of the ox, began summoning his celestial minions to bite and gnaw at the ankles of the beast, but it was the little gnome’s arcane missiles of force which delivered the death knell for the beast. Bleeding from a dozen cuts and suffering from crushed bones and ribs, it finally fell, helpless to the ground. Tevaak pounced immediately, driving his shield into it’s head and cracking it’s skull.
For a moment, silence reigned over the forest. All too quickly however the sounds of barking and fearful cries could be heard. Finn’s faithful hound had returned, it would seem – with a human cargo in tow.
The boy that had been dragged back was barely out of his teens, and looked as if it had been weeks since he’d had a good meal or a sleep under a roof. His eyes darted fitfully from person to person, lingering for longer on the blood-covered figure of Tevaak than anyone else.
Still to cover
- the recruitment of Heff
- The loot
- The wagon driver nearly killing us accidentally with his bad crossbow aiming
- The wagon driver’s bodyguards involvement
- More on Finn’s involvement.
My memory is a sieve and much creative licence was taken here – please feel free to edit.