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Raiders of Kharne

Kelvomore turned to face the two magi, his thin lips formed into a threatening grin.  From beneath a furrowed brow, his eyes stared at the smaller men. 

"Pack it in will you, nobody gives an orc's dung what Brain-crystal looks like.  I've had enough, you've been on about nothing else all morning."  He was nearly shouting.

The heavyset dwarf, Wolf-guard, muttered in agreement.  Brianos, ever the joker was giggling, whilst trying to hide behind Drago and Zel. 

"And you, you shameless excuse for an elf," Kelvomore spat," I don't care how much practice you need.  If I'm one more gold piece short when we doss down, I'll ... I'll cut your thieving fingers off."

The others shuffles uneasily, it was rare for the human fighter to get so riled.  Magnum and Bohain exchanged a subdued glance, this argument would continue later.

Kelvomore was taking deep breaths, trying to calm himself down.  He turned his back on the magi.  One wizard in a party, he thought to himself, is enough, two, and you've got one long constant debate.

"  Zel," he said, turning to the priest, " You sure you can't cast this miracle and find out where we're supposed to be going?"

"I told you," Zel said, a little embarrassed. " In order for the Oracle to work, I need more information about it.  Now, Orcs or weapons, or even that group we had the punch up with.  They would all be no problem, but a settlement is something else."

"Call that a punch up?"  Bohain muttered, rubbing the deep scars that ran across his ribs.

"I though I told you to shut it," Kelvomore whispered.  The Magi's gaze drifted toward the forest floor, where the rotting leaves formed a thick carpet.  When Kelvomore stopped shouting and started to whisper, it was time to shut up.

"Right Brianos, get rid of that idiotic grin and scout around, see if you can find a trail or something.  I can't see a thing through these trees."

Still grinning, the elven thief took two steps backward and simply vanished into the silent forest.  Novala, Kelvomore though, he is bloody good, a pain in the rump, but good.

"Speaking for myself," Drago said, coming out of his reverie," I prefer the trees."  Bohain smiled, all three of the elves in the party found themselves at home in the dark woodlands. Wolf-Guard on the other hand, preferred the craggy mountain slopes, or - Bohain mused, a Tavern.

"How are we for rations?" Kelvomore asked of no-one in particular.

"Loads."  Zel said, still a little flushed.

"And arrows?"

"Enough ... quit worrying will you."

"Ah" Kelvomore gasped.  Fresh blood began to trickle from the deep wound beneath his right arm.  Another lasting reminder of the battle with those Goblin lovers who called themselves Tribal Tendencies or something.  The wound had been troubling him for days.  He really needed to rest and let it heal.  Or maybe, he thought, a Miracle.  He glanced across at Zel, no ... the priest still looked drained.

"Painful?"  Zel enquired, obviously concerned, and probably wishing he had the strength to cast some form of minor healing.

"More painful than a big bag full of painful things?" said a light elfin voice from the trees.  Brianos stepped out, a plump pheasant in each hand.  " You might like these later."  He was still sporting that infuriating grin, Kelvomore noticed.

"Well done, oh master of the bow."  Kelvomore said, bowing low with a theatrical sweep.

His mood somewhat lightened by the thought of fresh meat.  Then he was forced to wince as the cut opened a little more. "Find anything?"  He added through clenched teeth.

"Well there's a trail to the south.  I figure a mixture of humans, dwarves and half-bloods, maybe one elf..."

"Not flamin' likely."  Kelvomore interrupted, " It will probably be those nutters again."  Everybody looked toward the surly dwarf, who pretended to wipe some grime from his armour.

"... Or," the thief continued, smiling.  "  There's a cave entrance to the west."  His smile broadened to a deep grin, showing clean even teeth.

The entire group looked at each other, their faces forming wide, wicked grins.  Brianos laughed quietly, finding amusement, as always, in the faces of the others.  Their expressions showing the bond between them.

"Well?"  Kelvomore asked of the others.

"We don't know where this town is anyway."  Bohain pointed out.  Grim as always, Wolf-Guard simply nodded.

"We're in," said Magnum and Zel together, sharing a secret smile.

They all turned to face Drago.  The elven fighter was big by human standards, among his own kind he was a giant.  He lifted his head to face them, coming out of his own thoughts where he spent most of his time.

"Well.. we're still pretty beat after that last fight.." he started, then his face split into a deep grin.  The same grin that had conquered many a woman's heart throughout Kharne.  They all knew he was for the caves.

"Right then," Kelvomore said,  " Brianos, you take point, you know where this cave lies, and no mucking about.  Drago I want you up front in case of trouble, then Magnum, Zel and Bohain.  Wolf-Guard and I will guard the rear.  That all right?"  He looked over their faces seeking assent.  Then added, " Nobody does anything without my command."  Wolf-Guard shuffled uneasily, feeling the human's eyes resting on him.  Conscious of why the Kelvomore wanted him close by.  It had little to do with danger from any possible ambush.

With the thief leading the way, they reached the caves within the hour.  Losing the edge? Kelvomore asked himself, listening to their noisy passage through the dense undergrowth.  No, he realised, it was just that they were all tired after that last fight, won't try that again.  His thoughts drifted to the battle.  That dwarven fighter had been pretty good, what had they called him? .. Grax?  Something like that.  Wouldn't mind having him with us, or the priest, another dwarf.  I bet he can cast flaming Oracle, he mused, smiling even as he rubbed his aching wound.

"Here 'tis," whispered Brianos, dropping into a low crouch.  His face now serious, as it always was when there was work at hand.  The party quietly lowered themselves into the cover of ferns and bracken.  Kelvomore on his hands and knees crawled to the front of the line.  Wincing, as the rough stitching beneath his shoulder pulled painfully.

"See anything?" he whispered, drawing closer to the thief.

"Gobbo's," Brianos answered quietly, then, " three."  As Kelvomore gave him a questioning nod.

Seeing only two from his low vantagepoint, Kelvomore asked, " Where?"

Brianos nodded toward the cave entrance, raising two fingers as he did so.  Then pointing with a single digit to the aged oak above the cave entrance.

"You sneaky Gobbo."  He whispered.  Then looked into the elfin eyes, he knew he would have never spotted the figure among the dense leaves.

Following the fighter's silent signals, the group slipped into the foliage.  Bohain muttering an incantation as he left.  Behind him Drago held the long sword above the ground, creeping silently on his toes as only Elves can do.  Only Brianos could move with greater stealth.

Kelvomore looked across at the silent Wolf-Guard, the only dwarf in the party.  The grim bearded figure never spoke much, keeping company with himself for most of the time.  Kelvomore mouthed, ' carefully ', and raised a questioning eyebrow.  The dwarf reddened a little, and moved to follow the others, his face dour, set and flushed.

From his position beneath the gnarled Rowan, Kelvomore counted.  Happy that everyone would be set, he made a slashing movement with his hand.  There was a light 'swoosh', and the figure fell from the tree, a long black arrow held between clenched fists.  For a moment, the two remaining goblins stared in shock at their fallen comrade, Then startled into action, they reached for their weapons.  For the first it was too late, an arrow appeared in his neck before he had drawn the rusty sword.

The second was quicker, he was running for the cave entrance shouting, " AGAS DRACHNIA ..." He dropped to the ground, his cry cut off as Kelvomore's flail wrapped itself about his throat. 

As statues, everybody froze.  Waiting to see if the cries had been heard from within.  When it became obvious that it was safe, they moved toward the clearing.  Wolf-Guard administering the coup-de-grace.

Cautiously stepping into the darkness, Wolf-Guard led the way.  Kelvomore trusting the dwarven eyes to adjust quicker in the dark than his own.  They had brought no torches.  Which, the fighter knew, was a mistake.  Though who would have thought they would need them.  The plan after the City guard had thrown them out of Chodor, had been to travel through the dark forest.  Trusting the rumour that their destination lay on the other side.

"It's getting lighter."  Magnum whispered, as they inched along the short passage.

"The walls," Bohain answered.  It was true; the walls were covered in fine lichen.  The feint unnatural glow came from the walls. " Hah, I know what it is ... ":  Bohain started.

"Shush."  Kelvomore ordered, before the magi could start some new argument.  " Keep your eyes open and your mouths shut."

"Shush yourself," muttered a voice from behind Kelvomore.  It was made to sound like Drago, but Kelvomore knew it could only be Brianos.  Later, he thought, later.

Suddenly everybody jumped as Wolf-Guard screamed his war cry.  Kelvomore spun to see the dwarven fighter charging down the passage.

"Oh Gods.. He's off.. after him quick," he shouted.

In the narrow space it was impossible to move at speed.  The elves and humans, taller than the bearded dwarf, had to stoop low to clear the rough hewn stone that topped the passage.

They entered the cavern in time to see Wolf-Guard shaking his bloody club above his head.  The cavern echoed with his screams of victory.  Blood was spattered over his leather cuirass, about his feet, the crumpled remains of three goblins.

"FIRST BLOOD BELOW GROUND TO ME," the dwarf screamed as the last of them entered.

"Yup," Brianos whispered in Kelvomore's ear," You're right.. He's off."

© Johnie Walker 2004




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