Martin was the first to see the caravan. The narrow pass opened up wide once again and the muddy earth continued in a long track toward the mouth of a cave set into a mountainous hill. Along the muddy strip a large hulking grey beast was bent over the wooden edge of a wagon pushing it somewhat awkwardly through the mud. Atop the wagon itself was an iron cage that seemed to be chained in place. Inside the cage a handful of dragonborn children lay heaped atop one another in a dirty pile. Some mewled sadly while others slept. Past the wagon three stout dwarves helped pull the wagon through the muck with leather harnesses. Martin stopped and took cover cover behind a nearby boulder and waited.
Rhogar caught up and Martin quieted him with a gesture, pointing out to the scene before them. A low growl seemed to roil from within the dragonborn’s throat and Martin steadied him with one hand.
“The smart thing. Remember?” Martin whispered and nocked two arrows.
Rhogar nodded and the low rumble within subsided. Martin crept over the muddy patches quickly approaching the caravan, motioning for Rhogar to follow at key intervals. Rhogar stalked slowly, but quietly, behind avoiding the muddiest parts of the road until he found firm footing on an adjacent strip of rocky soil. He turned to Martin and nodded once more and watched as Martin unleashed a quick double volley at the large beast. The first arrow skimmed off the beast’s rugged hide and ricocheted wide out into the lake. The second arrow, however, thunked home into the beasts mottled back sinking almost all the way into its flesh.
Rhogar winced slightly waiting for the inevitable roar of the injured monster to peal out… but it never came. He looked up at the beast which seemed to not notice anything had happened at all and just continued to push the cart forward through the mud. Rhogar looked over at Martin confused. What happened?
Martin gave one of his trademark shrugs but looked just as surprised as Rhogar this time. I don’t know!
Rhogar regained his composure and pointed at the dwarves. Martin nodded and unleashed another quick succession of arrows toward the dwarves. Again one arrow managed to strike true, sinking deep into the leftmost dwarf’s shoulder. This time a loud dwarven curse erupted from the target and the other two dwarves were out from under their harnesses with weapons drawn. One sported a stubby crossbow and almost immediately took aim at Martin, while the other one advanced on Rhogar with a menacingly large hammer. The injured dwarf howled as he turned around to see what had struck him and reached back to snap the shaft of the arrow off from his back before drawing an axe and shield.
Martin saw the crossbow shudder as a bolt flew from it toward him, he dodged sideways but caught the brunt of the shot in one leg. He stumbled to the ground and rolled back upright again and took aim at his original quarry once more.
Rhogar charged forward toward the hammer wielder and pulled his axe up from under one arm carving a long slice diagonally upward across the dwarf’s body, rending a nasty gash in his armor.
“Ach! That was a present from me pa!” the dwarf exclaimed and spun away giving his hammer momentum for another strike.
Martin loosed another two arrows which seemed to bounce off his quarry’s shield harmlessly. “Gods!” the elf swore.
Rhogar pulled his axe back down over his head for a finishing strike only to catch the hammer dwarf’s spinning strike in his face. “Gar!” he roared and backed up a space, bringing his axe forward defensively.
The giant grey beast continued forward with the wagon pushing it another few feet closer to the cave entrance on the far end of the road.
“We need to stop that cart!” Rhogar growled and he could see Martin nod on the periphery as another crossbow bolt narrowly whizzed by the elf’s head.
Martin used the opportunity to unleash another arrow into a chink in the shielded dwarf’s breastplate and watched in satisfaction as the dwarf reeled back from the blow. Had he not been a dwarf that shot would’ve sent him sprawling.
Rhogar feinted with one end of his axe and grinned as the dwarf with the hammer took the bait moving away and into Rhogar’s followup which cut him right across the face. “Sorry about that.” Rhogar teased, “I suppose you got your face from your ‘pa’ as well?”
The dwarf only howled and spat a mouthful of blood in response.
“Martin… the cart!”, Rhogar yelled once more and watched helplessly as the beast pushed on through the mud toward the cave.
Martin leapt forward toward the shielded dwarf and stabbed him square in the throat with an arrow before kicking him to the ground. His keen elven senses caught every gurgling gasp for life as the dwarf struggled on his face in the mud. Martin continued past the body and toward the wagon. How am I gonna stop that beast?
Rhogar felt another wallop from the hammer strike him hard against his chest and gasped as the wind rushed out of him. He felt his vision begin to swim and lashed out once more with his axe in desperation. The blow was lucky and opened up a wide gash below the hammer wielding dwarf’s breastplate. A waterfall of blood poured forth and Rhogar roared in triumph as the dwarf fell backward clutching the wound.
Martin’s quick legs took him a few feet further before another bolt took him in the side, sending him to the ground in agony.
The dwarf reloaded his crossbow once again and leered at the elf, “Yer head will make a foine trophy for Vroman’s wall, elf!” The dwarf then leveled the weapon at Martin’s head.
Martin winced and then heard a reptilian bellow so loud and ferocious that he thought he might go deaf from the sound. He peered toward the source and saw Rhogar planted several yards away with his draconic maw wide open and a blast of frosty wind erupting from within. The blast peppered the crossbowman with shards of ice and a layer of hoarfrost began to cover him from head to toe. Rhogar let out a last burst of icy mist that coiled around the dwarf.
“Go! The ice won’t last, get to the cart. I’ll hold him off.” Rhogar lifted his axe once again and advanced on the frozen dwarf.
Martin scrambled to his feet and ran determinedly toward the wagon and its bestial engine. He loosed a few more arrows into the back of the beast as he ran to no avail, the beast took no notice and continued to push forward. Martin reached the wagon which seemed dangerously close to the cave now—Who knows what lurks within just waiting for its payload?
Martin slung his bow over one shoulder and drew a longsword from it’s sheath. He jumped up onto the cart and swung a smooth arc across the giant beasts face, a thin red line appeared but the beast didn’t even flinch. Martin looked into its hideous visage and the beast’s eyes were a stark unblinking white. It heaved once again and the wagon was again once step closer to the mouth of the cave. “The beast, it’s under some kind of spell, we cannot harm it try as we might!” Martin yelled to Rhogar.
“Well, figure something out!” Rhogar roared and planted his axe into the dwarf just as it was regaining movement again. The dwarf twitched and dropped its crossbow. Rhogar swung around again but not before the dwarf removed a club and took him to task.
Martin nodded and examined the setup. The beast had manacles around its thick wrists that were chained to the wooden cart. The cage itself had a giant iron lock on its door. Martin lifted his sword once more and chopped at the lock to no avail. He jumped down back onto the mud next to one of the giant wagon wheels and thrust his sword in between the spokes, holding on until the wheel locked up. His sword clanked into place against the underside of the carriage and he let go. It seemed to work, a little. The beast continued to push on the cart, but without nearly as much success. The cart twisted into the mud.
Rhogar delivered a mighty sweep of his axe as the strangled cry of the final dwarf fell before him. Rhogar yanked his blade from the dwarf’s dying body and lumbered toward the cart.
Martin dodged out into the front of the wagon and pushed with all his might to rotate it away from the cave entrance. Rhogar joined him and together they shifted the massive cart off it’s muddy track The beast gave one more mighty push and shoved the cart against a pile of boulders. Rhogar hefted himself up onto the cart and took his axe to the iron lock over and over until, with a mighty crack, it snapped open.