Beyond Which There Be Dragons

+1 Exalted Gnome

Well, this school ended up being more than I could have possibly imagined! Garth was right in wanting to study here. They supply just about everything that a budding (or seasoned) craftsmen could ever want, and there’s a discount in the store to boot! I could not help myself. I had to enroll and see what I could see.

Unfortunately, my first class would have to wait. After enrolling and meeting the Headmistress, and old stern woman whose name escapes me at the moment. Grandma? Grammar? Something long and hard to pronounce. Anyway, my little band of companions was given the task of recovering some stolen loot from a caravan sent out for trading purposes. Another task involving the misdeeds of bandits. This time Halfling bandits. While Halflings are not generally known for their banditry, although they do seem to have a bent for generally harmless kleptomania, these strange times do strange things to people and I have seen enough to know that even the most stalwart of warriors can turn from good to the temptations of evil under the guise of survival.

They had left only two survivors, one being the wagon driver (a man by the name of Furlong) and one being the elven mercenary commander that was supposed to guard the caravan. His name is also long and hard to pronounce, but I did gather that he is of the Valenar. He rides upon one of their steeds, which is to my understanding no small accomplishment. He carries himself well, and has not lopped off his arm with that wicked looking double-blade of his, so I imagine he is a warrior of some skill (even if he embellishes everything he says with grandiose gestures and theatricality I have not seen the likes of since “Lossarnarch Nights”).

The traveling was uneventful. Perhaps the proximity of the school kept the more dangerous elements at bay. Whatever the reason, we made it to the spot of the ambush with no incident.

Surveying the area, I’m not sure how this happened. The trail here was clearly primed for an ambush from above. It was the perfect spot. If the company of mercenaries was indeed headed by a man that claimed a Valenar war horse for his own, I find it hard to believe that a band of halflings was able to best him in combat. Something must have gone horribly, horribly wrong. I must inquire into this matter further. Perhaps sabotage? Whatever the reason, there was a job to do.

While ambushes can be very effective, they cannot be expected. Otherwise you have “battle” and not “ambush”. Luckily for us, the ambush was not entirely unexpected. The halflings had returned to the scene of their crime, most likely to prey on other travelers as they had the poor sots who were currently lying strewn about the canyon floor. They would not find me such easy prey, however!

Taking the initiative, I flung one of the fireballs I had found in the previous bandit camp. They all got a good scorching, but not a fatal one. Combat ensued. I was hit, hard, in the head by a boomerang. Unsure of what was happening after that, as sticks were flying through the air, golem was trying to pluck the halflings off the shelf, the elf had disappeared over the ledge, I struck out at everything that was at or near my height.

Almost as abruptly as they had attacked, they began to run away. Not willing to let them get away with their crimes, I had golem fling me through the air. I felt good about the decision. As I was hurtling through the air, I felt a conviction that must have been granted by the Light itself. A power coursed through me, although it ended as soon as I landed on the hill. I gave chase, flinging my spear through the air like a javelin. I missed terribly. They were going to get away.

At least they were, until golem climbed up the ledge and closed the gap in a few easy strides. He killed one outright, holding the other for questioning. We went back to the wagon.

Seeing that the Valenar had also captured an opponent, I was sorely tempted to kill one of them. We did not need two prisoners, and these vile creatures had killed and looted. The Valenar showed greater compassion, despite the loss of his entire company at their hands, and urged that I rethink my decision. After careful questioning of the halflings, I agreed to let them live. I wish only that the world allowed for redemption. If this land is to be cleansed of the taint that has been allowed to propagate since the coming of the dragon, however, such forgiveness does not have a place (admirable though it may be).

The halflings took us back to their camp. Filled with women and children, I found the whole affair to be quite distasteful. Women and children left at home while their husbands, sons and brothers went out to pillage what they could find? What sort of example would that set for their offspring? The cycle would merely continue. I hope the Valenar is correct and that these halflings are worthy of their second chance. There was a vocal segment that seemed to have been against the stealing of the goods to begin with, which I took as a good sign that my trust was not being misplaced.

After returning their dead, I learned the reason behind the attacks: Hill Giants. They had been preying on the halflings, stealing their goods and food and driving them to the state they were in. They claimed to have no other choice. While this did not justify their actions, I sort of understood the dilemma. This one was easy enough to fix. The giants had to die.

We were able to find them, primarily by their scent. The Valenar’s hatred of the giants seemed to match my own and he was just as driven to see them fall at his feet as I was, sniffing out their cave and charging into single combat astride his steed once we had lost the benefit of surprise. It was quite an awe-inspiring sight, although the mighty blow exacted upon golem was also awe-inspiring (and a bit pants-browning).

The fight dragged on. I showered them with bolts from my crossbow, while my Arbalester followed suit. Afraid to enter close combat, the Faceless Man stayed back with me and used his bow (to a significantly lesser degree, I might add) until, gathering up his courage, he went to try and rescue the Valenar after he fell. It did not end well. My friends unconscious and dying, needing immediate assistance, and two pissed off hill giants between us, I was at a loss. I sent my Homunculus to do what he could for the Valenar and trusted in the Light to save the Faceless Man. Faced with almost certain death myself, I used my fireballs to escape the grasp of the mighty giants (hurting myself in the process) and managed to finish them off with my crossbow in an exhibit of what can only be termed “divine favor”. I was able to fell both the vile creatures and come to the aid of my friends, hopefully in time to save them.

As it would happen, my faith in powers greater than myself paid off. My companions were going to be fine. We packed up the stolen goods, and what little booty the giants had, and began the trek back to the wagon (and subsequently the school). The mission, while touch and go towards the end, was an outstanding success (not too mention that we were paid quite handsomely… even if it was in store credit).

- Excerpt from Boddynock’s Bound Biography

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