Here's the beginning of the one of the stories I'm working on. It's based on a mini-campaign I developed a year or so ago for the Swords & Wizardry: White Box.
The wail cut through darkened forest like a knife, slicing the twilight’s ambience with a haunted urgency. The tall man in black paused, his large hand reaching out to signal his companion to stop.
“Vat is it?” the man’s companion asked seemingly oblivious to the tall man’s perceived threat.
“A child. In the distance.”
The companion, an olive skinned man dressed ostentatiously in bright colors, titled his head in the wail’s direction. His face drained of color. He tried to speak, stumbled over the words, and restarted:
“Tis unnatural! By the gods that cannot be human.”
The tall man nodded and began to walk forward. His companion stood in place, mouth agape; then slowly shook his head and followed in his companion’s footsteps.
They walked silently, slowly easing in the direction of the wail.
Through a clearing in the trees, the companions saw what looked to be a woman hunched over, holding something tightly in her arms. A gentle sobbing could be heard from the form of the woman. The wailing, at the moment, had abated.
The companions stood, crouched in the darkness, surveying the scene. Trying to distinguish if what they saw was real. The forest was known to play tricks on those weak of will, but the tall man in black’s mind was a fortress; his will a portcullis allowing only what was known and real to enter.
Still, they waited, watching. The hunched figure would shake and then moan; moan and then shake. Its body racked in fits of sobbing.
The tall man stood, hand reaching down to un-shaft the axe clipped to his side.
“Vat are you doing?” his companion asked, his voice a shaky whisper.
The tall man gripped his axe, knuckles popping in the process. He started forward, a proud, determined gait. Suddenly, in a blur, the hunched figure threw off its tattered robes, the bundle it once held so tightly, fell forgotten to the forest bed.
A crossbow bolt screamed past the tall man’s ear; his reflexes allowing him to deftly dodge the bolt by a fraction of an inch. Another bolt flew at him from the opposite direction; ting! the bolt was quickly deflected by the flat side of his axe.
The once hunched figure stood at full height, sword drawn; a crooked grin spreading across its face.
“Yer gold,” it said in a matter of fact manner, like it was asking for bread.
The tall man stared at the highwayman. Silently soaking in the arrogance like a sponge.
“C’mon, then. Yer gold. ‘And it over, if ye know wot’s good fer ye.”
The tall man’s muscles clenched, his arm one second away from flinging the axe; one second away from cleaving the man like the arrogant swine he was.
“Friend. Friend! Vat is going on here?!”
The tall man’s companion stepped from his hiding place, sliding around the man like he was nothing more than a tree blocking his passage.
“Friend. It’s been so long we talked. Come. Let us remember old times!”
The highwayman gazed at the brightly colored man, his head titled like a dog. His mouth moved in odd twitches, like the underside of his lip was being bitten repeatedly.
The brightly colored man stood in front of the thief, his hand slowly reaching out to pat the man on the shoulder. The highwayman slowly sheathed his sword, righted his head and grinned.
“Oi, cousin! Good tah see ye! Come, come we ‘ave lots to catch up on!”
The highwayman turned and started walking to a small hut, expertly hidden in the distance. The brightly colored man turned to his companion, winked and followed his “cousin” into the hut.
The tall man in black stood in silence. From the corner of his eyes he could see two other highwaymen in the distance slowly resuming their hiding spots. The man let out a disgruntled sigh,
He knew what his companion had done. While the highwayman was distracted he had cast one of his charm glamors on the man. Under this glamor, the highwayman would mistakenly think he was the gypsy’s cousin for at least an hour or so. Enough time to gather information or destroy the hive of thievery; or both.
The man in black clipped his axe to his belt and followed the gypsy into the hut.
The inside of the hut was remarkably spacious; enough room for a table, several chairs, and a fireplace. The tall man could see a vine curtain in the far corner of the room, probably concealing the entrance to a path leading into the hillside. This, the man thought, was probably where the “real” thieves’ quarters were located.
The room itself was empty of life save that of his, the companion, and the highwayman. The highwayman offered the gyspy a seat close to the fire place, taking great care to make sure his “cousin” was comfortable. He seemed to pay no heed to that of the tall man; this came as no surprise, however, this wasn’t the first time the man had seen the charm glamor in action.
The man in black took this precious time to investigate his surroundings. Highwaymen were nothing new along the roads and forests of Misthaven, but he had never seen ones dressed as these. The highwaymen he had seen dressed themselves in plain leather armor they had made themselves or, more typically, stolen off hapless travelers. This highwayman, and the ones he’d seen outside, wore highly polished, black leather armor which covered their bodies from the boots to the floppy hats they wore on their heads. He noticed their bracers featured a symbol he’d never seen before in his travels or his studies.
The symbol looked to be a lidless eye with batwings sprouting from its sides and a mass of tentacles sprouting from its bottom…