What was he getting into?
First, a woman in hysterics running down the path, shouting that spirits had stolen her babies. Then, Ainon and Volmar behaving as if this was normal and offering help! Against spirits! Evil spirits! The lair that they found, trapped beyond imagination, with pits and spikes, as if brigands used it. And there he was, badly wounded, after all these… Brathki were dead. What were they? They were not spirits, they bled and died. But the dog-faced beasts were lucky indeed, supernaturally lucky he thought, seeing how his great axe slipped from his hands for no apparent reason at the mere start of the battle. They fought with fury, with Pyry on the ground and his companions almost taken out. Almost. Even while rolling in pain, Pyry could see Ainon singlehandedly disposing most of the foul-smelling animals and Volmar again displaying amazing strength. I must learn more about half-humans, Pyry thought, and he didn’t mean Ainon only; these monsters exhibited intelligence and were fighting over his axe, recognizing its value.
They were all covered in blood now, still in the cave. His wounds would take months to heal. But they still hadn’t found that woman’s children, and Pyry couldn’t even fathom what the dog-faces were digging for. Silver? Gold even? He had to sort that out and alert his tribe. But for now he had time for nothing more than a breath before continuing down the darkness of the constructed tunnels.
Pyry was still dirty from the incident. He was doing his tasks mechanically, drowned in his own thoughts.
Weasels attacking a caravan? Would they be really starving that much? Three weasels he killed himself, each on the first, well-balanced strike. He should learn to control his strength, because in the fervor of battle he mauled them and the skins were useless. But it was over now, and he was only grazed. Thanks to Ainon, the never-talking elf, even that wouldn’t be a problem. How did this elf manage with so few hours of sleep? And that wolf-howl he cried… There were stories of evil men becoming wolves. But Ainon looked too gentle and too slow-acting for that. He also believes in the Caregiver. Surely he is an accomplished hunter… or one of those minstrels who can imitate everything.
Pyry felt empathy for Volmar. He also looks frail, like himself. Strong he is though, throwing that weasel in the open flame. Kept his ground well too.
At the first opportunity I must skin these creatures, he thought, at least the ones that can be sold. The rest, hm, from the rest I will keep the heads for a day or two. Something tells me they might be useful.
He bit his bread hungrily. The weasel blood in his clothes didn’t bother him at all. What did sadden him was that he wanted to talk to his companions, and hear from them. But they were both reserved. And he knew too well that his manners were not always accepted by the Frithlanders. Many conversations he started in the past ended in shoutings… or in fights.
He drank from his flask in silence, saddened, yet looking around expectantly, hoping somebody would tell him of things and places he didn’t know.
The characters are taking a time honoured route to becoming fully fledged adventurers by hiring out their services as guards for travelling merchants.
We first join them setting up camp a day out from the village of Avarrtoft in western Frithland. Their employer is an old furrier named Markus Ninepelts, who buys skins from outlying settlements and farms and sells them in the markets of Winter Haven. He has half a wagon load and only a few stops left on his rounds before returning to the Kandaarian capital in about a fortnight.
The weather has been kind to the party so far, but over the last day or so dark clouds have been gathering and the evening air is noticeably cooler than usual. Sure enough as the night draws in it brings with it a shapr shower of cold rain, and you are thankful for the shelter of a large old oak tree here where Markus often makes camp. The rain passes leaving a biting wind that blows stinging campfire smoke in your eyes as the characters prepare their watch roster and settle down for the night.
About an hour before dawn, the sentry (Volmar) hears a noise in the darkness…