September 14th -- Farrowfield
Moira padded silently through the darkness, skills honed hunting the fell beasts of Zuma adapting effortlessly to the pastures and twisting lanes of Farrowfield. Her battered leather tunic and breeks seemed to meld into the long shadows cast by the westering moon, the oiled chain beneath held silent and secure, her small buckler wrapped in black cloth to conceal the lustre of its steel rim and the wicked blade strapped to its back.
Under normal circumstances she had little interest in hunting men, but her quarry tonight were an exception: mountebanks and charlatans of the first rank whose fatal mistake was to cross the former judge. In a now half-forgotten life Supreme Justice Lady Moira Dubhaine, Marchioness of Negev, Marshal of the Fontan Corps of Guides and President of the Fontan Bureau of Irregular Warfare had sat in judgement of many such parasites and though the obligation to mete justice no longer determined the course of her life, it ill behove her to let men of such vile baseness continue about their business unhindered.
In recent days the tax collectors as they styled themselves had exchanged the arms and insignia of Caerwyn for those of Asylon and commoners throughout Farrowfield continued to pay them in the mistaken belief that they were officers of Marchioness Daenah's court. Such crimes were not unprecedented, but it disturbed Moira that this particular gang had managed so effectively to impose themselves on all and sundry in the chaos of Caerwyn's collapse.
Of a day she'd shadowed them from hamlet to hamlet watching how their cudgels and swords cowed all opposition, just as they did that of the merchants they met en route and forced to pay impromptu tolls for free passage. Then at night they'd settle themselves into one of the several inns frequented by travellers of a shady character, spending much of their ill-gotten coin on coarse pleasures whilst Moira passed the hours of darkness concealed in nearby underbrush or a conveniently placed tree's branches.
Tonight however her quarry were encamped in a small copse off the main highway to Golden Farrow, no doubt engaged in some underhand business which required special precautions. It was a decision none of them would live to regret.
A single sentry stood lazily by the picket line guarding a string of moth-eaten mules and the captain's rangy horse. He was dead before his body even touched the ground, mouth covered by the heavy gauntleted hand which had forced him back onto the short-bladed sword which slipping between his first cerebral vertebrae and his brainpan severed his spinal cord leaving his suffocating body paralysed such that his last moments would be spent staring helplessly at his executioner.
Moira withdrew the blade and without ceremony cleaned it on the fallen man's travel-stained tabard as the horse looked on disinterestedly. It was the first of more than a dozen deaths that night as Moira slipped from bedroll to bedroll with blade in hand, clean executions giving way to a pathetic excuse for a melee when her grim work was discovered by three horsemen - clearly the men the tax collectors had camped here to meet. They rushed into the camp carelessly with a chorus of whoops, strong liquor spilling from leather bottles as they called taunts to their confederates, only to pull their mounts to an abrupt halt as they found Moira standing over the captain's dismembered corpse, his disembodied head in one hand and the blooded sword in the other. The rest of the encampment was by now proverbially silent.
"What the...," even as the stunned riders groped for their weapons Moira was in their midst, cutting saddle girths and spooking the horses with a series of sharp, ululating, keening cries - tactics honed holding the line against the finest cavalry elf-land could muster. She watched the three riders pitch towards the ground as if in slow motion, and moving instinctively with a speed and economy that even sober they couldn't have matched she took their lives as carelessly as she might swat flies.
Content that her business was complete she gathered up the tokens of her victims' crimes and strapped their bodies to the horses and pack mules, a grim harvest to present for the Marchioness...