that a Piken in your hand, or are you just happy to see me?
- 24 Oct 2005
Arty took a long pull of the warm ale in his mug, and leaned
back against the bar. Gods, the stuff was awful! It seemed like the Searing must
have permanently stunted the barley plants in Ascalon, adding insult to injury.
It would be better cold, he thought. I really ought to spend some time working
with a master of Water Magic.
companions shared his opinion of the vile brew. Sanskirt sadly regarded the pale
liquid in her tankard. Not even the blessings of Dwayna can moderate the
bitterness of this horrid beverage.
smiled humorlessly. Perhaps its made from undead grain. She
made a face. Certainly tastes like it. She looked over the morose
crowd in the small tavern tent. It reflects the mood of this pathetic outpost
glanced around at the customers. Vex was right. The atmosphere in the smoky tent
was defeated and grim. It was frustrating. Hadnt he and the Realms Beyond
team eliminated significant threats to the small encampment? Theyd have
been overrun with Charr by now if it werent for us! And they cant
even seem to work up the energy to lift a finger in their own defense!
thought back over the last couple of weeks. Vex, when dyou think it
all started to go downhill? Was it before, or after the Wall fell?
considered, dark brows furrowing. You know, I think it was before that.
Remember when we first came to Piken Square? They were tired then; Duke Barridin
couldnt even send out regular patrols.
broke in. These Ascalon soldiers, and I use the term loosely, are lackwits!
That guide they gave us to see us here led us right into a huge Charr
patrol! Dont forget how we were all running for our lives after that idiot
got himself killed. She tried to assume a solemn expression, but Arty could
see mirth peeking through underneath. It was doubtless Divine Intervention
that guided our steps here.
snorted. Yeah, dont call it blind luck, which it was!
She paused to backhand a ranger who had invaded her personal space once too often.
He went down like a poleaxed bull. She placed one brown foot on his behind and
continued, I still cant believe Lord Darrin sent us back here, instead
of keeping us at Fort Ranik! After we single-handedly found the Charr army and
warned Callahan and the rest of the Wall troops! Some thanks we get, returned
to this backwater! She kicked the unconscious rangers butt for emphasis,
earning a drunken cheer from one particularly inebriated table.
gloom seemed to settle over the little group. It really wasnt fair, Arty
thought. We do more to make a difference in Ascalons defense than any other
soldiers, and they still dont take us seriously. For the hundreth time,
he silently cursed SoulFlayers whim that had sent them here with the injunction
to wear no armor, use no more powerful artifacts than what they came here with.
the other hand, it had worked to their advantage at least once: sent out from
the Wall to spy out the position of the Charr, they had accidentally given themselves
away just as they came up on the huge enemy encampment. It was his fault, Arty
admitted to himself, once again grateful to his friends that they never rubbed
his nose in it. He had turned his foot on a stone as they climbed for a better
look, and the stone had gone skidding down the hillside, making an unfortunately
loud racket. He had nearly followed the stone, only saved by the quick hands of
Sanskirt and Vex, each grabbing an arm, arresting his slide.
moment of horror was forever etched into his memory. He had stared directly into
the eyes of Bonfazz Burntfur, the Charr leader. Burntfurs eyes had widened
as he took in the vast expanse of human skin before him, and almost involuntarily
it seemed, had turned to one of his lieutenants, gesturing at Arty, roaring out
words in the Charr language that Arty didnt understand, but that he could
get the meaning of nonetheless: Is this a joke?! Theyre not wearing
any clothes!! Burntfur started to laugh.
Vex and Sanskirt decided to beat a hasty retreat. Luckily, the Charrs mirth
gave them some extra seconds; the element of surprise slowed down the enemys
reaction just enough that the humans were able to make it back to the Wall and
safety, at least for the moment.
Callahan had thanked them perfunctorily before he started shouting orders for
the general retreat to Fort Ranik. But they were not to go with the troops; they
were to head back to Piken Square for more special duties, Callahan
said. Make work! Sanskirt had growled, disgusted.
back to Piken Square they had gone. Still not wearing a stitch more than
underwear, I see, Duke Barridin had said, voice dripping with contempt.
Well, Ive got a few easy tasks for you, that even armorless rejects
ought to be able to handle!
that rankled, Arty thought. Just when he thought that their deeds would be earning
them respect, they were relegated to message delivery service again. Take this
casualty report to Tydus. Take a return message to Cortis. Search for family crests
on abandoned battlefields. Make work.
they were making headway. They had found the lost supply column that Ascalons
Finest, as Sanskirt scathingly called them, had managed to lose. They saved
Aidans bacon when he suicidally charged a group of Charr, roasting the beasts
alive with fire called down from the heavens, and dark magic rising from the earth.
oddest adventure, though, had come when, returning to Piken Square from Ascalon
City on yet another mail run, they had found the outpost besieged by a small,
yet effective Charr force, led by a formidable captain.
we can take them; theres only a few of them! Arty started jogging
down the path, preparing Firestorm to rain down destruction.
dont! Dont charge in! Vexs voice was anguished, but it
was too late; the captain had seen him, and had ordered his troops to attack.
crazy. Serious death wish, Sanskirt sighed, marshalling her healing powers.
happened very fast. One moment Arty had raised his hands in the invocation for
Firestorm, the next moment a Charr Axe Warrior had crashed into him, and he felt
a tearing pain in his midsection. Then he had the odd sensation of floating above
the battlefield, watching his friends prudently retreat and separate the Charr
warriors, picking them off one by one. I must be dead! This is weird! Oooh, musnt
look toward the light!
came the even stranger sensation of being forced back downward, into his body.
He rose unsteadily. Thanks, Sanskirt.
dont do that again, Hair-On-Fire-Boy! The monk made a fierce face
at him, and he raised his hands, pretending to fend her off.
coolly remarked, Enough with the reunion. The captain is still standing,
and we have to take him out. Now, this time Arty will stay back, and Ill
feather him with a few arrows to start things off. Hit him with Firestorm, and
Sanskirt will show off those sword skills shes been learning.
went better that time. In less than a minute, the Charr captain had fallen, and
the Seige of Piken Square had been lifted. Arty thought optimistically that they
might have earned some real respect around the place this time; he had seen Ascalon
citizens watching from the walls. However, he was wrong.
Barridin was as arrogant as ever. Havent you morons figured out yet
that youre supposed to wear armor?!