Rag and Bones

by Johnny Chaosgate

03/04/18

The drinks were flowing freely in the makeshift encampment at Tehideth woods, there was even a small amount of merriment, although not TOO much, there were still things that lurked in the dark trees, things that would get hungry if they could hear the presence of man flesh.

And yet, the band of survivors who had fled from their war torn town and had endured many trials upon the way, finally felt that for once, just once, they could let their guard down.

Besides which, they had a handful of men on the edge of their clearing that evening, plus word had it that help was on its way from the mighty warriors from Chaosgate town.

“If them lot at Chaosgate can handle the likes of Demons and Necromancers, then we’re good as saved already!” Said one bedraggled yet happily swaying man as he threw back a wine skin and allowed its contents to pour down his throat.

“Aye,” called another, “but they ain’t here yet so don’t get too complacent, ye aren’t a damsel in distress are ye?”

The others around the smouldering fire guffawed and jeered at the comment

” ‘Ere if I put on a pretty dress, ‘reckon they’ll come any faster?” The swaying drunk blurted out with a grin to more howls of laughter.

A voice from the darkness responded gravely ” Depends on if you intend to summon every possible beast in these accursed woods with your moronic noise”

At this, the men gathered around the fire spun in surprise, grabbing what ever makeshift weapon was at hand, “wassat?! Who’s there?”

Again, the darkness replied, ” You know who this is, do you have the money for the job?”

The men, nervously looked around, some attempting to stare into the night to better see their new visitor, while others swept the area with their eyes to ensure none other from the camp was aware of the meeting.

“Yes, yes,” one stood up, cautiously raising a hefty coin purse in his grasp, “It’s all there, we’ve all chipped in, like we arranged, you do the job and no one need know where the payment came from yeah?”

The shadows spoke once more, “when the job is done there will be nothing left of them to worry about anymore, it will be brutal as you requested. The money, if you please? Throw it to my voice.”

The purse bearer had to steady his nervous hand, with a final glance around, he tossed the bag into the night…

Oswald, the self proclaimed “Grand Magus” was high up within a tree lazing happily upon a sturdy branch as he listened to the serene birdsong. The rest of the Chaosgate Warriors had ‘encouraged’ him to take some time for himself.

“Life was good” he grinned to himself, at least if he had a face he could grin,  his ‘unique’ situation of being a soul contained within an animated sack body meant that his facial expression was rather limited, fortunatley he had decided a while ago to stitch a happy go lucky smile onto his hessian head so he always had a grin, however this wasn’t necessarily good for all occasions, such as when he tried to apologies and explain his actions to his friends. Oswald loved to play harmless games and tricks on them in an attempt to boost the morale and spirit of his fellow adventurers, and yet, they didn’t always see the funny side of it, 

  “Humour is such a personal thing” he spoke, to the tree, or birds, even he wasn’t fully certain, 

” not everyone ‘gets’ me do they, poor buggers, some just aren’t as clever as me, eh? Eh?” He chuckled again, “you think I’m great though don’t you…. Are you listening to me?” Oswald became aware of a sudden lack of birdsong.

He cocked his head sideways as several birds burst forth from a nearby bush and fled into the greenery beyond, “Fine! Get lost then, you were rubbish conversation any ways!” He yelled with a mock raised fist.

It was at this point that he spotted the crossbow bolt flying towards him!

He rolled to avoid its bite but it struck home in his shoulder, with a cry of pain, Oswald spun flailing and hit the ground hard.

With a roar of agony, he willed himself to his feet, clutching at his shoulder, head whirling to see his attacker but could see no one.

At a lack of any visible opponent, he began to dart forwards to flee, when he felt another sharp pain and again dropped to the leafy floor, as a wiry looking man cut low with a sword, the slashing strike removing one leg below the knee in a flurry of Oswalds stuffing and hay.

The grim attacker nodding approving at the damage he’d caused to the ‘Grand Mage. “Heyl sends their regards” he chuckled with a broken toothed leer.

With a burst of fury, Oswald dove forwards on his good leg, barrelling into the man, as he did so he scrabbled for a viscous looking dagger he had spotted on the assailants belt.

The pair thudded into the floor and Oswald clawed his way onto the man, then repeated drove the dagger into the opponents chest, again and again until the target was a blooded mess.

Oswald slumped exhausted, wearily rolling off the body and splayed facedown in the earth, ” you’ll need to do better than that, sunshine, if you wanna put me down.” He scowled.

“Will this do?

Another voice from behind asked and before Oswald could react, the second brutish attacker slammed a mighty claymore into his back with such force that it pinned his body to the forest floor. Oswald howled in utter suffering and his vision blurred. He began to moan for his comrades, murmuring their names for help, but his cries were too weak to be heard. 

The second attacker stood over Oswald triumphantly, ” You killed my partner, I’m gonna enjoy this” he growled as he tore the sword away from the sack body with his muscular swirl etched arms, Oswald almost felt a sense of release and freedom, the sense quickly vanished as the red haired savage began to drive his heavy boots into Oswalds wrecked physique, send more and more internal filling everywhere. The last kick flipping Oswald onto his back, he noticed the warrior was wearing a kilt and boots, nothing more, He coughed out a chuckle thinking if he had more strength that we would have defiantly made a hilarious yet cutting remark about the brutes attire.

More kicks and hacks followed as Oswald flailed his arms in a poor attempt to defend himself, as he flailed his thumb caught onto the chain around his neck, the chain which held his soul gem bound to him. The pendant flew from his grip and whirled into the foliage, Oswald felt the life force draining from his already vandalised body and his senses became dull and sluggish.

“Pity,” said the attacker, ” I quite fancied that trinket, no matter, I’m here to end you not to rob you”

And at that moment he removed a scroll from his boot, unrolled it and spoke eldritch words, as the last word was uttered, Oswalds body erupted into flame, strips of fabric, cloth and hay danced into the air on the heat until there was a dark smoulder on the ground. 

The murderer, stooped down, grabbing a small book which had fallen from Oswalds body in the struggle, he flicked through the pages, a journal. “Proof enough I suppose.” And skulked off.

Moments later, a new voice called out,

“Oswald? Oswald! Come on, we’re moving on towards the encampment, Osw…” The voice cut short as they saw the scene before them.

 Astandord of the Wolfsburg mercenaries stepped forth to survey the evidence before him, he crouched low and pinched a piece of smouldering sackcloth between his gloved fingers. Slowly rising up, he looked far into the trees but could see nothing, he glanced over at the body of a stranger, laying butchered on the floor, then stared back at the embers.

“Damn.”