In which we see Veliaf in action.
Veliaf rode quickly and quietly across the moonlit moorland, his borrowed steed moving effortlessly underneath him. It was a crisp, clear night, with the heavens unobscured by cloud, and the waxing moon shone brightly onto the grass and heather below. Coming across the remnants of an old fence, he glimpsed a torn scrap of a red woolen bandanna caught on a salient nail: Defias. Veliaf hated the word, but at least they gave him business.
The first work order in days had come in earlier that evening regarding a small homestead on the southern side of Northshire Valley. The elderly owners had been forced to flee the night before, abandoning both property and belongings, at the sight of approaching bandits on horseback, the telltale red bandannas revealing the intruders for who they were. The Defias Brotherhood was an organization of bandits and highwaymen which had sprung up several years before from the disgruntled Stonemasons, the guild which had rebuilt most of Stormwind City after the Second War. When the corrupt aristocracy in the House of Nobles had refused them payment, the workers had begun spreading disarray and unrest throughout the country, under the justification of taking what was rightfully theirs. Stealing, looting and pillaging wherever they went, they were becoming a real problem, and with the Stormwind Guard spread thin and powerless to do anything the people had begun to look to paid mercenaries to deal with the threat.
Now, as he pulled up under the tree line at the edge of a field overlooking the farm, Veliaf turned his mind towards the task at hand. He had been tasked to remove the bandits, who had apparently decided to use the buildings as a local base, although that could be a task easier said than done judging by the numbers of men below him. He counted three sitting around a campfire near the barn, and there were probably more inside. However, the lack of any perimeter guards presented an opportunity, and also gave him a key piece of information: there surely was no senior group leader, or the robbers would be better organised, and this would give him an advantage if he could surprise them.
Dismounting to tie his horse to a stout oak, Veliaf removed his sword from where it was loosely wrapped in cloth behind the saddle and attached it to his belt alongside his dagger. Leaving the mount to graze, he crept forward with one hand cautiously on his weapon to plan his attack. Thankfully the farm buildings were set out in a traditional layout that he was familiar with; the farmhouse lay to the left of a well ploughed field, the hay barn to the right, and in between were a small stone well, an outhouse and several pieces of machinery. Looking at the structures it was reasonable to assume that if the Defias needed to retreat they would head for the barn, since it was far easier to defend than the house, and therefore any surprise attack needed to come from the opposite direction to drive the men into a less defensible position. Helpfully, the light from the campfire threw dark shadows onto the barn doors, creating an ideal spot from which to ambush. Keeping an eye on the campfire, Veliaf began to descend down the slope to his right.
When he reached the bottom he was already on the far side of the barn from the fire, so he crouched and slowly moved in a wide arc until he was close to the rear barn doors – he needed to check inside to be sure that he wouldn’t be surprised from behind when he assaulted the main group. Reaching the large wooden doors, he put his hand on one and began to gently slide it open when he heard a shout from behind and the sound of running feet.
“Hey, you, stop! Get away from there! This is Defias property now!”
Veliaf swore and spun, drawing his sword to meet his challenger. Running towards him was a thuggish-looking tattooed man wearing the signature bandanna over his face. He had been spotted. With no easy means of escape, he knew he had little choice but to fight his way out, and fast, before any of the other Defias came to investigate.
“Brothers! There’s an intruder by the barn! Come and help me out!”. The man yelled again, drawing his own sword and slowing down as he drew closer. Veliaf settled into a defensive stance, sword held out in front, and let him come, realising there was no hope of surprising the others now. Abandoning his plans, he prepared to fight.
The man came at him from his right, sweeping his sword up and to the left in a simple attempt to disarm. Veliaf turned his blade to meet the attack halfway with a spray of sparks before counterattacking, jabbing forwards at the man’s chest. The man sidestepped, narrowly parrying away. He was unbalanced and on the back foot now but tried to buy himself time to recover by bringing his sword over the top and down hard on Veliaf’s block. However, he failed to see the dagger in Veliaf’s left hand as it cut upwards and across, slicing across his chest and spraying a thin mist of blood into the air. He looked down, distracted, and Veliaf quickly capitalised on this, plunging his sword hilt-deep through the man’s ribcage before withdrawing and leaving the man to collapse with a grunt.
Unfortunately, the dead thug’s cries for help had not gone unnoticed, and the alarm had been raised. From the direction of the campfire came four more men, one of whom had a bow across his back. At thirty yards he stopped and knelt to string it, while the others ran on. Veliaf grimaced; this was not turning out well at all.
The trio came at him in a V-shaped formation, with two members fanning out to the sides while the other continued on a collision course. This central man was huge, standing at least a foot taller than Veliaf with massive shoulders and powerful, muscular arms which clearly had no trouble handling his two-handed broadsword. Deciding this would be the toughest foe of the three, Veliaf stood his ground as they charged until the last moment before dropping and rolling to the left, dodging the sweeping broadsword and coming up onto his haunches as he extended his blade to slice through the unsuspecting left-hand man’s groin. As the thief fell to the ground, screaming and clutching at himself, Veliaf straightened up and turned to face the remaining two swordsmen.
Both men were coming at him together now, the broadsword on the right and the other on the left, eager to dispense with him and get to their fallen comrade who was now lying silent. In the background, the bowman had finished preparing and was nocking an arrow, ready to shoot. Veliaf knew he didn’t have the time he needed to get out of range, so as the bowman took aim he found firm footing on the blood-stained soil and furiously attacked the smaller swordsman, raining blow after blow down to prevent him moving, watching the archer out of the corner of his eye. Seeing the arrow release and hearing the string twang, he swung outside of the uncertainly held blade in front of him and leant in. Grabbing the bandit by the head with both hands, Veliaf pushed him sideways into the path of the arrow, using the momentum to throw himself out of the way. The shaft thudded into the man’s back and pierced his heart.
The bowman swore audibly but drew another arrow from his quiver. The gigantic man, who had been slightly thrown off by the sudden death of his partner, seemed to have regained his composure and was now advancing on Veliaf, broadsword menacing. It took all of Veliaf’s strength and both his weapons to block the two-handed thrust to his stomach, and there was no room for a counter-attack before the massive weapon came again, this time slicing from top left to bottom right. Parrying with both his dagger and his sword, Veliaf stepped backwards, struggling now, as an arrow sailed closely past, grazing his cheek and drawing blood.
While he tried to position his opponent to deny the bow a clear shot, the broadsword suddenly flicked up with surprising agility, scraping across his side and knocking his sword from his hand. Defenseless without warning, Veliaf backed away, trying to find a way out, but stumbled over the body of the first bandit he had killed and fell backwards, struggling for balance. The swordsman, sensing opportunity, raised his weapon to strike downwards but the attack never came. Instead the man toppled forwards, almost impaling Veliaf in the process, and lay still. Hearing a gurgle, Veliaf looked up in time to see the bowman collapse to the ground too.
Picking himself up and retrieving his sword from where it lay on the grass, Veliaf cautiously checked the bodies, but it was clear that they were both dead; the fight was over. Small, ornately carved hilts protruded from both men’s temples: removing one, it revealed itself to be attached to a small throwing dagger, the blade of which was inscribed with a small, serif letter E. Veliaf had seen no-one.
“Whoever threw these saved my life”, he mused to himself. “Still, at least I can collect my payment now.”