Captain Harlin’s unit was celebrating at the Naked Bear Pub. The unit had successfully completed its four-week basic training regimen and was going to be assigned in the next few days. For the time being, the men had some time off, and they were making the most of it. Harlin bought a few rounds of drinks, and the men spent most of their trainee stipend on the house’s finest ales and liquors. Two of the heaviest drinkers were Hergr and Lug, up at the bar going pint for pint, telling their grandiose stories with the foam still coating their lips. “… and that boar was nigh, THIS big,” Hergr nearly yelled, throwing his arms out as wide as he could, “and it had the sharpest tusks you’d know. Now I hefted my spear at the devil, but it charged anyway. My spear sunk deep into its flesh but that bugger still came, and wouldn’t ya know, he skewered me right here,” he lifted up his tunic, spilling beer as he did so to show the large scar across his side. “I grab him with me bare hands and we fought like a couple a beasts!” The story continued with vigor and raucous cheers from the avid listeners.
Well into the wee hours of the morning, an alarm in the city sounded. It was close. Harlin, responsible and still quite sober rushed out of the pub, returning a few minutes later. “On your feet lads!” he yelled. The men, many of whom were already passed out, did their best to assemble. Taking those he could, the Captain led the men towards the south gate of the city. The orange and yellow flickering cast ominous shadows and billows of smoke could be made out in the low light. The men rushed towards the small cluster of buildings that were ablaze. M’ut and Ren were first on the scene. Chaos had taken over the nearby area. Men were rushing around, looking for something to put the fire out with, while women and children ran from the area. Crowds of awakened onlookers filled the nearby streets. Captain Harlin and the others arrived, and he immediately began to bark orders. “Buckets! Get buckets! You, move these people away. You men, form a bucket line. Sigmar, find out how this happened…”
Sigmar grabbed Ren, Hergr, Xa, and M’ut, and a few other men and proceeded to ask for any information from those nearby. As they asked, a commotion could be heard near the city’s south gate, which was nearby. The sounds of swords clashing and men groaning were unmistakable. Sigmar rallied his small cadre and moved to assess the situation. The portcullis has been raised enough for someone to get in, or out, and the bodies of a few city guards lay nearby. Rushing through the gap, Xa and Hergr began to assess the ground, looking for signs of which way the suspects went. It was only a matter of time before they caught up with the small group of men fleeing the city. The four men, cornered and without option, attacked the unit. After a brief fight, three of the men were dead while the fourth was badly injured. Sigmar approached to interrogate the suspect. The man said a curse in Nipid, and swallowed a small pill. Before any interrogation could be made the man was dead and staring lifelessly at the sky. The following morning, no signs of these men’s origins could be found. The wore simple clothes and only carried daggers.
- * * * *
Several days later, the men were still enjoying their time off before they were assigned, and Sigmar, Ren, and Xa were enjoying the city’s scenic courtyards. At this time they were particularly admiring a large onyx statue in the center of the city that depicted two strange men in a heated battle. One man, in robes, had a large clawed forearm and hand and was wielding some sort of magic with it, while the other, clad in full plate and carrying a broken sword and raising his shield against the attack. The statue was curious, and had apparently been in the city for centuries, although it bore no signs of wear or aging, nor had a single chip been taken out of its flawless features. Sigmar was puzzling over the statue when a courier approached him with a message. The parchment was sealed with the holy symbol of Orien, indicating that this was a church matter.
He opened the missive. Brother Sigmar, we have word that a woman practicing dark arts has been identified in Dresdnik. This matter must be taken care of by one of authority. Find her, make her recant or burn her. May the Light be with you. A witch. Finally, an assignment! The bottom of the parchment gave evidence of her sighting, and within the afternoon Sigmar had located her. Her name was Lisandra, an old woman who worked as an herbalist in the west of the city. In fact, M’ut had been frequenting her store since his time in Dresdnik as he was fond of various poisonous plants and their uses. Since this was a matter for the church, Sigmar saw it as a high priority, and he pulled rank to enlist the aid of some of the men from his unit. He sent in M’ut first to scout the store since he was familiar with it, while several other men surrounded the building. Scaling the outside of the building, M’ut may his way into the second-storey window with complete quiet. He signaled to the men outside. Lisandra walked into the room, and without seeing M’ut, addressed him. “That vial, on the table. You’ll need it. I just wish I had more time,” she said as if she had a weight on her shoulders. The men burst into the room and quickly subdued the aging woman. She didn’t offer any resistance.
Bringing her in the large central courtyard near the onyx statue, Lisandra was questioned aggressively by Sigmar and another priest of Orien. Despite her protests, it was clear that she practiced arcane magic, a cardinal sin to those who were devout. Arcane magic was an abomination that sought the power of man and denied Orien his rightful worship. The crowd that had gathered was in quite a frenzy and was calling for blood. Lisandra let her head drop, clearly defeat. Sigmar, eager to make a name for himself and please the crowd, ordered for the pyre to be built. Once it was done, he lit it himself, and as the witch burned, he offered up prayers to the Light. He held up his golden-gloved hand. This recently-made gauntlet was to be his symbol and with it he’d make himself known. “Sigmar of the Golden Hand has done this for the Light and for you!” he declared, and the matter was done.
- * * * *
The men were packing the wagon and few horses as they made their preparations. The unit had been assigned to uncover the reason for a number of missing caravans from the small town of Goldmeadow to the southeast. With the end of the year approaching, food and ale were being stockpiled for the city’s celebrations and for the harsh winter, but with the missing caravans, some supplies were running low. Goldmeadow provided a large percentage of the city’s mead, and without enough drink, there was sure to be backlash. Harlin’s unit of around fifty men had made their final preparations and began to march. It would take about three days of marching to reach Goldmeadow. The march was slow and arduous. Hergr and Xa kept a forward scouting party, looking for any signs of danger, while M’ut took one of the flanks. Sigmar rode his horse in the rear, the privilege of being an officer, while Harlin took a forward position.
During the late afternoon of the second day Xa came back with a report. He’d found some sort of large camp for maybe as many as fifty men just up ahead. The company stopped during the report. As the Captain was receiving the news, a hail of arrows began to rain down on the company from the trees along both sides of the road. Several men lined the banks, using the trees for cover and continued to shower down arrows on the unsuspecting unit. Harlin shouted orders, dividing his men to attack each side before leading the charge up one of the hills. As the soldiers got closer, the ambushers drew swords, axes, and spears and met them in melee combat. Xa fired his bow taking down targets one at a time. Ren swung his large hammer, cleaving groups of enemies. M’ut circled around to take men out from behind. Sigmar stayed back and tried to lead the men.
The fight continued fiercely and men on both sides were dropping quickly. One ambusher rushed Captain Harlin and stuck him with a dagger between the gaps in his scale mail. The Captain fell off his horse and didn’t move. With some sort of signal, the attackers, however few of them were left, retreated into the woods. Only a handful of the unit remained. Sigmar rushed to the Captain’s side. He was shaking violently and the wound from the dagger was black the flesh looked decayed. Using his divine powers, Sigmar tried to heal the Captain, but no amount of blessing or healing could undo the damage. Within a minute he was dead. Sigmar was now in charge of the unit. He proceeded to heal the others’ wounds and regroup. They were vulnerable, and night was approaching quickly. M’ut gave the report that he’d found one of the caravans… well, the wagons at least. Nothing was to be done about the bodies tonight.
They moved to the area M’ut had indicated and found a number of broken wagons that had been dragged off the road. No signs of the wagons’ cargo could be found. Moving the wagons into a makeshift barricade, the small group of survivors huddled together for the night. They were sitting ducks.