Kingmaker: Reborn by Jaywaii | World Anvil Manuscripts | World Anvil

Chapter 3

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Donato did not know where he was running to. It was a wide open plain, not a feature in sight.

But the trapper had to run. If he stopped, he was dead.

His heart was pounding, His breath was ragged. He dared not look behind him, but he could hear the jeers and laughter of his hunters.

That was when he saw them. Just as Donato was about to give up and resign himself to his fate, he saw five riders come over the horizon. He did not know who they were. They could be bandits as well, or worse. But Seven Hells, what did he have to lose at this point?

"Help!" he cried out to them. "Help! I'm being chased by bandits!"

The Evergreen Company heard the call for help. Without words, they all agreed. It was time to get to work.

Master Minchdoya was the first to move on his pony. "What's going on here?" the gnome called out. "Why don't we all just relax?"

"Please help!" Donato shouted as he ran closer to the terranefblin. The bandits chasing him fired arrows at him. Fortunately for Donato, one arrow only narrowly missed him, while a second one glanced off his leather armour.

Arina rode up next to Minchdoya, and drew her sword. "It appears that they do not wish to parley, Master," she said. "We should be prepared for the worse."

Minchdoya shook his head sadly. "If only people could realise the goodness within them."

The rest of the party caught up with them. Donato ran up into their midst, dodging the sword swings of the bandits nipping at his heels.

"Quickly!" Davona called out to him. "Get behind us and we can provide you cover!"

One of the bandits called out to the party. "Hey! Back off! This is our prey!"

"And praying is what you'll be doing when I'm done with you!" Davona shouted back. It seemed that the prospect of fighting bandits lifted her spirits somewhat.

Riding up to the bandits, Minchdoya dismounted, then smoothly slipped through the guard of the nearest bandits, and twisted the man's greatsword out his hands, and into his own.

The bandit was flabbergasted at the move. "Hey! My sword!"

"I'll give this back to you when you decide to play nice," the monk scolded the man as if he was a child. Davona let out a shout of laughter at the sight.

Meanwhile, Arina rode past Minchdoya, intent on neutralizing the archers at the back. Guiding her horse with her knees, she charged at one of them, holding her rapier with both hands. She thrusted her blade, but unaccustomed to fighting on horseback, missed her target. Undeterred, Arina eyed several of the bandits, and called upon dark energy from an old friend upon them.

While Cethin began using his witch powers to weaken the bandits, Davona dismounted in front of the bandits to engage them in melee. Meanwhile, Jupus stretched out his hand to Donato. "Get on!" he called out.

Donato desperately reached out, and grabbed Jupus' hand. However, just as he did so, Donato's luck ran out. One of the bandits slashed deep in Donato's back. The man yelled out in pain, then collapsed to the ground, the pain rendering him unconscious. "Damn you!" Jupus called out.

The disarmed bandit facing Minchdoya hopped back to get some distance. Don't think I'm harmless yet, you small, blue freak! The bandit pulled out a flask of alchemist fire and lobbed it at the party. Luckily for the Company, the bandit's aim was poor, and the flask missed its target. The only damage was a few burns from the fiery explosion.

Moving like water, Minchdoya slipped through the guard of another bandit. With a twist of the arm, the monk pulled the bandit's greatsword out of his grip. "And same goes for you!" the monk scolded, as he tossed the swords away.

Arina dismounted from her horse. One of the bandits tried to shoot an arrow at her, but fumbled and spilled out all of his arrows onto the ground. Taking a cue from Minchdoya, Arina danced in front of the archer in front of her, and with a flick of her rapier, knocked the longbow out of his hands. With one disarmed, and the other having lost his ammunition, both archers opted to draw their longswords.

Arina smirked. Invoking the dark power of Mr. Angelcakes, she wracked several bandits with the pain she felt within. She followed up by executing the sword technique known as left-hand strike. From the bandit's perspective, it appears that Arina was stabbing at two places at once. Confused, the bandit's defence faltered badly, allowing Arina to stab him deeply.

As Davona dueled the last remaining armed bandit, Jupus tried to hide himself from the bandits' sight to attack them by surprise. Unfortunately, it did not seem to work. The disarmed bandits stepped back to lob alchemist fire at the party. However, their aim was poor, and only managed to light burn the party.

Running out of options, the bandits began fearing for their lives as they found themselves being disarmed and beaten on without being able to return the damage on their attackers. What started out as a simple hunt turned out to be far more dangerous than what the bandits would like.

"Who are these guys?!" one of them cried out in panic. "This is nuts! I gotta get outta here!" As the first bandit started to run, it seemed to trigger the others into running as well.

"Wait! Your got your pointies!" Minchdoya cried out, running after them while carrying their swords.

Arina continued to pour pain on her claimed targets. They had no idea where this pain was coming from, and it frightened them. Arina exchanged blows with the bandit in front of her as he tried to run away. Cethin tried to cast his spells on them, but none seemed to take. All the kitsune could do was use his witch powers to weaken the bandits.

No longer having her hands full with bandits, Davona rushed to the downed Donato. "I've seen too many losses to the hands of bandits," she muttered as she took a potion of cure wounds from her bag, and fed it to the man. She then stood watch over him as he recovered.

Jupus remounted his pony, and drew one of his trick arrows. He took aim at one of the fleeing bandits, and let the arrow fly. The arrow split midway in the air, and wrapped itself around the legs of his target. The bandit tumbled down into the grass.

Minchdoya ran up to him, and then dropped the swords on the bandit. "Here, you forgot these!" Jupus caught up to them on his pony. The bandit managed to untangle himself, and grabbed one of the swords. He held it up before him, eyeing the two Evergreen Company members nervously. "Not going to take the other one?" Minchdoya asked, eyeing the man menacingly while Jupus took aim.

"You're knocked down, your friends are running," Jupus told him. "Any further action would be… foolish."

The bandit gulped. "Okay, okay! I surrender!" he cried out, dropping the sword. Jupus dismounted, and began tying him up.

Meanwhile, Cethin tried to shoot at one of the bandits, but the string of his crossbow broke! The bandit charged at him. "Get out of my way, you furry freak!" he cried out as he swung his great sword at the kitsune witch. The blow hit Cethin with full force, and the witch spat out blood. Fortunately, for him, the bandit was more concerned with running than finishing his opponent, and ran past him.

Further back, Arina continued to wrack pain on her claimed foes, knocking out another bandit. She then managed to take another one down using her sword techniques. She continued to harry the fleeing bandits, weakening them further and further.

Minchdoya also ran up to one of the fleeing bandits. "Why don't you stay a while and listen?" he taunted, and then swung his leg at the bandit's, causing him to trip and fall. The gnome then delivered one punch, and knocked the man out.

"Gods damn you all!" the last bandit shouted, and tried to swing his sword at Arina. The harbinger deftly dodged the attack, and with a quick stab, took down the last bandit.

The party then gathered up the bandits, stabilizing the injured ones and healing their own wounds. With all five alive, they tied them up after stripping them of their equipment and valuables. Next to Davona, Donato recovered well enough to speak after receiving healing from Cethin.

"Thank you all," he told the party. He explained that he was a local trapper. These bandits found him, and as usual, demanded that he hand over all of his goods. However, this time, the bandits fell into several of his traps, and that angered them to no end. Fortunately, the traps gave Donato enough time to run. And luckily enough, he managed to find the party.

"It was our pleasure to help," Arina told him. "We are the Evergreen Company, and we are here to explore and tame the region, as indicated by this charter issued by the Châteaufoy Trade House. As a local in the region, we would love for you to share any knowledge you have of the region."

"Certainly!" Donato said. "After what you did for me, that would be the least I could do."

Donato pointed out on their map the location of Biaggio's hut, a hermit that collects herbs and creates potions. Many of the locals buy and trade potions and herbs with him. The man was old and eccentric, but Donato assured them that his potions were good.

Donato also confirmed the location of the moon radish patch, as well as the location of a large fangberry thicket. Fangberries were famous in the region for their sweet taste, but dangerously large and sharp thorns on the bushes branches.

"Have you heard of any abandoned temples? Particularly of Deianeira?" Cethin asked him.

"Not specifically, but I have heard stories of Deianeiran pilgrims traveling to and from the Gnarlwood forest to the west of the trade post," Donato told them. The party also asked him about some of the infamous beasts in the region, but Donato told them that while he has heard of them, he makes sure to avoid them at all cost.

Jupus turned to one of the still conscious bandits. "How about you? Have you heard of any temples?"

The bandit spat at Jupus' feet. "I ain't telling you nothing."

"So, we once again find ourselves with a group of bandit prisoners," Arina said.

"I vote that we do not execute them," Minchdoya said. Arina voiced her agreement.

Cethin had other ideas. Casting an evil eye on the bandit, the kitsune witch attempted to cast an interrogation spell. However, the spell failed to take hold. Fortunately for Cethin, Davona did not recognize the spell. Arina did, but honestly, she was unconcerned for the moral implications of using such cruel magic.

However, Davona did propose they hold off on any questioning until they bring back the bandits back to the trade post. "It'll be easier there, and we don't know if there are more bandits nearby."

The rest of the party agreed, and they made their way back to the trade post. It was late at night when they arrived, but the new guards recognized them and brought them in. "Looks like you caught another haul," Roark the dwarf commented, seeing the tied up bandits in tow.

Onestrio came out of his house. The party noticed that he looked a bit tipsy, but the trade post owner welcomed them, and brought Donato inside for some much needed warmth and comfort. They heard him call for Sabina to warm up some food while he went to prepare a bed for the trapper.

The Evergreen Company talked among themselves about what to do with the bandits.

"We could hand them over to Lorenzo for judgment," Arina suggested.

"Absolutely not!" Jupus interjected. The memories of the cold slaying of their previous prisoners came back fresh in his mind. "We are not going to foist these off to someone else. We need to be the ones taking responsibility for them."

"Not to Onestrio, I agree," Arina replied. "We made a bad decision back then, but Lorenzo is something like the best representative of law and order here."

"I agree with Jupus completely," Davona added. She had been oddly quiet throughout the trip back to the trade post. The emptiness she felt within her that plagued her since the execution of Vico's bandits weighed heavily on her mind. She had decided that perhaps it was time to change her way of thinking. "We were the ones given authority over this land, it's time we take responsibility for it."

"Jail time, then?" Cethin suggested.

"That works for me," Jupus said. "We can negotiate with Onestrio to use the storehouse as a jail, and have the guards watch over them."

"Hopefully he'll agree. Especially now that he seems to be drinking," Arina said, eyeing back to where Onestrio went.

"Let's use the gear we got off the bandits to barter with him," Cethin proposed. "And maybe we can have the bandits work for him."

"That's what I've been saying before, but no, everyone ignored that," Jupus muttered.

"Well, the issue before was that we didn't have the guards to watch over them to make sure they do the work," Arina explained. "It could work now. Maybe."

The Evergreen Company sought out Onestrio, and asked him if they could use the storehouse as a makeshift prison for their prisoners. In exchange, they would give him almost all of the gear they got off the bandits. Onestrio accepted; the goods that the party gave him was more than enough to hold them for a while.

The Company also talked to Lorenzo about keeping watch on the prisoners. Lorenzo said that he and his men would be fine, but it might help to get more guards. The costs will have to come out of the Company's own funds, however. The party agreed, and it seemed that the goods that they gave to Onestrio would be enough to hire two more guards for a while.

The Company then talked with their bandit prisoners.

"You are all our prisoners now," Davona told them. "However, you have the chance to repent for your criminal actions by working here. You can choose to do honest work, and maybe earn a wage. Or you can refuse, and we would have to deal with you personally."

The bandits were glaring, and unconvinced. Davona observed them for a moment, and remained silent. She was thinking about what she would have to do with them. She still remembered those frightened eyes as she plunged her sword into Vico's heart, and the coldness and loss that accompanied it. The unexpected guilt she felt afterwards continued to haunt her. There had to be a better way.

"Oh! I've got an idea," Jupus interjected. He pulled the group close into a huddle. "We're eventually going to found our own kingdom, right? How about we promise them a parcel of land to call their own if they do as we say, and maintain good behaviour?"

The party all nodded. That sounded like a good incentive, and something they can easily do. Davona returned to the prisoners with this proposal.

"Listen," Davona said in a much softer tone. "You don't have to continue down this path. It'll only have you end up in a cold cell, or worse. You can live a more honest life, and it won't be without rewards. My companions and I will eventually claim this land for our own. Should you agree to our terms, make a good effort and maintain good behaviour, we would reward you with your freedom, and a plot of land to call your own."

Master Minchdoya, who had been quiet, also tried to convince the bandits to agree. "Come, think of the fresh air. And the lack of beheadings."

The bandits were not stupid. They knew a good deal when they heard one, and tentatively agreed. Cethin talked with Lorenzo about providing a small wage to the bandits' work. "Provided they remain on good behaviour," he added.

"Well, it's a bit unorthodox," Lorenzo commented, scratching his head. "But if you provide the funds, I'll take care of it."

The rest of the party also went along with that idea. They all provided one gold piece each for the initial funds, to be divided one copper a day provided they do good work. Considering all the amenities the bandit prisoners were already getting, this was fairly generous. Cethin explained this offer to the bandits. It was met with some surprise, but not complete acceptance.

Jupus walked up to them. "Gentlemen, I understand that you are all suspicious about our offer. Please understand that we want to settle this region, and we can use your help," he said. "So you can help us and reap the rewards. Or you can end up like the last bunch."

"Uh, no, no! No need to go there!" one of the bandits exclaimed.

Jupus smiled. "Then, there you go. Remain on good terms with us, and you will be rewarded."

The party thought that this was a good first step, but did not get the sense that the bandits were fully committed. They asked Donato to bring a request on their behalf for more mercenary guards and made sure Lorenzo and his men were well-equipped.

After getting some food and some rest, the party readied themselves the next morning to continue their exploration. They first made sure that the prisoners were secured, and that the guards were equipped to deal with them. While they were doing so, Cethin approached Joram, asking him to learn more about religious knowledge.

"I'd be happy to help!" Joram said. "However, most of my knowledge is mostly focused on Deianeira. I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all!" Cethin replied. "I'm open to learning any religion."

"Perfect then. Any time you spend here, I'd be happy to impart my knowledge to you."

The Company then set off towards the southeast direction from the tradepost. Their goal was to reach the moon radish patch, and explore the area on the way. Their path took them along the western edge of the Old Arborfane forest, a massive forest that formed the eastern border of the Evergreen Plains.

As they traveled along its edges, Cethin could sense old magic emanating from it. It made the fur on the back of his neck straighten and tense. Even the rest of the party felt like there was a presence from the forest observing them. However, they could not perceive anyone, or anything, through the thick brush. However, to Master Minchdoya, the feeling felt like an old home. He almost even cracked a smile at the feeling.

They did not know much about the Old Arborfane forest, but Cethin did remember his old coven had some knowledge of it. He knew that the Old Arborfane was ancient, and contained many dangerous magicks. He quickly suggested to the rest of the group to stay away from the place.

The Company continued to travel and explore for the next several days. At night, they sometimes heard roars from the direction of the forest, even though they were camped some miles away. Finally, though, they reached the moon radish patch.

To their surprise however, they heard some shrill moanings from the middle of the patch. Cautiously approaching, they found four small, reptilian humanoids with dog-like features lying on the backs, moaning in pain and pleasure. They were kobolds, and their bellies seemed distended. They could see several baskets full of mood radishes next to them.

"Uh, hello?" Arina called out.

The four kobolds leapt up in surprise, yipping in their kobold tongue. They grabbed their spears, and pointed them at the party menacingly.

"Um, we mean you no harm!" Arina called out again, but the kobolds continued to yip and yap. It seemed neither group could understand each other. Minchdoya ignored them, and started gathering moon radishes. However, the kobolds took that as an aggressive act, and charged the party!

The Company sighed, and readied their weapons. So much for diplomacy.

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