We had a group discussion, and felt it would best serve our interests to take down the Stag Lord and his goons before continuing to map the region. After all, the bandits have been our number one problem… and more importantly, it will make us look pretty damn good to Restov. We geared up, and headed South, towards the Tuskwater lake, where we knew from Jack’s Bitch’s information the Stag Lord had his fort. I must say, I’m pretty excited. I feel like myself again, and I’m ready mete out some justice to these bandits.
More travel, very uneventful. We made small talk… Jack about his promiscuity, Reyes about his desire to found a kingdom, and Sparrow decidedly did not want to talk about her past. Hey, no bandit attack in the night, either! Guess we’ve really put a dent in their numbers after all.
Well, we found the Stag Lord’s fort. And it was a total, crumbling mess of a fort. Y’know, when you build things like a fort, you have to consider location. It’s defensible enough, yes, but so far from civilization that you’d be hard-pressed to get skilled workers out here for construction. Thus, I’m sure the bandits had to rely on themselves to build stuff, with less than professional results. Any misgivings I may have had about taking down the Stag Lord washed away at the sight of the run-down complex. I bet Reyes could just run straight through one of the rotting, wooden palisades and start wiping the floor with bandits before they knew what hit ‘em.
Nonetheless, we approached, all wearing our stolen, silver Stag Lord medallions and holding the box of liquor bottles in plain sight. The lazy guard simply called out, “Who are you?” Reyes nodded at me and asked, “Would you like to do the honors?” I responded with a hearty, “By the bloody bones of St. Gilmore, who wants to know?!” My voice echoed across the grassy plains. The guard, rather unamused, remarked, “Are you new?” To which I answered, “Well, yes, actually.” Great security, asshole. Really, top-notch. First you pick a bizarre password and then you let anyone in without a hint of suspicion.
As we were led inside by the guard, Jack explained that we were new, and we were here to deliver the liquor. We were taken to the South end of the fort, where a large storehouse was set up. Inside the storehouse was another bandit thug and a man named Akiros. The first bandit explained that Akiros was the new second-in-command, having recently bumped a man named Dovan from the position. Yet, we were cautioned, there was extreme bitterness between Akiros and the Stag Lord. Over what, he would not say. Jack did one of his creepy stares at the two bandit guards, presumably charming them, and they awkwardly excused themselves and ran off, leaving us alone with Akiros.
Akiros gave us a suspicious glare and started asking questions. While Jack blathered away (we were new, we got lost, we’ve wanted to meet the Stag Lord for a very long time, etc etc) I slipped into the shadows and crept around behind Akiros. He was suspicious of us, we were alone in a dark storehouse, and I was eager to ruin the Stag Lord’s day. I silently drew my Aldori blade, and Reyes gave me a quick nod – he, too, was in no mood for talking and negotiation. I plunged the blade downward, twice in rapid succession, through Akiros’ lungs from the rear. He’d be unable to make a sound. Even as he was collapsing toward the ground, Reyes whipped out his greatsword and lopped Akiros’ head off. Before the blood could start pooling, I stuffed the head and body into my bag of holding. I kicked some dirt over what little blood had made it to the ground.
To Hunt a Stag
Jack hissed, “You guys are idiots! What if he was willing to help us? He wasn’t happy with the Stag Lord!” And, as if on cue, a door we didn’t notice at the back of the storehouse slammed open, and out stumbled a very drunk Stag Lord. Honestly it was a bit anticlimactic, after all the talking-up we’d heard of the Stag Lord, but he was in just as poor a condition as the rest of the fort. For a second, I pitied him. I realized then and there that this was a completely broken man. There’d be no justice for him save death – prisons and fines and torture would mean nothing to him. He was just a body without a soul, keeping himself perpetually numb with this liquor. While I originally felt it’d be best to drag him to Restov for a trial and some good publicity, I now felt that his life was absolutely forfeit, and we could bring his head back for just as good a reward, with less trouble.
Reyes beat me to it, however. I’m sure the Stag Lord didn’t even have time to notice us in the store room, before Reyes rushed the Stag Lord, running him through with the greatsword and leaving an enourmous hole in the man’s chest. Then he pulled the sword out, whirled right back around, and decapitated the Stag Lord cleanly, leaving the body to stumble and topple over. Such ended the reign of a tyrant, without so much as a confused gurgle of pain. We stood there for a moment, shaking our heads in… disappointment? Disgust? Well, I had no need to continue hiding bodies, so I dumped Akiros’ corpse out of my bag and we began rifling through the two men’s possessions (including the Stag Lord’s bedroom, which connected directly to the storehouse.) We found plenty of loot, of course. Jack even identified the stag helm and determined it had some unique magical properties.
But I was struck by the the Stag Lord’s head, sitting there on the floor, still in the helmet. I remember Jack’s Bitch had mentioned that nobody had ever seen the Stag Lord without the stag helm. I pulled the head from the helm, and revealed a sad, scarred face, covered in thick paint that only served to hide severe acid burns beneath it. Someone had tortured this man, long ago. His death, then, was as much mercy as it was justice. It was Balanced. It was beautiful, almost.
So I desecrated his head by putting it back in the helm and sticking my hand in there to work it as a puppet.
Why? Well, seeing the head on the ground reminded me of a story a bard would tell us boys back when I was running with street gangs in Korvosa. It was a dark comedy, featuring the over-the-top, evil antics of a sorcerer named Richard. One of this gags involved manipulating the heads of his victims as puppets to terrify passerby. It was probably only funny if you were a teen boy living on the streets and desensitized to violence. To everyone else, though… Richard had a good point: It would be quite horrifying. And why not horrify the rest of the bandits into surrendering?
Enter the Shadow Lord
We found stairs leading into a cellar, and headed down, expecting treasure – which we did find. But we also found an old man. He looked up, startled. I made the Stag Lord’s head say “Why, hello there! Who might you be?” All color drained from the old man’s face, his pupils contracted to tiny dots, and he answered, “You… killed… my… son…”
I made the head respond, “…Daddy?”
And gods, my companions smacked their foreheads in unison, and it made such a wonderful slapping sound, echoing throughout the damp cellar. The old man picked up a hunk of wood and started swinging at me in a blind rage. I used the head as a shield and started yelling at the man to calm down. My friends stood by, unsure of what to do. I urged them to punch the old man in the head and knock him out. They continued to just stand there, shaking their heads in disbelief.
“Hey wait,” I asked the old man, as he swung and missed, swung and missed. “Know anything about the acid burns on your son’s face?” The old man paused, and explained in a dejected tone, “Discipline.” Ha, not so high and mighty now, daddy. I explained to him, “You just lost a lot of favor with my buddies, here. I can’t believe someone would be so rude.” He resumed attacking me with a new, wrathful vigor, but my point had been made. I kind of suspected there was some family abuse the moment I noticed the acid burns… it wasn’t too uncommon an occurrence with kids on the street like the ones I knew back in Korvosa. That’s why most ran away from home, actually. Nonetheless, Reyes knocked the old man out with a sound smack from the flat of his blade, and we discussed our next move.
Reyes and Jack wondered about getting all this treasure back to Oleg’s, but I pointed out that we may as well keep it in the fort and annex the fort for ourselves. In addition to having our own place out here, it would lend full legitimacy to my claim of nobility, and, uh… Reyes’ dreams of it. I guess. He practically pitches a tent every time he talks about running a new kingdom out here. We’re always reminding him that first we need a legitimate charter from Restov, and then we have to build a settlement from the ground up. However, the fort is good news — it’s a great starting point, even if it is a bit of a fixer-upper. So we decided to head back out into the main courtyard area and ask the rest of the bandits to surrender.
Reyes begged me to put the Stag Lord’s head away. Obviously, I refused. Fear is an incredible weapon, and I will wield it to its fullest effect. So we emerged into the sunlight, and I made the head say, “Gather ’round, children! It’s story time! Today, Mr. Staggy will tell the tale of how some adventurers walked into his fort and royally fucked him up, and that if the rest of you don’t surrender, you’ll die a gruesome death too!” There was a few heartbeats as the remaining bandits stared in pure, abject horror, and then they promptly ran away, no doubt trailing piss as they went. Reyes, Jack, and Sparrow all sighed. I said, “Hey, it’s not like we wanted a bunch of pussies working for us anyway.” They nodded in agreement. Boy, I’m full of great points today!
But the one man who did not run away walked right up to us, a disgusted snarl on his face. Dovan. Dressed like a Chelish faggot. I wonder why he wasn’t respected as second in command anymore? Honestly, the shiny black leather that exposed his midriff might have had something to do with it. I said, “Ah, Mr. Dovan. I am Lord Asher, and these are my associates, Lords Jack and Reyes, and Lady Sparrow. This is now the Fort of the Shadow Lord. Will you submit to our rule, or do we have to behead you?”
He responded, “Asher Kage? From the Balance Corporation?” I answered, “Yes, though I am now the Shadow Lord, so you address me as Lord Asher.” I was impressed that he knew so much about me already. My first instinct was to make the Stag Lord’s head bite out his jugular vein, but then I realized we could use someone to manage affairs at the fort, someone with skills. Dovan clearly had some sort of skills, of a rogueish nature. In fact, he went on to promote himself, saying “I am indeed much more capable than you may give me credit for!”
The Stag Lord’s head responded, “Then why are you no longer second-in-command, hm?”
“Ooh, a very good point, Mr. Staggy!” I cooed.
My companions face-palmed and snickered. Did I just make Dovan my bitch? I think I did. But I said to him, “We need someone to work for us and handle this fort while we’re away on business. Obviously, we’re far more powerful than the entire legion of bandits you used to run with, and we’re pretty ruthless when it comes to loyalty. But the pay will be good.” He said, “The only reason I’m not second-in-command is because I refused to suck the Stag Lord’s dick. If you’ll put his damned head away, I’ll work with you.”
I corrected him, “You’ll work for us.” Reyes said, “Put it away, for gods’ sakes.” So I did, shaking off the disgusting brain matter onto my companions, who clearly don’t value fear. We shook hands with Dovan, and that was that.
We had a fort. We had land. We had supplies. We had a newly appointed Steward of Fort Shadow Lord (who had been instructed to fix the place up while we were away). We had slain the region’s despotic ruler, cleaned out the bandits, and totally wrecked the war plans of a bunch of kobolds. All we had to do was report back to Restov and we’d be golden heroes.
So emerged the Shadow Lord into the daylight.