The accounting of Livianus Hollergath, half-elf
In the morning, my two companions from the night before happened to be headed in the same direction I was, and thus we maintained our loose association for a time longer. The woman, whose name is Myrielle, awkwardly tried to make conversation, but neither the archer nor I were much interested. Eventually, she gave up, and we continued on in silence. Once out of the mountains, the road leveled out into forest. Assuming that forty years was not enough time for the landscape to have changed drastically, I expected after about half a mile, we would emerge into the farmlands that surrounded the human city some miles further south.
From a distance, we three noticed a large, hulking figure standing with its back to us, blocking most of the road. It seemed transfixed by what it saw, and soon we too saw: The farmlands were ablaze with scattered bonfires and burning houses. The other two paused to regard the large figure, but I had business that required my attention, and I would not be stopped by a solitary giant. As I walked closer, I recognized the figure to be an oni. It had been many spans of years since I last saw an oni, but its red skin, short horns, and massive bulk were unmistakable. He glanced at me as I walked past, but any further interaction was cut short by the sudden appearance of a horseman.
Bursting out from the cover of the trees alongside the road, the man issued the same tired demand of every highwayman: our money or our lives. Keeping ready for his inevitable attack, I nevertheless attempted to walk past him. Again, I had business that required my attention. Sure enough, as soon as it became clear no one was going to pay, he signaled his compatriots and charged. For as long as I have lived, I have never once seen a highwayman behave in anyway different than this man and his fellows.
The oni slammed his oversized, spiked club into the ground with such force as to send shockwaves rumbling out in a blast that must have been magically fueled. Nearly all of the highwaymen were staggered by the waves, though not the horseman, and not the bowman behind him.
As I considered my situation, a purplish blast of arcane energy struck the bowman full in the chest, taking the breath from his lungs. I heard the unmistakable sound of a man choking to death on his own blood behind me. I was not concerned about my two traveling companions’ ability to hold their own.
The horseman had charged the oni and was continuing to press the attack. In the years alone in my cave, I had spent a goodly amount of time observing the cunning wiles of the mountain fox. Squirrels would scamper up to the high branches to escape them, but over the years I watched more than one fox teach itself to climb trees and corner its prey at the end of those branches. The lesson was obvious: If your opponent has an advantage over you, take that advantage away. My opponent had a horse.
At the beginning of my self-inflicted seclusion, I had to remove a bear from the cave I wished to live in. Using the same techniques I used all that time past, I removed the horse from the horseman, and left the man standing toe-to-toe with a very upset oni. I looked about then, and saw that Myrielle and the archer had mostly taken care of the rest of the would-be bandits. The bowman lay in the dirt, an arrow sticking out of his face, and smoke wafting up and away from his ruined midsection.
I noticed another man, standing back and observing the scene with an expression of mild satisfaction. Deducing from his superior clothes that he was in charge, I dashed at him and grabbed his shirt collar. As I demanded he call off his men, his face changed, extending out grotesquely and growing dark hair and fur all over. Just as unmistakable as the oni, so too now was it that I was facing a werewolf.
My fists were no good against the cursed monstrosity, but luckily the staff my father had given me over a century ago seemed to be able to cause it harm. Somewhat unfairly I thought, the creature’s claws and teeth were perfectly good against me, and it tore into me viciously. As it bit into my shoulder with its fangs, I felt my stomach clench and my mind recoil; though, whether this was due to it transferring its lycanthropic curse, or due to pain and blood loss, I was unsure. Red began to press at the edges of my vision, and I knew I was mere moments from losing consciousness. As hastily as I could, I reached into my side bag and produced one of my more potent healing potions, downing the draught in a single gulp. I then continued to beat the beast with my staff.
Soon, it was four-on-one, and the werewolf succumbed to our combined forces. I sat and connected myself deeper to my body to take full stock of the damage I suffered. During this meditation, I found I had in fact been cursed by the werewolf’s bite. Opening my eyes, I glanced to my side and spotted some wolfsbane growing nearby – a very fortuitous find. I stood and moved towards it. It was a long shot, but I began chewing the leaves of the purple flower, hoping to at least forestall the effects of the curse until I could find proper care.
The archer called for my attention, holding up a phial of liquid. He announced that it was the cure I needed. Though I had said nothing of my actions, it seemed he understood my intent fully. I spat out the bitter herb, stuffed my pouch full of fresh leaves, and moved to accept his potion. It tasted worse than the wolfsbane, and my viscera almost immediately cramped and churned. Nevertheless, taking quick stock of my body again, I could tell the curse had been neutralized.
Myrielle and the oni sat and rested, while the archer began to dissect the corpse of the werewolf, placing various pieces of it into different boxes. I had learned from my mother that some types of preventative medicines often contained elements of the disease they were preventing, and given the readiness with which the archer produced a cure to lycanthropy, it seemed fairly obvious to me what he was doing; Myrielle, however, seemed concerned, though to her credit she said nothing. The oni paid no attention at all, and banged rhythmically on a set of drums that for all I could tell had materialized out of the aether.
Investigating the bodies of the highwaymen, I found little of interest on them – Myrielle did find a handsome painting of a farm house however – save for their clothes. Bloodstained, yes, and many shirts had several small holes from the archer’s arrows; however, those could be mended, and living in my cave taught me the value of a good set of clothes. Since these men were dead, I felt no guilt in depriving them of their shirts and trousers. Somehow, this is what finally elicited a verbal reaction out of Myrielle.
I had merely knocked the horseman unconscious in the melee, and I saw no need he should die, now that he was no longer a threat. I left him a small, two inch blade, and one day’s worth of trail rations. The archer also tied him to a tree, which I found no issue with. The man began to rouse once, which I prevented from happening until we were ready to leave.
Using one of my least potent healing draughts, I tended to the horse I had punch down, and tried to soothe it. I have had very little experience in dealing with horses, and the beast was understandably skittish whenever my hands might be near its head, but I somehow managed to claim myself a horse.
By this time, the four of us had recovered enough to continue on. A few minutes travel had us fully out of the forest. Groups of bandits stalked the farmlands, a dozen or so together at a time, pillaging and setting more fires. I had business that required my attention, but I could not in good conscience allow the curse of lycanthropy to go unchecked, and so when we four spotted another man dressed and behaving very much like the werewolf we previously killed, I joined the other three in pursuit.
Now knowing what we were up against, we targeted the werewolf first, and the men it had been commanding quickly broke rank and tried to flee. The archer and Myrielle did not allow them to get far. From inside a barn, one of the younger bandits threw his sword out and hunkered down. Since he no longer posed a threat I meant to save him from the death my companions would surely bring to him. I approached the boy, bound him, and threw him over back of my new horse, making a show of claiming him as my prisoner so as to signal to the others they were to leave him alone.
In the distance, we saw the tall walls of the city, and three more groups of bandits converging on it. Fireballs from the walls made quick work of the few men already attacking the gates, but the fast approaching groups did not look so vulnerable. They all turned into wolves and began rushing the city. We rushed the city as well. It was close, but we managed to get near the gates first. The gates opened, and two contingents of mounted knights charged out to meet the flanking groups of wolves. That left the central group for us.
The oni and I, having exchanged not a single word with each other once, were nevertheless of a shared purpose, and we moved to engage the largest of the werewolves. Clearly the alpha, it shouted orders to its subordinates, and bolstered their focus with only its dominating presence. We hit first, staff and spiked club, and knocked the large beast back onto its heels. Then, without warning, the oni was gone, banished by the spell of some combatant mage, and I was left to bear the full force of the large beast. I had not even the time to quaff another of my healing potions before I was rent asunder and ceased cognitive functions.
I awoke again, choking on the liquid of a draught the oni – apparently back from wherever he had been banished – had shoved down my throat. Through pain-clouded vision, I looked up and saw him drinking a draught as well. I also saw that the alpha werewolf was still alive and well. Jumping quickly to my feet, the last thing I saw was that my other two companions did not share the same fortune as the werewolf.
I judged the distances and determined I could not get to the archer quick enough, but I did begin running in his direction. Once Myrielle’s body was within range, I put my staff to use, slamming it to the ground much as the oni had slammed his club earlier. The healing waves of energy washed outward, bolstering myself and the oni, and bringing the young half-even woman back from the brink of death. She wasted no time in getting back to her feet and resuming the offensive. Her resolve impressed me.
The wolves that had felled the archer were now charging a lone man who had come from behind the contingents of knights. His mastery of arcane forces showed him to be a mage of notable power, but I still doubted his ability to survive the simultaneous attacks of three lycanthropes. I got as close as I could to the body of the archer and slammed my staff to the ground once more, expending every last bit of stored healing potential it had. This was dangerous, as the magicks binding the healing spells to the staff were unstable when they held nothing, and I risked the staff exploding in my hand; however, I could see no other way to prevent the archer from dying.
I was lucky, and my staff did not explode. This meant that in the morning, it would begin gathering power and be able to offer some form of healing again. While all possessions are mercurial, and I thus have no emotional bonds to any of the items I carry, my staff contains the weight of generations within it, and I found I was glad I did not break it. Besides, the staff is an extraordinarily useful tool.
I was further lucky in that after a tremendous battle, we emerged alive and victorious. The mage approached and introduced himself as Kaen, the burgomaster of the city. He welcomed us inside the walls as heroes and saviors. Finding a constable, I handed the young bandit over and dismissed any further concern for him from my psyche. I was then swept up into the chaos of celebration.
At some point, I learned the archer’s name is Éibhear. He had been hired by a local arcanist to collect werewolf parts for some obscure research or experiment. Learning this seemed to appease Myrielle somewhat, as though a puzzle piece had been fitted into place. The oni’s name is Amon, and his purpose is very simple: adventure. It seems that wanderlust is inherent to all the civilized races. I do not know where any of the three will go in the morning, but the events of today have caused me to become rather fond of them, and I think I would not mind if we continue to happen to be going in the same direction.