Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!
I didn’t trust our Captain from the moment I saw him. His name was Durand Wildsong, a pretty boy as far as fighters go. That dimple did nothing for me, nor his long blonde hair and goatee. He wore a polished breast plate – which to me only attracted unwanted attention during a battle. His shield was a field of green with three intertwined roses. Lieutenant Rygar had passed on command to the Captain, which seemed a bit odd to me. I’d spent enough time near military camps when they came near our village to understand how the chain of command works.
Captain Wildsong gave us the usual pep talk, with just a touch of arrogance in his voice. “I’m your commanding officer. You new recruits, you don’t know our commands yet. Watch the other soldiers and do what they do, you’ll pick it up.” Apparently that was the depth of our training.
“As I understand it, you are here to deliver some message to the Gash. If proven wrong, I will dispatch you. I run a tight ship here. We have a long way to go – through the plains. It is not an easy journey to be sure. You will be given duties along the way, I expect you to follow my orders without question.”
I nodded. I didn’t like this guy’s attitude. Recruits? Ha! We were drafted. This was clearly a bit of spite on the part of the Vizir Krolf Lorraine for our going behind his back to get to Lord Sklaver. As if to accentuate my suspicions we saw the Vizir approach the Captain before we departed. The two spoke but I could not hear them. I did see that Vizir point to us. “You see that Theren?” I nodded at the two of them.
“I did,” the druid replied. With those words all of us, even that mute monk that had joined us looked over at the Vizir and the Captain of the Guard.
“This does not bode well,” Arius added. I noticed that his hand drifted to the pommel of his sword as he watched the Vizir. He was my kind of paladin. He was tolerant of people and the games they played, but when push came to shove, he responded with force. Paladins are complex people at times, and at others, very simple.
“We’re being set up,” Althalus muttered.
I tended to agree but held my tongue. The best that I could do is be prepared.
Our trek was slow – we were assigned to the rear of the column. We passed some farmers along the way, hauling their harvest to the city. A few offered us some apples from their carts, which was kind of them. The camp was very “military” in how it was set up for the night. The only advantage I saw to being with a larger party of armed men is that we were safer and we wouldn’t have to be up a good portion of the night on watch.
Our first few days and nights journey were dull, which was something that we all needed.
One farmer asked us where we were headed and Galinndan said we were headed to the Gash. “I’ve heard some strange things from there recently. That’s not unusual though. Strange stories are common around that locale.”
“Have you seen anything out of the ordinary yourself,” Althalus probed.
“There were some hoof prints I came across on the road a few days ago. We haven’t seen those raiders operating this far south in a while.”
“Raiders?” the warlock pressed.
We all looked at each other. Blackshear had mentioned killing the prince of the Minotaur’s. That was where he got those incredible battleaxes he carried. I wondered if it was the same ones he was referring to.
Captain Wildsong huddled with the farmer at the mention of the Minotaur’s then let the man go about his journey.
“Anything we need to be worried about Captain?” Arius asked.
“They have always been a bit of as problem – more in recent years. They seem to have bit of a hard-on for the Royal Guards. Our peace with them was bought with blood and certain conditions. Suffice it to say, they do not like the Royal Guards.”
“Great,” Althalus said with a chuckle, picking at the smock of the Royal Guards that we now wore. “It would have been funny except that’s now us.” The warlock was right – this did not bode well. I took a look at Dimitrios, the monk that had been at Althalus’s side since the city. He made eye contact with me with those penetrating blue eyes and offered only a shrug in response. I oddly was not creeped out by him. There are times silence is precious and a man that does not talk does not weigh you down with the burdens of his life.
The Captain continued, “One of our men, some twenty years ago, killed one of their leaders. Since then, well, they have wanted a bit of revenge. We have been able to deal with them, but it is always tense.” He cleared his throat and raised his voice for the rest of the troops to hear. “They will attempt to provoke us if we come across them. No one draw weapons or fly off the handle when that happens. I know what they want and I will handle this. They will look to you for reaction. You draw a weapon, they will counter thrice over…by killing us all.”
We huddled for a moment. “What do we know about Minotaur’s?” I asked. All eyes drifted to our druid Theren. If anyone would know, the tree-hugging druid would. He honestly looked a little embarrassed and at the same time, proud. “Aside from the usual half-bull, half-man, there’s not a lot known. They are said to be originally spawn of demons. Not all of them though. Some break their ties with the hell-spawn and form their own tribes and mate among themselves.”
I glanced over and saw Captain Wildsong pulling over one of the other guardsmen in hushed conversation. I nudged Theren and he saw it too. “I wonder what that’s all about.” I asked. It wasn’t until the next morning I received an answer. At daybreak the man that had been speaking with the Captain rose early and mounted up, riding out at a trot far off on the road ahead of us.
Arius saw it too and approached the Captain. “Are you scouting ahead?”
“Yes. It seemed…prudent,” Wildsong said. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Only later would I remember the strange way he responded.
Three hours later we came across a white trail of smoke not far off of the road. It was a cottage, one that has been recently burned. Wildson stopped the column. “I need some volunteers to check that out.”
“I’ll go – and so with Galinndan,” Arius offered. The rogue was a little surprised that he had been volunteered but the two of them went off to inspect the burned out rubble. They came back after 20 minutes or so. “No bodies of men or beast – living or dead,” the paladin reported. “Lots of hoof prints though, all over the area. Whatever happened here is over with.”
“We ride on then,” Wildsong said.
We camped that night on the plains. There wasn’t much cover, just the normal briar and bramble. There were copses of trees that dotted the rolling hills, but they were few and far between. The Captain agreed with Arius’s suggestion at no fire for the night – not with the threat of the raiding Minotaur’s in the area. We bedded down.
That night there was a commotion coming from Theren’s and Galinndan’s tent. I rolled out of my woolen blanket, Skull Ringer at the ready. As I charged out of my tent I saw a figure stagger back, howling in Orcish. It was hard to make out, but it seemed to be a half-orc, and he was clearly bloodied about the head.
Dimitrios silently emerged almost like a shadow in the night. Arius popped out of his tent and surprised me that he was using a weapon and not unleashing any of his magic. The rock he threw hit the attacker in the back as he ran away. The manlike creature turned and made an obscene gesture at us, then ran off into the dark. The entire camp erupted. “To arms, to arms!” barked Captain Wildsong. Confusion and men staggered out with weapons only made matters worse.
Wildsong made a quick headcount. “We’re short a man!”
“It’s Galinndan!” Theren called out. “He was hit in the throat with some sort of poison dart.”
I opened the tent flap and saw him. The rogue was pretty pale, a dark wobbling his his neck as he breathed. Theren pulled out the healing potion that Galinndan had purchased in the city and poured it into his mouth while Dimitrios pulled the dart out of his neck. I could see the sickly green ooze on the metallic point.
“What was that about? Why would a half-orc come in and attack us?” Wildsong pressed as he deployed several of the guards to the perimeter. “Have you crossed this person before?” Dimitrios simply shrugged at the question.
Galinndan slowly recovered, “Mommy?” he muttered.
“Far from it,” Arius replied.
“I wonder what that was all about.” Theren responded.
Arius paused for a moment. “Oh crap. Remember back at the inn, when the Thieves Guild tried to steal Skull Ringer?”
Galinndan tried to sit up but failed but looked over at the captain. “He was a…associate.”
“An associate?” The captain replied in dismay. “He attacked you in the night.”
“He’s a member of the Thieves Guild,” Galinndan replied half-awake.
“Maybe,” Arius said in a low tone through gritted teeth, “You should be quiet and rest.”
“What did you do to piss off the Guild?” Wildsong demanded.
“We didn’t let them steal from us,” Arius said. He as not making things better in our explanation.
“He,” Althalus said, gesturing to Galinndan, “forgot to pay them.” Arius rolled his eyes, stunned that the warlock was telling the Captain so much detail. Even a paladin knows there are times to keep their mouth shut…less chance to say a lie and commit a sin. I had learned that well from my comrade.
“You crossed the Thieves Guild?” Wildsong said in dismay. “You do know that they send out assassins to kill those that cross them?” It would seem that Galinndan had forgotten to tell us this important detail.
“I know this looks orchestrated,” Althalus said. “We didn’t join the military to avoid the Guild.”
Wildson’s face was rigid with anger. He glared down at Galinndan. “From now on you sleep alone. I’m not endangering any more of my men on your account. Your debt to the Guild, be it in blood or money; that is on you and your own foolishness.”
Galinndan bowed his head in shame. The rest of the troops seemed to look at us all as if we were bad people. We weren’t of course, but I understand this from their perspective. The captain posted more guards, doubling the watch. Our rogue was still pretty wobbly. All we managed to get out of this was a used poison dart.
The next morning as we rose and Galinndan looked more hungover than anything. Wildsong posted him at point, clearly as punishment. As we were about to set out the captain asked, “Do any of you wish to tell me about anyone else you may have pissed off and have a bloodgrudge against you?”
Arius nodded. “We did manage to piss off the Vizir.” There were times that the paladin’s penchant for the truth made my stomach knot.
The captain didn’t flinch. “I am well aware of your dealing with Vizir Lorraine,” he replied bitterly. There was something in the way he responding that I did not like, not one bit. I could sense that the captain was not a man to be trusted.
It rained but we trudged on. Two days later we came across a gathering down the road. The man sent ahead as a scout returned and approached the column. He and the captain entered into an animated discussion, one we could not pick up on. The captain turned and faced all of us, speaking loud for all of us to hear.
“There’s a Minotaur patrol up ahead men. We have a routine, a bit of a ritual with them. They will approach us. You will not draw weapons or make overt actions towards them. They will ask you some questions. You will need to answer honestly because they have the means of verifying your answers, none of which you want to experience.” I could tell by the way he said it, it was ominous.
“You mean all of us?” Arius.
“Yes,” Wildsong said.
“I would have thought that you would have answered for the men in your command,” the paladin pressed.
The captain did not like having his integrity questioned, we could see that on his face. “This is the way we have done it for nearly two decades. It is how we maintain a peace with these creatures.”
“I would be honorable and speak for my men,” Arius replied under his breath.
“If you draw a weapon you doom us all,” Wildsong added, ignoring the murmur. “Understood?” Everyone nodded. We all began to move forward.
Nine of the creatures were there. They were massive, larger than anything we had seen before. One, clearly the leader strode out before the others. His thick leather straps that crossed his chest were impressive, studded with brass and silver grommets. His right horn was nicked, chipped in some previous battle. The massive creature strode in front of Wildsong and looked at him as he knew him, and respected him little more than one would an insect. This does not bode well for us.
His voice boomed, shaking my chest as he spoke to all of the guardsmen. “I am Damon Korth. I patrol this area for our tribe. Royal Guardsman – hardly worthy of our time…though I am surprised that you sent your scout to ensure we were here Captain Wildsong.” He gave Wildsong a glare and when I looked at the captain, he averted his gaze. It was not a good sign, for sure. “Usually you go out of your way to avoid us. You know what we want…we want blood; we want vengeance.
“So I ask you men that follow Wildsong one question you must answer honestly. In the name of our dead Prince DeSaul, are any of you kin or friends of Mathias Blackshear?”