Wilhelm owes me his life. A debt I will strike from the ledger, gladly, as I owe him mine for the same reasons.
The entrance to the other warehouse was a broad sliding-door, perhaps twenty feet wide; set in the center of it was a man-sized door meant for ordinary transit. Xel’Xaran rattled the handle on this door to see if it locked in another dark and vacant warehouse.
Instantly, a commotion rose from behind the door. We started at the sound, more so when the sliding door rumbled open along its rail and we found ourselves faced with six – SIX ! – armed mercenaries charging out of their den. Three with clubs and round wood shields; one nimble sort with a quarterstaff; shamefully ugly goon with a light mace; and a poised leader at the back of the party with a short-sword. Tough brutes, spoiling for a fight.
By any measure, this should have been death for the lot of us. Discounting me by virtue of a vow of pacifism (which was almost tested by trial tonight), we were three defenders facing two-on-one odds. As they rushed out to attack us, I am not afraid to admit that I saw a vision of our death.
An instant, a memory frozen and clear, of sheer terror. No training prepares one for this. I expect that experience is the only remedy, but in those first moments, it was panic and indecision that rooted me to the spot.
Xel’Xaran reacted first, dropped back, loosed a quick arrow past a shield and into the center-mass of an attacker, stumbling him. Will burst into a rage, seeming to grow taller and wider and to radiate a hot, mindless fury. High aloft he hefted his great-club, bringing it down with supreme power upon a foe, a mountain of punishing force.
Pulp was quick, cast Bless, improved our side’s chances. I scrambled back behind my allies, hoping my training would take over and tell me the right place to be. Wilhelm held back two enemies, each of whom landed a blow on him, glancing but wounding strikes. The nimble assailant with the quarterstaff, some kind of monk, slipped through the fray and hit Pulp. The ugly one with the light mace saw room in the mix and squeezed in to bring more fight to Wilhelm.
I saw an arrow flash in the torchlight of the warehouse; it was Xel’Xaran’s. The shaft buried itself deep in the chest of the wounded thug fighting Wilhelm, sending the enemy to the dirt.
As I hustled up to arm’s reach behind him, wounded Wilhelm swung heavy and connected on the light-mace wielder, a hit whose force rattled my own teeth. I converted a memorized spell to a Cure Light Wounds, and delivered what felt like a maximum restorative effort to our Barbarian. He did not notice, too busy in rage and combat, but it would keep him alive. That was all that mattered. I was not in this for thanks.
Our scout was deadly-accurate with his arrows this night. Another hit, this time on the undamaged club-and-shield on Wilhelm. It must have distracted our raging ally; Will missed his mark on the light-mace thug. I tapped Wilhelm for another Cure Light Wounds, this one less than half the quality of the previous. Now, at least, the blood covering Will was not all coming from him.
Around this time Xel’Xaran must have taken a hit from a crossbow; I fixed that wound later, after the fight. The shot had come from the swordsman-leader, still inside the warehouse. Our scout ignored the wound, and sank an arrow into one of Wilhelm’s three attackers, one of the club-and-shield men. The foe distracted, I saw Wilhelm connect and drop him.
I took in the fight at this point, getting an estimate of our chances. Wilhelm, and the ugly light-mace fighter and his wounded club-and-shield ally, were trading parries and chance hits. Pulp was trying to fight the monk off to my left, and becoming frustrated by the effort. I could not see the swordsman-leader inside the warehouse, who had the crossbow.
Wilhelm ducked under one attack, his great-club already set in reply. His retaliation landed at a bad angle for the enemy; on his unshielded side and in his midsection. I remember clearly the sound of multiple ribs breaking, puncturing soft organs. The enemy crumbled with a scream Wilhelm must have enjoyed and wished to hear over and over again. The light-mace fighter landed a hit on the barbarian, but Will made it his last swing of his night, and put that ugly to the dirt.
Pulp hollered a frustrated obscenity; the monk was elusive to the point of maddening. He simply wasn’t where Pulp’s weapon was. Then, a bright burst of flame, wave of heat; Burning Hands made another impressive appearance, and a blackened monk rolled backwards and fell still. Pulp stepped over and kicked him for good measure.
Now all that remained was the leader; he emerged from the warehouse, sword drawn, no fear of being outnumbered, no lack of skill or confidence slowing his entry to war. He rushed Wilhelm just after I tapped Will for more life-saving healing. Xel’Xaran moved to create a skirmishing attack and landed his last arrow of the night. This was a fight between Wilhelm and the leader, as if a grudge match long in coming and finally realized in quick, efficient, fatal melee.
Much description is not needed. The sheer ferocity and might of our barbarian laid waste to the mercenary leader. I make this out to be more one-sided than it was, but that is the fault of my recollection.
This fight was done. For a while, the warehouse was ours.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
14th Day, town of Mid-Plain, territory of Ælim.