Everything has its evil but not everyone sees it.
Rubbing his hands together Tilby felt satisfaction as he took a step back to admire his handy work. His nimble fingers had secured the old lady with rope fast around her hands, feet and neck. Now they could question her safely, when she woke up….
Funnily enough nobody had even asked her name. Jin thought this was an ominous sign. When she regained consciousness their captive told a story of being a young trapper’s daughter cursed into this repulsive body by witches, and being forced to lure the party under threat of harm to her father. Thorlak was keen to kill the “old lady” there and then, but much to Nevyn’s relief the rest of the group backed him up when he refused to allow such an act. Rather, they could use her as a guide to learn the fate of the lost patrol.
From behind a tree Zeiv watched the group. He could hear the arguments well before he could see them. Three days from the outpost, in the middle of hostile territory was not a wise place for loud noises the ranger thought to himself as he observed. “City folk” Zeiv sighed as he realized that the heated debate was about whether to have a fire for a hot lunch.
Twice in two days! Nevyn thought to himself as a shadowy figure stepped out from behind a tree to interrupt the bickering about lunch. “Zeiv?” Tilby said once he got over the surprise. He hadn’t seen the bounty hunter since they had located a bounty in the city of Cralton about 2 years ago. Zeiv introduced himself, handed Nevyn some correspondence from the outpost and then held a private conversation with Tilby. Whilst the Halfling and the stranger were talking, Nevyn read the letter, gave a small sigh, called Jin over and explained to the foreigner that he would have to return to the keep by himself.
Nevyn really didn’t see much of their first fight. Somehow he had slept through Thorlak’s warning shouts, then managed to put an arm in the head hole of his scale mail vest , get stuck, then get hit by two spears. By the time he was standing again the forest was quiet, and by the moonlight he could only just makes out Thorlak and Zeiv about 30 foot away. “Kobolds are much better at dying that fighting” Tilby said as he appeared from the bushes from the opposite direction. All told they had defeated four of the creatures.
The rest of the party had crossed the narrow rope bridge, about ten feet above the river. This rickety rope and wooden structure crudely made by an earlier patrol was the point most commonly used by scouting parties to cross the river. After everyone else had crossed, Thorlak took a tight hold of the rope tied to the old lady’s neck and marched her across. Almost directly in the middle Thorlak’s captive kicked a peg on the side of the bridge and the bridge broke clear in two. Instinctively the big barbarian dropped the leash and tried to grab a hand hold. Missing by millimeters he fell into the cold, turbulent water and was quickly washed downstream.
It happened so fast. Thorlak’s cry caused Zeiv to look back at the bridge just as the large barbarian fell out of view, at the same time he heard the whistle of an arrow fly past and smack clean into Nevyn’s unarmored chest. Zeiv turned back to the dark forest just in time to catch an arrow in his leg for his troubles. Instinctively Zeiv threw himself behind some small boulders that backed onto the creek to get some cover from the woods. Shouting for Nevyn to do the same the ranger drew his bow and peered around his cover to try and spot their assailant.
Running along the river bank Tilby could see Thorlak easily swimming across the current making steady progress towards the bank. Tilby freed the rope from his bag and was just about to throw it into the fast flowing whitewater when Thorlak’s progress downstream suddenly stopped.
Taking a deep breath Thorlak duck dived to exam the net that had stopped him. From what he could tell it was anchored to the river bed about 12 feet below, and extended from the riverbank that Tilby was standing on to about two thirds the way across.
Ignoring Zeiv’s cautioning shout Nevyn discarded his scale mail shirt to the ground in disgust, drew his scimitar, and turned to face his opponent. The half naked cleric clearly saw a hooded tall figure step out from behind a tree and release an arrow directly at him, then grunt as Zeiv’s arrow hit the assailant in the shoulder. Just as Nevyn was registering the pain from the arrow sticking out of his chest he was forced to parry for his life as a large wolf attacked him.
Before Zeiv could get off another shot the hooded attacker whistled loudly and vanished into the woods with his badly wounded wolf.
That night the frustrated party huddled around the raging campfire. After regrouping from the bridge affair and realizing that they had lost the prisoner they followed the tracks of the bleeding wolf into the afternoon. As the day wore on the tracks became less distinct and more time consuming to follow.
Following heavy dew the previous night Zeiv could not locate any tracks aside from those of the large boar that had wandered into their camp at around midnight. Consulting Nevyn’s map the experienced ranger proposed that given the area the scouting group was supposed to monitor there were three likely spots that could make sense to use as a forward reconnaissance base.
Sixty feet in the air Tilby’s arms trembled as he held on. He was almost at the top, but the effort of the challenging climb had sapped his already limited strength reserves from his arms. The Halfling cursed as he remembered a time when he could easily have made this climb. After his second fall Tilby retreated to the safety of the ground and reported that he was unable to see any signs of the patrol.