They had found their mark easily enough. Dovan had taken the group a few days’ ride to the north, and then ordered them to spread out and start looking for prey. “Handsome” Celthric was the first to spot something – a young wolf caught in a toothy metal contraption – and he signaled the rest of the bandits. The lot of them killed and ate the beast while they waited for the trap’s owner to return. When he did come to check on his work, they chased him down, beat him, stripped him, and tied him to a tree. The trapper had become the trapped.
Before any questions were even asked, Dovan got out his special set of knives and had a little “fun.” Then they got to work. Between Dovan’s knives and Auchs’ fists, the unlucky bastard soon spilled everything about himself, about the loose-knit community of hunters and trappers in the Greenbelt, about this trading post to the north… and then he spilled some more… and more, and more, and more. The bandits had all the information that they needed, as far as Falgrim could tell anyway, but still Dovan asked his questions, and still they cut and beat the man’s flesh. The poor fool said what he thought they wanted to hear, said anything to get them to stop, but the two kept at it well past sundown.
The rest of them were gathered around the fire, out of sight but not out of earshot. Topper Red, always the idealist, was clearly not happy with the situation. After a lot of fidgeting and grumbling, the young man finally spoke up. “He’s said all he’s gonna say, right? Can’t they at least gag him? All his hollerin’ is upsettin’ my dinner.”
Without looking up from the fire, Markard the Stitcher muttered, “Why don’t you go ask Dovan to stuff a rag in the guy’s mouth.”
“Or ask Markard to stitch his mouth shut,” Falgrim said with a grin. Markard glared at Falgrim in response. That sort of cruelty was not Markard’s style (his nickname came from his crude healing skills), and neither was a sense of humor.
“Handsome” Celthric stayed silent, although he smiled a little at Falgrim’s little joke, careful not to open his mouth. He didn’t open it often these days unless he absolutely had to, not since the Stag Lord had beaten his good looks and all of his teeth out of him.
“Nine hells, I ain’t dumb,” Topper said with a scowl. “I know well enough to not get between Dovan and his fun.” Topper spit into the fire. “I’m just bellyachin’, I suppose. Don’t see the point of it, is all.”
“The point is that Dovan has the favor of the Stag Lord and you don’t…. or he did, anyway. So keep your aching belly to yourself, And don’t you dare mention that he got sent north to Thorn River, he’s awful sore about that. ” Falgrim said sternly. Dovan was a cruel and vindictive devil-spawn, and Auchs was violent and so dumb that the giant would do whatever Dovan wanted. To make matters worse, Dovan had recently suffered a humiliating demotion, having been sent away to Kressle’s camp. It wasn’t worth it to risk getting on either one’s bad side.
Topper Red breathed an exaggerated sigh of relief when the screaming finally stopped. Soon after, Dovan strode out of the darkness and towards the campfire, with Auchs trailing close behind. Dovan was shirtless, revealing the strange tattoos that snaked across his chest and arms, but was in the process of pulling on the trapper’s tunic as he walked. Once dressed, he asked, “What do you think, gentlemen? Do I look the part?”
“It’ll do,” replied Falgrim, “but that tunic’s too big, and I can see bits o’ your tattoos. Don’t see many trappers with that sort of thing, not in these parts. And then there’s your accent…”
Dovan scoffed. “Minor details,” he said, ridding his voice of its normal foreign lilt and replacing it with something that sounded much more rough, patterned after the strange speech of Galt. “I’ll have the disguise and voice perfected by the time I reach this Oleg’s.”
“Hey!” exclaimed Auchs, who looked down at Dovan with new wonder in his dim eyes. “You sound like that hunter man!”
Dovan shot Auchs a look of pure disgust. “Yes, you lumbering oaf! That’s the whole idea!” He then delivered a savage backhand across Auch’s huge, misshapen face. Everything stopped as the bandits awaited Auchs’ reaction, but the mighty fool only cowered in response. If anyone else had tried that, Auchs would probably have ripped their head off. But the giant was scared of Dovan, as small and slight as the man was in comparison. Nine hells, I don’t blame him, thought Falgrim. The former mercenary had been all around the Inner Sea, and had seldom encountered as nasty a group of characters as the Stag Lord’s lieutenants.
“Get some rest,” Dovan ordered the others. “We ride at first light. That little trading post will soon be a pyre to our glory.”
In his disguise, gaining the trust of the travelling priest was child’s play for Dovan. After setting up a simple ambush, Dovan made sure to rescue the old man before he was slaughtered by the other “bandits”. The old fool was almost pathetically grateful, and invited him to travel with him to the old fort.
The residents were uninspiring. Two merchants; an older man and a pretty woman, married to each other. Four guards and their captain, but only two were on duty. And Dovan himself. He slipped into his best impersonation of a carpenter from Galt who had just come to the trading post to sell his skills, and they all bought it. The old merchant paid him for the work and rented him a room for the night, and the woman chatted him up a bit, but they paid the disguised Dovan no special mind.
Several months later:
In the middle of the night, Dovan slipped out of his bed and crept unnoticed across the yard to the stables. Searos and the others were waiting outside, hopefully out of sight. Once they saw the fire, they would make for the gate, which Dovan would have to get open. As Dovan poured oil along the base of the catapults, he fervently hoped the guard near the gate, that strange-speaking elf, stayed at her post when the blaze started. He expected Searos would have arranged some sort of distraction to help him.
He saw Laerrick in the northwest corner of the fort, where he always ways. He was a predictable watchman, which was a fact he would have to relate to Pharasma in her boneyard. It was simple to sneak up behind him. He realized how much he missed the catch in their breath and the startled look in their eyes, right after the blade slipped into their throat. It had been too long since he had killed.