On the moon of Luna, in the twentieth year after the Waking, the mercenaries of the Sixth Legion are escorting their employer back to the city of Absolon.
Quickly striding down the woodland path, Captain Aithne reflects upon the fact that this may be the youngest person yet to muster the credit to hire her and her band, and certainly for so trivial a mission. Caius, son of the Free Councilor, Arden, had gone to great lengths to convince her that he was not wasting his money on her company.
There had recently been an increase in the number of wolfdeer raids around the villages west of the city. Protection while travelling along the woodland roads, particularly where the ancient pine trees gathered close around the pathways, was becoming necessary for a safe journey. While it has been a decade since a wolfdeer ventured out onto the great plains that circle Absolon, any human who strays into the woods beyond often find the wolfdeer are an inevitable, and brief encounter.
Aithne’s small group of militants has only five members besides herself;
- Weylin, her soft-spoken right-hand man and medic;
- Aerfen, a priestess who began to sell her meditative martial expertise when she became disillusioned with Church politicking;
- Heinrich, an eccentric and adrenaline-hungry inventor whose proclivity for war was evenly matched with his massive stature;
- Cefer, a deserter of the Fourth Legion, and an impulsive and unpredictable warrior.
- And Belenos, an apprentice of then Engineer caste whose master had decided that the axiom of ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ could best be put to the test on the battlefield.
In the afternoon of their day-long journey, the road became home to more than the company of the seven travelers. Heinrich caught the glint of steel off in the woods, and as Aithne prepared the rest of her team to defend Caius, Heinrich and Aerfen move to investigate the metallic interloper.
Much to her continued exasperation, as Aerfen circled silently through the trees to flank their unseen foe, Heinrich began dashing through the underbrush directly towards it. Reaching the clearing, Aerfen draws her musket on a curious sight for exactly three seconds. She sees a CivilMark stumble between the trees unarmed, for lack of a better word, drunk. After those three seconds of stumbling, Heinrich’s hulking form obscures the robotic figure after he leaps directly onto its chest.
- Heinrich tramples the CivilMark, landing on top of it.
- To disable it, Aerfen blasts off leg below the knee.
- To permanently disable it, Heinrich pulls off the CivilMark’s head.
One confused and the other delighted, the pair jogged back to meet up with their Captain to report. As they rejoined their party, Heinrich cheerfully called out an all, lobbing his trophy skull to Aithne. She collapses into a long-suffering smile, and glances to Aerfen for an accurate report. Aerfen recalls the oddly clumsy CivilMark, and gives a cautious all clear to advance.
Aithne orders Belenos and Weylin to fall back to set up a rear guard, and sets a brisk pace as they resume their journey. As they walk, Caius asks Heinrich if he should be concerned about the gunshot. Heinrich laughs loadly into the quiet woods, and assures Caius that it was just a little lost CivilMark. Caius pauses for a second, and then clarifies: Should he be concerned that a gunshot may bring the wolfdeer down on them? Heinrich doesn’t bat an eye, and proclaims that it’s more likely to send the nearest wolfdeer running.
The wolfdeer’s hunting howl begins to echo through the woods, Caius mutters to Aithne that he feels very reassured. Aithne shares a laugh with Cefer, and calls out that they’ll be jogging the last two miles to the wood’s end. Aithne and Cefer move to watch the left flank while Aerfen and Heinrich take the right, and with Caius nervously jogging in the center of the formation, they move onwards in watchful silence.
After two minutes, Aefren catches movement among the trees. Three juvenile wolfdeer pound across the forest floor, smoothly darting between the trees, deftly finding the shortest path to their prey. The four mercenaries spring into practiced coordination. Aerfen calls out the approach of three wolfdeer, and as Cefer runs to cover Caius’ right, she and Heinrich stop and prepare to intercept the wolfdeer.
- The three wolfdeer charge towards Heinrich and Aerfen.
- Heinrich lobs a grenade, which only singes two of the wolves as they deftly dodge through the blast and shrapnel.
- Aerfen tags the centermost in shoulder, and it stumbles to a stop in front of them.
- The two flanking wolves both antler-dash the two- Aerfen is grazed, while Heinrich dodges.
- Heinrich swings with his hatchet and knife, but the wolf harrying him evades.
- As the center wolf moves to recover it’s feet, Aerfen shoots off the top half of his skull, sending an antler thudding into a nearby tree.
- Heinrich’s wolfdeer claws at him, putting gashes in his arm.
- Aerfen dodges the claws of the wolf attacking her.
- Heinrich gives his half of the exchange to the wolf, bashing it hard enough to send it’s head bouncing off the hard dirt road.
- As the wolf blinks back the mild concussion and as it raises its head, finds the muzzle of Aerfen’s gun. She puts the confused wolf down.
- The final wolf makes another dash at Aerfen, who is again clipped by its horns.
- Swinging both his weapons wildly, Heinrich gouges deep into the wolf’s undefended flank, and it collapses.
While Aerfen spins to scan the surrounding trees for more wolfdeer, Heinrich wipes the blood off his weapons and cheerfully declares disappointment with the challenge the three wolves presented. Aerfen shoots Heinrich a withering glare, but before she can deliver a cynical rebuke, the sound of howling begins to ring through the trees.