Freitag, Juni 09, 2006

Beating the Bad Guys

Hello again!

Being eaten alive by mosquitoes, leeches and whatnot is not my idea of adventure. And then that treacherous ground.
One false step and you are knee deep in the muck.

If you are lucky that is.

If not and still able to tell, you were in it up to your waist or even deeper. Your laundresses will curse you, unless she refuses outright to clean that mess up.
I surely would. [Llewellyn has a sour look on his face.]

Any soul really out of luck is unable to tell the tale, but we four are fortunate to have survived that.

Two times!

Yes we went in and out of that bug infested, damp and dangerous place. And I am not talking about the bandits here, they were a nuisance, although in my case one of these actually made a deep mark in my left calf.

[Llewellyn's face twists as he is remembering]
That hurt. Having to rely on a crutch for movement is really bad.

Enough complaining. Someone might call it unheroic but I just try to emphasize that the majority of actions leading to a heroic or unheroic story are actually neither glorious nor especially comfortable to endure.

But let us start the tale, regardless.

The varied animal life of the swamp made it's usual concert.
Some disturbingly deep croaks were audible over the misty waters from time to time. Their originators remained hidden throughout our journey.

We walked the path leading toward the ruined fort, where in old times bandits took refuge. Maybe the bandits making a nuisance of themselves today took these tales as a hint that this fort was suitable for camping. We would find out if that was the case.

We were forced to backtrack several times as the swamp had reclaimed parts of the old winding path.

Once we glimpsed some twinkling in the partly lush vegetation behind us, but we decided against investigating at that time. We marked the direction to that bright spot with a mark on a tree, so that we might find it again, in case we would return to that spot. I wonder if we ever will go back and search that place? In all the swamp was surprisingly uneven and hard to survey. Parts rose clearly above the water level, these would make rather dry camping places. Others seemed that way, too, only to be discovered ridden with damp spaces, effectively unsuitable as camping places.

So here we were, approaching the broken remains of the fort on a rather sparsely traveled path through the swamp. A broken tower protruded from it on the side of our approach, the fort being located some two or three dozen yards to the left of the path. Don spotted a human figure on it's top, we were in fear of having been spotted and prepared to be rushed from the fort.

But we weren't rushed.

We continued our approach and could see that the fort was located behind a moat filled with greenish water. The drawbridge was down and one side of the gate doors was missing while the other side stood half open. We were ready to enter the broken fort but Fendor noticed some strange barking sounds behind us. Not being above surveying a situation instead of rushing blindly in our group of four left the path to it's right side and hunkered down behind some bushes and high swamp grass.

I loaded my trusty crossbow and took my pot helm off, so that no reflection would betray our position. Our patience was tried but finally we could see what strange menagerie was approaching both our position and the fort.

Now are not unaccustomed to strangeness, but that was one of these Firsts.

Slowly rising above some small elevation was the head of one of the Wolfmen which are not unknown to us. They are rather uncivilized and it did not really surprise us that one of them would join bandits. They were not necessarily the usual suspects, Orcs being far more abundant under the Brotherhood of Bandits, but it was more or less expected of the Wolfmen to be troublemakers. I once overheard some scholar saying that the Wolfmen actually resembled more hyenas than wolves, but know what? To me there is enough similarity toward wolves in their faces that I find this piece of lore pretty useless. Or like Fendor would say
Who cares? They look similar enough...
No. What really was strange was this group of maybe a dozen small lizardmen that was kept in motion by the occasional barks, howls and grunts of the Wolfman. They at least seemed to understand the meaning of that language, because they kept an almost orderly formation where each row had two small lizardmen.

They usually do not mingle, but what we saw confirmed one of the more unbelievable reports we have heard before. We were not inclined to believe it then, but now we believed it as we were rubbing our eyes, figuratively speaking, preparing an ambush at that moment. The wolfman was equipped with a two handed flail, a rather nasty war implement, and clad in a hardened leather hide which covered his body while leaving his legs and arms unprotected. The small lizardmen were clad in some cloth armor, some were carrying short clubs and one or two actually seemed to be equipped with a shortsword. All in all they were outnumbering us almost three to one but their size and equipment was far from impressive.

I took careful aim for the right leg of the wolfman. I wanted to be able to ask him questions. So as the wolfman was nearest our position, a distance of maybe a dozen yards or so I let the bolt fly. I got an immediate response as the Wolfman collapsed onto the path clutching his perforated leg and letting his pain and surprise out with a loud howl. That was the moment when Don, Fendor and Marvin left their cover and stormed towards the disoriented, and now leaderless, lizardmen. I followed them, but having due to encumbering equipment was some paces behind them. We scattered the lizardmen, their response was sluggish to our onrush and most just dropped their weapons and fled heading in any direction away from us. Having defeated some lizardmen on his own Don guarded our rear while Fendor, Marvin and I, Llewellyn, were pursuing the remainder of the lizardmen into the fort.

Over the drawbridge into the inner ward of the fort we ran. Two of the lizardmen took off towards an opening in the wall of the fort, created years ago when a siege engine, or something similar in effect, breached it and created a pile of rubble and a gap in the wall. We followed them down the corridor on the right side of the entrance hall. Through stormed through an old and heavy curtain into a room at the end of that corridor. Luckily the room was not full of lizzies, just the two who fled there. And we beat the Bad Guys here, too.

That is, that was our initial perception. To our surprise a slightly oversized, or better said, Giant, Snake was inhabiting one of the room's corners. It sensed us, slithered toward us three, but luckily enough Fendor noticed the unfamiliar sound of it's skin brushing against the floor.
He alerted us to it with a yell and pointed his sturdy spear in it's direction. We snapped out of our surprise and readied our weapons to fend it off. The approach of the snake was rather slow but that must be attributed to it's lack of legs. Or is it?

It tensed and actually sprang forward towards Marvin surprisingly fast. It must have mistaken him for one of the small lizardmen because it's bared fangs and gaping gigantic mouth stopped almost a yard in front of Marvin's face.

Marvin and I retreated back, being surprised by the speed of the beast's attack, being more accustomed to the speed and maneuvers of humanoid foes. Fendor on the other hand stepped fearlessly forward and thrust his spear deep into the body of the giant snake. The snake tried to recoil from it but did not succeed. Being deep enough to penetrate a man fully the trust failed to do so in the case of the giant snake, here it did not penetrate, due to the body of the snake having a greater radius than the deepness of a stocky man's chest. What it did, was to discourage the snake from further considering is being it's dish. Wounded and bleeding heavily it crept out of the room and out of the fort, leaving a deep red trail on the floor of the fort. Aloof, we trailed it until we saw it disappear in the thicket behind the moat.

We went back to rejoin Don. He had been surprised by two of the lizzies returning to the spot of our ambush on them, could rout them but was distracted long enough that their leader, the Wolfman, slipped away using the two-handed flail as a crutch.

Following these tense moments we went to investigate the ruins of the fort more thoroughly.