Hackmaster (Hardcore Edition)

When It Rains, It Pours

From the Flashback of Jonathan Pike

Lightning flashed through the mottled grey sky. “Things have been bad before sergeant.” Mused Jonathan Pike to himself. He was attempting to drown his troubles in a mug of mead, due to the fact he was nearly horsewhipped by the town guard for the crime of another person. Pike’s eyes settled on the back wall of some tavern he’d forgotten the name of, “where the hell am I?” He thought. “Fandor’s Keep” he said aloud, earning curious glances from adjacent bar patrons. “No, that can’t be, we’re in the middle of a war,” Pike thought. He closed his eyes, and let the crash of the thunder and the drumming of the rain take him back to the graveyard.

They called it the graveyard because the Fangarian legion didn’t have the time or the resources to properly dispose of the dead, so the bodies were buried close to where they fell, in large festering pits. Others called it the Nolton Plains, but that was just a name on a map given by some sissy bureaucrat. He could deal with the death, the constant battle against the orcish menace, and even with the starvation from the shattered supply line, but he could not deal with the constant storms. The constant torrent of rain made everything cold and waterlogged, and made maintaining a serviceable trench nearly impossible. “What are you looking at? And why aren’t you digging?” shouted Sergeant Sturm. “Ugh… nothing sir, sorry sir,” sputtered Pike. He’d been digging for an hour, and was sick of this bullshit. With every shovelful of muck that he piled outside of trench, double sluiced over the top of the trench, splattering on the wooden plank walkway. “What do you MEAN you lost them?” shouted someone that Pike could only guess was Colonel Garret. Pike didn’t need to see the man to know who it was, whose booming baritone voice was more appropriate for a half-ogre than a man. Another flash of lightning made the sky look like a shattered pane of glass, and in the distance Pike saw movement. “Must be the scouting party Sergeant,” Pike said as he pointed in the direction of the movement. “You must be seeing things boy, the scouts came back this morning empty handed,” Sturm grumbled. Pike squinted at the horizon, trying to make out the movement he saw earlier. Lightning flashed, this time it generated muted light behind dark clouds, but it was still enough light for Pike to see the horrors before him.

Thunder rocked the small inn, momentary ending the merriment within, and driving pike out of his dream. Everyone in the inn grew quiet at the sound of thunder, except for one raucous group in the back. “That elvish Bastard! That fae CUNT!” roared a dwarf from the group. Pike recognized the voice as Yurgran Stoneteller, a foul mouthed dwarf from Praxter. Pike looked to where the profanity originated and saw a hulking half-ogre named Barrackus dominating the eastern end of the bar. Barrackus and Yergran were members of the Bloodhawks, an adventuring group that currently employed pike. Pike didn’t care much for the adventurer’s lifestyle, but they paid well and treated him fairly, so he was not about to complain. The two adventurers were probably talking about Nuae Emar, another Bloodhawk, who had recently gotten the group into some trouble with the keep prefect. Rumors swirled about orcish mages and grave robbing. Pike believed it had to be something to do with the latter because he knew there was no such thing as an orcish mage, orcish cleric maybe, but not a mage. Also, before Nuae left the group, he mentioned that each share was worth about 4 gold pieces, and the group was desperate for money. He figured Nuae was trying to dig up some stuff in the abandoned cemetery to make payroll. “Grave robbing ain’t much different than dungeon delving,” Pike sighed. Tired, Pike lurched out of his seat, paid his bar tab and made his way to his room. Looking down at the dry common room of the inn, Pike smiled and thought “Things have been worse.”

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