As we cleaned out the cave and prepared to continue our hunt of the dwarves, Silentknife was trying to keep the mood light… or the way I saw it, get under the skin of anyone he could…
“By the way, Sylwith… I’m still trying to figure out how someone with your experience and skills could be trapped and caught so easily by those spiders… I mean, I know what you’re capable of…” he stopped as her icy gaze froze him in mid-sentence.
After a moment, her gaze softened a bit as she tried to remember what exactly did happen. “Well, as I followed the wargs into the mist, there was a unique chill in it that I couldn’t put my finger on. It is too warm for an icy mist to have developed here, but there was something more to it… while I could feel the chill to my skin, it also seemed to sap my ability to focus and my awareness to my surroundings… it took me too long to realize I could no longer locate Creami, and at that point, it was too late… I was besieged by the spiders and incapacitated… there was evil magic at work in the marshes, as you said… I just couldn’t detect it in time,” she finished with a heavy sigh.
“Ah, luv,” Silentknife responded by wrapping his arms around her waist and pressing his cheek next to hers… which brought a crisp elbow to the burglars mid-section, causing him to double over and lose his breath. “Nice to see your reactions are back to normal…” he replied between gulps of breath. “You always knew where to place your attacks, as well.” he added, laughing as he slowly got back up.
“Hmm… and you still have yet to learn any manners, nor how to keep your hands to yourself… makes keeping in practice very easy…” she retorted as a sly grin slowly made its way to her lips.
“Always a pleasure to assist you in your training,” he said as he imitated a deep, grand bow… his eyes glued to her long, lithe legs to make sure they didn’t suddenly come up to meet him.
The banter was interrupted as Creami caught their attention. “Um, I know we will be leaving soon, but how are we going to travel any type of distance without horses to travel by? Sylwith and I left our horses with the others since we couldn’t take them into the marshland.”
“Now that, my dear, is an excellent question!” Silentknife beamed. “I just so happen to know of a camp north of us that may have some horses we could ‘borrow’ for our traveling enjoyment!” he said with great enthusiasm… his teeth showing in a wide smile.
“Great…” Sylwith said in a heavy sigh, “now we are going to become horse thieves…”
“Not at all… besides, those horses have more than likely been stolen, themselves… we’ll just say we are taking them to their rightful owners… wherever they may be,” he said with a wink. “Of course, if you get tired before we get there, maybe you can hop on Deathwulf’s back and he’ll let you ride the rest of the way…” he added in mock seriousness. This brought out a chuckle from Sylwith and a bright blush from the wide-eyed minstrel as she just looked between the burglar and myself.
“Th… that… that’s not what I meant…” she stammered.
“Watch yourself, burglar, or we just may need two horses by the time we make it to the camp…” I said as I turned my way to the exit. I sighed as I watched Chucaro turn away.. her shoulders heaving as she tried to suppress the laughter.
Leaving the cave, Silentknife guided us along the mountainside heading west until we were finally out of the marsh area and on dry, solid ground again. We continued heading north-northeast and soon came upon a rundown farmhouse that also contained what looked like a kennel… also in a sad state of affairs… but they weren’t empty. A few of the beasts… they looked like a dog/wolf hybrid, stuck their heads out of their pens, but otherwise showed little interest as we carefully moved through the area.
We continued heading north until the ground began to move gradually up-hill. Silentknife stopped near a large tree. “Wait here, and I’ll be back shortly with some better travelling accommodations,” he said as he flashed Sylwith a quick wink and a broad smile… and with that, he was gone. While the minstrel and huntress relaxed against the trunk of the tree, Chucaro and I went stealth and headed further up the hill to scout around. As we rounded a bend not far from the tree, we spied a couple of half-orcs further ahead of us peering over a boulder and talking to each other. I slunk a little closer to see if I could make out any of their conversation.
Their speech was broken, but I was able to make out the words ‘dwarves’, ‘magic’, ‘giant wolf’ and ‘slaughter’. Wasn’t sure what to make of them, but they were very afraid of something. As they continued to look over the boulder, Chucaro and I made our way closer to them… as we got closer, the conversation stopped and one of them made a quick hand gesture and the other reached down for something by his leg… “A crossbow!”I said to myself as I closed on him… Chucaro had nearly reached the other one, his back still to her when the crossbowman aimed for her. I lunged at him, coming out of stealth just before making contact… the surprise move worked as he turned towards me… I hit him as Chucaro was dealing with the other half-orc… the force of my pounce knocked him against the rock, sending both arms up in the air and the crossbow careening over the top of the boulder… the bolt firing harmlessly away upon making contact with the rock. In one quick motion, I grabbed my foes shirt in my teeth and pushed away from the rock, landing on my back and sending the half-orc flying through the air, arms flailing before he landed on his back behind us. I looked over to Chucaro, who had just spit out her victims flesh as she stood over him… a massive killing blow to his throat. I turned and walked over to where my foe was laying… he was still and looked to be unconscious, but I couldn’t take a chance. With a swift swipe of my paw, I sliced his throat… the blood bubbling up as he gurgled his final breaths.
We went back into stealth and hurried back to the two females… to ensure they were alright and to warn them of what we found. As we approached the tree, we saw the two crouched behind the tree, weapons drawn, as the sound of horses rapidly approached. Chucaro and I widened our berth and prepared to attack the approaching horses. We relaxed as we saw Silentknife quickly approach with two other horses in tow.
“Get on, quickly!” he said to the women, glancing back a few times as if anxious. “We need to move quick… I think I may have pissed someone off…” he said, smiling quite proudly to himself as he said the last part of his sentence. As the others climbed onto their horses, I quickly told them what we had found up ahead.
Silentknife’s face went grim. “Then we may have a little bit of fun if we run into any more ahead of us.” He road ahead at a gallop as we followed after. He stopped around the bend momentarily to survey the situation. “Nice work you two!” he said with a bit of pride in his voice. “This will definitely give our followers something to think about should they continue to pursue us.”
We then continued along the path as it veered to the left and stated a gradual decent… the pace not as hurried once we passed the area where we encountered the half-orcs. Once more, the path veered to the east… but no sign of anything following us.
“And how exactly do you acquire these horses?” Sylwith asked, breaking the silence.
“Ah, well, you see,” Silentknife began, “I sort of stumbled into a group of Blackwolds who were in a circle rolling dice. I asked if I could join them and they eyed me greedily and heartily invited me in. They put up their horses as part of the bet, of which, I, of course won.”
“And what, pray tell, did you have to come close to the value of a horse to wager against??” Sylwith ask with great suspicion.
“Oh, yeah, about that,” Silentknife answered as he tossed a leather pouch over to Sylwith, “thanks for that, by the way,” he said in his usual candor.
Sylwith caught the pouch, which jangled as it hit her hand. “How the hell did you get this??” she seethed.
“Wha… you don’t remember loaning that to me to allow me to join the bet?” he answered, feigning shock and disappointment. He ducked as a rock went flying past his ear. “Hey! I didn’t lose any of it… don’t be so harsh…”
“Be lucky if you make it alive out of this mission!” she angrily answered as she spurred her horse into a quicker trot to distance herself from the burglar.
“She’s just playing hard-to-get,” Silentknife said to me, adding his usual wink and smile. I just shook my head and followed the group north.
We dipped down into a valley that reminded me of the lone-lands before we could see green forests ahead of us… as well as a cloud of billowing smoke wafting up into the air. We increased our pace and could hear faint sounds of fighting the closer we got. We all stopped suddenly as we noticed the source of the fire… a large cage with several dwarves fighting a large wood troll!
Chucaro and I looked at each other… “Oh no… Wargie….” I thought as the group headed towards the battle as fast as they could…