Feldard worked away at reloading his heavy crossbow. He could hear the repeated twang of a bow nearby and noted a fellow passenger picking off bowmen on shore with the ease of an wood elf. The dwarf grumbled to himself ‘.. be just as fast if I had bloody short bow’. Finally, the cord was set and the bolt in place. Feldard raised his crossbow and turning towards the shore, fired off his second shot towards yet another of the bowmen. Success! The archer dropped, as the stout warrior grunted proudly, laying claim to the kill in case anyone had missed it.
The priest spat curses as he sat helpless watching men fall about him. Yet, he could not move for fear of exposing Miklos. He released one hand and fumbled blindly behind him for the handle of his flail. It took precious moments before he felt its familiar grip. He yanked it free from the pile being careful not to drop his guard as more arrows thudded into the deck and ricocheted off his metal shield. He shook it out and prepared to launch himself to his feet if the boat started to tip.
Feldard could see several of the swimmers almost at the edge of the boat. He grinned. “I’ll deal with those trying to board. Take out those bowmen.” Feldard exchanged crossbow for axe and waited at the ready.
Stephan looked with an approving nod at the actions of the four adventurers. “Blessed Havlav, that these folk be here.” The splatter of blood and gurgling choke from his henchman did not register with Stephan given the urgency of the situation. Once he realized his arrows were ineffective against the tree-covered bowmen on shore, and as the swimmers made their final approach, Stephan grabbed one of the long oars, making his way to the far side of the boat and as the assailants made their desperate scramble to mount the boat, he began us of the make-shift pole arm to bash foreheads as the appeared. Looking to the befuddled oarsmen, he shouted, “Use your oars men! Bash ‘em back to the depths from which these maggots issue!”
Many of the crew had been felled by arrows—they were not trained for conflict, and what remained of their number, along with Kalanos, the riverboat captain, fled to safety below the deck. Only one remained, and he was armed with a short sword. He made no move to join the fight, and was instead grabbing what cover he could find—in his eyes, a wild-eyed look. Not of fear so much, something else…
There was no time to dwell upon it—it appeared that he and this strange group of travelers were on their own. So, he thrust the paddle end of the oar squarely into the forehead of the fist swarthy, wet pate to show itself. He hoped that the weight of the himself and the other oarsmen balanced the tipping craft, minimizing the array of targets for the bowmen on shore.
To himself he muttered, “Pray that magician send more to slumber!” And again he thrust with the oar….
Crew and friends diving this way and that across the boat had spoilt Miklos’s line of fire to the boarders. ‘Let the crew deal with them’ he thought and gauged the distance to the bowmen.
As the mage was incanting, Maruc was doing his best to protect him. He saw two arrows flying directly for his friend. Knowing that their very survival might depend on the spell the mage was preparing, the priest made a grim determination. He stretched his body with the shield, deflecting one of the arrows with metal, and the other with his back. The pain was instant and intense, but well worth it for despite the distraction, Miklos was able to complete his intonations.
Reaching with the full extent of his magic Miklos shrouded the bowmen in a enchantment of slumber. All fell, save one, who looked about in dismay. Yet, the battle was not over, the boarders swam on and finally reached the hull, and attempted to board. Feldard, Roklov and Stephan engaged them.
“GARRR!!!” cried Roklov. The sole oarmen who had remained on the deck had stabbed him clean through his back. The man hastily drew back his sword and charged the dwarf.
* * * * *
Hasan found the water and lack of light more than adequate protection for the short swim to shore. Hasan immediately melted into the woods and began making a lengthy circle around the bandits’ point of departure, looking for the path or road their opponents took to the river’s edge. It took no time at all—the humans were ridiculously easy to track for one such as he.
He stealthily hurried through the forest and approached the spot from which the ambush had been launched. He saw that all of the bowmen had been rendered unconscious—no doubt victims to Miklos’ magecraft. Not much of a surprise really, but what he saw next was quite shocking. The sole remaining archer was quickly and systematically slitting the throats of all his men.