Lyod watched the approach, working through possible tactics they could deploy to defeat this enemy, for he knew that it would require cunning and teamwork. The beginnings of an idea had started to formulate when his companion leapt into the fray, and had his rapier buried in the neck of the first guard before Lyod (or the guard) could even react. Oh well, nothing like some improvisation. Lyod moved quickly backwards, trying to take advantage of Kro’s distraction and flank the enemy. He begun to whirl chain, building the momentum, and rhythm necessary wield the heavy weapon, and keep himself out of harms way. The undead it appeared were not quick, and he easily vaulted between them, launching and landing for scant seconds before continuing the movement to the next target. He was starting to get into the flow, and had already felled 4, before he landed, and scoped the area. Those he had ‘felled’ were beginning to rise. Shattered bones and skulls it appeared only dissuaded the undead.
He looked ahead, at least the brutes were smart enough to have a fire going for him. Would’ve been hell to raise if there hadn’t, he chuckled at his own pun, before sighing. That was the problem these days. He just didn’t have good help, didn’t get the respect he deserved, like back in the war. Those were the good old days. He would bring them back, and blast what anyone said about him. It was a war, who were they to call him up on his tactics. It was a war damnit, which they won. The damn pen-pushers should stay out of his business, and curse what they had to say about necromancy. A soldier was a soldier was a soldier, you would’ve thought they’d be happy not to waste more lives.
Malkeem was getting angry, as he often did when recalling the past. He tried to breathe, and thought of his plans for the future to calm himself down as he strolled into camp. It was empty, and it looked like it had been looted. His breathing was no longer calm. He span towards Rogir, one of the few competent people left from his army days.
“Find who did this. Find them now. Bring them to me, alive, so that I can skin them. I’m going back to the manor, I’m counting on you to get this damn mess sorted”
He moved through the camp to where his insignia was inscribed on the ground, muttered a few words and disappeared.
The two onlookers hung back, surprised at how well the caravan guards accounted for themselves. Clearly, their weapons were not just for show, and in short order they had the bandits whittled down to two, the fight, intense though it was, looked to be over, as the last bandit was felled by a brutal backhanded lunge which took the startled outlaw through the throat. The two moved between the corpses, ensuring that they were dead, and relieving them of their purses and weapons. Moving quickly, they had everything they needed, and were on their way within a few minutes.
The bugbear turned to his companion “Spose we can take the road again then. Might be worth scouting around here to see where they made camp, should be able to stock up a bit” he started to jog off “any objections?”
The two continued to skirt along the edge of the Plaguelands, heading back East to report the success of the hunt. The plaguelands were not a particularly nice place at the best of times, there was no rule of law greater than that which you enforced with your own hand, and power tended to shift between local bandit lords and other such opportunists – at least until they were themselves the victim of ‘opportunity’. The best way to get through was to keep your head down, and avoid company, lest you be harangued for ‘tolls’ or ‘upkeep’ for using what amounted to roads in the area.
Finally, they were approaching the edge of the desert. Lyod could even see some green ahead, was that grass?! He dropped to all fours and ran as fast as he could, happy to have something other than sand beneath his paws. Life was good with the wind in your fur and the ground at your feet, s’long as you weren’t in the desert.
He could almost feel the gaze of the shifter on his back as he ran, but couldn’t care less. He would come around or he wouldn’t. Lyod would rather he could cheer him up, but knew from experience that it wasn’t worth trying. He was right about packs being more than words. It would be his choice when to join, and he clearly needed time, or possibly something to vent his anger at other than Lyod. None of this was particularly important though compared to the joy of running on hard ground again. He would have thought that sand was similar to snow, but somehow, it was worse in every single way.
Lyod was glad for the running. He knew running. As for the the shifter running alongside him, he wasn’t quite as sure. He liked him well enough given the small amount of time they had been together; he carried his weight, joined well in the hunt and ran without complaint, and could certainly account for himself in a scrap, but there was something about him which just didn’t fit, he seemed a little distant. Lyod shrugged slightly. It was probably the whole banishment thing. He eyed the shifter again, recalling the recklessness Kro had displayed in his brutal dispatching of a party of Orcs that had objected to their travel through their lands. Lyod still didn’t know how the shifter had emerged from the fight alive, much less largely unharmed. He was probably lost at the thought of life without his pack, it was a hard thing to deal with, Lyod still keenly felt the loss of his own. He nodded inwardly, and started to grin. That must be it. He would help then. Lengthening his strides, he quickened his pace to draw level with Kro.
“I lost my pack too. We could start a new pack, you know, if you liked” he offered somewhat awkwardly.
Lyod was advancing more cautiously now, he knew the tracks he followed were those of a shifter, and around these parts, it served you well to beware unnecessary confrontations with the occasionally savage tribes. He would usually be confident approaching a shifter now, as the moon was not currently in the proper alignment for their hunt. However, he wasn’t about to ignore the body of the massacred Orc several miles behind him. Yes, it would do well to approach this shifter cautiously.
It was nearing dawn, and there was still no movement in the camp. Lyod had arrived some two hours earlier, and had watched for any movement from a nearby dune. The camp appeared to be empty, and although definitely temporary, did not appear to have been abandoned just yet. He would wait a while more. Patience while tracking was not something you could decide upon, either you were patient or you failed, there wasn’t much margin of error there. The sun was two hands above the horizon when he finally stood, stretched, and made his way into the camp, careful not to disturb any of the mess of footprints heading in and out. It would be difficult enough to find the right path without adding his paws to the problem. After some time, he was reasonably confident his quarry had headed west with one other, which was confusing, as it indicated that this was almost certainly a hunting pair, and he could not think of any reason why a lone shifter would kill an Orc without his hunting partner even being present. Synthas had taught him quite a bit about the peoples of the land as they travelled, and he knew that ritual was of the utmost importance for the shifter tribes of the Orange Desert. He forrowed his brow and continued, he would have his target, and his answers soon.
Where did it start? I don’t think I’m the best person to answer that actually, since your guess would be as good as mine. For all practical purposes, I suppose you could say that it started with the pack, as most things in my life have tended to. I started running with them when I was still young, although I can’t give you an exact age. I know I was weak when they found me, though I can’t remember it. My first memories are of running, endlessly running. I learned how to hunt, how to fight creatures far larger and stronger than myself, how to track them, how to wound and harry them – with the pack. Everything was the pack, you ran with them, you played with them and you lived, or died with them. I don’t know how many years I lived up in the frozen mountains, but my best guess would put it at about ten, give or take. I was there long enough that I was leading the hunt for a few seasons before I knew it was my time to leave. The best way I can describe how I came to know this is that when you’ve lived in the mountains for long enough, you can feel their life, the tiny little ebbs and flows that make the place alive, harsh though it is. And the mountain was letting me know, subtly, but in no uncertain terms, that my time there was at an end. There wasn’t much emotion as I ran from the pack, it was just the natural thing to do, and I hold them still in my heart, and my spirit. They will always still be there when I need them.