To protect and serve

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The group has been training hard in the last month, learning to use basic weapons and armor, under the tutelage of Simid Andersan. This has not been without incident: several arguments and clashes have happened, especially between him and Osric, the wulver. In the meantime, their group has been joined by a new recruit: Deldin Amek, a big, bad-tempered dvergr who has a surprisingly amazing intellect.

They were introduced to how the fiannas make business: they travel the land, from place to place, providing help to solve problems the rulers of the land can’t solve easily: capturing organized bandit gangs, stopping supernatural threats, and to serve as special strike teams during armed conflicts. For most of these services, payment is expected, either in currency, supplies or services (of various natures). They enjoy shelter and accomodation with landlords and rulers, in their fortresses and barracks, during the winter, but in return they are bound to come to the lord of their land’s help in case of war with an external enemy. The payment for services is agreed by the rigfennid or his representative, and the fennids are to serve the letter of the contract as much as possible, but if further services are required during a mission they are free to ask their own prices on them.

Now they were given their first assignment: a detachment of the Company, 20 strong, including them, will investigate the happenings at Luagon-on-the-Hill, a nearby mining village. Like several settlements in the region, it seems some of the dead have risen either from their graves, or the dying just kept on "living", and began preying on the populace.

More experienced members of the fianna are to go into the village, and lead out as many survivors they could find; Simid and the group are then to escort them, search the outlying farms for more survivors and to take them to the nearest town, Cuimein.

The squad travels to Luagon, and Simid waits with the group in the outskirts. The weather had become worse by the day, and the howling winds made their day quite miserable.

Soon a few of the advance party come back with about 40 people: weary, sad, angered or scared, they were handed over to Simid’s squad, while the advance team went back to hunt down vampirs hiding in the settlement.

They set out to the countryside, to check on the farms. They approach cautiously, with Thelgar, Osric and Caley ahead, stealthily. They find footprints, several and disorganized, all around the main house, several of them leading away from the farm. Thelgar notices that the gait of those who caused them was irregular, as if they were dragging or shuffling their feet. Osric smells nothing due to the force of the winds. They enter the house, to find it abandoned and foul-smelling. It looked like many people were living there, in rather squalid conditions. Bloodstains are found here and there. Much of the house is dark, due to lack of windows. They find a woman’s corpse in one of the rooms, dead for a few days now, with several bite marks on it. No signs of the other inhabitants.

To prevent any possibility of the corpse rising again, Sylrah suggests that, according to popular belief, they should cut off its head, salt the body, bury it and give it last rites. However, Simid intercedes: “Leave it, we don’t have time.” The group tries to convince him that is better to be sure it doesn’t come back. “Priorities. Move your asses.” They all leave without burying it.

The trail becomes indistinct, and neither Osric or Thelgar can say if it was made two days or a week ago. They villagers, when asked, say that a big family used to live there: they grew most of the grain that fed the village, but they were an odd bunch, not generally well-liked, and very prolific.

The tracks go in the direction of the other farm, and the whole crowd walks over there. They approach cautiously, and see that the sheep pen has broken open, and some of the sheep are dead. Again, many tracks at the entrance of the house. As they approach the doorway, something crashes through the window. Its seems to be a man, malnourished and badly injured, dressed in rags, with long sharp nails and a feral look in his bloodshot eyes. He jumps at Thelgar, attempting to bite him. The others join in, as more of these crazy vampirs come out of the house and lunge at them. During the fight, Osric is almost paralyzed by the creatures’ cursed touch, but manages to remain on his feet; Sylrah decides to become creative and uses her knowledge of magic to spark flames on one of them, effectively reducing it to a charred heap.

Searching the farm, they find it abandoned with a few more corpses of the previous inhabitants inside. They find a locked, blocked from the inside apparently. When they break open the shed, they find a small girl, leaned against the pile of tools inside. She doesn’t seem to be alive, so Corvus decides to cut off her head just in case. As he does, the girls eyes open wide, bloodshot and crazed, and she lets out a shriek even as her head flies off and falls on the floor. The body slumps down, immobile. Inside, they see scratches all over the walls, as if she was trying to get out and slowly going mad. Again, they leave the corpses as they are.

The squad guides the group of people towards Cuimein, taking a natural road that takes them safely through some rough terrain. They set up camp for the night, and organize watches. During Corvus and Sylrah’s turn, she hears a voice calling her “Child, listen to me.” She gets immediately suspicious and calls Corvus, both trying to figure out the source of the voice. “Children, hear me. Look down”. As they look to their feet, two lumps of quartz crystals pop out of the ground, followed by loose pebbles that adopt the rough contours of a face. “Greetings children. Do not be alarmed. I must speak to you.” Sylrah and Corvus look at each other suspiciously, and both ask: “Who are you?” “I am the spirit of the road. I have seen many and much, treading over me, and I wish to give you a warning.” “Hello… Road” greet the two, still wary of it “what is it you have to tell us?”

“One of you is already dead. Take heed. Best of luck.” And with this, the face disappears.

Worried, the two go about the camp the next morning to see if anyone is ill or obviously in risk of dying: unfortunately, though some were injured and many hungry, there were no obvious candidates.

Annoyed that Simid was still asleep, probably hung over from drinking the last night, Osric decides to go one step further as payback from training, while the others were trying to wake him up, and take a pee in his morning drink: “Here you go, sir!” Simid rises to his feet (barely) and gulps down the foul liquid, his eyes widen, and he spits it out. “What the fuck?” He eyes Osric with rage, who almost can’t contain his laughter. The next minute Simid is throwing punches at Osric, who is not one to stand idle, se he fights back. Simid’s reflexes are not very good at this time of morning, though, and he becomes quickly frustrated with the fight: he picks up his flail and slams it into Osric, who takes a hard blow. “OK, I give up!” the wulver falls to the ground, seeing as it would only get worse if he kept it going. Simid kicks him a few times before he grows bored. “We’re gonna finish this later. You just wait.” he threatens, and spits on Osric.

They all pack up and continue their trek, hoping to reach Cuimein by evening.

Somewhere along the afternoon an arrow shots from the cliff above and into the ground in front of them. “Don’t move. We have you surrounded. We have a request.” a voice says, in Gunssab.

The squad tenses up immediately, and they spot a few shapes ahead on the cliff to their right, maybe ten of them. Borin begins to focus, trying to master his powers of stormcalling, to create a fog bank. “No one moves!” shouts Simid. “Who are you and what do you want?” asks Jose.

“We want one of your group. The old woman in the back. Give her to us.” is their reply.

The person they are after is one of the elders, the oldest of the shepherdesses. “What do you want from me?!” the woman panics. “Why do you want her?” shouts Osric.

“We have a score to settle. Send her out, and no will be harmed.” says the hidden man.

“They’re gonna kill her for sure. Who are they?” the group argues. “Demihuman insurgents, most likely.” explains Simid, as the group recalls of having been warned of their activities in the region. They must have seen their opportunity once the crowd left the walls of the village. “Come down here if you want anything.” “Let’s talk. Explain what you want from her, or no deal.” The group tries to negotiate with the hidden attackers.

After a moment of silence, he replies: “She has something of mine. An heirloom, which I passed down to my daughter, who was murdered by her father! I want it back. With blood for blood.” It was clear that he is quite irate, and most certainly is an aelfen. “Tell her to step forward.”

“We can’t allow that. You can take the medallion, but no one is gonna die here.” Simid retorts. “Get ready, Osric, Corvus, Deldin, climb up the cliff on my mark. You’ll call out your fog-type-thing. The rest, get your bows ready.

Meanwhile, Jose asks the woman if what he is saying is true. “Th-this amulet? It’s something that my father brought me from the warzone, when I was a little girl… after he was discharged, because he was cursed by an aelfen witch!” her face becomes red with anger “He never could see properly or walk again after that! The witch made sure of it, before she died on his blade, the bitch! This was the only thing he took from her, something so beautiful on someone so wicked… I don’t wish to part from it, it has brought me luck.” She was holding a silver amulet, an oval with two wings folded over it.

“We’re not giving her away. Sort yourselves out.” The group replies.

“Then I’ll just have to shoot an arrow through your skull.” the man threatens.

As he said that, the figures on the cliff stand up and fire a volley of arrows towards the crowd. A few villagers get shot down, Simid shouts “Go!!” and the team moves in: Osric, Corvus and Deldin charge towards the cliffside to climb, while Borin tries hard to call out a bank of fog, to hide the crowd, but to no avail: he can’t achieve enough focus.

As the rest shoots arrows at the attackers, they notice two shadows coming down the hill on the left side, but they suddenly disappear. Meanwhile, the attackers keep pelting them down with arrows, even while Sylrah attempts to distract them with a dancing lights spell. Osric and Deldin loose their hold and fall down midway, but Corvus manages to climb to the top, but not before one of the attackers looses his footing and falls down.

Suddenly, in the middle of the crowd, two small figures appear out of nowhere, and jump onto the old woman, stabbing her in the throat. Simid and the others rush towards them, but too late: the woman bleeds to death before they can get through the panicked crowd. Simid bashes the two small attackers to death with his flail, while Corvus tries to deal with the attacking force up on the cliff… alone. The attackers, all aelfen, step back and pick up their longspears. Their concerted attack stabs him in multiple places, and his throat is pierced: he falls down, bleeding.

At that point, Borin finally manages to cause the mist to rise, and visibility is reduced to zero all around them. The attackers retreat, while the squad puts the rest to death. Osric shouts up, calling Corvus, who is unconscious and choking on his own blood. Suddenly, as if by miracle, Corvus slides slowly down the cliffside, as if the rock had just liquefied and carried him down. Sylrah rushes to him, to stop the bleeding. Having stabilized, he regains consciousness, but can’t speak: his vocal chords were destroyed.

In the midst of the confusion, Jose crouches next to the woman’s body, and quickly pockets the amulet.

As the fog dissipates, and the squad tries to calm down the terrified crowd, a scream from one of the women startles everyone: it’s a pregnant woman, and she collapses to the floor, shouting for help.

Sylrah rushes to her: “Are you alright? Have your waters broken?”

The woman screams panicked “It’s tearing me apart!!! Argghh My gut!!” as the baby inside seems to move around and push against the skin. Sylrah immediately realizes this isn’t normal, and takes out a scalpel from her kit to open a surgical cut that would allow it to come out with the least danger to the mother. As she does, a blood-soaked, sharp clawed mockery of a newborn claws its way out in a burst of gore. He bites Sylrah, and scrambles away from them. It doesn’t get far, though, as the other quickly skewer it and crush it under their boots. Sylrah frantically tries to stop the profuse bleeding, and miraculously manages to close the wound fast enough for the woman to survive.

The battered group arrives at Cuimein, where they leave the crowd. The people at Cuimein eye the refugees with suspicion. Sylrah wondered why the 'spirit of the road' decided to warn her of the stillborn baby. And she could have sworn that the baby wasn't just dead, it was something else already. She can only wonder what else might come of this gods-cursed apocalypse thing.

When the refugees begin to settle, after being provided with a few spare blankets and space in barns, Simid decides to get even: he grabs Osric from behind, and headlocks him to the ground. "You'll find that your life will take on a new meaning of miserable, assface. You'll learn some discipline yet." he whispers in his ear. Simid lets him go, Osric eyeing him with rage, as he walks away. "Let's meet up with the Company. Move out!"

--Nuno 17:22, 20 March 2011 (UTC)