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.

Thursday 15 June 2017

Trollbane - Part 5

Rienhart came around, his world turned upside down, literally. Suspended by his ankles from a beam that ran across the length of The Emperors Hand frontage. Blood ran freely from a large gash in the back of his head, courtesy of Muldar’s hammer. His vision blurred as he opened his eyes. As his senses came back to him he focused on the form of his captor.

Reven stalked back and forth in front of the man. The bloodied remains of Reinhart’s men piled in the street behind him. Crimson speckled the floor around the bodies and here and there rivulets of blood came together to form sticky, dark puddles. The sun was already rising and Reven’s shadow danced across Reinhart’s face, momentarily keeping its glaring rays out of the man’s eyes. Several Briarmoot residents had gathered to watch the spectacle and their stern, unforgiving face’s darted between the mercenary captain and the hanging man. Looks of derision were cast at all involved in the previous night’s disturbances, yet not a word was uttered as the small crowd watched the events that unfolded in front of them.

Reven was much recovered from the previous night’s attack. The worst of the wounds he had received was already just a long pink line across his forehead. Anger burned through his veins as he eyed his prisoner returning to consciousness. He approached Reinhart and grabbed the man by the throat, lifting him to the side so that the men could meet face to face. “Your men have been most helpful with my enquiries and have been rewarded justly for their assistance”, Reven said as he indicated to the pile of bodies in the street. “The only information I need from you is your name before I release you from your miserable life. I like to keep a list of all those that fall beneath my blade.” The smile the mercenary gave Reinhart hid the fact that all of the captive man’s men had been too grievously injured or too dead to answer any questions. Reven hoped to use shock and awe to bluff the man into giving up his identity and the reason for the attack. Searching him whilst unconscious had proven futile with nothing of any value being found beyond a few coins and a silver pendant. The pendant was finely fashioned into the shape of a hoof but little could be divined in terms of its importance to the man’s identity. Reinhart tried to chuckle but couldn’t gave his laughter voice due to Reven’s grip on his throat. He was released and swung widely from his tether, gasping he finally sputtered a chortle but much of its mocking intent was lost as spittle dribbled over his top lip and down his cheeks. Successful chuckles erupted from onlookers causing Reinhart to thrash and whirl in an apparent rage. This caused a fresh round of laughter from the crowd as the bound man flopped around in mid-air like a freshly caught fish. Reven rolled his eyes at Agrippa as he held his hand up to appeal for calm from the crowd. It was at this point that the interrogation fell into farce, Reinhart roared, “The great pigs foot will crush you beneath its magnificence and destroy you with its stench”, more laughter rang up and down the street, even the mercenaries couldn’t contain themselves. “Strength…. I meant strength…”, Reinhart corrected but far too late, his cries lost in raucous howls of mirth.

It became apparent to Reven that nothing would be gained from his ministrations and with quick whistle he summoned Fang to his side. The warhounds arrival quickly ended the noise from the crowd and silence reigned. Reven turned away as Fang advanced and screams of horror replaced what only a moment ago was laughter.