We returned to Marcus that night triumphant, dragging boxes of weapons and armors in to the guild behind us. Of course we entered with a bit of a boat. I played up the story, threw in a dragon. Everybody fears these woods and we came out alive. “The best sword this side of the ocean and a man who can summon and control the elements!” We were on top of the world.
We hardly had time to collect our gold before we heard the thunderous clash of a boot against a door and the town guards poured in. I bit down on my teeth, I knew what it was. That damned barbarian, he had robbed the first caravan and scared the second. When they announced their presence and why they were here the only thing I could think was: “I hate it when I’m right”
I did my best to explain, we put it all on our deceased barbarian friend. Explained how he had traveled with us, and then betrayed us. Fast talking and sharp words, yet through it all I could hear the two in the background. Through the corner of my eye I saw the Hengstfordian fellow and his friend, snickering about us and our predicament in the background of it all. Fortunately the guards seemed to take my story, and left with little more than a glare that felt nearly as sharp as their blades may have. I felt as if a bolder just rolled off of my shoulder.
“Allfather, what did you two do?” Marcus announced, to which we explained why exactly the barbarian was no longer with us. We got paid all the same; gold actually split a bit less thinly without a third person to pay. It was then that Marcus introduced us to the two fellows that had been sitting nearby, Vormec and his hireling Luko. It seemed they were like us, new to the guild and looking for work. Marcus had promised them a job alongside us, and it seemed he already had one.
A group of scholars from bLawrenzia had come in to town to investigate some ancient ruins near the town. Unfortunately the local priest had begun claiming that the ruins were blasphemous, that they contained withcraft and evil. For this reason the scholars were chased off by flame and pitchfork before they had a chance to investigate the ruins at all. We were to meet one of the scholars in the city’s square and discuss the job with him. “And one more thing, don’t kill the priest”
I spotted him amongst the crowd; he was not hard to catch sight of. Wearing those Lawrenzian scholarly robes he stood out. I approached with Bryeweulf and we introduced ourselves as from the guild. Motioning him from the prying crowds we disappeared in to the alleyways. He rambled on in what I swear was a single breath that rang annoyingly in to my ears.
“Thisisn’trightwehavethekingspermissionwe’reallowedtobeherewehave-“. He stopped when I gave him a bit of a shake and reassured him that I was on his side; after all I was on his payroll. With some discussion, we learned that the priest had basically taken over the ruins with his men. It was our job to run them out.
We arrived at the site of the ruins later that day, after we had a chance to rest and repair. The fellow we had brought along, Vormec, was from my home country and like many of my brethren he had skills with a crossbow like you could not imagine. Making it to the ruins just outside of town it was clear what the scholar had meant when he said we could not miss them. Intimidating stone and structure, slowly destroyed by the passage of time. That wasn’t all that was there, however, as it was hard to miss the men and grunts patrolling the ruins and worse yet…destroying them with maces and hammers.
Entering the ruins Vormec instructed his hireling to stay behind and quickly broke from the group, finding a tall structure some ways away from the commotion and climbing upon it; readying the impressive heavy repeating crossbow he had slung over his shoulder. Approaching the priest and his men any attempts for subtly were destroyed where Brye quickly announced what we were hear for, and denounced their faith loudly. Speaking of Ymir and this and that I was really only left with one choice. Leaping on the near object and drawing my sword, I announced my presence; after all I am the best sword on this side of the ocean.
Scared as they were, when the priest gave the order to attack his men did. It was hardly a challenge as they naturally came to me, attempting to take out the most threatening target first no? Parries, rolls, and perfectly timed cuts and strikes allowed me to hold my own. Maneuvering the field like nothing with Bryeweulf not far off; that was, until he used his druidic powers to create fire from the air. Stunned, the priest announced “Witchcraft!” and backed himself against a wall.
Those enemies that didn’t meet my blade or Brye’s fire were met with the powerful bolt of Vormec’s crossbow. Large bolts fired in rapid succession, taking men clear off their feet like it was nothing. Not to mention the large white cat that accompanied our druid. Before long it seemed like the fight was in the bag. Blade, bolt, claw and fire we cut down or forced them to flee. A larger, bulkier fighter was hardly any extra match. A smaller man though, bearing a knife in either hand, managed to inflict quite the injury on me; gashing down across my back and very near disabling me.
Moments later though he was taken down just as swiftly; allowing attention to finally turn towards the priest. With several hasty steps forward I pressed his back to the wall and my blade to his throat. I told him to leave, and to not return to this place. He seemed to get the hint rather quickly and took off deep in to the woods, likely heading towards down. A moment of consideration on if letting him go was really a good idea, but even if I was willing to antagonize the church I could never bring myself to slay a holy man.
Investigating the ruins we had some time to get to know one another. Vormec, the archer, approached us from some distance. “Is that magic, the witchcrafts?” he seemed very interested in Brye’s druidic magics. We soon found out why: “Luko, the boy I’ve brought with me. He is my cousin and..he can do the magics as well. He’s been able to since a young age and I fear what would happen if people were to find out. So I shall keep your secret, your powers. So long as you will keep mine a secret” – “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us” – “Gene you told the entire guild I could control the elements” – “Well, that was different!”
At least he seemed to trust us, and for now we formed a very cohesive group. Stepping away from them as they spoke, I took the time to investigate the ruins and what I could of the destroyed wall. I bet nobody expected that I knew ancient ruinic. The following is what I have managed to transcribe:
Save thyselves from the endless night
For perish those that stand and fight
As advice it’s written, not a fable
Pay sacrifice to the insatiable
Yet steel yourselves the good and lawful
Lest they walk the lands again
Harbingers of fate most awful
Those we name the hollow men
Be not tempted by the depths most black
For when you stare into the maw
The maw stares back.