Into The Maw Part Two: Fall Of The Stag Lord
We all traveled south for about an hour and looked at the intimidating fortress ahead of us. It was already midday which, what we felt, was an inopportune time to strike, if not infiltrate. We would have to garner victory with albeit cheap tactics since we were told the number of the Stag Lord’s men was far greater than ours. We five agreed it was best to wait till the sun started to come down before we head to the front gates. Until then, we remained off to the side, surely (hopefully) out of sight from anyone who would be able to spot us if they were to look out from atop the fort’s walls. We sharpened our blades, checked our gear, and those faithful said their prayers. Those not faithful simply glowered, smoked and awaited what was to come.
It was a bit after dusk when we finally approached the fortress with wagon in tow. Two bandits near the front gate looked at us and bandit one immediately shouted out “Who goes there?” I stepped off the wagon, approached the gate with a sly grin and said the password “By the bloody bones of St. Gilmore, who wants to know?” The first bandit who already begun to train his bow on me, pulled back harder on his string. “Who wants to know? I want to know! And who the fuck is St. Gilmore?” the first bandit said. A dark, sinister looking man walked up behind them and slapped the one bandit across the back of the head. “That was the password dumb ass. Let them in.”
We all were let inside the front of the compound to be introduced by said sinister man Dovan and a tall and partially unintelligent looking man Auchs. Right then and there, first time since I have come into this region, I found myself stricken with white, hot hate. My senses were warning me about these men, that they were corrupted to the core. I had to keep cool and play it all off. They both still seemed stand offish and asked of us and what we were doing here. Kurgar stepped forward to introduce himself by full name to which garnered a few looks and nods. “We have heard of a few things of man named Mourngrim. A few bloody and dangerous things” smiled Dovan. Stone and Boris introduced themselves without their surnames while Adra it seemed was playing the role of mute. Dovan peered at me. “You? Who are you and why did you think you could just walk up like this?” I adjusted my sly grin into a full on smile. “Name is Sniff. We got word from a few of your boys gallivanting around that you were in the business of hiring folks. Plus we heard of your Lord’s affection for booze. So figured we start off on the right foot and take the job.”
Right after that another man walked up behind them and scolded some of the bandits who were now looting our caravan to deposit everything into storage. The grim looking man who had a certain stature to him, gave me a hard glare. Odd thing about this man, he was the only one I have looked at in the compound who did not set off any of my senses. “So Sniff….how is it that you got our password and location from our other members so quickly?” said the man. “Hey, I dunno, maybe they aren’t that bright. We said we were looking for work and they gave us the rundown” I replied.
“Sniff?” said Stonehands. I turn to him and keep up the act. “Yes?” The look on his face, coupled with his bulging eyes seemed to be giving me a sort of ‘what the holy hell’ look. His expression smoothed out as he was getting the cask that held the few bottles of absinthe we had left. While doing so we heard a surely man from atop the fortress. We see a large leathery looking man in an elk helmet who began to shout out.
“Akiros! These…these men say they have booze? Excellent. Reward them, Bring it here. Dovan, show them around!” Stonehands came forward and presented the cask of absinthe to the grim man referred to as Akiros, who now seemingly was staring rather long at my shield and then gave me a small nod and walked away with the absinthe. Ah such a shame. Such fine booze to be enjoyed by a vile man that we were planning on killing before it can completely pass through his system. Such as life.
We were shown around the place by Dovan while his slow friend Auchs stumbled away elsewhere into the fort. After the brief tour Dovan pulled me to the side and had a small chat with me. “So Sniff. You must be able to smell a good deal when you hear one. How about it?” Standing face to face with a man who is enveloped with taint makes it partially difficult for me to control myself. Years of service has turned my distaste of corrupted beings from dislike to pure enmity. I knew if I slew the man here and now it would destroy the ruse we set in place. So I kept up the false smile and asked him what he needed. He laid out a deal that compromised of slaying the grim man Akiros for a hefty sum of gold. “Take care of him any way you can, just don’t get caught. I don’t need the Stag Lord thinking I am up to anything” he said. I said I would look into it, then proceeded to find my group who were lounging in the common area.
I use the term lounging in that Boris was simply small talking with a few bandits at a table while Adra, who was still covering her face with her hood, sat in a very tense manner, eying everything around her. Surely cataloging and arranging profiles of everyone she was spotting. I plopped down at their table and when we finally had a moment of piece, talked with them. “Their Lord has probably already taken to drink. We have probably an hour or two before everything seems right to go.”
Adra’s eyes locked onto mine. “This place is vile. Everyone here needs to be put down. Not just the Stag Lord.” I nodded back at her while taking a little bit of the ale from a keg they had on tap in the common area. “Yes for the most part. Though there is that man Akiros which I get the impression he might not be entirely like these men. His attitude and the way he caries himself is different. Unlike the dark looking fellow I was talking to, who actually hired me to kill him.”
Boris perked up when he heard this news. “Hired? So a reward then. We can kill this man and earn some gold in the meantime. Excellent. Where is he now?” I cocked my head to the side at Boris. “Why would I take gold from a clearly evil man to kill the only non-evil person here?” I gazed at Boris using my senses to make sure he did not turn. Alas nothing. Though his lust of reward and killing makes me cautious. “Ok well we will simply capture him. The rest need to be put down” proclaimed Adra.
“Yes this place needs to be cleansed with rigouts fire” Boris chimed in. “You mean righteous fire” said Adra. “Don’t be silly. I speak of rigouts fire. Blessed, divine flame that cleanses the unpure” replied Boris. I saw the twitch in Adra’s eye and a slight vein begin to pop up. Oh goddess no. “It is righteous fire. Rigouts is not a word!. Also it is not unpure, it is impure! Seriously is your vocabulary just as inept as your god?” as her voice was steadily raising. I could see that her scathing words cut deep. Boris stood up and yelled back. “You put me down, challenge my vocabulary and question my God. The threshold of your ignorance and arrogance is becoming tiresome!” A few drunken bandits turned to us and started to chant “Fight, fight, fight, fight.” Great. Just great. “Look, you two stop arguing over such trivial matters. This is silly” as I took a swig of ale from my cup. “Focus. Anyways where are the dwarves? I almost completely forgot about them."
“Yes your drinking is starting to have an effect on your short term memory” Adra coldly said. “Please I am quite lucid.” Boris finally sat back down and looked calm again. “I do not know where Stonehands is but Kurgar is out on the top near the south watchtower.” Just at that moment Morgan began trotting to me, holding up a cooked pig snout and proudly presented it to me. I wonder if this was a jab at the fake name “How about this. You keep that if you show me to Stoney, eh?” I said to Morgan. Morgan made a cute little sound of satisfaction as he nibbled on the snout while he lead me to his master. “Do not worry. I will keep an eye on Adra while your gone, to make sure she stays safe.” I thought I heard grinding teeth from her direction as I left the table.
Stonehands was in the back of the fort in what appeared to be a small armory with a small bench and tools. In front of him on the table was a set of leather armor which looked far better than any of the armor the regular bandits had. “Did you repair this Stoney?” as I threw my arm around him to get a look at it. “Looks pretty nice.” Stone gave me a somber look. “This is nice? This be shit. I used to craft masterpieces” as he raised up his scarred arms. “I need ta get betta at dis. No matta wut” Poor Stoney. His skill was his identity. Losing that made him lose so much more on top of that. I knew with in time he would heal and knowing how diligent he is, without a doubt he would get better. “Speaking of getting better, you gotta work on your lying. I mean Sniff? Really?” I chuckled a bit at the remark. “I thought it was perfect. I mean criminals usually have stupid nicknames. So I picked a stupid one.” Stoney smiled at me. “Out of all the stupid names I have heard, that one takes the cake”.
“Really? Cause there is someone in the common area by the name of Fat Norri. You know why they call him that. Cause he is fat. Your telling that isn’t stupid?” Stone put his hands up. “Ok point taken. Just next time pick something less stupid.” Stonehands eyes grew large and his energy picked up a bit. “Oh almost forgot. There is an owl bear down stairs. Just a heads up.” “How could you almost forget about something like…you know what never mind. I will let the others know.”I gave Stonehands an update on what the plan was, to make sure that we were still on track and that I had a suspicion about Akiros I needed to confirm. Stonehands told me that for all intents and purposes that Akiros seemed like kind of a decent guy from a short introduction. Decent guy for a supposed cold blooded criminal that is. Stoney pointed me to where Akiros was and went out on the top of one of the watchtower to look for him.
I made my way up the steps still with stein of ale in hand and decided to approach still pretending to be a barfly. You know, pretending might be stretching it I realized. Eh. “Bored staring into the nothingness I see.” Akiros paid no bother to me at first and after a few awkward seconds finally responded. “On watch detail. Which seems like a whole lot of nothingness.” I wanted to pry info on this man but he seemed a bit reclusive. It seemed I had to open up a bit. “Yea I remember my nights on watch. Nothing you would do much during academy training. That and scrubbing floors” as I took a swig from my cup. “You had training eh? Same.” I decided to amp up the drunken buddy routine and just see what happened. Worst case scenario I had my shield already strapped on and my sword at the ready. “Ya know I thought serving a good cause, a higher cause would have been great. Tales of grandeur and such. It is tiresome of trying to do the right thing for some being that doesn’t care much about you. Then you end up in places like this, doing anything to get by.”
Akiros turned and looked at me up and down, once again staring at my shield which I had painted the mark of Dol Arrah. He turned to look up at the moon. “Yea I served once too. Those days are done.” He just then began to brood to which I took as a sign to leave him be. Everyone I have met so far seemed so jovial of their position. This man was clearly not in their same mindset. He could possibly be redeemed.
I made my way down the stairs in the common room to meet with everyone sans Kurgar who was still not present. “So anyways the time draws near. Where is Kurgar? We need to prepare” I said. “Stonehands told us of an owl bear in a pen. Releasing it would prove to be a great distraction” said Adra. “I originally only thought about having you, Boris and I go to the Stag Lord’s room, we would wait at the bottom of course. Then for Kurgar and Stoney to handle our flank. I do not want a pissed off owl bear in the mix.” Stonehands raised his hand. “Ugh…owl bear sounds like a great distraction. Plus why can’t I kill the Stag Lord. I got axes. I could like…sever his head in one go. “I need you on my flank Stoney, please.” Boris leaned into the conversation. “I can release the owl bear from its pen. I can sneak in and do it. I can blend with the shadows like a fierce shadow cat. It will be easy. Give me five minutes and you will know when to attack.” I did not want an owl bear on the loose but my group seemed adamant that they use the creature in our plan.
I looked around only for a few minutes when I finally was able to spot Kurgar on top of one of the watchtowers smoking. While walking there, an untidy man rudely bumped into me, almost on purpose and without cause. “What an asshole. What was his problem?” I said to Kurgar. Kurgar with his pipe in hand simply shrugged. “He is an asshole. That is his problem.” I relayed the plan to Kurgar as he put away his pipe and other smoking contents, to which the whole time he seemed rather displeased. “I rather not deal with a damn Owl bear. I haven’t fought one, nor do I plan on doing so anytime soon.” I could not blame him. Almost a dozen men versus the five of us. Only thing we would have is the advantage of surprise. Kurgar and I walked back, ready to get into place as we heard shouting from where the owl bear was being held.
“What is your damn problem?” shouted a gruff voice. “I just wanted to see the owl bear. Magnificent creature it must be. I wanted to know what it looked like” I faintly heard Boris. “It looks like an owl and a bear. Now get away from the pen!” shouted the man. Shortly after Boris came back to the group and shook his head in defeat. “The guard they have on detail is a man with uncanny perception. Nobody will be able to pass him.” Kurgar rolled his eyes and sighed. “Look. Everyone just get into position. You want a distraction, I’ll cause one.” I told them if able that they spare Akiros, to which I had one last duty to attend to.
I walked with an increasing pace to where Akiros was and wanted to give him a heads up. Dear goddess I hope I am right about this man. “Yes?” he said to me without turning to even look. “I need to tell you something. Dovan paid me to kill you tonight. Obviously I am not going to do that.” He raised his eyebrows at the news and nodded approvingly. “Thanks for being up front. Dovan…might need to be dealt with then.” I turned back to head to my party and finally stopped to deliver one last message. “Oh another thing. Stay away from the sleeping quarters and the owl bear pen tonight….” Akiros eyes widened a bit and for a moment I thought he might decide to strike me down there. “Well. Good to know. You should really…get going then and try to have a good night here.” I saluted him and ran back to the group.
It was now a little after midnight as we began to unfold our attack. Me and Boris were stationed at the bottom of the stairs leading to the Stag Lord’s room, with Adra at the top, right at the door, with doorknob in hand. Stoney and Kurgar were in the sleeping quarters behind us. It was a drawn out tense moment which was finally cut with the sound of a man letting out a blood curdling scream and Kurgar screaming. “You want my pipe! You can have my pipe!” he bellowed. Adra took cue and opened the door during the moment of violence and closed it behind her, with me and Boris ready to move with no hesitation.
What got me next is that there was no sound of fighting that followed. It was….laughter? I could only make out Dovan saying something about not liking the guy, presumably the one Kurgar slaughtered. Huh…I wonder well of a distraction that would be if there were all just laughing at a mans death. Before I could contemplate on the thought, a loud gurgled scream came from the Stag Lord’s room. “Kill the new group! Kill them all” I heard Dovan order. I waited there for a moment from the stairs and did not hear anything else. Adra seemingly had done the job. I turned to face the bottom of the stairs and saw the large man Auchs rip the banister from the wall and clobbered Boris with it, sending him tumbling down the stairs. I drew my blade and with divine indignation I slashed the large man He responded in such with hitting me square across the chest with the banister which when it hit me, my armor’s glamor faded. While the Auchs simply stared in a mix of confusion and awe, I used the moment to spill his intestines out with another sweep of my blade.
During this moment a few things happened. I caught a glimpse of Boris, finally gleefully chopping a mans arms off declaring that ‘he did not arm himself properly. Dovan escaped from the main fray up one of the other stairs past me in a blur. Then a large creature shrieked and bounded out of the pen after Kurgar. Dammit someone released the wretched thing. Quickly as we could, me and Stoney went to help Kurgar who was currently wrestling with the creature, axes still in hand. Tough bastard. Then the oddest thing happened at that moment. Looking a bloody Kurgar fighting to stay alive in the grips of the owl bear, gave me a flash of Darius being attacked from those orcs years back. Kurgar at that moment seemed to gain a second wind, to which I felt like I was gaining Kurgar’s wounds. The empathic feedback slammed by body with pain and I could now taste iron. I shook off the cobwebs and moved again, only to see Stoney going to town on it and then Kurgar finally slamming one of his axes into the owl bear’s neck.
For a moment it felt like silence in the quarters where several slain bodies of bandits and a large owl bear laid. Boris just stood silent, focusing his energy and light pulsed from him, healing our wounds. Everyone then noticed there sounded like people still fighting, battling above us. We heard a man let out a loud, piercing scream and then a hard thump followed. We ran up stairs toward the sound and saw Akiros slumped against the tower railing, standing over Dovan’s corpse. There was a sense of amazement there for a second, I think the group was trying to register what we all saw. I quickly rushed over to Akiros who looked to have suffered grievous wounds. I helped close up the more serious wounds on the man with my own divine aid. He gave me a weary look and nodded. “Just tell me it is all over.” I turned to look at Adra who was now with us and she gave a confirming subtle nod. “Yes. Yes it is. The Stag Lord is dead.” He pushed himself to a more level stance. “Good. Now excuse me. I…I need to be alone” as he wandered off.
The group then split up and made sure there were no stragglers left amongst the fort. Adra walked me into the Stag Lord’s room and proudly pointed to his corpse. There he laid, one arrow in his throat, and one in his chest. Double tap, impressive. “I wanted to make sure” she remarked pointing to the second arrow. We walked out and descended back down stairs. “One guy got away. That Sneed guy. Saw him taking off on the horse. Cut the other horses loose” said Kurgar. “He is all alone, his time is running short” I said.
Boris stood there in the middle of the bloody aftermath, with that usual smile of his returning to his face. “Was a good fight. Nothing presents a better hunt than man. Especially evil men. Can we now cleanse these departed ones with rigouts fire?” Adra stepped up with her mouth open ready to yell at him yet again. I quickly put my hand on her shoulder to pull her back. “Please. Just let him have this moment.”