Wednesday 25 July 2018

Tales of the Wandering Slayer chapter 3: Where is the townfolk?

When we again join Emerik, his temporary party has entered through the gates of Biru Kutha, where the streets lie deserted.
"Gods be merciful! Where could everybody be?" Miklos the merchant exclaimed.
"There is no blood or signs of struggle, do not dispair yet." the Slayer resonds as he takes in the scene around him.

The small town looks like it was taken by some surprise, goods and details of daily life sit where they dropped, but there is little to reveal what spooked the townsfolk so.

Suddenly a voice calls out across the small square: "Miklos, praise the gods you are spared!" The door to the temple fly open as a priest steps out onto the stair.
"Aggas, it warms my heart to see you, but what has happened here?" Miklos move to meet the priest at the well in the center of the town.
"A foul omen, a sign of the gods displeasure!"

"I think I can explain it Miklos, and it has little to do with the gods!" Suddenly, a brawny man comes around the back of the temple. His garb, coupled with his thick muscle and weapons tell Emerik that this man is likely a guard, probably the even captain of the guard given his familiarity with the merchant and priest.

Aggas shoots the man a dark look, disrespecting both the gods and their mouthpiece infront of a stranger, but he hold his tongue.
Ever the diplomat, Miklos quickly grab the attention of the captain to forestall any bickering: "Captain Farkh, where is the rest of your guards and the rest of the town?"
"Some nights ago we started hearing strange calls and goings on after dark.
At first we thought it was wild dogs, but last night we saw them for the first time on a patrol of the streets. They were some hellish mix of lizard and man!" The captain relayed what he had seen to the newcomers, growing animated as he went along.
"Gods shield us from such creatures, what do they want?" Miklos sat down in the sand, clearly shocked.

"What does any such creature want? To sacrifice us to their twisted and vile gods, or eat us, surely!" Aggas cried out, unable to contain his fear and religious fervor any longer.
"And what of our people?" Miklos pleaded, looking to the captain.
"Most are safe, some seek sanctuary with Aggas under the eyes of the gods in the temple, the rest are holed up in their homes on my order until my men return." Farkh stated. "They followed the scavengers as they left before sunrise, to drive the fiends from our lands." He added.

"Now I have duties to attend to, and I am sure that our people need your guidance Aggas." He gives the priest a pointed look. "I'm sorry you have come to us at a dire time traveller, our hospitality is usually not this poor. You have my thanks for bringing our treasurer and valued merchant Miklos back to us." With these words, both Aggas and Farkh turn and go their separate ways.

"I am sorry you find us at such a calamitous time master Slayer. We are already indebted to you, but I fear I must ask even more of you."
"What would you ask of me master merchant?" Emerik eyes Miklos with some apprehension.

"Would you consider a contract? I would have you go after the guardsmen the captain sent to drive off these creatures that have found themselves in our neighborhood. The captain is a proud man and his guards are well trained, but I fear that such fiends might prove too much for them. Would you aid them, and all of us?" Miklos looks at the Slayer with worry in his eyes.

"How do you propose to pay me, you who have yet to settle your previous debt?" our hero asks bemused.
"I will speak to the priest and captain Farkh, we I will convince them to pay you from the town coffers. I will also have something else from my own collection to gift you, as thanks for saving my life, and that of my bodyguards." Miklos speaks confidently, like a man already sure of the outcome.
"Very well, merchant Miklos, you have struck a deal." Emerik offer up his hand and the men shake on the agreement.

"Now I will go find the good captain and inquire to the direction I am to find his guardsmen." The Slayer stalks off to find Farkh, leaving Miklos to his business and his brother-guards to see to the goods they saved from the bandits.

Before long Emerik find captain Farkh and recounts his conversation with Miklos. The guard captain grunts his agreement between bites, as our Slayer interrupted him mid-meal.
"Come master Slayer, I will show you where to start." Farkh puts down the loaf he had been devouring, motioning for Emerik to follow.

They soon reach the gates of the town.
"Follow this route to the west, the winds have been calm, so I am sure you will pick up my men's track with little difficulty." The captain points to a landmark in the distance: "There is a few small pools just past those twin hills over there, I would imagine that is where the fiends have made camp."
After thanking the guard captain, Emerik soon picks up the tracks, just like Farkh had predicted.

After a few hours of traveling and following the trail, Emerik reaches the twin hills spoke of by the captain.. 

..He soon spots the guardsmen as he enters the depression between the two rocky hillsides.

The guardsmen have formed a loose ring around the lizardmen, beating their shields and shouting to drive them off. Hissing and roaring in their strange tongue, the lizardmen seem more provoked than frightened.
"I have come from Biru Kutha to aid you, courtesy of the merchant Miklos." Emerik announces with a call that booms across small oasis.
"Welcome stranger, we are greatful for any help! These fiends have corrupted the pools with their filth, but we will see them off yet!" One of the guardsmen responds, indicating the scummy pools with his blade.

The four lizardmen are not alone however. Unbeknownst to the guardsmen, a hunting party is just returning when the calls of their tribe reaches them!

Sensing that the numbers now favor them, the lizardmen's chief gives a shout and they charge!
They quickly surround a guardsman, but his skill and luck is greater than theirs this day and he manages to keep the stabbing spears at bay. When the chief tries to gut him, he instead receives a pair of vicious stabs from the guardsman's spear for his trouble.

Their backs turned, the savage warriors are unable to stop Emerik's lethal assault as his spear thrust through the pair again and again, leaving the warriors bleeding into the sand!

Swinging his shield in a murderous arc, the lone guardsman first deflects the chief's spear before smashing the shield full into the lizardman's face, knocking him to the desert floor.

Just as his swing finishes, an arrow whistles into the flank of the guardsman! The lizardman hiding by the pool had been waiting for an opportunity to pepper the invaders with his arrows and such a chance had just presented itself.

Loosing another shaft against the second pair of guardsmen bearing down on him, he fails to get past the vigilant shield-arm of the guardsmen.

The hunting party of lizardmen coming into view, our Slayer strains his legs to reach the closest one before it can threaten the guardsmen. A quick slash rewards him with a angry hiss from his opponent.

The wounded guardsman drag himself in behind a large cactus to bind his wound and try to remove the arrow in his side. At the same time, his fellow guardsmen keep up their march against the bow lizardman. The reptilian archer draw and loose a multitude of arrows, keeping the guards shields up. One arrow finally find it's mark, striking the throat of a tiring guard, slaying him instantly.

Clearly outmatched, the wounded lizardman can't keep Emerik's cuts and thrusts from his flesh for long and he soon falls to the multitude of wounds.

Finally reaching the archer, the guardsmen fall upon him with savage blows, avenging their dead and wounded comrades.

No sooner than the first archer has fallen, an arrow come flying for the guardsman right behind him.
Caught by surprise, the shot throws the guardsman to the ground bleeding and crying out in pain!

Facing off against the last of the spear-wielding fiends, Emerik spins and thrusts, blocking blows with his shield while looking for an opening. When the lizardman strikes against his leg, the spear get stuck in the sands!
Emerik quickly skewers the reptilian, ending the fight as it slides off his spear.

Knowing how deadly arrows can prove, Emerik charges the last standing lizardman. The creature gives a hiss-chirp of surprise as the Slayer quickly closes the distance. Before it can reach for the dagger in his belt, Emerik's spear has thrust right through him, a few inches sticking out of the reptilian's back.

As the last of the lizardmen has fallen, the remaining guardsmen see to their wounds and the fallen, how are regrettably beyond their aid. As they pick through the dead, one off them cries out in fright!
"What is it man, that has you so unraveled?" Emerik challenges the guard.
"The leader of these fiends, he yet lives! The blow must have only knocked him senseless!" He replies exitedly.

As Emerik comes to deliver a killing blow, the reptilian suddenly stuns them by croaking: "Stay your hand, I beg of you. I shall reward you if you spare my life!"
The lizardman spoke! Not any gibbering tongue known only to his kind, but the common tongue!

"Why should I spare you, and how did you come to know our language?" Asked Emerik, recovering from the shock. According to most scholars, the various humanoids that inhabit the world are little but savage beasts that couldn't possibly understand or learn the cultured ways of men. It seems in this case at least, they are wrong.. Emerik considers the implications of such a discovery when the chief responds:

"I have journeyed further than many of my kind and while they find little use for your tongue and customs, I saw litte harm in learning it. As to why you should spare me, I would ask you hear me out: My tribe lived many days and nights from here, in a system of caves. We kept to ourselves and rarely had cause to cross paths with men.
Some moons ago, our shaman saw bad omens in his dreams, and soon calamity befell us. A plague hit our people and in our weakened state we could not keep the sand worms at bay and they drove us from our ancestral home."

"I see, but why claim these pools, and foul the waters? This is one of the few sources of water around here and now it stinks of rot!" Cried one of the guards.

"When we found this place, we were coming close to the time of the spawning. Our young need the waters to be born. With the pools of our caves lost to us, we had to take what was at hand. We hunters watch the pools and the young ones. The smell you remark on is the food we dump into the pools for the hatchlings. In another moon, they will be big enough to leave the pool. But without it they will perish, and so might our entire tribe be doomed!"

The guards looked to the Slayer with unease, not sure if they shouldn't kill the reptile and his kin.
Emerik broods for another few moments and then speak:
"I see you plight chief, but I know not if there is anything I can do. These pools are needed by travelers and the town nearby."

The lizardman sighs and nods: "You have bested many of our hunters and I cannot stop you from slaughtering the rest of us. But I have been your prowess. If you would travel with me to the caves and drive the worms away, we would have no more need of these pools.
We would clean them up and offer trade with the towns you speak of. For you personally I can offer some of the things we have found exploring the ancient ruins deep in the caves, of little value to us but it might be of use to you. These is also precious rocks that you might take."

The lizardman chief takes a small gemstone out from a small satchel in his belt. The red stone glitters in the sunlight. It's a bloodstone, a gem worth a moderate sum, but he seems to indicate that there are more of them to be had.

"I would know your name, chief of the tribe, if we are to strike a deal. I am Emerik, Slayer from the western kingdoms."
 "Master Slayer, I thank thee, my name is not one pronouncable by most, but you may call me Skizz."

The guardmen look on in confusion at the exchange, not sure how to feel about the latest developments.

Before any more can be said, a low rumbling, like that of a quake can be felt.

"Oh no, some worms must have followed us somehow!" Cried Skizz as he looks around nervously.
The sand blows up in two places, revealing the armored heads of a pair of sand worms.
"Stay together. don't let them separate us!" Emerik cautioned.

The first worm slithers towards the group, it's jaws opening and closing with crushing force.
As it reaches the Slayer and one of the guards, Emerik manages to slam his shield into the head to the creature. With the worm momentarily stunned, the guard wastes no time slashing it's exposed throat, covering himself and the ground in a thick, dark ichor.

Skizz dances around the second worm, dodging and weaving as he stabs at the armored head of the second beast.

Penning it in, all four warriors stab and slash at the enraged worm. After what feels like an eternity of dodging and stabbing, the second worm finally falls into the sands, wracked by death throes.

"Might I have a word chief Skizz?" Emerik asks as the worm stills.
The guardsmen take the hint with some reluctancy, stepping away to leave the Slayer alone with the lizardman.

"I hope to convince the guards to go back with their dead and stay in Biru Kutha until I return. If you carry any more of those gems it might ease their discomfort with the idea." Emerik states, looking to the chief.
"I have only a few more, but you are welcome to them. I learned long ago that men value these highly, sometimes too much so.." Skizz fetches the last of the stones from another pouch and hands them to the Slayer.

"Thank you chief Skizz, I shall return shortly." With that, Emerik walked off to the waiting guardsmen. 

"I will go with the chief, to solve this problem for both your town and his people. I ask that you take these gems as reparation for the damages caused.."
He hand the guard the pair of bloodstone. "And that you let the town council know that I will return in some time. Until then, stay away from the pools and leave the lizardmen be and I shall see that they do the same." Seeing their eyes drawn to the gems, Emerik makes the guard repeat it back to him, before sending them on their way.

As they start the long walk back, one says to the other. "That Slayer is either mad or fearless, either way, I'm glad he didn't try to drag us along!"

Emerik returns to the waiting chief and relay the terms of their contract. With little choice but ruin and doom, Skizz readily agrees to keep his people away from town and leave as soon as they are able.

The agreement struck, Skizz and Emerik wander off into the desert, towards the faraway mountains..

What will happen on their journey? Why did the sand worms suddenly attack, and what are the ancient ruins hidden in the caverns of the lizardmen?

Til next time!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Beasts, guards and more

Setting up the last pieces for the next chapter, I now have what I think will be enough for the next outing and maybe even the one after that.

Mostly found in the deeper parts of the desert, the sand worms are a blight facing travelers. Hunting almost anything, these creatures use seismic and other senses poorly understood by the scholars of the human world to strike with unerring accuracy and ferocity. While deadly and territorial, the creatures are thankfully quite rare, or at least they used to be..

The worms are usually solitary and become quite territorial when grown, but the young have been observed hunting in small family packs untill they grow big enough to successfully hunt alone. Even at a young age the sand worms are often more than 10 feet long and strong enough to take down a man, however their senses are not as finely honed as their grown counterparts.

Adult worms are a force to be reckoned with, even for a mighty hero or unit of soldiers. With their crushing jaws and rock hard carapace, many have been turned into sustenance for the ravenous beast. Traveling under the sands, a favored tactic of the worm is to come up from below, devouring it's prey before it has a chance to fight back or flee.

When they reach maturity, the sand worms usually measure 30 foot or more. Some desert tribes have claimed that ancient sand worms can be over a 100 feet long, but surely that is their superstitious minds exaggerating reality.

The priest of the local temple to the gods. When most people would cower and hide in the face of calamity and black omens, the priest beseeches the gods. With ancient rituals and secret spells passed down through the ages, he calls on his divine patrons to lend aid, wisdom or vengance upon those who would harm his flock. 

The local guardsmen of Biru Kutha. Recruited from the men-folk of the small town and paid from the town treasury, of which the merchant Miklos is master, the guardsmen usually keep the peace and make sure that justice and order is upheld. Now they have gone missing however..

Lastly we have some of the great mechant's wares. Barrels of oils and wine, a chest of various valuables, as well as arms and armor both for sale and for the replenishing of the guards equipment.

This is all that I have for now, but soon there should be another chapter in the Tale of the Wandering Slayer.

Til next time!

Friday 13 July 2018

Tale of the Wandering Slayer chapter 2: An unexpected encounter.

When we join our Wanderer again a few more days have passed. He has yet to see a single human, but thankfully no more beasts or magical fiends either.

He is certain that he must be getting closer to where someone might have settled, since the dunes have been growing smaller as rocky outcrops and vegetation more frequent. Thank the gods for small favors!

As the Slayer gets closer to a rocky hill, he hears the unmistakable sounds of men arguing and the braying of a beast of burden. Have he finally found some civilization?

Sneaking up the hill to peer over the top he sees a group of rough-looking thugs surrounding a merchant and his guards. The exact words of the conversation is hard to make out, but the intent of the rogues is clear enough. He sneaks closer yet, trying to hear more clearly.

"But I have already paid your chief Zarbossa. My caravan is protected by agreement." The merchant puffs up his chest in an attempt to look more authorative.
"I'm afraid that we have had a change of leadership. Zarbossa is no longer leading us. As such, you need to pay me to ensure your safety and that of your goods, of course."
The leader of the bandits shifts to but his hand on the pommel of his sword, sunlight glinting off the copper-colored scales of his armor.

"This is an outrage! You cannot do this! Besides I have no more coin to pay you with, it's all tied up in my wares." The merchant huffs after his outburst, his face nearly as purple as his jacket.
"Then we'll just have to take what you have." The mirth is gone from the bandits voice, replaced with a dangerous edge like that of a thunderstorm suddenly rolling in were before there was not a cloud.

As they watch each other warily, one of his bodyguards notice more bandits trying to sneak up on them from beind and cries out: "Filthy dogs! You would sneak up on us,sword in hand while we parley with your chief?!"

Meanwhile the hawk-eyed merchant spot our Wanderer as he sneaks across the desert floor behind the bandits line. Recognizing his armor as that of a Slayer, he cries out: "Master Slayer, help us drive off these curs and you will be rewarded! I swear it!"  

As their master entreats with the Slayer, his guards are quick to act on the momentary distraction. Bahn strides towards the sneaks intending to stab him in the back and with a mighty swing from his curved sword he nearly splits the bandit in twain!

Wasting no time, the merchant runs to the pack-mule and starts rummaging for something. Meanwhile Gahn, brother of Bahn and the merchants other guard, starts toward the bandit's leader.
Sparks fly as their blades meet, but as they clash again and again the bandit manages to score a deep cut on the guards naked chest, causing Gahn to cry out in pain.

A trio of bandits just behind their leader run towards the meleƩ. The unexpected start of the fighting causes them to give pause for a split second, but they have the numbers. Two join their boss to surround the wounded guard while one makes for the pack animal, hoping to secure the loot before the animal is scared off or the merchant flees on it!

Our wanderer find himself in a bit of a bind. He has no reason or obligation to save the merchant as they have no contract, but the bandits are likely to attack him in any case. The merchant did promise a reward for helping him and the cowardly rogues are likely to run off as soon as a few of them fall in either case. Might as well get paid for it.

Decision made, the Slayer runs around a rock to attack the bandits from a better angle. Too late the closest bandit hear his steps, and he is dealt a crippling wound as he turns to face his attacker.

Continuing their deadly dance, the bandit leader strikes again and again, driving the already wounded Gahn to his knees. With a savage kick the guard is knocked out and the copper-mailed brute charges towards his brother, sword held high.

 Bahn fights on, knocking back every attempt by the second sneak to gut him.  His attention occupied, he doesn't notice the charging bandit leader until the last second. A deep gash opens up in his back even though he tries to jump out of the way of the edge of the blade as it sings through the air.

Turning to toward the Slayer and charging, the remaining bandit close to avenge his wounded comrade. But his blade is easily turned by the trained Slayer, who spent countless days and nights training to fight mighty beasts. With his attacker off balance, he simply runs the bandit through, letting his lifeblood drain into the sands.

As the merchant's guard falls senseless, the yellow-capped bandits run to help stop the merchant from fleeing. When the first one reach for his arm, the merchant swings around with a wicked-looking dagger. Before the rogue knows what hit him, he falls dead to the ground, his heart pierced by the dagger.

 With murder in his eyes and curses flying off his tongue, the bandit comes at the merchant. In his anger he swings and misses, wincing and yelping as he recives a deep cut from the dagger that just killed his fellow rogue. With his back turned to the last of the trio, the merchant never sees the blows that knocks him senseless.

Already wounded, the second bandit proves no challenge to our wanderer and he soon joins his comrades.

Even before the body hits the ground, the Slayer is moving again. Soon he clashes with the leader of these lowly curs. While certainly a more competent fighter than his underlings, the bandit boss is instantly on the defensive, barely dodging the murderous stabs from our hero's spear.
A lucky strike slides the blade along the inside of the rogue's arm, causing him to cry out and drop his blade. With this his fate is sealed, when less than breath passes before the Slayer expertly drives his blade through the boss' skull, slaying him instantly.

Distracted by his superior's defeat, the sneak fighting Bahn fails to deflect his flashing blade and has his chest slashed open, dropping him to the ground.

This was the final straw for the remaining pair of bandits, who promptly flee. The Slayer starts as if to give chase, but a shout from Bahn stops him in his tracks.
"Let them run master Slayer. We must tend to my master and my brother!" He exclaims.

Both turn out to be lucky, having received fairly light wounds. After some bandages and poultices have been administered, their patience is soon rewarded as both men regain their senses, sore but most definitely alive.

"I thank you master Slayer. Your timing was most fortuitous! I fear we would not have made it out with our lives if not for your intervention." The merchant winces visibly as he shifts around, trying without success to find a less uncomfortable position.
He continues:
"My name is Miklos, a humble merchant. I, along with Bahn and Gahn here (he gestures to the two brother guardsmen) were traveling back to our home, a small town near here called Biru Kutha."

The Slayer regarded Miklos. It was a stroke of luck that he happened to know the way to a nearby town. Maybe he could find some clues to the ancient ruins there?
"Hail and well met Miklos the merchant, I am Emerik the Slayer. You mentioned a reward for your rescue if I am not mistaken?"

"Yes, you speak true master Slayer. Alas I carry no coin as all is invested in the merchandise on this pack-mule." Miklos sheepishly indicates the beast behind him.

It's laden with a whole host of goods, from food and drink to arms and armor. Emerik is surprised the beast can stand, nevermind move, with such a load.

"I feared as much. No matter, I could use a few nights in a bed after this time on the road." the Slayer admitted to the merchant's party.

"It's only a short bit away, if you follow us." Gahn and Bahn say in unison, indicating that the wanderer should follow them.
Some time later, as the sun begings to dip, the party in within reach of the walls of Biru Kutha.

"It's not a great city just yet, but gods willing (the merchant kisses a medallion before replacing it in his robes) this will be a jewel of the desert!"
"Any civilized village would have done at this point." Emerik answered.
"This is not just any town my friend, but I might be biased, having helped found it! You will stay in my house as a guest for as long as you need and I shall repay you as soon as I am able, of course."
"Very generous of you, merchant Miklos." Emerik says, somewhat distracted. He finds it peculiar that the gates look unguarded and he can't see any townfolk about. It reminds him more of an abandoned village than a bustling small town. Maybe they are wary of strangers..

As they get closer, he notice the guards and Miklos seem concerned as well.

"Where are all the people? Is this common for this town? " Emerik finally asks. "No, it most definitely is not. Come, we must see the priest, he can no doubt tell me what has transpired since we left!"

What happened to the people? Where is the town guard? What happened in Biru Kutha?

Til next time!


During the last part of the battle, as the bandits fled a rare sight: One of the titanic desert guardians decided to lounge just where Emerik had come through.