Monday 1 August 2016

Trollbane - Part 4

Agrippa and the rest of the mercenaries were relaxing in The Emperors Hand Inn. Many ales had been consumed and the inn had started to fill as farmers and farm workers returned from their toil in the fields for some well-earned beer. Reven's men and other travellers had filled the place with a jovial atmosphere. Some of the newcomers took up instruments and before long bawdy drinking songs were being sung and a good time was being had by all. 

Kris and Bran sat in a darkened corner playing cards with some of the locals. They were winning but the game was a low stake, friendly affair and they joked and drank with the farm hands they sat with. Muldar, the man mountain, was arm wrestling the locals being cheered on by Agrippa. Orwen was listening intently as a traveling merchant relayed news from across Orland, talking of unrest in the capital, Ux. Rosholt rebels were on the rise again and were causing instability across the great city.

Reinhart watched the big man wrestling. He noticed how his warhammer was resting against the table that he sat at, just out of easy reach. He smiled to himself. Soon the attack would be signalled and these thugs for hire would be put down permanently. Reinhart played the lute frantically, maintaining his cover. His men were spread throughout the inn. All the travellers with the exception of Reven’s dogs were his. Even now more of his men would be racing to the inn, their assassination of the abhorrent Reven complete. When they arrived, they would fulfil their contract and collect the heads of these men. He mused to himself that he had probably used too many men to snuff out the beast master’s life but it always paid to err on the side of caution. He smiled as he played. His tactical genius would win out the day. The longer he waited for his men the drunker the mercenaries got, everything was working in his favour. He glanced around the room watching his men feigning drunkenness, taking pretend swigs from their flagons, carousing with the locals, one man even looked as if he was asleep and had cleverly vomited over himself to keep his true purpose concealed. On the other side of the room one of his men was being slapped by a bar girl who was being cheered on by more of Reinhart’s men. Once the mercenaries slaughter was complete, he made a mental note to congratulate his men on their acting prowess.

Muldar celebrated his latest victory by draining the last of his beer and wiping away the remnants with one huge hand. He looked around the inn and was thankful for this night. His companions were all having a good time and the inn was alive with friendly banter and raucous singing. The other travellers that had swelled the numbers in the inn all seemed to be especially drunk. Slowly the music they played had gotten further out of rhythm with only the lute player still managing to hold the tune and rhythm. That very same lute player was staring at Muldar intently and only moved his gaze when he met Muldar’s eyes. A maniacal grin painted the musician’s face. The big man surmised that he must have either really enjoyed the music or that he was drunker than everybody else in the room. To Muldar it seemed that the drummer was getting further and further out of rhythm but looking at the man he could see that he had laid his drum down to get another drink. As he concentrated the drumming continued to grow louder but not loud enough for the majority of drunkards to notice. Kris looked at him across the room knowingly. Muldar rose to his feet and snatched up his Warhammer from where it lay resting. The incessant lute playing stopped and was replaced by a thunderous growl from outside the inn. The mercenaries were now all on their feet, weapons in hand and poised for action. Half a second later the door to the inn and its frame exploded in a hail of splinters as Fang forced his way in. The warhound stood immobile, a low growl reverberated round the inn making cups dance and drinks spill. The patrons of the inn fled to the back of the room, many flinging themselves over the bar in terror. Only the travellers that were still sober enough to stand held their ground, stupefied looks on their faces. Reven entered, pushing past Fang. He was crusted with blood. In one hand he held his sword Bloodthirster and in the other he held a severed head.

Reinhart dropped his lute and pulled free his woollen tunic revealing his midnight black leather armour and the array of weapons he had strapped to him. “To arms” he screamed waiting for his men to rush past him into the fray. That rush never came. The dozen men he had under his charge were in no shape to face foes as fearsome as this monster and his blood red master. Reinhart felt a surge of panic, one of the men to his right fell with an arrow stuck in the side of his head. The mercenaries were on the attack. This at least goaded his men into action as they made a pathetic defence against the fury of Reven’s men. Reinhart watched in horror as his master plan was torn apart in front of him. His idiotic men were drunk! Fools. If any of them survived he would flay the skin off the imbeciles.

Reven stalked toward Reinhart, who dropped into a fighting stance at his approach. Reven roared, Muldar swung and Reinhart dropped like a stone. The whack of the warhammer meeting Reinhart’s head reverberated round the room and signalled the end of the brief skirmish. Reven tossed the head he had been holding on the floor and it rolled to rest against Reinharts own head. “Bind those that live. I have questions I would have answered”, Reven bellowed, “And get me a beer!” he added.

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