28th day of Jinar, 133rd Year of Assembly
(1067th Year of Nerath)
Even the early evening has not brought relief from the beating sun and the wind has been no help either. It is only a month into summer and already the heat has people yearning for the chill of winter. Sages and hedge wizards all predict even hotter temperatures and the doomsayers have taken up calling for the end of the world by fire.
Perhaps it is the heat stirring on activity, but for whatever reason, the bandits and monsters are particularly aggressive this year. Reports of gnoll attacks and orc raids filter through every village and even the more vigilant cities are watching the roads (and skies) more closely. Merchants and caravans, normally downright miserly with their gold, have spread it around freely to hire guards and adventurers to protect their goods. Many have not been seen again.
Your trip, however, has been extremely uneventful, the entertainment consisting of feeling sweat bead on your forehead and dripping into eyes or mouth. And now, just half a day’s ride outside of Assembly’s city gates, your prospects for action are quickly dwindling away.
As you adjust your weapon belt and armor straps for the thousandths time on this trip, you notice a cloud of dust in the distance. Riders, and by the banner they fly, soldiers from Assembly on patrol. The small copse of trees ahead marks the unofficial boundary of where the wilds end and the relative “safety” of Assembly’s territory begins.
You can be forgiven then for not noticing the ambush until a feathered shaft embeds itself into the wagon you were hired to protect. As the merchant—screaming expletives—dives for cover, you see five figures step their fur-covered hides reluctantly from the cover of the trees ahead. Gnolls, and they do not look too happy about the weather either, though all you hear is the yipping sound of their hyena-like laughter.
Weapons and implements fly from their sheaths as you move ahead of the wagon. The gnoll archer draws another arrow as the four others advance…