It would be fair to say that I am not naturally nautical, but the trip down the river Chionthar was proving to be far from arduous. Komgrirk, our pestilent kobold was wrapped in blankets hiding from the sunlight. He cowered at the back, sorry stern (Itiff fancied himself as a sailor, and would persist on correcting our terminology), of the boat occasionally helping with the rudder. I sat at the bow, up-wind of his stench, relaxing in the sunshine. I had suggested that if we tied a rope around Komgrirk’s ankles we could use him as an anchor or possibly as bait for some of the giant carp purported to lurk in the depths. Lori, however, got all preachy and said we should respect his rights as a sentient being. I tried to point out that I’d had more intelligent conversation with fungus but she drew her war hammer and I decided to rock the boat no further.
I lay back and let the gentle motion of the river lull me to sleep. A rather pleasant dream involving myself and Aravax Foxtraveler was rudely interrupted by Itiff shouting, “Bridge ahoy!”
I lazily opened one eye. Itiff had taken his self-appointed role as captain to heart, and had spent the past day overzealously shouting warnings. So far we’d had ‘pirates ahoy,’ which turned out to be a young boy fishing, ‘alligators ahoy’ – a log and ‘sea monsters ahoy,’ – a big log.
Lunar, who seemed to be taking the trip as an opportunity to obsessively sharpen her blades, looked up from an overworked oilstone and glanced towards the bridge. I sensed a change in her demeanour and I pushed myself upright. Peering over the side of the ship – sorry, gunwale – I saw a boat protected by long wooden spikes lashed in place across the bridge’s central span, barring our way.
Itiff dropped the sail and manned the oars. He is surprisingly good at rowing, but the current was strong and despite his efforts our boat drifted onto the barricade and became ensnared.
From the bridge’s parapet a muscled ogre appeared, holding a considerable sized boulder above his head. “I iz Dadolt Rock Chucker,” he said.
Now I do appreciate a name that imparts useful imformation about the owner, hence my own moniker, so I replied, “Well met, good sir. I am Tarquin The Honest. It would be rather splendid if you could move your boat so we may continue on our humble quest.”
“This is a toll bridge. We wants half your wares else we deads you,” he said.
I grimaced. Partly at his massacre of the common tongue, partly at the thought of our possible massacre, but mostly because if he’d only been a troll rather than an ogre I could have delivered a rather funny witticism about it being a troll bridge. Alas my comedic genius would have to wait for another day.
Itiff leapt from our boat and began to scale the bridge. Dadolt Rock Chucker drew the boulder back and I suspected he was about to demonstrate why he was so named. I struck a magical pose and blue bolts zapped from my fingers, hitting Dadolt in the eyes. He moaned and dropped the rock, which crashed upon his head.
I was about to congratulate myself when two boulders slammed into our boat. Fortunately they both missed me. Unfortunately, they also missed Komgrirk.
I glanced left and right where on the banks more ogres were reloading massive slings.
“Use your bow,” I shouted to Lunar, but instead of loosing off an arrow she dived headfirst into the river like a rat leaving a sinking ship.
Itiff was making heavy weather of scaling the bridge, whereas Lori, who was half his height, was nearly at the top.
Dadolt reappeared above the parapet and once again raised his rock. I had been abandoned on the boat and decided it was time for desperate measures. Chanting a powerful mantra I loosed bolts of power at my adversaries. The motion of the boat must have affected my aim because I missed both of the ogres on the bank. Dadolt, however, I hit squarely in the face and again he dropped the rock on his head.
Lori leapt over the parapet and added to Dadolt’s woes with her war-hammer.
On the banks things we’re looking up too. My magical near miss had incinerated a woozle bush, frightening away one ogre. His compatriot was busily vomiting, having been stabbed in the back by Lunar with a rather special dagger.
Itiff finally dragged himself onto the bridge when what I can only assume was Dadolt’s bigger brother strode into the fray. Itiff slashed him with his moon blade, which only seemed to enrage the giant ogre. With a swing of his massive club he sent Itiff tumbling backwards. The ogre raised his club again, preparing to deliver a blow that would surely kill the stunned ranger. I let loose with my magic and the beast faltered. It was clear that I could do little more from the boat and I leapt bravely for the bridge so that I could offer assistance. I certainly had no thoughts of plundering any treasures before the others found them. Nothing could have been further from my mind.
Regrettably, my feet found not firm stonework but slime covered rock and I slipped into the fast-flowing water and was dragged beneath the bridge. Still, I did not panic. In a loud, strong voice I called for assistance although I do believe Komgrirk must have been seeking help at the same time because my colleagues later swore they’d heard high pitched panicked screams for help.
I floated beneath the arch like the solitary entry in a game of Pooh Wizards (*1) but Lori had heard my manly requests for assistance and heaved a rope to me, which I ably grabbed as I floated past.
Lori heaved me onto the parapet where I immediately regained my poise and certainly didn’t squirm about spluttering like a freshly landed fish.
In my absence Itiff and Lunar had finished off Dadolt’s brother, while Dadolt himself lay unconscious, courtesy of Lori’s war-hammer and one too many dropped rocks to the head.
I dried myself instantly with some rather impressive magic and cast a withering look at Lunar who appeared to be somewhat covered in puke. Raising my chin in the air I tossed my freshly washed locks like the mane of a fine stallion, knowing that I, Tarquin The Honest, had defeated the River Ogres of Chionthar.
(*1) Vlad the Pooh was a barbarian king known for tossing his prisoners into the river so they floated beneath a bridge. The one that came out first would be allowed to live while the others were used as target practice.