By Brian Flood
Interlude - The Patrol
Along the Dusk Road
Between Asbravn and Hluthvar, The Sunset Vale
Mid-Afternoon, 4th Day of Marpenoth; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
The patrol has been moving steadily now for almost two days. Glancing over his men, Elmont is pleased with what he has seen. This foray had been his idea, after all.
There are twelve of them, all devout followers of Helm the Vigilant - the god of guardians. Besides Elmont, there is Sergeant Alexi - a war priest of Helm, and a ten man detachment of the Hluthvar militia. All of the warriors are clad in well-maintained suits of plate mail armor. Hand-and-a-half swords ride in scabbards over their back; their crossbows and quivers hang from the pommels of their war horses. They ride side-by-side in pairs with Elmont and Alexi at the fore, creating the impression of a well-disciplined military formation - which indeed they are.
Only Elmont marches on foot. This is not only a matter of choice for the crusader, but a matter of practicality, as well. Not surprisingly, few horses on earth can carry a six hundred and fifty pound, nine foot tall, plate mail armored giff.
Elmont is an imposing spectacle, even to those accustomed to him. An immense suit of plate mail, topped off by a black cape, protects his large, square body. A specially crafted great helm encases his hippopotamus-like head. Any humor one may feel at the sight of the giff's odd visage is immediately dispelled by the intense black eyes that stare back at the viewer. Over his back, the crusader wears a huge sword - larger than even the standard two-handed version of the weapon.
Looking up at the sun that has passed its zenith and is now heading west toward the distant, grassy horizon, Alexi turns in his saddle to address Elmont. "Lieutenant," the priest begins, addressing the crusader by his rank within the infrastructure of Hluthvar military, "I believe we have almost reached the extent of our patrol route. By my estimate, we have come some ten leagues or so. That would leave us two more leagues, according to the plan."
The giff nods wordlessly as he ponder's his subordinate's comments. True enough, the plan called for a twelve-league journey to the south of Hluthvar along the Dusk Road traderoute before the patrol turns to head back. In doing so, the small group of warriors has covered about 6 leagues a day traveling the road. That would leave another two leagues or so remaining in this day's planned route.
Glancing in their direction of travel, Elmont notices a single vulture circling far off in the distance. He judges the carrion bird to be about half a mile or so from the small patrol's position.
"Seems all is according to plan, Sergeant. That is good!" the giff says smiling, enjoying when plans are formed and executed without a problem. Then as he stares up and notices the vulture, an ominous feeling fills him with a momentary premonition of dread.
"Sergeant, I would like two soldiers plus myself to break rank and investigate the vulture, I have a bad feeling !" the giff says. "We will catch up within the half hour," he adds. As Sergeant Alexi is used to, Elmont's infrequent 'bad feelings' usually amount to a problem.
"Yessir," Alexi responds. Turning in his saddle to direct his voice back along the column, the sergeant barks the orders which will meet Elmont's intent.
"Jarrod, Ricardo - post!" Two of the armored Helmites break ranks and ride forward at their sergeant's call.
"You two will accompany the lieutenant on a small scouting foray. Look sharp - Lieutenant Elmont has reason to be wary."
"Yessir!" the warriors sharply bark in reply.
Looking to Elmont, Alexi says, "As you directed, I will stay here with the eight remaining soldiers. I trust you have some signal in mind to bring us forward?" the sergeant asks.
"Standard fire arrow to the north sky, two for an alright," Elmont remarks looking at Jarrod, making sure with a look that the man has his crossbow, quarrels, and tinder for a flaming arrow. Once done, the three move out to investigate the vulture and what it is hovering over.
"If there is an emergency," the crusader iterates, "only one will be fired." Once all agree, the small detachment sets out.
Elmont and the two soldiers begin to move cautiously down the traderoad. The giff leads the way on foot and the two mounted men follow riding side-by-side.
The trio has moved about one hundred yards or so when they notice a small mote of light - almost indiscernible at this distance - rise from the grassland to strike the vulture. The carrion bird jerks and then begins to slowly descend toward the east side of the road.
Elmont points to Jarrod and motions him to flank left, and then motions to Ricardo to flank right. Slowly, Elmont moves forward down the center of the road.
The Helmites have just spread out into Elmont's prescribed formation when they notice a small area of golden sparkles appear in the middle of road somewhat further south of where the vulture was. Squinting, Elmont's giff eyes strain to see further details. With effort, he can barely discern some sort of object in the middle of the road. At this distance - just under half a mile or so - he can tell that it is larger than a man, but not much more.
The trio moves slowly in their respective directions. Elmont's eyes dart from his two troops back to the glowing object in the middle of the road. He tries to get as close as he can to see it clearly.
Moving very slowly and cautiously, the three armed and armored warriors move just under one hundred yards in the next minute or so. As they slowly get closer to the shimmering object, they can see several man-sized beings scurrying about the thing.
Most of the movement seems to be to the east of the object - among the tall grasses that border both sides of the road as far as the eye can see. As the Helmites watch warily, a small group of men or humanoids closes in on a similar group that stands some fifty yards or so east of the road. One by one, the group moving from the large, glowing matter appears to overcome its opponent.
In just over a minute, the incident is over. Just as soon, the shimmering aura dissipates, revealing what seems to be some sort of merchant wagon that sits in the center of the road. The individuals that are still standing slowly move back toward the wagon.
Elmont puts his left hand out to Jarrod to stop his advance as well as to the other soldier. He strides forward toward the wagon, distancing himself as he does so.
When he is within a hundred yards or so, his voice booms out over the grassy plains. "Is everything all right, travelers?" he asks in his deep baritone.
The content of The Sunset Vale Saga are the property and copyright of Brian Flood, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.
Return to The Sunset Vale Saga main page
Return to Campaign Logs