- Vadim — Druidic Cattle-Rustler Extraordinaire
- Khut — Vadim’s trusty Ranger sidekick
- Ado — A warbler who warbles too much
- Khadagan — A hermit with bigger tusks than the rest of us
- Sorqutani — A crazy steppes-witch
Buttercup was in heat, the Black Crow tribe had the studliest bulls, the answer was simple, steal a bull. But no, Vadim had an even cleverer and sneakier answer, why steal the bull when all you need is the semen. So Vadim and Khut headed to the nearest Black Crow camp to scope out the available stock.
They arrived in early morning, set up Vadim’s cheap, ugly, worn-out tent, and started making the rounds. Then, of course, Semek’s wife, an unfortunately thin woman, came storming out of a tent, spitting, cursing, and kicking things over. Khut fell immediately in love. He, of course, added killing the woman’s husband to his mental to-do list.
Just as Khut was daydreaming about the bloody slaughter of a man he didn’t know in order to win the hand of a woman he had only seen once (which may or may not be reflective of his own mode of conception), there was a sudden ruckus in the grasses. A tribe of warblers was running through the grass, making quite the racket.
Khut saw a warbler Housebeast running around crazily, and he and Vadim slowly approached to see what was up. Vadim quickly made friends with the thing, but then all hell broke loose. Black-fletched arrows started flying out of the grass and the warblers started jumping and yammering like crazy. Then a flock of black-feathered, glassy-eyed warblers with metal claws and their beaks tied shut burst from the grass and attacked the first band. Vadim charged in with his sabre, quickly joined by a big-toothed hermit and a crazy steppes-witch who were also visiting the Black Crows. Khut, not really seeing the gravity of the situation, kept his distance, but did, slowly, ready his bow.
The black warblers swarmed over the defenders. There was much hacking and bashing from Vadim and the hermit, and blasts of fire from the witch, and the occasional, lazy arrow from Khut, but the little black bird-goblins kept coming. At some point Adu, the lead friendly-warbler, vanished, only to reappear moments later with a shriek and a blast of concussive force that flattened the prairie grasses around him.
Finally, as nearly a dozen of the creatures climbed over the hermit’s body, the witch let loose a blast of…something. Whatever it was, it was neither right nor pleasant, as the black-warblers eyes suddenly crusted up with filth, blinding them. The hermit roared and raged, shaking one creature that was clinging to his axe off, splitting it in twain, then charged and leaped headlong into a nearby cookfire. The air was filled with the horrendous smell of burned hair, burned feathers, and burned hornbeast droppings. But the battle was over.
Friendships forged in the heat of battle are the only true kind, and our heroes were no different. Once the black warblers were dispatched introductions were made, wounds were patched up, and our five disparate heroes became a party.
The black warbler bodies were looted and burned. Khut, by virtue of discretion the only one uninjured from the ordeal, offered the warbler tribe the use of his, or rather Vadim’s, tent to build their nests in for the day. The warblers and the injured laid down to rest until nightfall.
Khut, meanwhile, went off after the tentmaker’s wife. Not that he really expected to confront her, or make a pass at her, or even approach her (women were scary after all), but he was in love, so he followed her. Her trail was strewn with beautiful, perfect white feathers, which he collected, intending to use them as fletching. Then her trail just ended. Khut scanned the skies and spotted a beautiful white bird flying off towards a distant thunderstorm. He breathed the deep sigh of young unrequited love (is their any other kind) and headed back to the Black Crow camp.
When night fell, Vadim called together Khut and their new friends, Adu, Khadagon, and Surqutani, and explained their deep and desperate need for the semen of the Black Crow’s prized bulls. While Vadim and Khut, expert cattle rustlers that they were, said they would do the actual collection, the others agreed to help.
Surqutani used her chilling touch to frost over the bone flasks that would hold the collected semen, in order to keep it fresh for the journey back to Drowned Rivers. Adu and his warblers spread out, making a general ruckuss to cover the sounds of the rustlers creeping through the grass, and using their illusions to increase the general gloaming over the ground. And Khadagan walked up and started a conversation to distract the man on watch over the herd. Vadim doused Khut and himself with hornbeast urine to mask their smell.
Crawling stealthily through the grass, Vadim and Khut noticed that the guard was mounted on a truly impressive Warbeast stallion and made a bee-line for his fine stock. As they approached, another large, fine hornbeast bull, already in rut, caught their scent and started to hone in on them. Khut broke off towards the bull, while Vadim moved up to the stallion. Soon they were both crouching carefully between the legs of their quarry and started their milking.
All went well, until the warbeast shifted and stepped on Vadim’s foot. Vadim stiffled a scream, and then began working harder, quickly bringing the warbeast to climax. The hornbeast that Khut was jacking, meanwhile, spotted one of the warblers and went trotting after it. Unable to keep up with the excited beast, Khut grabbed onto its member and hung their, allowing himself to be dragged along. Soon his weight hanging their, combined with the jostling stride of the hornbeast got the job done.
Then, of course, the excited warbeast bucked, throwing the rider, who spotted Vadim. Apparently the sight of the notorious cattle rustler jerking off his mount was (with a little help from one of Adu’s spells) the funniest thing the guard had ever seen, as he burst into unstoppable paroxysms of laughter, allowing our heroes to escape.
The five of them sprinted away into the darkness, running east. They finally stopped by a spring about six miles away from the Black Crow camp, where Khut, who had not gotten a nap during the day with the others, fell down and was almost immediately asleep. Everyone else soon followed, though not without posting a watch.
During her watch, Surqutani apparently went insane and blasted her sleeping companions with the same spell that had rendered the black-warblers blind. Khadagon woke up and retaliated, but was quickly kicked down the nearby well and splashed with acid by the witch.
Just then, the thundering of horn-beast hooves could be heard, as a quartet of Black Crow thieftakers came riding after Vadim and company. Adu jumped on the still-sleeping Khut and hid them with the illusion of a bramble ticket. Vadim quickly burried his flasks of semen, figuring that he’d be less likely to be staked out to die if they did not find evidence of the crime on him.
The first thief-taker attempted to lasso Vadim and failed. The second clubbed him. The third simply grabbed him by his shirt-collar and dragged him along beside his warbeast, grinding Vadim against the walls of the canyon they rode through. All the while, Vadim yelled at them, trying to point out that the witch was their real enemy, pointing out that she was poisoning the well. Surqutani, in response, blasted Vadim with a bolt of fire, silencing him. The thief-takers rode off with their unconscious prize, not wanting to tangle with the witch and not seeing the rest of the group.
Still lying within the cover of the illusory brambles, Khut threw a dagger into Surqutani’s back. By that point Khadagon had managed to climb up the well. He grabbed the witch’s ankle and pulled her into the well with him, where he incapacitated her with a few quick punches. Once he was sure that the thief-takers were long gone, Khut tossed a rope down and hauled the hermit and the witch out of the spring.
Adu said that the witch had clearly been under the effects of the evil magic of the black warblers and said he wanted to heal her. Khut, ever cautious, held a blade to her neck as the warbler cast his spell, waiting to see if her eyes were still the strange milky-white they had been while she was attacking. When she awoke, he saw, reflected in her eyes, a scene of the steppes burning, a wall of fire sweeping from the east, and everything across the steppes lying dead.
Obviously he suggested that they should head west, which, conveniently, was the direction the thief-takers had ridden off with Vadim. He dug up Vadim’s semen flask, then said they should set off to rescue their friend…in the morning. First, he was still exhausted, so he lay back down to sleep.
The party was awakened by a horrible roaring noise. They woke up to see a wall of fire sweeping across the prairie, right towards them. They leaped to safety in the well, then, after the fire had passed, followed in its wake chasing the blaze across the blackened grasslands (because the alternative was going in the direction of whatever had caused it, which seemed like a patently bad idea).
They followed the fire and the thief-taker’s warbeast’s tracks to the west, eventually spotting a large marble bluff. Figuring that the thief-takers would have sought shelter from the fire there, Khut called a halt and waited until nightfall. The party then spread out, circling the bluff stealthily, hoping to get close enough to snatch Vadim and then get away.
The thief-takers spotted Surqutani, but not wanting to mess with the witch, simply warned her off with their bows, keeping their eyes fixed on her for signs of treachery or magic. Khut climbed up the far side of the bluff and made his way over to where he could look down on them. He saw no sign of Vadim, but did see the big warbeast stallion from the night before, with no rider this time. Unable to resist a rustler’s instincts, he grinned and leaped from the rock right onto the beast’s back and kicked it into a trot.
Vadim, meanwhile, had awoken and managed to cut through his bonds. Seeing Khut, he ran out of the cave in which he was being kept, and double-hopped up onto the warbeast’s rump, slapping it with a longstrider spell. The two thieves sped away on the fine warbeast, then circled back to pick up their three companions (not without being grazed by a couple of arrows).
Once clear of the thief-takers, and well out of arrow range, they turned the beast south, away from the fire and the thief-takers, and back towards Drowned Rivers and Buttercup, who was still waiting for her semen.