Balder Ironshield waited in position near a large stone as his drow friend Shar Auvryndar waited in the shadows, hovering among the bows of a large full tree; Hilmar the Ranger circled around what was left of the lizard-man tribe, the creatures who had taken a young lass named Saphina. With the lizard-man King Sudhl dead his remaining subjects retreated back to their queen, a green hag who laird in the foothills of the Sword Mountains called the Scarcrag.
From the shadows of the tree Shar could see the vile green hag presiding over the helpless Saphina. The hag had retained seven of the strongest lizard-men to aid in what looked like a ritual with Saphina as the focus. The ceremony had a ring of familiarity to Shar, like the chakra rituals he had witnessed in his homeland of Ched Nasad.
Hilmar hunkered opposite Balder nearest to the Scarcrag. Hilmar had a habit of constantly drawing his blade only a few centimeters and releasing the sword back into its scabbard during tense situations; for Hilmar it was reassuring, promising a clean quick-draw. Now that he was in position he began his regimen of prayers to his god asking for blessings upon his blades and truth in each swing of his sword.
The winds calmed as the ceremony began, the green hag gesticulating and uttering foul words gave Shar just the distraction he was waiting for; from a tree the drow arcanist unleashed a bright fork of electricity into the lizard-men. Four of the lizard-men died instantly, but the remaining three were merely singed as the drow was careful not to harm Saphina.
Closing the distance Hilmar brought the pommel of this swords together creating a double-weapon spinning the blades about slicing a horrible gash across the hags arm as she feebly attempted to block the deadly weapon. Balder, a little slower, legs pumping, and with his axe high over his head the dwarf trampled the singed lizard-men whilst closing the distance on the hag.
Turning her hatred toward the oncoming dwarf the green hag caught Balder twice across the chest; while her attacks where superficial, her supernatural touch successfully sapped the strength from the veteran dwarf.
|Hilmar the Ranger|
Elsewhere in the battlefield the three surviving lizard-men came at Hilmar clawing at his sword trying to disarm the ranger.
From the other side of the battlefield Shar called upon his arcanist magic and appeared next to Saphina in an instant, the drow picked her up among the battlefield and moved to the closest area of concealment.
Hilmar abandoned the hag briefly to turn his blades on the lizard-men to cover the drow; killing one of the remaining three. Balder, weakened but not defeated, stepped out of the green hag’s reach and called upon the magic of his axe to enhance his strength defeating the hag’s weakness touch.
Suddenly the hag was gone leaving only the two lizard-men.
“Where did she go Shar?” Hilmar called out knowing Shar could see invisible foes.
“She’s right here.” The drow replied through gritted teeth. This was followed by Saphina’s horrified scream.
Twenty feet from the battlefield Shar and the green hag were fighting over possession of the girl. Green claws met Shar’s force protections while the drow’s prowess with the staff kept the hag off balance; between them was Saphina. Baldar could see his friend could not maintain his frantic defense for very long, eventually Shar would make a mistake against the hag; Balder began to run.
Hilmar finally put down the last two lizard-men just in time to see Baldar run by and bury his axe into the flank of the green hag sending her body fifteen feet away and her twisted life-force into the great beyond.
The sun hung low over the southern foothills of the Sword Mountains in the west as The Noble Road lead Balder Ironshield, Hilmar the Ranger, and Shar Auvryndar to Amphail a small, walled city at the convergence of two roads along the River Dessarin. Returning from rescuing Saphina, daughter of Kuldos Roaringhorn from the lizard-men; the three travelers passed through the Noble’s Gate and into the Malanderways- an intersection, marketplace, as well as the location of a statue monument of the great war-stallion Shalarn where Kuldos himself waited.
“I cannot thank you enough Sai Hilmar, words of your valor grows; my daughter is alive because of you and your companions.” Kuldos said through tearful sobs as he embraced his only daughter.
“Aye, just keep your little ones close.” Balder said, his tough dwarven tenor threatened to crack at the outpouring of emotion. “It is a dangerous world full of bile and shi…”
“We are glad that you are once again reunited with your daughter Kuldos,” Hilmar said hesitantly. “now, if we can move on to...” From behind the ranger Shar bumped Hilmar with his staff interrupting his inappropriate line of dialogue.
“Please,” Shar said to Kuldos, “take your daughter home and revel in her safe return. Hilmar, Balder and I will be staying at the Stag-Horned Flagon when you are ready.”
“I see, should not be a problem will it Balder?” Shar said with a wink to his dwarf friend who knew very well it would be a problem.
“Bullocks that was over ten years ago Ranger and I am not for stowing me axe Elf.” Balder said defiantly. “They will have it after I have drawn my last breath.”
“my last breath.” Shar said along with the predictable Balder. “You don’t have to, you just have to conceal it,” The drow finished.
“I said I am not for…” the dwarf began.
“But you do not have to carry so openly?” the ranger asked perplexed.
Seeing the futility of it Shar resorted to spell-use to disguise his dwarven counterpart removing his weapons with an illusion. As the three companions entered the Stag-Horned Flagon an enormous half-orc confronted the companions.
“Oh no…” Balder said looking for his weapons- seeing none.
“Pleaz leav ur weepons at da door.” The half-orc stated unmoved by the agitated dwarf.
“Do you see any weapons master chief?” Hilmar asked in orcish.
Before any more words were exchanged a wild grinning dwarf in a freshly stained apron walked up. “I’m sorry it’s a formality good sirs. It’s really the only job the big-guy is qualified for.” Laughing the food-stained dwarf continued leading the patrons to a clean table, “I’m Rugar, and this is my place. What’ll you have?”
Soon after a round of much needed libations the three companions were served a satisfying dinner by the gigantic half-orc they met at the door. “I am Denaz,” he grunts, clearly doing his best to emulate Rugar’s courteousness even though he just doesn't seem to have the chops for hospitality; his smile comes across as a snarl.
“Well met Denaz, I am Hilmar. You also serve the food?” the ranger inquired.
“No I break things, but I axed and Rugar sad yes," said the half-orc.
“Thank you for your attention Denaz,” Hilmar said and when the half-orc was gone getting into more trouble, the ranger turned to his companions. “It is getting late, how long do you think before we hear something from Kuldos Roaringhorn?” Hilmar asked Shar and Balder.
“What time is it?” Balder asked, “I never can tell the time when I am on the surface-realm.”
“I know exactly what you mean.” Shar said holding up his thin glass of wine in agreement to Balder’s iron stein.
As they finished the meal, the door to the tavern suddenly burst open, revealing a city guardsman standing in the threshold. The room falls silent as the guard clears his throat.
|Callam of the Guard|
“Good citizens! Beginning tonight, there will be a curfew enforced within Amphail. The gates will close and any citizen found on the streets after sundown will be arrested. You are each encouraged to make your way home immediately.”
The dwarf Rugar poked his head up over the bar in the back of the room. “What’s all this then?” he asks, a look of concern on his sweat dampened face. “Callam you’d better have a good reason for sending my customers home.”
Callam quietly surveyed the crowd intently for few a moments before turning his attention to the dwarf proprietor. “Some of you have probably already heard but I’m sure there are just as many who have not. There’s a killer on the loose in Amphail. Seven dead so far this week; with the last two victims only just last night which could mean the killer is becoming more bold.”
The guard allowed a brief horrified murmur to pass through the Flagon before he continues. “In a town of this size, there just are not enough people to properly patrol the streets so Lord Alougarr has called for a curfew.” With that, the Callam’s gaze suddenly focuses on Balder, Shar and Hilmar. “We also need good people, strong and able, to help with this.”
As the patrons finished their drinks Callam walked up to the companion’s table planting both his hands flat down between dirty plates looking at each carefully in the eye, hunting for some hint of recognition. Seeing none, he at last speaks.
"I have not seen any of you in Amphail recently," he says slowly and carefully. "You couldn't have committed these murders. I need your help, Amphail needs your help."