The morning was cold and crisp in the Gilsonite Mountains, which was not unusual at that altitude even in the Summerlands, but Olwen Salhe’s teeth still chattered as she watched her own breath. The lighthouse was only just starting to shine at full strength, its brilliance full of promise for the bright new day, but it hadn’t pushed back the cold of night just yet. And, in the shade of the dark forest it was still exceptionally chilly. “Why didn’t the commander send me someplace warm, like Henthorn Lake?” Salhe grumbled to herself.
She continued to trudge quietly through the wilderness, watching her surroundings with a practiced eye. There was plenty of evidence of activity, broken branches where something rushed through the brush, fresh prints from a night of foraging, and the disturbed earth of a recent kill. But, none of those things concerned Salhe, no she was after a different prey. Word had gotten to the Kayrin Guard of goblin sightings on the road. The upper command hadn’t thought much of it sense the reports were from the north of the Animas Range, except there were too many to ignore. So, expecting to find little more than a hunting camp, if even that, so they asked for ‘volunteers’ to investigate. Salhe had to be drunk when the call came, celebrating her graduation from training, and had to open her mouth. It was all a blur to her, but she might have suggested the commander do it himself since he’s such a ‘cold ass’. And, the next thing she knew, she was heading on a solo mission.
Skulking along an old game trail, Olwen sees the frothing rapids of the Gillribbon River slowly come into view. The Kayrin Guard had been getting reports of strange activities along it’s banks; goblin sightings and the like, very unusual for an area so far inland from the Twilight Boarder. Because of this Olwen wasn’t expecting much to come of her scouting mission. These kinds of abnormal sightings were usually only the result of wary farmers seeing a strange log or the like. Instead, what Olwen saw crouching by the river startled her more than any goblin would.
The man crouching by the river would have looked entirely ordinary had not been for his blue skin. Olwen stealthily draws her bow and cautiously approaches the strange man. The strange man spots her almost immediately, realizing she’s been spotted, Olwen takes a defensive stance, ready to shoot the man if he makes a move, and asks “What are you?”
“I’m a Samsaran.” He answered as if the answer were plain.
“I have no idea what that is. Where do you come from?”
“I come from the monastery in the tundra.”
So the man was not only strange looking, but was an illegal alien as well. Olwen couldn’t think of a single instance where any humanoid caught on the wrong side of the twilight boarder wasn’t eliminated on sight, but those others had all been barbaric goblins and orcs, this intruder seemed sensible. She decided she should bring him back to her commanding officer. “Ok sir I’m going to have to ask you to-”
“Heeeeeeck!!!” She was cut off by a cry coming from the river. Olwen no longer had time to take a prisoner, as there was a wild haired woman being swept away by the rapids, which led straight to a waterfall a few miles east.
Without hesitation, Olwen ran full tilt towards the bank grumbling to herself as she did. “Come and help!” She commanded the blue man. The so-called Samsaran obviously had no clue how to help, but he didn’t dare refuse the call of the fiery ranger and ran to her side.
“What do I-?”
“Hold this!” She cut him off, shoving the end of a hempen rope in his hand, the other end of which she had tied securely to the arrow notched in her longbow.
Without further explanation, Olwen made a shot, lodging the arrow firmly in a tree-stump on the opposite bank. Smiling at her success, she dropped her weapons and planted herself firmly, grabbing the rope with both hands.
“Now you try and catch this rope and you can shimmy to safety!” She yelled to the woman.
She didn’t respond, but she obviously understood, because she instantly became less frantic and more focused, seemingly readying herself to grab the rope as she passed under it.
The woman couldn’t slow her progress in the rapids any significant amount, but she managed to time it perfectly despite the speed and planted a firm grip on the rope. Success! Or so they thought for half a second before the force of the current reached Olwen and the monk’s end of the rope, which jerked Olwen forward and ripped the rope from the blue man’s grasp.
When Olwen suddenly found herself falling off the bank, she flung one hand wide, the other she kept occupied with a death grip on the rope, and somehow managed to grip the side of the bank. She was then suspended slightly above the lower bank between the ledge and the river because the strength of the rapids pulled the rope tight.
The force of the current took its toll on the old stump on the other bank as well, and it began to come loose from the muddy soil of the bank, and the urgency of the situation grew yet again.
“Are you going to climb? Because otherwise I’m letting go!” She yelled to the woman in the river.
“Uh, I think you’d better let go; it looks like you’re about to fall in too. I’ll try to swim to the bank on my own.” She responded.
“Alright, whenever you’re ready!”
The druid let go of the rope and began the struggle to shore, meanwhile Olwen had let go of the rope and was struggling to climb the bank, but her hands kept slipping. The monk came to her aid, but lifted with his back, and not his knees, and so they both went tumbling down the banks and into the river. The monk regained his bearings quickly and began to work with the druid in order to get back to shore safely. Olwen, however, was regretting the fact that she hadn’t paid much mind to her swimming instructors, and being swept downriver barely able to keep her head above water.
Olwen was swept downriver by the ever-growing rapids, getting closer to the falls she knew they lead up to, before that though, she knew there was one more chance to get a foothold, there was a bridge approaching.
She swam to the opposite edge of the river and prepared the try to grab onto one of the supports of the bridge. She grappled a beam and began the shimmy up, struggling with the extra weight of her waterlogged clothes. The other two had freed themselves from the river and were atop the bridge preparing to lower a rope down, when Olwen slipped and reentered the river with a splash. All the others could do was watch her head bob back to the surface on the other side of the bridge.
As soon as she had a moment to take a breath, Olwen began to try to find another way as not to fall to her death. Suddenly a thought occurred to her. Where had the stump gone that she had shot a rope into? Last she saw it had been coming loose from the bank, it was a long shot, but if it had gotten caught somewhere she could hold onto it and possibly pull herself to safety. She frantically searched the water, hoping that she hadn’t already passed it, and spotted it in the last place she would have wanted it to be.
Right on the edge of the waterfall she saw the familiar stump caught up in some gnarled roots and rocks. Seeing no other option, she swam to T herself up with the stump, and preparing to catch herself with the rope as she fell.
Miraculously she was able to catch the rope and firmly hold herself hanging from the cliff. She only took a moment to observe her surroundings and decide on her next step, knowing that the arrow that held the rope in place may very well give under her weight, as it had already been thoroughly tugged.
What she observed made her both happy and nervous. Hidden beneath the falls was a goblin scouting camp, complete with five of the creatines skulking about. She hadn’t been sent on a mission for nothing! That’ll show that hard-ass of a commander! There actually was a threat of goblins in the area! A threat that she was poorly equipped to deal with as she had dropped her rapier and longbow on the bank miles behind her…
Knowing that climbing up would not only likely get her spotted, but also do nothing in the way of getting her safely to a bank, she decided that she better fast-rope down. Wishing she had the cover of night, but knowing that there was nothing to do to change that fact, she slid down the rope and quietly and quickly as possible.
Somehow not one of the goblins spotted her, and she was saved the hassle of trying to dodge arrows as she descended. ‘Wow, these ones must be dumber than they look.’ Olwen thought as she crouched behind the nearest bush observing the oblivious enemies.
She didn’t get to ponder their stupidity for very long before the Samsaran came crashing down from the last switchback on the side of the cliff, landing betwixt three of the goblins, all of whom burst out in uncontrollable laughter at the poor man’s acrobatic blunder. Resisting the urge to laugh as well, she saw that the other two goblins had noticed the blue man and were moving to attack him.
She pounced on one, kicking him square in his little jaw, instantly killing him, and shouted at the other “Hey numb-nuts, the threat is over here!” in his native tongue.
Apparently the term, numb-nuts really didn’t sit well in his tiny brain, because in a fit of rage he dropped his sword and came running at her frothing at the mouth. He managed to reach Olwen and clamp down on her leg with his jaw, but he did little more damage than he would have attacking with a feather. A few punches and a swing of her leg quickly dispatched the monster.
Even though she was able to dispatch two of the goblins so quickly, she wasn’t confident in her ability to take on the three remaining with her bare hands, and since they were all still distracted by the monk’s blunder, she had time to locate a barrel of weapons and equip herself with a short-sword. The weapon was crude, obviously crafted by the creatures that owned it, but it would do.
One of the goblins finally broke out of his laughing fit and spotted Olwen wielding the sword. He charged, missed, and was stabbed in the back by the ranger. Meanwhile the monk finally regained his bearings and landed a few swift blows to one of the two still laughing at him, and the creature fell to the ground. The last goblin was stung by a giant bee commanded by the woman they had pulled from the river and the goblin fell over instantly feeling the effects of the poison.
“Good job Beearfield!! That’s my boy!”
The wild haired woman ran up to join the rest of them, praising her pet.
Olwen got to work tying up the poisoned goblin, deciding that it would be best if she brought a prisoner to her commander. Once she was sure he was reasonably secure, she proceeded to remove her waterlogged armor by the goblin’s campfire.
“Whoa whoa whoa, what are you doing stripping?!?” Yelled the druid, shielding the all-seeing compound eyes of her bee and turning her face away.
“I’m not striping, I wear clothes under my armor. Who wouldn’t?” She dropped her chest-piece to the ground and wringing the bottom of her shirt. “I’ll freeze to death if I don’t dry off, and that isn’t happening with that armor on.”
The others joined her by the fire and began to dry themselves as well.
“So, now that the things have settled down a bit, do you two care to make introductions? My name is Olwen Sahle, a Private in the Kayrin Guard.”
“My name is Robriez Xompran, envoy of the Samsarin Monastery in the tundra.”
“Well my name is Thunder Dimples, and this here is my friend Beearfield.”
Robriez and Olwen both stared at the druid, waiting for her to reveal her real name. When nothing came in the following moments, Olwen spoke again.
“Okay, now that we’re all familiar with each other, we should start getting ready to camp. It’s getting dark already, and though I hate that my weapons are on the ground back there, it would take far too long to retrieve them, and there’s no place in between here and there so fit for camp.”
“Actually, I could go grab that for you real quick.” Robriez interjected.
“How? I don’t see a horse anywhere do you?” Olwen replied in an austere tone.
“I’m a monk. I have trained to be fast.”
“Very well. Just hurry back. If you make off with my gear I will find you.”