Night had fallen, cold and still in the Draining Swamp. At first, the captured harpy had stubbornly refused to respond to Gottschalk’s interrogation, but once he had begun to challenge its dedication to the fell Cult of Equalitarianism, it was hard to keep the she-monster quiet.
Gorm had enough of its squawking though. “We need leave. Time to find other land. Dinglesfuhr lost. Equal-i-tarry-ones ruin it.”
Despite his primitive mode of speech, Gottschalk had to agree with the large barbarian. The harpy, of course, didn’t.
“Oh, that would be just fitting!” it exclaimed. “Going to Oppress Another Land with Your Amaranthine Ways? You humans; you males especially! I look forward to the day when we Equalize you all! The Vale Cannot Tolerate Your Kind! Purging you all from Dinglesfuhr is not enough! I call upon Uncle Steel Dwarf to free me now, so that I may gouge out your eyes and suck the blood from their sockets, so that I might silence you and your Hateful Intolerant Oppressive Speech forever! How about I rip off your heads and display it for all to see? That would certainly silence you! Won’t that be artistic?”
It then shook its still-damp and filthy feathers at the two men and made to look like it was holding one of their heads in its clawed hand. The wet stench of the creature was almost as unpleasant as its vitriol words and attempts at intimidation.
They waited for a moment, but despite its Equalitarian entreaty, the she-monster was not saved by its fell deity.
Gorm yawned and pulled out his great axe. He raised it high and readied it for a final, downward arch that would terminate through most of the harpy’s body. Being a barbarian, he was wise enough to stop listening to the creature soon after its tirade had begun. “Me not give you oppression... but me will give you impression!”
Seeing that its doom was nigh, the harpy suddenly began to cry. “I beg your forgiveness, gentle human! I misspoke! I understand now- talking about ripping off your heads and dining on the innards was just... a little too much!”
Gottschalk didn’t know what to make of the pathetic creature. Only moments before, it had been threatening them with horrible violence. Now it was a mewling wreck.
Gorm simply shrugged and made ready to bring his axe quickly down upon the harpy’s head again.
“Wait,” said Gottschalk reluctantly. “It is no bird-lady anymore, nor a cat-lady: it would be wrong to slay it. It is defeated and defenseless.”
Gorm lowered his axe and raised his eyebrow suspiciously. “You think it needs feet... or even fence? It just telling you what it want you to hear!”
Gottschalk smiled at his friend. He got out some rope to tie the creature up. "We should think ahead. Perhaps it's best to not slay it now."
Gorm re-slung his axe and made for the benighted woods. “Me be back in minute. And me hope to not hear harpy anymore when me squat!”
* * *
The pre-dawn light bathed the Olympian ramparts in hues of purple and blue. The two shivered and watched as yet another crowd of goblins broke against the walls. Their crazed, inhuman bodies and wailing stood in stark contrast to the sylvan surroundings.
The monsters did not belong here.
Unlike Dinglesfuhr though, this settlement was not letting the goblins overrun them. On the contrary, the people of Caelum Mount, a land just a few miles to the west, had constructed barriers to keep the invaders out. Though many might scoff at the Mage-Lords that they followed, most reasonable folk would realize how wise these humans were in taking such an approach.
The goblins, for their part, pushed against the white walls that blocked them. They screamed and demanded entry into the lands thus-far kept safe from goblin entry. Valiant defenders, humans dressed in the plumed helms and bronze breastplates noted for in this land, fired their curved bows from atop the walls and fought back the invading inhumans with bronze spear, broad sword, and shield.
One fought especially valiantly. He appeared to be the humans’ captain: his armor was golden and he wore an azure and scarlet cape. The goblins were many though, and soon began to get the upper hand.
Gottschalk looked to Gorm and both realized that they had no more time to lose. The men rushed behind the unsuspecting goblins and hacked into them with their weapons. The foul creatures screamed and flailed as they died.
The other Caelumians cheered when they realized that their captain was saved. The man removed his Olympian helm and shook both Gorm and Gottschalk’s hands. He was an older fellow, but he was clean-shaven and his head still showed much blond hair.
“Thanks for the save, but even if we had lost this battle, it would still help us to learn how to win the war. That’s what I’m all about!”
Gorm approached the captain and patted him on the back with his mighty hand. “If we not save you, that would have been your last battle... and war!”
The man laughed and gave Gorm a hearty clap on the back in return. The Caelumians bowed and made way to let them enter, when suddenly, a sentry yelled out a warning.
Gottschalk looked up then and, to his shock, he saw that it was the harpy- and yet the she-creature had changed! It was larger and somehow had come to incorporate the lower body of a lion.
“How it escape?” asked Gorm. “Me thought you tied it up and left it in Draining Swamp?”
Gottschalk only shook his head. “It is a griffin now! And it is heading for us!”
“Me told you it was cat-lady, Gott-chalk!” Gorm ducked as the creature flew over him and soared towards the captain.
“And it always tries to get a head!”