Not once in the past ten days since entering the northern borderlands have any of them set eyes upon another person. Not that it worries any of them; they're happy being in the company of each other. Becoming a tight-knit group, who enjoy the slow, sunny days - hunting, talking, eating, and sleeping.
It was evening, and Faye had caught, or hunted as she'd have you say, a couple of wild hares. Faye, a fiery and free-spirited individual with blonde hair and amber eyes that some say can ignite fires. Although masculine in looks and behaviour, she still likes to bring joy to others... sometimes. Although, you would never guess it as she dropped the dead mammals in front of Elsie to skin and cook.
Having feasted on a dinner of rabbit, spit-roasted on an open fire, each of the eight settled down to sleep beneath sheepskin blankets. With the first full moon tonight, the light sparkled on the blade of Roxanne's broadsword skewered into the ground by her side. Desiree gazed at it, then at her own flail laying next to her head, wondering when she will next have to wipe the blood of some vile creature from its sharp spikes. Desiree, the second pale-skinned blonde in the group, and the second to have masculine features. Although, that's all that is masculine, as she is rather girly deep down. A rather quiet one usually, Desiree still manages to speak up if in a matter of survival.
These were strange lands, after all, inhabited by weird and loathsome beasts - goblins, trolls, and even dragons. Gazing at the dying embers burning in the campfire, Julian, the Dwarf, began to drift off to sleep, and the images of screaming, green-faced trolls flickered through his mind. He may crave the adventure, but these foul monsters still turned his stomach. Although he does this for the thrill, it is also for his daughter and wife. Collecting gold and treasure for the livelihood of his beautiful curly-headed, dark-skinned, 6-year-old little girl. Every night before drifting off and thinking about horrid things, he told himself that he was doing this for them.
Suddenly, in the bushes to Roxanne's left, they all heard the loud crack of a twig breaking under a clumsy foot. Roxanne, and Faye who lay next to her, instantly leapt up and pulled their swords from the ground, standing motionless but alert, ready to pounce on your unseen adversary. Rosanne was the youngest of the group but a very fast learner. Her long-flowing brown hair flew back over her shoulders as she shot a look at Faye. Everyone else followed suit.
"Who's there?", Faye asked, in a firm and fearless manner.
Seconds pass with no further sounds. Then there was a groan, followed by the dull thud of a body falling to the ground. Was it a trap?
Being the youngest in the group and perhaps, one of the most naive, Roxanne very slowly walked over to the bush where the noise had come from and very carefully pulled back the branches. To the others, she revealed a little old man with a great bushy beard, his face contorted in pain. Samantha walked over for a closer look, mainly because Samantha didn't want them to think she couldn't handle the situation and no longer lead them. Was Samantha the leader? Yes, as she had one of the strongest personalities in the group and even stronger and vibrant ginger-red hair with faint freckles on rosy skin that no one should ever point out to her. She crouched down to remove the iron helmet covering the fallen man's bald head and noticed two crossbow bolts that protruded from the stomach of his plump, chain-mail-clad torso.
Elsie looked at Samantha, Faye, and Roxanne from her position next to their fire. She was practically the second in command, next to Sam. As she's the one who has the advice and will comfort anyone who needs it; almost like the mother of the group. She is also the third and final blonde and an elegant one at that.
Elsie called to them, requesting, "Bring him to the light and warmth of the fire, I'm sure this is what he needs."
Both Samantha, begrudgingly, and Roxanne nodded, picking him up and carrying him over to the fire, while Elsie stirred the dying embers to life. Once he was placed next to the fire, Elsie knelt by his side, opposite Samantha, and covered him with her sheepskin blanket, managing to get the old man to drink a little water.
"Sir, can you hear me?", Elsie whispered to him.
The old man, who they could now see was a much older dwarf, coughed and moaned. Eyes staring fixedly ahead, he started to shout, "I'll get them! I'll get them! Don't you fear, Gillibran, Bigleg is coming to bring you the hammer. Oh yes, indeed I am. Oh yes..." The dwarf, whose name is presumably Bigleg, was obviously delirious from the poison-tipped bolts in his stomach.
Julian watched from afar as Bigleg relaxed his body again. He was staying back, he knew this dwarf and they weren't on good terms. Normally he would have helped, but he knew he was too far gone and that the girls would take good care of him. Besides, he couldn't risk Bigleg seeing him, so he stood back with Aelric and Ailbe. They too were staying back, but for a different reason. As they were simply better fighters and didn't tend to get involved when matters like this arose. Aelric was a tall, rugged man with floppy brown hair and a prideful demeanour. Ailbe (pronounced Al-vah), on the other hand, was shorter than him, by at least a foot. Her long, bushy hair was ginger-brown and wild, and her face may have looked innocent but her eyes belonged to someone who was wise beyond her years. To her, everything requires strategy and strength, while kindness was something she lacked.
The three watched as Samantha whispered in Bigleg's ear, inaudible to the group, and his eyes stared unblinkingly at her. Before anyone had a chance to speak, he again started to shout, "Ambush! Look out! Ambush! Aargh! The hammer! Take the hammer to Gillibran! Save the dwarfs!" His eyes were half-closed, and the pain seemed to ease a little.
In unison, both Aelric and Ailbe held their weapons higher and started panning the perimeter for any more unwelcome guests, as if it'd been previously discussed.
As the delirium subsided, Bigleg spoke to Sam again in a low whisper, "Help us, friends ... take the hammer to Gillibran ... only the hammer will unite our people against the trolls. ... We were on our way to Darkwood in search of the hammer ... ambushed by the little people ... others killed ... the map in my pouch will take you to the home of Yaztromo, the master wizard of these parts ... he has great magic for sale to protect you against the creatures of Darkwood ... take my gold ... I beg you to find the hammer and take it to Gillibran, my Lord of Stonebridge ... you will be well rewarded..." Bigleg opened his mouth to start another sentence but nothing came out except his last dying breath.
Desiree and Faye sat down with Samantha and pondered Bigleg's words. "Who is Gillibran?", Faye asked.
Julian knew, of course, and he was sure that everyone else knew he did too, but he didn't say anything. Remaining silent, he thought of his family and how this quest might lead him back to them. It had been over a month since he'd last seen them.
With the first question having already been asked, Desiree's curiosity got the better of her. "Who is Yaztromo?"
"I want to know what all this fuss about a dwarfish hammer is?!", Samantha enquired as she reached over the still body of Bigleg and removed the pouch from his leather belt around his waist. Inside she found 30 Gold pieces and a map. Opening up the four-fold map, she saw that on it is a drawing of the rather large Darkwood forest that they were camped beside. At one end of the forest is Yaztromo's tower, and at the opposite end, Stonebridge. She jiggled the coins in her hand, counting about 30 Gold pieces, and then she handed the map to Elsie to analyse and thought of the possible rewards that could await them just for returning a hammer to a village of dwarfs.
Everyone had already decided in their heads to try to find the hammer in Darkwood forest, no words needed to be said. It had been a few weeks since the group's last good battle, and, what is more, the group was likely to be well paid for this one. With the silent decision made, it was time to sleep. Everyone settled down, even Elsie, who took back the sheepskin blanket from poor Bigleg.
Tomorrow morning would be when they all started the new quest that just happened to stumble upon them.