Battle Cry awoke with a gasp and a scream. Four of her sisters in arms leaned over her with worried looks on their faces. “What happened?” she croaked out through her still raw and bloodied throat.
“You were killed…” Had Enough said.
“…?” Battle Cry replied.
“Princess too,” Hot Flanks added. “The white crocodile thing did it. We had the potion for you, but Princess…” she broke down sobbing, unable to continue.
Don’t Fail picked up where she left off, “We were waiting for you to wake up before burying her. We thought you might want to do the honors of sending her on.”
Battle Cry tried to sit up, but only ended up back on her back, wracked with pain as she coughed up more blood. She could feel the regenerative powers of the potion working, so she willed herself to remain still until the fit had stopped. “No!” she finally said emphatically. “Everyone break out your purses, her time here is not done.”
“The Bishop?” Had Enough asked.
“Yes,” Battle Cry coughed again, but there was no blood this time. “Tyr is an ally, his priests cannot refuse a fervent request to see justice done.” She tried to sit up again, then whispered, “Help please…”
Worthy of Armor and Hot Flanks each put an hand under her arms and held her between them. “Good,” said Worthy. “We’ll pool out funds to get our friend raised, then go back to the keep and finish the job.”
“Yes,” said Don’t Fail. “Councilwoman Mondaviak passed us a letter from one of the citizens of Kryptgarten. He says they can make sure the back passage is open to aid us in taking the keep.”
“Fuck the keep,” Battle Cry croaked. “We have no time for lands or politics, this is matter of vengeance, and Hoar’s vengeance will not be delayed.” She coughed a few more times wincing, then continued. “Once Princess is back on her feet, I will ask Hoar where these criminals are hiding, and we will go kill them.”
“Hear, hear!” Hot Flanks and Had Enough both agreed.
“Alright,” Worthy of Armor said, “to the temple of Tyr’s Waiting then.”
Roughly four hours later, Princess woke up to find all of her friends leaning over her, along with a fat, bearded old man in a funny hat. She was whole, awake, and just as confused as Battle Cry had been. The party quickly filled her in on the nature of her recently dead condition and Battle Cry’s plan to track down Squire Grimnir. “Fuck yes!” she said, “The Handsome Prince is so going to kill that guy.”
She was less enthused to learn that the party had spent all but a small pittance of their accumulated wealth to pay to have her raised from the dead and to regrow Hot Flank’s lost hand. “Really? All of it?” This finally made her cry. “Can’t we at least claim the bounty on these guys heads then?”
“No!” Battle Cry said emphatically, “This is a matter of Hoar’s vengeance now. They killed one of ours, so we kill them all…” Battle Cry bowed to the Bishop, “I have need of a prayer room.” The Bishop assented and she stomped out. “I’m going to find them. Meet me in the ladies’ dormitory at dawn.”
After a long night of railing against unrighted wrongs, unsolved crimes, and unavenged evils, and pleading for Hoar’s intervention, Battle Cry arrived red-eyed at the Tyrran dormitory where the girls were staying after their ‘generous donation’ to the church. “Found them,” she said through a yawn. “Almost due north, in a cave on a snow-capped mountain peak, with a lake at the bottom of the cliff-face…”
“What the…!” Had Enough said.
“The Dragonspines.” Don’t Fail said. “Though this is a rough time of year to be mountain climbing…”
“Sounds like the perfect place for fugitives to be hiding. Remote, uninhabited…”
“Even in good weather it’d take a week to get there.” Hot Flanks groaned. “How did they move so fast. They must have left before the notice of their crimes was even put out.”
“So they might not know that they’re being hunted?” Princess remarked. “Perfect! The better to surprise them in their cave and stab them repeatedly.”
“We’ll need horses. For all of us. Plus supplies, pack animals, weather gear, climbing gear…” Don’t Fail started to look worried.
“Can I help you dears?” The thin, white-haired, old priestess in charge of the dormitories asked. “I couldn’t help but overhear your friend shouting in the middle of the night. Sounds like you’ve got quite the quest on your hands.”
Battle Cry nodded, “Indeed Sister…”
“Theymr.” The priestess nodded. “The Council writ against these criminals you speak of bears the Bishop’s own seal and calls for the heads of the traitors. Normally our Lord Grimjaws frowns on those seeking to take justice into their own hands, but your concern about seeing justice done is admirable.”
“How can you help?” Don’t Fail asked.
“Why, just give me a list of what you’ll be needing and I’ll send my sisters to fetch it.” Sister Theymr said. “Tyr’s will and that of your own gods seem to be right in line on this one.”
The ladies thanked Sister Theymr profusely. By mid-day, the priestess of Tyr had acquired all they needed—requisitioning mounts, pack animals, warm clothes, tents, provisions, and tools for surviving winter in the mountains.
They rode out at once.
Even with horses, or perhaps, especially with horses, the going was slow. They stayed as close to the river as their senses of smell would allow, fighting their way through the deep snow and the biting cold. As Worthy of Armor reminded them, “There is a reason wars are always put on hold in the winter…”
“At least they probably won’t be going anywhere,” Princess suggested.
Battle Cry, again, got the worst of it. Each night she sat before the fire, loudly decrying the evils of the Squire of Kryptgarten and praying for Hoar to guide the way, and during the day she road slumped in her saddle, barely able to keep her eyes open.
On their third day out from Phlan, a storm picked up from the north. The wind blew head-on into their faces, stinging their eyes and biting their cheeks with airborne ice crystals. Now and again, when the wind blew particularly hard, they thought they could hear the sound of an organ playing faintly in the distance. They turned away from the river and sought shelter under the boughs of the Quivering Forest that night.
Some time around midnight, Battle Cry’s howling rancor against her quarry was cut off by another howl. Hearing a second howl, closer, she shook awake the others just as a pack of large, white-furred wolves appeared, circling their campsite.
Battle Cry, apparently not thinking strait due to sleep deprivation, roared and leaped on the nearest wolf, wrapping her arms around its neck and gouging at its eyes with her bare hands. Similarly quick, but still groggy, Hot Flanks and Worthy sprang out of their bedrolls and swung, ineffectively, at the darting wolves.
Two of the wolves charged, snapping at the horses, each taking a great bite out of one horse’s flank. One of them was sent flying away by a powerful kick from Worthy’s of Armor’s horse, ‘Boyfriend’. The wounded horse bucked free of its tether and went fleeing off into the woods, the second wolf on its heels. The remaining horses panicked, straining against their tethers, but were unable to break free.
A third wolf lunged at Princess, but she managed to roll out of her bedroll and plant her sword, ‘Handsome Prince’, deep into the wolf’s side.
The wolf which Battle Cry was holding onto threw back its head and howled, unleashing a burst of icy wind and snow, swirling through the camp, freezing Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail solid under a coating of ice and snow. Had About rose shivering to one knee and laid her sword into the side of the ice- breathing wolf, dealing it a terrible blow.
The fifth, and final, wolf lunged at the frozen Don’t Fail, baring her to the ground and tearing at her hamstring with its teeth, leaving a messy, bloody, frost-rimed wound.
Enraged, Hot Flanks shouted “Down!” and leveled the end of her enchanted club at the center of the clearing and slightly up. “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” she cried, and there was a huge blossom of flames in the air as she, Had Enough, and Worthy of Armor dropped to the ground.
The flames engulfed the wolves, consuming three of them where they stood, and leaving the fourth singed and whimpering. The horses, likewise, stood little chance against the blast of magical flame, and all of them, save Boyfriend and one pack mule were slain. The girls, forewarned and either on-the-ground or shielded by their encasement in magical ice, fared better than the animals, and they were left smoking, but all alive.
As the explosion dissipated, Worthy of Armor rolled to her feat, and, with a mighty cry, chopped off the head of the last wolf with one blow.
Had Enough turned on Hot Flanks, “What were you thinking?! The tents! The provisions?! The horses!! It’s the middle of winter, we’re all wounded, three days ride from the nearest town, and you torch all of our food AND our mounts?!”
“Calm down,” Worthy of Armor pleaded, “her aim was off, but her thinking was sound. One more blast of that icy breath and we would all be dead…” As she spoke Worthy rushed to their three companions, thawed now, but unconscious. She layed hands on each of them, staunching the bleeding and helping with the worst of the burns.
Hot Flanks grabbed her polearm and began turning over the tents, tossing the flaming canvas away from the bedrolls beneath them. “Yeah, shut up and help, Had Enough. Everything close to the ground should be fine if we can put the fires out before they spread too much…”
Working together, the three girls tossed the flaming remains of the tents onto their campfire and sorted out those goods that had not been significantly damaged.
Had Enough finally stopped, panting from their quick work, and looked around. “Okay, so its the middle of winter, three of us down, everyone injured. We have two horses, also injured, bedrolls, no shelter, and enough food for two days…”
“Okay. Yeah. We’re fucked.” Hot Flanks admitted.
“You’re on watch for the rest of the night,” Worthy of Armor said. “Just remember to point those fireballs away from camp if more wolves show up…”
“So what, do we head back to Phlan in the morning?” Hot Flanks asked.
“We’re too far to make it back with what we’ve got and with Battle Cry out we have no idea where we’re going. And with the horses gone we’re not really equipped to drag Princess, Battle Cry, and Don’t Fail back to town. I think we should look for defensible shelter nearby, hole up, and try to get the others back on their feet…”
Had Enough looked up from where she was still checking their stores. “I hope you guys like horse meat…”
To be continued