Tenfold Shields (IC)

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Talanall
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Tenfold Shields (IC)

Sunset, 25 Urthan, 973 IR
Takit Goblin Camp
The Northern Steppe, Somewhere Beyond Lake Adrag

The Three Races rest from their march, and the warband gathers. Tonight there will be feasting and drinking, boasting and oaths at the fire of Ganbataar the Mage, preeminent man among the goblins. Bugbears will eat their fill. There will be a council, and heroes will be chosen to hunt for the Great Horde's first enemy.

The Takit camp is the center of the goblins' encampment, and the hearth of Ganbataar is the hub around which it turns. It's easy to find your way; the plume of blue smoke marks your place. Ganbataar's yurt is ablaze with light; dozens of lamps, filled with expensive oil, shed their light, picking out the cheiftain's throne of leather and furs stretched over a frame of bone and precious hardwood. The old goblin is flushed orange with wine, already carousing lustily when you arrive, gravelly voice calling greetings to (seemingly) every tribesman who passes within earshot of him—a respectable distance, especially accounting for the warchief's age. A whole pony is spitted over the fire before his throne. It sizzles merrily, filling the open meeting space with the scent of roasting meat. Veteran warriors flank his chair at a distance of several paces. Closer, an even more ancient goblin, white-haired with frosty blue skin, hunches on a stool at his left elbow.

At his right hand, a larger but much plainer throne endures the bulk of a hobgoblin. The shimmering silver of his dragonhide breastplate makes it clear that the blue-nose can be only one man: Lwazi Skin-Changer, the self-styled kachaka. No doubt the pony is his gift, drawn from the hobgoblins' herds; he glowers at the beast, hand resting on the hilt of a scimitar at his waist as if the roasting horseflesh has offended him unto death. Warriors of his retinue, armed with bullhide shields and the short, stabbing spears of the embi corps, flank him in much the same fashion as Ganbataar's attendants—but closer, giving credence to the idea that the Chief-of-Chiefs fears assassins. Lwazi holds a drinking horn, but shows no signs of inebriation to match the old wizard.

At Lwazi's right, separated from him by a distance of several yards, a massive bugbear woman squats at ease upon her heels, apparently unconcerned by the burden of her silvery chainmail byrnie or the shield slung across her back. A full wineskin rests in the crook of her right arm, its nozzle pinched daintily between her fingers. The drinking horns used by Lwazi and Ganbataar would look like a toy in Pradha's ham-like fist.

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi, the Running Bear, drifts through the crowds easily, displaying his tribe's surprising skill at moving about quietly and discretely. He stops a row or two back, rattles a javelin against his shield a few times to join in the celebration, and nods once at Pradha in support and respect.

Board Rider
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Fanax glides through the crowd easily,quietly, and without issue. It is clear that the young woodsman doesn't care much for the pomp and circumstance of the nights festivities.

Fanax knows where and when to be and plans his evening accordingly.

MinusInnocence
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Oni Uwetsi, the Last Son, makes his way through the throng with much greater difficulty. He has no experience at all with groups larger than a dozen people and it shows; the cumbersome hides he has wrapped about his frame to gird himself for war don't make navigating the crowd any easier, either.

Still, he defers graciously to the men and women hosting the moot, making sure to lock eyes with Pradha as well.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi observes his fellow bugbear making his way nearby and greets him, "I see you, Oni Uwetsi."

Cronono
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The goblin Gorx, wearing the distinctive buck skin cape that distinguishes him as a shaman, cannot make it more than five feet through the throng of the horde without arresting his movement to greet a distant relation, perform a minor benediction, or entertain an argument. Gorx is completely unable to dictate the terms of his evening. Gorx generates opinions with each step, with some of his colleagues enjoying his presence and others hoping he drops dead.

Darker

Grimvaalk moves through the crowd behind his cousin Fanax, standing beside the woodsman. Much like Fanax, he's there out of respect for his people and their leadership, but would rather be getting to the task.

Talanall
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Pradha isn't standoffish toward the other two bugbears, and casually beckons them closer. After a slug of wine from her skin, she offers it to the newcomers, observing, "I can't tell good wine from bad, but Ganbataar and Lwazi both say that this is excellent. Certainly it has a kick to it. Mind it doesn't go to your heads."

The contents of the skin are a mellow red wine that tastes of dried red fruit, lavender and toasted vanilla.

Meanwhile, the elderly blue-skinned goblin to Ganbataar's left makes eye contact with Fanax and Grimvaalk, then glances deliberately toward an equally wizened goblin matriarch who is loitering not far from the roasting pony. The woman's complexion isn't blue like the old man's, but the familial resemblance is undeniable.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi accepts the wine with due courtesy and murmurs to Pradha, "They say it takes five years to grow the vines that make fruit that goes into these and produce more of it." He passes it on and reflects, "They're not much use smashed to bits."

Board Rider
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Fanax glances at Grimvaalk to see if he caught the look and nods knowingly and professionally. It's clear to anyone looking that these two goblins move well together and clearly have worked together in the past.

Waiting for the larger goblin to makes his move, Fanax dutifly follows Grimvaalks lead.

Fixxxer
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Zathrus Dra'al avoids the greatest concentration of the crowd from the moment he enters. He keeps mainly to the sidelines, as though the throng were a lighter colored water, pushing him along itself, but never within itself, like a dark blue oil. That said, he does a remarkable job of looking as though it is he who rejects the crowd. The moment he manage to get his hands on a horn or cup of wine, he finds a place to sit, somewhere he can observe the crowd without getting trampled into it.

Talanall
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A few extra minutes pass before the blue-skinned goblin mutters something to Ganbataar and hobbles arthritically over to his sister and the trio of much younger blue-skins, where he begins puttering about with the spitted pony, using a tuft of rags on the end of a stick to slather its surface with some kind of thin, reddish-brown liquid from a little copper pot.

"Get ready," Hulugu grunts at his nephews, as he finishes up and puts aside the saucepan.

Almost before he's finished speaking, Lwazi, the hobgoblin chieftain, is on his feet, whistling loud and shrill with his tongue curled against the backs of his front teeth. His warrior escorts rattle spear against shield, and the crowd's noise begins to settle.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
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"Yes, yes, we can discuss the matter in a moment," Gorx says to one of the goblins in the crowd. The shaman points towards the warrior escorts.

Talanall
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The din of the mixed crowd of goblins and bugbears finally dies down. Lwazi's voice turns out to be a raspy tenor, harsh and thin as a crow's.

"I greet you, cousins," he caws, as Gorx's would-be disputant turns to look. "We live in an exciting time! Tomorrow we begin our march against the Aureshan dogs. As we speak, they are taking in their harvests. If we move quickly, then in a month we'll feast on their good bread and wine. In the meantime, you'll fill your bellies from the herds of my clansmen. Indeed, your supper is a choice animal from my own herd!" He stretches out a hand to indicate the pony, now glazed with whatever the old blueskin was swabbing onto it, to a smattering of cheers and applause.

Grinning, he continues, "It smells very fine! Truly, goblin men are the finest cooks there are! Tonight, we feast and drink together, and I count myself lucky to be in your good company! These are the finest things in life, save only for the sight of your enemy fleeing before you. Is it not so?" A bigger cheer answers this, and the bluenose clenches his fist against his chest.

"Hah. Yes, it is so. We speak the same language because we are brothers and sisters in our hearts."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
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Zathrus grins and raises his glass in salute with everyone else.

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi signals his apparent approval by rattling his javelin on his shield again. Judging by his face, he is weighing the words he hears attentively.

Talanall
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Lwazi grows somber as yet another surge of cheering dies off. He allows his free hand to fall to rest on the hilt of scimitar. "Yes, we are brothers and sisters. In our hearts, that burn for the same good things. On our tongues, that speak with the same words. We journey on the same path. But brothers and sisters, our glorious journey risks being cut short before it truly begins. My clans' herds have been raided every night, this week since. If it continues, we shall all go with our belts tightened before long. The herds are enough to feed us, but not enough for the beasts of the air and field." As a low buzz of consternation rises, the hobgoblin king raises a his hand, palm outward, from where it lies on his sword hilt and calls, "And so I come to you. The warriors of the hobgoblin clans are fierce, but they are not hunters. My people tend herds. But Goblin brothers and bugbear sisters, your people are hunters almost from birth. Hunt for me, I entreat you. Hunt for us all."

He raises his voice to a harsh caw, and bellows, "Slay me this dragon, brethren! Slay it, and save us all from hunger on the march!"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Grimvaalk steps forward after the edict, eyes eager for the upcoming task and the recognition it will bring to him and his cousins. "Yes! We will hunt and slay this beast!"

Cronono
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Gorx nods at Grimvaalk's eager response. When there is a lull as the roaring of the tribes catch their breath, the shaman believes the timing is right to be heard. Gorx questions the king. "There are many fierce goblins and bugbears here, surely we will not all go. Dragons are fearsome monsters and are no mere game to be pursued and brought low. Which among us will go? Which among us will match blade and wits with that which preys on our hobgoblin brothers? Who will stay and protect our hobgoblins and their herds?"

Board Rider
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Fanax, without any fanfare or heralding, steps forward to stand with Grimvaalk.

The shorter goblin nods his head towards Grimvaalk, "I go with Grimvaalk."

Talanall
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Lwazi must have been coached ahead of time, as he crows, "I have heard of the valor of the men of Nokai's hearth!" He makes a gesture of salute toward the crone near the roasting pony, where Fanax and Grimvaalk stand. "Truly, men of the Ikirait, I am grateful. I've heard the names of Fanax and Grimvaalk before today."

He directs his attention to Gorx, and adds, "And I have heard your name, Gorx. A hard man, also of Nokai's kindred among the Ikirait. If you go with your cousins, then I shall be content to have only one more goblin's help with this trouble of mine."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
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Zathrus stands from his seat deliberately. He raises his cup. "Then you shall have one more goblin," he exclaims, downing the remainder of his wine with a quick pull.

Dafyd
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Yonah's eyes are on Pradha, as though he's waiting for some sort of signal.

Talanall
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Lwazi bows his head toward Zathrus. "You're a foreigner, but I've heard of you all the same. Zathrus Dra'al. A man of the ancient blue blood. My thanks."

Finally, he turns to look toward Pradha, and declaims, "I would have the help of our bugbear brothers and sisters, as well. Pradha, your people are fierce and cunning. Doughty hunters all, for your tribe lives close to the earth. Whose names should I call?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi chooses this moment to raise up his javelin. "My spear is yours, kachaka. Or rather, it will be the dragon's!"

Board Rider
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Fanax barely has enough time to take measure of Zathrus and confer with Grimvaalk before he turns to glance at the boistrous bugbear.

"Someone is a bit eager" Fanax whispers playfully more to himself than anyone.

Talanall
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Fanax's comment is hard to hear, even from Grimvaalk's vantage close by, over Lwazi's harsh, cawing laughter.

"As long as you give it to him point first, my brother!" The kachaka seems delighted. "How are you named, fearsome hunter?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Dafyd
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"I am called Yonah Adisi," comes the answer, and he rattles his javelin on his shield some more.

Talanall
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"Well met," replies the kachaka, turning his gaze to Oni Uwetsi. "What about you, in that heavy armor? Would you care to test it against the teeth and claws of a real predator?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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Oni was less than pleased with the pomp and pageantry of tonight's entertainment, but he is sincere enough in his support for the horde. He finally turns to regard Lwazi. "Let my nose be our guide to where the wyrm rests its head. And let its meat fill more bellies than any pony ever could!" Taking Pradha's wineskin from Yonah, he takes a long pull and raises it to the crowd.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Talanall
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Lwazi blurts, incredulously, "You're going to track a flying beast by scent?"

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
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"The wind has many secrets to share. But it has to land sometime - unless your herdsmen tend their beasts among the clouds?"

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Talanall
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Lwazi's gaze momentarily flickers to Pradha, who takes back her wineskin and takes a long pull of its contents, as well. The bugbear elder's bestial face is inscrutable, though, and Lwazi quickly agrees, "Bugbear noses are the keenest among the Three Races. I shall hope for your success." He looks to the elderly chieftain of the Takit, "Ganbataar? I think I've gabbed long enough. Time for the feast!"

The wizard-warrior nods his agreement, and booms, his voice as unexpectedly deep and rich as the hobgoblin king's was reedy, "Carve the meat! Pour the wine! And let our heroes-to-be join me in my tent for a council of war!"

With that, he and Lwazi make for his yurt, disappearing inside.

Pradha passes the wineskin to Running Bear and grunts, "Yonah Adisi, Oni Uwetsi. I'll be in the goblin's yurt. If you're hungry, you'd better get some meat before you come in. Lwazi likes to hear himself talk, so this is going to take awhile." She follows the goblin and hobgoblin.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
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Gorx turns to his most recent conversation. "I am called upon to be a hero of the tribe. If you would be so kind as to write down your complaint with my behavior or whatever it was that you wanted to talk about, I'll thoroughly disabuse you of your misperceptions when I return." Without waiting for a response, Gorx wanders over to the pony, rips off a portion of the flank with his dagger, and marches off toward the yurt. He makes contented noises as he munches.

Dafyd
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Yonah's ears tilt back a bit, perhaps the only physical sign of his opinion of the prospect of being trapped in a yurt with prattling hobby gobbies. Still, he bows once to Pradha, fetches himself a bit of pony, and ambles slowly to the yurt as he eats.

Fixxxer
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Zathrus takes advantage of the offer to carve a choice bit of the pony before any of the common rabble has their turn. He takes a few minutes to finish it, not seeming to hurry himself at all. His dinner finished, he finds himself another cup of wine before proceeding to Ganbataar's tent.

Talanall
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By the time everyone has taken up a helping of meat, found something to drink, and made his way to Ganbataar's yurt, the goblin chieftain is seated cross-legged next to a large map, a durable affair that looks like it has been burned onto an elk hide. Lwazi kneels across from him, and Pradha has squatted between the two. A worg, white-muzzled with age, is next to the yurt's fireplace, gnawing on a bone as the goblinoid leaders mutter to one another over the map.

After a moment, the worg speaks up, managing a surprisingly good rendition of Goblin despite the unsuitable shape of its mouth, "Hunnnterrrs are herrrrrre."

This jolts the leaders out of their private discussion, and Ganbataar rumbles, "Welcome to my yurt. Make yourselves comfortable. Have all of you had enough to eat? Enough to drink? Speak your desire; guests at my fire don't go hungry or thirsty if I can help it."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Fixxxer
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"Your hospitality has been most generous, chieftain," says Zathrus. "Thank you for that."

Board Rider
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Fanax makes swiping motion with his hand waving away the offer.

"I am fine Chieftan. I am also eager to prepare for this task."

Cronono
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Gorx says nothing, but begins leaning over the elk-hide map to inspect it thoroughly. He chews on a tendon as he does so.

Darker

Grimvaalk nods in agreement with Fanax, "Yes, we are eager to begin our task. But, we can discuss anything we may not know about the beast to before we start the hunt."

Dafyd
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Yonah Adisi eyes the map a moment and concurs with Grimvaalk. "Aye, let us plan. I've no desire to be picked off one by one like a bunch of fool humans in a night raid."

Talanall
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Ganbataar grunts his approval of this sentiment, and agrees, "Very well. Friend Lwazi, let's begin."

"Yes, friend Ganbataar," agrees Lwazi. The hobgoblin's voice is more pleasant in the close confines of the yurt, where he needn't raise his voice to be heard—a raspy but warm countertenor instead of the crow's shriek you endured outside. He reaches out, a gleaming silver disc pinched between his callused fingers, and sets the marker onto the map. "We're roughly here. My people make their encampment largely to the east wing of the horde, and the dragon has been coming in from the southeast. We're likely the first thing it encounters."

He makes a sweeping gesture away from the pinkskin coin, toward the area where the Adrag Plateau is marked as a nest of hills between the arms of two forks of the river. Tapping at a spot near the headwaters of the northern fork, he continues, "My sources tell me that its lair is somewhere near here. So you'll have to go there, and look for the beast." He pauses to place another coin, this time one of the Imperials' golden Dragons, then continues, "We cannot wait in place for you to do this; we eat more than the dragon, and when the sun sets on the same camp twice, that's a day's food wasted. The march must continue south, to this temple," the hob's finger lands on the first permanent marking on the map: Abbey of Saint Fiacrius, "where the Imperials worship a fertility goddess. These places are storehouses for grain and other staples. We must have their stocks."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
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Gorx points at the area between the gold coin and the Abbey. "Are there many pinkskins here? Do they know we are coming?"

Talanall
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"They don't know yet," speaks up Pradha, in her hoarse contralto, "but they soon will. This temple is not a temple. It is an abbey." She struggles over the non-Goblin term, but goes on to explain, "The pinkies there are a kind of soldier that is also a priest." She takes a moment to clarify, "They are fighting monks," before continuing, "Their temple is also a fortress, and they make patrols." She traces her finger upriver, to the symbol marked, 'Castella Adrag,' and adds, "This is another fortress. The pinkies here are the Legion. They also patrol. Might see them around the dragon's den. But maybe not. They aren't as numerous as the monks." The bugbear looks at Lwazi and asserts, bluntly, "I still think that we should go for these first. They're further east, and if we don't put them in a bottle, they'll get word to the big Caster. And then we have a problem that will outweigh a few extra cattle eaten."

Lwazi looks like he's about to reply (and from the look on his face, it's going to be harsh), but Ganbataar speaks up, "We'll talk it out, Pradha. You aren't wrong, but we need the monk's grain stores if we're to make it through winter. We'll have to compromise."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Cronono
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Gorx continues looking at the map, oblivious to the tension between the leaders. He points to the mine.

"Do they draw their water from this river?"

Talanall
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"That mine isn't worked anymore," replies Lwazi, after a moment. "Sometimes kobolds try to set up, but the pinkies check on it regularly and dig them out again. It's too far from their nests for them to want to do anything with it themselves, but they don't want anyone else to have the iron. But yes, the pinkies probably do use the river for drinking water."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
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Fanax scans the map and it is clear he doesn't care about whatever is going on with the leaders.

"What kind of dragon are we looking at? Also, do we know if this dragon attacks the Imperials? If there is a large grainery there I am curious why the beast only would attack our beasts."

Talanall
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"It's white," answers Ganbataar. "I doubt it has much fondness for vegetables to begin with, but you're right to think that it may raid the pinkies' herds from time to time. There's also some possibility that it avoids them, though. They're not exactly bright, but they're smart enough to spread their attention. Once the pinkies decide that a dragon has become a nuisance, they take action."

Sourly, the old goblin adds, "Sometimes, the action amounts to a peace treaty and a promise from the dragon that it will only raid into goblin lands. Or orc lands, or pretty much any lands that aren't in the pinkies' territory. That's not usual unless the dragon's older and tougher than this one. But it's possible."

Lwazi grunts, and chimes in, "I don't think it's likely, though. This one is young, hungry, and probably trying to stock his larder for winter before the hunting turns poor. Our herds are close by, plentiful, and it's very difficult to defend them against something that just swoops down out of the night sky and flies off with a prime goat. It probably thinks we're too far from its lair and too busy with the pinkies to hunt it down."

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Dafyd
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Yonah listens intently and proposes after a time, "If it is stupid, then let us set a trap for it."

Board Rider
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"I've never heard a tale of a dumb dragon," Fanax shrugs while standing up from scanning the map. "And trapping may prove difficult and more work than kiling the beast."

"But we may be able to work a deal to get the dragon to aid us."

Preparing for the backlash the woodsman quickly continues, "What if we offer the dragon the Imperials beasts and a cut of the loot? We want the grain and the end of a nuisance. We can possibly get both and the aid of an unexpected ally."

The goblin extends both arms toward the map, "Or we can kill the beast, take it's posessions and still deal with the monks and Legion afterwards."

Crossing his arms Fanax finishes the thought, "Seems more work that way, and may leave us less prepared for the longer play."

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