All good things come from humble positions. Heroes, Protectors and Sages come not from the glittering halls of gold, but from the piss drenched gutters of poverty. It is in one such sty that our story begins.
The rain poured down for what seemed like endless time. It was Yarn and thus the rains had come again. The thawing and the rains made the jovial season of the returning green seem just a little less jovial to the residence of Old Millborn. The town was built along the Orla River and as a result was constructed on wetland. With every Yarn came annual flooding and bogging. The streets turned to mud which mixed with horse paddies and filth; especially in the poorer section of town. The town thus developed both sicknesses and a stench during the wet season. In this manner it was little different then anywhere else in Crowvania, albeit the Sighn excepted.
Barton Reflects upon the Problem
“If Mivtar’s recruits are too green, or if they have been gotten to, we’re as good as dead.” This thought in and of itself did not scare Barton, for death and him were old buddies. His years in the service of Kormac and Awia had long since hardened him to death; even more so, his near death at the hands of Singh Assassins which left him permanently disfigured. He continued, “No, the worst part would be closing my career as a local hero with a pitiful defeat at the hands of some headstrong ruffians. If that happens I would have a hard time embracing the ‘Great What Now’.”
Rather than wasting more thought upon it Barton decided to cover the fact as he knew them to be. First, a gang of unknown bandits had been hitting local caravan trains traveling up and down the only road that stretches from Lake Carn to the sea. Second, the gang has killed everyone in the caravans and stolen whatever merchandise they happen to be peddling. The viciousness of the attacks had struck fear into traveling merchants, while the monetary loses discourage further attempts. Consequentially, since the bandits are hitting the road, the merchants have resorted to moving their wares by boats along the Orla River. Thirdly, the Kormacian soldiers stationed along the road have been completely baffled by the rogues’ movements and methodology. Their feeble attempts at stopping this menace have brought forth naught.”
Barton sipped his ale and looked into the fireplace. The confines of his dwelling faded away with the coming of further thought until only the fire remained. “Mivtar is worried that the loss of usage of the thoroughfare will severely affect Millborn’s economy. Naturally, as mayor he sent Millborn’s guards to handle the problem. They too got nowhere. It was as if their very attempts were known to the outlaws and handled easily.” Barton, knew the next step before he thought it but continued with his retelling anyway. “Mivtar, that wise ol’ bugger, realized that there was a mole somewhere in his administration or in the guards themselves, or both. He then came to me with his proposition to form a small unit of unofficial guards to approach the problem sub rosa. He said he would handle the selection and I was to train and lead them. He was pulling them from the slums, some unknown rabble… Hopefully they’re worth a damn, cause if they’re not, we’re as good as dead.” And with that thought Barton had come full circle. There was nothing he could do yet anyway. He sipped his warm ale deeply and continued staring into the fire.
Barton Reflects upon Mivtar’s Choices
“That bastard. He’s supposed to have his finger on Millborn and these were the best he could send me, an out of shape buffoon, a female elven wizard and an orc half breed? Well at least the orc has potential. Big as a house and ugly. Damn boy would scare the paint off a wall with that face. When he was young he ran with the local boys pulling petty crimes and thinking they were bad ass. I caught Ol’ Big and Ugly trying to nick some gauntlets in my shop. I whooped his ass and then had a heart to heart with the boy. Poor bastard got the boot from his ma too early and well I was soft on him. My talk seemed to do him good though for he dropped the hoodlum act. I remember some of what I said to him still. I remember telling him that everyone has it hard. He was no exception. I said, how would you like to have a face like mine? How would you like to pay double at every brothel? Sad part is, the boys so ugly and big I bet he has to anyway, ha!”
“Anyway, the orc goes by the name of Thokk and has been bouncing at the River Rat for a few years. His occupation as a bouncer was a good thing, for bouncers can’t kill their patrons no matter how much they want to. It helped whip the savagery outta him a bit. Orcs can be nasty creatures. He will make a fine soldier with some training. The other two however?”
“What the hell am I going to do with a female elven wizard. First off, she’s an elf, which means she’s weird, so I already don’t like her. Second, she’s a magic wielder, and I have no idea how to use a magic wielder. Finally, she’s a woman, and there is nothing quite like a woman to upset the ability of soldiers to do their job. I think I’ll be especially hard on her during training; see what she’s made of. Goes by the name Berigana I think. I never can remember women’s names.”
“Finally, he picks for me a brawling, drinking jack ass named Gil. Something about him makes be just want to kick him in his jewels. Doesn’t have a soldiers make up at all. Damn it Mivtar! Damn it to hell! What am I going to do with these three?”
Barton Reflects on their Rough Beginnings
Barton couldn’t help but reflect on what had transgressed since his three recruits began their training. One week was all the time that he had to hone whatever skills they might possess. The orc showed potential, as did the elf. Gil however was too soft headed for this type of work and was a liability to the team. Nevertheless, these three would be all he had to work with and he planned to make the best of the situation.
On the last night of their training fortune seemed to shine down for a brief moment when the city guards hauled in one of the bandits alive. Apparently, he had been shot with an arrow in the back as he tried to leave the scene of one of their caravan raids. The shot had been the dying movement of one of the caravan’s hired guards. He had been left for dead by his fellow bandits and was now healed and locked in Millborn’s jail. Unfortunately, the guards had not been able to illicit any information out of the rogue, and Mivtar has expressed a direct command that torture was not to be used.
Barton and his team attempted to intimidate the bandit and like the guards found only silence on his lips. That was until Barton threatened to release the prisoner at midday, thanking him for all the information that he had provided. Fear of retribution changed the bandit’s tone and he promises to tell all that he knew, which however didn’t turn out to be very much. He had been hired on and failed in his first mission and therefore knew only a little. He knew that the Bandits had congregated in Stogwood forest and had rode out ten deep on their raid. He also knew that they were stationed somewhere in the Forn Hills to the northeast of Millborn. With this scant information Barton and his team left Millborn early the next morning.
They rode south to the scene of the raid. The caravans were still there although the crime had happened almost a week prior. Some of the caravans were burned, others were dilapidated. The bodies of the caravan’s personal had been buried by the city guards when the scene had been discovered. Working the scene for whatever clues might have survived the rains, Barton was able to discover a few things. First, the bandits were organized and trained. He could tell this by the method of flanking and surrounding that they used in the raid. They also cleaned out all the merchandise and murdered all the people on the caravan, including a woman. Being that the woman wasn’t carted off by the bandits, something felt odd about their raid.
Next the team rode to Strogwood Forest and after an hour or so was able to discover the bandits camp. This too seemed odd for the bandits had been sanitary (building a latrine and throwing a rabbit’s intestines far from the camp) as well as fire conscious (their fire’s ashes had been drenched). Barton had a feeling that these bandits acted more like soldiers than ruffians. After examining the campsite, they returned to Millborn only to discover that the city’s jail had been broken into, the guard slain and the bandit prisoner mutilated and murdered.
The next morning the team set out again and rode towards the Forn Hills. Once they arrived there a lone rider approached them. He then told them from a safe distance that they should abandon their quest or they would surely die. He further bribed them with a sack of one hundred gold pieces, which the threw in the dirt and rode away before the team had really formulated a clear understanding of the situation. Bewildered, the team picked up the gold and returned to Millborn, where they would pass the night in Barton’s house.