The locals in Waidtal call the monstrous spiders that live in their woods ‘webknechts’. The things are horrors the size of a large dog. After a day spent wandering the woods, we find a boy hiding beneath a handcart surrounded by the strewn remains of a travelling group. It’s a quick tracking job from there, across the trade road and into a stretch of woods where the branches are thick with webbing. We march in. It’s an ambush
A wave of spiders comes skittering in from the trees. They come from every direction, so we have to fragment our usual battle line to hold gaps in the trees. Leonhard the Poacher puts down a spider with each javelin tossed.
The sheer number of creatures is intimidating, but they practically throw themselves on our spears. We can hear more of them in the woods. Our shield wall spreads out into a wide ring to try and cover all the gaps. The lads get spooked, and send out two rookies to scout.
It doesn’t work. A scout comes running back towards us—Bertwin, someone says his name was— screaming about eggs bursting open, but a spray of webbing from deeper woods trips him up. He dies there, just out of reach, and more spiders come swarming in over his corpse.
SLOW AND STEADY
The only bright spot in this is Albrecht the Sloth, a supposedly lazy beggar, who turns out to be pretty good at bashing spiders with a club. We’ve seen it before: Some people find purpose on the battlefield. Only in our horrible line of work, we self-appointed mercenaries of and for the people, could we have learned that.
We spend the late summer ranging the forest towns, going up to the tundra city of Bolasted to sell our loot. We gain some renown putting down bandits, beasts, and raiders for magistrates and councilmen. We get some real gear and experience. Gebhard, Walram, Alfred, and Thilmann have mail shirts or brigandine plates over leather, real helmets, and proper arming swords. Gero the farmhand gets a real metal flail. And Leif becomes very, very deadly with his axe.
After weeks in the woods we head towards home. In Bolasted we hire two men definitely fleeing from the law: a strong young gravedigger called Oskar, who says the last grave he dug was his evil father’s, and a man named Balon the Weasel, who’s running from debts owed to some nobles. We think they’re exactly our kind of scum.
Back home in Bokenberg, elder Bjarne says they’ve had trouble with graverobbers north in the copper mining town Hohenau. Some kids reported disturbed graves and freshly overturned earth out in the mountain hollow where the town’s dead are buried. It’s a bad deal: The Hohenau council are only offering 450 crowns for a fix. “Graverobbers are usually idiots,” says gravedigger Oskar.
Of the twelve founding members, eight are still alive. All proud northmen seeking justice for the evils that the nobility have done to us, seeking freedom through the life of the mercenary. All are from this region, six from this very town. Underpaid or not, we still take the job.
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