Thursday, 2 October 2014

Start 2

The entrance to the cave looked like the maw of some legendary monster, shrouded in gloom with broken rocks scattered around its cavernous opening. Reven thought these rocks resembled teeth and wondered if that was the intention; to present a more fearsome visage to any would be attackers. Gazing around he noted that there was a recently extinguished fire that sat just outside the caves mouth. Wisp’s of smoke still rose from the embers indicating that the fire had not long been done with. Bones and scraps were strewn about the place, discarded with abandon, the remnants of the bandits evening meal. Reven hoped they had enjoyed it. If everything went according to plan it would be the last meal these robbing bastards would ever have.

The bandits are what had drawn him here after all. They had been holed up this cave for a short time using it as a base of operations from which they struck out at merchant wagons and travellers that were on the road to Blackcliff. They hadn’t been here long and as yet hadn’t done enough to fully rouse the attention of the Blackcliff Guard or ‘Black Guard’ as they were more commonly known. Reven had sat and listened with interest to the victims of these attacks as they had made their way into Blackcliff. Sitting by the fire in The Lonely Bard, they were only too happy to regale anyone that would listen with their tales of misfortune. The Guard had gone out and made preliminary searches of the scenes of the attacks but had not progressed their investigations any further. They were already stretched to thinly and too undermanned to worry about a few bandits running loose in the countryside. It was a sorry state of affairs but it did work out to Reven’s advantage. He would clear the cave of this nest of bandits and their spoils would become his. Justice would be served upon them and their ill-gotten gains would be put to good use by keeping Reven in the lifestyle he was accustomed to.

Reven gave his weapons one last look over to ensure everything was in order. It was ritual of his before going on the hunt. He unhooked his bow from his shoulder, running his hand over the finely carved wood as he did so. Whilst he was an accomplished sword fighter he liked the simplicity of the bow. He liked the thrill of a stealthy kill. Something about the fact that his opponents would never see death coming excited him. The wood of the bow was nearly completely black. There were silver runes inlaid into the wood at different points but he had no understanding of what they meant. The bow had no magical properties that he knew of so he assumed the runes had never been magical or had long since lost their charge. He didn’t care. The bow had served him well since he had discovered it and had reaped havoc amongst his foes. In fact most of Reven’s weapons and armaments had come to him as loot or by lucky chance. The sword he wore across his back was won in a bet. It was a no frills weapon, 3 feet of steel mounted on an iron hilt. The black leather grip was finished with a round pommel that was decorated with a snarling dogs head. Reven always looked kindly on this part of the blade. He had an affection for animals; found them to be more trustworthy than people for the most part. Beyond the curved blade he wore at his side and the quiver full of arrows at his back he didn’t carry anything else. He had an array of pouches on his belt that were lefty empty. The hope being that they would be full by the time he passed back this way. He wore a dull iron breast plate over a thin chain mail shirt that was worn over a simple black under shirt. His trousers were made of leather, again they were black as suited a man in his profession. His outfit was finished off with well-worn leather boots. In truth he could do with some proper armour. Some new pieces that were made to fit properly instead of the rag tag collection he wore now would be a real benefit. The knowledge of this was not enough though, it was an expensive business kitting yourself out with new gear. Maybe after this little adventure he would treat himself to a fresh pair of boots. He looked himself over one more time and checked his grip on his bow. It was time for action.

He moved stealthily toward the cave mouth and peered in. The bandits had been kind enough to leave some torches burning along the sides of the cave and no lookout. Reven moved in nocking an arrow, making his way up a tunnel into the cave. The tunnel spiralled off in several directions but Reven chose to stick to the path that was illuminated by the torches. Here and there they had burnt themselves out leaving an expanse of darkness that he would occasionally have to fumble through. He put his back to the wall of tunnel as he heard sounds up ahead. He crouched and stuck close to the wall as he moved toward the sound. As he got nearer he could make out muffled voices. He tightened his grip on his bow and drew back the string a little, readying himself for conflict. As he moved up there was a recess in the tunnel wall that he slipped into so that he could better hear what the bandits were discussing without fear of a surprise discovery. “Come on Bron!” a gruff male voice shouted. “You’ve been in there for an age. Every time you’re on watch you spend half the time in the shitter”. This outburst was followed by loud banging on wood and accompanied by a woman’s laughter. “Bron’s scared of the dark is all, he shits himself!” the woman’s shrill laughter rang out again this time accompanied by the man’s harsh chortle. Reven used the entertainment Bron’s bowels has provided as an opportunity to move up the tunnel. As the source of the voices came into view he crouched against the wall surveying the scene.

The shrill woman was sitting on a pile of firewood, her back to him. In front of her at the back of the cave was an entrance to another tunnel that led further away into the cave system. The woman was dressed in simple brown leathers with furs thrown over her shoulders to stave off the cold. To the left of the cave a similarly dressed man with long matted black hair was standing in front of an up-ended table top which looked to be serving as a makeshift privy door. A hand axe hung from his belt and a dagger was tucked into the back of his leather trousers. In the centre of the cave stood a battered old table that had some bottles and goblets on it along with some weapons. A pair of swords, a well-used battle axe that looked as if it might break if swung too hard and a crossbow. The man banged on the makeshift door again and then turned. He didn’t see Reven immediately, he took a few steps toward the woman before he noticed the glint of Reven’s arrow head which was about half a second before Reven loosed the arrow at his target. The man’s face ran through several expressions before Reven’s arrow buried itself deep in his left eye. First slack jawed surprise, then brief anger followed a by a fleeting look of serenity as his life came to an abrupt end. The man’s head snapped back in response to Reven’s attack, falling lifelessly to the floor with a thump. The woman leapt up with a start, struck dumb by what she had just witnessed. She spun and cursed as she saw Reven’s approach but was too slow to cause a direct threat. Reven had unsheathed another arrow even as the man was falling into his eternal sleep. He loosed it at the woman and it struck her in the side as she turned. She wailed as the shaft buried itself deep into her guts. Her scream was loud enough to wake the dead. Now it was Reven that cursed, a poor shot that has ruined his stealthy insurrection. The woman had somehow carried on moving and had made it to the table shouting for aid. Reven heard movement to his left that came in response to her calls. He drew back on his bow once more and this time the arrow flew true striking the woman so powerfully in the chest that it almost passed through her. She collapsed backwards onto the table scattering bottles as she fell. Several of them smashed as she flailed her arms in her death flight. The up-ended table top exploded as Bron entered the fray. He was a huge man, his bright orange beard tumbling down his front and his heavily tattooed face gave him a fearsome look. He wielded a warhammer the size of a child and rushed into the cave bellowing a war cry as he drank in the scene before him. He came quickly at Reven, battle lust already blazing in his eyes, fuelled by the deaths of his companions. Reven took Bron’s measure, dropping his bow he drew the sword that he wore across his back and moved toward his opponent. Bron swung the Warhammer with such force that if it had connected it would have turned Reven’s head to mush. Luckily it didn’t connect as Reven ducked deftly beneath the blow and rose quicker still, sinking the point of his sword into Bron’s stomach, using his own momentum and that of Bron’s to force his blade up until its tip protruded from the back of Bron’s neck. Bron was still coming forward as he died, his weight throwing Reven off balance resulting in both men sprawling on the floor.

Reven scrambled to his feet expecting more assailants to appear from the tunnel-way at the rear of the cave. He looked over to the tunnel as he tried to roll Bron onto his front so that he could retrieve his sword. As he struggled rolling the big man over, he realised that there were no hurried steps making their way to the cave. No screams of anger or oaths being sworn. In fact there was nothing. All he could hear was his own breath and the gentle babble of an underground stream coming from where Bron had been taking care of his ‘business’. Reven remained alert but set about pulling his sword free from its lifeless host. It came away with a sucking sound, blood ran freely from its tip. Reven wiped the blade clean on Bron’s beard before returning it to its scabbard. Reven was an opportunist by nature and as such he would never pass up a chance at easy coin. There was nothing easier than relieving a dead man of his valuables so he set about looking through the pouches that sat along the font of Bron’s belt. He moved onto the woman and finally on to his first male victim emptying pockets and purses as he went. They didn’t carry much in the way of valuables but he would collect up the weapons on his way out if he didn’t find more worthy loot further into the cave. He doubted he would need to though. Merchants were known for having heavy purses and unless these bandits had managed to spend all the coin they had robbed he should come across their stash as he moved further into their lair.

Reven recovered the arrows he could from the fallen bodies and moved toward the back of the cave. The tunnel that led away from him was narrower than the last and led downwards. The walls were moist and patches of moss sprung up here and there. He had to arm himself with a torch to combat the creeping darkness of the passageway. It would give away his position in the darkness but was a necessity if he wanted to continue his foray into the bandit’s lair. He held the torch low to the ground and a bit behind him so that he didn’t impair his sight too much. He wanted his eyes to grow accustom to the gloom so that he could spy any would be assailants. He continued through the tunnel for another few minutes. He could understand now why there was no aid for the bandit’s stricken comrades. There could have been a hundred of them screaming and shouting and nobody this far in would have been able to hear a thing. Reven rounded a curve in the tunnel and thought he could see a faint light ahead. He threw his torch back up the tunnel so it would not forewarn his prey of his arrival. He would be able to recover it if he had to make a hasty retreat. From the reports of the travellers there were no more than seven or eight bandits involved in the attacks. Reven was hoping he could pick the rest of the bandits off at a distance with his bow. He was a fair swordsman but odds of four or five to one would be a stretch for even the most gifted of warriors. The bow was safer. He moved down and could see a torch burning at the end of the tunnel. It looked as if the tunnel made a sharp right turn just before its end. There was more light spilling from this right turn and he could now hear feint voices. As he moved toward the turn he noticed that there were rags on the floor of the tunnel spilling out from a nook he couldn’t see from his previous position. He moved up warily, his nerves stretched to breaking. He didn’t like blind corners and from the sound of the voices they were not far into the next chamber that lay just around this corner. He drew an arrow and held his bow at the ready. He moved closer, his back against the wall. As he came to the corner he peered over his right shoulder to see what he could see. He slowly dropped to a crouch and surveyed the scene. This cave was larger than the last and was littered on one side with bed rolls. A fire burned in the middle, the smoke from which disappeared into cracks and crevices in the ceiling.

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