The Reign Of Winter
Hermann's Tales 14
A few day’s travel later we came to Glacier Lake, a huge icebound lake, the far side of which lay the witch capital of Whitethrone, where we hoped to find Baba Yaga’s Hut.
We decided to pay a visit to Nadia’s great Uncle, Rangeer, who she remembered lived in one of the fishing villages outside the Capital’s walls. To get there, however, we had to navigate a bridge guarded by a brace of fearsome Trolls, each quite the match for the one the whole party had faced in the courtyard of the Pale Tower.
Outwardly calm, I was prepared for Benedictus to give us the signal to attack, apprehensive as I was to the likely outcome. No such signal came, though, and I had the rare – and puzzling – experience of seeing Sven bribe our way across the bridge for no more than two flasks of alcohol.
Even stranger, though, was that no sooner had we crossed the bridge when a stranger called out to Nadia before intimidating the trolls into letting him past! After we had all moved off a ways Nadia explained that Andrei Kolsk was a fellow resistance fighter, though one far more active than Nadia. It seems that he was the sole survivor of his last group, who had been wiped out while attacking the guards of a supply wagon. I didn’t trust him at first, as he seemed far too open about hating the witches. Something I knew would doom him to a short lifespan if he was what he claimed to be.
Thinking he may be a spy for the witches I decided to keep my precious ring well out of sight, slipping my hand under the folds of my robes, and let him lead us into the village.
After a short wander through the fishing village we came across what passed for an Inn hereabouts. It was a small shack with one open side, selling a foul fishy liquid that our new acquaintance swore ‘would put hair on our chests’ before knocking it back in one gulp. Not to raise suspicions I did likewise, and it was half way down to my stomache before I realised how strong it was. Given that prior to this the only things I had drunk were ale and cheap wine, I feel I was justified in coughing a bit after gulping this liquid fire down all at once. Sven bought another round and we all sat down to gingerly sip at it.
The taste wasn’t too bad after a while. Which I suppose is bad news all of its own. Still, it gave us an excuse to loiter around here while Sven talked to the barman, who seemed to become nervous and agitated whenever Rangeer was mentioned. Eventually he let slip that Rangeer had been arrested by a bunch of low-lives that had taken on the role of tax raisers for the witches. Which meant that we effectively had brigands stopping anyone they wanted to and taking all their money and goods off them. The thought of such behaviour sickened me. People had a hard enough life up here to begin with without having to deal with scum robbing them ‘legally’, and these scum were the worst of the worst, preying on those that had little or nothing in order to set themselves up with a marginally better lifestyle. It made my blood boil.
We started searching for these scum, and as we searched my anger grew and grew. By the time we found some of them I was in a near rage. I cast my strength spell, and foregoing any decent weaponry, ran up and clawed at one of them. Andrei managed to close with them before me, and struck one down. I clawed mine nastily but he retaliated and caught me a nasty blow from the bill hook he was using. I’m afraid I lost track of things a little here, but when the dust cleared there was only one of them left alive, who Benedictus was interrogating. It was only at this point I realised I had been swinging my claws around, showing my beautiful ring to any that wanted to look. I cast my gaze around those present, but none of them seemed to be interested in my glorious ring, and a good thing too. Someone stealing my precious? I have killed for less.
Handing the scum over to face the local’s justice Benedictus told us that the rest of them were in a converted guard house a little further into the village, led by a southerner that was apparently a rogue Noble that had fled north. What great wrong anyone could do that would force them to run this far north was beyond me, but it spoke as much about his character as the fact he was in the profession he was. Scum rising to the top, as it were.
After we located the guard house, I cast several of my fortifying spells, turned my belt into a two-handed spear, and led the way into the building. The master of this hovel was within, along with two of his enforcers. I engaged one, Andrei engaged another, whilst Sven summoned up a long supply of creatures to occupy the ex-noble. My foe was no match for me, and when Kjell joined me, he fell soon after. Kjell then went on to face the ignoble whilst I helped Andrei to take down the other enforcer, before we all gathered round to teach the ignoble the great benefits of teamwork.
When all our foes were defeated, we went into the jail cells and freed Rangeer, who apart from sporting a few bruises, was relatively unhurt. We then raided the guard house, stripping it of anything of value, before turning our backs on it and leaving.