PrinceCon 34 : Be the Barbarian
Player Teaser 1
Rap, rap, rap, rap, rap, rap!– The surveyor’s assistant paused in his hammering to look up nervously, his eyes flicking from bush to bush for signs of movement.
“That marker needs a few more good whacks to hold in the ground through the wind and winter up here, Vladi,” remarked the surveyor, without looking up from her maps.
“Sorry, master, I was sure there’s something in the woods. Watching us.”
“Let Lord Sergevich’s troops worry about the woods,” she said, nodding in the direction of the detachment of battle-hardened soldiers assigned as their escort.
The boy nodded and returned to his work, and when finished, put down the mallet and took a drink from his waterskin. He jumped and spluttered as a rough hand clapped him on the shoulder, and one of the soldiers peered down at him. “Don’t you fret, boy, if there were any shamanic trickery about, we’d know; God would warn us,” he declared, fingering the amulet about his throat. “There’s not a peep of barbarian wizardry within a mile of this spot, and that’s a fact.” This didn’t seem to entirely comfort the boy. “B- but they say the barbarians can throw blazing magic fire from 2 miles away.”
“Oh, and would that be your friend Leni who says that?” The soldier bent further to look more closely at his face.
“Vladi!” shouted the surveyor. “If you’re done with the signpost, it’s time to go! I want the next four markers down before dusk.”
“Yes, master! Excuse me,” he said politely and with relief to the soldier. Stowing his tools quickly and shouldering his pack, he set off after his master down the animal track that served as a footpath in these parts. The soldier grunted and followed.
As the sounds of the troop receded, signs of life returned to the forest: birds sang, a fox crept around the edge of the small clearing while the black squirrels native only to this region chattered at it, and four painted and fur-clad humans emerged from the brush where they had been hiding.
“And still they won’t learn there’s more than one way we can be invisible in the forest,” snorted the tallest, wearing warrior’s paint, in disgust. The other three had gathered about the post and were staring intently at the inscriptions. The youngest of these stretched out to touch it and received a stick on the back of her hand from the eldest.
“Do not, young Koke. They will know.”
The shortest, in an ever-present state of excitement, asked, “Shaman, Shaman Oyugun, what does it say? What does it say?” The elder deprecatingly waved a hand. “Usual rot, Ghal. This land claimed for Warlord of Directorate’s choice; no trespassing; no sub- humans; no heretics; no unlicensed magic.”
“But you can’t read it any more than I! Do the magic! Or… I’ll do it myself,” said the tall warrior, pointing to the tattoo marking his ritual level of Initiation.
“Temu, you will not,” replied the shaman.
“That’s right, weren’t you watching?” burst Koke. “That soldier has one of the old artifacts!”
“Psht. Then let’s kill them and take it back,” said Ghal, affecting greater confidence than he felt.
“And bring their thopters upon our heads?”
Shaman Oyugun raised his hand, ending the discussion. “We will go home, and tell the Chief that the enemy pushes forward again. They will take the foothills in the spring, unless something can be done.”