“Be wary, milordships,” the cooper said as they headed north out of the village of Kingsley. "We lost both our King and Baron Daughtery in the recent fight, ( the Mercies reward their souls) and some unsavory men are looking to take advantage. I’d be cautious on the King’s Road, were I you."
A short discussion ensued, but everyone agreed that time was too short, and to leave the King’s Road would cost too much time. The men with martial skills armored for trouble, and they continued along the King’s Road into the shadowed depths of the High Forest, with Tristan scouting ahead.
Several miles in, Tristan was surprised to hear a voice. “Tristan? ‘Sat you? Ahh…thought it was. It’s me…Bili. I was about to put an arrow frou your froat.”
Tristan and Bili had worked together on a couple Black Sword gigs, and knew each other casually. Unfortunately, neither one could be persuaded to help the other out, and Tristan’s bluff failed to forestall any ambush. He rode back to warn his compatriots that he’d seen a bandit run off and he was probably going to get friends.
Another short discussion, and it was decided to press on, knowing there was an ambush ahead, although a couple members of the group weren’t completely satisfied with Tristan’s explanation.
As they advanced along the road, Madoc’s supernatural abilities allowed him to perceive two clusters of bandits a little ways off the road, observing them quietly. He attempted a quick charm (“May you have eyes of an owl to see all that is foul”) upon Lord William, but the magic was not powerful enough to aid him. However, it was enough that a magical change was effected, and he did indeed gain the unblinking yellow eyes and noble, sweeping eyebrows of an owl. Other party members were certain something happened, but Madoc quickly attributed it to some trick of the forest – a hallucination perhaps.
While they stood chatting, one bandit left to go warn his fellows. The party decided to risk treason by treading upon the King’s Forest, as Madoc assured them that the law clearly allowed those on the King’s Business to travel thusly. No one felt like arguing the point. The remaining bandits trusted to their prepared positions and held. At William’s order, the group sprung a trap, and Tristan and Cawdell quickly attempted to run one of the bandits down and capture him.
Cawedell became briefly separated from Tristan in the pursuit, just long enough for the scout to look Tristan full in the face and say, “Hey…I know you!” Tristan quickly put him out, but knew he had a problem. He couldn’t kill the man and couldn’t trust him not to reveal his past. He took an unexpected step, and pulled Lord William aside and confessed his past association with the Black Swords.
It soon became apparent that the bandits were closing, and the captured scout told them they numbered 40 all told. The band decided it was time to break for the road and hope to use their mounts’ speed to put distance between them and the would-be ambushers. Aranphir quickly slit the prisoner’s throat as they prepared to flee, getting stunned looks from a couple members of the party.
Marshalling all their knowledge and resources, the group lead a headlong flight for the road. Using a variety of skills and stratagems, they reached the road and put a lot of distance between themselves and the bandits. They were in the clear, but they tried to figure out what to do. After all, they were loyal men of Ariadh, and it galled them to leave bandits on the King’s Road behind them. Besides, they’d have to face them later. Cawdell argued that getting the heir quickly was their most important mission. As they rode along and discussed their options, the King appeared to Cawdell.
“Do you really mean to leave bandits in my forest?” Cawdell protested. “What am I supposed to do? We have three combatants and they have 39. Those are 13 to 1 odds!” The King looked and said, “I’ve never seen you back down from those odds in a brothel!” Cawdell laughed and went back to the group. “You are right,” he said. “We need to root out the bandits.”
Yeah…it’s coming. You batch o’ murderous jackals! ;)