Heroes for Hire

Further North, West looks much better.

Some days, it doesn't pay to do your job.

Capt. Kreiger is, on the one hand, a good commander in terms of logistics—The squad not only has a Shaman/medic assigned to it, but the ranks are filled out with one of them Mystic men and a Chop-chop trooper.

On the other hand, when it comes to R&R time, the man is a sadist. The new troops are fresh off the boat, and the rest of the squad has no sooner returned Sallo Prell’s schwag (For which Prell did not so much as offer thanks.) when Kreiger assigns the squad to a new task. The squad has merely one night to rest and drink (and wench) before leaving again.

The heir to House Sull, no doubt a soft, spoiled noble with no clue as to what it truly means to be a man, has ventured forth into the world to make his own destiny. Since book learning is no substitute for real life, the child has gotten himself lost, presumed alive. The squad’s job—find him

The FOB’s groan as the squad is ordered ship-bound across the North Sea can be heard for miles around. It’s a familiar vessel to the FOBs, and if they’d known they were being shipped out again so soon they never would have disembarked to begin with.

The north land is inhabited with people called “Vikings”; an improbable name without the simple charm of REAL names like “Pict” and “Drow” and “Eldarian.” Still, these “Vikings” seem to be a simple folk. Terrible clothing, preferring untreated animal hide that makes them all look like the squad Furry, and a reputation for rape and pillage that makes those in the nearby towns ignore basic fortifications (Any military man will tell you that choosing to not build fortifications in a high-conflict area is just asking for death, but what do farmers know?).

Following the known route of the missing brat takes the squad to a small mining town somewhere in the middle of nowhere… The squad’s irregular infiltrates the camp and brings back valuable information on the layout on contents of the mine buildings. In a hurry to be moving on, the squad splits into two; The Irregular, Mystic, and Shaman choosing to talk to the miners about the Brat; the Furry, Man-at-arms, and Chop-Chop staying behind to tend the squad wagons and mounts.

The Ranger, muttering darkly that the mining town should just be burnt to the ground, also stays behind.

A gold coin or two’s worth of drinks and food loosens the tounges of the miners but they have no tale to tell, telling the squad to wait for the return of the foreman. The Irregular decides to explore the actual mine itself…

The Irregular later claims to have been attacked by at least three assailants at the front of the mine, but all the watchers from the ridge where the rest of the squad was camped saw was the irregular go hurtling down the face of the cliff. Pointing and laughter had to wait though, as commotion from the road forced the rest of the squad into action.

An inbound caravan is under attack from the living dead and a large dog, and the squad is forced to render assistance—pulling the lone survivor down to the mining camp and barricading the gate against the oncoming hordes. Oddly enough, the Furry is scared of dogs.

By “gate” we mean saplings crudely lashed together into a barrier that stands a better than even chance of stopping a squirrel.

The miners, with the courage and zeal of men living on the frontier, lock themselves in hidey-holes, leaving the squad to defend their worthless hides.

The battle is joined: The Man-ar-Arms, Furry and Chop-Chop holding the gate with swords and axes, while the Mystic, still seeming feeling the rolling of the ocean under his feet after so many days at sea, peppers the fragile structure of the gate with his magic missles. The shaman stands ready to aid while the Irregular and ranger seek the tactical heights of the cliff.

The Irregular scrambles of the cliffside to assess the situation, but is horrified to discover that the defense lines are breached before the battle has truly begun. More of the shambling undead are emerging from the mouth of the mine. Desperate to inform his squadmates of the death lurking behind them the irregular-once more-tumbles down the cliff side, somehow managing to break several ribs in the process.

The “gate” is not long able to withstand the pounding from the ravening hordes of the undead, and collapses. Forced to fight on two fronts, the Man-at-Arms, and Furry ineffectually flail their weapons like drunken farmers at the country dance while Chop-Chop mows them down like a sober farmer at harvest. Mystic Man lights up the sky in a stunning display of poor marksmanship, while the Ranger and Irregular spend several minutes taking potshots at the foul zombies while dodging what seems to be a form of enchanted projectile vomit. The Shaman stands around doing little to help the fight other than healing the wounds of her stalwart compatriots, tho she will later claim that her invisible, imaginary teddy bear was responsible for single-handedly decimating the on-shambling foes.

As the fight continues, the Man-at-Arms and Furry start scoring hits, Chop-Chop continues funtioning as a two-armed whirlwind of decapitaion, and the Irregular manages to pull off a few sneaky-stabs. Mystic Man flames a few foes, and even the Shaman stops playing with her imaginary friend long enough to down a few fiends. The situation is heading towards being controlled. Meanwhile, the Ranger valiantly separates from the group, bravely placing himself alone, and in danger, to secure the equine transport of the squad for a strategic withdrawl. He pauses to prepare an incindiary surprise for the undead horde, and even manages to be clear-headed enough to sample the fuels available to verify the suitability of their use.

Which is why he alone witnesses the horror to be unleashed.

The shadows writhe, grow and consume the body of the caravan survivor, wrapping around him, transforming him into a Being of Darkness. The Being is obviously of some Demonic aspect at it begins reviving the undead from the scattered body parts around… The next few minutes are a fevered blur, but the bottom line is that the exhausted squad is able to overpower the Being with skill, luck and the incomparable teamwork that this squad is acclaimed for.

After the battle ends, the squad searches the mine… It is determined that this place fell to shadow some time before. The Miners were the slaves and underlings of the Being. A certain amount of schwag is recovered… a few gems, and old book and a few other items of indeterminate value.

No Brat.

Capt. Kreiger may wish to consider placing the Ranger in formal command of this unit. He seems to posses a preturnatural ability to sense the right course of action—-first finding a bandit horde to the north when all signs indicated that they had fled west, then suggesting burning the mining town to the ground when no sign of danger had presented itself. He alone identified the foul Being in charge of the undead, and without his actions we surely would have fallen in battle. This ranger obviously is a man of deep wisdom and tactical brilliance.

- Chronicles of an Underpaid Mercenary, Chapter 2

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