The whole of central Partum was watching this little parcel of land right in the middle of Oublier, one of the states governed by the Archduchy of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand. The area in question ran from the bridge over the river to the fortified city of Aachen in the north all the way across to the heavily forested domain of Forêt Verte in the southwest. It was a route for an army to pass, wide enough for soldiers to march twenty abreast without any significant obstacles. It was along this route that Lord Verrat was planning to take his combined army consisting not only of Lotharingians but also of troops from Sachsen and Söldnerland. There were also a tremendous number of undead soldiers that had been animated by the necromancers among the Fallen Knights as well as the Green King himself. It was going to be a formidable force that once across Oublier would be poised to strike into the heart of Fanolania, and this was the goal that the Green King had set to his minions and reluctant allies.
Of course, the whole scheme relied on Lord Verrat actually getting his troops across Oublier. The ruler of Maelonbourg was Archduke Xan, and he did not have much of an army to resist what was being called “the Grand Trespass of the Lotharingians.” Lord Verrat had made his intentions known early on that he was going to make this crossing with his army and had given Archduke Xan the choice of either helping or being ground into the dirt by the sheer force of the Green King’s power. True to his nature, Archduke Xan and his own merry band of miscreant cohorts opted to choose another course of action altogether. They would not fight the armies of Lord Verrat but let them pass and then close in and cut them off from possible reinforcements from Lotharingia and then attack from the enemy’s rear when they were facing the Fanolanians. To accomplish this Archduke Xan had his adventuring companions all come up with ideas and one of those was to invite friendly allies to join in the fight. Lusatia, Ange Déchu, Geldenreich, and Fanolania all answered the call and sent armies to help the Maelonbourgers create a large enough army to serve as a deterrent to any Lotharingian counterattacks. While not as large a force as that of the Green King it was certainly enough to pose a viable threat to Lord Verrat.
Naturally there were going to be variables. No fight is ever as clear cut as it seems at the onset. Dragons were involved, as was a dracolich, a lich, whatever the heck Lord Verrat is, any number of supernatural thugs on both sides who weren’t exactly fully on board with any specific plan of action; yes, this could become terribly messy in a hurry. One variable had been ignored entirely by all involved. That unknown quotient took the form of a boar hunter on this occasion. He carried a large, well-worn crossbow that packed enough of a punch to take down any feral hog. He wore a long leather coat to shield against the chill of early spring and wore a wide-brimmed leather hat that kept the glaring sun out of his eyes. He had chosen a good spot to watch all of the drama unfold during the Lotharingians journey across Oublier. He didn’t hum, or whistle, or show any emotion of any kind other than mild annoyance. This was supposed to have been his big moment. Instead, he was going to be a mere bystander as somebody else made the play that would earn all of the glory.
The bystander was accustomed to watching others as they struggled and inevitably failed. It was perhaps his greatest passion. The fear that people created when they began to flounder satisfied the bystander more than would the meat of any wild boar. This week was shaping up to be a fast rather than a feast. The only ones headed for failure was the Green King and his obscenely evil toady Lord Verrat. As nervous as Archduke Xan was, the bystander couldn’t help but be infuriated by the oblivious serendipity that kept blanketing Maelonbourg and all who resided therein. The desperation of Maelonbourg was supposed to herald the rise of the bystander and place him in a position of unquenchable power. But no. The Green King was about to be foiled prematurely by the machinations of a damned gnome. Oh sure, the plan hadn’t originally been that of the gnome, but the gnome had nevertheless stumbled on the idea and gotten it going to the point that now on the day Lord Verrat would begin his crossing nothing could stop it. The bystander was enraged by this turn of events. He would not be called upon to help. There would be nobody pleading for his intervention. No prayers of helpless angst and terror-driven panic.
The bystander leaned against a tree and sighed. He pulled his hat down a little more and surveyed the landscape as the sun began to rise. Soon the trespassers would begin their march. In little more than a week the whole escapade would end in abject disaster and a massive victory for the absurdly lucky Archduke Xan. The bystander smiled despite his anger. There was no way he would gain from this course of events. But the bystander had every reason in the world to believe that somehow Xan would screw up the aftermath. The bystander began to laugh with gruesome wickedness. Oh yes, the Archduke and his band of Troublemakers would still need help. And when they called out for him the bystander would be there to claim his rightful prize.