In Service to the Fallen May 5, 2016 14:12:06 GMT -7
Post by Nascent on May 5, 2016 14:12:06 GMT -7
The forest south of Leahaven was, at a glance, nothing special. Trees, mostly a mix of pines, maples, and oaks, rose along the banks of the Kiestone river as it dwindled and split into smaller streams, flowing naturally through the shallows as the land began to rise into rolling hills. The forest was a minor landmark at most, such that often it wasn't even included on maps -- it wasn't particularly large and travelers could easily find their way around it or cut through without difficulty by following the flow of water upstream. Were it not for the river's obstruction it's likely the area would have been clear-cut for timber years prior. Mostly the woodlands followed the curving, winding flow; although in some areas the trees were fairly dense this was more exception than rule, but under these patches of heavy green the shadow of the forest hung heavy.
It was to one of these that Ackley Durwood, compliant captive of the Red Scarf and her mercenary forces, directed the city's victorious fighters to find their prize: the holdout of the bandit raiders. While squads of city guard and Templar split up to take the enemy camps scattered throughout the area and a small detachment escorted a caravan carrying the actual relics from where they had been told to wait north of the city, Varena and Jamdek would lead their teams in the thrust to cut off the beast at the head. Although he wouldn't reveal the hideout's exact location, he had revealed enough to work up a rough map of the layout. The hideout, according to Ackley, was a small fort that had somehow been built into one of the larger hills such that it was almost impossible to find unless someone knew what they were looking for. One could, or so he claimed, have a 'right proper picnic atop that hill' without ever having the slightest clue what was underneath...
... as long as the raiders weren't cooking. Or working on their weapons. Or the alchemy lab was belching fumes.
It had been the combination of all three that had led Ackley to discover the stronghold in the first place. When a hill has two different colors of smoke coming out of the trees atop it and smells vaguely like barbecue one simply must be given to wonder, as he put it, 'what the sodding hells is going on'. Finding the concealed entrance -- planks of wood covered in a layer of sod, behind which lay a tunnel just barely wide enough for two people to walk abreast -- had largely been a stroke of luck and others' carelessness. One of the boards had been ajar, hanging loosely instead on snugly fit into its spot, and curiosity had done the rest of the uncovering. Bad luck, however, had shown him the rest, because the bandits had chosen that moment to return from a raid on the city. Dragged before their leaders -- and taking copious mental notes on the way in -- he'd been given his fateful choice: join or die. The rest was self evident.
"Doubt they expected me to survive." He explained in a hushed voice, looking Varena's way as they proceeded. He chuckled dryly to himself. "Then again, they never wot expected you, that's clear as cake."
Mixed metaphors aside, Ackley's information had been good so far. He'd anticipated every bandit patrol in the area and either guided the mercenaries around them or made it easy for a quick ambush to be had. So far his usefulness was playing out.