Standing in front of the window, his eyes searched every flit and every shadow that moved across the courtyard. From the many torches below, he could see the servants loading the waiting carriage with supplies necessary for the journey.
"Sire, perhaps the Lady and you should proceed ahead?” said a voice from behind him.
He turned, letting the curtain fall back in front of the window, "No, Geoff, we cannot. The child is already on its way and I would not risk the birth within a moving carriage, midwife or no."
"But Sire, surely the carriage would be a better place than risking..."
"I said no, Geoff, do not ask me again. We will wait, then proceed once the child has arrived." As if in answer a shrill cry from the adjoining room turned their heads. A brief smile lit his face, and then quickly faded as a somber grimace took its place. He strode across the room and through the door. The midwife stood at the side of the bed, a small bundle of wrapped cloth in her arms. A strong cry from the newborn babe resounded throughout the room.
"A girl", said the lady from the bed, "a strong, healthy, girl has graced our family.” she said smiling up at her husband. He moved to stand beside her, holding her hand as the midwife placed the small bundle in his empty arm. He knelt with her beside the bed, placing the babe between them; never had he been so torn between both joy and sorrow.
The lady, leaning close, gently placed a kiss on the newborn's forehead while at the same time lovingly caressing the soft, pink cheek. "She has to go now, Jherron, she must be taken swiftly, less we risk all.”
He nodded in agreement, his eyes mirroring her storm of inner turmoil. He stood from beside the bed turning towards the others in the room.
"Sire, all is ready. The carriage and handmaiden are waiting below, she will be well protected. Four of our best knights will accompany her. All will be well.” he said through a sharp smile that did not reflect his truest thoughts.
"Very well then Geoff, let us get on with it." he said making his way into the hallway, Geoff following behind.
As they neared the stairs, a scream erupted from the landing below. A look of dark recognition crossed Jherron's face as he exchanged looks with the man beside him. "They are here; we must hurry, now, to the carriage!"
The two men raced down the stairs as more screams broke through the air, the sounds of scuffling and fighting pouring through the entryway to the kitchen and servant's quarters.
"SIRE!” came a shout from the large doors at the front of the foyer. Standing inside the door was a large man wearing a suit of linked chain, carrying a sword and shield held easily within his powerful arms. The man ran forward in an attempt to place himself between his lord and whatever lurked further back within the keep."Go sire, take the child to the carriage, the handmaiden and men are waiting to leave. I will stay and hold back these dogs long enough to give them a start."
Bramm was Jherron's closest friend and trusted sergeant to his own knights. The two had fought alongside one another since they were both old enough to swing a practice sword. With a look of knowing and a slight nod, Jherron and Geoff raced past the armored knight and out through the front doors into the courtyard.
The carriage sat surrounded by torchlight and a ring of mounted knights. A young girl, no more than twenty winters stood just inside the door, a look of fright upon her face. Jherron stopped just short of her, holding the crying infant against his cheek one last time while whispering a prayer to Garl, the god of protection above the child's head. Quickly passing her to the handmaiden he shut the door, a last look of luck and hope passed between them.
"Off now, go! Spare not a moment, for the beasts are upon us!” Jherron yelled to the driver.
The man seated behind the horses, slapped down the reins, spurring them into a quick pace that soon became a gallop, the five knights following behind, keeping pace. With the carriage off and out through the outer gate, Jherron turned once more back towards the foyer of the keep. "Geoff, take yourself and hide, you can do no more here. Spare yourself and hide until the morn." The man simply nodded before moving off towards one of the stable houses.
The sound of fighting, yelling, screaming and something else poured from the open doors. With a renewed anger, Jherron turned, striding back towards the open doorway. Whatever happens now, they had done their part. Fate was no longer in their hands; it was up to luck and the will of the gods to determine what the future holds. This was his house, his home and he would be damned if he let it fall without taking some of them with him.
The night was getting long and the shadows growing deep. Tonight was the night, a night for change, real change. A night when the balance could tip, it was this night that the beasts set in motion to bring upon the world their vision, their world. The men weren't far ahead, their scent was still strong, the scent of their horses stronger. They would wait; they would allow their prey to become relaxed and comfortable. Then, when it was least expected, they would change the course of fate.
The carriage sped down the darkened road, light from the hanging lanterns and the full moon above providing just enough by which to see. As the keep dropped from sight behind them, the driver slowed the horses to a more manageable pace allowing the knights to take up protective positions on all sides. Ever wary, the knights kept vigilance as the carriage and its passengers crept their way along the road.
It was the agitation of the horses that gave the first indication that they weren't alone. The horses stamped and began pulling from side to side as the scent of their pursuers assaulted them from either side. The driver barely had time to shout a warning before the wolves burst from the wood line.
The first of the pack, two large, black wolves drove towards the horses, snapping and nipping at their legs in an attempt to drive them onward. The horses in a panic did just that and sprinted forward pulling the carriage roughly down the road. The knights were suddenly taken by surprise as more of the beasts broke from the shadows charging and biting at the legs of their mounts. The knights, pulling weapons and spurring their mounts, attempted to catch up, quickly closing the distance and bearing down on the runaway carriage which the driver was trying desperately to slow down.
Then came an animal cry and a shout from the driver as something large, something...else, came bursting onto the roadway. It charged from the underbrush ahead of the carriage and sat there waiting as the charging horses approached. The wolves spurring the carriage fled back into the woods just as the horses charged down the beast in the road. It leapt as a man would leap, forward and into the air landing atop one of the horses. The driver screamed, dropping the reins in a fit of hysterics and fear. The beast which looked like a wolf and yet something more, bared is fangs then slash down into leathers and straps holding the horses, severing with each swipe of its hands. The horses broke free, causing the carriage to swerve, now uncontrollable into the wood line, crashing through underbrush and bramble before coming to an abrupt halt against the base of a dead tree; the driver thrown violently from the seat, did not rise from the fall.
The knights with weapons drawn reached the coach and dismounted, making their way to the passengers. The door flung open as the handmaiden stepped out, holding the crying, swaddled infant tight against her chest.
The remaining lanterns that still hung alongside the carriage were now broken and useless, only the light of the full moon above shown down, bathing the dark wood in pale dim light.
Shadows danced around the small group. There was no sound, no warning, when the wolves attacked it was as if they had been part of the darkness all along. The first two knights were taken by surprise as two large black wolves took down each of them, ripping and tearing at exposed limbs and throat. The remaining three knights backed up to the carriage, a protective circle around the girl and infant. What they did not see were the two figures crouched atop the carriage roof. With inhuman strength and speed the two wolf-like creatures dove down onto two of the remaining knights, tearing and rending through armor, cloth and bone, alike. The last knight drove its sword down onto the closest beast, sinking in and through. The beast howled and snarled, spinning on the single remaining defender, grabbing him under the chin. It lifted him up off the ground before slinging him back into a tree. The sound of breaking bones was undeniable. Reaching down, it pulled out the protruding sword. Before her eyes, the handmaiden watched as the wound of the beast closed. As the two creatures turned towards the maiden, she lay the child down inside the coach before turning back around, a small dagger in hand.
One of the beasts stepped forward, taunting its prey, a claw along the arm, a slash along the thigh. The girl was no match and it knew this; growing tired of the game, it moved in for the kill.
The girl dropped back cringing against the carriage as the beast moved towards her with jaws open. At the last second, before the beast's jaws sank into her neck, she dropped low, shifting her feet while throwing her torso to one side. With a practiced move she spun the dagger in hand, reversing the grip and drove it home, directly through the beast's heart. There was a cry of surprise, something of an estranged bleating, as the beast realized too late that it was no longer the hunter, but the hunted. It felt the wound, it felt its last living beat as the silvered blade pierced its heart and now the hunt was over.
She retracted the blade, pushing the creature as she stepped back into a fighting stance. The other creature, seeing now that its companion was not getting up, howled in a mixture of rage, fear, and confusion. There was something of a bark from the creature and the wolves, looking up from their feeding turned towards the girl. Her lips curled in a sneer.
As the wolves closed together in front, her arms began moving in precise motions, tracing lines in the air before her. Words flowed from her lips, the air began to warm. With a culmination of motion and sound, waves of heat burst forth into the air forming a glowing ball of fire. Flicking her wrist the ball drove forward landing just behind the pack where it exploded. Two of the wolves catching the full blast, dropped dead in their tracks; the other two were sent fleeing into the woods, the smell of singed fur and flesh their only remains.
The wolf-like creature now realized the chance was over; this night would end. There would be no change. The girl seeing the confusion on the creature's face smiled, beckoning it forward. With not even so much as a glance, the creature turned and fled into the forest. After a few moments, assured that the creature had fled and would not return, the girl placed the dagger through her belt, then reached back into the wrecked carriage and picked up the crying infant. She rocked it gently, while humming a soothing tune, then reached back inside pulling out a small pack. When all was ready, she walked back towards the road.
The journey to the abbey was hours long, but at least for tonight, things would not change, that much she could be sure.
A place for DMs, GMs, or players to post stories, play reports, or general info about their current or ongoing campaigns.
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Several years back I wrote a prologue for a campaign I started running, just ran across the WORD doc this evening and thought I'd share for better or worse.
“A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints” ~ Wilfred Peterson, American Author