A Long Patrol, by Chris O'Kane

Story name: A Long Patrol
Author: Chris O'Kane

Date: Spring 706 CR
Location: Metamor Keep, Metamor Valley, Southern Giantdowns

Overview

Misha takes Caroline on her first Long patrol up north; an unexpected encounter and a perilous return home pushes them to the limits of their abilities.

Summary

At 3 AM in the morning, Misha wakes Caroline. Today is the day that Caroline will begin her first mission as a Long Scout. Caroline expresses some nervousness about the mission, but Misha promises that he would never have asked her if he did not feel she was ready. After an early breakfast, they fetch their weapons from the armorer and head out. Misha reminds her of the basic duties of a Long Scout as they traverse northward through the valley, passing over the Giant's Dike and exiting into the Giantdowns.

After 7 days of travel, they reach the River Irthing. They unearth a buried canoe, row across the river, and bury it in a new location. They take turns on the night watch, until Caroline wakes up Misha as a strange creature flies overhead. They silently agree to move on.

Pascal is woken up by a glowing rock in her lab; Misha is trying to contact Phil, and has instead contacted Pascal. Misha and Caroline are hiding in a dugout overlooking Starven; a lutin army marches below them. As they contemplate how to attack, the army suddenly notices them, and the two Long Scouts launch into battle. It is over in moments, and Pascal is nauseated by what has happened. Caroline points out the leader of this army as Furlin the Flayer, a notorious lieutenant for Nasoj. They notice a band of two thousand lutins at the bottom of the hill; as the band advances, Misha tells Pascal to tell Phil a lutin army is on the move, and that they're headed for the den.

Pascal delivers the message, and Phil explains the delicate nature of the Long Scouts, and assures her that no one will be as capable as they are.

The journey home proves vastly more difficult; lutin patrols constantly pursue Misha and Caroline into the night and the next day. When they have enough time to catch their breath, a lutin-trained wolf nearly catches them, until Misha gives his rations and scratches its chin to pacify it.

Misha and Caroline try to find a spring to fill their canteens, but lutin guards have surrounded every nearby spring. They decide to search for a nearby cache, but with constant patrols in the area, it will be impossible to unearth it. Caroline snaps at Misha when he questions her ability to go farther, and he apologizes that this mission has turned out this way. Caroline promises that they will make it out together.

The two of them make it to a road with patrol stations for miles; they decide to cross when night falls. Misha goes first, and is immediately attacked by an ice-cold beast. Misha wrestles it with his axe, but it almost overpowers him when Caroline turns on a Light stone and scares it off. She figures that it must fear the light, or otherwise there wouldn't have been sentries during the day.

They continue on to the river, less than a mile away. However, the river is now guarded by a sea creature that attacks boats on sight. Caroline has an idea; they send the canoe as a decoy while the two of them, dressed in their extra clothing, paddle across on a log. As they head back along the river, Misha realizes that someone is waiting up ahead. A stray scent identifies the person as Craig, another Long Scout. Over a month since they first set out on their journey, Misha and Caroline are reunited with their fellow scouts.

The four scouts give Misha and Caroline food, water, and an update on the lutin patrols: a nearby lutin fortress is under attack, so the lutins will be too preoccupied to pursue them any longer. Together, the six scouts make their way home.

Characters

Main characters:

  • Misha Brightleaf: A fox morph and a Long Scout. He has been working with Will Hardy for 7 years, and a friend to Caroline for just as long.
    • He carries an axe named Whisper strong enough to break through shield spells. There seems to be another mind attached to the axe.
    • Nasoj dislikes him so much, he has offered a thousand gold reward for his death, two thousand for his capture.
  • Caroline Hardy: An otter morph, and a prospective member of the Long Scouts. She is a skilled archer, and has been a scout for 10 years. Ever since she began training to join the Long Scouts, Misha has come to think of her as a lover.

Supporting:

  • Pascal: The Keep alchemist. She has never heard of the Long Scouts before.
  • Phil: The Keep head of intelligence. Misha sends him the movements of a Lutin squad after his encounter with Furlin the Flayer.
  • Furlin the Flayer: A lieutenant and mage, and one of Nasoj's favorites. Nicknamed the Butcher of Willow Hill, he was a cruel man who would kill men for being in his way. He had many enemies among the lutins; Furlin killed 150 lutins of the Bloody Maw for disobedience, and 75 of the Rending Claw tribe for not bringing him tribute fast enough. The Duke offers a 10 thousand gold reward for proof of his death. He is killed by Misha with lutin arrows to confound identification by Nasoj.
    • A noble by birth, he was dressed in fine clothes with a well-groomed mustache and beard.

Minor characters:

  • Craig: A Long Scout and a prairie dog morph.
  • Danielle: A Long Scout and a marten morph.

Cameo:

  • Will Hardy: The Keep jeweler, Caroline's father, a badger morph, and Misha's partner in the clock trade.
  • Lisa: A Long Scout and an age regress.
  • An unnamed Long Scout and a female gendermorph.
  • A wolf morph who runs the armoury.

Mentioned:

  • Laura: A Long Scout who attacks fortress Long Knife while Misha and Caroline are returning home.

Referenced:

  • George: The Keep's patrol master.
  • Robert: A fellow scout who saved Misha two years ago.
  • Diane: The assistant patrol master.
  • Will: The gate captain.
  • Scratch: Pascal's lover.
  • Duke Thomas: The Duke of Metamor Keep.

Locations

  • The old Suleiman road is a main thoroughfare from the Valley into the Giantdowns. In unpopulated areas it has fallen into disrepair, becoming unpaved and muddy and more enclosed by forest and overgrown ruins of farmhouses.
  • The Giant's Dike was built during the Suleiman Empire to repel lutins and giants from the north. Although stories of it being made of eighty-foot-high stone walls are unlikely to be true, today it consists of a long narrow mound of dirt and a half-buried ditch. Popular folklore says it was built by giants, hence the name. It marks the official boundary between Metamor Keep and the Giantdowns.
  • The River Irthing forms a natural barrier in the very lower reaches of the Giantdowns, flowing westward into the Sea of Souls. At flood stage, it spans over a mile. Its currents are very strong, and the water is ice cold. It is deep enough for a sea creature to remain hidden beneath the water, although such beasts are not native to the river. There is a bridge near Fortress Long Knife that crosses this river, but it is guarded by Nasoj's forces.
    • In 704 CR, Misha fell into this river and nearly drowned. He was saved by Robert, and spent a month recuperating in the Keep's infirmary.
  • Less than a mile north of the River Irthing, a long 20-foot-wide road runs roughly parallel to the river. Every thirty feet is marked with a sentry post, although they are usually unguarded.
  • Starven is a three days' ride north from the Keep in the Giantdowns.

Points of Interest

  • Lutins wear different armor depending on their wealth. The richest wear chain mail, less wealthy lutins wear ring mail, and the poorest lutins scavenge for armor from their dead enemies.
  • The Bloody Fang tribe of lutins are known for their thorough savaging of their enemies, even for lutins.
  • When travelling up north, the Long Scouts have a variety of tools at their disposal:
    • Each Long Scout carries a large backpack, two canteens, and a rucksack. The backpack contains, among other things, trail rations, a sleeping bag, a first aid kit, a tinderbox, and a small folding shovel;
    • Each scout carries a journal for interesting events or items they notice. This will help them when writing their after-report, as well as other Long Scouts in the event of an unfortunate death;
    • Each Long Scout wears riveted leather armor, over which they wear linen camo suits, with hoods to break up their distinctive ears;
    • Useful but unwieldy tools are hidden in caches, buried in inconspicuous sections of land. Their locations are associated with landmarks, which are memorized by Scout patrols;
    • They carry a variety of enchanted objects with them, activated via incantation. Misha carries a pouch of fine enchanted sand that, when activated, sparkles in the presence of a magic trap. Caroline carries a light stone similar to the one seen in A Small Repair. Misha has a spell that allows him to communicate with Phil, though the incantation goes awry and sends it to a stone in Pascal's lab instead;
    • Rather than speak, Long Scouts use their own sign language, especially in the middle of enemy territory;
    • They may carry other miscellaneous weapons. Besides the weapons from the armory, Misha carries a dagger on his belt.
  • The forces of Nasoj can summon creatures and command them to perform one task. The dark hound guarding the road, for example, was commanded to attack anyone crossing the road. The sea creature was commanded to attack any human or human-made objects in the river.

Story Connections

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