We’re always suspicious when another party try to share our campfire. Tonight, in the hills less than a week from Sandona was no exception. I am called Bedaris, of the elven lands of Turlai. I travel with a party of adventurers, some acquaintances, some friends. They are the Northman Dyergan, a great warrior, the dwarf Wogan, a warrior priest from Khardova, the thief Urda, a woman from the blacktown of Etrak and my apprentice, Meirlaia, also a Turlai elf.
This group who we encountered were all human, so we were immediately suspicious of them and them of us. They exchanged few words apart from their leader speaking softly with Dyergan, warrior to warrior. Each of them wore an unusual symbol that I could not place. Any group travelling under a symbol are even more likely to be quarrelsome.
“Steer clear of this lot,” Wogan whispered to me. “Marks of Almar on them, church folk can’t be trusted.”
“Armers you think,” I asked. The Armers were a radical sect of the Human religion who not only hated outsiders, despised spellcasters like Meirlaia and myself.
“Can’t be sure, not the symbol they wear, can’t be sure.” Wogan spoke in a deep bass, often repeating phases for effect. Most others found him dull and slow but his advice was always right on target. It was his opinion I always valued the highest.
If an Armer suspected someone of spellcasting they could arrest them in the name of the church immediately. That was the law of this land, although we would be unlikely to surrender without a fight any confrontation with armed warriors would result in casualties we could ill afford. Urda was staying well away from the strangers by herself but Meirlaia was talking idly with one of the strangers.
Meirlaia had been my apprentice for only a few months but she had already proved to be foolhardy and naïve at best. At first I let her speak her words, trust her judgement as I was supposed to but after a small while more of the strangers gathered around her. They all still wore their swords and armour, which should have been unnecessary with camp made. I motioned to Dyergan but he was already moving to get his enormous two handed sword, pretending to sharpen it. Urda, in the shadows, no doubt had knives by the cartload hidden in her clothes, she allowed me to see a glint of steel, though I trusted her to be prepared. Wogan was less subtle, taking up his mace and shield and walking over to the strangers.
“Best get your gear off and relax, men of Farah. We don’t wish to be armed all night.” The men looked up and the dwarf and snarled. Meirlaia looked over shocked and took a step back from the man she was talking, not realising she was already surrounded.
I stepped closer, trying to hide the fact that the pole I was holding was not a walking stick but was in fact a javelin ready to be thrown.
“Come over here Meirlaia, help me get dinner started.”
“Two elves travelling in one group. Not often we see your kind here, pointing eared one. Can I ask what your purpose is in our lands?” The man was not the leader who spoke to Dyergan but another, making no secret to the broad sword at his waist.
“Perhaps in good time friend,” I said through clenched teeth, “first we must get our meal started, and you should put away your weapons.”
Meirlaia tried to walk back over to me but she was stopped by another of the strangers.
“No matter, your apprentice here has told us enough already.”
I looked over to Dyergan and he stepped forward holding his two handed claymore threateningly.
“Let her go and be gone, you have overstayed your welcome,” Dyergan said menacingly.
The man merely laughed and motioned to his lackeys who moved on Dyergan and me.
I thrust hard at the first soldier but he parried my blow. Dyergan had two men to fight and was grimacing with effort, swinging his huge blade.
Wogan moved to rescue Meirlaia but he too was outnumbered. Meirlaia was foolishly trying to cast a spell but the man who had her was throwing her round like a rag doll and she could do nothing. The helpless girl had never learned to truly defend herself, as much as I tried to teach her of the need.
I tried to cast a spell of my own in the chaos but the man I fought would not give me the time. Eventually I released a simple fire spell that distracted him enough to stab him in the leg. Although he was still mobile and I was forced to fight on. But moments later he let out a yelp and collapsed. As did one of the men fighting Dyergan, while our leader felled his other adversary immediately.
I launched my Javelin at one of Wogan’s adversaries, seconds before the Dwarf was cleaved in two and Dyergan finished his other. In the chaos I lost track of Meirlaia and the man. Urda, who’s knives had swung the battle was nowhere to be seen either.
Wogan started his best dwarf sprint towards where he knew they went. I followed to find Meirlaia, soaked to the bone, shivering, but standing still, over the body of the man, who also had a knife in his back. She had no doubt finally got a spell to cast, though a clearly crude and ill-advised one. A ball of ice from that range could have killed her.
I went over to Meirlaia, draping my cloak over her shoulders and whispering encouragement in her ears. Urda, who had already gone through the man’s pockets, threw me a small medallion with a sun and a fist on it, the symbol of the Armers. We should have known. Travelling in the lands of men would only get more dangerous.