The two masked men sat on the ground, back to back. They hung their heads, not paying attention to the adventurers, eating nearby. Suddenly, one of them felt a kick. He looked up. Damakos stood over them, a slight smile on their face. "What do you want?" One man asked. Damakos glared. "Can't have you two falling asleep! You've got to be lively when we drag you away!"
Our session began as the party rested under the large willow tree atop the hill. Sant and Aoth patrolled around the circumference of hill, with Lysander and Eliza close behind them. Damakos stood over their prisoners, idly prodding them. Now that the group was able to rest, Damakos were able to get a better look at them. The man who had had a ferret was a tall human, balding with dark hair and a mustache. Their original hostage was a high elf, young for his kind, with hair dyed blue.
Sant waved Damakos away from their examinations. He pointed into the woods.
"I hear noises," said Sant, "Something moving out there. Light it up, will you?"
"I can see it just fine," Damakos replied flatly, "Besides, we can't burn the forest down."
Damakos squinted. Stalking through the overgrowth was seven men in robes and masks, just like those of their hostages. At the front of the pack was a human, also bald, with a beard. On his shoulder was another ferret. He stepped forwards, and looked to the mustached hostage.
"Ah," he said, a smile on his face, "You were always getting yourself into trouble, weren't you? Oh, don't go trying to do that." He was watching the group take positions. Aoth had stepped forwards, lovers still following behind. Sant had slipped behind the willow tree. But Damakos had drawn a dagger, and was moving to hold it to the mustached man's neck.
"I would gladly see him dead," the mustached man exclaimed, "Less competition in the ranks, you know?"
As the man spoke, Sant had slipped behind the tree, trying to take advantage of the darkness. Before he could strike, though, a ruckus sounded from the trees in front of him. From the treeline burst Dimitri, this time on horseback, two bodyguards and a fresh pair of hunting dogs by his side.
"Cleric! Eliza!" He shouted, "Run, quick! I'll save you from that demon! Dogs, attack!"
The dogs charged towards Damakos, but before they were halfway towards them, an arrow flew through the air, striking a dog dead. A second arrow followed it, only stopping the other dog in it's tracks.
"Stop this!" A deep voice split through the air. From the a patch of woods adjacent to the masked men stepped the centaur, massive sword held on guard. Close behind were the three wood elves, spears bared.
"Thou mortals have wandered these woods long enough!" the centaur shouted, "It is time for thou to take thy leave- forcefully!"
With that, all three groups charged the party. Damakos shoved their hostages behind them and met the masked men with a huge gout of flame from their hands. Aoth watched them burn to crisps out of the corner of his eye. But he had the elves to deal with.
"What's this!" he shouted as an elf's spear met his shield, "I gave your friend their last rites!"
"Apologies, cleric." Was all he got back.
Sant met Dimitri in swordplay. Before he struck, Sant noticed that his foe's sword was a decorative piece. A realistic one, perhaps, but still more or less a shard of metal covered in gold leaf. It broke quickly, along with Dimitri's defenses. Soon, his bones would follow.
Lysander and Eliza hugged the tree, and each other. They were on the side facing Sant, not risking a hit from one of Damakos' spells. Lysander winced as the tiefling flew past him, the centaur close behind, a battle cry in his mouth, his sword in his hands, and his hooves in Damakos' face. Eliza turned her face away from their battle, towards Sant. She caught him standing over Dimitri, hacking away at him with his twin scimitars, ripping slashes through his armor. Before he struck the killing blow, Eliza shouted, "Stop, stop!" The high elf looked up just in time. At Eliza's face, he lowered his blades, only to rise them in combat with a snarling wood elf. Eliza watched as Dimitri's bodyguards dragged him out of combat, and sighed in relief.
On the other front, things were going well. Aoth and Damakos had done well to dispatch of the masked men, but the centaur provided many more problems. He had done a number on Damakos, hacking massive wounds into them, but a retaliation had come quickly in the form of hits from Aoth's mace on one side and hurriedly flung spells from Damakos. As the centaur coughed up magical poison gas, he glimpsed Sant rushing in to join the combat. The centaur thought as well has he could under pressure. He raised his broadsword in a defensive stance, and retreated.
"This," he muttered, "is not going well." He looked at his wood elves. Sant hadn't quite taken down his combatant, but it didn't look eager to join the fight, either. The centaur had been badly injured by the blows of Damakos and Aoth, as well.
"I request mercy!" The centaur tried.
"You started this!"
"That's- ah, true, but… I did not plan for this. I don't want my men to be injured."
Aoth watched the centaur closely. He had performed well it swordplay before, but now, the huge blade shook in the centaur's hands. He seemed to be having trouble keeping a straight face. He was afraid. And the party's disposition didn't seem to be helping him."
"Look. Thou wish to go to that lone house, right? Thataway?" The centaur gestured with his sword.
Sant looked to Lysander. "That's the way to your aunt's house?" This was met with a hesitant nod. Sant looked back to the centaur. "Yes."
"I'll give thy safe passage. An escort. Just as long as thou leave us and the forest alone as soon as you have finished thy business."
The party looked to each other. Begrudgingly, Sant sheathed his swords. "That works."
A few minutes later, the party was being led through the overgrowth, escorted by the centaur and his elves. It was a quiet walk. Occasionally someone would try to make conversation, only to be met with silence. Aoth attempted to ask the centaur if it needed healing, and the centaur's reply had a stabby sort of tone to it. And so, they kept on, the quiet being punctuated by the occasional blast of wind or burst of rain. A light shone through the rain. Before the party was a clearing, smaller than the previous, with a two-story house. The house was in bad repair. The brick walls were covered in water marks, and a garden surrounding the house was almost worse than the forest floor. A single beam of light seemed to almost shoot out of a first-story window.
The centaur gestured. "Your destination." And with that, he turned and left. The elves were close behind, but for one lingerer. He gave Aoth a quick nod, and scampered after his cohorts.
Sant turned to Lysander. "The right place?" He was met with a nod. Damakos started to walk towards the house, but Sant stopped them. "Wait. Some weird things have happened tonight. It could be a trap."
"You sure? I can't see anyone, and my vision's better than yours. Also, I'm kinda hurt. We should chance it."
"Um." Aoth pointed between the two. Lysander and Eliza were already running towards the front door. Sant slumped.
Damakos turned to him."Well? They're paying, after all."
"I'll go," said Sant. He plodded after the couple, who were already knocking at the door. It opened, and Sant could catch snippets of conversation.
"Auntie! It's us?"
"Eh? Lysander, that you?"
"Yes! I sent a letter, remember? Me and Eliza are here."
"Ah yes! And you have company, I see. Who might you be?"
"Ah, Sant. Sant Alard. You nephew hired me as an escort."
"Oh, yes! Come in, come in."
"Thanks. Oh, hold on a second." Sant was already half inside. He stuck an arm out and waved for Aoth and Damakos. "It's fine!"
The two followed close behind. Inside, Lysander's Auntie was lighting candles throughout an entrance hallway. With better light, they could see she was in fact just an old women. Hunched over, wrinkled with silver hair tied up. Aoth studied her. She was making a show of hobbling around, and hiding her strength. She led them into a sitting room, where a few cozy-looking armchairs surrounded a fireplace, that she quickly busied herself over. A couple seconds later, a pleasant fire was burning, and she turned to the party.
"Would you like some tea?"
An hour later, the group were slumped into various chairs. Lysander and Eliza shared a couch, laying together and chatting idly with the party. After a little while, the Auntie approached them.
"You'll be wanting a reward, I imagine?"
They followed her up a flight of stairs. Sant was still clearly on edge, his hands placed over the hilts of his swords. The stairs led to a small bedroom, a four-poster bed tucked into a corner. The Auntie wandered over to a wardrobe leaned up against a wall, and started to fiddle with the lock.
As she did so, she spoke. "You're adventurers, right? You know, I used to have quite the journeys back in my day."
Saying this, she swung open the wardrobe doors and stepped inside. Sant visibly jumped at this, drawing his swords and looking panicked. The Auntie poked back out. "Oh, do calm down. Come in, come in."
Cautiously, the party squeezed through a secret passage at the back of the cuboard. The rooms behind was about the same size as the bedroom, but it's walls were plastered with weapons. Blades and bows of all sorts, many that looked almost outlandish, covered the walls. A table lay in the center of the room, covered in various knick-knacks. Golden spectacles, multicolored masks made of hide, oriental helmets, everything in imagination was represented. The party gauped. Eventually Sant said, "Did you get all this on adventures? Like, from dungeons, and stuff?"
"Well, that. I also made forged of it myself."
Damakos started. "Hephaestus?"
"Oh, no. I was never the religious sort."
As the Auntie spoke, she dug through a plain-looking bag. The party noticed her arm was in the bag deeper than the bag itself was. With very little care, she reached in and pulled out a small heap of gold. She started to count it out.
"Let's see… twenty-five, was it? Twenty-five for you…" a pile was shoved towards Sant, "Twenty-five for you…" this pile was for Damakos, "And- oh dear." The bag was empty. She looked sheepishly at Aoth. "I'm afraid the rest of my gold is in my other hiding place. Ah- say, how about you just pick something?" She stretched an arm out, waving it around the room. "Take what you will. It's not like I'm using it!"
Aoth scanned the room. There were so many things. Staffs, maces more decorated than his own, the golden spectacles, that bag she was still holding… Finally, his eyes settled on a little crossbow, inlaid with gold leaf. It was similar to his own, but smaller, for one-handed use. He tested it's weight.
"Ah, that one's enchanted, you know! It'll serve you well."
Aoth thanked the Auntie, and fitted it into into his bag. With that, the party agreed to retire for the night. The Auntie went to her bed, while the others tried to curl up as best they could on various armchairs.
As morning came, it stopped raining for once. Sant wandered outside. Elves were light sleepers. He had been up and about for a little while. He stared out into the woods. It seemed that Damakos had tied their hostages to a tree at some point. They had also appeared to have stolen Dimitri's horse. Sant relaxed. He would wake up his friends and they would get to their homes. Sant could go back to his bar. It would be quick, and there would be quiet for a while. Upon thinking that, someone stepped out of the treeline and started to stumble towards Sant. Sant almost didn't recognize him, but it was Dimitri, hobbling and covered in mud. But something was wrong. Sant looked closer. There was a large dagger sunk up to the hilt into Dimitri's neck. Sant called into the house. "Get out here! Now!"
Aoth and Damakos appeared at the door, clutching their various weapons. Shortly after, Auntie joined them, clutching a rather large mace. Dimitri, or his corpse at least, glared right at Damakos. His mouth opened, and a strange voice left it. The voice wasn't Dimitri's: in fact, it didn't seem human. It chattered and screeched in a strange language, and in a deep, scratchy voice. After it finished it's speech, the corpse fell to the ground, once again dead. Damakos seemed troubled. A hard look crossed their face.
"What was that?" Aoth asked, "What did it say."
"It called me 'sibling'."