Gift of a Thief

Gift of a ThiefDuring Theft of a God (Great War 1):

     Greta closed the Practical Defensive Spells for Priestesses and set it on top of Advanced Offensive Spells for the Priestess, the books Priestess Mother Margareta gave her before she left The Holy Temple of Din. Mudbeard threw a stick in the campfire as Retter scowled at Greta.

     “What?” Greta asked Retter.

     “You’ve been studying that defensive book for weeks. When do you plan to start learning the offensive spells?”

     “I have a system,” she replied.

     “Yeah, a system of avoidance,” Mudbeard said. “Ya might as well face it girl, we’re gonna need those fighting spells!”

     Greta glared across the campfire at Retter, the barbarian paladin whom joined their quest uninvited. Her eyes softened as she looked at the warrior dwarf. Mudbeard, adopted by her grandfather, was like an uncle to her.

     “Ya know I love ya girl, my niece by name, but this isn’t some frolicy picnic we’re on.”

     “My calling, in the priestess order is charity, and I excel at the art of healing! I will do my duty. But it doesn’t change the fact violence is, well, obscene!”

     Retter turned toward Mudbeard. “That attitude is going to get us killed. Maybe we should leave her behind.”

     “What!” yelled Greta. She stood on edge, chagrinned.

     “Now, ya know, I promised my Dad, her Granddad, I’d look after her, and that’s what I’ll do.”

     “I don’t need any looking after,” Greta said. “You two want to quit? Do it. But you can’t deny me this quest any more than you can deny your right arm. The God Din chose me himself. He chose me to find Dorr, not either of you.” She glowered at them, then stomped off into nearby trees. 

     She needed a moment to calm. Anger poisoned priestess magic and she must release it to be at her strongest. Greta knelt and prayed.

#

     Retter and Mudbeard glanced at each other. Mudbeard threw another stick into the fire.

     “Fire’s a pretty thing,” he said.

     “When honed for battle, I agree,” replied Retter.

     Mudbeard followed after his niece and found her praying. He sat nearby and waited for her to look up at him.

     “Better?”

     Greta’s natural smile faltered. “That barbarian, he berated me!”

     “He’s worried. About us, about him. Mostly about his missing God.”

     “I’m worried too, but indulging in violence would destroy everything I stand for.” Greta dropped her fists into her lap, shoulders sagging.

     Mudbeard sighed.

     “You know I’m right. It’s why Din picked me. Of course I’ll learn the offensive spells, just like I learned the mace before becoming a priestess apprentice.”

     “Ya think this makes ya strong.” His kept his gaze steady on hers.

     “Yes. When we find the snake men, the nagas who’re buying the statue containing Dorr, I’ll be ready.”

     “Tis different out here in the wilds.” His somber tone touched her. “You’ll see soon enough, and before you’re ready most likely. If we survive that, I guess we’ll be alright.” His smile returned. “That’s the way of young people, disbelief ‘till they see for themselves.”

     “I’m not that young.” She relaxed. It was easy with him.

     “Humph! Yer barely out from behind yer mother’s skirts!”

#

     As Greta shifted in her bedroll, Mudbeard slid his hand onto the hilt of his battle hammer. He hoped Retter heard the snapping twigs. Four, maybe five intruders moved into position around the camp. 

     They must have been spying on the party, planning an ambush in the dead of night. Experienced thieves by their actions. Mudbeard, Greta and Retter hadn’t traveled far enough into Grimalkin Forest to encounter Stalkers, the cat people obsessed with the hunt. 

     The thieves crept out from behind the trees. Mudbeard and Retter jumped up with weapons raised, screaming. By the light of the moon and the glow of the spent fire, Mudbeard rushed two of the ambushers to the north as Retter blocked two from the south. 

     Retter began chanting a spell, though his spells had little effect with his God Dorr, missing. Greta sat bolt upright at the commotion. She looked around, eyes blinking, as a man rushed her. Lifting her mace instinctively, she countered the blow. A long knife dove for her chest. 

     Mudbeard’s first opponent charged in, stopped with a blow to the head. The second man, wary, tried to size up the dwarf. Mudbeard didn’t hesitate. He stepped in swinging. 

     Retter knocked one attacker off balance with a kick to the stomach. He swung around to parry a jab from the other. After blocking another swing, metal clanging together, he thrust his long sword home into the man’s chest. The first attacker recovered, and ran at the paladin just as he turned around. Retter blocked the blow and slashed through the man’s neck. 

     Greta checked blow after blow. Sparks flew off her mace. She swung wide, aiming for the man’s head. He fell back, dodging the brunt of the blow. As Greta readied another strike, the thief took advantage of her hesitation. He kicked the weapon from her hands, bent low, then pinned her to the ground. She grasped his knife hand, struggling for control. A sixth man wearing long robes stepped forward and sprinkled dust in her face. She stopped struggling, shaking her head, finding it difficult to stay awake. 

     Retter and Mudbeard turned to the final two. Mudbeard stepped over Greta, pushing the thieves back. Retter sliced through the chest of the man in robes. Blood poured through the gash as he dropped the bag of sleep sand, then fell. The last thief bolted into the woods avoiding a tree-leveling smack from Mudbeard’s hammer. Retter leaned close to Greta, speaking a counter spell. 

     “Get her up!” he yelled at Mudbeard. Retter sprinted after the final thief.

     “Come on, come on!” Mudbeard said. His shaking-- gentle by dwarf standards-- popped her head back and forth on her neck. She rubbed at her eyes, pulling away.

     “Stop it! I’m fine. Go!” Greta tried to stand, then fell back down. Mudbeard stepped back, and covered a smile by scratching his beard. She didn’t look like she’d fall asleep. 

     Retter appeared from between the bushes.

     “Well?” Mudbeard asked.

     “Couldn’t keep up,” Retter replied. “My armor slowed me down.

     “I don’t know why pallies fuss with so much body-metal. Are ya here to fight or not? Now if ya wore chain mail like me-“

     “I’d still have been too slow. And it’s paladin, not pallie.”

     “Humph.” Mudbeard patted Greta on the shoulder before sitting beside her. “Better? Not like school, is it?” 

     She frowned at his irrepressible grin.

     “What do you think, common thieves or something more?” Retter searched the bodies strewn around the site. 

     “I’ve never been attacked before.” Greta reached down and pulled the dead man’s robe over his face. “Should we bury them?”

     “We’ll leave them for their quick-footed friend,” Retter said. “Here’s something.” He held up a folded parchment. 

     As he opened it, Greta and Mudbeard crossed over to see. 

     Mudbeard hopped up and down beside Retter. “Lower the thing will ya? You’re too tall for me to be seeing over you’re shoulder!”

     Retter bent down followed by Greta. They read the letter together.

     Kavvar,

     I am interested in acquiring the item you claim to possess. Bring the statue by the full moon to the place you suggested. I will wait no more than that. If I ascertain the authenticity of the essence of god within, you will be paid well beyond your imaginings. If it proves false, you will die. 
                                             Aversion

     “Tis a Dark Elf name that signed,” Mudbeard said.

     “Is one of these thieves Kavvar?” Greta asked.

     “Let’s find their horses,” Retter said.

     The group searched the packs on the horses, but there was no sign of the statue.

     “This group was nothing but common thieves,” Mudbeard said.

     “Do you think they stole this note from Kavvar?” she asked.

     “Or someone carrying it to Kavvar,” Retter replied. “The horses will speed things up until the trail runs out, but where to? If Kavvar is meeting the dark elves instead of the naga, we’re headed in the wrong direction.”

     “Old Road,” Greta said.

     Retter and Mudbeard turned to her.

     She shrugged. “We learned some geography in priestess training.”

     Retter made a face like he tasted something bad. “Whatever for?”

     Greta rolled her eyes. “Old Road is in Hinterland Forest. We can get there by paddling up White River.”

     “How do ya know that’s the meeting place?” Mudbeard asked.

     “Dark elves won’t venture very far from the caves that lead to the mountains. They don’t like sunlight. Old Road is an abandoned trade route.” 

     At dawn, they traveled on horseback, to Mudbeard’s dismay. He said he didn’t trust the beasts. Though he was raised in human lands, he never got used to the animals. When they next camped, Greta studied offensive spells.

References: Greta, Mudbeard, Retter, Barbarian, Dwarf, Human, Dark Elf, Naga, Stalker

 
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