“How do you feel about killing Humans?”
Those were the words Fetin had uttered three days ago, saying them without preamble as he returned from visiting his Goblin acquaintance.
“What’d they do?” asked Bogrin.
“Supposedly?” The Dwarf scratched his beard, unpleased with this response. “Are you sure its not just a bunch of Human-haters that found a Human settlement and want it wiped out?” He gave the briefest of glances towards Ilfari.
“I’d thought of that, especially because the people spreading these rumors seem to know exactly where the bandit’s hideout is. This does not fill me with confidence. So for the next few days, we’re doing some observing: nothing violent until we got a clear idea of what’s going on, got it?”
Thus, three days later found a tired Arcaeus on his third day of observing a group of four Humans with bows slinking quietly through the forest. The first day he saw naught but hunting, and the second was a visit to a nearby Halfling settlement for supplies; the Halflings did not seem surprised to see the Humans, so Arcaeus could safely assume they had stopped by that town with some frequency. It wasn’t looking like they were doing any bandit-like activities.
Fetin stomped up behind him, breaking twigs as he moved, causing Arcaeus to twitch with annoyance. After the last reports of a lack of success, combined with a large group of 20+ bandits leaving the fortress that morning, Fetin insisted he come scouting as well, though he was not nearly as skilled at moving silently. His tagging along, however, would pay off.
It was well past noon when the bandits settled by the side of a road, perching themselves similarly to the way they sat when hunting, but facing the road as if expecting their quarry there. Fetin and Arcaeus watched, sensing this was what they were waiting for, so they crouched in the bushes nearby and similarly watched the road.
The light was just started to give way to darkness when the sound of wagon wheels echoed down the path, coming from Edelton, the town they had left earlier that week. The wagon came into view slowly, cresting the slowly sloping hill the road had been dug into. The drivers, a female Halfling and a male Dwarf, were chatting amiably on the seat, two mules dragging the cart behind them as they lazily followed the path.
The Humans leapt from the woods, surrounding the cart with arrows nocked. The Dwarf yanked back on the reins in surprise, bringing his ride to a halt. Orders shouted by the bandits drifted back to where Arcaeus and Fetin hid.
“I think that’s all we need to see,” said Arcaeus, making to stand. Fetin’s hand caught him on the shoulder and pulled him back down.
“We can’t just go charging in when there are civilians nearby: even though there have supposedly been no casualties of innocents in these robberies, if we panic them with a sudden attack, there may just be one.”
“Right,” said Arcaeus, eyeing the bandits and they began sorting through the goods in the back of the wagon, the drivers standing at the side of the road with their hands in the air. “So what’s the plan, boss?”
Fetin stood in quiet concentration for a moment. “Do you have confidence in that bow arm of yours?” he asked.
“An unhealthy amount, yes.”
“Good. Stay here and follow my lead.” He stepped out of the bushes suddenly. Arcaeus wasn’t quite clear on what Fetin wanted done, but decided to move up a nearby tree for a better view of the road.
“Hold it there, boys!” Fetin bellowed with all his might, shaking the bandits and nearly causing Arcaeus to fall from the tree. Four bows directed themselves at Fetin, who strode calmly forward, his sword still sheathed and his shield buckled at his side. “Wouldn’t do that if I were you,’ he said, a wicked and terrifying grin appearing on his face. “I got men all along this road, no less than a dozen arrows waiting to sing as they dive into your flesh.”
“Bullshit!” shouted one of the bandits, standing tall on top of the wagon. “We searched all through these woods, there ain’t no way a group of archers could get around us.”
Fetin’s eyes flickered briefly towards Arcaeus. “Is that so?” He said loudly and slowly. Arcaeus got the signal, firing a single arrow into the driver’s seat at the bandit’s feet.
One of the bandits dropped his weapon and leapt back immediately. “Good call,” said Fetin, a mere twenty feet from the wagon at this point. “Anyone else going to save their own life this day? Or is a wagon full of spices and silverware worth risking death for?” Two more of the bandits lowered their weapons slowly, giving each other uncertain looks.
“Scatter to the woods!” shouted the bandit on top of the wagon, making to leap off into the treeline. Arcaeus already had two arrows ready, putting them squarely into the bandit’s shoulder, spinning him in midair and causing him to slam uncontrollably into a tree. The other two bandits dropped their weapons and put up their hands.
The attack above was a ready action using Twin Strike. I just had to note that both attack rolls were natural 20s, meaning the target got royally messed up in a single masterful stroke. – The DM
Fetin moved swiftly forward to subdue the wounded bandit who offered no further resistance. Fetin tied their four sets of hands together with one long length of rope, leading them behind him like segments of a centipede. “Arcaeus!” he called to the woods. Arcaeus swung down from the tree, landing lithely on the road.
“What can we do for you, boss?” he said, getting a tingle of entertainment from keeping up the facade.
“Secure these fine folk and send them on their way. I’ll see you back at camp.”
“Of course,” Arcaeus said, watching Fetin as he led his train of prisoners towards Edelton. “I’ll send some of the boys to follow you through the woods, just in case.”
“Yeah, you do that,” Fetin shouted back over his shoulder.
Arcaeus nearly lost his balance as a Halfling body slammed against his legs. “Oh, thank you!” she cried, clutching onto him as though for dear life.
Arcaeus shot an awkward look towards the Dwarf. “Sorry, she is a very friendly sort,” the Dwarf said, forcing a hand between the Halfling’s shoulder and Arcaeus’s thigh. “Give the Elf some room.”
The Halfling took several steps back, but continued to bounce up and down on her toes. “Were you the one who fired those arrows?”
“Huh? Yeah, sure-”
“Are you really good with a bow?”
“Yeah, I’d say I’m pretty-”
“Where are the rest of the archers? Are they still in the woods?”
“Sure, they’re still hiding. Look,” he said loudly before she could interrupt again, “I just have to make sure you guys are able to continue on from here. You’re able, right?”
“We’ll be fine; the only damage done to our wagon was from that arrow of yours.”
“Great,” he shouldered his bow, realizing it still sat idly in his hand. “I’ve go- WE’ve got to head back now, so take care, okay?”
“Hold on there, boy,” said the Dwarf. He pulled out a scrap of paper and rummaged through his pockets, producing a pen. “If you are ever in Blueglen,” he said as he scratched out a few letters on the paper, “try to find us. I’d like to reward you properly, but nothing in this wagon belongs to us, so it’ll have to wait.” He offered the scrap of paper to Arcaeus, who grabbed it, gave it a glance, and tucked it into his armor.
“I’ll be on my way now,” he said, disappearing into the woods.
“Bye!” he could hear the high-pitched voice of the Halfling calling from behind him as he moved eastwards once again. “And thank you!”
+ + + Arcaeus scratched a rough map of the bandit camp into the dirt as Fetin spoke: the map was estimated from what he could see from the treetops, though the moonlight and low fire from the lamp made it difficult to see.
“So from the information I got out of those bandits, we can expect roughly a dozen bandits inside the fortress, about half of which will still be awake and patrolling while the other half sleeps. The leader of the bandits is gone, but that doesn’t mean they will be completely disorganized and unprepared. Expect about half of them to be bowman and the other half to be wielding melee weaponry. Is that map all set, Arcaeus?”
“To the best of my ability,” he said, lifting his lamp high with one hand and pointing at the map with a stick in the other. “Guards are on these walls, three of them. Each is patrolling a separate section of the wall. Seeing as they are Human, they are using lamps to help them see, but it gives them a limited range of effective sight, as well as making them clearly visible from the base of the wall. The walls themselves are about twelve feet tall, palisade, with a wooden platform eight feet high behind it to allow for well-covered archery positions. There are ladders at roughly every corner. There is one large building in the fortress which borders three sides of the wall with a eight-foot gap between the walls of the building and the outer walls of the fort. The main building as about thirteen, fourteen feet tall and has a hatch on the room leading into it. There is a campfire out front of the building, and though I couldn’t see it directly, I can assume there is at least one soldier awake and sitting by that fire, likely more, and the fire probably illuminates just about everything in the area in front of the house. So the question comes down to exactly how we are moving about in the place?”
Fetin made a motion with his hand and Arcaeus handed him the stick. “Right now, we’re here.” He drew an X a short distance from the eastern wall, “and the main entrance is here,” he drew a thick line on the western wall near the south end. “You and Ilfari should be able to get over this wall right here while the guard is patrolling the far side of the wall, get onto the roof of the building, let yourselves in, and cause some havoc therein. About three minutes after you clear the wall, Bogrin and I can charge in from the front: our armor won’t make climbing the wall easy, and I can’t see as well in the dark as you all can, so I’ll need that campfire to do my fighting.”
“What do you want us to do inside the fort?” asked Ilfari.
“Whatever you can do; if you can steal some weapons, get a few to surrender, knock a few out, or jam some doors, the whole task will be much simper. Anyone else with suggestions or ideas?” The party members each shook their heads no. “This guard here should be doing the far side patrol soon, so get moving.”
The torchlight on the wall was receding when Arcaeus tossed the lasso up, hooking it on the palisade wall. He made his way up first, Ilfari following behind. When she reached the top, she tossed the rope back down to Fetin, who began coiling it up as he and Bogrin began slowly creeping towards the main entrance. The guard on patrol was already making his way back.
“This building looks higher than it did from afar,” Arcaeus noted, “and this platform is pretty thin. We’ll need a running start to get up there.”
“Yeah, I’ve done enough time on the streets in the urban jungles to know how to hop roofs, okay?” Ilfari stated proudly.
“Well, let’s just get this plan rolling,” Arcaeus said. He began jogging parallel to the wall, picking up speed, then turned sharply and jumped, getting his hands on the roof and practically vaulting himself up. He waved for Ilfari to join him. She did the same as Arcaeus, picking up speed and turning to jump, but as she turned her feet caught on each other and she flew off the wall in an uncoordinated heap, slamming into the side of the building and tumbling to the ground, recovering only in time to land safely.
“Ilfari!” Arcaeus hissed over the edge of the wall, staring in the nearly pitch black area between the building and the wall.
“Not a damn word, Elf,” she said, the sound of a dagger being drawn ringing from below.
“They must have heard that,” he said, turning to check on the guards. “The wall patrols are coming this way, and I’m pretty sure I hear talking inside.”
“If you can hear them inside, then they can hear you outside, so shut up already.”
A guard waved his torch around in the gap between the wall and the building, the light coming off of it not strong enough to expose Arcaeus, but he could see the guard was going to find Ilfari if he continued on his path. Though Arcaeus could only see a small portion of the guard’s body from his high vantage point, he swiftly loosed an arrow, what should have been a fatal shot struck his shoulder as he turned. The guard was stunned for a moment, but manage to shout “intruders!” before hurling his torch with his remaining good arm onto the roof, lighting up Arcaeus like day. Several arrows whizzed by, the roof was too low to be effective cover, so he fired a couple more arrows before sprinting and leaping from the wall, landing on the archery platform, and lying prone.
The guard with the arrow in his shoulder made his way along the wall, trying to bring Arcaeus back into sight, when a knife whistled up from below, missing his face by inches and flying off over the wall. He turned and tried to nock an arrow to fire back, but the next knife caught him in the throat, sending his body over the wall as he stumbled backwards into it. Ilfari could hear another approaching her from around the corner on the ground, so she readied her daggers. The footprints approached quickly and, when merely feet away, she leapt from around the corner, striking her opponent with a quick succession of blows that left him dead before he could react. Arrows whizzed by as guards further down the alley fired upon her, causing her to dive for cover.
An arrow missed Ilfari by mere inches as a guard on the wall above fired down. She reached for another throwing dagger when two arrows fired by Arcaeus killed the attacker. Arcaeus then swiftly turned and delivered another arrow directly into the chest of a second bandit approaching from the other side of the wall, then dropped to the ground through the gap. The bandit made as if to follow, but slowly his legs buckled and he collapsed.
These two kills were a nice double that came about with the use of an action point and a daily power, the ongoing damage of which killed the second offender. – The DM
Arcaeus moved to the corner opposite of Ilfari, firing around it as bandits tried to make their way down. Deciding that getting surrounded by bandits wouldn’t be great for his health, he climbed the nearby ladder, charging his way down, diving to his stomach occasionally to take cover from arrow fire. Not only were the bandits down that alley following up the ladder, but he could see now that bandits were pouring from the hatch onto the roof. He took up position at the front end of the fortress and fired arrows at them.
Meanwhile, Ilfari was holding off several bandits in the thin confines of the alley. Several had moved backwards, climbing the ladders to get better shots at her, but there were still several within a sword arm’s reach. As she struggled to hold her ground, a ruckus arose from the entrance as Fetin and Bogrin forced their way in, pounding on the defenders who were moving back. Distracted, one of the bandits fell to a well placed knife thrust from Ilfari while the rest moved back to handle Fetin.
There was a great clatter as a tall bandit landed behind her, having leapt from the roof to the wall, then again to the ground. Unlike the rest, who were clad in leather and preferred daggers and bows, the bandit before her now wore hefty chainmail and carried a wicked looking broadsword in one hand, a mace partnered with it in his other hand. Ilfari brought her knife downwards, intending to catch him in the neck, but he caught her attack with an overhead block using both his weapons. He attempted to kick her backwards, but she rolled sideways before it could connect, leaving a cut on his arm in return. As she straigtened up, the mace grazed her head, sending blood flying against the wall. Dazed, she was barely able to avoid the arrows that came from above by the archers nearly blind by the pitch-blackness of the gap.
Ilfari decided this opponent was a bit too dangerous for her to handle alone, turning to retreat towards where Fetin and Bogrin fought. Two bandits already laid at Fetin’s feet, but arrows were raining down from the rooftop. Ilfari turned to hold off the bandit again, trading blows by the camplight. Fetin soon ran to join, surrounding and overwhelming the bandit. He got several good blows in, but in the end, their combined assault brought him to his knees. Fetin moved to finish him quickly so he could move on to the archers.
“Hold…” the bandit said between his blood-drenched teeth, his weapons clattering to the ground. “Men, hold!” he shouted again, his voice carrying around the camp. Arrows stopped flying and bows lowered. Arcaeus raised himself from his position on the wall and Bogrin held his divine power in check for a moment. “No more need to die today. Put down your weapons. We will go quietly.”