Raven pulled the hood of his gray cloak lower to shade his eyes against the glare of the rising sun. Crossing his arms over his chest, the elven swordsman leaned back to rest against the wall of the inn and settled in to wait for his traveling companion.
Despite the early hour, the streets of Tsuragol were already filling with craftsmen and laborers heading to work, vendors hawking wares from street-side kiosks and sailors with hangovers shuffling back to their ships in the harbor. A wry grin slowly appeared under his hood as he wondered how many of the port’s citizens knew about the thieves’ guild in their midst. Just the night before, Raven and his partner Alisandra had been accosted by thieves on a narrow side street just a few blocks north of the inn. The elves fought to defend themselves and slew several of their attackers.
Before the last thief could be vanquished, an unseen spellcaster conjured a globe of darkness and centered it in the impromptu battlefield. The thief attempted to escape while the elves were distracted but the black pearl in the pommel of Raven’s sword had surged to life and drawn the supernatural darkness into itself. The spellcaster escaped into the night but the last criminal was felled while trying to slip away. A swift inspection of the fallen revealed that all were masked women in near-identical clothing.
Raven sighed and checked to ensure that the two swords riding his hips were free in their sheaths and adjusted the strap holding his bow and quiver. He turned to look at the inn’s front door and with a very un-elven dose of impatience began to pace.
He was somewhere in the middle of his sixth lap when he smelled the smoke. He stepped off of the raised front porch of the hotel and rounded the corner of the building. He peered downhill toward the harbor and quickly spotted a quartet of ships spraying flaming oil from over-sized fire projectors onto buildings along the water front.
Pirates were attacking the city.
Almost without thinking, the elf began to run toward the docks. In less than a minute, he came upon a small knot of city guardsmen who were trying to hold off a much larger group of sword-wielding cutthroats. Flailing with short clubs normally used for crowd control, three of the guards were already wounded and all were hard-pressed. Raven’s blades cleared their sheathes with a lightning hiss as he jumped into the fray.
With speed, strength and decades of experience the pirates couldn’t begin to match, the elf ducked, dodged, stabbed and slashed. One by one and two by two, the pirates were scythed down by his determined assault. The few rogues who tried to counterattack found their cutlasses slapped aside by the elf’s quick parries and soon joined their larcenous companions who lay bleeding in the street. A quickly shouted order to the guards to wait for reinforcements and Raven raced on, headed for the nearest attacking vessel.
The pirates had, for the most part, avoided the city docks and had instead run themselves aground on the shallow pebbly beach before disgorging their attackers. Marines and sailors stood by at the rails with long poles ready to push off at a moment’s notice.
Arrows and crossbow bolts whizzed past Raven’s head as he drew ever closer to his target. He slammed his swords home and leaped as soon as he reached the water’s edge. Grasping at a low hanging line near the bow, he hauled himself upward.
The elf’s enchanted mithral chain armor worn under his clothing absorbed the blows rained down upon him as he climbed aboard and found his footing. His swords loose once more, Raven spun and thrust, wielding his blades with unsurpassed mastery. Every blade stroke hit an enemy and he fought with total abandon. The pirates were hampered by their greater numbers crammed into such cramped quarters and were forced to fight more carefully or risk injuring their shipmates.
Despite his greater speed and skill, Raven was beginning to tire. He began to give ground and retreated across the deck using the ship’s fittings, masts and rigging to deflect or entangle pirates blades. Then, the city guards arrived. Clambering aboard with only a third of the grace Raven had displayed, the defenders of Tsuragol soon had the pirates penned in and pressed their attack. Raven took the opportunity to scramble up the rigging to the crow’s nest where he put his bow to work with deadly accuracy.
As the fighting ground to a halt, Raven turned to survey the town. Much of the waterfront was ablaze, as were numerous ships. The remaining pirate vessels had put out to sea and were already clear of the harbor. Raven unstrung his bow and returned it to his quiver. He frowned in thought as he climbed down from his lofty perch and wondered what the pirates had hoped to gain by attacking a city in broad daylight.
(from the Journal of Raven Straightbow)
Twenty-three. Twenty-three lives ended today by my hand, either killed outright or later as a result of the wounds I inflicted. I feel no remorse for what I have done since the harm those men may have caused otherwise is incalculable.
I found Alisandra after the battle. She too had seen her share of combat and although fewer pirates were slain by her (for few buccaneers wish to do battle with a druid shapechanged into an enraged grizzly bear), she will not rest easily tonight as the taking of life, however necessary, is never easy for her to accept.
Despite heavy losses in the opening of the battle, the city guard acquitted itself well today. With adventurers such as myself and Alisandra buying time for the troops to mobilize, Tsuragol carried the day. I’m told that in places where the fighting was particularly desperate, globes of darkness cut off the advance of the invading pirates so it seems that the local thieves’ guild will at least fight to defend its territory.
The smell of smoke still hangs heavily in the air as the last of the fires are brought under control by priests and hired wizards. Town criers are roaming through the city, announcing a meeting is to be held in a plaza in front of the steps of the local temple of Umberlee. The city’s ruling council wants to chase down and capture the pirates who fled and bring them to justice. While I’m not certain my views on justice will mesh well with those of the council, I plan on volunteering for the mission.
- End (Prologue) -