Shadows of the Mercenary Part 1

02 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
9am, Moonday

Around noon a full company of foot soldiers with a squad of cavalry arrived on the outskirts of Fort Farhills. The majority of the soldiers appeared to be humans in black leather or chain mail, with an occasional hobgoblin. Three individuals on horseback approached the main gate to seek audience with the fort: A tall slender man in plate mail, a woman and a hobgoblin in black leather.

The flag that flew over the “visiting” company’s encampment was vaguely familiar, and was also emblazoned on the chest of the slender man’s plate mail.

Black_Sun.jpg

Daelin turned to the party, and remarked on the logo on the flag.

“Anshar, god of darkness and warfare. Technically evil, although he has followers among the more pragmatic mercenaries or soldierly orders. Anshar tends to dispute the leadership of Rao among the Pantheon. And, sadly, his faith is flourishing far better than many of the members of the Pantheon after the fall of Wensharia.”

Nitram nodded sagely, already familiar with the design.

Aeron pointed out to the party that according to his research that morning, the stone was now essentially powerless. It appeared that the stone’s effort to tempt Nitram were the last vestiges of its power. The ritual Aeron and the apprentices had used to defeat the storm ritual also had the effect of dispelling the power of the stone, similar to what had happened to the Sentara meteor.

As Aeron looked over at the approaching troops, he remarked “As to these…let Lord Nitram deal with them.” Aeron chuckled as he left the top of the walls and worked his way back to Belcadiz tower, apprentices in tow.

On his way to the gate, Nitram found the Lt. and told her, “Increase the archers on the wall, and make sure the Princess’ presence is not obvious from the courtyard. If I bring them in here, I don’t want them to learn anything about the fort’s capabilities. Try to disguise our arms and supplies.”
Nitram went to the gate and had it opened. Standing before the three figures, he asked, “I don’t recognize that flag – which kingdom do you hail from? You have quite fortuitous timing; you just missed a severe arctic storm. I am Nitram Tam, overseer of this fort for King Kashue of Falconaire and Queen Belcadiz of Aelvinwode. Whom do I have the honor of speaking to, and what brings you to our borders with such vigor?" He looked off in the direction of the infantry and cavalry before turning his gaze on those in front of him.

Blend surveyed the force arrayed outside the walls and attempted to assess how many there were. He also tried to discern any individuals that stood out, perhaps a spell caster, priest or even a fellow “merchant” or two. He paid close attention tho the uniform they were wearing, any particular rank markings and anything that would help him craft a disguise if needed. After all, they had to sleep sometime.

Blend’s observation of the company of soldiers was fairly easy and gathered solid information. Although people were milling around too and fro, he was certain that the foot soldiers numbered around 200 or so. The cavalry was easier to count; there was 12 of them, not including the riders approaching the gate. Several individuals stood out; easily discernible were a couple dozen hobgoblins, and what appeared to be potentially half-ogres. Stationed to the rear and far side of the company was a squad, formerly unnoticed, of brutemen (included in the 200ish).

Uniforms were easily distinguished, a motley but somewhat coherent ensemble that nearly always included a black tabard and some type of black cap or helmet. The troops were too far away to determine rank markings, although most of those giving orders seemed to be wearing chain mail, and their tabard had the Anshar logo with crossed spears under it.

The tall slender man removed his helmet and cradling it under his arm, replied to Nitram, while remaining upon his horse. “Well met Overseer Nitram, I am Cider deVilliers, mercenary captain and lord of the troops you notice behind me. To my left, may I introduce the lady Lt Shasta, and to my right, Lt Expedient, of the hobgoblin clan Gazorix. With your grace, and the grace of your King and Queen, we would request leave to shelter under your auspices, to acquire water from your streams and ponds, and hunt some game before we head off into the southern Skulen Hills on our task.”

Looking about with a rather incredulous eyebrow raised, deVilliers dismounted his horse and handed his helmet to Expedient Extending. His hand towards Nitram, he asked, “Arctic storm you say, this far north? I haven’t experienced that type of weather since we were hired to purge a trade route of Cheysuli nomads near the frozen Clarity Lakes. Way south of Landfall and Rel Astra, as I am sure you know. Terrible thing fighting in the cold, even your armor can harm you should it get cold enough.” deVilliers nodded thoughtfully “Artic weather this far north you say? Nice fort, good walls.”

Trust is a difficult thing to expect of strangers Nitram thought as he shook Cider’s hand. “I’m not sure we have room for all two hundred of you, but I’m sure we can work something out to get you some water and game. Skulen Hills, you say. What task takes you there? Please forgive my caution. I’d like for us to remain on friendly terms as much as I’m sure you would. Who is paying for your services?”

Blend whispered to Nitram, “I don’t know the customs and courtesies surrounding the situation presented to us this moment, however, perhaps there is someway you can communicate with King Kashue magically to seek his guidance before proceeding? There may be ramifications resulting from your decisions.”

Nitram felt fairly certain that deVilliers was being upfront about his intentions and motives. It appeared he was just be cautious, and that camping outside the walls of Farhills was just a logical spot before they headed into the wilderness. Blend also believed Cider’s story, but could tell he was a little reluctant to discuss the particular’s of their expedition.

Nitram engaged Cider deVilliers in conversation concerning his employer and his expedition. While Cider felt it would be a breech of trust to discuss his employer, he did yield to Nitram’s inquiries about their task. “Unpleasant business to be sure” Cider stated calmly. “Mostly slaying goblins, harpies, ogres, etc, clearing a path to particular forest that has been long inhabited by evil druas, or shadow elves as you would call them. Secure the forest, find an old castle, turn it over to our benefactor, fairly standard stuff. It’s not within the boundaries of any of the nearby kingdoms, so there are no political concerns, like the time we liberated a village from Rel Astra.”

Lady Shasta had been cautiously surveying the interior of the fort, as mercenaries tend to do when bored, when she appeared to really notice Blend for the first time. Her face turned pale white and she blurted out “My apologies lord, I didn’t know you were here” as she stared straight at Blend. She began to dismount her horse when she was stopped by a raised hand from Cider. She paused, looked at Blend closer and said “My apologies good sirrah, I mistook you for another.”

Nitram followed her stare up to Blend and raised an eyebrow. Interesting. I’m sure there’s a story there, I just wonder if he’ll tell it, Nitram thought as he looked back to Cider. “Will you just be staying the night? Or would you or your lieutenants prefer to stay inside the walls? We might be able to find some accommodations for you. Lt Expedient, where does clan Gazorix call home? I’ve always been fascinated by other cultures.”

If Blend was surprised by Shasta’s reaction, he didn’t show it, nor did he react to the mistake outwardly in any way. Curiosity peaked, however, he did want to follow up with Lt Shasta further concerning the matter. “I’m sure we can find accommodations for you and your officers Captain deVilliers,” Blend offered, putting forward his best attempt at diplomatic charm and evening bowing slightly, with only the slightest sidelong glance at Nitram.

Cider, staring thoughtfully at Lt Shasta, replied “Yes, we would enjoy your company this evening, although I fear we would not be quite comfortable spending the night. Mercenary habits die hard as you know. But an evening should be fine. The troops will only need perhaps three days to re-provision, and we are on a schedule.”

Blend felt certain no one had noticed any reaction from him to the Lt’s odd outburst. He joined Nitram in offering welcome to the trio of officers. deVilliers warmed quickly to Blend’s conversation and seemed to have forgotten his officer’s faux pas.

While Blend and Cider were chatting, Lt Expedient dismounted and approached Nitram. Clearing his throat, the bulky, and slightly short hobgoblin stood bluntly in front of Nitram and replied “Clan Gazorix is but one of many clans in the great nation of Chadevar, on the shores of the Aes Draconis sea. It is west of Varencia and Crondor, located on the southern shoreline. Have you been there?”

There was the sound of a “Hrrrmpth” from the left side of the gate, where Shylent stood nonchalantly. Lt Expedient raised his hand palm forward in peace and said “Sei ruhig, würdig Krieger, there are no foes here.” Shylent raised an eyebrow, nodded, and walked away.

After a few more moments of chit chatting and small talk, Cider professed that they needed to see to setting up the camp, and would be back this evening, around sundown perhaps.

Nitram shook his head somewhat abashedly, “No. Unfortunately, my travels haven’t led me much beyond the borders of these kingdoms. One day, perhaps. I have only heard what tales the winds bring of those lands. Now, at the risk of offending, how is it that your clan lives it daily life? What I mean to say is, are they nomadic? Do you live in villages or towns with buildings? How does it compare to the lives of the humans and others of your race? What do the clans do to sustain themselves?”

“Capt deVilliers,” he continued, “if, for some reason, your are not able to accomplish your task, please stop by here and seek me out. I know some very talented individuals who may be of some use in such an expedition. Of course, they don’t number quite as many as you have out there, but can be just as effective, if not more, in such a quest. I wish you fortune in your endeavor.”

After hearing some tales of Lt Expedient’s homeland, the trio of officers departed and headed back to their camp site and their troops. Nitram clarified his orders concerning patrols and the watch with Lt Gentry and Sgt Slickster. Once all was in order, he discussed the situation with the Princess. (use Nitram IC)

The rest of the day was spend preparing. The cook and the quartermaster complained that they were not prepared after the feast to host dignitaries again at such short notice, especially after the unnaturally cold weather.

Later that day, the three officers returned and joined the leadership of the fort at dinner. Instead of their heavy armor, they were dressed in supple suits of leather armor. They were still armed of course. Nitram and Cider were set up at the head of the table, and the rest of the seats were left open to be filled as people felt inclined.

Blend noticed Solde the Grey, dressed in unobtrusive robes and a tunic, meandering through the dining hall. He looked for an opportunity to speak with Lt Shasta away from the observations of the other officers.

Aeron was busy researching abjuration magic to enchant Nitram Tam’s breast plate when apprentice Album knocked on the door. “Wizard Aeron, High Wizard Solde the Grey has left his chamber and is making his way to the main chambers.” Aeron was surprised at the rapid recovery of the great mage. Aeron left the tome of arcane protection open on the artificer table and hurried down the stone steps of Belcadiz Tower to escort the senior wizard.

Nitram thought about Blend’s warning. After the trio left in the morning, Nitram asked Aeron if he was able to communicate with Morgan DuBlade or King Kashue the way he did with Rashemon.

Lt Shasta seemed quiet, at least to Nitram. He focused his attention to conversing with Cider and the hobgoblin. He was fascinated by Cider’s “adventures” and extremely curious about Expedient’s home culture, so he focused his questions – and the conversation – on those two topics.

The evening seemed enjoyable. Cider regaled Nitram with various stories of the exploits of their mercenary band, and it soon became apparent that Cider like telling stories about combat, warfare, and the various expeditions the company had been on.

It also became apparent that “right” was whatever their employer had tasked them to do, and “wrong” was whatever their opposition cared about. Cider explained that they were “Very very good” at putting down rebellions and uprisings.

Blend had noticed Solde, and shortly thereafter he saw Aeron quickly enter the dining hall and approach the wizard. They both sat down at a table near the fire place, fairly close to the main table where the guests were, but off to the side and out of the way. Blend managed to sit next to Lt Shasta, who had situated herself near the middle of the table, closest to the fire, where she sat half facing the table and half facing the fire. Blend surmised that they were far enough from Cider and Expedient to not be overheard, but of course they could still be seen. Expedient stared at Blend thoughtfully for a moment, then went back to explaining to Nitram about the kingdom of Chadevar.

Aeron quickly gathered from Solde that he felt it was his duty in protecting the princess to at least listen and gather information about the situation. Although Solde still appeared somewhat weak, there was a fire in his eye that dared Aeron to do anything about it.

Blend kept his voice low as he addressed Lt Shasta. “I apologize if I was the inadvertent cause of some embarrassment earlier. I hope there was no trouble with deVilliers later on my account. I am curious, however. Who was it that you mistook me for? It’s not often that it happens and I’m afraid my curiosity has got the best of me. Perhaps a long lost relative I can reconnect with?” Blend paused and waited for Shasta to reply. He could perceive, quite easily, that Lt Shasta was initially indifferent to his questioning. She was quite polite, but after several moments of discussion Blend could tell she knew something, but was reluctant to discuss it for fear of repercussion.

Perhaps if they knew each other longer, or she felt should could trust Blend better, she would be more willing to discuss the incident. For now, she kept shifting the conversation to small talk and amazement at the construction of the tower. She had passed through here scouting several months ago and there had been nothing here at all.

Blend did not press the matter any further, instead joined Shasta in her small talk for a bit longer.

During Shasta’s small talk, Blend gleaned some information about her past. Most of her military career with the company had been north of the kingdoms, just past Cairnheim and near the western edge of the Skularian wilderness. Seemed a local lord considered one of the ruined castles up there as his, and a wealthy noble from Sanctorium considered it his. At the time there was a small dispute “wink, wink” between the Varencian empire and the Anguis Imperium in the area. A few night time raids and the two of them were fighting each other. After they licked their wounds and left, there was no “law” in the area, and the company sacked the local lord’s militia and secured the castle for the noble. Good times. They did have to fight off some bruteman tribes while the lord sent some people to secure his holdings. That was scary…so many of them.

Afterward, he caught up to Nitram and let him know that whatever the issue was, it would remain a mystery for the near future at least.

Nitram thanked them for the pleasant conversation and wished them luck on their expedition. After they left, Nitram asked Blend, “Do you want me to invite them back tomorrow night? The change in conversation has been nice and it might be your last chance to get anything out of her. We can stop by their camp after the hunt tomorrow. Get some rest – we’ll start at first light, for my sake.” Smiling, Nitram headed toward his room. He stopped at Solde to inquire about his health, “How are you feeling? You are moving much better than I would have expected at this point in time. Is there anything we can get for you?”

Solde remained seated as Nitram approached. “How I feel is of no consequence. Mercenaries dedicated to Anshar are in the area, we need to get the princess back to Aelveinwode.”

Nitram looked at the wizard, “Solde, I agree, but I cannot let the Princess return to Aelvinwode until I’m sure that the Ansharian mercs are truly on their way to the Skulen Hills. Once they have moved on, I will escort you back to your home. I am truly sorry for the delay and can understand the desire to return there. I’m going out to hunt a large Cerberus in the morning and check on the merc camp. I hope to be back by dinner.”

Solde then stood and leaned on Aeron, and retired to his room.

The trio thanked Nitram for his dinner and conversation, and late in the evening made their way back to their camp.

Seeing High Wizard Solde to his chambers, he said “Princess Belcadiz will be safe here under your care. We will see the Ansharian mercenaries away from the Farhills outpost and then return to escort you both back to Aelvinwode.”

Aeron then joined Nitram in escorting the mercs away from the town and the search for the Cerberus.

03 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
7am, Waterday

The next morning was cool, crisp, and promised to get colder, according to Jharron. There was a stiff breeze from the south, which made it even colder.

Nitram and Serre met Blend and moved to where he last saw the wolf’s tracks. Grasping Kinslayer, he began to track the creature. Serre split his time between walking behind Nitram, but was easily bored with the slow progress and spend most of his time flying around. Nitram hoped he was also trying to track the large creature from the air.

Aeron wrapped his cloak around his shoulders and set off into the cold morning air. Thinking about the ritual of temperature control they had discovered from the Ogre magi, Aeron spoke to Nitram and Blend, “The ogre magi were using the weather ritual all wrong. If we reversed the ritual temperature semantics it could allow us to create an area of year round moderate temperate at Farhills and the immediate area out to a 2 mile radius. Between the temperature moderation and irrigation from the Princess Belcadiz fountain, we could grow crops year round.”

“That is an interesting concept,” Nitram replied, “but I think it would have a negative impact on the natural order of things within the radius as well as the surrounding areas. Besides, didn’t that stone need the illearth entity. I have a faint memory of there being some kind of presence in the stone. Like the one in the temple….”

Once Nitram found fresh tracks and knew they were close, he sheathed Kinslayer and readied his bow.

The group headed eastward out into the cold morning, in the general area of the “snow wall” and the direction of the ogre camp they had discovered.

About a thousand pace from the main gate, Nitram reached the spot where he had remembered seeing fresh Cerberus tracks. The windblown snow make tracking difficult, but Nitram managed to find faint hints of a trail and even a clear paw print or two.

Serre ran and jumped along the trail and even flew and glided from rocky outcropping to outcropping, pausing to ensure Nitram and the party did not fall too far behind. Every once in a while when Nitram tracked the beast in a unexpected direction, Serre would let out a frustrated screech, and then fly enthusiastically in the new direction.

After following the tracks for about a mile, the group met up with fresher tracks heading back towards the fort. The party paused to consider whether to follow the old tracks to their “source”, or follow the fresh tracks. The more recent tracks headed in a northwesterly direction, and if they continued on that course would pass north of the fort, potentially near the recent mercenary encampment.

Aeron had a sudden uncomfortable feeling, as he recalled that this was the creature one of his stray arrows had wounded. He addressed the hunting party, “Perhaps we should follow the older tracks to its lair and set a trap for the creature. We need to find out if we are dealing with one creature or a pack of the beasts. At the very least, it will save it the trouble of dragging us back to its den.”

“Aeron,” Nitram replied, “when we were still in the valley, I checked the pen after the dust had settled. There was only this one set of tracks. I understand your concern and setting a trap seems logical; however, I’m not sure that it’s had much time to pick out a lair yet. It’s probably going from one shelter to the next as it finds them while hunting. I’m more concerned that it is actually hunting us…or maybe just you. I’d like to follow the fresher tracks to save us the time of tracking the older ones back here to where they become fresh. We don’t have a lot of time to spend following this thing – at least until the mercs leave and the Princess is safely back in Aelvinwode. It seems to be staying near the fort, either it has a problem with us or thinks we may provide a more stable source of food. If it’s headed towards the mercenary camp, it’ll give us an opportunity to check on them as well.”

Hopefully the squad I sent to the valley tower didn’t run into this beast. Nitram thought to himself as he began moving to follow the fresh tracks. “Aeron. Blend. Please keep your eyes out for the creature. I’d hate for it to be laying a trap for us that we weren’t ready for.” Nitram grasped his bow as he moved on. He looked at Serre, sitting on a small rock outcropping, whistled at the griffon and gestured in the new direction. Fresh tracks. Back this way. He thought towards his young companion. Watch for large wolf.

03 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
8am, Waterday

After about a quarter mile of travel, Nitram and the party discovered the “fresh” tracks intersected with the old tracks. And the tracks that the group had made previously. Investigating a half mile further along, the fresh tracks met up with the party’s earlier trail again. The tracks were obviously only about 30 minutes old, and Nitram had the feeling that the tracks were bigger than he had seen before. But it was the same creature.

Farther along the fresh trail, the tracks continued towards the fort and the mercenary camp. But just before that (the fort and the camp could be easily seen in the distance to the west) they met with the trail of the squad from the previous day.

It looked to Nitram as if the creature had paused, then continued west by north west.

At least he didn’t head after the squad. Nitram looked in the direction of the tower valley then back in the directions of the tracks, “These tracks are only about thirty minutes old. It looks like the Cerberus is headed toward the merc camp. " Nitram whistled at Serre and pointed towards the merc camp, “Can you find the wolf?” Nitram moved a little faster with the easier tracks, wondering why they seemed bigger. Maybe they used blood magic to make it grow rapidly. If that’s the case, this is not going to be easy. I wonder what else blood magic could do to it? It might just be that it has a rider on it…that would make the tracks bigger. I guess we’ll find out soon.

The tracks north led to a slightly hillier and rockier area. Serre began screaming and circling low over the area. When the party passed around some rocks they saw the entrance to a ravine, with multiple sets of tracks leading in and out of the mouth, which was about ten feet wide and obscured from the air by low trees and brush.

Lying in front of the entrance to the ravine was the body of a man dressed in black leather. The figure was gutted and blood was strewn across the snowy ground.

Nitram looked at the body It just looks like he was killed right, not eaten? Trying to determine if this was a kill for fun or for food and then up at Serre. “Wolf?” he thought to his companion.

“Well, Aeron, it looks like we found its “lair”. Nitram stowed his bow and drew Kinslayer again before slowly proceeding into the ravine. “Shall we see if anyone is home?”

Aeron touched one of the gold embroidered sigils on his gray robes and a momentary wave of blue lightning washed over him. He then unslung his bow and spoke arcane words softly over it enchanting it to strike with the force of a ballista. Nodding to Nitram he readied an arrow to cover the rangers advance into the den.

“Not to be paranoid, but this ravine is so narrow and overgrown that we will lose all benefit of the bow. I have little interest in hand to hand combat with a Cerberus. Perhaps we can bait it out.”

As Nitram approached the narrow brush covered ravine entrance, stepping around the body of the mercenary to do so, Serre began to hiss from his perch above the entrance to the left. Although the ravine was full of shadows, Nitram could see that it turned sharply to the right after about five feet. The low brush overgrew the edges of the ravine, in some place creating a roof that was about six or seven feet from the ground. And there were thorns.

Nitram looked at the young griffon, “What?” He stopped and considered the elf’s caution. Well. I have no desire to try to smoke him out by burning the growth, but I will consider trying to trap him or some other way of drawing him out. Do you have any suggestions?"
Nitram began working on a snare trap at the entrance to the ravine. “If we’re going to wait here for it to come out, we need to make sure there aren’t any other exits.” Once the trap was set, Nitram began scouting around the ravine to see if there were any other ways in or out. “Serre, can you keep an eye on this entrance?”

“I can be the bait if you think that’s the best idea,” Blend said as if it was nothing of import.

Nitram looked at Blend with a slightly confused and amused facial expression.“If that’s what you want to do. I think we should set the trap and ensure there aren’t any other ways out of that ravine. Then Aeron and I can position ourselves to flank the entrance with our bows. Maybe you can drag the dead body away as part of your ‘baiting….’"

Aeron searched the body of the mercenary. “Why was this lone mercenary out here by himself? Perhaps he was a messenger or spy.” Aeron turned his attention to merchant Blend. “To bait the dog, you must have the reflexes of a cat” Aeron moved his hands and enchanted the merchant with superhuman reflexes. Then motioned for him to enter the ravine.

Blend paused briefly for the magic to settle over him. He seemed to judge how his body would react to the enchantment, tensing and flexing his muscles ever so slightly. Once satisfied he knew how his body would react, he moved like a silent shadow into the ravine.

As Merchant Blend entered the ravine, Aeron motioned at him and Nitram with a small piece of copper wire to allow them to communicate in whispers.

Cerberus_Ravine_01.png

As Aeron searched the mercenary it became apparent that the man had been killed elsewhere and then dragged here and gutted. There was nothing else out of the ordinary on the corpse, and the man’s short sword was still in the sheath.

When Blend entered the ravine, he could tell that after a short turn to the right, it continued northward into the brush, growing slightly narrower as it went. So far there was no sign, other than a multitude of tracks leading in and out, of the creature they were hunting.

Blend crept forward, wary for the beast that made this ravine its lair.

Aeron knocked an arrow and took cover behind the rocks to the east of the entrance and awaited Merchant Blends return with the beast in pursuit.

Nitram hid next to the tree just west of the entrance , his bow ready.

Blend was very quiet as he moved into position. In the dim light he could see that the ravine did indeed turn northward. It also grew narrower and shallower as it went back into the hillside, eventually reaching the top of the little bluff of dirt and rock. There was no Cerberus to be seen.

Aeron and Nitram had readied arrows, and waited patiently for some word from Blend. Aeron noticed an odd thing occurring in the snow to his left, fresh large paw prints that were slowly appearing and heading towards his position.

Cerberus_Ravine_01a.png

Aeron brandished a griffon feather and made some rapid incantations to push off from the rocky ground and glide skyward 20 feet above Nitram. Whispering to the others, “The devil dog is amongst us!”

Nitram turned to look at Aeron, just in time to see him take off from the ground. “Where?” Nitram whispered back.

Nitram looked around and then up at Serre, “It’s here. Can you find it?”

Just as Aeron reached safe altitude, Nitram noticed a rippling shimmer in the air between Aeron’s former location and himself.

Sudden movement must have ruined the Cerberus’ unnatural blending type ability, because the party could now see the large creature slowly fading back to black and gray from an almost alabaster white. The creature whirled and charged at Nitram now that Aeron, presumably its former target, was now out of reach.

The creature’s middle head snapped and clamped down on Nitram’s torso with an unexpected quickness, and held it tightly for the other fanged heads to bite.

Cerberus_Ravine_01b.png

Aeron hovered above Nitram Tam and reached out to bend the tendrils of time accelerating the actions of the companions.

Blend spun and bolted toward the beast, Incarnhate appearing in his hand as if from nowhere. He maneuvered into position, prepared to tumble if the creature managed to attack him and flanked it with Nitram. It was his hope that the Cerberus was distracted enough to enable him to strike a vital area. As he led with his blade, Blend focused his ki through it and into the beast in an attempt to stun it.

The two side heads lifted their snouts to the sky in a howl of pain as Blend struck unexpectedly. The main head kept its fanged grip on Nitram’s torso, snarling and squeezing as it tried to wrench the ranger off of his feet.

Nitram dropped his bow and focused on breaking free of the dire Cerberus’ center jaw. Seeing Nitram’s struggle, Serre screeched and leapt from his perch. His flight path curved to the east before he pounced on the back of the large beast. He wasn’t sure, but it almost felt like he could hear Serre screeching KILLLLL! in his head as the griffon swooped down from the rocky outcropping and curved in to land on the Cerberus’ exposed flank, beak and all four claws slashing and gleaming in the sun.

The beak and talons of the enraged griffon tore grievous wounds along the side and rear of the massive Cerberus

Nitram almost pulled himself free the jaws of the Cerburus but couldn’t quite force the creature’s muzzle off of his torso. Fortunately, the pain and damage from Serre’s attack was enough shock to cause the creature to loosen its grip involuntarily.

Frothing at the mouth the creature’s center head again lunged at Nitram, sinking its fangs in Nitram’s lower leg as the ranger attempted to pull back.

Cerberus_Ravine_01d.png

Hovering above the devil dog, Aeron unleashed a salvo of three arrows, Aeron’s arrows raining down upon the fiendish beast. His first arrow snapped directly into the center of the creature’s spine, eliciting a howl of pain from the right side head. The writhing creature was difficult to hit, and Aeron’s other two arrows narrowly missed.

Cerberus_Ravine_01e.png

We need to end this before Nitram is torn to pieces, thought Blend. He focused and moved as fast as he could, moving faster than even Aeron’s enchantment allowed him to, Incarnhate almost invisible to the naked eye.

Blend’s blade emitted an almost humming sound as the Cerberus was carved into pieces and fell dead to the ground.

The dead Cerberus released its final grip from Nitram’s leg and fell crashing to the ground, great gashes across the rear half of its body.

The quiet of the battle’s aftermath seemed almost ominous.

Blend glanced over at the bloody ranger to make sure he was alright. He wiped off the ichor from his blade on the creatures fur. “Thanks for keeping the Cerberus distracted,” he deadpanned. However, in this rare moment of levity from the merchant, there may have been an ever so slight smile across his face and even more surprising, a brief look of relief.

“It was the least I could do,” Nitram responded. The absolute very least he thought to himself. “That was a pretty nice trick it did – going invisible like that. Let’s check out this ravine before we head back to the fort.” Nitram gingerly walked over and picked up his bow. He gave Serre a couple of thankful pats before heading to the ravine’s entrance.

While airborne, Aeron did a quick survey of the ravine to note the number and location of the exit points then landed next to the quartered Cerberus to see what manner of trinkets survived in it’s stomach. Perhaps there is a clue to what…or who it was stalking

Nitram looked at the hovering elf, “Did you see anything interesting up there?”

03 Jannissary (Winter) 509 PE (Year of the Ravens)
9am, Waterday

The brush covered ravine was only 20 to 25 feet deep, and apparently totally empty. Perhaps the Cerberus had ill-advisedly used it as an ambush point while hunting.

Aeron’s inspection of the carcass led him to find nothing of any substance, it appeared the cerebrumss had merely killed and ravaged the mercenary for fun, not for food. There was a day old grievous arrow wound on its rear right leg however.

Nitram took a few moments to clean and bandage his wounds. “I’m going to let the merc camp know they have a body here so they can deal with it. Aeron, do you need any Cerberus parts for spell components? I don’t really have a need for a Cerberus head on my wall, but maybe a rug. If only Blend hadn’t done so much damage.” Nitram smiled a little before heading in the direction of the camp. “Blend, I’d appreciate it if you’d accompany me to see what you can learn about these mercenaries. Plus, you may have a chance to talk to Lt Shasta again. If not, I’ll meet you back at the fort shortly.”

Blend nodded and waited to fall in behind Nitram.

Shadows of the Mercenary Part 1

Unconquered Kingdoms xLucix