The Fellowship of Phoenix Flame
Part II: Brash and Brazen
While Terius and Merdyl went in search of trophies, other guild members had adventures of their own. This is one such story, taking place right as the previous protagonists took their leave.
Wulfegard woke up with a hangover, which given a berserker's propensity for battle and celebration was not uncommon. That did not make him any happier about his headache. Then a mewling Saris brat raced in and made some proclamation of news about the Empire.
He also found that Axelrod was on a tangent about how this guild would win some prize and likely gain some political prestige. Wulfegard cared not for these things. He relished in battle and the spoils of war taken by might. This need for donations and kindness was against most of what he stood for. That was not to say the half-giant was without honor, nay, honor among a guild or war band is fine. Donations? Charity? Such work was better suited to other men. Now he would have to help the soft weak people of Istaria because he was strong and his guild master would command it. The strong have ruled the weak for centuries, but now it seemed the strong had to coddle and protect them. Some would call Wulfegard's thoughts barbaric or tyrannical. To Wulfegard it was simply the way things should be. Wulfegard thought himself stronger than Axelrod and believed that a trandalarian warrior should lead this guild. For that reason alone, it galled Wulfegard to obey Axelrod. However, Axelrod had proven time and time again that he held the strongest tactics in the guild. The strongest warriors need a skilled tactician to help create strategies for war. To gain greater glory, Wulfegard needed Axelrod as much as he hated to admit it. Without proper aim no mighty blow can slay an enemy.
The two young upstarts left the guild hall, no doubt in search of some pitiful excuse for adventure and Wulfegard was happy to see them go. He had little use for weaklings and green warriors. The incessant babble of Flintstahl made his head hurt. That dwarf Ygnar, who was mildly useful at times, preferred to make things and was no use in battle. In battle he had no use for most of his guild. Wulfegard thought, 'In these times, warriors can only trust their axe and battle hardened comrades.' Best to keep such thoughts bottled up. For one thing, it demoralizes the guild to hear such things. Also, it is best unleashed on the battlefield, where fury truly belongs. More annoying babble came from the hall’s podium. Axelrod again, big surprise.
"The only thing that man likes more than fine maidens and food is talking. Fighting comes in at a distant third... it's a shame the man considers himself a mighty warrior of the Living Races," he muttered low enough so none around him could hear.
“Flintstahl! Send your apprentices to collect more ingredients. I’ll hand them each a gold coin from my personal funds to accomplish this. Three gold in all should fetch enough for you to feed the guild and much of the relief effort. Xarfax, I want you on hand to act as a messenger and to whip everyone into shape, but continue to lend a hand while you make the rounds. Darla, you go with Wulfegard, he’ll no doubt want to get his hands dirty on the front lines and I need a seasoned scout and warrior backing him up. Where’s that treasurer at?” Axelrod prattled on.
“I need no woman to help me guild master. My men and I will be fine,” Wulfegard assured everyone. “In fact I will leave for Harro immediately.” Wulfegard stalked out and ripped his axe from the wall, where he had embedded it earlier in the day. A select few of his allies followed him out. Wulfegard and his band had only just reached the travel gate when Darla caught up with them.
“Axelrod gave me an order and I’m going to follow it. Even if it means following you around," she said with an exasperated sigh.
“Looking to learn to fight from a real man?” Wulfegard chuckled with denigrating joy.
He and his band had a good laugh at her and Axelrod's expense. She shouldered through them without another word and disappeared through the gate. Not long after, Wulfegard, a few other half-giants, and a satyr followed. They traveled mostly in silence to the city gates. Silent aside from the odd mumbling or remark obviously made against or about Darla and the guild master.
“We have a shaman, a druid, and three berserkers. What exactly do we need you for Darla?” Vaughn the satyr shaman asked with a sneer.
“I’m here to make sure you boys don’t get in over your head and if you do, I’m to return to guild headquarters for reinforcements. I don’t like it either. If it makes you feel any better, I am supposed to follow your orders on the field, that includes most everything but your lewd suggestions or outright ordering me to leave. Can we just get this over with?” Darla was fast losing her temper, but she hadn’t become second in command by letting people like Wulfegard or his cronies bother her.
Wulfegard barked out formation orders and the party marched down the road, slaying blight hounds, the get of Fafnir. They slew hordes of Nahguk ogres and drove a wedge though the aegrors outside of Harro. No doubt these seasoned veterans were in their element. Wulfegard in his own right was a great leader as well, albeit a bit hot headed. Wulfegard was the first to take to the field and the last to leave, he pushed his soldiers no harder than he pushed himself. Darla had little problem keeping pace, but rather she hung back to keep an eye out for trouble.
Trouble indeed found them. Not far from the Spirituous Swamp, a horde of kwellen berserkers had gathered. No doubt a scout had mentioned the coming of mighty Gifted mercenaries because the kwellen were well organized and prepared for attack, catching Wulfegard and his band off guard. Wulfegard howled for a charge and his companions followed suit. He cleft two kwellen in twain with one wild swing, showering the local combatants in gore. Foes encroached from all sides and Wulfegard was slowly being cut off from the rest of the party.
Before long they were surrounded and Darla was isolated. The battle was already lost, of this Darla was sure. One of Wulfegard's men was on his last legs and was soon to be visiting the guild shrine. Darla tossed him a healing potion and fired an arrow at the closest kwellen's hand, forcing it to drop it's weapon. Darla had a mission, that mission was to save these men. Regardless of her opinions, she would do as Axelrod asked...even if he was a bit of a rake at times. It seemed the numbers of these beasts were endless. Leaping and dodging were par and parcel to being an archer, but these foes were fast. She downed many of them while trying to open an escape route for her charges. Alas, a berserker does not flee and the rest of the men with Wulfegard would be expected to stay and endure the pain of death with him. Knowing deep within she could not save them from their own brash behavior, Darla resigned herself to returning to Axelrod a failure. She stiffened a moment and choked back a tear. After all these years his opinion still mattered to her. In a final act of defiance Darla leaped in the way of a blade meant for Wulfegard. While preparing her own recall spell, coughing up blood, and with a grim smile on her face; she smiled and mouthed three satisfying words.
"Told you so."