Snow Leopard crouched down behind a snow covered log and listened.
“No! You can’t leave us! What are you doing?”
He breathed a sigh of relief. Not The Voice then. Just an argument: ordinary human voices raised in argument and not that insidious Voice that had stalked them ever since they had become lost in this dark frozen forest.
“What is it?” whispered Grazzok gruffly.
Snow Leopard turned to the old warrior, whose deafness, or maybe the Orcish blood that reputedly ran in his veins, kept him immune from the whispering and luring in their heads. “Some kind of old ruin. There’s a camp fire and about five people – they’re not happy…”
“Should we go around?”
The ranger thought for a second. Back in his old life as Herbert the gamekeeper, knights, even time-expired veterans like Grazzok, wouldn’t have given him the time of day, but now, reinvented as Snow Leopard, they hung on his every word. Maybe that’s why he hadn’t succumbed to the Voice – it spoke to his former self, not his new persona.
“No… I think the Voice is stalking them too… and besides…”he blew into his cold hands, “there’s a fire…”
“Oh yes, do let’s go, those folks ahead I’d like to know.”
The third surviving member of their party scrambled through the undergrowth, singing to himself as usual. His constant humming and strumming, not to mention his brightly coloured clothes and weird false arm, would normally have been an anathema to Snow Leopard, and as such Morten the bard had joined the group on sufferance, but now, with the Voice calling people away to their doom each night, his music did much to drown it out.
“Very well, let’s go.”
They carefully approached the old ruin – the remains of a watchtower within which five figures struggled, silhouetted in the firelight.
“Don’t listen to it Roderick! Stay with us!”
“No! He calls and we answer! Let us go!”
With a violent shove, two figures detached themselves from the melee – the light revealing the manic expressions on their painted faces. “Just like the others…” thought Snow Leopard.
With a bound they leapt from the tower and crashed through the trees into the darkness, leaving their fellows staring dumbly at their disappearing forms.
They turned, instinctively grabbing and drawing their bows in one swift motion as Snow Leopard coughed. Their posture, taut, pained and suspicious, sagged with relief as Morten the bard stepped into view.
“Oh thank the Lords!”
Morten plucked a few strings on his fiddle and gave an extravagant bow.
“So the Voice has been speaking to you too eh?” said Snow Leopard as he made his way to the fire. “Well perhaps together we will make it to the frozen city with our minds intact.”
“Let us hope so,” said one of the archers. “It lies a day’s walk hence - if we can survive the night that is. I’m told there’s riches beyond compare in Frosgrave, and nothing can be worse than what we’ve put up with in the accursed wood… can it..?”
Another batch from my swapsies haul – some archers and other sundry warband members. The old warrior and the bard both had missing arms and so a little conversion work was required.