“Everyone has arrived” the mayor, Sulver Thiaraka, said. I was standing in his cabin, together with some familiar strangers. Bill, an acquaintance of mine, had arrived the last. There was little time for chatter as the mayor introduced us to each other.
The tall elf covered in tribal tattoos was introduced as Caranor. I had seen him before, but never spoke. He worked as a guard around the village. Apparently, he was trained in the Eladrin ways of battle.
Sitting quietly in a corner was Gilraen, a wizard. She was very timid, and only nodded every now and then.
And lastly was Bill, a human gardener. Of course, I knew that he had been a successful tactical leader in the past, but he had put that behind him. According to Bill, he was made to go by his wife. He really is too much of a pushover.
Somewhere along there I was described, but I paid little attention. He said nothing I didn’t know already.
“So, now you know each other, let me explain why I called upon you.” the mayor said. “You see, the village needs defenders. In the past, the hunting group has been called upon when it was necessary, but as they travel further each year, they can no longer be relied upon. This is where you come in. You each have experience with weapons or magic. I wish for you to defend the perimeter of this village. Do you accept this job?”
I shrugged. It wasn’t as if I was that great with a bow, but a job is a job. I reluctantly accepted. Caranor already worked as a guard, so he had little reason to decline. Bill and Gilraen both looked like they didn’t want to, but Bill accepted as he was reminded of his wife. After some persuasion, Gilraen stammered out a “Yes”. I’m not sure whether she would be an asset or a hazard.
“One more thing” the mayor said. “As you know, we have a guard drake in this village. Please take care of him. He can hold his own in a fight.”
While I did not want a job as a pet-sitter, Gilraen immediately took a shining to the drake. I am more of a dog person, anyway.
Just then, a messenger burst into the cabin. He was out of breath, and took a few moments to articulate his important message. “Orcs!” he said. “They’re storming the southern gate!”
I glanced at the mayor. It was rather convenient timing. I quickly moved towards the cabin’s exit as the others confirmed the message. “Let’s go.” I said. If there really were orcs, we’d best not tarry here.
The other four were shortly behind me as I ran towards the southern gate. I could a small force of Orcs charging us, and outnumbering us two to one. I was undaunted, however. In seconds, I singled out one of the leaders of the force. I loaded an arrow in my bow and fired a keen shot, slowing down the leader’s charge. Unfortunately, the drake had other plans, as he enthustiastically charged ahead, into the middle of the orcs. I rolled my eyes, and darted behind a building, leaving the others to stop the charge as I employed hit and run tactics. It was just like in the city, using alleys to dart away and launch a renewed assault from a different direction.
My targets were the orcs. This did not stop me from seeing Bill surrounded by several enemies and falling to the floor in no time. Luckily, Gilraen quickly tended to his wounds, allowing him to stand up once more. However, this put the wizard in a tough spot amongst orcs. She tried to run away. Bill heroically decided to protect her, but was punched onto the ground again. I wondered what that self-proclaimed tactician was thinking. Perhaps his time gardening had softened him up.
After that fierce skirmish, however, the orcs were down and we were all still standing. I went past the orcs, gathering the gold. One of the orcs wore magic leather armor. Gilraen identified it, and we agreed that it was best used in Caranor’s hands. After some argueing, the gold was split up, with the remainder given to Gilraen to protect.
As we returned to the Mayor’s cabin, we were told to scout the forest in order to look for more orcs. I silently agreed. There were bound to be more orcs. While Gilraen objected to killing, I explained that orcs were a force of destruction, and they would stop at nothing in order to wipe us out.
After resting for a brief moment, we rushed out again, traversing the road to the southern plain. As predicted, we found more orcs. They rushed towards my allies, stumbling across me in the moment. Two orcs attacked me, but I swiftly dodged them, as I quickly retreated, flinging arrows at them as fast as I could. I darted between trees and stones, disappearing from their vision only to reappear when it was too late.
The orcs gave no problems, however, as the last one fell, I heard a bush moving. Instantly focusing my sight, I saw a hidden orc running away. I fired an arrow at him, but I was too late to prevent him from sounding a horn. As the others rested, I volunteered to scout. Darting across the path, I reached a shabby town. It looked empty, but smoke coming from a hut betrayed inhabitants. I moved next to a hut, and heard two orcs speaking. I did not know what they were talking about, but I had gathered enough information, and I rushed back to the group.
We discussed our plan of action. Bill suggested diplomacy. I suggested he try that, and I stand behind him ready to shoot the orcs when they try and kill him. Neither suggestion was taken. Instead, our group decided to sneak up and try and take the orcs by surprise. I walked into the village, carefully avoiding being spotted. As luck would have it, however, an orc appeared in a guard post just in time to see me. He armed his bow, as I loaded an arrow into mine. As we exchanged arrows, he grazed me as mine landed right on the mark, throwing him off the building with a scream. There went our element of surprise.
Orcs rushed out of the buildings. I retreated, warning the group, already ready to rush forwards. As I used the buildings to my advantage, Gilraen set two of them on fire. I was about to commend her for this, but her panicking face said she did not do this intentionally. Our group fought heroically and in the end prevailed. I quickly passed through the burning buildings to rescue items of note. I found a satchel containing 200 gold, which I shoddily hid on my body, as well as some other items. We divided the items, even though Gilraen was suspicious of me hiding other items. She did not say this, of course, but she looked very concerned. I wondered how this doormat could even concentrate enough to cast a spell.
As the orcs were chased out, and there was no sign of any others, we decided to return to the village. As we entered, however, we found the village deserted, with rubble and signs of battle. However, there was little sign of any bodies, and these weren’t ruins. As we thought about where everyone could be, Gilraen let us know that they were probably in the hidden shrine. I had heard about this location before, but I had never gone there, so Gilraen led the way.
In there, we found the mayor and all the woman and children. Bill was reunited with his wife and children for a while, as we discussed with the mayor what happened. Apparently, a group of orcs entered the village, and demanded gold and a certain weapon. In retaliation, the mayor had the orcs shot, as well as giving every man of the village a weapon. Around this time, I sincerely began questioning the mayor’s adequacy. I was also less than happy with him raiding my hut. In the end, I donated 50 of the gold pieces I found to the village, hoping it would be enough to protect it from both orcs and the mayor.
The mayor also explained to us that this weapon the orcs were looking for was enshrined at a graveyard. He wanted us to retrieve it before the orcs managed to get it. At this time Caranor explained that we were under no condition to travel further. Both him and Bill looked pretty beat up. The mayor granted us the opportunity to rest, which they gladly took. I myself, however, had a more pressing concern.
I wanted to check out my cabin. As I expected, it was picked clean on order of the mayor. However, I was reminded of something I buried here long ago. I was not able to find any tool that would help my digging, so I started digging with my hands.
“What are you digging for?” the mayor asked. He had followed me.
“Nothing you care about.” I answered, giving him a brief glance, then continuing with my work. In the end, I dug up a small treasure chest.
“What is inside there?” the mayor asked.
“Why don’t you check out for yourself?” I asked sarcastically, presenting the lock to him. He tried to open the lock, but to no avail. I shook my head. I tried to open the lock myself, but it didn’t budge. I had locked it better than I remembered, but this was good. I wasn’t sure when I would need the contents of this box, but I’d rather have it in my own hands.
I myself returned to the shrine without words, leaving the mayor to follow me. I barely managed to close an eye in the night, but in the end nothing happened. Finally, however, Caranor awoke me, telling me it was time to go. We prepared to travel. It would take at least a day to reach the graveyard. With any luck, we managed to reach it before the sun set.
As we neared the isolated graveyard, I dumped my chest on the ground and grabbed my bow. The sun’s illumination was already diminishing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if orcs had gotten here first. As it turned out, though, they hadn’t. Instead, we were assaulted by the undead. As I cursed those that neglected to honor the Raven Queen, Both me and Gilraen started to run around the graveyard, using its long fence as cover, while Bill and Caranor protected the entrance. However, as we were safe from all harm, Bill and Caranor had to take the brunt of the attacks. I saw both of them knocked prone several times, perhaps even losing consciousness in the process. At the same time, I heard Gilraen shriek. Apparently, she ran into yet another zombie. Jumping across the fence, I fired arrows as the drake’s slobbering tongue brought Caranor back to the world of the conscious. Bill, as soon as he stood up, ran away from the undead, yelling “I didn’t sign up for this!” while I did my best to send the grave hounds back where they came from.
In the end, we found the weapon the mayor had described. It was a magnificent crossbow, wreathed in flames. I picked it up, confident it would not hurt me. It was the type of weapon I was very familiar with.
“It’s useless without bolts” Caranor said. I was reminded.
“Open the chest.” I said to Bill. He simply glanced and broke the lock open. I sighed, but it wasn’t as if I planned to use it again. Inside the chest were several artifacts from my past. I reached into it and took out a pack of bolts, handing my longbow to Bill. It was not like I needed such a primitive weapon anymore.
“There we go.” I said, loading a bolt into the crossbow. I was surprised how easily this went. It seems I did not forget the basics. I noticed the others were looking at me.
“We got what we came for.” I said. “Let’s return to the village.”
This time, I walked in the back, occupied with fine-tuning the crossbow