Ramaih's Mettle

Chapter 3

The tide swayed in and out. Xandos-Alonzo stood on the beach, calmed by the rush of the water and the cool breeze. He walked in the sand, down by the water until he reached a great rock. The rock stood about twice his height, and was as wide as a small house. He turned around and rested against it, suddenly feeling tired. Off in the distance he saw movement. Three figures mounted on large horses moved slowly toward him.

The creature on the right looked like a dragonborn, but certainly belonged to some much larger race. A large staff jutted up from behind him, topped with a huge diamond.

Next to him, in the center, rode a man in white, who bore almost elfin features. Around his neck dangled an eagle’s talon.

The man on the left was clad head-to-toe in white robes, his face covered with a platinum mask. He carried a heavy, leather-bound book under his arm. A shadow covered them, emanating from the sea.

A large ship, bearing a familiar standard floated in the shallows of the ocean. The crew hustled and bustled around, heeding the orders of a bald-headed captain.

Feeling compelled to turn around, Xandos fell back on his rear. The rock behind him was no longer normal stone, but clear, gem-like. He noticed the red dot just off-center, and realized it was his diamond. The red dot pulsed rhythmically. Then someone screamed.


Xandos opened his eyes, staring straight at the caravan’s main campfire. He rolled over. A woman yelped as three small kobolds latched on to her and started to drag her away. He rolled on his stomach and looked ahead of him. He saw the dark elf roll out from under a wagon and pluck some metallic objects from his leather armor. The drow threw a shuriken at one of the kobolds in mid-charge, striking it in the small of the back. Upon reaching the woman, he spun around and kicked one of the creatures in the head, and followed up by slamming a dagger into its throat. Before he could get any further, the other two kobolds dragged the woman into the darkness of the woods. Xandos heard some chattering behind him, and flipped over to see three kobolds with javelins pointed at him. He froze. A dagger stuck into one of the creature’s eyes, and the other two hurled their javelins instinctively.

The drow grunted somewhere behind him, as Xandos reached over and grabbed a large piece of tinder from the fire. He flung it at the two kobolds, which gave him plenty of time to spring to his feet and draw his rapier. The two creatures fled in confusion, as he looked over to see the camp nearly overrun with kobolds. Moments later, reinforcements arrived, with the two dragonborn leading the charge.

“Nice moves.” The drow tapped his arm and swiftly ran ahead. He watched the dark elf tumble a few paces in front of a rather nasty looking beast. When he stopped he already had his crossbow aimed point blank at the creature’s stomach. The result looked painful.

Very roguish, Xandos noted. He shifted his weight back, unsure whether to charge in, or let those who signed on for guard duty to handle the fight.

Crack!

He barely felt the butt of the javelin slam into the back of his head, and felt the three pairs of kobold hands dragging him across the ground even less. In a few moments everything was dark.


“I say we follow.” Recs winced as one of the few medics patched up a gash on his forearm. He looked around at the other members of the caravan guard, then to the trailboss. “If we wait until morning they’ll be dead.”

“Damn dragon-worshiping scum. They’ve never been brave enough to raid us in the first tenday.” The trailboss seemed to not care too much for kobolds. “We’ve got nine heads missing, that’s not really too many.”

“I say we press onward. The few who were careless enough to get abducted are probably goblin-food by now anyway. We’re better off getting on down the road before they catch back up to us.”

Kobolds are territorial. They won’t follow us too far.” Lucan stated the facts, but refrained from adding any opinion. He kept his distance from the central fire, standing a few paces from where Elle had perched herself on a log. The drow stood even further back, looking out into the darkness.

“We can’t say for sure how long they’ll be alive, but their chances are getting worse by the minute.” Recolitus, who had a weapon in one hand, clearly intended on leaving immediately. “Besides, it’d help stop the bastards from trying it again in the future.”

“I’m inclined to agree with your fellow dragonborn over there. Kobolds aren’t known for letting up when things look rough. They’ll be back if we hang around too long. Even before I was a trailboss I saw it. Just usually happens further down the road.”

“Then let those of us who wish to return the captives to the caravan track them down, while you take the rest of the guard and head to the next village. It’s only a few days further. Give us three days. If we’re not back, you’ll have added enough travelers to replace us as guards. If we do make it back, then the better for the Ramaih.” Lyme didn’t take his eyes off the forest as he spoke. “Those kobolds should pay, and those held captive still deserve our protection. They are still members of this caravan so long as they live.”

“I’m in agreement.” Recs lofted the massive sword over his shoulder. “Give us three days.”

The trailboss seemed to be weighing his options, but Recs could see that the man didn’t really have a choice. He knew that a rescue would not only prove good for the current members in the caravan, but it might draw some of the more timid townsfolk in future settlements. “Agreed. A small, well-protected troupe is much better than a huge one that constantly bleeds members. Take up to six with you, if you can find that many willing. You have until the end of the tenday.”

The eladrin finally spoke up. “So the question is now obvious: who can track kobolds?”


The pungent fumes of decay and waste filled Xandos-Alonzo’s nostrils as he cocked his head up to get a better glimpse of his surroundings. The room he had been carelessly tossed in was little more than an angled pit dug into the mud and covered with shoddily-crafted bars. The back wall of the cell reeked of excrement, and the merchant spotted a few angular bones jutting up out of the piles of refuse. Sitting up, he noticed immediately that the familiar lump at his waist was gone, along with all of his outer clothing and gear. He shuffled over to the grate, which he found to be made of bone and sturdy wood. Pressing his face up to the bars, he could see walls, and assumed he was in a rather large, unroofed enclosure. He reached an arm up through the grate and tried pushing it upward with this back and shoulders.

“It ain’t gonna work. Tried it already.” The voice resounded from the merchant’s right, as an arm jutted up into his sight. “Good to see you’re up and about though.”

Xandos began to see the bigger picture. He had been taken captive by the kobolds and thrown into some sort of jail or makeshift dungeon. “Did you see anything that might help us get out of here? Are there any others that were taken?”

“I was one of the lucky, or unlucky, ones to be awake when they brought us to this compost heap. We’re in some sort of kobold village. There were five or six others. I saw them hauled off somewhere else, but those damned kobolds don’t speak a lick of any civilized language. Damned things took my knife, or we’d be outta here faster’n a troll at a firework show.”

“They took most of my stuff too. My weapons, my clothes, my money. I have to get it– I mean them– back.”

“You’s talking about that fancy diamond that was around your waist. Yeah, I saw ‘em when they realized what it was. Their eyes got real wide like coins and they almost knocked me upside the head just for trying to get a better look. How’d you come by something like that? Never seen nothing like it that big.”

“It’s a family heirloom. It’s been passed down for generations. This is the first time it’s been out of my sight since I can remember.”

“That thing’d certainly bring in a nice chunk of gold if you could find someone with enough to pay for it. How much do you reckon it’s worth?”

“I don’t know. I follow the Ramaih every four years, but this year I intended on getting it appraised once we hit (city). Looks like that won’t be happening any time soon.” A glint of light caught Xandos-Alonzo’s eye. He crept back to the rear of the cell to discover that the kobolds had taken everything of value, but merely tossed his clothes and boots to the side. He picked up his left boot removed one of the laces. Holding it toward the light from the grating, he plucked a small end of wire from the shoelace and pulled it from fabric. He crawled back over and tested it on an inconspicuous knob from one of the bones. After a few passes it cut cleanly through. He shoved the wire into one of his undergarment pockets waited for the sky to turn dark. “Then again, you never know.”

“You thinking rescue?”

“That’s one possibility. Let’s just say I like to be hopeful. The name is Xandos, by the way.”

“Name’s Tairsioc.”

“That comes from an odd dialect. Are you Chessentan?”

“Seeing how I ain’t a halfling, I sure as hell ain’t standin’!”

Alonzo shook his head and held back a chuckle, the prospect of escape lightening his mood slightly.


“Here.” Lucan squatted down over a patch of disturbed soil. “We’re getting fairly close. Kobolds are very clumsy. They always leave plenty of hints.”

“Yeah, maybe they’re too stupid to care.” Recs followed the elf, his hand constantly fastened to the sword’s pommel at his pelt. He looked back and saw Ava, Elle, and Draven following from a short distance. “Don’t get too close guys. Lucan says we’re getting there and we want to get the drop on them.”

“I think we should assess the situation before we go around trying to get the ‘drop’ on anybody.” Eluriel’s tone was sharp. “I’m not sure we want to go charging into a cave we think is filled with kobolds, only to find it filled with trolls or drakes or the like.”

“Well, I’d still say it’s best to keep the element of surprise at our disposal. Best to try to strategically eliminate a group of kobolds than needlessly stave off an entire village.” The dragonborn spoke with a tone of finality. He turned his head back toward Lucan, then gave a sweeping glance around the other direction. “Where’d the drow go?”

“Last I saw him, he was about thirty paces to the east, but I stopped paying too much attention when I saw the trail.” Lucan slowly started advancing through the brush.

“He probably went back to cower in his hole,” Draven chuckled. “The night up here is too bright for the likes of him!”

“On the contrary, I like the night up here so well, I decided to go up.” Lyme’s voice echoed quietly from a tree above them.

“You need to stay in sight, if not for your own protection, then so we can keep tabs on you.” Elle’s instinctually condescending tone seemed to go unnoticed.

“All due respect, I’ve been within your sight since we left the caravan, you just haven’t seen me. Perhaps if you paid more attention–”

“Paid more attention?!”

The drow interrupted Elle, his tone turning sterile and serious. “A cave sits about 150 paces to the northwest. I can see torchlight around its mouth from up here. Seems to be the most logical destination.”

“I’ll keep on this trail. You scout ahead and see what you find at the cave entrance. If the path seems to stray a different direction, I’ll make a Longtooth call.”

“And don’t pull anything foolish,” the eladrin warned, impulsively prestidigitating her spellbook’s clasp open and closed. She received no reply.

“What does a longtooth sound like? I’ve never heard one make a call before.” Ava piped up, the excitement perking up her curiosity.

Lucan chuckled. “They don’t. I just wanted him to get out of here before he and Elle killed each other . . . or got us all killed by giving away our position.” His laugh was joined by the two dragonborns and Ava, though Elle found little to laugh at.

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