Beyond Which There Be Dragons

Bandits

Damnable bandits. It seems the bastards are everywhere nowadays and no matter how many I kill, three spring up to take his place. They seem to be getting more bold as well. No longer content to prey upon people on the roads, they have taken to attacking towns and abducting the townsfolk. It makes me sick. They got what they had coming though.

That last bit probably warrants a bit of elaboration. After being waylaid on the road during our travels by a group of the dumbest bandits money can buy (I only regret that we were out-numbered and at a great enough disadvantage that we could not kill them all, instead having to use trickery to get past them), we came to a small town that had just recently been attacked. We wouldn’t know until later that it had been the same bandits that our little group had deceived along the road, but that is neither her or there, really.

We made our way to the inn, a quaint place by the name of the Broken Drum, to get some information on what had happened. As it would happen, the inn was a run by a soldier that had also served at Lossarnarch. I did not really remember him, for it was another life ago, but I had made a sizable enough impression on him that he recognized my name right off. He said he was a company of soldiers by the name of the Ins and Outs, a name that I did remember. He was not a member of the group that bravely, or perhaps foolishly, died trying to defeat Vakariavgwegoth at the Massacre at Lebenin, instead preferring the safety of escape. Under the circumstances, I cannot say that I blame the poor bastard. The plan was doomed from the start, although arguably it did provide enough of a distraction to allow many citizens to survive that would have otherwise perished.

At any rate, he filled me in on the details. Some ragtag group of lowlifes had been preying on the town for some time now, generally taking only supplies and the like, but this time they had waged a full scale assault, including carrying off 5 of the town’s young women. Not needing to hear much more, I agreed to help and committed by entourage to the cause. Regardless of what that faceless bastard thinks, if he’s going to be following me around he can put himself to use trying to make the lives of these other poor bastards easier.

We did not waste any time. After procuring a sling for golem and a bow for the Faceless Man, we made our way to the bandit fortress with much haste. In the interest of stealth, I left my goats and chariot behind at the local livery. After a few days travel though, I was starting to regret that decision. Gnomes are not made for walking long distances. Our legs are too short to keep up with the tall folk and this damnable breastplate was starting to get heavy. With my talents and abilities, you would think I could find a way to make the damn thing lighter and easier to wear, but I lack the materials and funds to have any sort of real effect without sacrificing the protection offered.

Knowing exactly where we were going, golem led the way. He never elaborated on how he was so familiar with the area, but I wasn’t going to question anything that got us to our destination before any harm came to the girls or my armor started to chafe. The trip was uneventful, however, and not really worthy of note. I tried to tell the golem about the Light, but I do not think he understands such things. Despite some evidence to the contrary, I am not at all convinced he is more than a mindless automaton. He is useful, however, and I am glad to have him.

After seeing what we were up against, we hatched a brilliant plan. The Faceless Man and the golem would sneak into the compound after the bandits were passed out from their celebrations. They would then kill them all before they had a chance to react. Simple, but the best plans usually turn out that way. Less ways to die and fewer things to complicate. I built a signal light into their armor, in addition to magically tying all the things that could rustle and jingle on their person. I even found a way to make them blend into the shadows. If they were spotted and things turned ugly, they would initiate a blinding light, hopefully buying enough time to open the gate and give me a clear shot at the bandits from my rock. In the event that I could not kill the bandits directly, I would create a distraction.

Everything went smoothly, for a time. The Faceless Man and golem were able to dispatch the majority of the bandits, some of which were the selfsame bastards that waylaid us on the road. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. After awhile, however, I saw the signal that something had gone wrong. Thinking quickly, I put a flaming arrow into the barn, sending the horses into a panick and, hopefully, the troops into chaos.

This had more of an effect than I could have possibly hoped. Rather than hide behind the walls, one of the sentry orcs opened the gate to see where the arrow had come from. It was the last thing he did.

The plan had worked, mostly, and we were in. Couldn’t really complain, we were alive and were not expecting much more than a token resistance. The rest of the troops came out to meet us. We made short work of them, although their leader escaped, and I have a feeling that if it was not for the blinding light we had originally intended as a signal, we would not have survived the encounter. The Light was on our side, however, and they presented little challenge. I do not think that the golem even took any damage. The Faceless Man keeps mostly to himself, which does not ease my mind in the least about him, but he has proved himself to be useful time and again and is, himself, no slouch in combat.

Rather than follow the leader into the depths of wherever it was he was going, we took the time to look around. I already knew where one woman was, but I had no idea where the others were. They could have been dead already, although something told me that if death was to be their fate, they would not have been brought back to the compound. Deciding that one woman was not worth the life of the others, we searched the compound and found them alive, although traumatized. We found them some food, although they only looked at me in fright. Poor things. I told them to eat, that it was okay and that they were safe now, but they either did not believe me, or did not hear me. I told them to stay put for an hour before running, as I expected to be back by then. In case things went poorly, however, I wanted to make sure that they made it back. I toyed with the idea of leaving my homunculus behind to watch them, but the damn thing is pretty useless in a scrap and would not have been able to do much. Still, it might have made them feel a little better. Ultimately, I decided against it.

Searching the rest of the compound, we found no more girls. We found a few valuables, which we packed up, and a troll. I am not sure what grim purpose the troll served, nor do I really care. If for no other reason that the role the creatures played in destroying Lossarnarch, it had to die. Wherever there are trolls, I have found that evil times and evil deeds soon follow. Its presence here in the camp, surrounded by the remains of its victims, only served to prove the point. I will not say that I found no satisfaction in killing the beast.

Finally following the leader into his hole, we encountered a massive cave complex. Unsure of where to go, or even where he went, we explored to the best of our ability. All sorts of nasty creatures, both known and unknown, made their presence known. Most of them were relatively harmless though, and those that weren’t we left alone. We had more important things to do.

Despite being in something of a hurry, we stumbled upon a copper dragon. He was friendly enough, but felt that we had enough time for riddles and games before letting us go on our way. Faced with little other choice, we played along and answered his riddles.

At long last, we came upon the foul leader. He had wasted no time, as we caught him mid-coitus with the woman that he had kidnapped. Fueled by an anger that I had not felt in a while, I charged in and tackled him. Unfortunately, I am very small and he was not. He flung me aside with little effort. He almost managed to escape, when the dragon decided that this particular man was a blight upon the earth and crushed him like the bug he was (Thank the Light for allies that do not freeze up when things get hairy!).

Sworn to secrecy about the dragons existence, a promise that I had no qualms about keeping, we were allowed to leave with the girl.

The trip home was uneventful. Packing up as much of the bandits food as we could, using my emergency pole and some salvaged blankets as a sort of stretcher for it, we made our way slowly back. I used the respite to figure out what the hell the items we recovered were used for. Most of them would either be a boon for us, or catch a good price on the open market.

Once we got back, there was much surprise. Nobody thought that we would come back alive, let alone with all the girls. We did though, and it was cause for much celebration. I gave the food to the townsfolk, it was probably there’s anyway, and let them do with it what they will. I did not mention the other loot, keeping the few baubles seems more than fair for the services rendered.

In the midst of the celebration however, the blacksmith’s son, Garth, approached us. He wanted to learn the art of crafting, but since his father had died in the last raid, there was nobody to teach him. He had heard of a place to the west though, and wished for us to accompany him as he did not feel that he could make it on his own. After a few minutes thought, I agreed. This place he described seems to be right up my alley, and it is not like we were going anywhere specific anyway.

In exchange for escorting him to his destination, I procured the use of a forge for a week. It’s a small comfort, but it’s good to be at work, making things with my hands again. I taught the kid a bit of my trade. He seemed eager enough to learn, it was the point of his trip, after all. He was not a very bright student, but he made up for it in hard work and determination. If this trip of his ends up being bunk, perhaps I may find a use for him anyway.

- Excerpt from Boddynock’s Bound Biography

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