The morning sun streams through a small window illuminating the interior of the sparse brick walled room. Ronlin’s eyes slowly flutter open, but the unexpected brightness in the room causes them to reflexively squeeze shut tightly. Waiting a moment to adjust, he slowly opens them while rolling over to climb out of his simple bed. It couldn’t have been more than a few hours since he returned from patrol, but the mid-morning sun meant it wouldn’t be long before Amos expected them to be ready to head out again. After 7 months of being with the Black Arrows, Ronlin was finally getting used to functioning on little to no sleep. In this case, the ogre tracks they had found earlier this morning created a sense of urgency that superseded the luxury of a few additional hours of sleep.
His undergarments and tunic sashed firmly, Ronlin begins strapping his leather armor on. As he does, he offers up silent prayers to Erastil thanking him for the simple roof over his head and the bounty of the previous day’s hunt, which he can smell cooking on the fire just outside his door. He adds a short petition to keep the remaining members of his family safe, lightly clasping his holy symbol and draping it around his neck as he does. Now dressed for patrol, Ronlin quickly grabs his pack, bow, and quiver and heads out his door into the Fort.
An hour or so later…
Amos quietly led Ronlin and Bhavock through the light underbrush into the direction of the tracks they had discovered on the previous evenings patrol. As Ronlin raises his left leg up to step over a large fallen tree, he looks back in time to see the dwarf plant both his hands on the massive trunk and deftly vault over the obstacle. He shoots Ronlin a glare as he lands, before pushing past him to catch up to Amos.
Ronlin wasn’t sure what to make of the dwarf. He had little experience with their kind in the first place, but he had also never encountered another civilized humanoid that was quite as foul mouthed and downright hostile as Bhavock. In addition, for reasons he would never discuss, the dwarf was completely bald and clean shaven. When he first arrived two weeks ago, one of the other new recruits had asked about it and the dwarf threatened and cussed him out so intensely that no one had brought it up since. Whatever Bhavock’s history or story was, in just two weeks he had certainly proved that he was more than capable of taking care of himself. Three days after his arrival, their patrol had come across 2 ogrekin lurking near Fort Rannick. The speed and brutal efficiency with which Bhavock introduced those half bred freaks to his greataxe was something Ronlin would not soon forget.
Realizing he had fallen behind the other two, Ronlin picks up his pace to catch up. As he pushes through the trees into a small clearing, he stops to take in the scene around him. The remains of what appear to be a full wolf pack are strewn about the clearing. Large misshapen humanoid foot prints cut back and forth through the space, indicating that there was indeed an ogre in this area and that he had run afoul of this vicious pack. Blood and gore are everywhere, making it difficult to determine how successful the wolves attack had really been. On the far side of the clearing, broken branches and trampled shrubs indicate the direction the ogre had eventually headed. At Amos’ signal, the three Black Arrow members move through the carnage and head after the wounded brute.
Several minutes later Amos stops abruptly and drops into a low crouch inches above the forest floor. Ronlin follows suit as does the dwarf. As they peer through the thick foliage, they can see the outline of a large, deformed, and wounded looking ogre leaning up against an outcropping of rocks jutting up from the ground below. Amos turns slightly to make eye contact with the other two as he gestures quickly with his hands to outline their plan of attack. With a slight nod of understanding, Bhavock silently moves to flank the creature. As he does, Ronlin closes his eyes while gently grasping his holy symbol between thumb and forefinger. As his eyes re-open, their normal appearance is replaced with a vibrant yellow iris and an expanded round black pupil. With dextrous fingers, Ronlin notches an arrow to his bow and awaits Amos’ signal. The light chirp of a robin flutters through the air. Amos’ hands began to make a flurry of intricate gestures as he stands and pushes his way through the woods separating them from the ogre. Ronlin follows closely as the druid’s chanting begins to pierce the relative quiet of the forest air.
“Ipterra nukola entan glor.” The words seem to have an earthy weight to them as Amos begins to tap into the raw power of nature. “Ipterra nukola entan glor.”
As the chant begins again, the individual blades of grass under the ogre’s feet seem to swell in size. Suddenly they shoot up and curl themselves around the humanoid’s legs. Where once there was only grass, a few weeds, or small thorns, there is now an entire blanket of thick restrictive plant life covering the forest floor. Completely unable to move his feet, the ogre lets out a brutal yell while reaching for his menacing spiked club.
In that same moment Bhavock comes charging out from behind the monstrosity. Running up along the outcropping of rocks, the dwarf manages to match the ogre’s height despite the initial 4 foot difference. Shouting something in dwarven, likely a curse word, Bhavock pushes off the rocks and slams his ax into the broad shoulder of the creature. The blades sink in deep as the ogre’s yell of anger and frustration turns into a scream of pain. Laughing manically, the dwarf wrenches his blade free and as he beings to fall to the ground below, manages to slam it home a second time.
Ronlin steps to the side of Amos and lets two arrows fly from his longbow. The first sinks into the shoulder wound created by Bhavock’s ax mere seconds before. The second arrow finds purchase in the ogres face, lodging in the side of its mouth by way of its cheeks. As the ogre reels back in pain, it lets out another bone chilling yell. Ronlin quickly reaches for another arrow from his quiver, trying to finish the creature off before it can recover. However the ogre, no longer surprised by their presence, rips its feet free of the entanglement while at the same time, swinging its large club down towards Bhavocks head. The blow glances off his skull dropping the dwarf to the ground where he is quickly swallowed up by the entangling mass covering the earth. With a victorious bellow, the ogre sets its sights on the two humans and charges towards them.
“Nix.” Uttering just a single word, the druid causes the mass of thick foliage to revert to its previous natural state, revealing an unconscious but still breathing Bhavock. The large ogre still bearing down on them, Amos shifts himself in front of Ronlin while dropping to all fours. As his posture changes, so too do his muscles, skin, and overall size. In a matter of moments, the humble leather clad form of Amos Greenbeard is replaced with that of a large bear. With a primal roar, he charges in towards the ogre.
Recognizing the danger of an enraged ogre, Ronlin quickly fires two additional arrows trying to at least slow the creature’s advance. The first arrow misses over the brute’s head, but the second strikes just below the soft spot on its throat. The ogre swipes at the shaft breaking it off, while leaving the arrowhead lodged in his throat. A moment later, the ogre and bear collide with a massive thud. The bear rears up on two legs as he claws, bites, and grapples the ogre, robbing Ronlin of any clear shots that won’t hit Amos’ considerable form.
Ronlin strafes to the side looking for any way to get another shot off. As he turns back and draws an arrow, he watches in horror as the ogre manages to wrestle his right arm free and swing his massive club into the side of the bear. Amos’ roars in pain while dropping back down to all 4’s and stumbling backwards. The ogre swings the club back the other way and with one 2-handed blow, caves in the side of the bears head. The massive form of the bear begins to shimmer as it slumps to the forest floor. As the wild shape fades away, all that remains is Amos lying in a pool of blood that rapidly grows as it pours out from the side of his head.
Realizing the ogre now has its sights set on him, Ronlin begins firing arrows as rapidly as he can towards the brute lumbering towards him. One arrow sinks into the elbow joint of the arm holding the spiked club, causing it to drop to the forest floor. As the ogre reaches down to pick it up with the other hand, the second arrow lodges into a bleeding bite wound caused by Amos’ bear form. The ogre roars in pain and stumbles back a step before renewing its charge towards the archer. The third arrow sinks deep into the humanoids left leg, but aside from a slight hobble in its step, does little to slow the advance. Realizing he won’t have time to fire another arrow before the ogre is upon him, Ronlin drops his bow to the ground, grabs for his holy symbol with his left hand and begins to manipulate his right hand fingers through an unusual set of patterns and gestures.
“Strach paura,” Ronlin calls out in a loud voice towards the ogre.
As the twisted fingers complete their final shape, a dark green sheen seems to surround Ronlin’s Adam’s apple. With a primal wolf like howl, a burst of shimmering energy bursts out from his throat. As it hits the charging ogre, the brute stops abruptly. A look of fear spreads across the humanoid’s misshapen face as it stares down at simple human in front of it. The wolf like howl Ronlin released echoes momentarily through the forest before fading away. As it quiets, another howl sounds back in return. Startled, Ronlin glances sideways in the direction the sound came from just in time to see a grey shape come sprinting out of the trees.
The shaken look in the ogre’s eyes fades as the momentary fear that gripped him vanishes. Grinning crookedly, he steps in towards the human swinging back his blood stained club. At the apex of his back-swing, the grey shape leaps up and latches its fangs onto the ogres throat. With its weight shifted backwards into the swing, the force of the attack knocks the ogre flat onto his back. In an instant the grey shape – a mid-sized wolf begins to tear out the brute’s throat. Ronlin looks on as the struggling ogre slows his thrashing before finally lying still. The sounds of his screams of pain are replaced by the slight hissing sound of air escaping from wounds in his throat. Once the creature has laid still for a minute or so, the wolf turns and stares at Ronlin.
Ignoring his fearful instincts, Ronlin instead crouches down to put himself at the same height as the wolf while keeping his eyes locked with the beasts. He very slowly extends his hand towards the creature, palm out, and holds that position. The wolf walks towards him with its teeth slightly bared before stopping at the tip of the outstretched palm. Hunter and beast lock their gaze for what seems to be a small eternity before the wolf slowly lets its eyes drop. Ronlin quickly turns his hand so the palm is now up, allowing the wolf to lightly sniff and then gingerly link it. The wolf moves closer to the man, its eyes and snout pointed down towards the ground. The beast stops with its teeth a mere inch from Ronlin’s torso. It lightly bumps its nose into Ronlin’s chest 3 or 4 times before the human realizes what it is doing. Ever so softly, the wolf is rubbing its snout up against the small but expertly carved wooden longbow holy symbol around Ronlin’s neck. As it does, Ronlin takes the opportunity to gently scratch the beasts head as he whispers to it,
“Lobo. Fitting name for a wolf don’t you think?”
Standing slowly, Ronlin makes his way over to Bhavock and gently rouses the unconscious dwarf. He awakens with a string of profanity, and frantically reaches for a weapon to attack the wolf. Ronlin explains what happened and the dwarf eventually calms down and stands to his feet. Together Ronlin and Bhavock wrap the body of Amos in their cloaks before retrieving their weapons, shouldering their packs, and carry their deceased leader back in the direction of Fort Rannick. At Ronlin’s side, matching him step for step, strides the hunter’s newest companion; Lobo.