A new threat
My decision made to regain some of my stature, eliminate the threat to Lydia and prove my worth to her once more, I prepared for the coming journey. It had been 30 years since I last wore my armor. The once magical and still heavily decorated plate didn’t feel as comfortable as I remembered. It restricted my movement and narrowed my vision. It quickly became clear that I had forgotten a lot more than I had thought. I decided to leave behind the armor and come back for it once I had gotten used to wearing heavy armor again. Any excuse to visit Lydia during my travels suited me anyway. A simple suit of scale mail and a shield would have to keep me safe for now. I chose a tower shield instead of my old shield that still bears my crest. It had been 60 years and I doubted many would still remember me, but I wasn’t worthy yet of carrying that emblem. I covered up my old shield with some black cloth and did take it with me. My trusted longsword felt at home at my side. The years had not been kind to it, mostly because of my neglect, and the once magical weapon showed signs of wear and tear. I had thought about bringing the weapon that belonged with my plate armor, but it didn’t seem right to wear one without the other. My longsword had accompanied me when I first rode out 65 years ago, and I would do so again now. The only horse I still had was a light riding horse. It would do for now, but I needed to find a warhorse soon. I still miss Ruargh, my old companion. 60 years ago, when I lost my abilities, he vanished and returned to his home plane. He served me well and I will never find a horse, and a friend, like that again. In honor of him I have taken his name to hide my own.
As I was about to leave my wife presented me with a gift. It was the first time in 30 years that I would leave home and I knew that I would miss her greatly. I had told her that I regretted not having a way to write to her, to tell her how I was doing. Lydia gave me a beautiful pigeon. A bird smart enough to carry my letters north and to find me again, even though I was travelling. I named the bird Nicobar.
While riding out of the city I felt like I did all those years ago when I was riding out for the first time to meet the heroes I was to aid on their quest.
I traveled south, beyond the now abandoned watchtowers that once guarded the northern border, to the town of Haven. Haven was a town, not too big, that had grown in to a gathering place for mercenary companies and adventurers looking for work. At any one time over 300 armed men frequented the many inns and shops. Several companies for hire had permanent representation stationed in Haven and at the center of town a large wooden board held most of the offers for work available. I rode in to town and after settling in an inn I placed my own message on the board. No one seemed to be interested yet however.
My journey did not remain peaceful very long. The first evening, a few hours before midnight, I noticed sounds of combat coming from the street. Thinking it to be nothing more than a tavern-rumble gotten out of control, I went to see if I could not calm down the situation. What I found was quite different from a normal brawl. On the horizon I could clearly see the red glow of fire and in the distance several dozen men were fighting strange creatures, strong, 10ft tall men with heads like a jackal. There were about 20 of the beasts and they were cutting down their enemies, the mercenaries from Haven, like wheat. After I gathered my armor and weapons from my room I joined the fight. Hours past in the red haze of combat. We lost ground, my mercenary allies fell one by one. Finally, as if some ghostly horn only they could hear had called them back, the monsters halted their attack and retreated. I was tired, but not seriously wounded. Only 6 men, including myself, and 1 woman had survived the onslaught. 300 mercenaries had died at the hands of 20 of these creatures.
I gathered my belongings and was invited to the only inn that had not burned to the ground. At first I thought the friendly chap who offered me a drink was the innkeeper but he turned out to be a mercenary as well. Wolfgang was his name and he told me he specialized in logistics. Not many men at arms realize the worth of a good logistics officer but no army can survive long without one. He was looking for work and when I told him about my goal he seemed interested to help, so I signed him on. He is friendly and eager to help to say the least. Four other survivors offered their help as well. Two of these men seemed to be blacksmiths looking for adventure, the third was a blacksmith looking for revenge. I wonder why fate has chosen to bring me three blacksmiths, I am more than capable of taking care of my own armor and weapons, even more so than them I think. I need their prowess in battle, not their skill at a forge. So far they have spend their spare time working on their equipment and although I realize the worth of a good suit of armor I wonder how long it will take them to realize that armor alone will not save you. They are, of course, still very young. They will learn. The fourth man was an archer. It is always useful to have archers with you as they offer support from a safe distance. After we had left Haven I noticed the last survivor, the woman, was following us as well. She seemed to have decided to join us as well although she didn’t say a word and offered to explanation. So be it.
We left Haven the next day. I decided to travel North. Not only did those strange creature retreat there, the nearest city was that way as well. As I understand it assassins can mostly be found in cities.
We arrived at the gates two days later and found the city overrun with farmers from nearby lands. Apparently the lands surrounding the city were being harassed. We reported the occurrences at Haven to the captain of the guards and he informed us of the problems facing the city. I offered my assistance and told him we would scout out the lands to the North. All that was happening pointed towards a coming invasion from the North and if the invading army consisted of those creatures we had met at Haven, the Kingdom would be in trouble.
We traveled North to the line of watchtowers, now abandoned. I remember the days when watchful eyes looked ever North for signs of undead. I was one of the generals that ordered the towers abandoned. The threat in the North was gone, the undead defeated. I hoped that with these towers left behind the north would be forgotten for I feared that scouting parties would stumble upon Lydia’s city.
The tower was still abandoned. We made up camp and found several recent tracks of Jackal warriors. At the horizon we saw smoke rising. That night Jon woke me up and told me he had seen the red glow of fire and that it had disappeared around midnight. Now I was sure that an invasion was at hand. I sent Varric, our archer, back to the city on my horse to warn them of the impending danger. He arrived more than a day ahead of us and because of him the city was prepared for a siege by the time we got back there ourselves.
Not long after we returned to the city an army of Jackal warriors arrived and started to prepare for an attack. Their army was 6000 strong and our own forces numbered about 2000. Under normal circumstances holding the city with those odds would not be a problem, but we had seen these things fight. Fearing death, not for me or the other soldiers, but for the hundreds of innocent people trapped within the walls, I decided to try and reason with our enemy. Wolfgang and I rode out under a white flag but were attacked none the less. They defeated us with ease and captured us. I awoke in a tent not long thereafter, sitting in a chair. Wolfgang had been tied up. They must have thought I was an officer and Wolfgang was my servant. I was allowed to talk to their commanders and was capable of negotiating a seize fire of 48 hours to allow us to move the civilians out of the city.
We did so and 48 hours later the attack began. We kept the city for a few days before being forced back to the keep. Our army was reduced to 500 men and the losses of the jackal warriors were minimal. Defeat was inevitable. I talked to the local Lord and told him that the only chance we had was to break out of the castle and retreat to the south. In order to escape several men had to remain behind to keep the enemy at bay. 200 men would stay, fight and die so the rest could escape. The Lord himself would lead these 200 men. He was truly a Lord to his people. One of my blacksmiths, Peter, also offered to stay behind. He had become obsessed with an heroic death while only two days before he wanted to leave the city behind and go south with the civilians. It was his own choice so I did not try to stop him. I myself, find it foolish however as his death, however heroic and brave it may be, will be forgotten in a few decades anyway.