A perilous task

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Dearest Mother,

I pray that you are well. I have not heard from you in some time, though I have no doubt that you have faithfully written me as I have you. The roads and jungle paths are even more hazardous now than they ever were before and so the delivery of our letters will be slow and sporadic.

It seems that the rumours that circulated on the night of Victor’s death are true: the city of Sol has fallen and its residents massacred. The news sent shockwaves through Sun and its ever vigilant defenders. A marauding army of lizard folk is now somewhere north of us in the deep jungle.

Although I was initially distracted with preparations for Victor’s internment I was soon able to turn my full attention to assisting my Lantern Knight brethren in training local levies for battle. The defence of Sun occupied my every waking thought and so I was downcast to learn that the Lantern Knights and the local militia were being withdrawn from Sun to the larger city of Doubt that lies to the west. It seems that we are to martial our strength in order to repel the lizards.

The brutality of the assault on Sol was not lost upon me. The savagery of our foe is terrible and my heart yearned for those who would be left behind. Many had already scattered to take refuge in the jungle and so only the weak and helpless remain in Sun. If even a small force of lizards should march on the city it would be a massacre. With this on my mind I approached Prelate Vander to request permission to scout out the lizard folk army to better know its location and intentions. My request was denied and the Prelate reminded me that my place was amongst my brothers.

It was with bitter shame that I turned my back on Sun and rode away with the main column. Though Sunbow, Jabilo and I had spent the day trying to rouse those who would remain behind to join us, only perhaps half had deemed it wise to head west.

The journey between Sun and Doubt took us two days and led us out of the jungle and onto the broad expanse of grassland that makes up central and western Centara. While on the road, the ever vigilant Sunbow approached me with news that the Dwarf Septum was hiding amongst our column of refugees. I had not seen him since Kembai and was eager to find out what he knew about the lizard folk army. Remembering my duty I first reported to Prelate Vander who ordered me to place Septum in custody until we arrived at Doubt. Though I was unsure that such measures were strictly speaking necessary, I observed my task and took three fellow knights to secure Septum’s co-operation.

I found Septum riding a heavily laden wagon and surrounded by a small cohort of seasoned mercenaries. The dwarf was trying to travel inconspicuously but it was an easy matter to recognize him. I was disturbed, but hardly surprised, by a feeling that I had regarding the hired swords; a notion that their unsavoury look was matched by a villainous nature. I was pleased to find that the same sinister air of wickedness did not hang about Septum. In fact the dwarf was a straight forward with me as he had been in our previous dealings.

He told me that the city of Kembai had also been assaulted and was utterly destroyed by the mud runner army. He too was fleeing west in the hopes of taking a ship back to the Sundorian port city of Abel. I questioned him at length about what motivations the mud runners might have and he spoke of rumours that they had gone berserk at the loss of the idol that we had failed to return to them and at the loss of a prince of their people who had mysteriously disappeared.

My anger at the treacherous Qu Tol flared as I considered that all could have been avoided if we had managed to return to idol to the mud runners as we had planned to. I considered brining this up with the Prelate again but realized that he would be unreceptive to my further suggestions in this area and so must content myself to bring it up at some future time.

As for Septum, I was embarrassed to admit that I must place him under my custody until we arrived at Doubt. The remaining journey was brief and unremarkable.

At this, dear Mother, I fear that you may be somewhat upset with me. When the dwarf Septum was taken in to our custody I was ordered to secure his goods. The Prelate was unwavering in this and so I was duty bound to obey. The problem is that I had acted as guarantor to Septum in return for his co-operation. As the goods were turned over to our Quartermaster, it seems that I will soon have a rather large liability to account for. To the sum of 20,000 gold coins, I am afraid.

I realize that this is a considerable sum and that you will be greatly wroth with me, but I pray that should Septum show up at your door that you consider him an honest trader whose valuable information may have saved many a life here in Centara and that you will make good this debt.

I do apologize.

That matter aside, my stay in Doubt was not long. After remaining in the city for only one day, the Prelate summoned me to his office and offered me a dangerous mission with the chance to deliver a counterstroke to our enemy. A mysterious and legendary jungle beast known as the Enn’ Venook had been spotted in the company of a small party of mud runners south of the main host. Our task was to find and destroy the Enn’ Venook and its handlers to eliminate it as a threat. I immediately accepted the task as was given the opportunity to choose my own force.

I immediately approached Sunbow and Jabilo, considering their reliability and skills to be a great asset. I also selected two knights, the sturdy and reliable Master of Arms, Sir Samuel and a young and promising knight of common birth named Sir Dayton Grey. I had Sir Samuel choose five of his best spearmen and five good archers. With the addition of the scout Simbie who had located the Enn’Venook our party was complete.

We departed the next morning and rode east into the jungle. By the next day we had penetrated as far as our steeds would carry us and so we dispatched one of our footmen to return the horses to Doubt and we continued on foot. Simbie was very nervous as we approached the encampment of the Enn’Venook and I had to keep a close eye on him to ensure that he did not abandon us. Sunbow, using his supernatural abilities took the form of a jungle cat and proceeded ahead of us to scout the enemy.

The rest of us made a camp and rested ourselves for the coming conflict. Simbie told me of the legendary Enn’Venook. He said that the creature was a massive beast that stood a man-and-a-half tall and weighed as much as three of our horses. The birds and other fauna of the jungle would disappear at the approach of the Enn’Venook as it used its massive arms to rip trees from its path. Its massive strength coupled with its devastating razor-sharp teeth and rock-hard skull would make it a fearsome opponent.

I decided to keep the particulars of our enemy to myself as word of it may strike deep fear into our militiamen.

When Sunbow returned he confirmed the location of the Enn’Venook’s encampment. He also spoke of a fearsome aura that surrounded the place; what he described as a kind of choking, nauseating terror that struck him.

We devised a plan to draw the beast to us with Sunbow to act as bate. We set ourselves at a steep ravine north of the enemies position with our archers on the opposite side and our foot ready to drive the beast onto the sharpened stakes that we had set below. The plan relied on Sunbow to approach the Enn’Venook’s camp and draw it to where we were waiting. The plan would have levelled the field and could have prevented much of the death that was to occur, but fate was not with us.

Despite felling four of the lizard folk guarding the Enn’Venook’s camp, Sunbow and his lizard Sht Fauke were captured and were not able to rendezvous with us. After waiting for several hours, the failure of my plan became apparent. With few options I ordered our men into formation and prepared for an assault on the enemy’s camp.

We marched on them and soon found ourselves in the midst of a desperate battle. The lizardfolk were many and were strong. The Enn’Venook was vile and every bit as fearsome as Simbie had promised. My men fought bravely but one by one fell before our enemy. It was a brutal battle of attrition and we were so few in number. Sir Samuel fell as did all of the militiamen. I stood toe to toe with the massive and hideous Enn’Venook and despite my many sword blows, it soon rendered me unconscious with one of its vicious blows. Only the young knight, Sir Dayton and the wily Jabilo remained to fight our many foe. Somehow they succeeded however. Jabilo’s spells took the feet out from under the Enn’Venook and Dayton was able to kill the beast. With another spell Jabilo drove off the rest of the lizard folk and saved us from certain doom. Sir Dayton used a healing brew to revive me and we surveyed our losses. Jabilo was unhurt by the battle and Sir Dayton still stood despite his injuries. I was severely hurt, and only two of our militiamen yet clung to life.

We searched the camp and found Sunbow, heavily injured but yet alive, trussed up under the pelt of his dead companion, the jaguar Sht Fauke. We revived Sunbow and saw to our dead before setting ourselves a camp nearby to lick our wounds. It is here that I now sit, below a shelter of canvas. We will march on the morrow, to return to Doubt and bring word of our success and of the courageous sacrifices that our fallen companions made.

The Enn’Venook is dead and the people of Centara are safer for it.

With love and devotion, your son,

Lucius



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