The sun’s rays had all but left us as we approached our destination, and at a
point in the path where trees over hung both sides forming a tunnel of darkness, our new companion’s desire for
company proved justified! Bandits came at us from both sides, their number easily double that of ours. Another day
when I was less battle-weary I would have reacted faster, but I had engaged two of our assailants before checking
the newest member of our group was safe. It was not long before we had subdued these common ruffians and had them
give over their weapons and kneel in submission, all of whom obliged. All except one. One of the bandits was
standing stock still, eyeball to eyeball with our goblin friend, who looked as though he had avoided any physical
struggle. The man seemed to be stood in an unnatural position and seemed quite unable to move. The goblin, on the
other hand, looked quite relaxed, almost smiling. The commotion had attracted a crowd from the town and as their
numbers grew, so too did their anger towards the thieves and vagabonds that had been terrorising the roads out of
town and who were now caught helpless in front of them. Their tempers raged and I pleaded with them to choose
justice over revenge, but they wanted blood. And so he gave it to them. He walked over to the man paralysed in
front of him and with a dagger he carried with less skill than a child, he ended the man’s life and lit the powder
keg that had gathered around us. The townsfolk set about the bandits and with fist and boot sent them to meet their
friend in the underworld.
I should have acted then.
I should have seen what was right in front of my face and ended the wretch’s life
there and then. But no, I stayed my hand; I had seen enough bloodshed that day and believed a display of mercy
would have more impact than the swing of my sword. After this I made sure my companions and I stayed where we could
keep a watchful eye on this fellow, and indeed over the next few days we became a fine group of friends. It was a
small town, the fertile landscape providing a bounty for the local farmers. However, being far from the city and
its militia and with only a small and mostly incompetent guard, the bandits were also reaping a generous harvest.
We set to work aiding where we could and eventually our help outweighed the suspicion our various races brought.
Throughout this, our new friend was keen to aid where he could, eternally grateful, it would seem, for any time we
would spend with him. I would, when opportunity presented itself, lecture him on the ways of chivalry and noble
conduct, hoping to guide him towards a more honourable path. He hung on my words as I had the priests who had
taught me, full of questions and respect, giving loud and frequent acknowledgement of his desire to change. How wise I thought myself when last I retired to bed,
but now, after the sun has set once more, fate has found a way of reminding me of my place.
One can hone their knowledge to a fine edge on books and learning, but if it is
not tempered in experience it will fail you when you need it most.
What should have brought my attention during that first encounter with the bandits
was not his lack of honour but his influence over his victim. My dutiful new pupil practiced a form of sorcery
capable of controlling one’s mind in both subtle and spectacular ways. Over the days that followed, a trend
developed that saw anyone who paid this vile sorcerer even the most minor insult become the victim of some accident
or event that, though often implausible, were always fatal. Rumours of witchcraft followed this series of deaths
and the seeds of paranoia and fear began to take root in the minds of the townsfolk. But this was not where my mind
was, I was showering myself with praise for guiding some unfortunate from the gutter and the filth and into the
light. How ironic that he has led me here instead.
My dull wits finally saw the plain truth whilst on one of our now regular patrols
of the town; I was giving one of my most valuable lectures, when we made our way towards a group of farm houses.
Some of locals had taken a dislike to my ogre friend, a fellow of worth seldom know amongst his folk, but a fact
unknown to these farmers who had lost loved ones to his kin. It was an unfortunate yet common occurrence, and one
my friend had more than enough wit and charm to defuse without the need for violence. I was absorbed in my role as
learned mentor until a gleam in the corner of my eye brought me into the moment. With a swing of his hammer, my
friend sent one of the men through the air with such force his body hit the ground a moment after his soul entered
the underworld. Fear drove the rest of the mob away with the speed of wild horses, but not before another received
a blow that would bring his days to an end. By the time I had wrested the weapon from his hand, a look of horror
had fallen upon the face of my most noble friend. “What have I done?” was all he could manage to say before falling
to his knees in shame. I knew he would never act in such a way if his mind was his own, something or someone had
taken his reason.
Laughter... That was what I heard next coming from that wretched serpent. And then
I knew! I pounced for him but the distance between us was enough for him to get away into a nearby field and use
his sorcery to cloud himself from my vision. A trick that bought enough time for my friend to get arrested and
thrown in the jail without any protest from the accused. He did not know why he had struck the two townsmen, and
being of noble spirit, welcomed any punishment offered. The townsfolk were looking for someone to blame for all the
strange deaths that had occurred since our arrival and had found a willing scapegoat. My friend would see out his
days in one of the many cells in the city jail.