Kelvan approaches Gilven after the announcement of the traps on the road, and a few moments later heads to the rear of the caravan to assemble a defense. He beckons Tregan and Pelic to take up a defensive position with him in the rear. Pelic not to be sidelined while excitement is calling urges his badger mount with great enthusiasm and charges out ahead to catch up with the scouts. One of the men on guard by the wagon bursts into laughter at the sight and slaps the badger on the flank in passing to spur it on even further. Gilven is not so entertained by the spectacle. “Damn heroes…” he mutters under his breath.
Telemacus yells out his offer to help, to which Gilven just narrows his eyes, his hardened visage telling Telemacus the answer clearly without a sound. At that, Gilven turns his focus back to the treeline.
After ten minutes of searching, three of the four guards along with Pelic return to the main group. They report no signs of eminent danger and have found a safe path around the traps. Gilven nods his approval for their detour, which albeit is quite minor, any change or delay in plans just heightens the old man’s anxiety for this eventful trip. He gives the signal to move forward, directing the lead wagon driver to make for the remaining guard out in the field. “Follow his signals, he’s got the detour laid out for ya.”
With that the caravan circumvents the traps on the main road, circling around without losing too much time. As you pass you notice the traps do appear fairly weathered, consisting of long dug out trenches, filled with sharp rocks. There remain a few pieces of cover, sticks and brush laid over to look like overgrowth, but most has been blown away leaving the obvious trenched pits. Quite fortunate you’d say, as from the looks of the rocks in those trenches, they’d do quite a number on the rickety wooden wheels on the wagons.
As you travel, you get an eerie sense of being watched. Occasionally you spot a flock of birds being spoofed from the trees, adding to the suspicion of something being out there. Many of the traders have gravitated towards Kelvan, perhaps feeling a bit safer next to the well-armored god fearing man who performed holy services earlier that morning. Or perhaps they just seek to gain distance from the ominous presence of the dark-skinned man, whose very shadow seems to stir when one gets too close.
After another hour of travel, the tensions have eased some, the eminent feeling of ambush a bit more distant. Just in time for something else to catch the attention of the lead scouts. “Hold! Something up ahead!!”
“Ah hell, what now!?” Gilven answers, moving up towards the scouts.
You peer up ahead and notice something smoldering, some kind of wreckage. It’s too far away to make out specific details, but you do catch a glimpse of two people sitting near the smoldering pile. A moment later Gilven rides back and addresses the group. “Everyone hold here, prepare the defenses! High alert! Could be an ambush… we gonna check it out.”
Gilven and the two lead scouts ride out towards the wreckage to investigate. You see as they approach, the pair sitting on the ground get up and run towards the mounted men, appearing quite distressed. Gilven pushes one back with his boot, raises his hand up waving it around in gestures as he speaks, appearing to be annoyed as he speaks to them. The two scouts dismount and start looking over the wreckage. After about two minutes they return back to the caravan.
“Alright, looks like some folks had a run in wit the ruffians… humans, a decent number of ‘em by their count. Lookin at the scene I’d say probably only five ‘er six of ‘em.” Gilven reports.
“Its unfortunate fer ‘em, my heart bleeds” he adds, rolling his eyes. “We’ll toss ‘em a ration er two and be on our way. Got no time fer stopping in these parts.” Gilven adds very matter-of-factly.
A few concerned glances bounce around the group along with whispering. Some agree and others wonder what harm could come from two extra bodies joining on the trip to Iridine.
“H’yaw!” Gilven shouts, signaling the caravan to get moving again. As the wagons roll towards the wreckage you can now see it is the beaten and burned down remnants of a carriage. The pair of people you spotted is a man and a woman, faces scratched and dirty. The man’s face and body baring a few obvious signs of a struggle, with a swollen right eye, a slash across his midsection which has left a crimson line across his dirty white shirt. The woman also has a battered face, her clothes torn and tattered now.
“Please! You must help us! They have our baby!” the woman shouts desperately as the caravan begins to divert around them.
“Aye! They have our son! And our things! Please! We have nothing out here! We’ll die for sure!” the man adds, equally as desperate.
“We ain’t got time nor the manpower to help ya…” Gilven snaps angrily. “If ya change yer mind, ya can follow us into Iridine, but we ain’t helping ya find yer baby. Can’t risk it. Sorry…” With those words, Gilven reaffirms his orders to the drivers to keep moving.
The brings another division to the group, as the do-gooders immediately look to join the desperate couple in search of the baby, others, the more cautious are not so quick to join, or outright refuse.
Tregan utters the vocal components of another spell “Thauma et oclum pars infinisum” and sweeps his hands, then approaches the distraught couple. His piercing words of investigation bring an even more dramatic response from the woman as she sobs about her lost child. Seeing his companion pained by the stinging words the man steps forward, “We were desperate! We had to make it back from Iridine before the snows fell! Our whole livelihood is…”
“What kind of coward leaves two stranded travelers alone with nothing…?” The Halfling boldly interrupts! Pelic squares his gaze straight into the man’s eyes, “I will stay and help you find your baby!” he declares then puffs his chest out and addresses the group. “Is anyone else with me or are you all cowards?” Letting the words soak in, Pelic meets eyes with all of the able travelers striking at their conscious with the heart-felt gleam in his eyes. After a few moments he dismounts to approach the couple. Bowing low, Pelic addresses them “I will do what I can to aid you.”
The woman falls to her knees, grasping tiny Pelic’s arm, thanking him profusely. “You are a kind soul, may the gods bless you.” The distraught man says, bowing in thanks.
Drawing strength from the Halfling’s words, Telemacus flips down from the wagon in a deft display of agility with his longcoat flailing out behind as he dives through the air, landing a perfect somersault back up to his feet, striding forward. “It may not be the wisest thing to do, but it is the
right thing to do!” he exclaims in grandiose fashion. The flamboyant man addresses Kelvan to gain his backing as well as throw another verbal stab at Gilven. He walks over to Kelvan whispering something, and the clasp hands in agreement.
Watching the scene unfold, Kelvan is unable to restrain his goodly nature. He approaches the couple giving his formal introduction and offers them coin as well as the vow to search for the missing child and instructions for them on how the child will be returned to them, should it be found. They are elated and thank him over and over, hugging and squeezing him.
The goodly man Kelvan then calls out loudly, “Gilven! Here is 10 gold for their protection.” His words stopping Gilven’s pace and obviously irritating the man. The leader pulls at his reins, circling his steed back around to face Kelvan. Once eye contact is made, Kelvan tosses at bag of coins at the weathered man. “Half the trip means half the cost. I will be taking my leave” Kelvan adds.
Gilven raises an eyebrow curiously, staring at the coin bag for a moment. His hardened visage softens as he accepts the offering of coins, “Hmph, I ain’t never said they couldn’t go with us. We just ain’t goin on some wild goose chase fer a baby corpse. Seen ‘nuff of them, don’t need to be seein any more. An’ it fer certain ain’t worth the risk to the payload” he finishes, gesturing at the wagons.
The words from Gilven’s mouth cause an outburst of sobbing from the woman who’s still clinging onto the hope her child still draws breath. Kelvan dismounts the horse he borrowed and walks it over to a wagon to tie it up. As he’s working the rope he says aloud, “Perhaps I am gaining some understanding of how you came by your title…”
“Hah, rather it be Gilven the fool eh? Or Gilven the duped! Or Gilven the dead!!” The caravan leader getting more agitated with each hypothetical title that comes from his lips. “Be on yer hero’s adventure, yer fool’s journey. I’ll have the clerics o’ Iridine offer a prayer er two fer ya deaths.” Gilven retorts disgustedly.
Kelvan addresses the pair, trying to garnish some information about the attack and which direction the fled back into the woods. All the two seem to offer is a point in the general northern direction of the woods and how many they thought there were. Satisfied he’s gained all the useful information he could, Kelvan calls out to the others who would be brave enough to join him.
Telemacus and Pelic have already taken their stead next to the weary pair, ready to aid in the quest. After a few moments of careful study, Tregan hoists his pack and approaches the dark-skinned man, telling a story of the horrors of the north. He finishes with a quip in a foreign tongue; none seem to recognize the words except the exotic man sitting upon his horse, whose face was beginning to meld from an offended expression to one of understanding. Whatever the mage said to the man worked, as the fearsome warrior still holding onto his massive polearm maneuvers his horse over to the group of quest-ready heroes.
“H’yaw! Lets get a move on, we done wasted too much time already!” Gilven orders, giving the signal to move on, obviously disgusted with the situation playing out.
As the wagons begin to creak forward, the pair seems reluctant to join in the procession. Kelvan assures them all will be ok and reminds them of what he instructed earlier.
So here you stand, your allies made clear as those who will stand with you and seek out the evil lurking in these woods. You take a brief moment to acquaint yourself with the surroundings, to fall into your battle-hardened persona. You suck in a deep breath of air to revel in its essence; you feel the cool wind on your skin, tingling and igniting your senses. You allow your ears attunement to the moaning of the wind, the rustle of the foliage, tuning out all of the unnecessary. Your inner warrior surges its way to the surface, focusing you like a precise lens. You set your gaze upon the land, its scenery is similar to the lands you’ve been traveling the past four days with the addition of a spotting of trees. The trees are scattered about the grassy plain approximately twenty feet separating each; most are smaller saplings not yet thicker than a person’s arm. About two hundred yards to the north are the thick woods, where the ruffians made off with the couple’s child and possessions. That is destination your new quest will lead you.
The hesitant pair look at each other concernedly, then nod in resolution and make their way to catch back up with the caravan, now about 25 feet away, Kelvan bidding them farewell and good luck. Once there, the man turns to face the group of heroes staying behind. “May the gods bless you!” he shouts out very loudly with a sly grin on this face.
As he shouts this and turns back around you notice the woman wrap her arm around one of the rear guards smiling and saying something. She reaches deep into one of the rips in the back of her dress with her other arm and slides out a small thin object. Something is very wrong here; you can’t quite make it out until you notice the glint of sunlight’s reflection. It’s a weapon! With precision timing the pair snap into action!
The woman curls her weapon arm up, driving the small blade up under the guard’s chin! It pierces through the tender flesh with ease, the angled sneak attack burying deep into the man’s throat. He stumbles back, grasping at the wound spilling blood all over him. After a brief moment the man falls to his knees, looking up at the woman in disbelief and falls dead.
With synchronized movements, the man nimbly reaches for the hilt in the other rear guard’s hip scabbard, grasps the handle and draws the short sword as he spins away, putting himself directly behind the man. With a continued fluid motion the man drops low from his spin and sweeps the blade across the back of the guard’s knees, finding the tender rear flesh of the leg. The strike slices muscle and tendons forcing the guard to tumble down to his back and he cries out in agony!
You watch in shock as the ambush unfolds, things seemingly happening in a blur. Several figures emerge from the grasses north and south of the caravan rushing meticulously towards their targets, weapons drawn! They are covered in grassy camouflage, most carrying dual-wielding bladed weapons. Suddenly you hear an object whiz by and feel the rush of its airy wake! Schink!!!
The sound of chainmail being struck snaps you alert to impending danger. You glance about and see a thick, foot-long shaft sticking out from Dhakwan’s black chain shirt. The impact knocks the breath from him as the huge ¾ inch round projectile bites at his flesh beneath the armor! He back-steps, gritting his teeth in defiance to the pain.
“Ambush! Go! Go! Go! Get those wagons outta here!” You hear Gilven’s voice barking out orders as the swirl of the ambush ensues.
Your attention is pulled back to your immediate area as several figures surge out of the grass, surrounding your position with crossbows aimed for you! The thunk of crossbow action goes off all around you!
The first shot soars in grazing Telemacus, slicing a cut through the side of his neck! Blood drizzles down his skin in the bolt’s crimson wake.
As if alerted by the startled cry of Telemacus, Pelic deftly swipes his shield across in a backhand motion, catching a bolt directly in its center! He steels his glare at the one who fired at him, resolving to destroy him first!
Tregan stares coldly into the eyes of the nearest crossbow armed bandit whose sights are dialed straight to his heart. Click The crossbow jams up; however another bolt sails in from another direction striking Tregan in the lower leg! The shot weakens Tregan’s footing for a moment, the bolt deeply embedded into his calf muscle.
Two men not armed with a crossbow rush in brandishing swords and knives looking to strike at the well-armored Kelvan! The first to reach him, a dark-skinned ruffian wielding two straight-bladed swords, lunges forward, thrusting both blades out at Kelvan’s flank. One blade is stopped abruptly against the hardened steel shell surrounding Kelvan; the other however, slips past and finds tender flesh, digging viciously towards his kidney!
The other ruffian, a pale-skinned rough looking sort, rushes in with a similar attack routine, this man wielding a short sword and a thin curved dagger. His first strike is a wild hook leading with the curved dagger, which screeches along Kelvan’s armor until it finally scratches a cut through an open seam. The follow-up strike is a straight-thrust stab aimed for the belly! The sword slips between plates and finds a soft spot on the man, opening up a deep gash. The wound spills blood inside Kelvan’s armor, which begins to show as it leaks through the joints of his armor.
Kelvan staggers back, bracing himself against the smoldering wreckage, but standing resolute nonetheless. The snipers in the grass drop their crossbows and draw their melee weapons, ready to finish their intended victims.
The ambush takes full swing on the wagons as two more men explode out from the grass in the same camouflaging, each holding the end of a long rope, pulling it tight just in front of the lead wagon! The driver is not able to react in time and is clotheslined from atop the wagon, jerking him backwards into the wagon and tumbling out the back. The poor driver had no hope of dodging the stamping hooves of the next wagon’s horses, his skull and body crushed beneath them.
The two scouting guards out front leap out of the way as the driverless wagon barrels past! Suddenly you see its front-end lurch downward with a loud splintering crash, its backend flipping up over itself, whipping through the air until it finally lands on its side; cargo flung everywhere! You can only assume the bandits had laid out another nasty trap like you saw earlier in the day. The trailing wagons skid to a halt, the drivers full-heartily trying to stop the steeds before suffering a similar fate!
The 2 bandits drop their rope line and draw their melee weapons, one sporting dual short swords, and the other two axes. Towards the center of the wagon line, two more men emerge rushing upon the guards, one from the north, one from the south. The southern bandit levels his spear as he charges in, screaming crazily as he approaches! The guard tries to bring his shield to bear, but its too late, the spear skewers the man, staking him to the wagon! The bandit releases the spear letting the rushing wagon carry the impaled guard with it.
The ambush ensues and the party fights excellently, dishing out brutal attacks, everyone showcasing their styles. A new figure emerges during the battle, from the trees up north, a druid and his bear companion arrive to destroy the sniper and aid the rest of the fighters. The finish the fight with only a couple guard casualties, which has Gilven as heated as ever, but worst of all was the lead wagon was destroyed along with its cargo strewn all about. Tregan came up with a plan though, and used his magical powers in a unique way, summoning all of his available power to restore the wagon using a series of mend spells.
The group was back on their way the following day, with a prisoner in tow, the female whom helped lure the team into the trap.