A Subtle Introduction

The most recent addition to the group set everyone at unease. The roguish, good looking youth was of an undeterminable age. He spoke little and glared from under his dark hood. He was added almost an afterthought because the party was light in the warrior department, and he was armed with a variety of blades and a bow.

Vikram did not care that the group didn’t trust him. In fact, he went out of his way to aggravate their apprehension. He was a natural bully who pressed the matter home every chance he got. The rest of his companions were novice sorcerers and adventuring priests.

He consistently undermined the leader’s authority. The priestess Athlin had formed the band to join her in her quest to destroy malevolent forces where ever she may find them. And she believed that with here heavy armor, magic and healing abilities, she was more than a match for the upstart. However, she didn’t want an open fight in front of the others. A worse scenario was if she sent him away that he would return quietly as an embittered enemy.

A great relief came in the form of a pilgrim hobbit hero. Santy “Slim” Sasquil, believed that his pilgrimage to the sea would be enhanced by helping the novice travelers. He was a kind hearted and noble soul; it didn’t take long before he and Vikram clashed.

The small group had just completed an exhausting trek through Morz Swamp north of Kalyn. Everyone was on edge and a brief argument erupted between Athlin and Vikram over the best use of a small cache of gold retrieved from some bandits who chose the wrong band to plunder. When it seemed that the argument was at a stalemate, Santy interfered and brusquely silenced the malcontented young man. The tension burned all observers. Santy’s victory would soon be forgotten.

When the group paused to camp late that afternoon, Santy predictably volunteered for the first tour of watch. The surprise was when Vikram quickly volunteered for the second shift. Fatigue silenced any objections, and the party settled in for a rest.

Soon enough it was time for his tour, Vikram made himself useful keeping the fire cackling, high and hot, for his teammates’ comfort. When that was done, he began whistling four young and strong tree branches, bark and wood falling into the roaring fire. His fine dagger made shirt work of the thin saplings, and after heating the tips in the fire, soon had some wicked looking punji sticks.

He did not smile as he noiselessly crouched over the sleeping hobbit. All his strength was mustered as he plunged a pair of the sticks into his victim. Death came instantaneously, but the message wasn’t finished…the second pair were thrust into the corpse’s ears. Vikram then lay down for a dreamless sleep.

In the morning, alarm came slowly when the others realized how late they had slept. Horror and disbelief welled within them as Vikram stated that the hobbit had never woken him and suggested that someone from Santy’s past must be the assassin. Nobody tried to stop Vikram when he announced would now travel alone.

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