The streets below were deserted. The late night air crisp, the chill gradually seeping into my bones. Perched motionless like a gargoyle on the adjacent building, I slowed my breathing to avoid giving away my position as the moon appeared from behind a cloud in an otherwise clear sky. Retreating deeper into the shadows, I watched the mansion of my former employer, just as I’d done the three nights previous. Judging from the people sneaking about under cover of darkness, he was still up to his evil machinations. My former master had a lot to answer for. In addition to his cult activities, he was also responsible for the murders of my halfling brethren at the hands of the psychopath Helmet. If I’d known then what he was, I could have prevented the deaths of dozens of my kinfolk. Haunted by the guilt, my thoughts once again drifted to that night six years earlier…
The rain was still falling when I left the tavern. I needed some time to plan my next actions. I obviously couldn’t continue working for my master, it was only a matter of time before he learned that I had naively tried to turn him in. Unfortunately, no one would take the word of a halfling servant over that of a noble. I continued to ponder this as I walked. The streets quickly becoming deserted as people headed for the safety of home. I adjusted the hood of my cloak and continued my sojourn. They were still there of course, keeping to the shadows. The two had been following me ever since I left the watch, and they were starting to close in. I turned down an alley to see if I could throw off pursuit. Dead end…Ranalds luck, hope it didn’t end up being mine. Quickly turning, I found the alley now blocked by my foes. Attempting a feint, I slipped by the smaller man only to be answered by a heavy blow to the ribs. Off balance and winded, I was hoisted up into a choke hold. Advancing as I struggled, the little man threatened “So you like poking your nose into others business. Maybe we should cut it off.” drawing a sinister looking blade. “I rather like my nose where it is thank-you.” I grunted, “But I have something in my pants that might make a better prize.” , “Just try not to be jealous.” He brought the blade up to my face, the moonlight reflecting along its edge, revealing a viscous substance on the lower half of the blade, the other end having already been cleaned by its previous victim. The little man traced the tip along my nose smiling evilly “Maybe we should start with your tongue.” stabbing the point into my cheek. A commotion from the end of the alley temporarily distracted my opponents. My focus, however, remained on the dagger. As he looked away, the tip dug deeper. Wincing from the pain, I decided it was time to act. As my assailant turned back to face me, my foot was already angling upwards. My boot connecting with a satisfying crunch, shattering his nose, driving bone into his skull. I watched as his arm fell, the dagger slashing me to the bone and dropping from his lifeless fingers. Surprised by this sudden assault, my now lone assailant slightly loosened his grip around my neck as his former partner collapsed. Dropping my chin, I bit into his forearm, tearing flesh. His blood flooded into my mouth, mixing with mine. Crying in pain, he released me and grabbed for his sword. Tumbling clear, I retrieved the dagger, narrowly evading his downward thrust. Rolling back to my feet while crouching low, I parried and dodged his initial onslaught while looking for an opening. I needed to end this quickly. He was bigger than me, and stronger, but I was quicker and the darkness favoured me. “You’ll pay for that halfling” he hissed, circling. Spitting out flesh and blood “Pfaagh…you’re probably right, that taste will be tough to get rid of.” forcing a bloody grin that would make Moor himself proud, I added “Do you have anything to wash it down?”. Enraged, he charged. Easily sliding around his clumsy attack, I dove forward, thrusting the dagger up into his tender regions with what remained of my strength. He stiffened with a look of shock, and fell with the dagger buried to the hilt. The poison must have been some kind of paralytic…Ranalds luck. Leaving my opponent to bleed to death, a decision I would probably regret later, I headed back to the street and hoped I could find a healer before passing out from pain and blood loss.
…A noise from the alley returned me to the present. Absently tracing a finger along the scar running across my face, I refocused on my target below. One day soon, I intended to make him pay for his crimes. Now was not the time however. My skills needed to be honed further before the inevitable confrontation. For now, I’ll let him continue to sleep soundly believing himself safe from prosecution. When I next return, however, I plan to bring his world burning down around his ears. Maybe literally. Grinning to myself at the mental image of Pieter groaning to the heavens in resignation before shaking his head and muttering to himself “Not again.”, I silently dropped down to the alley below and proceeded unseen towards my inn. I wonder how the wedding went anyway. It’d been a little over two weeks since I’d left. The others should be bored enough to pursue Red Thorns superiors by now. I should probably think about returning to the Delta. Besides, people takes things way to seriously when I’m not around. One thing I’d learned in my time away, was that I was actually starting to miss everyone’s personality quirks…well maybe not Adams.
My return to the delta went without incident. I’d managed to keep a low profile while in Nuln, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that people were watching me. Probably just my imagination. Hope I’m not getting paranoid, one obsessive halfling in the group is more than enough. Once reunited with my crew, I was told of the events of the wedding. I wish someone had informed me that they’d arranged special entertainment, I’d assumed it was going to be another typically boring wedding. A demon and a beheading!!…I can’t believe I missed all the fun. Eventually I informed them of my whereabouts for the last month, but kept the reasons to myself. Eckhardt interrupted with “Is Nuln still there?” throwing a wink and a grin I answered “It was when I left.” Talk continued, and we discussed the recent assassination of Kastor as well as the rumours that armies of chaos dwarves have been reported battling in the pass. Mattias had every reason to be concerned. Summoning us to his palace, he requested our services as escorts to Nuln for a meeting with the Countess Emanuelle. I was of mixed feelings with this request. On the one hand, it was sure to relieve the current boredom. His family does seem to attract the most interesting enemies…and demons. On the other hand, I was hesitant to return to Nuln as part of his entourage as it would surely attract some unwanted attention. I’d really prefer they didn’t know I was coming. Obviously I decided to relieve the boredom.
Our journey was for the most part uneventful. I joined Mattias and Eckhardt in the comfort of the carriage, spending the bulk of my time regaling Mattias with tales of our exploits. Eckhardt, for his part, spent most of the trip pretending to be asleep. Just outside of Streissan, a commotion outside interrupted my latest tale, and “woke” Eckhardt. Peering out the window we saw a solitary figure on horseback being pursued by two others. They were clearly annoyed with him for some reason, as they kept firing arrows at him. As they came into range, Pieter recognized Bernolt, riding hard. Seeing they were soon going to be outnumbered, the archers turned to flee. Eckhardt had other ideas however, and leaned out of the carriage and blasted one of them right out of his saddle. Unfortunately for the poor fellow, he failed to get his foot free from the stirrup, and he bounced down the road as his horse dragged him out of sight. Bernolt was greeted by his former protégé and explained why he was suddenly so popular. He had been tracking an outlaw band called the “Faceless” and they apparently noticed and tried to ambush him. I was impressed. I now see where Pieter’s occasional lapses in judgment come from. Not that I’m complaining of course. Those lapses are usually pretty awesome, but trying to take on an entire outlaw band solo? That’s a whole new level of awesome. We agreed to help him as a favour to Pieter who felt it was the least he could do, but really, it was because we were bored and were heading that direction anyway. We eventually tracked them to a clearing, but seeing they had women and children with them, decided against a frontal assault. The outlaws politely asked us to leave, and we countered with “Surrender or else.” Six of the more noble ones, including the leader, wisely gave themselves up. The rest fled into the woods, abandoning their women and children. Bernolt arrested the six, and we directed the remaining women to seek refuge in the delta region at one of the camps.
We reached the gates of Nuln just before noon of the third day. Mattias presented papers to the guards and then we sat back and waited for our escort. The Countess Emanuelle herself arrived with her personal guards. Forced to leave the safety of the carriage, I joined my comrades for the formal greetings. The increased scrutiny we were now attracting made me wish I’d planned a proper disguise. I couldn’t help noticing some of the gate guards looking my way, then whispering to each other. Expecting to be arrested at any moment, I eagerly re-entered the carriage for the final leg to the palace.
Our suite was immense, easily the largest room I’d ever stayed in. I was examining one of the tapestries when a maid entered bearing a platter of food. Turning towards her to see what was for lunch, I smiled and said “Hello.” The colour immediately drained from her face and I thought she was going to faint. Luckily she’d already put down the tray or we’d be eating off the floor…Adam might anyway. Staring at me wide-eyed she blurted out “Are you him?” Confused, I responded “Him who?” “Axel the Slayer?” I roared with laughter while Pieter choked on his lunch and Eckhardt spewed whatever he was drinking all over Herod. “Slayer?” I chuckled “My name is Axel, but I doubt anyone would consider me a slayer.” At this, the maid squeaked and ran from the suite as quick as Adam inhales a slice of Butter Pecan. Still confused, I pondered how the killing of one corrupt watchman qualifies one as a slayer. I was starting to get a really bad feeling…hope it’s not food poisoning. Pieter looked at me sternly as he wiped his lunch off of his cloak and demanded “What exactly did you do?” sheepishly I responded “I, uh, might have done something which could be considered in some circles as illegal.” Arching an eyebrow he repeated “What..Did..You..Do?” thinking it wise to not make him ask a third time I answered “I sort of, kinda, maybe killed a watchman six years ago.” Erik snorted “That’s it?” “I thought maybe you’d burned down the entire tavern district or something” Filling them in on the events of my past, we decided to find out more about the slayer rumours and see just how far they ran.
A little later some tailors arrived to take measurements to fit us with proper outfits for the upcoming banquet. Attempting not to attract any additional attention, I let the others question them about the rumours. Apparently “Axel the Slayer” was a psychotic and kinda awesome halfling who murdered a half dozen or so watchmen about six years ago. He then went on to murder several innocent bystanders (less awesome) who were unfortunate enough to get in his way. Rumoured captured and presumed dead, the wanted posters were all eventually removed. That’s a shame as I would’ve liked one as a souvenir. Judging from the reactions so far, the artist was very talented. “I wonder how much of a reward was offered?” I muttered. Some of the others were looking towards me with concerned expressions “I swear it was only one.” I decided it wise to limit my public exposure as “Axel” to a minimum, so I created a disguise and when finished, “Phineous” joined his friends to track down the current residence of my old master.
The old manor house was still well guarded, so we took turns watching discreetly in the hopes that we would be able to follow someone to the Lord’s new residence. During this time the rest of us tracked down rumours, and restocked our supplies, equipment, and armaments. We learned of a gang war between several gangs including one called the “Crimson ring” and another called the “Teluci gang” We also met an interesting drunk who, between swigs, sobbed about how “She killed him.” Pressing him further, he slurringly explained that he and his buddy had picked up a couple of girls and had taken them back to their place. He stepped out to use the bushes, and returned to discover one of the girls had become a daemonette with a giant claw that snipped his buddies head clean off. This clearly being the most awesome thing we’d heard today (besides me being a Slayer of course) we were led to the shack to check the validity of his drunken claims. The giant bloodstain seemed to indicate we were in the right place and that there was at least some truth to his storey. However, we were unable to find any other evidence or even a body. We questioned others around the neighbourhood, and learned that bodies had also gone missing throughout the impoverished neighbourhoods. Unable to learn anything else at this time, we agreed that more meddling was required. For now, we needed to head back to the palace to prepare for the party.
We arrived with Mattias as part of his retinue and were introduced as “The Defenders of the Delta.” we were surrounded immediately by minor nobles and sycophants attempting to curry favour by association and asking about our adventures. I can only imagine what they must have thought talking to Adam only to have him reply “Pleased to meet you. Where’s the pie?” Eventually the Countess came and escorted us around the room, introducing us to one noble after another. None, however, lived up to the puffed up stature of the late “Theodothiuth”. I was only half aware of the conversations and politely extended greetings to each of them every time Dolwen gave me a kick in the shins. I was, however, a little distracted as I was actively trying to see if my old boss was here. This task was made even more difficult as only Adam was shorter in stature than I was. It was then, while fully distracted and on tip-toes that the countess announced “Now, may I present to you, Lord Rothjager.” My blood froze as a too familiar voice answered ”It is a pleasure to finally meet the famed Defenders of the Delta.” Slowly turning to face him, I locked eyes with my former master, his knowing half smile screaming volumes. Delving deep into my verbal repertoire for a witty reply, I responded “Aww crap!”