3- 4 Weeks Before He Was Found
A dark haired man in his late 30’s or early 40’s reclines stiffly against a large oak tree. Due to the numerous scars and overall weathered skin that covers his body, his exact age is difficult to determine. He slowly chews a thick piece of cured meat while intermittently taking long swallows from a faded leather water skin. The man’s left hand absent mindedly scratches a large grey wolf that lies curled up beside him. This ordinarily intimidating beast seems perfectly calm and at ease as the man gently scratches his large head. There are several other humanoid figures nearby in various stages of eating, relaxing, or setting up a simple camp. Finally one of them, a dark skinned muscular human man breaks the silence:
“It just doesn’t add up. If this was an ogre attack they wouldn’t arrange the carnage into something so organized. I can’t help but think that – “
A harsh voice rudely interrupts the man. “Vale. Shut yer bloody mouth. We don’t care fer another of your stupid theories.” The voice’s owner, a burly yet oddly beardless dwarf, spits angrily into the dirt before continuing to gnaw on a stale piece of rye bread.
“Ah Bhavock,” a soft almost musical voice calls out. “Forever the expert on being something no one else cares for”.
“What did you just fuckin’ say to me Akkar? Ya know, I hear there are still a few places where a pair of elf ears fetch a pretty penny.”
“How quaint,” the tall elven man responds. “Would that be the same place where you shaved off and sold your raggedy old beard?” The elf shifts slightly as he continues to restring an ornately carved elven short bow.
“How dare ye even mention my beard ya dainty long legged pointy eared piece of –“
“Enough." With a low stern voice the dark haired man stands up quickly, his wolf rising up to stand beside him. “We are all restless,” the man continues. “So stow the shit until Braden returns and we figure out what to do next.”
“Apologies Ronlin” Akkar says quickly. “And … to you as well Bhavock. My comment was insensitive.”
“Shove it up yer flamin’ arsehole elf,” the dwarf retorts, turning his back on the conversation.
Silence once more descends upon the camp. Several minutes later the wolf lightly shifts his massive head, staring into the woods to the right of the small clearing the party is gathered in. With a slight non-threatening growl, he takes one step towards the edge of the clearing.
“Who is it Lobo?" Ronlin says gently while reaching for his longbow. “Braden?” he calls out slightly louder.
As he speaks, a stocky man with a shaved head emerges quietly from the trees, his large shield and mace strung tightly over his sturdy back.
“Ay it’s me Ronlin. And you’ll never guess who else stumbled across this mess.”
With that, a middle aged man with jet black hair steps out from behind the trees and into the clearing. A dark leather eyepatch covers the socket where his right eye once resided. Around the man’s neck hangs a dark purple and black holy symbol in the shape of a butterfly. Matching the man’s stride step for step is a fierce looking firepelt cougar. Seconds later four other human men and one woman step into view through the trees. They are carrying various weapons and armor and each bears the same Black Arrow mark as the rest of the gathered company.
“Jakardros? What are you doing here?” Ronlin asks slowly, clearly surprised by the mans appearance.
“Don’t look so happy to see us” the man replies in a jovial voice. “Our normal patrol route was even quieter than usual so we decided to pick up the pace and head a bit further east. See if we could arrive back at Fort Ranick before you. We didn’t expect to actually catch up to you though … how long have you been stopped here?”
“It’s been several days since we first found the bodies and the wreckage. Since then we have been trying to piece together how it happened. So far we haven’t learned much and the various trails the ogrekin leave seem to just lead us in circles. Something odd is definitely going on here – I just can’t figure out what.” Ronlin’s voice slowly trails off as he begins thinking.
“But come,” he adds quickly. “You must be tired. We were just setting up camp – join us”.
With a grin, Jakardros and the other members of his patrol make their way further into the clearing. Within moments the glade is filled with light conversation and the practiced sounds of camp being set up.