Welcoming Committee

by Chris O'kane

Nathan shifted nervously as the caravan stopped on the trail. He had heard about lutin attacks growing more common, and expected to be attacked at any moment. A tall man in chain mail armor walked past him and Nathan hailed him, "SARGENT!"

"Hush boy, do you want to attract every lutin within twenty miles," was the sergeant's reply.

"What's going on, why did we stop?" Nathan asked in a whisper.

The soldier looked at the young mage's worried face and smiled, "don't worry we're just meeting the patrol from the keep."

The keep! He'd heard what the people from the keep looked like, and was curious to actually see one. Less than six months out of the Mages school and he was going to see the results of such powerful magic up close. It was the chance of a lifetime.

He heard a whistling noise, followed by a soft thump. Nathan watched as the Sargent collapsed to the ground, with an arrow in his chest.

"LUTINS!" someone screamed from the back of the caravan.

A group of people charged from the trees towards Nathan. The people were about five feet tall, and had green skin. Lutins! Nathan had been planning for this moment since he first found out he was going to Metamor keep.

The plan was for him to calmly cast a fire spell at the creatures killing them all, saving the caravan, and becoming a hero. He had rehearsed the spell a hundred times.

The moment he saw the lutins he forgot everything. His mind went blank and he just stood there. One of the lutins threw a javelin at him, and he watched it slowly arc towards him. He dodged the missile at the last moment and it flew past his head. That snapped him out of his panic.

Nathan pointed his right hand at the closest lutin, a ball of light streaked from his finger and struck and struck it on the chest. The lutin shrieked and fell to the ground dead. The young man started another spell, but they were too close. He drew his long sword and swung it at one of the lutins as they charged him.

What happened next took only a moment. Another figure appeared behind the lutins with a five-foot long axe in it's hands. One stroke and a lutin fell to the ground in a spray of blood, the return stroke disemboweled another. The third one stabbed at the figure and missed. The axe wielder struck the lutin in the face with the butt of the axe. The monster collapsed to the ground, and the figure cut off its head with a stroke of the axe.

Suddenly there was only Nathan, and the axe-man left alive. The bodies of some seven dead lutins lay scattered around.

Total elapsed time 30 seconds.

The figure rested the head of his two bladed axe on the ground and stared at Nathan. The young mage stared in shock at his savior. The man stood about five and a half feet tall and was wearing clothing that was entirely covered in green and brown blotches. In several spots the glint of metal revealed that there was chain mail under the cloth. Even his face was covered with a chain mail hood, complete with its brown cloth cover. The axe was huge, with the head on the ground the butt of the handle came up to the man's blood splattered chest.

Nathan realized that something was different about the man. His legs bent in the wrong places, a muzzle was visible under the hood, and two pointed ears poked out the top of his head.

"Wow," Nathan whispered, "you're from the keep."

The axeman cocked his head to one side and regarded Nathan for a moment before speaking. "You're first time visiting Metamor Keep?" he asked in soft voice, full of amusement.

Nathan could only nod in return.

"MISHA!" someone yelled from the front of the caravan.

The axeman turned his head in that direction and let out a loud bark. "I'm coming," he shouted back. With that he picked up his axe, and turned toward the head of the caravan, showing that he had a long bushy tail, that was also brown and green. As Misha ran toward the front of the caravan, he paused, turned to Nathan and shouted, "Welcome to Metamor Keep." And with a wave of the paw, and a flash of his green and brown tail he vanished into the smoke of a burning wagon.