Marik, Brug and Drew took to the back roads. There would be enough blowhard coppers on the main roads, and probably not enough to patrol the outlands. The trio kept quiet, though Marik occasionally grumbled gutturally.
Ahead, in the cedar-lined animal path, came a burbling sound, and Drew noticed the slight drop of temperature that indicated a stream was ahead. Minding the water-eaten planks, the trio skirted across the edges, close to the ropes for security. The stream weaved lazily below, too shallow to harbor anything seriously menacing, but too far below to be a safe drop, just in case.
On the other side the path was clear enough. Too inviting, too dangerous. Marik felt the hairs on his neck stand up, and felt eyes watching. He looked behind, and saw a short man in priestly robes, standing across the bridge, peeping out from behind the conifers. The little man stared, apprehensive. The trio stared back. Marik grimly asked, “What’s your business?”
The priest’s lip quivered, and he stammered out, “W-well, uh, I’ve heard about what you did in Fallcrest, and uh… I’d like to thank you.”
Marik’s jaw dropped. “Thank us?!” he insisted.
The priest continued, “W-well, uh, yes. You see, Avandra sees beauty in all things, and you’ve been an answer to our prayers. Those officers you, uh, disposed of, were, uh very bad men, corrupt in entirety, and were regularly extorting from the coffers of our sanctuary. If you need some employment, our fellow servants in Fort Hamilton to the south could use your services. And here’s a little token of our appreciation.” he placed a purple, velvet bag on the ground, which clanked unmistakably. Drew’s eyes glimmered.
The priest said, “Avandra bless you!” and ducked away, out of sight.
Drew shouted, “Wait!” but the man was gone.
Suddenly, overhead a green flame seared across the air just above them, accompanied a sharp whistling sound, followed by a detonation a few meters away. Drew shouted, “Wizards! Damnable spell-casters!”
Brug stuttered, but ducked towards and into the treeline to his right. The remainder followed suit. More explosions cascaded around them, and Marik peered through the trees. An aged and crusting turret from a ruined fortress loomed ahead of them. Behind the turret walls a man’s head popped up, scanning the area with his goggles, and ducked behind the turret wall again. Marik tore through the trees, looking for a way up the tower, and saw nothing but moss-covered walls that went straight up. Over the turret a tube appeared, and fired another shot into the nearby trees, just by Brug, who was simply standing there, frozen.
Drew was a few feet behind Marik, crouching in the trees. He hissed, “Brug! What are you doing?!” and stole his way through the logs and bushes, feeling safe under the canopy of trees, though the scent of a forest fire wafted his way on the western breeze. When he got next to Brug he saw why the poor lad was not responding. Directly ahead of the two of them perched an absolutely massive forest spider, the size of a hut, facing Brug, waiting for him to make the first move. Brug whispered through motionless lips: “Don’t. Make. A. Move.”
Drew’s eyes widened, and the spider’s left pedipalp twitched.
The man atop the turret shouted, some fifty yards away. “I’ve got you now! There’s a fine bounty on ya!”
Drew whispered, “I have a good feeling about this.”
Another whistling sound tore through the air, shrieking closer for just a second, and exploded right behind the spider. Flames encompassed the entire grove, and Drew’s hair was burned off his arms and legs, while Brug fell away from the flame entirely, tripping over a log, landing safely. The spider turned towards the source, as it was clearly intelligent, and bolted through trees and scrub, directly up the walls, and dove its fangs directly into the antagonist in the tower. As briskly as they could, the trio leaped and bounded away from the fiasco, desperate for their lives, while the bubbling screams of the man atop the tower waxed desperate.
Untold seconds away, in the plain daylight, sweating, they came to a stop. Drew took count. “Okay, we’re all here.” his chest heaved.
Brug seemed barely winded. “Wh…. WHAT!”
Marik grumbled, “Seems to have been a spell-caster, though that would be a pretty high-level wizard or…”
Drew interrupted him. “That wasn’t a wizard. That was just an idiot with a rocket. I’ve seen them in town, on the alchemists. WHOO!” he wheezed.
Marik’s eyes filled with fire.
The oak trees around them rustled in the breeze, and off in the distance smoke billowed.
Brug smirked a little. “So, you’re saying anybody can use those?”
Drew snapped, “You’re not supposed to use magic. It…. AGH!” he stormed off in frustration, down the road. At least on the road there would only be hobgoblins, men, or orcs, even ogres. Anything, ANYTHING (Drew begged in his mind) but spiders.