Writers Note: When I started this a few days ago it was simply meant to be a “quick write up” of the events of the last game we played. Before long I had spent six hours typing and came out with sixteen pages. While the process was enjoyable, I doubt my next post will be written so extensively, and it will be focused more around my own character’s motivations. The problem I had the entire time I wrote this was that I was taking something from each of you and remaking it in my own voice, which honestly feels like robbing you of your character’s identity. So know that my future posts won’t be in this format, and that if something contained within doesn’t sit right with you I totally understand, and will more than gladly remove it and replace the below with something styled differently.
Charu clutched the scroll they found in the safe tightly in her hand. She was certain no one had seen her slip the parchment into her pouch once they had discovered that the magically locked safe had been empty. The others were too busy dealing with melting the construct that had been guarding the room. It was a clever trap, she had to admit, one that she had triggered out of her sheer excitement at what could be contained inside such a powerfully locked door, rather than any actual lack of skill. She had known her mistake as soon as she attempted to…communicate wasn’t the right word, but it was the only word to describe what she had attempted. The magical essence of the safe had simply ignored her and summoned the guardian, it knew she wasn’t the owner; she was much too excited about getting inside to have been allowed to actually do so. The second attempt proved much more effective. Instead of speaking to the safe, she just had the expectation that it would open, barely even acknowledging that it had some sort of sentience. That was the behavior the safe expected from its rightful owner.
Most of the others appeared to have been greatly disappointed by the contents of the safe, and at first glance, she was as well. However, with the discovery of the parchment with Garrick Silvermane’s name her disappointment buoyed into elation. She, admittedly, wanted the gems previously stored in the safe for her own purposes, escaping this backwater and moving to a place where someone of her unique interests could thrive. The scroll provided more opportunity for that than anything that the safe could have held. If she could find Garrick, and perhaps learn from him, she might be able to make her way without the need of these children. Most of them she could tolerate, the self-proclaimed paladin was a particular annoyance, always so righteous and just. She could handle rules, they made people think they were safe, especially if they thought she was following the rules. He was different. It wasn’t just rules with him. He had a conviction that crawled under her skin.
She had her doubts about all of their abilities. Despite training with Mallorn for what seemed like an eternity, she had no real belief that any of them were really more than children swinging wooden swords. So far, though, those wooden swords had been effective in their first foray into what might be considered the real world outside of the sleepy little village. Effective enough that her hopes of moving on to a real life far beyond this place could be realized. That could be accomplished even sooner if they were able to find Silvermane, and if not him, his stolen treasures. A hand on her shoulder shook her from her thoughts, and she looked up to see Jak standing beside her, a knowing glint in his eye.
They all stood in what Jak was calling the “thieves lair”, his flair for the dramatic when it came to naming things seemed to have taken over. The room was sparsely adorned, and the only feature worth noting was the furnace, which was still smoldering from the fire that had been used to melt the wax golem. Jak had returned with Charu, who had been examining the safe for any other clues as to who Garrick Silvermane might have been, and if they should attempt to find him.
“Well?” Jak asked. “Did you find anything else down there?” He spoke in a rapid, impatient manner, addressing Charu, whose eyes had glazed over again and was staring at the floor, lost in thought.
“I think we should fol-” she began to speak, but was interrupted by the gnome’s voice breaking over her own.
“Because I had an idea about something up here!” he practically shouted. “I was thinking about the gems that weren’t in the safe, and the empty barrels that we smashed that were in here, and the wax, and the barrels of wax up in the tower and I think the gems are in the wax!” He finished his thought with a flourish, proud of the logic that had brought him to this conclusion. He stood, watching each face of his companions, waiting for a reaction.
“That very well could be,” Garion spoke after a moment of thinking. “I suppose we should check. We can go to the tower above us, melt the wax, and while we wait we can further discuss how we should proceed.”
They began the walk back through the corridors and caves, careful not to upset any of the traps that had previously been disabled. The hallway had done more to defeat them than any living, or animated, creature had so far. The group walked through the dark corridors in mostly silence, the sputtering of torches and the shuffling of weary feet the only sounds to accompany them. Mostly they were tired, the last two days had been spent either battling creatures that wished to kill, and possibly eat, them. When they weren’t fighting for their lives they had been fighting against an environment designed to keep intruders away. Some of the traps had been merely humiliating, hanging Garion and Thaniel from their feet, while others left serious wounds. Though she had been touched by a healing spell from Thaniel, Charu walked with a perceptible limp, favoring the foot that had not been caught in the bladed trap hidden amongst the stairs. When the group of children reached the intersection of corridors a sudden realization occurred to them. All eyes turned to Vanna, whose clumsy descent had taken the better part of a day, down a rope ladder that would now be torn to bits of twine if he attempted to move his crystalline body up the hatchway. His body shifted and he began moving away from the intersection of the hatchway and toward the cavern in which the vicious stirges had attacked them.
“Oh no, I’m not going down there,” Charu finally broke the silence as the party watched Vanna slowly rumble off. “Those things can fly, and the last time we went in there we almost got drained of our blood the way an orange gets drained of it’s juice. I refuse to lose any more blood to those bastards.”
At her words most of the group stopped moving forward, but Vanna was unfazed. He continued to rumble along the corridor at a slow pace, his crystalline body shifting along the uneven floor of the cave, carrying him into the darkened cavern beyond the light of the torches of the group. Charu stood staring at his retreating form, her feet firmly planted and a look of resolve on her face. Her expression changed when a flash of green light emanated from the darkness of the cavern. She still stood firmly, but a puzzled look came into her eyes. Garion took a few quick steps into the cavern, glancing around, and saw no sign of anything crystalline.
“He’s gone,” he reported when he rejoined the others, who had moved to the base of the shaft and were climbing one by one up the ladder. By the time everyone made it up the ladder Vanna voicelessly drifted in through the door to the abandoned tower, a cloud of dust the only sign of movement. Everyone was puzzled at his sudden disappearance, and now his reappearing as if nothing had happened, but there was much about the being that they were unaware. His sudden appearance when Mallorn first addressed them gave the children the notion that he was somehow tied to the tree, but little conversation had been had to confirm or deny that theory. Vanna’s own input was not helpful for clarity, as he rarely spoke, and often it was only to warn of danger or provide input about the future of the group.
Without explanation, he picked up one of the small kegs filled with wax, crushed it between his crystalline hands, and began cutting small slices of wax off the cylinder. Jak let out a small snort of derision, shook his head, and began dragging the heavy cauldron they had found earlier closer to the fire. Nasrin moved to help him, and before long they were melting the remaining wax and sifting through the dredges.
Charu broke the silence first.
“I think we should track down this Garrick Silvermane.” She spoke confidently, but there was a slight sense of hesitation in her voice as she realized she did not have a solid reason beyond her own desire to find the thief, if he might still be alive.
“Our job isn’t done here, yet,” Garion spoke, as he watched the others go about searching the wax. It was a tedious process, and had to be done carefully as not to destroy anything that might be contained, or harming any of those searching by burning themselves with the wax.
“What job?” Charu asked, defensively. “We don’t have a job, just a tree telling us to go out and look for trouble. What are we doing here?”
“There is still evil in the woods. The lumberJaks in the camp spoke of being harassed by either goblins or kobolds. These creatures must be removed from the woods so that they are safe. This is our charge from Mallorn, to seek out the darkness that is creeping into the green of the world and to banish it.” He spoke with a serious tone, his eyes seeming to burn with the fervor that comes with strong conviction.
“We fought the aberration in the woods, and I feel that it was the strongest evil in this area. We should just ensure that the Deerwood is safe to travel through, and then move on. We cannot eradicate evil, only make sure that all things are held in check.” Xio spoke softly from the corner of the room. “Mallorn understands the need for balance in this world. Else the evil that is awakening would have been destroyed long ago, not just locked away. Change is coming to the world, the death of the Wraith has signaled that. Just remember this as we make our plans.”
Garion scowled in the direction of the monk. They typically believed the same things, however, they differed to the degree in which those beliefs were followed. Garion was adamant that the power of Light was would eventually overcome the Darkness and Xio felt that one without the other would eventually cause the destruction of the world. He felt that the destruction of the Wraith was one instance where the forces of right in the world prevailing over what was perceived as a threat that needed to be destroyed was one of those cases.
“See,” Charu further argued, “we should go after Garrick.”
“The Deerwood logging camp won’t be safe until we remove the threat. Without the camp the village will not have sufficient wood to last through winter. Without wood the village dies. The solution is simple, we have to secure the camp, at the very least.” Thaniel’s matter of fact statement was unexpected, but ultimately his point resonated with the children. The matter resolved itself further as a gasp from Jak caused everyone to turn and look toward the fire. He and Nasrin were pulling several small objects out of the cauldron, holding them in cloth covered hands in order to keep from burning themselves. In a small, wax dripped pile at their feet were several gems. Charu moved to examine them with Jak, the two of them muttering to each other about the value that they might carry. Vanna cradled several gems he had discovered in the cask of wax he had been searching, and dumped them into the pile wordlessly, then moved next to the door, his eyes searching the early morning woods outside of the portal.
Later that day the children gathered their belongings, put out the fire and secured their gear, prepared to search the woods for the threat that the lumberJaks spoke of only days before. The group departed the tower in solemn silence until Jak emerged from the safety of the tower, dressed in a reddish tinged armor that fit him well, but he was clearly uncomfortable walking in, as he stumbled and tripped over anything in his path, or sometimes his own feet.
“What are you wearing?” Thaniel asked with a chuckle. “You look like you don’t know how to walk.”
Jak scowled at him, tripped, caught himself, and continued walking. “I found it down in the cavern. It was next to this body, but I think it might be dragonhide,” he said indigently. “And I’m the only person who it would fit around here so I laid claim to it. I just have to get used to wearing it. It’s pretty constricting, and this morning when I was trying to put it on, I forgot to relieve myself, but now it would take too long to get out of. You keep that between us,” his brow wrinkled as he looked at Thaniel. Charu sauntered up from behind them, snickering as she passed them.
“You’ll get used to it, I’m sure. Or the next time we fight you’ll provide enough of an amusing distraction that I can poke some people in their backs while they laugh at you.” She continued walking, taking her place at the head of the group, scouting out several feet in front of them to ensure that they weren’t walking into a trap or an ambush. She was as comfortable in her own leather armor as a cat was in its own skin, but she remembered the rough period of transition several months ago, the little itches that get under your wrist guards that you can’t scratch and have to ignore. She smiled to herself, knowing that the gnome would spend the next few hours realizing that he can’t reach his back all that easily anymore.
After a long discussion about what to do next, they agreed to travel northwest, first to seek out what trouble was haunting the Deerwood camp, then eventually onward to discover the fate of Garrick Silvermane, who’s last known location was that direction. This was especially an important fact when they discovered a small mark on each of the gems, more than likely that of the owner or jeweler, that almost made the gems valueless until they discovered how to remove the mark. Everyone seemed satisfied with the plan of action, as far as could be expected, so they set off, moving with Charu in the lead, and Xio watching the rear.
They walked for an hour, each of them stiff and alert, watching all directions at once, before they began to relax. They made quick time, heading generally in the same direction, speaking quietly amongst themselves. Their spirits began to lift as they walked through the forest, the cool of the day and the green of life around them reminding them of the days playing in their tree, living a careless and enjoyable life. They all swapped their favorite stories about growing up in the village, of when the bakery caught fire because some of the other children thought the baker needed a cow in his kitchen and snuck one in late at night. Most of them had a story about growing up in the village, how odd their parents were, and how quickly things began to change. Before long the funny stories were gone, and the sense of duty had returned to them as they thought of their last trip through the village, how it seemed nobody noticed them. Was it the power of Mallorn shielding the village, or the children, or was some other power at work? Their somber discussion was cut short when suddenly Xio shouted from the back of the party.
Everyone turned and expected to see some commotion behind them, as he was tasked with guarding the rear. They turned to see him running past them, toward the front of the group, past Charu and straight at the underbrush on the side of the clearing they had been walking toward. With a shout he stopped his charge headlong into the brush and struck out with his foot, a solid thunk followed and a creature tumbled from the bush, a spear gripped in his clenched hands. Chaos exploded around the children. All around them, short, snarling creatures crawled their way out of the bushes around the clearing. Several of them wielding crossbows came out from around trees at the far end of the clearing and loosed bolts upon the children. Garion hoisted his shield and deflected most of the volley, though Vanna rumbled lowly as a bolt struck the right side of his crystalline body and a small fracture opened where the bolt bounced off his body. Charu rushed to the side of Xio and swung her wooden short sword, striking the creature that was looking down at its fallen companion. It crumpled to the forest floor with a low snarl that faded into a gurgle.
“Kobolds!” Jak shouted from the rear of the group as everyone began spreading to handle the threat. “I’d recognize the filthy little creatures anywhere.” He looked at Garion, mumbled something under his breath, then ducked out of the way as a crossbow bolt flitted over his head. Garion felt himself empowered, and lashed out with his sword, striking one of the two kobolds that had sprung from the right side of the clearing. Its body slung backwards, hitting the ground with a hollow thump, and its companion took a cautious step backwards, afraid the armor clad paladin might seek him as a target next. Before it could flee Vanna moved into the fray, looking directly at the hesitating kobold, whose eyes had suddenly glazed over and lost any luster. It simply collapsed, unable to support its own weight, crumpling to the floor lifelessly.
“These things don’t look too menacing,” Charu shouted, briefly feeling pity for the small creatures they had already felled. A crossbow bolt snicked against her armor, and she looked at her shoulder in surprise. A red bubble of blood began oozing between a deep gash in the armor. She grunted, more in anger, than pain, and stalked forward toward the kobolds wielding the dangerous crossbows across the clearing. Nasrin brought her sword-staff in front of her, and with a roar, charged forward, swinging both ends wildly at pair of kobolds that were distancing themselves from the group of children. The realization that this might not be the easy ambush they had planned the kobolds were beginning to become scared they had made a mistake in attacking this group. Nasrin’s staff came down upon the head of one of the kobolds, and it folded easily under the force of the blow, the bones in its upper body crunched with the sick sound of bones rubbing against each other in an unnatural way. She growled at the second kobold in front of her, and it stumbled backward, dropping its spear as it backpedaled.
Xio struck out at a kobold that had come behind Charu as she stalked toward the kobolds firing crossbows at the party. His hand struck the creature in the throat and its eyes bulged as it tried to grasp for air, wheezing harshly, it dropped its spear, hands tearing at his throat as if it could relieve the shattered bones and cause air to return to its lungs. The action of felling the creature brought Xio in line with one of the creatures and a bolt struck his thigh. Blood began to seep around the shaft of the bolt and down his leg. Charu reached the creature just after it fired, somehow it had not noticed her advancing on his position, she lashed out with her short sword, striking the creature a blow across the snout and face. The magical wood bit deep and ended the kobolds life before it was even aware it had been struck.
Garion advanced forward, still feeling the inspiration imparted by Jak’s words of encouragement. Sword in hand, he struck one of the remaining kobolds wielding a crossbow squarely across the chest, killing it as it attempted to bring the weapon up to fire. The bolt released and glanced uselessly off the paladin’s shield. The kobolds left standing look at each other, between them lay the bodies of their dead comrades, and several of the adventures stood wielding weapons. Without a second thought, one of the creatures dropped his weapon and ran fleeing from the menacing form of Nasrin wielding her weapon in front of him. His companion shouted a curse that sounded half spoken language, half dog-like bark. Its shout was short lived, as Xio advanced upon the creature, jumping into the air to close the distance between the two, and swept his leg around in front of his body and brought it crashing down upon the creature. A snap sounded from the small body as its head jerked back under the force of the blow, his neck ruined and broken.
The stillness of the small clearing felt like a physical shock compared to the roar of blood that pumped through each of their ears during the fierce melee. This was the largest number of enemies they had ever fought, and though they did not offer much of a challenge, it had been an intense few moments. Thaniel began looking over each of the children, inspecting wounds in triage fashion, classifying each as simple enough to be bandaged, rather than expending the energy his deity had granted him in order to heal his companions. Nasrin pointed her staff in the direction of the fleeing kobold.
“He is going to get away,” she shouted, her words followed by a growl and a charge toward the retreating figure. Several of the companions turned in her direction, practically forgetting the fleeing kobold, focusing on catching their breath and regrouping, they were surprised by her action and struggled to gather themselves to follow.
“Wait!” Jak attempted to get her attention and stop her, but she did not hear him. Her steps carried her briskly after the kobold, and she began closing the ground between the two of them. She leveled her staff like a spear and put as much effort as she could into her steps. Right before she closed on the kobold she heard a cracking sound underneath her, and a pit opened, swallowing her. Caught off guard, she attempted to use her momentum to catch herself on the side of the precipice that opened below her, her hands grasped the ground for the briefest of seconds, but her weight pulled her down and she fell. The fall was slight, less than six feet, but the bottom of the pit was covered in spikes. She screamed as she hit the bottom of the deadfall and one of the stakes, really just a tree branch that had been pointed with a knife, impaled her shoulder. The pain was overwhelming, and she felt herself gripping the edge of consciousness with a tenuous hold. She could hear the party running to catch up to the pit, and knew that the painful part was ahead of her, not behind. They would have to hoist her out, with the wooden stake still impaled in her body, before they could tend to the wound.
“I…I tired to warn her,” she heard Jak stammer, his worry showing in his voice. Hearing his voice, particularly the way he spoke, caused a knot of fear to form in her stomach. She pressed it down and forced herself to gain control, but the sound of his voice had been unnerving for a moment. “Kobolds tend to lay traps. They aren’t very brave so they tend to hope people will get wounded and then they can outnumber their victims. That’s more than likely why they haven’t been too successful in harassing the logging camp. They don’t handle direct fights well against people stronger than them.”
“It isn’t your fault, Jak,” Garion comforted the gnome, mainly to quiet him so they could deal with the situation at hand. Pulling Nasrin out of the pit was not going to be an easy task, especially if she was not able to move on her own. Garion began to unpack rope and wrap it around his waist. His plan was to lower someone safely down, have them tie the rope around Nasrin and then pull her from the pit. From there they could tend to the wound. Jak volunteered to be lowered down, and in short order they had the rope secured around the wounded warriors waist, and were slowly hoisting her, inch by inch, out of the pit and into the waiting hands of Thaniel who immediately began to tend her wounds. He gripped the stake protruding from her back, and without warning yanked as hard as he could. She screamed in agony, but bit off the scream into a low growl. It was then that she began to sway, her vision feeling blurry. She steeled herself against the feeling, forcing herself to remain in control.
“Poisoned,” Thaniel said simply, as he put his hands on her shoulder. A dim light shown from underneath for a brief second, and her pale face flushed with color. “It isn’t much,” he continued, “but that will staunch the bleeding and subdue any lingering affects of the poison. Next time you might consider being a bit more careful when charging headlong into an unknown area.” His chiding remarks were not overly biting, but they reflected the thoughts of many of those standing around her.
“He was getting away,” Nasrin said dejectedly.
“We will have to go after him,” Garion said after a moment. “That creature cannot be allowed to remain in the forest.”
“I don’t think he will cause us any problems,” Charu countered. “However, if there are more of them, they might be a problem.” she added, seeing Garion’s face darken at her initial comments. She did not want to start another debate in the middle of the forest. By this time Nasrin was standing, though leaning heavily upon her staff until she regained the strength in her legs. She nodded to Garion when he looked at her, and he turned to look at their surroundings. They were at the base of a small hill, that rose no more than twenty paces above them in a gentle arc. The fleeing kobold had moved around to the left, instead of up the crest. Charu moved forward and began looking around the area around the deadfall, and noticed a path had been beaten by small feet along the base of the hill. It looked well travelled. She informed the children that this was the path that would take them around the hill, but she was not sure what would be awaiting them. She suddenly cut away from the path and went right around the hill, walking carefully up the gradual incline, making sure to not step in the wrong spot.
At the crest of the hill she stopped the group, sniffing the air and wrinkling her nose, she nodded that there was something ahead of them on the hill. The light was beginning to fade as the day was slowly giving way to dusk. Through the shadows of the trees they could see smaller forms hunched over, looking expectantly at the other side of the hill. A shaft of light fell on the party and one of the kobolds turned to look in their direction at just that moment. He saw, standing behind the grouping of his allies, a band of children, weapons in hand, bathed in a shaft of light. They cut a menacing figure in the shadow of the hill, and the kobold stumbled backward, alerting his companions to the newcomers. Each group stood staring at each other across the crest of the hill. It was clear that they would soon be joined in battle, but for the moment each was waiting for the other to move first.
The sun sank below the tree line, blazing one last shining beam of light down upon the group of children. Garion set his shield heavy against his body, gripped his sword tightly in his hand, and charged forward, shouting a battle cry. The kobolds, mostly packed into a tight group had expected this maneuver, and three of them planted their spears into the ground, leaning as heavily as they could into them, hoping the paladin would impale himself upon the spiked blade and ridding them of a tough opponent. He smashed, shield first, into the group of braced creatures and batted aside two of the spears. One managed to angle past his shield and it impacted painfully off his armor, though it did not penetrate. The spear cracked against the weight of the charge, and broke snapping in half right about the kobold’s sturdy grip. In a panic, the creature looked down at his now useless spear, looked up at a dazed Garion, looked past him into what he perceived as crystalline eyes, then fell dead at the feet of his companions.
Nasrin followed Garion’s charge, still somewhat fatigued from her earlier encounter, she only managed to make it to his side, and lend him a supportive arm as he recovered from his headlong charge into battle. She waved her staff dangerously toward the kobolds, causing them not to advance on the stunned paladin. The two remaining spearmen held their ground, but the three behind them had crossbows and began to ready a volley. Charu had slipped from the field of view of the main group of kobolds, and stalked a lone couple of them that split from the main body. Her eyes were on the spearman when she saw a green stone tumbling over the ground that reminded her of Vanna. It moved as if it had been thrown, and was bouncing toward the kobold holding the spear. It hit the ground once more before the kobold, sprang upward as if it had ricocheted off a hard surface, and hit the spearman in the chest. A flash of brilliant green light from the kobold caused Charu to look away. When she looked back, the kobold was gone.
A second flash appeared in the middle of the children, the kobold materialized behind Garion. It let out a panicked yelp, its hands flinging wide in astonishment, along with the spear it had been holding. A hard slash brought it to its knees, and it died wondering what had happened. Nasrin took the opportunity provided by the surprise to swing her staff at the closest of her attackers, cracking its skull hard with the flat of one of the bladed ends. On her return stroke she caught another kobold in the chest, the solid crunch of bone could be heard as its ribcage collapsed from the force of the blow. Frothy blood speckled the corners of its mouth as its lungs filled and it gasped its last breath. The remaining kobolds with crossbows attempted to back away from the melee in order to get range enough to fire. The group closed on them quickly, afraid they might run away and again alert any others that might be in the area. The kobolds attempted to fire, but their bolts harmlessly went wide, and they were not provided a second opportunity.
The exchange was quick, less than a minute, all told. The rush of battle made the minute seem to have stretch into eternity. Each of the children stood still for several minutes, absorbing all that had happened and adjusting to the stillness. In the darkness they heard the muffled sound of struggling and realized that Charu was not standing among them. Garion moved in the direction of the noise, and almost tripped over Charu who was laying on the ground, wrestling with one of the small kobolds. Her arms were around its waist, its hands pinned to its side.
“We might be able to get some information out of it,” Charu gasped breathlessly, despite his small size the kobold was struggling violently and it was taking most of her strength to hold it. Jak appeared from the darkness, carrying rope, and began to lash the arms of the creature together. Garion was standing menacingly, his sword brandished, and a glower on his face.
“Try to escape, and I will kill you.”
The creature suddenly went limp, its struggling ceased at hearing the threat, which made Jak give a sigh of relief, his attempts at biding the kobold had been made much easier by the stillness, and soon it was standing, bound by the arms and waist, with a lead rope attached to Garion. It stood unmoving, head down, and barely even breathing.
“Do you have a name?” Charu asked the creature, speaking in broken Draconic, the language Jak said was native to the race of small creatures. Its head snapped up at hearing the language, and it looked around for the person who spoke. It was clear that he understood this much better than the threat Garion had spoken.
“Me Mebbit,” he stated, after a sidelong glance at Garion to make sure he was not going to be slain for speaking.
“Mebbit, good. How many of you are there, Mebbit?” Charu inquired, speaking slowly. She had learned the language as a way to communicate without her guardian knowing what she was saying, and it had been several years since she had spoken it. The children with whom she communicated previously had abandoned her friendship, not that she needed them to begin with, but they had been a pleasant distraction from the mundane village life.
“One?” Mebbit asked, more than stated. “Only one Mebbit.” He looked around confusedly, the question seeming to perplex him.
“Your friends, Mebbit,” she pointed to the dead bodies laying around them. “How many of them are there?”
Mebbit looked at the dead bodies of his allies, and spent several moments bobbing his head, as if counting the numbers to himself. Finally he looked at Charu, what might have been a smile was splayed across his long face.
“More.” He stated with certainty, and a proud look on his face. He felt he had answered the question most thoroughly. Though when Garion glowered at him he lost the look of pride on his face, and shrank back. “More than hands and feet!” he shouted, bringing his hands up and wiggling his fingers at the group of children.
“How can we trust you,” Garion asked through Charu.
“Mebbit reformed! You my friends now, not dead people. You trust Mebbit. He take care of you.”
“He will switch sides again as soon as he thinks his comrades can kill us.” Xio spoke from the back of the group, still looking around the clearing for any potential clues to the number of enemies around them. “Given the chance he will inform the others of our presence and get us killed. We should either kill him, or leave him here.”
“We will not kill him, nor leave him. He comes with us back to the village and will stand trial for the acts he has committed.” Garion spoke, certain that the others would agree.
“Trial?” Charu practically laughed. “Who in the hell do you think will judge him? You? We’ve just slain more of these creatures than most of the people back in that village have ever seen, and we are going to bring this lone kobold back to stand trial? They will just chop his head off and be done with it.”
Mebbit seemed to understand the conversation, as he began to fidget and cower. Charu thought she heard him whisper something in Draconic about dead ones around him standing trial instead of him, but his voice was too garbled and low to completely decipher.
“We will see when we return him. Until then he will stay with me.” Garion gripped the rope tied to his waste, and gave it a solid yank, pulling Mebbit closer to him. He looked down at the kobold, a grim expression on his face. “I will slay you if I must. Do as I say and you will be spared.”
Mebbit stood still, having understood enough to know that he should keep quiet and to himself. Charu turned away and rolled her eyes at the paladin as she did so, convinced, now more than ever, that he would be a prefect paladin, stubborn as a donkey. The group continued to mill about, checking the bodies of the slain kobolds for anything that might be of value on their journey. The entire time Mebbit stood next to Garion, fidgeting in his bonds and glancing up at the stern warrior. He would begin to open his mouth, glance up at his captor, then close it abruptly.
“More patrols at night!” he blurted finally, and cringed away expecting to be struck by Garion. When the blow did not come, he regained some of his composure. The children were looking at him expectantly, now, and he took a deep breath, calming himself after his fright. “They find you at night. Not safe here, must go.”
“Where are the others?” Charu asked, dropping the pouch she had been searching through. It nothing of value, some string, a few polished rocks, and a little piece of copper that looked to have been torn from a tea kettle.
“Me show?” Mebbit looked up at tree that stood a few feet away from where he was lashed to Garion, then back at Charu expectantly. She nodded at Garion and he loosed the rope from his waist, but still held to the end tightly, appraising the kobold with a strict eye. Mebbit began climbing the tree, then looked expectantly at Charu, who followed up the tree slowly. Midway up Mebbit stopped and began pointing to a hill opposite of the one they were standing now, the trees had been mostly cleared and two large bonfires blazed. Charu could see several small figures moving around the fires, but could not make out exactly how many.
“They come soon, check places to be sure safe. Not lot of time, we go before check?” Mebbit asked, looking down the tree at Charu, where she was already scaling down to the ground. He quickly followed, encouraged by a yank of the rope provided by Garion.
“There is a camp about two hundred pace to the north, on top of another hill. According to our new friend,” she nodded toward Mebbit, who was being roped in by Garion as he retied the line to his own waist, “they will come this way soon. I expect that they know we are out here. The one that ran away from us earlier isn’t one of these,” she indicated the dead kobolds on the ground around them. “I don’t think we have choice but to take the fight to them.”
Jak waddled forward, still somewhat stiff in his armor. His face, and the faces of all of the children were haggard and worn. The day had taken their toll on the guardians, and so had all the days before this. It was starting to show that perhaps this quick adventure out into the woods was a more serious endeavor than they had thought. Each of them knew deep down inside that they were chosen to do something important, but the longing to remain carefree was becoming strong. They all gathered together tightly, aware that the time to rest had passed, and that they would have to battle once more on this evening. Rest would come soon enough, but they were in danger from the patrols of kobolds that would surely be looking for them. Wordlessly Charu turned and began walking into the darkness, using her skills to pick a path through the forest and down the hill. The children followed with Mebbit in tow, preparing themselves for what they might find at the top of the hill.
Their musing were cut short, though, because a patrol had already mobilized and could be heard moving through the forest in their direction. By the noise they were making the patrol did not seem to be concerned with stealth, which meant that this patrol must well outnumber the guardians. The group froze, each of them scanning the darkness to the best of their ability, seeking any sign of where exactly the patrol would be coming into view. Jak spotted them first, his keen eyes aided by the dim light of the stars.
“Nearly straight ahead,” he whispered, nudging Xio who was still struggling to find his way in the darkness. “They are coming straight down the hill. Looks to be close to two dozen. And two…” he trailed off, as if searching for the word. He continued to mumble to himself, but no one understood what he was saying. It mattered little, because at that moment the kobolds had spotted the children standing near the base of the hill, and began charging toward them, driven by their numbers. Spearmen ran forward down the hill while a group with crossbows clustered around a kobold that was shouting orders to the other creatures. He pointed and screamed, spittle accompanying the shouted orders. It was clear that he was leading this patrol and had brought a majority of his forces to deal with these children.
Vanna began to glow with a soft blue light, illuminating the surroundings in order for the children to be able to effectively fight in the tight quarters of the forest. As if signaled by this action Nasrin let out a wild shout, brandished her staff, and began loping easily through the trees towards the oncoming rush. Garion lowered his shield to follow her, wrapped the rope that was lashed to his waist around his arm, ready to drag Mebbit into the battle. His plan was to knock the kobold to the ground, pin him to the ground with his foot, and fight the charging spearmen. Mebbit surprised him by charging right after Nasrin, yanking the rope taught and forcing Garion to run forward to prevent the kobold from wrapping itself up in the bindings. As Mebbit charged he shouted the battlecry he had heard Garion scream before, a shout to his god. The charging spearmen split to meet the two guardians, each group several strong, was confident that they would easily overtake them with their superior numbers. The guardians and the kobolds met with a crash, spears glancing off shield and staff. Garion deflected the blows easily with his shield, pushing the spearmen back a pace. Mebbit pounced on one of his fallen comrades, his long jaws tearing at the throat of the spearman, which produced a gurgling scream, cut suddenly short by Mebbit nearly tearing its neck in half.
Nasrin flailed wildly with her staff, losing count of the successful blows she struck against the small creatures. Her recklessness in attacking also let her defenses slip and she suffered several small wounds, cuts and gashes made by the tips of the spear slipping past her defenses and catching leg, or arm. She ignored the pain, unaware she had even been struck, continuing to lash out wildly with her weapon. Jak watched from where she had left the group, unable to reach her, but he whispered her name, and he felt his connection to all things resonate within himself. To his eyes she glowed with inner power, and her blows began to land more effectively, striking with more precision and deadly accuracy. Vanna began to rumble toward the kobolds, his crystalline form beginning to harden to protect himself from danger. He made an easy target for the kobolds wielding the crossbows, who fired at his glowing form as it moved toward them. Bolts bounced harmlessly off him, and provided cover for Charu and Xio who were moving up behind him. They sprang past the crystal being and struck out at the kobolds surrounding Garion and Nasrin. The spearmen began to waiver, realizing their numbers were not as strong as they originally considered. Their allies firing from the rear were having no effect on the tide of the battle. Their comrades were falling quickly, struck down by the skilled blows of what should have been harmless children.
They began hesitating, their attacks becoming more reserved as they slowly fell back to the main body of the group. One shout from the commander, however, seemed to rally their movements forward again, as they seemed to be more fearful of him than the children. They pressed with renewed effort, their savagery began to show in their attacks. They swung and stabbed with spears, and Garion began to falter under the force of the attack. He slipped to one knee, his shield held aloft to protect his body. A flash of green light suddenly enveloped him and he disappeared, the blows that were raining down upon him striking empty air and the ground. Mebbit, now freed from his bonds, the rope cleanly severed, looked about in confusion for a brief second, turned and jumped onto one of the spearmen, again biting and tearing at the exposed flesh of his former ally.
Charu and Xio took the opportunity of shock to strike out at the kobolds that had been surrounding the paladin. Easily taking the stunned kobolds out of the fight. A grunt followed by howls of glee from the kobolds turned everyones eyes to Nasrin who had no defense against the brutal reprise of attacks. She lay on the ground, blood staining her armor, and the kobolds stood over her, cackling their victory over the warrior. Vanna rushed to meet them, his charge cutting their cheers of victory short. Jak and Thaniel began to move up, carefully attempting to reach the fallen warrior. Garion had shaken off the daze of being physically removed from harms way, and was again wading into battle, though he was barely able to stand. One of the kobolds clustered with the crossbowmen strode forward. He began to chant in a language none of the children understood, his words seemed to be slippery, hard to grasp and hear. They taunted the minds of all who heard them, teasing them with some familiarity, then drawing no real recognition. As he spoke he outstretched his hands and sand began to filter through his fingers. The sound of the sand falling on the dry autumn ground was soothing to the children, the sound seem to take up their whole world for the briefest of seconds, they could feel themselves slipping into a relaxed trance, one by one they each realized they were still fighting and shook off the weariness. The spell had not worked, but had bought the crossbowmen time to fire once more.
Bolts whizzed past the guardians uselessly, none coming close to striking. The few spearmen remaining attempted to rally their defenses, but they fell quickly. In an instant all that remained were the cluster of kobolds, armed mostly with crossbows. The magician stepped forward, again preparing to unleash his magic, when Vanna raised an arm, pointed at him. The kobold stopped walking, as if caught by an unseen hand. It’s body twitched violently, and a trickle of blood began to run from each of its ears. It fell forward, the words dying with the breath on its lips. The commander of the group, who the children could now see wore a some feathers and garb that marked it as the chieftain, began to back away, uncertain now that it could win this fight. It took a step back, while yelling at his compatriots to attack. It took one last step backwards, and stopped, it’s back bumping into a solid object. Before it could spin in surprise it lay dead at the feet of Charu, who had moved around the group while the magic user was attempting to put them to sleep. Chaos broke out among the remaining kobolds. By the look of his size, the one considered to be the chieftains bodyguard went into a rage, charging forward at the children.
Xio ran forward, a flurry of movement as he struck out at one of the crossbowmen with his foot, missing, but causing it to stumble backwards. He swung hard with his fist, cracking the bodyguard in the face. It stumbled backwards, slightly dazed. Jak began to shout from behind them, where he and Thaniel were attempting to stabilize Nasrin. Jak shouted Xio’s name loudly, though it sounded odd, as if he had said it in some other language that was familiar, but not recognizable. Xio struck again, two quick blows to the side. A crunch accompanied them and the bodyguard grunted in surprised. It took a step forward, raising his spear threateningly, then fell forward, jabbing the sharp end into the ground, and catching his weight on the butt, propping his lifeless form upright. Only three kobolds remained, their crossbows held in limp hands. The end came quickly, the children fell upon them in the heat of battle. As the last sank to the ground, its eyes half closed in death, the world began to move again. Mebbit, who had attempted to charge into the crossbowmen, but had stepped on the rope tied to his waist and tripped himself, pulled himself up off the ground, looking around at the destruction that had been wrought.
“More than hands and feet,” he said with a hint of awe in his voice, “and we not dead.”
As if on cue, Nasrin whimpered, she had been knocked unconscious from the blows, which was for the best. A score of knocks and cuts littered her arms, legs, and face. She was covered in blood, most hers, some of it belonging to the dead kobolds she had killed around her. Thaniel kneeled at her side, his face drawn and pale. He had struggled during the fight to breathe life from his deity into her battered form, but it had done little to help. He was exhausted, every bit of his power having gone into mending the wounds of his friends.
“There is little I can do,” he panted, sweat beaded on his forehead. “She has suffered a great many wounds, and I am spent.”
Garion hobbled forward, his own wounds taking their toll on him. He looked down upon her, around at all of the dead kobolds.
“There has been too much death this day already,” he said sadly. “She cannot be taken from us as well.” He fell to his knees beside her, and placed his hands on her face. “Mallorn will provide for us.” A soft glow began to emanate from under his hands, spreading from his fingers to her face. It spread through her body, quick as lighting, and for a brief instant she flashed with a golden light. When the light faded her cuts were mended as if they had occurred days earlier. Deep scratches left their marks upon her, but they no longer bled. Her eyes opened, and above them, at the top of the hill, she saw a white stag. It tossed its head majestically, and the children felt a sense of clam surround them as the stag pawed the ground, reared onto its hind legs, and bound away quickly into the night.
Xio stood over the body of the fallen kobold, staring at it intensely. There was an odd feeling eating away at him and he could not dismiss it easily. This had been the kobold that, with a word, almost sent them to sleep. He was no stranger to magic, had seen its power before now. This was the first time he had felt it, however. His parents had taught him that magic was to be avoided, it was a tool for those unable to accomplish great feats with their bare hands. He learned from them that work was what kept people humble, and that with magic you could lose yourself. Up until now he believed that. He had spent years helping his family in the field, building muscle and sinew. His strength, however, could not fight against this. For the first time he felt as if there were something beyond him. He knew those that practiced magic were often weak of body and spirit, but armed with intelligence and cunning. He was not stupid, himself, but he felt as if he was lacking when compared to the magic that he had just faced. But it had been wielded by a creature that was much less intelligent than he. If a kobold could master this, could he not as well?
The warnings of his parents, that progress must be purchased with blood and sweat, began to ring less in his ears. Would this be something he was capable of? Could he wield the power to speak a word and cause his enemies to slumber? He again began to itch inside his skin. He was not comfortable with the feeling, but he now realized what caused the feeling. Ambition. He heard his friends a little ways off down the hill speaking, and he turned to join them. He would be sure to mention to them that he was interested in the items the kobold magic user possessed. He was sure that they would be confused by the request, before now he had never shown interest in material things, preferring to live simply with few possessions. He knew they would acquiesce, though, and that perhaps he might be able to unlock some of the secrets the kobold had possessed.