Bree lay in the dirt under the setting desert sun. She, Nes, Fudin and Santon had spent the entire day circling Kelmarane from a distance, watching. And now, finally, fourteen hours later, they had made it back to the monastery.
“Well, that was unfortunate.” Santon said, throwing himself down in the dirt beside her.
Nes nodded. “Quite.”
“They are well prepared,” Fudin acknowledged. “I counted at least twenty-five different gnolls throughout the day, and a few that I wasn’t sure if I had seen before.”
Bree nodded. “They operated in groups of no less than four, and don’t seem to follow a set schedule.”
“There was a strange goat-man wandering around the lower slopes of the town,” Nes put in. “He is not of this world, though whether he hails from Hell, the Abyss, or Abaddon I can’t be certain.”
Santon nodded. “It makes no difference, he’ll be tough no matter his home plane.”
“One of the ruined structures near the base of the town’s upper slopes holds some kind of beast. I couldn’t tell what kind,” Fudin added. “But a group of six heavily armed gnolls brought it a large amount of meat at least three times.”
“I saw that,” Bree replied. “There’s another creature in the mill, as well. They brought it a goat.”
Santon sighed. “We’ll have to use hit and run tactics for a few days, at least until their numbers have dwindled sufficiently.”
“Agreed,” Nes said. “Though, I worry that they may receive reinforcements.”
“Dashki said that these gnolls were affiliated with those in the Brazen Peaks,” Bree put in. She pointed at the mountain range in the distance behind Kelmarane. “It’s likely reinforcements would come from the north, if they did.”
“There is a fort in that direction,” Fudin stated. “My eyes were not keen enough to make out any movement or details, but it is a likely location for the gnolls to utilize.”
“There’s also some kind of shrine or temple to the east, across the river. They could be occupying that, as well,” Santon added.
Nes nodded. “I suggest we circle around Kelmarane, cutting off any possible lines of retreat or aid from both the Shrine and the Fort, before moving against Kelmarane itself. When the time does come to attack Kelmarane, your tactics are sound, Santon. Though guerilla warfare is rather base, we would be quickly overwhelmed in a pitched battle against the gnolls.”
“One last thing,” Fudin cut in. “Did anyone notice something strange about the old pesh fields south and west of Kelmarane?”
He was met with silence.
“No, why?” Santon asked.
“I’m not sure. I thought I saw a sort of shifting of the earth within. As if something large were tunneling or digging through the fields. It could have been a play of the light.”
“Did anyone see any gnolls approach the fields?” Nes asked. “At all?”
Bree shook her head.
“Best avoid it, for now. We can investigate it later if an answer does not provide itself.”
“So we’ll go around it, then?” Bree asked. She glanced at the horizon, “To the shrine first?”
Nes nodded. “Yes. I shall inform Princess Roveshki of our decision. That is, unless Santon would prefer to?”
To Bree’s surprise, Santon shook his head. “I’ll leave that to you this time, Nes. Our lady Almah’s not worth the effort.”
Bree raised an eyebrow.
“How rude!” Nes sputtered, shocked at Santon’s disrespect. “She is a noble woman,” he muttered to Fudin. He and his brother walked away, switching to a foreign language that Bree couldn’t identify as they did.
“Not in the mood for company, tonight?” Bree asked Santon after they had left.
He smiled. “Some one has to watch the town during the night.”
“I can do it,” Bree offered. “I haven’t taken a turn at night watch, yet.”
He shook his head. “It’s Trevvis’ turn on watch. I doubt we’d be very safe with the two of you on duty together.”
Bree shrugged. “Very well. I’m going in to get something to eat.”
“You rotten tease!” Santon exclaimed. “Bring me something, yeah?”
Bree laughed. “With comments like that you’ll be lucky if I bring you rotten meat!”