Stoneguard

Yes, I would like to mount your bearded serpent

Paybacks are a dish best served cold. And rainy. And bloody.

I had retired to my room at the tavern to rest till evening, although the air was thick with anticipation of the adventure to come. Upon hearing my companions’ voices outside the tavern just prior to twilight, I hopped out of bed and popped out to join them. Kai and Runi had found a peasant woman to care for the child and we were greeted by the two guards and two levies that were to accompany us on our expedition. One of levies was a tracker which should prove useful in the dark forest. We ventured to the edge of the village and prepared to depart in the direction indicated by the barbarian earlier that afternoon.

Once we reached the edge of the village Kai called out for his mount. Dusk was well upon us and the dreary drizzle was still heavy overhead when we heard it, something like a heavy, rumbling slither, not hoofbeats or any sound with which I was familiar. Then we saw it – A GIANT SNAKE. I had heard of such creatures but seeing one in the scales was quite another matter. Despite its formidable appearance it seemed quite tame to Kai as he mounted up and offered a seat to Runi and me. Runi declined, but as I am somewhat slight of stature and always amused by other unique, odd creatures (as I am certainly less than standard issue myself) I eagerly accepted and swung up behind him.

Yes, yes I would like to mount your bearded serpent. Thank you.

We strode off (slithered off?) into the woods as the night rose, venturing forth with eyes and ears open. The dim light normally doesn’t bother me, but with the nearly moonless night and chill, misty air even my half-elvish senses couldn’t give me an advantage. Suddenly, both Kai and the tracker noticed something at a distance. The tracker fired an arrow into a tree, Kai ordered me to hold on and ordered the snake up the tree, with us still aboard. I then noticed the barbaric scout – Kai jumped from the snake and attempted to knock a man out of the tree, missed but was able to punch him out shortly thereafter. The man fell to the ground, it was clear his ribs were shattered and his organs punctured. He clearly did not have long to live.
Runi used a type of laying on of hands to stabilize him and began a crude interrogation, as the man was of one of the barbaric clans and clannish language is rather broken and simple to an outsiders’ ear. Kai and I returned to the forest floor in time to ascertain that the raid party had made camp a short ways away on a farm. Runi then ordered the guards to run him through and we carried on towards the enemy camp.

As we reached the edge of the clearing it was obvious that this was the farm to which he had referred. Despite the darkness and gloomy weather, I could ascertain that there were several of the barbarian clansmen in the fields, and a large building in the center – a small, single story outbuilding connected by a breezeway to the larger building, with the roof slanting to a second story towards the back. The field appeared to have recently been wooded; it was littered with stumps and mud from the logs being dragged away. There appeared to be a large puddle, almost the size of a small pond off to the right a bit. No cover, no barricades – nothing but a battlefield waiting to happen.

Runi summoned his… monster thing and flanked around to the left. Kai left his serpent behind and scouted around to the right, coming up behind the big, muddy puddle. I opted to hop up to a low branch of the tree to better scout the surroundings, knowing far better than to go running out into battle with my slight frame and rather sparse armaments. Unfortunately, the village guards hadn’t quite thought things out as well.

Rather than following our lead and assessing the situation, the village guards and levies opted to simply march out into the soon-to-be battlefield, weapons raised and ready for action. In moments the entire field was awash with blood – Kai called his snake over, its formidable stance frightening a man away. I hopped down from my lookout and grabbed my whip, but the wet leather was slippery and against the closest barbarian’s slimy armor I was barely able to connect.
I could detect skirmishes on both sides of me, but while distracted I took a substantial blow to the shoulder from the tracker in our party. The barbarian turned to me to attack, and in my rage I threw him to the ground and whipped him unconscious. Bruised, bleeding, and heaving with anger, as Kai was looting bodies and Runi and his pet made their way toward the building with the remaining guards I looped around the back, searching for additional sentries or a back way into the house.

I found nothing of interest and met up with the party at the far end of the breezeway. Runi’s pet, I believe I heard him call it Nimbus, was violently tearing at the door. I kept my eyes on the field and let them do their work, listening as well as I could to the exchange of words with the baddies inside.

“Leave or we kill them” a cronish female voice called out.

“Whom?” inquired Runi.

“The prisoners!” she cackled.

Well, that puts a damper on things. It is much more difficult to gamble when it is not merely your own life on the line, but those of innocent others. Although neither I nor my new companions had any ties to the village, the guards of Willowvine would certainly care if we endangered their brethren, not to mention the tracker had already lost his life in battle and one of the guards was severely wounded already. I weighed the consequences in my mind, debating our next action when Runi made the decision for us:

“Oh well”

I stole a glance through the now gaping hole in the doorway and saw an old witch with a huge ruby colored spider on her left shoulder – she muttered an incantation and a swarm of spiders spewed forth from her mouth, bursting through the doorway and attacking Nimbus, who seemed not to even notice. The crone then cast an obscuring mist, one through which even my elvish eyes couldn’t cut. I summoned a dire rat into the room, but with my weak magic it was only able to snap up a few spiders and nip at one of the barbarians before vanishing.

CRASH! Nimbus was through the door. Before anyone could even react Runi cast ‘Enlarge’ on the creature, its formidable appearance now sheerly terrifying. It tore through the room bashing away and whatnot, the guard following after; leaving the remaining Levy, Runi, and me in the breezeway. Despite my overwhelming desire to jump into the action, blood was still streaming from the slice missing from my shoulder, staining my hair and clothes crimson with blood. I healed the guard and held my ground outside the room.

As Runi rushed in, I opted to stay behind the levy and slash my whip at anyone within its reach, my urge to kill rising but my sense of self-preservation prevailing. The guard took such a blow I was unable to heal him; death came to him quickly. The levy had taken some blows and I was able to heal him up one more time, preserving him for another round or so before the blows overwhelmed him.

The first opponent to show himself was one of the barbarians, whom I lashed through the doorway with such force I could hear the audible snap of his neck before his body slumped to the floor. The pathway seemed rather clear and I stepped into the room to see Runi’s pet heaving over the bloody stumps of what I presumed to be the bodies of fallen barbarians and a few other men that seemed to be in league with them; as well as Runi running about on the loft. I bound a barbarian left half alive and began to interrogate him as Runi went to the back to release the villagers they’d kidnapped.

The interrogation revealed that the witch had vanished off to somewhere unknown, the storeroom was filled with spoils of their raids, and that they’d been working with the witch for some time; although they were unsure of where she was from or what her motivations might be. The barbarians themselves were one of the slaver clans and the prisoners were to be sold into the slave trade.

I left the barbarian bound and went to inspect the storeroom across the breezeway. A couple of pigs, some sundry items, basic wares for the farm mostly. I did pocket some gold I found in there, but serpent mount or no I was in no mood to go dragging a bunch of goods back to the village. It was all for the best, as Runi found the farm owners in the other room, and I’m sure after their ordeal they would be happy to benefit from some of the plundered goods.

Runi, Kai, the serpent, and I all ventured back to camp (Runi dismissed his pet off to the world from whence it came) and let the six villagers find their own way back. Our work here was done.

We returned to the village to much rejoicing, as among the villagers we had released was the tavern keeper’s daughter in law. We were told that the 5 made it back safe, and that we had an invitation waiting for us to greet the village magistrate at the manor. Little did we know what adventures would be awaiting us there…

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Jayelin

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