Campaign of the Month: March 2008
The Nemedian Chronicles
Cuana Chapter 13 Entry 3
Chains. Rarely has anyone succeeded in binding me in chains. Manacled at the wrists, a length of chain between them, I held my arms low and in front of me. We were on a forced march, our captors upon horseback. All of us from the caravan of Artelios that had survived the raid had been similarly bound, our fate – to be sold into slavery. Those of us that survived, anyway. Occasionally a prisoner would stumble and fall, unable to continue after sustaining wounds in the capture, or from ill-health or physical weakness. Those that fell were run-through by the spears of our captors and left to rot on the dry stream bed we followed through the savannah.
Following the dry stream up a slope, I saw that trees grew close to either side of the stream bed, but not close enough to provide shade from the punishing heat of the sun. Just as we reached the top of the hill, a hail of javelins rained down on us from both left and right. Captors, captives, and horses were all struck in the ensuing chaos. Dodging the rearing horses of our captors and the continuing volleys of javelins, I saw one of the slavers trying to calm his frightened horse, my greatsword hanging in its scabbard from his saddle. Straining against the chain that held my arms manacled, I was able to snap one of the links in the center and gain full movement of my arms, and I immediately ran to catch the rider that had my prized weapon. I charged after the bastard, the maddening lust of battle pounding in my ears, and attempted to leap onto the horse’s back. I landed awkwardly and rebounded from the beast, landing hard on the ground, javelins continuing to rain about me. The horse bolted, so I bull-rushed it, knocking it to the ground. I made a grab for my sword as the horse was scrambling to it’s feet, and was able to get a solid grip on the hilt, but again, the horse bolted, nearly pulling me from my feet. I struggled to keep up, pulling at the sword hilt with all my might, until finally the scabbard gave way, releasing the sword as the horse fled amid the continuing hail of missiles.
I saw my three companions, Artelios, and his Stygian companion, Kopethu, a short distance away, beating a fast path into the cover of the trees, so I followed after them. A quick glance further on down the dry stream bed revealed Orafa, the captain of the slavers, leaving with two of his Tibu warriors. I will make a point of settling with him for binding me in chains.
We tracked the three riders from the cover of the trees, attempting to forage for food along the way. At one point, we came upon a small clearing with three of the largest, most odd-looking birds I have ever seen. In hushed tones, Ambrose implored Tullweim and I to lend him our blades so he could use his magical ‘flying sword’ trick to kill one for food. We agreed, and lending the Nemedian our weapons, he immediately slew one of the massive fowl, sending the other two fleeing in panic. We set to work butchering the beast, while the Aesir went about gathering fuel for a fire. A short while later, he returned with a large load of dung…..with all the kindling lying about, he comes back with a pile of shit with which to cook our food. While I am familiar with burning dung for utility or to keep warm, I am used to only using it for cooking food under the most extreme conditions. The others didn’t see it my way, saying that the fire would emit less smoke than a wood fire would. I argued that since none were about to see our fire, that it didn’t matter how blasted smokey our fire was, but my protestations fell upon deaf ears. Irritated and grumbling over the matter, I sat and awaited our glorious feast to be yielded up by the smokey caress of a giant shit-fire. After eating, I took the first watch, waking the Nordheimer after several hours to take over as I slept.
While foraging the following morning, Kopethu said that from what he had seen of Artelios’ map, Orafa is likely heading toward a distant mountain range. Striking out once again to the east, we made our way for several hours without incident, eventually coming upon a muddied pool of water surrounded by an odd assortment of animals – predators and prey alike, all sharing a place at the watering hole, as if they had struck some kind of truce. There were lions, antelope, zebra, wildebeest, boar, panthers – all sharing a place at the waters edge. Our waterskins nearly drained, we cautiously approached the watering hole to refill our skins and were surprised to see the beasts move aside to allow us access to the precious water. After hours under the punishing sun, the water was sweet despite the mud, and we drank deeply and prepared to refill our waterskins. Our respite was interrupted, the sound of thunderous footsteps running up toward us from behind. Quickly turning, we spied two massive beasts bearing down on us, both of them very dark gray – almost black – with thick bodies, legs like tree-trunks, and a massive, pointed horn at the end of their snouts. Tullweim and I each charged, meeting the monsters head-on. I hit one of the creatures twice, scoring massive gashes in the beast’s hide. Ambrose buried his blade just below the creature’s eye as it turned, ripping into my side with it’s horn. I swung again, sinking my greatsword deep into it’s flesh, but I missed a second swing as I shifted to get out of it’s direct line of attack. The Nemedian took advantage of the monster’s preoccupation with me, and sank another blade into it’s other eye. That did for the thing, and it hit the earth hard, never to rise again. I looked to the other monster, but both the Aesir and Hyrkanian had just delivered it a death-blow, and I had to leap aside to avoid the monster’s corpse landing on me. We made camp a short distance from the watering hole and slept well without incident.
With the Aesir using his tracking skills, we continued to follow after the three Tibu. The trail led to another dry riverbed, and following it, we soon came upon the bodies of slain Atlaia. Searching among the bodies, I was able to find two waterskins, as well as a moderately well-made knife. As we were searching among the dead, a rumble – distant at first but quickly growing louder – was first felt and then heard. We immediately made a dash for the cover of some overhanging rocks. No sooner had we gained cover than a herd of kine – water buffalo – came stampeding into view, hundreds of them running at breakneck speed along the winding riverbed. The ground shook ominously at their passing, as little bits of stone and dust showered down upon us from our hiding place under the rocky ledge. After what seemed a very long time, their numbers began to lessen, revealing the complete destruction of the corpses that had lain in their path. Nothing was left but a few scraps of bloodied pulp, not even enough for the carrion birds which had been feasting as we arrived upon the scene. A few seconds behind the stampede came one more buffalo, bleating in pain as it hobbled on a broken leg. Without so much as a word, the Nordheimer dashed out from our hiding place and slew the slow-moving creature, ensuring we would again feed upon meat that night.
Continuing east after the three slavers, we saw a figure suddenly step into view up ahead, stagger, and fall to the ground. It was a young woman, obviously a native. The Hyrkanian gave her some of his water, and she slept. Despite my desire to continue after the bastards who would have sold us into slavery, the others wanted to wait until she could be revived so that they could speak with her. Thankfully our wait was brief, for after only an hour or so she began to stir. Xacksmith took the lead in questioning her – apparently he could understand her primitive gruntspeak. She said that she was the daughter of a tribal King, and was on her way to a temple in the mountains to the east. The Hyrkanian offered to escort her to this temple, much to the agreement of Artelios and his Stygian cohort.