Early in the morning a trapper and his two strapping young sons came across our camp and agreed to take Arim in until he’s recovered enough to travel. Before passing out last night Arim told us that his family had died from pestilence down south and he came up here to try and start a new life – talk about a guy that can’t catch a break. He told us that the leader of the bandits was a stocky raven-haired woman who seemed more interested in mayhem them in money. Vario and I debated if there was any reason to try and track these bandits down – deciding in the end to continue on to the wizard’s house that may not actually be there.
Late in the afternoon four worgs came gilding out of the trees silent as ghosts – one in front, one in back and one on each side. It was at this point I was most impressed with Vario’s ability to train and ride – his horse didn’t panic in the slightest upon being confronted with a quartet of three hundred pound wolf-monsters. Lermo and Jalista were less impressive, they all but hugged each other in fright. The scarred and battered looking leader of the pack (still imposing though) sniffed at the air quite a while before fixing its one good eye on me.
“I’ve heard about you.”
“Good things I hope.”
This elicited a half-snarl that was hard to interpret. You know, since I’m not a wolf.
“They say you make deals.”
“I’ve come to an arrangement with your people from time to time. I’m surprised you’ve heard about that.”
“My kind looks out for each other, we don’t stab each other in the back like people from your world.”
“I haven’t stabbed anyone in the back for months. What can I do for you?”
A full-blooded snarl this time “Every year my sisters and I come north to consort with Howls Like Thunder, pass on his strength in our pups. This year we found his rotting corpse – killed by your kind. We want revenge.”
“A worthy goal. How can I help?”
“His murders are elusive, they hide their man-stink. You find them for us.”
“And in return?”
“We don’t slaughter you like hares.”
“Fair enough. It just so happens we just came from a place where the people that murdered your baby-daddy killed some friends of ours. We killed a couple of them while we were there and probably the rest will come looking for them. Let’s head back there and see if we can pick up the trail.”
“Nine or ten miles, do you know what a mile is?”
Teeth bared in anger “Yes, I’m not stupid!”
I held my hands up in a show of contrition “My apologies, I don’t know how your people operate, I meant no offense. Let’s head back that way and we’ll be there in three, four hours no problem.”
“Too slow! We’ll carry you.”
“Yes.” She looked disdainfully at Vario and his steed. “Is your broken slave fast enough to keep up?”
Vario sneered back “Fast enough for you wolf.” He bit off the word like wolf was the worst curse imaginable.
In my life I’ve convince a lot of people to do a lot of things they didn’t want to do – it may be what I do best. I can be very convincing. But Lermo and Jalista did NOT want to climb on the backs of those worgs. In the end I resorted to one of the best negotiation tactics there is, the truth.
“Guys it’s simple, these monsters are in a hurry – either you get on right now or they tear you apart. Which will you have?”
I love riding, you all know that. Riding a pegasus was one of the most joyous moments of my life. This was something else. It wasn’t frightening to much as alien. I’ve ridden a horse bareback many times but this was different entirely. There’s something about a horse that makes them seem natural to ride – some will tell you that the Gods made them for us to ride. There’s nothing of that sense about a wolf. Their loping movement seems wholly unnatural when you’re feeling it yourself. Not to mention that when you’re riding a horse for the most part you’re on a road or path or something – you don’t usually gallop around in a forest unless you like getting knocked off by a branch and/or breaking the legs of your mount – so just the feeling of tearing through the trees faster than any human could ever run was strange.
And for as much as I’ve ridden I was never much of one for show jumping – the first time my wolf-mount bounded over a low stand of thorny bushes I was so startled I almost let go. Despite Vario’s claims he couldn’t keep up and was left behind quickly. We made it back to the camp in under an hour. It was so fast it was somewhat disorienting I must be similar to what it feels like when you use magic to teleport, the mind can’t quite believe what it’s seeing. We left the bodies of the bandits where they lay and the four sister worgs examined them thoroughly. The one I had ridden who had done all the talking looked up.
“We have the trail, the deal is done.”
“Hold up a second, these bandits are going to have crossbows and probably traps set up – they may have a fortification of some kind. Let’s wait for my friend and we can all go together.”
“No! We go now! For their blood!”
“At least take us three with you – we may be able to help. And if we can’t there’s no harm right?”
She shook her head like trying to get rid of flies “Get on!”
Lermo and Jalista looked at me like I had just betrayed them in the worst possible way. Honestly I’ve seen less accusatory looks from people I was in the process of stabbing – while the knife was in them. A short terrifying ride later and we were at the camp – a log wall of sorts across a rocky defile. Inside were a few tents, crates (bandits love crates) and even a wagon. The three humans and four wolves crouched low in the underbrush as we looked on.
“You see that? There’s a good dozen men in there and they have crossbows, if you try to go charging in through that little gap that’s what they want – they’ll cut you down before you can get your jaws on them.”
A low growl “Cowards! Fighting from afar!”
“Exactly , but the good news is you have your own cowards. The boys and I will climb up around on those hills and we’ll start firing on them from above. Then once we have their full attention you make your move and take them from behind. Classic pack tactics.”
“Do it then, the spirit of Howls Like Thunder demands vengeance!”
Lermo and Jalista didn’t like the idea of climbing but hiding in rocks and shooting down at people from cover was right up their alley. I was trying to hurry them along because I was afraid the sisters wouldn’t wait long but I’m not much of a climber myself so it took a while. Thankfully the worgs didn’t burst in and attack while we got into position.
“Okay, I’ll shoot first – you two hold your shots until you see someone come to help whoever I hit, then you aim for them. After your first shot Lermo I want you to reload for Jalista.”
“But . . .”
“Just do it! You’re injured. Now get ready.”
I took aim at a fellow sitting against a half-log bench of sorts smiling and drinking from a wineskin. I had a horrible premonition of missing but I didn’t. I hit him right through the belt-buckle, which isn’t where I was aiming at all, but I didn’t miss is the point. Have you ever seen a smiling man’s face slowly disappear when he realizes that he’s been shot? I have now. He slumped over forward as I shot again and he was hit a second time in the small of the back. After a moment there was a shout of alarm and another man ran over to the fallen one – and as ordered Lermo and Jalista started shooting as well. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that the worgs were so patient, being hunters and all, but they didn’t make their move for several minutes after the bandits were well-dug in behind cover and exchanging shots with us. Once they moved into the compound I stopped shooting and waved off Lermo and Jalista as well.
Half a dozen bandits died in the first few seconds, but the raven-haired woman along with two blonde women and a fellow in mail who was missing his right ear along with the right side of his head being badly scarred put up a much better fight. They killed two of the worgs and sent the other two running. As soon as they were gone they got back into cover from us potentially shooting from above. One Ear yelled out.
“Who’s up there?”
“We’re from the logging guild, you’re under arrest.”
“Since when goes the logging guild work with wolves?”
“Those were our werewolf enforcers. Next full moon you’ll be in trouble.”
“When it gets dark we’re going to come up there and shove a spear up your ass!”
“A whole spear? I doubt it. Six, eight inches, sure. A foot? Maybe. But there’s no way you’re getting a whole spear up there.”
He continued to bellow threats as we made our way down off the rocks and regrouped with the two badly wounded but surviving worgs.
“That enough vengeance for you?”
The leader was injured and panting heavily “No . . .”
“You willing to die for this?”
She paused for only a moment “Yes . . .”
I pulled a rapier out of my secret pocket “Alright then, Lermo, Jalista, take out them fancy little swords of yours it’s time to get stuck in.” I mounted up on the lead-worg. “Hold on, I’ve always wanted to do this.” I took out the ram horn horn. “For the King!” I blew a long clear note on the horn. “Did you guys feel anything? I was hoping that was magic and it would summon a big ram or something. Oh well. Charge!”
I probably shouldn’t have blown a horn before we went in – all that did is let them know we were coming. But what am I a battlefield general? No, I am not. They were still worried about facing fire from above them so they weren’t all there waiting for us – but two of them were. I suppose I should have sent Lermo up there to do just that but see previous statement. I activated my lion tattoo and did a fancy jump and roll as my worg charged at One Ear – I stabbed him cleanly in the ribs with my Dagger of Venom and then backed off to use my crossbow. I’m not sure why I got a rapier out – other than it looked pretty cool in the moment.
The poison did its work and eventually the worg was able to drag the big warrior down and tear his throat out. The other worg and the two goons had been skirmishing inconclusively with the three women who asked for quarter once they saw One Ear go down. Which I was only too happy to provide. I’m very merciful you know.
“On my word, throw down your weapons and you will be spared.”
They did, which were gathered up my Lermo as Jalista and the worgs watched them carefully.
“Woman bandits eh? Don’t see that much. How did you ladies get into this kind of work?”
The squat raven-haired one answered “We’re Mourning Wolves.”
“I don’t know what that is.”
One of the two blondes answered “Our husbands died in the service of the King, now we take our vengeance on his subjects.”
“Oh, mourning like at a funeral not like a sunrise, I see. Wow, there’s a lot of vengeance going on today. We came here to get vengeance for the killing of these ladies paramour. But you lot didn’t have anything to do with that right? It was just the guy with all the scars who did that right?”
The other two looked confused but the second blonde jumped in “Yes, it was Emri and the other men that did that, we had no part in it.”
“You see there, vengeance is done, right?”
The two worgs sniffed the women over as if they could smell their guilt or innocence. “Howls Like Thunder is avenged. We shall mourn our sisters and return home.”
“Before you go what are your names, not your real names, but the name I can say.”
After a moment the lead worg answered “I am Blackthorn.”
The other followed her lead “I am Thousand Cubs.”
I nodded. “Thank you. Travel safe.” I turned back to the surrendered lady bandits “Okay, we’re going to take any valuable here and then were going to leave. Sound good?”
Looting is where Lermo and Jalista really showed what they can do. I’ve never seen a camp so thoroughly and efficiently looted. I had to stop them from digging into the latrine to see if there was anything hidden in nightsoil. Sadly there wasn’t much to find, but they were overjoyed at things like finely made spears or a cheap copper ring. There were several silver-headed arrows though.
“What’s this about? Are you guys actually mixed up with werewolves?”
The captives had no information though, or at least none they wanted to share. After gathering up the loot we headed back to the logging camp where Vario was waiting, fuming. I grinned at him.
“What kept you? You missed all the excitement.”
Funds: 340 platinum, 807 gold, 6 silver
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, Map, False Papers, carnelians (2), Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Horn of the Hunt Master, +1 Chainmail, Cold Iron Greatsword, Ring of Sustenance
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince
Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle
the butler , Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire
Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror,
Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe,
Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family,
Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale
Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna
Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer,
Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium
of Three Rivers