Lambert was ably assisted in matters of extended negotiation by Draak, a lizardman he had hired as a guard in Greyhawk. Draak was one of the swamp lizardmen, immensely strong, but prone to speaking in monosyllables when conversing in Oeridian, the one non-lizardman tongue that he could understand. He had been banished from his tribe for carrying a more literal curse than Lambert's - for Draak cast no shadow, an affliction set upon him by the gods. He had wandered the Demesnes as a sword-for-hire until meeting with Lambert and negotiating employment.
Travelling with them was Alvíssa, an elven woman skilled at playing the lute and singing. She was travelling across the Demesnes, and had sought passage with Lambert for safety and companionship, paying for her place on the wagon with songs of legend and old elven lore around the evening campfires.
The final passenger of the first wagon was Kyros, a human fire wizard of some renown for his exploits. Known to help those in need, he was also famed for his vindictive way with those who had caused them to need help. One eye stared from his dark Suloise face, which always seemed split in a grin, either of humour or violent anticipation. Often sitting on his shoulder was his familiar - a salamander the size of a large rat. Lizard-like, it flitted about amongst the wagon and its cargo of clothing, woven goods, spices, and woodwork.
The caravan had been travelling westward from Greyhawk for six days. The three wagons and their owners had agreed to travel together for safety and companionship along the road from Greyhawk, through Dyvers, to Verbobonc.
They had been travelling for half an hour after a stop for lunch, on a fine sunny day in the early autumn. Ranleigh, the elf travelling with the two merchants who owned the wagon currently at the back of the train, had ridden ahead on his silver horse to scout the road. The merchants, a human named Oskven and a dwarf named Dommedel, also had two guards in their employ. The middle wagon was owned by a human named Bryon, who was travelling with his wife Nesha, their two young children Shora and Peter, and two hired guards.
Following the lunch stop, Kyros had elected to sit in the middle wagon, entertaining the children with tales of his magical exploits. He was just telling them about the time he burnt an evil wizard when there was a sudden commotion. A group of bandits leapt out from the bushes on both sides of the road and brandished swords threateningly.
Draak aimed his crossbow at one and let fly - the quarrel hit the bandit clean in the head, dropping him to the ground. The guards on the last two wagons jumped out on to the road and starting defending the caravan with clashes of sword and shield. Alvíssa bounded off the rear of the lead wagon to join the fray, as Lambert worked to calm the panicked horses. Kyros concentrated for a second, pulling a pinch of sulphur and iron filings from a pouch as he intoned words of power. He directed his will at the three bandits attacking the right flank of the middle wagon, and they were set upon by a rain of fire from the heavens, causing them to cry in pain and terror.
Two bandits attempted to leap on to the rear of Lambert's wagon as he urged the horses onward. One stumbled and fell, but a third grabbed hold and clambered aboard. By the time he had climbed on, Draak had put a sword through his companion and was advancing menacingly on the newcomer.
"Draak kill with sword!"
The bandit quickly assessed his chances against the seven foot tall lizard man with the bloody sword. "I surrender!"
"Like Draak care!"
Meanwhile Kyros had created a pillar of fire which he was shaping into a humanoid form and moving towards another bandit. The bandit was set upon by this animated flame, and fell to the ground srceaming. Alvíssa was in trouble, having taken a sword blow to the leg.
Draak, seeing the danger to Alvíssa, yelled at Lambert, "Stop and fight!" He jumped off the back of the moving wagon and charged at the bandit who was preparing another blow for Alvíssa. "Yaaaahh!! Kill kill kill kill kill!!" The bandit, deciding discretion was the better part of valour, turned and fled for his life.
Kyros was startled by screaming behind him. He turned to see two of the bandits climbing on to the middle wagon from its left, having dealt with the guards who had jumped to defend that side. One grabbed seven-year-old Shora, who screamed and tried to escape his grip. Risking the use of more magic, Kyros cast a spell of apportation and tried to pull the child back. The bandit released her, and Kyros magically pushed him off the wagon. By this time, however, the second bandit had grabbed Shora's younger brother and was making a dash for the side of the road.
Kyros jumped off to follow him. The bandit who had grabbed Shora swung at him with his sword, but Kyros used the power of apportation to lift his feet up over his head, leaving the unfortunate bandit upside down with his shoulders on the road. Letting him hang like that, Kyros bounded into the bushes after the bandit who had taken Peter. Draak crossed the road to take up the pursuit as well, but broke off when he saw the bandit had disappeared amongst the trees and Kyros had to slow down to track him.
By this time the few remaining bandits had decided enough was enough and fled the scene. Four of their number lay dead, while two were unconscious and bleeding. Nesha and the merchants attended to their wounded guards and Alvíssa, while Draak waited for Lambert to return with the lead wagon, which he did a few minutes later.
"Ranleigh!" shouted Lambert. "It's good you're back. We've been attacked by bandits."
"Is everyone well?" said Ranleigh as he rode up.
"Alvíssa and two of the guards are injured. But Peter's been kidnapped and taken into the forest. Kyros has gone after him. We need to get more people out here - we're too weakened to mount a rescue. Can you ride back to Bentford and raise a militia to come and scour the forest?"
"Of course. Will you be all right until they get here?"
"I think so. We killed some of them and the rest fled. And we have two prisoners who we can get to tell us where they might be taking Peter. Just ride back and send the town guard out here as fast as you can."
An hour's walk into the forest, he noticed signs of a clearing and a campsite ahead. Approaching stealthily, he saw five bandits packing up tents and supplies into backpacks. Peter was tied up in the middle of the camp.
Kyros quietly cast a resist fire spell on himself, to protect him from what he was about to do. He edged carefully to the edge of the clearing, then stepped boldly into it. He snapped his fingers, causing a pillar of flame to engulf his body.
"All right, who wants some of this?!"
The bandits turned to stare at him in horror. As one they turned and fled into the woods for their lives.
"Well, that was easy."
Kyros extinguished the flames and ran over to untie Peter, who was shouting, "Wow! That was cool, Mr Wizard! Do it again!"
"Later, later." Kyros quickly cast mage sight, allowing him to detect any enchanted items in the vicinity. His eye showed him the glow of magic from within one of the backpacks. He picked it up, grabbed Peter by the hand, and started leading him back to the road.
The militia group rode on down the road. A few miles further along, they saw walking towards them a man and a young boy.
"Kyros!" yelled Alvíssa.
As they rode up, the militia leader hailed them. "Have you rescued the boy?!"
Kyros looked down at Peter, then back up at the militia leader with a sarcastic grin. "Are you blind?"
"Delicious," said Lambert. "My compliments to the cook."
"Draak want red meat!"
Taking care not to trigger any traps which might be lurking in the lock mechanism, Kyros used a lockmaster spell to open the lock from across his room, then carefully pried open the lid with a knife. Inside gleamed silver coins, sixty Greyhawk dollars, as well as four golden crowns. Tucked into a corner, however, was a small crystal phial, half full of a golden fluid, that glowed in Kyros' mage sight with the radiance of magic.
He cast a spell to analyse the potion. While gathering the mana, he felt the tingling sensation that warned him that the mana in the immediate area had been drained and he was drawing it in from further afield. Sparks and multicoloured glows ran up his arms as he performed the gestures of the spell. He knew, too late, the strain on the local mana field was too much, and that the area would be drained of mana for the next few weeks. The spell worked, however, and gave him the insight that the potion would restore bodily vitality.
It was a sculpture, carved from a fine-grained black wood, of a horse. One leg was burnt off, and the remainder charred, but it was clearly a work of great artistry and powerful emotional quality. Alvíssa considered it carefully, and slept, pondering it in her dreams.
He didn't sleep well that night.
"I have come across something that might help you," he declared, placing the potion bottle on the table in front of Alvíssa. He then turned and walked out the door without another word.
Alvíssa looked quizzically at Lambert. "Should I trust him?"
Lambert shrugged. "He saved Peter."
"I suppose so..." Alvíssa unstoppered the phial and sniffed the contents cautiously. She put it to her lips and drank the contents. her eyes widened as she felt its effects on her body.
"Well?" asked Lambert.
"I feel... better. And... my leg!" Alvíssa stood up, carefully, then put all her weight on her wounded leg. "It's better!"
Lambert took the opportunity to take some of the scavenged weapons and armour from the bandits to the local blacksmith. He went there with Kyros, who was carrying his new chest.
"Well," said the smith, assessing the pieces. "These swords all need a lot of work. See here, the edges are all nicked. Need to grind those back, smooth, sharpen... days of work. And this armour is full of sword holes!" He shook his head. "It'll take a good deal of work to get any of this back to saleable condition. I can give you 1200 dollars for the lot."
"1200?!" Lambert nearly exploded. "This is worth at least twice that much! 2500!"
The smith laughed heartily. "If you can find anyone to offering that much for them, good luck to you, my little merchant."
"I take it the negotiations are at an end, then?" said Kyros, stepping forward. "Could you make a key for this box for me? I seem to have misplaced mine." He thrust the chest at the smith.
The smith examined the lock mechanism. "Sure. Five dollars. It'll be ready tomorrow."
"I'll give you ten if you have it ready tonight."
"Done." The smith shook hands with Kyros.