A Risky Bluff

A Risky Bluff

“Sa’ro? Baby, We gotta go!” Sa’ro sat crouched and trembling beneath the kitchen table. Outside she could hear the clamour and roar of fighting. She screamed as something crashed through the window and watched a bottle with a flaming cloth stuffed in the neck tumbled across the floor and smashed against the simple, square, iron foot of the wood stove. The oily liquid inside spilled across the floor and splashed up across the wall, igniting instantly and setting the floor and wall ablaze.

“Sa’ro!” Paralyzed with fear, she stared with terrified eyes into the quickly growing flames. She did not hear the woman’s voice calling for her until her mother appeared beneath the table, startling her to scream again. 

“Come on Baby, We gotta go!” Her mother, Alene was thin, with black hair and narrow green eyes. Her modest blue house dress was filthy with ash & dirt and several of the small tools that hung from her belt clunked heavily on the floorboards. 

“I’m sorry!” Sa’ro mumbled, “I’m so sorry,” 

“Baby, come on, we gotta go!” Seeing the fear in her child's eyes, Alena took her by the wrist. She led Sa’ro out from under the table, past the quickly growing flames, and toward the back door of their simple one-room home. As her mother drug her by the arm, Sa’ro stared unblinkingly at their little kitchen; the flames were quickly consuming their belongings. With a tug, she was pulled out the back door.  

Feeing Jarren's Pride

The night air was warm and breezy, carrying on it the smells of blood and burning thatch. Smoke burned her eyes to tears as they tried to adapt to the darkness and she stumbled over something. She tumbled to the ground, her outstretched arm slipping from her mother’s grasp to break her fall. Her head slammed into the ground, rattling her vision and she took a breath to refocus. Before her, the usually warm and gentle hazel eyes of her neighbour, Ealdhed, stared back at her, vacant and unblinking. A stone axeblade bound to a simple wooden handle was embedded deep into his short, blood-stained blonde hair. In horror, she scrambled to get up, away from him, and the palm of her hand landed on a small leather pouch that hung from his belt. She felt a hand grab hers tightly and pull her to her feet, even as the cord about the bag held her back, for the briefest of moments before snapping.

“Come on, we gotta go!” Sa’ro awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright and breathing heavily. 

“Whoa! Easy there, I’ve got you,” Gentle, motherly hands caught the half-Orc by the shoulders. Panting and panicked, Sa'ro threw her arms around the elven woman and held her tightly but as the dream faded and her breathing slowed, Sa’ro slowly became aware that this was not her mother. She loosened her grip on the woman, who held her tightly for another moment. Sa’ro leaned back from the elven woman and apologized, wiping her eyes.

“Nothing to apologize for here, love,” Rita replied, in a calm and supportive tone. Before Sa’ro was the kind and beautiful smile of Rita, her large green eyes were rich with compassion and her grey hair was pulled back into a low bun with a few loose whisps fluttering in the morning breeze. The red cloak about her shoulders, though patchwork, was intricately quilted and edged with tassels of varying lengths which, from a distance, gave it the illusion of being quite dishevelled and ragged. With one hand still on her shoulder, Rita ran her fingers through the mop of shoulder-length black hair to brush her bangs out of her eyes. Since meeting Sa’ro a week prior, she had taken a keen and motherly liking to the young half-Orc. “Out here in the desert, “ Rita assured her, “Everyone has a long shadow“ She took a breath, pushing aside some bad memories of her own, She looked about, at the others, who were in the process of packing their things and breaking down the camp. A deep sadness in her eyes.

The WhiteFeather was a ramshackle band of refugees that had come together under Rita’s leadership. The town of Whiteshaw, where Rita had owned an alchemy shop, had been attacked by a family of Chimera. The monstrosities devastated the town and killed most of the population. The forty or so who had escaped fled to the south. At the edge of the desert that surrounded the cardy river, they discovered a group of another twenty or so who were fleeing a zombie attack in Gullfeather. The two groups joined together, in the interest of mutual protection, and crossed the Cardy desert until they reached the river where they met Sa’ro. They lost nearly ten people, mostly mothers and their children, to unreported zombie bites, and another five or six to dehydration and starvation while crossing the desert, bringing their numbers down to roughly fifty travellers.

It was an hour before the clan was packed and ready to travel. The warm morning breeze felt good on Sa’ro’s face as they continued following the river south. She walked alongside Mataya who seemed to enjoy the laughter of the two of the children on her back. The introduction of Aklu and Mataya to The WhiteFeather was a boon for the Nomads. Mataya was more than happy to allow the children to take turns riding her, while Alku was delighted to carry any load, provided Sa’ro kept her magical plant staff close at hand.

Armand & Khali riding Mataya

“I spy with my left eye something that is … blue!” Mataya snorted in response and Sa’ro jokingly warned her against giving the children hints. Armand was the first to answer, pointing to one of the small plants growing on the river bank and shouting out its genus and species. An eight-year-old male Halfling with golden hair and grey eyes was known to be charming but complacent. Armand’s mother, Alyn, had been a florist back in Gullfeather and was keeping pace on the other side of the camel, she corrected Armand, explaining that while that particular species of the flower appears in four colours, the one he had pointed to had red flowers rather than blue. She peeked under the camel’s long neck to explain to Sa’ro that Armand had difficulties differentiating between colours.  As the older child, he sat with the younger Khali in front of him. 

“The River!” Khali did not wait for the explanation, instead shouting over Alyn.  A six-year-old willowy male Dwarf with thick black hair and sharp blue eyes, Khali had taken a rather keen liking to Sa’ro, shortly after her arrival in the camp and was eager to interact with her at every opportunity. Sa’ro glanced with a noticeable grimace at the river and its brown, muddy waters. “The sky!” Khali shouted again, not waiting for another prompt. 

Sa’ro giggled a little, in a way that she hadn’t remembered in a very long time. Khali’s childish enthusiasm reminded her of Symund, the little brother of her best friend Thori, and how he always wanted to play with the older children. She smiled, looking directly into his bright blue eyes, “It’s smaller and closer than that, little man!” 

“The scarf on Willew’s hat?” Armand asked, pointing to the white-haired human walking some 30 feet ahead of them. Willew turned swiftly at the mention of his name and one of the many pouches hanging from his belt swung around and connected with the crotch, causing him to cuss and buckle mid-stride. 

“That guy on the hill?” Khali pointed south toward a small bluff on the horizon. There was a glint of light from atop the stony outcropping and Sa’ro saw a lone man in indigo robes watching them occasionally holding a tubular device to his face. 

Sa’ro made a grunting sound, similar to the noise she’d been taught during her night watch training. All heads in the group looked up from the ground to see Khali pointing to the south. “Good job, Buddy! It IS that guy watching us from the southern bluff!” She eyed Rita with a concerned glance. “It’s your turn to ‘eye spy’ something, Can you guys play together with Wyna for a few while I chat with Rita?” 

The band continued to forward, seemingly unconcerned with the watcher, but as Sa’ro moved through the loosely travelling group toward Rita, she saw each member of the clan begin to subtly ready their weapons. They also began to moan or grunt with every other step as they adjusted their formation. Sa’ro reached Rita who took her by the wrist and pulled her into a hunched position.

The White Feather

“Rita there’s …” She began but was abruptly interrupted by the clan leader. Rita looked her dead in the eyes, the afternoon sun casting long dark shadows on her face gave it a haunting and ghastly impression, and when groaned, almost sarcastically, Sa’ro had a moment of panic. “What the fu …” She thought hesitantly but followed Rita’s haunting gaze and subtle nod toward the rest of the group. Those at the front had slowed to a shamble and those in the middle shifted their locations and pace to match.  The children were shuffled to the centre of the group while those wielding the longest weapons stumbled to the outside edges. Their tasselled, patchwork clothing, the constant moaning, and the hunched, shambling movement combined to create an illusion of disorganization and Sa’ro soon realized that they were imitating zombies in a hoard.

Rita let out a long creepy groan that silenced a sequence of moans that made up the base noise of the hoard. It was followed by a series of smaller moans from Imbol, a male Elf that made up one of the guards at the front of their group. He had trained Sa’ro in keeping night watch only a few nights prior and she had become enamoured with him immediately. He had long silver hair, deep green eyes, and a thin beard. He had been a thief prior to joining The WhiteFeather he had told her, tugging at the leather armour that fit snugly over his slender frame, and had gained a reputation for being impossibly lucky. 

She quickly followed suit, letting out a moan of her own, but again she was silenced by Rita’s fearsome gaze. Another subtle nod toward the front of the group directed Sa’ro’s attention toward a human at the front of the clan about eight bodies to the left of Imol, and the two were moaning and groaning between themselves. The Elf let out a loud moan that rippled through the group and slowly they began to shift their numbers. Over the course of the next three or four hundred feet, the shorter members, Dwarves and Halflings, were shuffled to the back of the group, while the taller Humans and Elves stumbled to the front.

“Bandits,” Rita explained in a whisper as they shambled forward. “See how the path forward narrows between the bluff and the river’s edge?” She waved a hand, rather wildly, in the direction of the cliffs ahead but Sa’ro got the intention. “We suspect they’re going to use it to narrow our numbers.” She continued, “We move the smaller ones to the back so they’re harder to see, and may be mistaken for children. 

“Can’t we just cross the river?” Sa’ro asked quietly and she fumbled nervously with the iron bullet in her pocket. To her right, a female Dwarf with brown hair and blue eyes glanced over with a slight scowl. It was a scowl Sa’ro was familiar with, having received it from the elders back home each time she’d questioned a decision. 

“If we can cross the river, so can they,” Rita replied in hushed tones. Reaching for her hatchet the half-Orc girl looked ahead for a way around the other side of the stone wall but it continued south for several miles. “See the way the cliff hangs over the path?” Rita continued in a whisper, “We’ll use that for cover and draw them through the corridor to us instead.” 

“Will that work?” Sa’ro Whispered, looking West down the length of the bluff, for several miles “Maybe we should try to go around the other way?” she asked quietly. The Dwarven woman to her right glanced over at Sa’ro again, this time with a hint of concern in her scowl. 

“We’ve done this before,” Rita replied with confidence. Sa’ro, however, was close enough to see her eyes and the concern in them. She tightened her grip on her weapon, suddenly realizing that she had not grabbed it at all. Instead, she had placed her hand back inside her pocket and tightly gripped the Iron bullet. Confused, she dropped the coin back into her pocket and took up her axe, holding it down by her leg. 


When they were nearly one hundred feet from the bluff three more figures joined the watcher on the bluff. They took turns observing The Feather through their telescope and talking amongst themselves. The last to look through the device, a tall, lanky figure in dirty green robes, raised one hand high above their head in a wave. There was some dramatic discussion among them, or perhaps it was an argument, Sa’ro wasn’t sure. Two of the figures remained atop the bluff until the Whitefeather was within sixty feet of the bluff before they descended the backside out of view. 

The moment they were no longer being watched, Imbol uttered a groan command and The WhiteFeather swiftly moved into formation. The space between the bluff and the river’s edge was barely twenty feet across.  Using the bluff’s naturally sloped overhang for cover,  the children were quietly ushered along the cliff wall under the overhang and behind a wall of adults. 

At the front of the hoard, they created a wall of small guards, halflings and Dwarves, followed by taller Elven and Human guards. 

As they’d approached the rock face, the hoard quieted, to not give away their changed position, and Sa’ro was able to hear the bandits hiding on the other side of the Bluff. 

“Once they’re in the corridor we can start cracking heads.“   A woman’s voice explained, 

“What if they just go in the water?”  a male voice questioned.

“The water is just deep enough here to slow them down,” The woman continued, “Adild will stay on the hill to pick them off and any who fall will get swept downriver by the current.” 

“Wait! Why are we whispering? They're zombies, I can just stand right here in front of them and it will lead them right where we … Where’d they go?!”

“Do as you’re told!” Rita commanded in a whisper when Sa’ro resisted being sent to the back with the children, fighting against the dwarven woman who pulled at her wrist. Rita glared at her with a fierceness she had not previously seen in the woman and reluctantly allowed herself to be led back along the cliff. 

“I’m not a fucking child!” She thought to herself, kneeling under the overhang. She gripped her staff and her axe with white knuckles, more out of anger than preparation for battle. The Dwarven woman with brown hair and blue eyes, stood nearby nervously gripping a dagger, she spoke in intermittent moans to a young halfling nearby.

“Sorrow?” A small voice whispered from behind her. She turned around to see little Khali looking up at her, his arm raised and holding the hand of Armand, who stood behind him. “I’m scared.”

“Don’t worry, Buddy” she said, somewhat absently, “There’s a lot of people here to protect you.” She stood and slammed her head into the overhang, dirt tumbling into her hair and over her shoulders. Cussing in her head she looked up at the cliff face. It looked similar to the ones she and her best friend Thori used to boulder on as children. 

“What about you?” The boy asked. 

“Oh, I don’t need protecting.” She mumbled, She passed her staff to Armand, and began climbing up the side of the cliff. The hand and foot holds were large and numerous and she quickly scaled the face up to the top, arriving as the first sounds of combat began below. Before her, stood a lanky Elf wielding a dart in each hand. Sa’ro snuck up behind her intending to take out her knees, but as she moved closer the rocks under her feet slipped loose, causing her to slip and brush the blade of her axe across her leg, drawing blood and giving her away. The Elf turned to face Sa’ro just as the half-Orc swung and the axe made contact with her knee. There was a crack as the leg buckled at the wrong place and the woman screamed in pain. Losing her balance atop the bluff and stumbling toward Sa’ro but she quickly drove a dart into the girl’s shoulder, using it to hold herself upright.

Fighting bandits

In her periphery, behind the woman, Sa’ro saw a ball of fire sail out over the river and fizzle out in the water; below them she could hear the clang of weapons and the cries of the injured. She stood swiftly, throwing the woman off balance again as she brought the axe up but the woman stumbled backward and the axe just missed the bottom of her jaw. As she reeled, the elven woman swung again with one of her darts and it sailed past Sa’ro. A cry and screams called out from behind her as Sa’ro came back down with her axe and embedded it into the woman’s face. She slunk to her knees, pulling the axe from Sa’ro’s hand before falling backward. 

Sa’ro put her foot on the woman’s chest and pried the axe from her face, before skulking her way down the back of the bluff, behind the bandits. Before her, she could see a young woman with black hair and chainmail order a human man into the fray. They were not yet engaged in the fight but the man rushed around the bluff to where the Whitefeather was hidden,  Sinking into a deep sandy mud that slowed his progress. 

Sa’ro raised her simple, wooden-handled hatchet. Elven blood dripped from the blade and, for reasons she did not understand, she licked some of the copper-flavoured residue. “I will be your destruction!” She whispered to the three, and the two figures closest to her seemed to darken as if a cloud had passed over the noon sun, just for them. As she quietly moved toward them, another ball of fire splashed into the river and burst into a cloud of steam. Beyond the bluff, she could hear the cries of the wounded and the clank of weapons continue. 

Natural 1: Arnen: Charisma Check against Bane

“They have magic users and greater numbers, Mistress,” A male dwarf in a fur cape standing next to the raveness stated, “They’re clearly not zombies, we should fall back.” 

Natural 1: Tilleue: Charisma Check against Bane

“Agreed. We’ll hide back up the bluff and come back to loot the bodies.” The raveness replied. The two turned to see Sa’ro, blood running down her bare left arm, from her twisted smile, and from the axe in her hand.   

“You cowardly bitch!” Sa’ro growled with vicious mockery. The two stepped back in shock, both raising a hand to their heads as if in pain. The woman immediately lifted her warhammer and swung at Sa’ro. The Orc -girl dodged the swing, but it clipped her left forearm, rattling the bones all the way to her hand. It was then that she realized that she was, once again, holding the iron bullet in her off-hand. The Dwarf drew a shortsword and thrust toward her but she moved to the side to avoid the sword tip and brought her hatchet into the hollow of his neck. There was a slash of blood and a cracking of bone before the dwarf dropped to the ground lifeless. In a panic, the raven-haired woman charged into Sa’ro, catching her on the chin with the head of the hammer.

“Sa’ro? Come on Baby,  ” Her mother’s voice was calm and serene. She felt her mother’s hand slide into hers, pulling her forward.

“I’m sorry!” Sa’ro mumbled, “I’m so sorry,” 



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