The sound of flesh crackling was music to Grimlock’s ears. His tongue flicked from between his powerful jaws, tasting the air as he stared with malicious intent at the large deer skewered on a spit roast over the campfire. His head snapped to the side and he instinctively gripped the thick hilt of his gigantic battle axe as he heard something approaching from the nearby tree line. Greil emerged into the clearing, lowered his hood and greeted the dragonborn with an amused smile, “I see the camp clearing has gone well then.”
“Lizard’s gotta’ eat.”
“Indeed,” Greil crouched by the fire, “I’ve some news.”
Grimlock grunted, signalling his companion to go on.
“I met a magician in the village who spotted it flying north east several days go, towards the Gol Mountains,” Greil explained.
Grimlock smiled, he knew of the goliath people who dwelt in that mountain range, had even travelled with one for some time, but most importantly, despite the race being known for their impressive height, he knew that he had yet to meet one taller than him. “Excellent, we can set off after I’ve had my fill” he growled, not needing to gesture towards the deer to clarify just exactly what he was to have his fill of, Greil knew him well.
After several moments of contemplative silence, Greil spoke again, “I’ve also been thinking,” he let the pause hang in the air for a moment, aware that The General was listening, despite showing no sign of interest, “perhaps we should expand our retinue slightly.” Grimlock looked up at him with his one good eye as Greil continued, “There were two men in the village, the magic user and a goliath I saw briefly, who might meet our requirements.”
“It’s your call.”
“Well, if we were to hire them, I would want you to be my second in command.” Greil could tell that the dragonborn did not like the idea of being anyone’s underling, but this was not a new subject of conversation – he had convinced the dragonborn in the days previous that being the leader came with vast amounts of contract-writing, financial transactions and other paperwork. Grimlock stood up and examined the deer carcass before tearing off a random hunk of flesh with a clawed hand, “If we’re heading back to the village, I’ll use my new disguise.”
The man sighed.
Having taken his time to enjoy lunch at The Groggy Mare, the goliath known only as Tarkus the Swift decided to visit Goxhill’s general store in the hope that they carried a decent selection of potions. He left severely disappointed mere minutes later.
“Hey, traveller!” a voice called out as he stepped outside. Tarkus turned to see a cloaked man heading towards him from the southern road. The goliath readied a hand to reach for his weapon if the need arose.
Inside The Groggy Mare, Gregg Khananashivli had not only finished his second tankard of ale but had relocated from his table to the bar in order to converse with the beautiful young maiden who had earlier strong-armed Greil into purchasing a mug of pear cordial. Though his intentions were not exactly impure, Gregg’s casual attempts at being flirtatious had so far fallen flat and the conversation had waned somewhat when the squeaky inn door once again sung its high pitched tune, signalling the arrival of another patron. Gregg glanced over his shoulder to see the newcomer, expecting a mourning villager or two, guessing that the funeral service was likely over by now, but was surprised to see the cloaked magician and muscled goliath, re-entering the establishment that they had not long ago left.
The pair casually walked over to the bar, the human leaning onto it several feet down from Gregg before addressing the bar maid, “I noticed you had a few advertisements dotted around, I was wondering if we could perhaps place one of our own.”
“Certainly,” she replied “what for?”
“We’re looking to hire any able bodied men or women into a small mercenary band, for general adventuring, loot collecting and contracted privateer work.”
Gregg’s ears pricked up and he smiled at the stranger’s unsubtle hint. Greil cocked his head slightly and met the bearded man’s eyes before continuing, “Equal share between all members.”
Gregg now in tow, the three adventurers left The Groggy Mare and returned to the Goxhill road, where they were met with a terrifying sight. Both Gregg and Tarkus stepped back, forming a vaguely defensive formation as they scrambled to arm themselves against a gigantic bear, boldly lumbering straight towards them. It rose up on its hind legs, the biggest bear they had ever seen, towering even over Tarkus who stood at seven and a half feet. Then Greil bade them to lower their weapons. The bear pelt fell away like the discarded shell that is was, revealing a strikingly tall dragonborn underneath. "Gentlemen,” Greil announced, “meet your other team mate.” Grimlock flexed.
Greil lead the four of them a little way out of the village, finding a small, well-kept clearing beside an orchard, which he was amused to see was seemingly filled with pear trees. Grimlock stomped moodily behind the others and had stopped a little way away from them upon reaching the orchard, silently scanning the surrounding trees with a thick and palpable air of aggression. Hastily cobbling together initiation tasks for the two newcomers, Greil had instructed Tarkus to arm wrestle The General a few minutes earlier, simply wanting him to hold his own against the lizard for a decent amount of time. Much to everyone’s surprise, and Grimlock’s utter dismay, Tarkus had beaten him… twice. Whether it had been luck or skill, no one was entirely sure, but the mighty dragonborn had flung himself headfirst into a violent rage, smashing one of The Groggy Mares’ tables in two and reducing his interactions with the party to the occasional wide eyed glare aimed at Tarkus, as horrendously violent thoughts surged through his mind.
The clearing they now occupied made for an appropriate stage on which Gregg was to perform his initiation task, demonstrating one of his more impressive magical talents.
“I’m going to need a volunteer," Gregg muttered. Greil could feel the magical energy already building around him, “And they need to be able to withstand a bit of pain.”
Greil took half a step forward but was suddenly gripped by the shoulder and moved back. Grimlock released his grasp and silently strode past him, stopping several feet in front of Gregg.
“Okay then…” the magic user muttered. He locked eyes with the Dragonborn and began whispering to himself, stopping after only a few seconds.
Grimlock felt a vague wave of energy wash over him, “Is that it?” he growled.
“Attack me,” Gregg commanded, with a calm confidence. The General didn’t think twice, still enraged from his earlier defeat; he roared loudly and took several bounding steps forward, swinging his axe from behind his back and lifting it over his shoulder, he brought it down towards the bearded man’s collar bone in an attack that he knew could cleave him in half with ease.
The Dragonborn collapsed to the ground in an instant; crippling, agonising pain tearing through his body from top to bottom, the axe dropping to the floor with a dull thud. His good eye searched frantically for the magician as he attempted to cry out, only managing to utter a malformed croak.
Gregg hurriedly whispered to himself again as the other two looked on in curious wonder. The pain stopped in an instant but Grimlock remained on the ground breathing heavily, “That, that was impressive” he grunted.
“Indeed” Greil mused as he lifted a hand, sending bolts of electricity flying through the air towards Gregg, who, upon detecting the arcane energy fired in his direction, flung a defensive arm out and braced himself for the impact. It stung considerably. Though not cast at full strength, the spell was a potent one, occasionally known to cause fatal heart attacks. Gregg stayed on his feet, withstanding the pain without too much effort. As it subsided, he stared at Greil with a shocked expression, one which shifted to a more neutral one as he realised that he had just passed the second part of the test.