Martialla and I reboarded the Double Entendre to sail away and enact my cunning plan. Jasko seemed very excited about prosect of getting into battle – his men were less sanguine about their prospects. I got to pet his lynx Rascal which has to be good luck right? He didn’t seem to like it but he didn’t claw my face off either so I’m calling it a win. Jasko only had four men on his skiff, Captain Kolv of Lucky Star had five men and two guard dogs, but the largest of the keelboats – the Whale – had a dozen men who shrugged on ringmail and took up axes and pikes, not to mention their captain Bray who looked like a real down and dirty killer despite being extremely courteous. They put us all ashore about a mile down river and we hiked back to where Gisa and the Renwick contingent were supposed to be – finding only Gisa and her treasure hunters.
“I can’t help but feel like something is missing here.”
“The sheriff convinced the Renwick refugees that it wasn’t safe to wait here like you said, mostly because you were the one who said it. I had the strong desire to beat that man senseless in front of everyone.”
“He probably gets that a lot. It’s time to round up the strays for the big cattle drive.”
We found them maybe half a mile to the east crowding around a scummy looking pond looking miserable as Sheriff Arnassis was trying to roast a frog on a stick over a tiny flame.
“Alright folks, break time is over, as you can see here we’ve got reinforcements so it’s time to head up the road and save the good people of Penside’s Ferry with our bravery.”
“Is that a bobcat?”
“No sir, this is a lynx, his name is Rascal and he’s ready for battle – it’s time for you all to follow his fine example.”
It was about two miles to Penside’s Ferry and as we got closer we could hear the sounds that battle had already been joined. Martialla turned the two of us invisible and we went ahead to take a look. The attackers had returned with a suspiciously well-made battering ram – it was a professional job not your standard tree-trunk with branch-handles. They had used this and had taken down the gate. Both towers were down as well and a good three dozen men were inside being held up by a wall of zombies and the few defenders. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting the bad folks to be inside the ferry , I was hoping to trap them against the wall, but I’ve heard it said about battle-plans that they last just about until the battle actually starts and then are pointless. Martialla and I headed back to the alleged war-party.
“The kettle is on the fire folks, take five minutes to catch your breath and then we’re going over the hill and into the fighting. There’s some zombies over there, but don’t worry, they’re on our side – still though I won’t get too close.”
The Renwick folk looked absolutely terrified, which is natural, I assume while I was gone Sheriff Arnassis was filling their heads with doom and gloom as well. The crewmen of the three keelboat didn’t look frightened, but they were certainly apprehensive, as most people would be before charging into a mass of other people looking to slice your guts out. Time for an inspiring battle speech. I don’t know much about that sort of thing, but I know people, it really doesn’t matter what you say – you just need to speak with conviction. In times like this people just want to be told that everything’s going to turn out great. Even when it’s not. Especially when it’s not.
“The path we have chosen is a dangerous one, we could have easily kept running away – so easily, probably every part of you was screaming for you to do just that. But you didn’t. You’re here because this is the path consistent with who you are. When the chips are down some people turn on each other – you don’t. You’re here because the path you take isn’t the path of surrender or submission. And I am with you. Not for recreation or sport but because I have resolved to live or die with you – to lay down for the Gods, for the Kingdom, for the people, for honor, for the blood of my ancestors, my life if that’s what circumstance demands. You will, by the dignity of your conduct, afford occasion for posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to ‘had this day been wanting, the world had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining’. Most people go their whole lives without knowing who they are. For you the question has been answered. If you die today you can do so knowing that you are complete. When the call went out you came. Here’s the battle plan, go over the hill, kill the enemy, don’t die. You can handle that right lads?”
Their answering roar was quite enthusiastic. As they shook their weapons and bellowed Martialla sidled up to me.
“We’re going to stay in the back right?”
“Of course, what kind of idiot do you take me for?”
By the time we made it to the “battlefield” the zombies were all dead (again) and the few remaining defenders were penned in against the wall with the stables on one side and the crummy inn on the other. That had to be a real kick in the dick for the attackers, they just about had the thing won and then all of a sudden here comes two score of new assholes to attack them? Doesn’t hardly seem fair. A few of them tried to block the gate-hole by dragging one of the downed towers across the opening but it was too late. They had a mage in their ranks, which was an unwelcome development – half a dozen men were turned to cinders as they rushed through the gates. Why is it that magic seems to consist mostly of different ways to burn people to death?
With the walls down and the defenders mostly defeated when we got there it ended up being a much uglier fight than I had hoped. I suppose that’s the way it always goes with this type of deal. Martialla pointed out the mage to me and I tried to put a crossbow bolt in his belly but it was just an illusion of some kind. We never did find him. After a few minutes the tide turned in our favor, mostly due to Bray and his men being legit fighting types. Several of the attackers threw down their weapons while others dove into the river and tried to swim for it. Have you ever shot someone in the back of the head as they were trying to flee by swimming away? It’s not a good feeling. It’s like stepping on a beetle, it has to be done but it feels wrong anyway.
One fellow refused to do either – even when surrounded with no hope of escape or victory he kept swinging about him with a greatsword that practically screamed “I’m magic!” Everyone backed off and I along with two surviving bowmen shot him no fewer than a dozen times before he finally dropped to the ground. One of the Renwickers ran forward and grabbed his sword – and then immediately started shaking and convulsing. A split second later and he swung the sword in an wild arc and decapitated himself. It was quite something.
“I wouldn’t think this need to be said, but no one else touch that sword.”
The toll was a heavy one. Seventeen dead and many more wounded – the Black Bard was seeing to them as best he could, but there’s only so much magic healing to go around. After that it’s just ripped cloth bandages and a shot of cheap whisky for the pain. Once the fighting was over several women came out of the barracks where they had been hiding to help him. The captives were only too eager to tell their tale – they were actually bandits. The woods to the northeast are something of an outlaw haven and several groups operate out of there, or did anyway They were united by a dragon that used the classic bargain of “do what I say or I’ll breathe fire on you”. This rag-tag bandit army was set to the task of conquering Renwick, although why a dragon would care about conquering a city they couldn’t say. The sword was given to their leader as a way to make sure they followed through – as evidenced it had some form of mental domination over its wielder.
This group was sent to take out the Ferry as a support piece to Renwick and were able to confirm that in addition to the spellcaster the rest of their leaders had escaped the battle – probably with the spellcaster. Lousy magic using cowards. Whether they’re reporting back to the dragon or getting the Hells out of this entire mess is anyone’s guess. I know which I’d do. Ordo had been killed in the fighting so I deemed Meflias the necro-alchemist as the new leader of Penside’s Ferry, mostly because I knew his name. I thanked the three ship captains lavishly for their help and promised them a reward from the Baroness, which they may even get some day. After getting all the information we could out of the captives we killed them and tossed them in the river for the crocodiles – between that batch and those who tried to swim away it was a good day to be a crocodile.
Looking to the north we saw smoke coming from Renwick. A lot of smoke. I gathered in the barracks with the three Captains, Gisa, Martialla, the Sheriff and his pale shadow, the senior most living guardsman, Meflias, and Otacvio, who had miraculously survived the fighting.
“Renwick is under attack by a conglomeration of thieves and criminals, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a big deal but it sounds like they have a dragon on their side, which has the tendency to shift the balance of power. Gisa, you and your men have done your part – I hereby release you from any debt you feel that you owe me. If you want to leave and get back to your treasure hunting you should feel no obligation to stay. If you want to help though, I could certainly use your talents.”
The Sheriff scowled “Help? Help do what?”
“Save Renwick of course. You know, the city that you took an oath to protect as sheriff.”
Gisa looked apprehensive “What did you have in mind?”
“I was hoping that I could prevail upon one of the fine riverboat captains here to take us upriver to Renwick, under cover of night perhaps to prevent death from above by burning dragonfire, and see what we can do to help the Renwickers out from whatever trouble they’re embroiled in.”
Otacvio seemed strangely sober for once “Which may involve going up against a dragon.”
“Which may involve going up against a dragon. I beat a dragon when I was out by the Scar though, so I know how to do it.”
“You killed a dragon?!”
“You’ve been to the Scar?” chimed in Gisa.
“No, I said I beat a dragon, not that I killed one. From what I can tell they like to let their minions do the heavy lifting – which I can respect – take them out and they’re pretty reasonable. Makes sense, they live forever right? They can afford to take the long view. And yes, I’ve been to the Scar.”
Gisa’s eyes shone “I have a map to treasure there, I . . .”
“Everyone has a map to treasure somewhere in the Scar, don’t get your smallclothes in an uproar about it. Now, we’ve recently come into an abundance of dead bodies, Meflias I think you should get zombifying. And let’s put a hold on the moral outrage people, they’re dead, they don’t need those bodies anymore but they might be helpful to us. There’s no reason . . .”
Meflias cleared his throat “Sorry to interrupt My Lady, but that’s not possible. It takes several days mix up the oil I use to revive . . .”
I sighed “Fine, a zombie horde could have really come in handy but as per usual magic is useless.”
“It’s not actually magic My Lady, you see what happens is . . .”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t care. Here’s how I see this. The bulk of you stay here to fix those gates and get this place fortified as best you can, I have a feeling a lot more folks from Renwick are going to start turning up. Anyone who’s game can head upriver with me. Into the dragon’s den as it were.”
Gisa decided in the end that she’d rather be combing through old ruins than fighting for her country. Can’t say as I blame her, working for free doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’re a mercenary. Sheriff Arnassis started out by complaining about being left behind and then ended up complaining about being “forced” into going. When I told him he could do whatever he wanted it really threw him for a loop. He made a big deal about staying behind to oversee the defense but I made sure Meflias knew he was the one in charge. It would be Martialla and the three captains heading to Renwick with me aboard the Double Entendre – being the fastest and stealthiest of the keelboats. The two of us stood at the front part thingy, whatever that’s called, as Jasko, Kolv, and Bray did sailing stuff behind us.
“I have to imagine this is a lot more than you bargained for when you started looking for me.”
“You’re not boring, that’s for sure. Is this what it’s always like for you?”
“Lately. You must really want revenge for our niece to be sticking with me through this.”
“I didn’t have a lot going on anyway, this gives me something to do. Plus I feel like we’re becoming good friends.”
I snorted “Are you going to ask me to go steady next?”
“I might. Sorry to bring up actual human emotion, I know you hate that, but I have a feeling it’s been a long time since you had a friend.”
I said nothing, there was nothing to say.
Funds: 995 platinum, 159 gold
Inventory: Noble’s Traveling Outfit, Animated Riding Coat, Animal Totem Tattoo (Lion), Dagger of Venom, Bracers of Armor +2, Ring of Protection +2, Light Crossbow, Fake Signet Ring, False Papers, Bag of Concealment, Belt of Giant Strength +4, Vest of Resistance +1, Ring of Sustenance, Gem of Brightness, Silver Chain set with Moonstones, Gold and Emerald Ring (2), Glove of Vampiric Touch, Platinum and Silver Holy Symbol of Kralten, Holy Symbol of Kozilek, Ruby (2), Black Marketers’ Bag, 879 Garnets, crystal necklace
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, Hellerhad the Wizard
Behind the curtain : Like many of the rules that exist I’ve read the mass combat stuff but never really used it before. The experience rewards are lame. I guess that kind of makes sense because the characters don’t really do anything. I went with a story reward for saving the Ferry instead. For those keeping track.