The High Forest

The Northmen Cometh

The crystal waters of the Dessarin River gently slapped at the hull of the stolen keelboat as Kjorné propelled them toward the riverside keep with powerful strokes and colorful complaints. The water was otherwise still and the land open to the sky. Magnus took a deep breath of the fresh air; A slight breeze tousled the young warrior’s long hair. He smiled, preferring the feel of the wind in his face and the boat swaying under his feet to the overcrowded inns and stinking towns they had left behind.

They were all shocked to see the attractive sorceress behind the bar at the Bargewright Inn, barking orders and very nearly pulling out her hair. The temptress had traded her typically cool, seductive demeanor for one of a frazzled hausfrau.

Gora had apparently been entrusted with the management of the inn, and was searching for a set of important, and unfortunately missing, keys. Magnus shook his head at the memory. They didn’t have time for petty squabbling over some unimportant inn, or even an entire town. The gods themselves were being threatened by these elemental worshipers and their fanatical followers.

The ungrateful bitch didn’t even thank them for finding and killing the outlaw, Quanderil, and his lackeys for whom she had been searching the entire time she had been in the vale. Looking back, Magnus was glad they hadn’t gotten dragged further into the politics and troubles of that town. If they had helped search for those missing keys, or gone off to escort a caravan for a bunch of soft, whining merchants, then they surely would have died of boredom while the Nidhug devoured them all.

Magnus chuckled recalling Quanderil’s pitiful attempt to challenge them. The fat, green-skinned sailor ran like a coward, attempting to escape underwater. But they had destroyed him and every one of his shipmates. Unbeknownst to the barbarians, it was for this reason that Rivergard Keep, which they now approached, was not warned of their arrival.

“Why the fuck am I doing all the rowing?” Kjorné bellowed, breaking Magnus’ reverie. “Kodrir, can’t you, like, ask the fish to push us or something?”

The enigmatic druid shifted, rustling his feather-trimmed hide cloak. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

“What the fuck does that even mean?” Kjorné asserted forcefully, managing to preserve an air of genuine inquisitive interest. “Clearly hands are better in a bush then on a little bird.” the crass barbarian retorted, simultaneously grabbing his crotch. “Helson, why don’t you conjure up your unseen manwhore to row this thing. I need to save my strength.”

The demon-boy rolled his eyes and sighed. Again. “It’th a girl” he said, exasperated at the stale jest. “And the’s an untheen thervant!” he struggled with the common tongue from behind his oversized, pointed teeth.

Kjorné just chuckled in response, catching Magnus’ eye, shaking his head and nodding toward the tiefling. “Magnus, you take over then. I’d have piss-boy do it, but I want to get there before the sun sets.”

Magnus knew it was better not to try and argue with stubborn warrior and replaced him at the oar. They were so close, he didn’t know why Kjorné was complaining. But the barbarian’s pacing told Magnus that Kjorné was too anxious for battle to sit still any longer.

The riverside entrance to the keep was blocked by a chain that ran through the gap in the walls. Helson blasted the chain with an arcane bolt, shattering it with a small sizzling splash, just as a face peered out of one of the arrow slits to inquire into their identity. More bolts of energy exploded against the keep wall inches from his face, which quickly retreated.

The face quickly disappeared and Kjorné dropped beside his brother, synchronizing with his stride. The pair of barbarians strained against the oars, veins popping along their bulging muscles as they propelled the small craft, raising it further above the water as they gained speed.

Moments later, the keelboat hit the shore with enough momentum to propel its crew over the sides, into a wave of guards. More than a dozen clearly low-ranking thugs raced toward them, down steep stairs, set into the 20-foot embankment that ringed the shoreline and led up to the rest of the keep. At the same time, a handful of similarly outfitted bandits scampered out to the walls and began firing on the invaders. More fearsome warriors armed with swords bearing what appeared to be sharks teeth, and shields fashioned in the shape of a horseshoe crab shell were scattered throughout the mob.

Magnus and Kjorné dove headlong into the oncoming tide of defenders, slowing their advance and giving Helson time to create an explosion in their ranks, decimating them. Meanwhile, Fiori snuck around, picking off the archers on the walls and keeping his friends safe.

As the defenders thinned, another group of the tooth-sword-wielding warriors burst from the tower door to meet the attackers, but quickly fell to the druid’s conjured wolves and the barbarians’ swords. Shortly afterward, a splash was heard near the tower, but no fleeing enemies could be seen.

With the walls cleared, and no more defenders approaching, the northerners regrouped to formulate the rest of their plan for taking the keep.


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The Northmen Cometh

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