When the decrepit gypsy caravan wobbled up to the gate, Oleg must have first thought he would be welcoming a belated and hapless peddler to his trading post for mere business. Such business as might be had on the outskirts of the Stolen Lands with “rent” due on the very morrow. The adventuring party which climbed out bore a writ from the swordlords of Rostland themselves, declaring the group in an official capacity contracted to clear the trade routes of bandits.
Not quite as pleasant an unexpected visitor as cold, hard coin might be.
Nevertheless, Oleg and his wife bade welcome to the suspect waifs: Trajan, whose smile opened the gate, Stehlen, whose cleverness lacks circumspection, Gran, the base and mighty, and Tolixan, who listened to more than the pleasantries being exchanged. The wagon they left outside the humble fort while indulging at Svetlana’s bountiful table hosted a last member of the little dinner party, Phuralq, an escaped aberration who, too, listened. Business was to be had, indeed.
Oleg described the situation in terms perhaps not as dire as warranted. A local gaggle of bandits had discovered the soft underbelly of his trading post, threatening Svetlana’s virtue in exchange for mere tawdry goods and sundry. These they extracted, at pains, once per month from the couple, and were due again with dawn’s next light. Work was cut out in quick slabs for this pretty platoon.
As predicted, the brigands showed their faces bright and early with all the saunter and swagger mustered by bullies. Of course they were trapped, caught out by greed and ambition without merit. Though they were six, the thugs fell within moments, incapacitated by spell, hammer, spear and psychic craft. The hammer and spear left two notably more scattered, but not before Tolixan left the first quite brained.
No jolly band of brave heroes, our party!
Bypassing the many obvious similes, suffice to say that the three remaining thugs were amiddens before they could rally from stupor. A mind-reader might know what first thoughts passed through their wakening heads, but a gambler would guess it were “in it neck deep”. Phuralq unveiled a sadistic streak in suggesting it, though Trajan enjoyed himself thoroughly once begun, plying the three with questions and kept well-supplied by his accomplices.
One of the men was immediately cooperative when given opportunity. Granted, Gustov’s screams supplied motivation. The party learned much of the bandit tribe’s hideouts, modus operandi and personalities. A pity the leader of the skirmishers was far less happy to oblige in the matter of mundane intel.
Those with the most to give are ever less inclined to do so.
Phuralq found the man’s clumsy deceit distasteful, though the contexture was pleasing. The two who remained might, with a poetic whit between them, have remarked on the opportunity for rebirth presented by these events. They were certainly covered in enough shit and blood for the screams and crying to have made the verse obvious. A new life rather similar to the last, in the end, for it begins in debt to strangers. And, in a continued parody of life, the less friendly remained with his pride exposed to the elements while the more prudent gained a humble abode and clothing to shelter his tool that was almost shed instead. If he were even more prudent, he might be grateful. Oleg showed himself to be — still a businessman though.