Visitors in the Night

by Oberon Snowcat

My alarm jangled at me from its place over on my desk and I crawled out of bed swearing at the unfairness of the world as I went to shut off the noise. There were times that it didn’t pay to wake up in the morning, and this was one of them.

Once my alarm was shut of I began getting ready for my patrol today. Yesterday Barbara, the incompetent leader of my patrol squad, had tried to get me busted out of her unit for a number of reasons. I had been transferred out of her unit, though not in the manner that she desired and reassigned to a new unit. I was actually going to be meeting them today, and so was Daniel, the greyhound morph who was becoming my young protégé.

As I put on my swordbelt I thought of a weapon that I owned but hadn’t used in more than a decade. Finally I opened my travel-chest and pulled out a beautiful hand-and-a-half long sword in a shining black leather scabbard. This was the hereditary sword of the Sundering Stone Clan from my homeland, and one of the ten treasures of the Kelmar Clanlands. It was called the Claw of the Dragon and it was beautifully balanced hand & half long sword similar in fact to the sword that I had made for myself when I had changed into my current form.

I don’t know why the smiths and magicians who had made it like this but now it was perfectly suited for me. I held the scabbard in one hand and slowly withdrew the blade with the other. It was a light blade of silvery white metal that glimmered in the light of the lamp that I had lit so that I could see what I was doing with more detail that was possible with just my natural night vision. In my head I heard the first traces of the sword’s song. The song was the reason that I didn’t often like to use the weapon, though for some reason that song was different than I remember. ‘Akon veralatkis wruktan praktros xraxsus jkutia.’ the weapon sang to me softly in Old Kelmar. For some reason this time the song was appropriate to my desires so I continued to hold it unsheathed for a moment before I sheathed the weapon and put it on my heavy belt which I was holding in my hand.

I considered the weapons on my double baldric before I took of the double sabre and replaced it with a single edged sword and my quiver, which was full of three and a half foot long arrows for my monster bow. I grabbed my heavy scout pack, though I had yet to pick up the field rations and checked that I had everything else that I needed. A spare sheaf of twenty arrows, a basic field medicine kit, my tent, my bedroll, my tinderbox, a clothing repair kit, three spare strings for my bow, and assorted other odds and ends that would allow me to do my job as a scout properly.

Once I had everything I picked up my bow and slung it on my body before I headed out the door. For the first time in a month I didn’t have to pass Snow’s Tinsmithy on my way to my normal mess facility.

Half an hour later I arrived in the inner ward where a small group of four other people were gathered, I was still munching on the last of my breakfast. I had managed to pick up almost twice as many of the field rations as anyone else. I had also asked that the next time I came down I they would have special double rations made for me so that I wouldn’t starve out in the field.

When I reached the Inner ward I found the group that I was to join. They were standing in an organized group under the command of a tall fair haired man, who I guessed probably had started off his life as a woman. None the less he showed every sign of being comfortable, cool, and most importantly competent under the current circumstances. Once I was sure of my personal assessment I went to join the group, which was obviously waiting for someone. The leader of the group turned to face me as soon as I came in the inner ward and held out his hand

“I’m Jonah Harkort and I presume that you must be Oberon. George has told me that you would be joining my unit today.”

I shook the proffered hand before I confirmed my name and confirmed the fact that I was here to join his unit.

“Well that means that we’re only missing one of new additions. I sure hope that you can survive out there. Recently lutin activity has been increasing for some unknown reason.”

“Trust me I can hold my own on battlefield.”

“You sound confident.”

“I should be considering the amount of experience I have in warfare.”

“Are you meaning to tell me that what George told me about you is true?”

“That is what I’m telling you.”

“Well then you will make an excellent addition to the squad. The person who you’re replacing is currently laid up after he was hit by a lutin arrow on our last patrol.”

“It would take more than one arrow to knock me out of a fight.”

“We’ll see how everything goes when the time comes. By the way there’s supposed to be someone else coming with you.”

“Yes there is. He should be here shortly. He’s a little young but I can tell you right now all he needs is some practice.”

Jonah nodded slowly before I noticed Daniel coming towards us with a smile on his narrow canine face.

I waved to him and I noticed the smile broaden as he jogged the remaining distance to greet the lieutenant in charge of the squad. Once all the greetings had been taken care Jonah shouted out

“Lets get moving people we have a long way to go, we’re burning up daylight here.”

I nodded and took my longbow into my left hand and fell into the rear of the group as we made our way out of the keep and down through the outer ward and eventually the town of Euper.

Once we left the town behind we turned north and headed for the Giant’s Dike, a place that I had already visited once on my own personal scouting mission when I first arrived at the Keep just over a month ago. Now though I was going there on a sanctioned scouting mission with a squad of others to back me up in case I ran into an enemy.

As we walked north I did my own evaluation of the squad’s personal. As far as I could tell Jonah was exactly what George had told me he was, an excellent soldier with a good eye for the terrain around him and his people. Trent Longfellow wasn’t so much long as he was big; the guy probably weighed close to six hundred pounds, not really ideal for a scout, but it was to be expected considering what animal he took his form from, a flatlands bison. On the opposite end of the scale there was Olivia Janson, her form was that of a stoat, a kind of weasel. That meant that she was thin and wiry, perfect for a spell-caster like herself. She told me on one of our marching breaks that she enjoyed her form, before she arrived at the keep she had been a stout woman of ample proportions, now though she couldn’t get fat if her life depended on it. The final member of the squad that I had joined was Herbert Johanssun, he was the smallest member of the squad, even when he was as large as he could get. He told though that he was the perfect size to tackle the lutins because at just over four feet tall he could meet them at their own height, where I towered over lutins like a building in Euper.

Each person used whatever weapon they felt best with. Trent was carrying a pair of large chain flail maces with spiked metal heads; his back up weapon was great-sword that he wore on his back. Jonah carried a simple single handed broadsword and a shield, though he did possess a couple of throwing knives. Herbert and Olivia were both relatively lightly armed, though they both carried a short sword at their sides. Finally there was myself and Daniel; He carried his bow and a side-sword, since it matched his style of fighting.

I of course, was the walking arsenal of the group with more weapons than you could shake a stick at.

That evening when we stopped for the night to make camp Jonah pointed where everyone was going to sleep, and the watch rotation for the night.

Once all that had been arranged we lit a fire and sat around talking about old battles that we had been involved in. When I talked about a battle that had taken place more than twenty years ago the whole squad knelt closer to me to hear the story. That particular story was actually pretty mild since most of the unit that I had been attached to, somehow, had managed to survive the engagement.

When I finished the story Trent went out to the watch position while I crawled into my tent to get a few hour of sleep before I had to take the watch, Olivia and I were probably the ones best suited for the late night and early morning watches because of our exceptional night vision.

Some time later, I wasn’t exactly sure how long though, I awoke with Trent shaking my shoulder “You’re turn to take the watch Oberon.”

I nodded slowly and then told him to give me a few minutes. I quickly got dressed and equipped, though I left my bow and quiver behind since they were less than useless out here in the middle of the night.

Instead I had my six throwing knives, The Claw of the Dragon, my single handed broadsword, my long dagger, and two stilettos. Once I was finished getting all of my things together I threw on my grey cloak and headed out into the night.

For me low light of the night wasn’t a problem because of my feline eyes gave me superior night vision.

When I reached where Trent was back waiting for me he grinned slightly before he said, “Glad to see you here Oberon. I can’t see a blasted thing; it’s darker than the insides of the Lieutenant’s boots out here.”

“Well I can see just fine.”

“Damn all you cats.” He responded with a laugh as he stood up, grabbed his shuttered lantern, and headed back to camp.

A little more than an hour later I smelled something vaguely familiar, though the odour was very faint. In order to get a better read on the odour I curled up my lip and let the odour pass over a sensory organ in my mouth.

An instant later I reached down and slowly, with much care I quietly drew my broadsword. The odour that I had detected was that of a rare drug from my homeland, Narrelat was a drug that was used by the Racteganect; they were assassins that specialized in attacking in shadow of night.

I kept my ears open and waited until I heard a small twig behind me crack, with a move as quick as death itself I whirled with my sword in hand. The move removed the head of the lead assassin and warded of the second.

I reached over my shoulder and grabbed the head of the second man with my claws extended and jerked until a loud grinding crunch sound came to my ears. At the same time I thrust out with the sword catching the man that I had warded off just under the chin with the tip of the blade, the last assassin the unit I had to grab with my left hand, I jerked his head down and used my huge teeth to remove his entire throat. The whole series of events took less than a minute and I was left standing with blood on my face, neck-ruff, chest, and claws.

I had to spend most of the rest of my watch cleaning myself up and concealing the bodies of the assassins. I did manage to find a small sheaf of papers on the body of the second man that I had killed. I would have to wait for later to read it though, because even though my night vision was good it wasn’t that good.

By the time I went to fetch Olivia I had managed to conceal all signs that there had been a fight here. I didn’t want the others to know that they had to worry about more than just the lutins.

The next day was pretty much the last though I did find some signs that there were enemies in the area. However, we didn’t run into anything of note until the third day.

I was on the point when I held up my hand to give the signal that we should all stop and get down.

I carefully slid and arrow out of my quiver with my right hand and nocked it, while I concentrated on the information that my senses were giving me, then the wind shifted and I quite easily smell the funk of lutins up ahead.

I half stood, to get clearance for my bow and drew and released in a single motion. In the trees beyond what I could see I heard a scream, followed by a hailstorm of lutin arrows. I crouched behind the bole of a large tree, though it probably wasn’t large enough.

I felt a sudden spike of white hot pain in my left thigh and glanced down to see a black fletched arrow sticking into my leg. I grimaced in pain at the arrow and yanked at the shaft, removing it in a single motion. The pain that followed was somewhat different, but it was something that I had felt many times before. I looked down at my leg again and noticed the fact that the white and black fur was stained crimson with my own blood. I dropped my pack, pulled out a field dressing and slapped it onto the wound before I drew my long-sword and stood up once more and glanced over at Jonah, who was also hiding behind a tree.

Both Herbert and Olivia were both hiding under the heavily armoured form of Trent; he was covering them with his massive form. There were at least a dozen arrows protruding form his armour, though it didn’t appear that any of them had actually managed to penetrate his armour. Daniel was also hiding behind a tree, though every so often he would jump from behind his hiding place and unleash an arrow of his own at our unseen attackers.

Jonah looked at me and then gave me a silent signal that we had to attack our enemies in order to get them to stop shooting arrows at the rest of the squad.

I dashed forwards with Jonah beside me, as I ran I had to use Claw to deflect more than a dozen arrows before we entered a small clearing from which the lutins were shooting arrows. I dashed towards the nearest archers and began hewing at them with the Claw.

There was no finesse in this fight, instead it was a simple matter of brute force and wide sweeping blows, I had just cleared out the last of the archers and was going to go join Jonah when the Claw shouted in my mind ‘Behind you!’ I whirled, taking my left hand off of the Claw, drawing my broadsword and sweeping it through the skull of another lutin that was trying to sneak up behind me while I sliced through the upraised blades of the two who had been trying to get behind me before the Claw had given me the warning about them. With their weapons taken care of I quickly disposed of them and turned back to go help Jonah, and that was when a lutin mage made its presence known. A blast of pure energy struck me and flung me back into the bole of a very thick very sturdy tree and I knew no more.

Some time later, I’m not exactly sure how long though, I awoke to find myself looking up at the ceiling of some place.

“How are you feeling Oberon?” I heard a voice ask me. I turned my head and looked to the side to see Jonah standing there with a pair of smaller figures one whom I recognized as Sir Saulius the Knight.

“Art thou well Adòn?”

I tried to sit up, only to have a searing pain lance through my chest from just over my heart. I fell back with a grunt; I managed to hiss out a rather strong oath in Kelmarhastarat “Du sung chu’tang roc sung krachendra ko sung tachoda gtrik.”

Sir Saulius, who I was able to recognize, cast an inquiring glance at the other rat, who I didn’t know, but the second rat, this one of brown fur and wearing a set of chain mail, shrugged his shoulders.

I looked closely at the second rat and realized that this was someone that I had never seen before, though from the way that he stood I could tell that he was a very dangerous person. This was someone to be treated with a great deal of respect. At that point Sir Saulius repeated himself by asking me once again,

"Art thee well?"

"I've had better days Sir Saulius." I managed to say without causing too much more pain.

The knight gestured to the other rat. "My squire, Charles, was wondering if thou wert well enough to answer a few questions about what thee saw. Canst thee do so, or shouldst we return another time?"

"I should be able to answer a few questions. I haven't lived as long as I have without having to accrue my fair share of injuries like this in battle." I grunted, this was taking more out of me than I expected for a simple hit in the ribs.

The second rat, the one named Charles, stepped forward, paws clasped behind his back. "Thank you, Adon. Tell me, how many Lutins were there in the force you ran across?"

"I think there were roughly thirty to forty of them, as well as at least one mage, I hate mages! We managed to take out most of their archers and I don't know how many more Jonah and rest of the unit managed to kill, but my own score was around eight."

Charles grimaced and his tail flicked form side to side. "How many were left when you were struck? Do you recall?"

“I’m afraid I don’t know, though I suspect that there were still at least twenty, if not more, still remaining.”

"I see. And where were they headed? Had they made camp, or were they moving through the area?"

“That I can tell you, as far as I could tell this unit had set themselves up in the area to ambush us, I was lucky to pick up their odour before they attacked. Therefore I would suspect that they have established themselves in the area and are trying to strike out at any force that comes into their area of operations.”

Charles nodded thoughtfully, and exchanged a glance with Jonah and Sir Saulius. The knight had nothing to say, and Jonah was still in a bit of a shock. The rat returned his attention to me.

"You say they were there to ambush you. Were they there long? How well provisioned were they?"

"I couldn't really tell I was kind of busy, but from what I was able to tell, from the way that they were positioned I would estimate that they had chosen their position roughly an hour or two before we got there.”

"Thank you. And one last question. Can you describe where it was you found them?"

“It was in a clearing just above a narrow draw where the trail was located; the bush in that area is relatively dense so it will be difficult to sneak around in terrain like that, though there is a chance that you might be able to get through there without being spotted.” I answered and then sunk my head back into the pillow I muttered once more “I hate mages.”

Charles laughed in an understanding manner. "Rest Adòn. We will deal with them now. Thank you for your help." Charles turned to leave.

Sir Saulius smiled at me and then lowered his head. "Rest well, warrior." He then too departed leaving Jonah alone with me.

Jonah looked down at me and shook his head “You should be dead after what hit you back there.”

“What do you mean sir?” Jonah rolled his eyes before he pointed out

“Oberon you were hit with a Red Lightening Spell, that should’ve killed you!”

I looked around for my armour and sword without raising my head from the pillow before I spotted both. “Jonah would you be so good as to hand me my sword?”

He nodded and picked up the sheathed weapon and handed it to me.

I looked at the weapon and even drew it an inch out of its scabbard to confirm that it was the Dragon’s Claw. As soon as I felt the song of the sword I asked Jonah, “How in the world did you manage to get my sword back into its scabbard without touching it?”

“You’ll have to ask Olivia she was the one who took care of that.”

I started to chuckle but a shot of pain ran through my chest radiated from my ribs over my heart

“Oberon you have to take it easy for the next few days, that shot of magic really took it out of you.”

I nodded slowly before I slumped back into the pillow and let my fatigue take me away.

It was more than a day later when I finally managed to wake up. This time Olivia and Daniel were both in my room; they were sitting in chairs and looking at me with concern on their faces.

I sat up, and this time it didn’t hurt as much as it had when I had first woken up the day before. Daniel was the first to speak

“Oberon are you ok? I had heard that you had been more gravely wounded than we first believed.”

“Relax kid I’m a lot tougher than they think, I’ve been through a lot worse and come out of it ok so this is really nothing more than a scratch on my battered old hide.”

Olivia shook her head before she rolled her eyes and sighed “Men! You will never admit that something is serious even if you had both of your legs chopped off at the knees.”

I chuckled slightly at her comment, but that caused my chest to spasm so I had to lie back to get my breath back once more.

“Olivia I was meaning to ask you something.”

“Go ahead Oberon.”

“How did you manage to get my sword back into its scabbard without touching it?”

She shook her head for a second “It was a real pain in the tail. I had to use a stick to hold the tip up so that I could slip the tip of the weapon into the scabbard. Where did you manage to get your hands on a mithral rune sword Oberon?”

“That weapon is three thousand years old; it’s an heirloom of my family that has been passed down from father to son for hundreds of generations.”

I could see from her face that she was considering that information before she replied with the question. “Your people have had access to mithral for that length of time?”

“Yes when the sword was created we had just recently discovered mithral, not only the ore but also how to purify and forge it into usable items, most notably weapons and armour.”

Olivia nodded before Daniel said “Please Oberon you have to take better care of yourself, you aren’t immortal.”

I laughed softly at his demand before I managed to reply “I may not be immortal Daniel but I’m a proficient warrior who understands that there are some risks to our profession.”

The greyhound morph shook his head before he asked Olivia if she wanted anything, he was going out to collect something to eat.

“Daniel can you pick up a little something for me as well?”

“Sure thing Oberon.” He shouted back as he left the room leaving me alone with Olivia.

She shook her head before she asked me “Where in the Keep did you find that kid?”

I chuckled once more “He is a bit of an enthusiast isn’t he?”

“You could say that.”

“I ran into him when I was assigned to a different unit of scouts, they were nowhere near as good as you people.”

“Then why did you bring him with you into our unit?”

“He actually showed some promise, something that the rest of the members of that unit were all lacking. His only problem is the fact that he doesn’t have a whole lot of training, but that is something that I’ve been taking care of ever since I joined his unit.”

Olivia nodded slowly and sat back in her chair and looked up at the ceiling while waiting for Daniel to get back with the food.

Two days later we embarked on a carriage back to Metamor Keep while the scouts from Glen Avery were still out dealing with the lutins that we had located for them.

As I climbed into the carriage, the woman who had been responsible for my treatment in the village told me “As soon as you reach the Keep I would like you to pay a visit to Brian Coe so that you can have those wounds of yours looked at.”

I assured her that I would before the vehicle moved out of the town and towards the Keep. I just hoped that this injury wouldn’t have me being laid up for too long.

"Visitors in the Night", copyright Oberon Snowcat