I awoke as I always did, at the first rays of sun. Grodnag was already awake, having taken the second watch. We didn’t want to risk getting caught sleeping by the rampaging Ogre that we knew was still out there somewhere. He saw me rise, put down his sword and started putting wood on our fire. The tents were warm enough at night that we didn’t need a fire, but they sure helped once we got up off the cots and threw off the blankets.
I began putting on the hardened leather armor that I had acquired from the head jailor, Ned. Grodnag, I found, was a decent cook, and without a word he began gathering up some eggs and a sausages from the ample supplies we had in our tents.
After breakfast we moved away from the camp, as we had for the last couple of days. Even though Grodnag was confident on when he thought Trejack would return, I did not was to risk being caught out in the open if he came back early. We had worked to clear the upper level of the temple of the dead, and we had moved the bulk of the equipment and supplies to my hidden cache. Now it was just a waiting game until the Dashing Stag showed up, bearing my comrades, and with them… victory.
Two hours later, the Dashing Stag arrived.
I recognized the ship from miles away. I stood in the middle of the road with Grodnag beside me, and waved at them. I could hear cheers from the ship, and I smiled as I recognized Dremnin at the helm, with Ardor and Kerick flanking him to either side. I directed the ship into the concealed wind break that Trejack used. Then, once the ship was anchored, my friends were the first to drop to the ground to greet me. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged. The men cheered. Quorra wept as we embraced. It was a joyous reunion, but one which I was forced to cut short.
I had much to tell my friends, and they me. I learned that Wheeler had been grievously wounded by the assassin. My friends, the Unchained, had all been touched by the Passions. But my tale, the tale of Rashomon made everyone pause in disbelief. I told them the tale, and wasted no time, for Trejack was expected back tomorrow and we had much to do in the way of preparation. I introduced Grodnag to the group, and explained to them that he was the source of all our detailed information on Trejack’s operation. I then went over my plan with the men, and we went to work. It was a long day.
Thanks to Grodnag, we knew many things. The first was that Trejack had several such camps and slave gathering operations around Barsaive. The second was that he was off gathering up slaves from Travar, and was expected back tomorrow afternoon. Because he would be staying for a full offload of slaves to be placed into the holding pen, he would pull his ship, The Blue Albatross up right where the Dashing Stag current sat, next to the trees. It was there we would strike and take him.
I had Dagmar supervise the removal of two ballista from our ship and mount them to the trees. Each would fire a bolt into Trejack’s vessel and the bolts would be tied off to tree trunks, anchoring his ship in place for our attack.
Our ship would be about a mile North of this position, in the opposite direction from which Trejack would come. Once Trejack’s ship, dropped anchor, the Stag would come and help in the fight. Suulin would lead our ground team, supervising the firing of the ballista into Trejack’s vessel. Skram and I would lead two boarding parties to attack the ship. Dremnin would camouflage us on platforms in the trees, and we would leap across onto their unsuspecting vessel. Thanks to Grodnag, I knew the number and make-up of the crew of that ship. Most of the crewmen were lightly armed and unarmored oarsmen. There were at least 50 such crewmen, but Grodnag didn’t think they’d put up much of a fight, especially if surprised. Then there was Trejack’s men, a small tight-knit group of adepts. He thought those men would be the real fight. Them and the bodyguard of the ship’s captain, a man he referred to as “too rich for his own good” would be the only real fighters on board.
When it was all said and done, everyone had done an outstanding job. Dremnin had concealed our troops and ballistas so well that they could simply not be seen. The platforms constructed by Dagmar were outstanding, and Suulin’s ballista crews were more than ready. Trejack didn’t know what hit him.
The next day his ship rolled in just as Grodnag had said it would. Trejack was at the bow coming right toward me, eyes darting around warily. I could almost feel Ardor’s eyes burning into me with jealousy at my luck…. I would get to him first. Behind Trejack were many banks of oars, with oarsmen packed in like rats. I could see they were ill prepared for war. The oarsmen were completely unarmored, and only about half of them were even sporting weapons on their belts. Trejack’s men were exactly as Grodnag described. They were well armored and armed, hard looking adepts, but they were not in good positions and were clearly not expecting a fight.
The ship settled into position and both anchors dropped, one from the bow and one from the stern. Each had a sailor hanging onto it, and once on the ground the secured the anchors in place. The oarsmen pulled their oars in and began to relax, clearly ready to be done with their long journey. The few men in the rigging began to roll up the sails and tuck them away. I knew the Dashing Stag should be on its way now, and it would only be a matter of moments before it were spotted rapidly approaching.
Suddenly Suulin’s ground crew fired their ballista, each slamming a perfect shot into the hull of the ship from either side. I saw Trejack’s eyes widen in surprise and his entire crew began to panic. Our men then threw back our cover and leapt across to the chaos that was the deck of Trejack’s ship. Now, I wish I could tell you that this was a glorious fight, but it wasn’t. Almost all of the oarsmen surrendered immediately, most throwing down their weapons and cowering at the sight of our heavily armed and armored crew. Trejack’s men however, were another story. They fought hard, only two of them surrendering after it was clear the fight was unwinnable and that there was no escape. The most interesting one however, was the captain’s bodyguard. He appeared to be a human swordmaster adept and even though he faced insurmountable odds, surrounded by our men, stubbornly fought anyway until he took a wicked hammer blow from Ardor, at which point he stuck hos sword in the deck and surrendered with a pleading look. The captain himself, Jeoffery his bodyguard down, simply surrendered. The captain was a finely groomed human man of about forty years with a black beard and mustache. He had on some of the most expensive looking clothes I had ever seen.
By the time the Dashing Stag arrived, the fight was over. None of our men was even seriously injured and we had secured the vessel. Once the chaos of the battle had subsided, I began to realize something was very wrong… Trejack was nowhere to be found.