The Swamp of Despair; March of the Black Knight.
Elsewhere, far away from the goblinoid encampments where the specially assigned adventures went about their misadventures; several groups of elite Ashenclaw guards and rangers marched in tight formation along their assigned route. Led by a man clad fully in a massive black armor, and followed by a large number of adventurers; well, besides the ones who had run off at the initial call of the battle horn. The week long campaign objectives dictated that the forces of adventurers and Ashenclaw guards must unite under one banner and take back the swamp from the hands of the monsters who had recently taken over, using any means necessary. For that purpose, the route set for the first day, covered only the monster camps near the entrance to the swamp.
And yet, things had already spiraled out of control given that more than half of the force, which consisted mostly of rookie adventurers, had run off to find their own fortunes. While that should have been a good reason for a massive decrease decrease in moral, none of the stone-faced guards seemed very concerned about the matter as they followed in the footsteps of their leader, the Black Knight. Perhaps it was because such an outcome was already expected by the ones planning the expedition, or perhaps it was the fact that each member of the forces from Ashenclaw knew their individual duties well enough, so as to render the absence of a large portion of adventurers as a minor hassle only.
This of course, did not apply to the adventurers themselves. Those who did not already run off to find glory and gold, had been thinking of doing so for the entire period of their march. That was, until the group had encountered their first goblin war-party. The sheer ferocity with which the guards had dispatched the goblins with the Black Knight leading the offensive, had ensured that the adventurers came out with no casualties at all, and yet, there had been plenty of opportunities to pitch in and do their part, especially for those adventurers that preferred ranged weapons. In other words, following behind the guards meant easy money and experience for the beginner adventurers and all in a day's work for veteran ones.
As a matter of fact, one of the adventuring parties which had ran off at the beginning, had returned to the group. The party was led by a Dwarven warrior and a Human fighter; and they had quite the curious story to tell. According to them, the monsters were being led by some gypsy woman, who had led a band of orcs and goblins and charged at them head on. The party had been roughed up pretty badly, but fortunately, there had been no casualties; too bad their story wasn't one of the most believable ones...
As a member of the party, Leaf was perhaps the most unskilled, and he knew it well enough. His purpose for being here was purely because he was asked to guide the party through the swamp. In that capacity, Leaf hoped that he was doing well, and besides that, he felt that he had contributed quite a bit at the last camp in spite of his lack of skill in the field of open warfare. In fact, the rush he had felt when beheading the previous camp's goblin leader had not left him yet, and he felt quite ready to try it again at the next camp. For that reason he was rather glad to see Kyoght, their rearguard, for there seemed to be none else in the group currently available to charge in along with him. Although, the fact that his lack of skill might get him killed if he followed such course of action never quite entered his train of thought.
As he was about to approach Kyoght and get a better look at the source of smoke in the second camp, Selena suddenly addressed him, surprising him a little. Though, what she said was even more surprising for him. Eventually, he shook his head a bit at her delusional idea of how things worked between himself and his Lord.
"Uh... you overestimate me m'lady," he replied, "I'm naught more than an errand boy."
"...and umm, I haven't actually been studying magic directly, my Lord told me that the miniature level of talent I seem to have needs to be drawn out naturally, rather than being sharpened through books or tomes."
"Although, I seem to have a talent for channeling some limited amount of magic through runes and such... that's mostly what my Lord tutored me in."
Darek seemed to have his own knowledge to add to the conversation, and Leaf felt obligated to nod.
"As you say Lord Darek." He replied, before following behind the lordling and peering through the bushes himself in order to get a better look.
Of course, what he saw was quite different from what he was expecting. Since he had noticed Kyoght looking through the bushes, he had expected Amaro and Yolanda to be nearby and doing the same, waiting for the party to get together before getting ready to charge the camp altogether. But as it turned out, this raid was going to be exactly the same as the last one, if not worse; after all, the dancer seemed to be leading the monsters into charging right at their hiding position.
By then adrenaline from the last battle had drained, and was replaced by fear from seeing an orc followed by a large number of goblins charging at them; and perhaps the goblins had footpads waiting in the shadows for a chance to strike, there was really no way to tell, nor was there any room for planning.
And to put the icing on the cake, Leaf watched in awe as the esteemed Lord Darek charged forward without even giving them any orders as to what they should do. Leaf followed, unlatching the blade from his side, sheathe and all, and stood beside Darek, intending to face the goblin charge head on, there was nothing else he could do after all. He could only hope that Kyoght would pitch in from the side, and that Amaro was somewhere nearby.
"Remember what you were taught boy." A voice spoke from behind the trio, as a massive hand touched down on Leaf's shoulder.
Apparently, Arthurros had finally decided that there was no point in hiding anymore; while showing himself would foil his objectives, letting either the party or Leaf get killed off would do the same, albeit in a roundabout way.
"When fear strikes, tighten the belly and charge!"
Lifting his hand from the boy's shoulder, the ex-captain unlatched the massive greatsword from his back and balanced it on the ground in front of him.
"Let's see what you've learned..."