“Have you ever liberated horses?”
they were just a few words, but the kind of words that start plans rolling like pebbles on a hillside. Small pebbles that set off larger ones until suddenly there is a landslide of quickly made plans to do something dangerous. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would surely have spoken against it, but common sense had apparently taken a short holiday that evening, leaving in its wake only a mischievous spirit.
On the bright side, they had made the precaution to forbid Onyxic to teleport any horses. There are several reasons for this. Teleported horses tend to leave piles of poo where they just stood, for example, and they get a little upset when they’re suddenly whisked away. The most important reason, however, was mainly that no one there quite trusted the mage with all the disappearing and reappearing.
Just what is liberating horses? It’s a sacred and noble duty, whereupon a few brave adventurers stand up to the tyrant guards of Freeport, sneak up to a herd of horses, and free them from the cruel oppression of their current owners.
“An act of mercy,” as Letty said.
“No less then duty.” According to Cechir. “They’re in a sad plight. Truly terrible.”
“What if the Overlord rode one of ‘em? I heard he do smell bad.” This from Morian.
“And horses have good senses of smell,” Letty reminded them all. “That would be awful for them.”
“A-and I heard he’s gained weight.” Shard chimed in.
Bird didn’t say much, just grinned with a mad sort of glee that reflected what the rest of them were feeling but concealing behind grave masks befitting such an important duty.
“Do you plan to let the horses go?” Jethal asked.
“Hmm? O’ course not!” Mori laughed a little. “We’ll find ‘em good homes in Qeynos.”
Taper thought about it for a moment. “Do I get to keep a horse?”
“Only if ye give it a good home.” The Halfling answered. Good homes were important for the poor things, after all.
As they gathered their things, Jethal asked, “Do we get to kill anyone?”
Cechir answered, “No killing anyone!”
“Ruins the fun.” Mori added. “Just punch the guards a few times.”
“What about the horses?” “Do we punch the horses?” Taper and Jethal asked at almost the same time.
“No punchin’ horses!”
“We can hardly punch the poor things we are going to liberate, after all.” Cechir pointed out reasonably. “We’re saving them from oppression.”
And so it was that the group headed out. Now, the Halfling had a long habit of liberating horses that she did not particularly wish for certain leaders to learn about. Saving the poor things from the cruel clutches of the Overlord had been a longstanding goal of hers, and something she had done occasionally when the urge to cause trouble in Qeynos became dangerous. Better to cause trouble for Freeport than accidentally set South Qeynos on fire in a prank gone wrong… and somehow pranks had a way of going wrong. Of course, she did not particularly wish Klumpp to learn about her missions of mercy. He did not have much of a sense of humor and might be inclined to view liberation more as ‘stealing’ – which of course it was NOT. For that matter, Dalaene did not have much of a sense of humor some times, either.
That being said, this group seemed likely to work out well, so Morian led the small company to a herd of horses she’d scouted earlier in the week. She’d noticed several promising looking mounts and even a unicorn or two, which seemed to be popping up more commonly these days. The usual guard force of three men was there in the usual makeshift and badly constructed tent. As might be expected, the Freeport Militia kept several herds of horses for mounts and remounts. She doubted any of this herd would be the personal horse of the militia officers – those were much better guarded within the city itself – but loosely kept herds like this were not terribly uncommon if one knew where to look. The Halfling had long since known where to scout.
The company consisted of Morian herself, Cechir, Jethal, Bird (Jhayel), Onyxic, and Taper. Shard decided to stay in Qeynos after a little urging. She’d have the tea ready when they returned. The plan was simple. Leaving their horses behind, the group would approach the herd on foot, deal with the guards, and take the horses they wanted. How would they deal with the guards? Okay, so maybe the plan wasn’t that well worked out. But it was a plan. Sort of.
The details of what actually happened exactly are lost in the darkness of night, but a few might be revealed for the reader who has not yet given up in boredom. Taper did, indeed, steal a horse. Had the horse for all of about ten minutes before it jumped a fence and he – not being a terribly great rider when drunk, it seems – went flying off and into a tree. Things might have gone badly for him at that point, except that Onyxic, forbidden to teleport horses, saw him as a substitute target. Taper was suddenly and angrily teleported onto the back of someone elses’s horse, who by chance turned out to be Jethal.
Jethal was not pleased to be suddenly sharing his horse with someone else. But as Taper was sort of draped over the horses’s rump like a sack of potatoes and cursing so vituperatively that even the horse was alarmed, there was little he could do. Taper’s curses were, oddly, a good means for everyone to stay closer together.
And actually, Jethal was riding something like four horses at once, standing on the backs of two of them and guiding the set with make-shift halters. That he made a good target for the chasing guards was an issue until Taper appeared in a muted flash. The guards assumed Jethal had summoned some sort of angry demon spirit – from the cursing – and chose another target at that point.
The next likely target was none other than Bird, who – not quite able to manage Jethal’s act of insanity – had chosen two of the mounts of his liking and was also riding them standing up. He had a good deal more control over them than might be expected, though, and if he did not have four it seemed likely that he had simply not had time to gather more. It had been a rather hurried affair, after all. So, though the guards were using his white hair as a good target in the dark night, they failed to actually hit the boy directly, or either of his horses, though one arrow did get lodged in the pack he wore on his back. It was stopped from going further through the pack or the elf by the single book Bird ever carried with him, which happened to include the list of things he was no longer allowed to do. “Getting killed” and “Getting Captured” are both on the list, so the book provided a good means of avoiding either.
Letty chose a few horses of her liking to liberate from their cruel oppressors, but being much smarter, only rode one of them, the others strung behind her on a lead rope. The small ratonga was an accomplished rider, however, and handled her mount well. Well enough that she steered into one of the guards firing at Bird and smacked them hard with a giant rolling pin she had attached to her belt. Judging by the way the man dropped, he would never look at rolling pins the same way again.
Onyxic was riding one horse and had another in tow. She was not such a great rider in the dark of night and without a saddle, but compensated for this by riding more slowly and simply teleporting herself and the horses ahead every so often. Neither horse liked this in the least, but both were powerless to stop it. However, one of the chasing guards did get a face full of horse poo rather unexpectedly, which is another fairly effective way to ‘deal’ with a chasing guard.
The one remaining guard had chosen smaller targets, thinking this safe. Cechir seemed to enjoy himself immensely, laughing loudly throughout the escapade. The laughing attracted the guard’s attention and he shot a few arrows in the ratonga’s direction without really bothering to aim or having much chance for a successful hit. As for the Halfling, she actually rode on the same horse with Cechir, bareback and holding tightly to the mane. She was used to riding, of course, but her usual mount was a pony befitting her size. This monster of a horse they both rode was twice Daisy’s size and if it weren’t for her willingness to apply a rolled up newspaper to its nose, might have put up more of a fight when chosen. This was not the halfling’s usual way of liberating horses, actually, but she was using a trick she’d seen done once before. Being a druid with a good aptitude with animals, she’d convinced a pack of wolves to chase the remaining animals of the herd along in their wake.
One of the wolves, seeing the Halfling and the ratonga as targets of the remaining guard, willingly bit the guard sharply on a rather tender spot. The guard, being shocked, misfired his bow at that point, the arrow going straight up into the air and then coming down moments later to THUNK into the metal of his helm. While saved from death, he nonetheless folded quietly into a pile of uncomfortable guard, and as luck would have it, did not sit very easily for the next day or so, at which time he finally received healing for the bite.
As it was, the group escaped uninjured with about half the herd. The other half were lost somewhere in the fields with all the running and eventually made their way back to their cruel oppressors. As Mori would later say, “Even horses can be stupid.”
Shard was wide awake when they returned but – unsurprisingly- had not made tea. She was a bundle of nerves, and for some reason was not greatly pleased when offered a horse. When Taper made an off color comment, he learned once again a lesson that Bird could have told him already – Shard has an excellent sense of aim and depth perception. Hence, the only injury of the evening was really Taper’s nose. But as he probably deserved it, no one minded.The wolves the Halfling convinced to aid them in the liberation mission were pleased to receive a large sack of bones a day or two later. For some strange reason, each bone was quite separated from the others – something none of the wolves entirely understood, but chalked up to the two-legs doing their strange strange things. The meat still attached to some of the bones, however, was deemed acceptable. The wolves were pleased.