Tuesday, April 15, 2008

1 comment:

HomoDM said...

Nibben didn't have much difficulty locating the point at which the caravan he had been trailing veered off the road toward the forest. What he was less sure about was whether he had been trailing the right caravan in the first place. (This, of course, could only be determined once it had been located and its passengers accounted for.)

He followed the trail the caravan had left in its wake. Something dire must have occurred to necessitate such a marked deviation from the road. By all appearances, it was traveling at a reckless speed. Here he came upon a cask of fine wine, most likely having come loose and fallen from the wagon; did the drivers simply fail to notice their loss, or, being pursued by something, did they have larger problems?

A splintered axle. A thrown horseshoe. All the evidence pointed toward disaster. Approaching the perimeter of Lakewood Forest, he discovered what appeared to have been a campsite - hastily erected, and just as quickly abandoned.

He stooped and picked up a round stone, one side of which was covered with dried blood. Clearly the camp had come under attack. The caravan's trail continued into the forest; did the drivers take it in that direction to escape their assailants, or was it taken against their will?

Needing to find the answers to his questions, Nibben continued his pursuit. By the end of the day, the caravan's trail through the forest had led him to a dark, stinking hole that had been dug into a hillside. Clearly, the caravan, its passengers, and its goods had been brought there by force; no human with a sound head on his shoulders would willingly seek shelter in such a place.

As urgent as Nibben's mission was, it wouldn't do to sneak into the hole all by himself without having any knowledge of its inhabitants or the dangers awaiting within. He secreted himself some distance away so he could observe without being discovered. (Or, if he was somehow spotted, at least he would have a head start.)

He maintained his vigil through next day, but thus far he had seen no activity from the hole. Perhaps its occupants had already moved on? He was talking himself into checking it out when he heard someone approaching.

Four humans and a wolf, following the same trail as he, were carefully making their way to the pit's entrance: a young girl wearing spectacles, a second female carrying a lute, a young man wearing the sash of an apprentice wizard, and a red-haired fellow in a crimson cloak. Nibben surmised that they were probably in search of the same thing as he. But were they friendly, or hostile?

The young bespectacled girl (evidently their guide through the forest) knelt and examined the area while her canine companion sniffed about and drove a noisy raven out of the underbrush. To Nibben's amusement, the bird had clearly startled the group. Amateurs.

Strangely, the raven seemed to be trying to lure them into the hole. It looked as though they were about to follow, and then the wind shifted. The wolf, detecting Nibben's scent for the first time, turned in his direction and growled to alert the humans that they were not alone.

Nibben cursed. He knew that he could not hide from the wolf's keen senses for long, nor outrun it if he attempted to flee. If the humans turned out to be hostile, he could try to put up a fight, but in the end he was vastly outnumbered and outsized.

No, he would have to find some way of outsmarting them if this encounter turned out badly. Knowing humans, that wouldn't be too difficult.