Wednesday 5 August 2020

Trollbane - Part 12

The copse of Silver Birch trees nestled on the side of a hill, 200 yards away from the denser woodland. Moonlight played across the bark of the trees as a gentle wind swayed their branches back and forth, caught in an invisible tide. Death crouched in the copse; patient, silent, ready.

The peace of the night was disturbed by a carriage that bolted along the road that passed the copse and disappeared into the woodland. Drawn by four horses as black as the night itself and richly adorned with ornamental carvings, its oil braziers blazed a trail through the darkness. In hot pursuit came a dozen horseman. Riding hard and gaining on the carriage as it sped toward the wood. The carriage driver frantically snapped at and whipped the horses and he urged them to greater effort. They were flagging though, the chase sapping their stamina. The horsemen would catch the carriage between the copse and the woodland.

As the horseman raced passed the copse the scent of impending doom assailed the horse's nostrils. They tried to pull away from the copse, riders reining them in, but it was all for nought. The trap was sprung and the jaws of Reven’s Fang snapped shut. Arrows whistled through the air felling three of the riders as a mass of fur and muscle exploded from the copse into the midst of the onrushing riders.

Reven sat atop Fang as bolted into the horsemen, hewing his way through the first two riders he met. Fang felled the horse of another, sending the rider cartwheeling through the air. He landed with a dull crack, neck broken. The woodland now came to life as Kris, Bran and Mulder ran from the gloom of the trees, war cries being shouted. The horsemen were in disarray. More arrows were loosed into the mix as the twins got their eye in. Mulder was joined by Orwin and Agrippa who sprang from the carriage, as he raced to box in the panicked horsemen. As they joined the fray, Reven leapt from Fang’s back slashing at another horse bourne bandit with Bloodthirster. His blow landed, neatly removing the man's arm at the shoulder. Hot blood sprayed across Reven’s chest and bloodthirster drank in a storm of crimson rain. Fang was putting his unladen freedom to good use, knocking riders from horses and tearing at equine necks. Muldar crushed a man's skull with his mighty Warhammer as Agrippa disembowelled another, spilling stinking guts across the road. 90 seconds of screaming death and the horsemen were undone. Broken bodies and mewling pleas for mercy was all that remained of them. Fang ate man-flesh whilst the rest of Reven’s mercenaries gathered at the roadside awaiting the arrival of their employer.

The carriage that had sat stationary at the entrance to the woodland turned around and the horses were gently guided toward the massacre. It stopped short of the bloodshed, the driver jumping down to open the door for his master who had been ensconced within. As his master, Alderman Barrowthorne, stepped free of the carriage, the driver turned his attention to his heavy breathing horses.

Barrowthorne was elderly but still stood strong and proud as he addressed Reven, “Your gambit paid off” he stated as he settled in front of them. “I must admit the thought as putting myself up as bait did not sit well with me but my misgivings have been proved false in the most wonderful way. Your men are a credit to you, sir”. Reven gave a shallow bow, “Thank you, lord. We are well versed in dealing with bandit scum. I was confident you were never at risk”. A sideways smile cracked the old man's lips as he stepped forward to drop a heavy purse of coin into Reven’s outstretched hand. “Quite” he remarked as he stepped back. “Engleheart is in your debt. I hope you will enjoy our hospitality again before you continue your travels?”. “I believe these men have earned a drink m’Lord. We’ll escort you back into town and stay another day before pushing on”. Reven bowed again as Barrowthorne nodded, before heading back to his carriage.

Business concluded, Reven mounted Fang and led the carriage back past the copse, his men trailing behind it. The dead and dying were left for the wolves and crows.

Friday 10 May 2019

Trollbane - Part 11

Reven had reunited with Fang at The Rest and they had said their goodbyes to Peter, leaving him a generous tip for the kindness he had shown them. As Reven approached River Rise's north gate the sun was high in the sky. Over the course of the afternoon, his men would drift toward the gate ready to continue their journey and their search for fortune. As was customary, Reven would be first to arrive and would secure a table at the closest inn to the gate. This ritual was the norm when travelling with his mercenaries; the last drink at the last inn in a city before moving on. The Harlots Arms was a huge inn and coach house, nestled against the city wall. Once upon a time, it may have served as a staging area for military forces to muster before travelling but the addition of the city's inner keeps and barracks over the years had meant it hadn't been used for military purposes in years. Well worn cobblestones spoke of the number of travellers that had walked in its courtyard, ivy climbed the stone of the inn's walls, framing the latticework windows. The courtyard was full of tables which were occupied by city dwellers and travellers from all over that were enjoying lunch and ale in the midday sun. 

Reven chose a table at the edge of the courtyard where Fang's monstrous bulk would be less of a hindrance to the patrons. The warhounds size always made it easy for the mercenaries to find Reven and it wasn't long before the twin's Kris and Bran sauntered up to the table greeting Reven and Fang in turn whilst sharing a joke. They were soon joined by Agrippa who was shaking his head as he sat down. His arrival prompted stifled laughs from the twins. "Go on", Agrippa said, "Get it over with". "Get what over with?" Reven enquired. The twins, unable to contain their hysterics any longer burst into laughter. Muldar and Orwen arrived as Kris started his tale.

"We were in some back street pub, little more than a hovel, beating a group of merchants guards at cards when in stumbles a very drunk Agrippa and no word of a lie, he had what appeared to be the ugliest woman in the history of Atla on his arm" Kris sniggered as Bran continued his brother's story. "The bar was propping him up as he ordered drinks for him and his beautiful 'female' companion". Bran delivered the word female in such a way that immediately the whole table was hooked, leaning in for more. Kris took up the telling, "We watched in horror as Ag's new friend slipped 'her' hand down the front of his pants and started kissing him in full view of the whole taproom." Agrippa dropped his head onto the table in an open display of shame as the mercenaries started to roar with laughter, "I didn't know... I was pissed out of my mind" his muffled words came out as a shout but he would not raise his head to meet the other's eyes. "Boss, this 'lady' had the biggest hands I've ever seen and had more stubble than you", Kris said addressing Reven. Bran chipped in, "Come on Ag, the bloke looked like he'd put his makeup on in the dark and you could have spotted that wig a mile off". The whole table laughed together as Agrippa filled in the blanks of the story, being heckled the whole time.

In high spirits, the group set off.  Fang was once again adorned in his armour as he and Reven led the group through the great north gate of River Rise. Engleheart awaited and beyond that, their prize.

Trollbane - Part 10

The stink of the alleyway roused Reven from his sleep. The smell of human excrement mingled with the powerful scent of last night's ale made his stomach churn as his eyes struggled to open against the power of the morning sun. He brought one his hands to his face to cradle his head as he pushed himself upright, trying to remember how he had got into the alley in the first place. Still half-drunk he knew that last night had involved ale. The blood caked on his knuckles told him there had been violence. The general mess he was in told him that whatever had transpired it wasn't something he would be proud of. Another exercise in excess that had left him asleep in a shit-stained alley. Wonderful!

Shuffling down the streets of River Rise, trying to find his bearings he was pleased when the marketplace came into view. He would return to The Rest in the hope that Fang would have made his way back. As he pushed through the crowds of people, many of whom turned their noses up at his heavily scented passing, a commotion at the side of the market square caught his eye. Familiar stalls that he passed yesterday came into view as did a large contingent of the city watch. A crowd had gathered to gawk at the watchmen as they went about their work. Reven made his way through the onlookers until he stood at the front of the crowd. As he looked upon the destruction in front of him, the events of the previous night started to slowly fall into place.

Gap Tooth's animal stall had been smashed to pieces. Empty cages and splintered wood littered the floor. Tables were overturned; animal bedding, faeces, and feathers were spread around adding to the chaotic scene. The animals themselves were missing. The vague recollection of drunken anger washed over Reven. This looked like his work, his style of raw primal anger unleashed. His face flushed as he looked upon the destruction he had wrought. He struggled to remember when he had done this, it must have been whilst drunk. He had brooded over the deaths of Gap Tooth and his fellows and the way he and Fang had snuffed out their lives all of the previous day. He had wondered about the fate of the animals that were caged at their stall. The scene before him told him of what had transpired. In a red-hued fit of kindness, he had decided o set the animals free. Releasing them into the night so that it may envelop them in its embrace and help them find much-deserved freedom.

Whilst he stood musing over yesterday's mistakes, and small victories, he had started to draw attention from some of the watchmen who were casting sideways glances in his direction. The blood caked over his hands and his general demeanour made him stand out and he couldn't help but think if he were a watchman he would want to question this wastrel. He drifted back into the crowds before the watch could act, melting away into the hubbub of the market place. Head down, he marched back to his lodgings at The Rest in the hope he would be reunited with Fang and they could be away from the city before he started any more trouble.

Thursday 18 October 2018

Trollbane - Part 9

As Reven suspected, Fang did not react well to the news that they were heading off to the market. The warhound had already known about the trip thanks to the link he shared with his master. Reven’s anxiety oozed out of him as he rounded the wall to the stable. Fang sat in a corner on a mound of heaped hay, his back set firmly against the walls. He would not meet Reven’s eye and made his contempt for the trip plain by turning his head completely away from his master. "Fang, we don't know what danger the roads ahead may hold" Reven started as he began his attempt to placate his huge companion. "The equipment we get today could be the difference between your life or death. I couldn't imagine life without you in it my friend?". In response, Fang raised one of his great paws to fend off Reven’s advance. The paw was taken like the proffered hand of a lover. One hand was placed underneath and one on top that gently caressed the beast’s foot. Fang tried to snatch the paw back but Reven would not release it. It made the hound whip his head around to better see what was happening and Reven took his opportunity with relish. He leapt at Fang and wrapped his arms around the warhound's neck. A mocking growl escaped Reven’s smiling lips as Fang lurched forward to balance himself. A swift shake of the head and Reven was sprawling on the ground and he couldn't help but laugh. Fang nuzzled at him, pushing him around the hay-filled floor and a play fight ensued. The hound was the clear victor but his battle for the trip to the market had been lost. 

Ten minutes later fang was saddled and muzzled. In truth, the muzzle would do nothing to stop Fangs powerful jaws from opening but it gave an air of security that could calm any nervous onlookers. Instead of saddling his friend, Reven led Fang by the snout using a short rope to project an air of control. The only real control that Reven would have was the side of beef that had been promised to the hound for good behaviour whilst in public. They set off, waving Peter goodbye as they made their way further into the city.

The market was a bustling hive of activity. It sprawled across a square that was lined with small shops, pastry wagons and alehouses that were already open and doing a roaring trade even though it wasn't yet noon. Jugglers and musicians entertained small crowds for pennies whilst a puppet show kept a mass of excited children busy. There were people everywhere and even Fangs bulk didn't do much to part the crowds that hindered their progress. Reven eyed each stall, in turn, looking for the tell-tale glint of morning sunshine as it kissed armour or weapons. At one point he seriously considered mounting Fang so that he might have a superior view but thought better of it. Despite the throng of people ahead of them not paying much attention to the warhound those they had passed gasped and stood back, slack-jawed at the sight of the awesome beast. 

Warhounds were once often seen being ridden by nobles or wealthy merchants but the art of their care and breeding had been mostly lost to the common man. The armies that guarded Orland now seemed the only ones capable of rearing the beasts with very few being seen without a soldier sitting astride it. It is for this reason that Fang was a spectacle to be gawked at. Reven himself got a fair few appraising looks. Whilst he was armed for battle, he was plainly no soldier.

They pushed on through the crowds but even Reven was starting to feel claustrophobic so he led Fang away from the market stalls to the edge of the square. There Fang drank from a water butt whilst Reven bought some pastries and a cold ale. The pastries were to placate the agitated Fang, the ale was to placate the close-to-agitated Reven! As he tipped his head back to quench his thirst the tell-tale glint he was looking for caught his eye. At the other end of the side of the square he was on he saw tables set out in front of a shop. Reven’s keen eyes picked out gleaming vambraces and pauldrons laid out for purchase and knew that merchant would be his best shot at finding something for Fang. Reven downed his ale and motioned to Fang to finish his last pastry.

Halfway to the armour-laden tables, they came across an animal vendor. Reven looked at these people with disdain and the animals they touted with sympathy. Being bonded with a beast gave him a special kinship with animals and seeing the conditions these ones were forced to endure he could feel his ire rising. He saw a pair of Rock-Tailed Beavers from the mountain streams of Ironhill, their fur matted and teeth overly long. He saw a young Thornspire Bear whose name was taken from the woods they inhabited. The bear was dosed with something and wore a look of befuddlement as if his addled mind couldn't comprehend his surroundings. A tuft of bright white hair grew on the crest of his head upon a wound that slowly healed. There were countless birds that squawked and chirped as Reven approached. Animals from all over Orland and beyond crowded the stalls. Reven couldn't help but notice some of the beasts appeared to be dead. He stopped looking to calm his anger before he did something rash. Fang sensing his unease let loose a low growl that actually quieted the majority of the birds and drew alarmed stares from passers-by. 

Reven quickened his pace to put distance between himself and the animals but a shout from behind him brought him to a halt. He turned to see a group of five men behind him, all in the garb of trackers or hunters. Mottled brown and green shirts and trousers sat under leather jerkins and other arrayed pieces of hide armour. Enough protection from animals but not much against the point of a sword. The lead man moved toward Reven, "Ho there, friend" he called as he approached. "We couldn't help but notice and admire your beast and wondered if you came to market today with the intention of selling him?". The man brought his hands together and steepled his finger as a wide, gap-toothed grin spread across his face, feigning friendliness. Reven knew the question he asked was moot. Nobody saddles a beast they are going to sell. "He's not for sale", Reven replied matter-of-factly and turned to leave the conversation there but the man pressed him. "We would pay handsomely for such a fine animal, we have gold and you can take your pick from our fine stock of beasts", his grin returned as he gestured back at the array of miserable animals that sat in cages over his shoulder. Reven didn't respond, Fang did. His growl rumbled and reverberated off the wall of the square and made the man nearly jump out of his skin. A menacing step forward was all it took for the no longer grinning, animal vendor to turn tail and run. 

Reven had hitched Fang around the corner from the armourer's just off the square whilst he looked through the stock. The armourer himself was busy bringing pieces from the back of the shop whilst explaining that most of the warhound armour he once stocked had been melted down long ago as there was little need for it. The pieces he was showing Reven were 'too fine' to be destroyed in his opinion and he had held on to them in the hope that he would one day see a hound adorned with them. Reven picked up a weighty spiked shoulder plate to inspect it. Inwardly he couldn't deny the quality of the armour. There were no casting marks, no rough edges and it was in excellent condition that told him it had never been used. Fine etching along the sides, which mirrored the curves of the edges, were inlaid with azure and some red metal that Reven couldn't identify. The metal itself looked to be a deep bronze but lacked the weight that bronze had. When questioning this he learned that the armourer had not made the armour himself but had inherited it from his father who ran the forge and shop before him, its true origin was a mystery. This was what he was here for though and despite the lack of information about the armour’s provenance, he bargained for the whole lot. Chestguard, barbed hind guards, a segmented back piece and spiked shoulder guards. They were loaded onto a small hand cart and Reven wheeled it around to load Fang up with his new purchases. The hound ran an appraising eye over the armour as Reven strapped it to place. The armourer had offered the use of his backyard so Reven could have some privacy and he had accepted happily. Some lengths of hide were needed to ensure the metal didn't chafe on Fang's skin or fur but an hour later when he was all strapped up the armour looked as if it was made for the hound. Reven was about mount up and move on when the armourer rushed out of the shop holding a huge piece of metal that sat across his chest. It was the top half of a snarling wolf cast in the same metal as the rest of Fang's new armour. he explained he knew he had one more piece and would give it away for free only to see the suit complete and in use. As Reven fit this final piece he felt he would burst with pride as he looked in wonder and the armour-clad behemoth before him. Fang was fearsome to look upon at the best of times but clad in metal he looked truly monstrous. 

It was at his very moment that five men burst into the yard armed with axe handles and whips. The same five men that had not long ago stopped Reven in the street to attempt to barter for Fang. Reven slid Bloodthirster from its sheath and sidestepped around the men until they were between him and Fang. The sword radiated its hunger for blood and almost hummed with longing for battle. As Reven turned to bolt the gate to the yard shut he couldn't help but wonder at the idiocy people displayed. Take these five fools for example. They obviously wanted Fang. They obviously had no knowledge of warhounds. They obviously didn't hold their lives dear to them. Despite all this, their stupidity still amazed him. 

Once the door was bolted and the armourer had fled, Reven raised his sword. In response, Fang opened his mouth wide enough to rip through the stitching of his muzzle and let the leather drop to the floor. For some of the men between them, the sound of that leather muzzle slapping against the stone cobbles of the armourer’s yard would be the last sound they heard. As one Reven and Fang came together, tearing asunder the men that stood before them. It was like some terrible god had brought his hands together to swat a fly. Justice and vengeance crashed together and blood began to flow. Gap Tooth was the first to die. A slash from Bloodthirster opened up his neck just a second before Fang bit the head clean off one of his cronies. The several seconds of violence that followed ended with entrails, an arm, four fingers and two heads without bodies strewn about the floor. Fangs new armour was splattered with gore and Reven shook his head as he wiped the blood from his eyes. "I hate to say it my friend", he said as he looked at his bloodied hound, "but maybe you were right. We should have stayed at the inn."

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Trollbane - Part 8

Before sitting down to breakfast, Reven went and checked on Fang. Peter had already fed the warhound and he was noisily crunching through bones that were leftover from the previous evening's meals. Reven crouched next to Fang and despite his low, warning growl scratched the huge beast behind the ear. Fangs back leg spasmed in response to his master's touch, scratching at thin air as Reven found a spot that he would never reach on his own. In truth, it was Reven who needed to feel another's touch. The dream that had woken him in the night had plagued his thoughts since he had dragged himself from his bed. Being with Fang helped ease his discontent and he stayed with his friend for almost an hour to enjoy the warmth of his companionship. 

Breakfast was a simple serving of honey-bread, bacon and pastries. Whilst eating alone, Reven thought about how he would spend his day. They had two nights in River Rise to restock their supplies, rest and enjoy the multitude of distractions that the bustling town offered. He resigned himself to looking for some new armour pieces for Fang in one of the markets. Warhound's were not typical mounts and were hard to buy for. Most equipment had to be made to order and would often take days or even weeks to make. Despite this Reven was confident that the flow of trade through River Rise would enable him to find something suitable for his hulking friend. The town was well-used by travellers from all points of the compass. The only problem he had is that he would have to take Fang with him. The armour would need to fit and if it didn't would need to be altered. He needed the hound with him to make those purchases but  Fang did not like crowds and they also didn't like him. The news they were going out into the throng of people at the market would not be received well by Fang. This simple act would no doubt turn into an adventure all on its own.

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Trollbane - Part 7

The legendary peak from Revens Fang

The wind tugged at his hair and stung his face. Snow from the twin peaks whipped down the mountainsides and obscured his vision. Thunder rumbled overhead and lightning flashed temporarily flooding the area with bright white light, casting deep shadows across the withered landscape that lay to the front of The Horns of Atla. 

Reven stood at the base of the mountains, in a narrow corridor known as Scabbard Pass. Only wide enough to for two men to walk abreast, its sides were made of jagged, razor-sharp rock that stretched up beyond the sight of mortal man. Reven was scrabbling to don armour that was scattered at his feet. He strapped various parts on as he found them; grieves, gauntlets, pauldrons were all fastened in place. He was covered shoulder to foot, in archaic pitch-black armour. He strapped on a sword belt that he found lying at his feet. He was surprised to find the armour moved with him, flexed as he did despite its bulk. 

With the armour on Reven was almost as wide as the passage he stood in. He moved forward, the wind no longer hindering him even though it still stung his face. He squinted his eyes against the storm that raged about him and as he came to the end of the passage could make out a splinter of darkest night. Moving toward it he could see it was a sword, but its blade was made from metal the like of which Reven had never seen. Where it impaled the ground, a black helmet sat. Reven recoiled for he recognised the fearsome visage that was etched onto its front. The armour he wore, the helmet at his feet; they belonged to the demon that haunted his dreams. Without conscious thought, he reached down and plucked the helmet from the snow. He placed it onto his head and the world around him was drenched in a haze of red. He felt power course through him, strength raging through his muscles, the raw essence of war intoxicated him. He plucked the sword from the ground and stepped to the spot where it had rested. 

The silence was deafening. The wind ceased, there was no snowfall. The thunder was mute and the lightning lightless. The storm ended so quickly it bewildered the senses. The power contained in Reven’s armoured shell peaked and forced a long, undulating scream from his lips. As he gave voice to the energy coursing through his veins, etchings on the armour burned bright red filling the pass and the plain in front of him with a bloody-hued glow. 

As Reven’s scream died it was met by returning shouts and screams far off in the distance. Drums and horns sounded across the barren plain. Fires roared to life in the distance and the ground started to rumble with the weight of advancing feet. Reven watched as the ashen sands of the wasteland before him shrank, the emptiness filled with an immense advancing force. Made up from what looked to be every race that walked the lands of Atla, they shouted battle cries and challenges as they ran toward the lone armoured figure. Reven planted his feet and made ready for their advance, backing into the pass so that none could get around him. He held his sword aloft and the storm sprang back into life, the etchings on his unholy black armour blazed bright red once again and words that were all too familiar fell uninvited from his lips. “I am the vessel, I am wrath, the bloody-handed reaper.” The storm raged harder. “I carry their word, give life to their rage and I shall bring this world to its knees”. The advancing hordes were almost on him. “I am their vessel, I am ruin, I am death, look upon me and despair”, Reven raised his sword for his first strike.

He woke with a start, sweat beaded his brow. Shaking his head to try and free it from the horror of his nightmare, Reven regained a measure of sense. “I am their vessel” he intoned before unconsciousness claimed him once more.

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Trollbane - Part 6

Map of Orland
Orland in all its glory

Two days had passed since the mercenaries had left Briarmoot and they had gone by without incident. The inhabitants of the small village had been glad to see the back of them and waved them off with clenched fists and curses, once a suitable distance had opened up between them and the warriors obviously.

Reven sat astride Fang at the head of the troop and idly played with the silver hoof necklace that he had taken as his trophy. It wasn’t the first time he had been set upon without provocation but the assault on him and his men had been well planned, despite its poor execution. He would like to meet those responsible for the plan as he was in no doubt that the fools that perpetrated it didn’t have the brains to fashion it alone. More so, he wanted to know what the reason behind that attack was. He had upset many people in his time but he could recollect none that worshipped “The Great Pig”.

He tucked the pendant away and cleared his mind of his wonderings. By this evening he would once again behold the great West Gate of River Rise. His thoughts drifted back to the last time he was there and his friend and comrade in arms, Borengar Steelskin. Maybe he would search for his old friend whilst he was there. It had been well over a year since they had shared each other’s company and he very much wanted to see the old dwarfs face. They were staying in the city for two nights rest and recuperation before pushing on to Engleheart and eventually their fabled prize.

The mercenaries parted ways shortly after arriving at River Rise. A swift ale was shared to celebrate their safe arrival and then they went off in search of booze, brawls and less than wholesome women. Reven had to find somewhere he could house Fang. He hated leaving the hounds side, he was his best friend after all. He had considered camping outside the city but he was in no doubt this would only lead to trouble, especially considering their recent engagement outside Briarmoot. They made their way through the streets toward the more affluent northern part of the city, Reven certain that he could secure lodgings here that could accommodate the both of them. Despite being a lowly mercenary, he was not a poor man. The abilities of he and his men commanded a good price back in Blackcliff and they were kept busy enough to not have too many opportunities to spend their earnings.

Reven made his way to the main arterial route that ran northward through the city. The Forest Road was wide and full of traffic. Carts of goods were being brought in from the north and taken to the docks in River Rise’s centre and likewise from the docks, up to the cities north gate and the lands beyond. The part of the street where Reven walked was lined with merchant’s shops and inns. Their gilded facades hid the tenements that sprawled behind them. Drunken sailors spilled out of the ale houses whilst fops and merchants rode high in their saddles looking down on the human flotsam that floated past them. Fang afforded Reven a wide berth as man and beast alike scattered out of the hulking warhounds way. The mercenary pondered the emptiness of the lives of the people he was surrounded by and was thankful of the freedom his profession afforded him. Despite its dangers he would rather live by the sword than suffer under the yoke of some unscrupulous lord or rich merchant.

The road remained busy as they continued but the shops and inns were replaced by large houses with wide forecourts and sprawling drives. The larger, upper class inns were also located here and Reven was sure he would find somewhere suitable to stay on one of the side streets that led off the main road. The North Gate loomed far off in the distance and Reven knew he didn’t want to get that far as again the road would be choked with drunks and freshly arrived travellers as well as less than fitting lodgings.

As darkness tightened its grasp on the city Reven headed off the Forest Road down a street where the firelighters were going about their work. The more well-to-do areas of the city had fire globes mounted on poles that would illuminate the streets. The firelighters cast the simple spells that would keep these globes burning through the night, balls of flame leaping from their hands and igniting the magical orbs. It was quite a sight and most of the firelighters added a degree of theatrics to their jobs, making wild gestures with their arms before letting loose their spells. Reven had enjoyed the spectacle on his previous visit to River Rise and stopped to watch as the globes ahead of him came to life, their yellow glow slowly spreading up the street.

Five minutes further down the road he found his lodgings. The Rest, as it was called, was a little run down compared to other buildings on the street but it had a large empty stable and sold hot meat and cold beer. Reven settled Fang in the open stable whilst discussing payment with the proprietor. The man was the first Reven had met in a while that wasn’t taken aback by Fang. He said he was an ex-soldier and has spent many campaigns in the company of beastmasters and their mounts and seemed genuinely pleased to be up close to Fang’s magnificence.

Reven made arrangements for haunches of meat to be brought to the stables for his companion and a hot bath and cold beer to be poured for him. He ate with Fang and the owner, Peter, and shared their tales of adventure until his bath was ready at which point he removed himself to his room with several more beers and sunk into the hot water to wash the build-up of travel grime from his body. Before bed he checked on Fang from the window of his room, the mental link he shared with the hound meant that he knew he was alright but visual confirmation was always reassuring. The only surprise being that Peter, the proprietor was curled up in the stable with him. With a wry smile Reven crawled into bed and fell into a deep and troubled sleep.