Reply To: The Story of Sigbold Dogpuncher

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Reynhart finally arrives, a walking stick in his fist keeping him somewhat upright. The local folk are already gathered around the fire. “I’m sorry”, he says, “sorry I kept you waiting. These old bones of mine are not easily put into motion”. With the help of one of the boys, he sits down on a wooden chair that had been brought out for him.

“Now, now. I would like to tell you all a story. As most of you know, in my younger days I was one of the adventurous sort. My arms were still strong and my eyesight keen, and at one point in my life… I must have been around as old as you”, he recounts, pointing at a young farmhand, “I decided it might be a good idea to join a travelling company of… warriors. It were dark times, then. Bandits plaguing the roads were the least of our problems. I think some of the beasts that roamed the forests in that day are exctinct by now. You most likely wouldn’t believe me if I told you about them.”

“Anyway, the company in that day was a fledgling outfit. It had been founded by a few men… I don’t even remember their names. They didn’t really act as officers, either, it was just everyone knew they had created the company. Hm. I do remember the name of our band, however. We were called “The Autumn Swords”, and flew a green banner with dark stripes and a sword embroidered upon it. That alone must have cost the founders quite a few crowns!”

Reynhart signals for wine, which is swiftly handed to him by the boy still standing beside his chair. “Now, I was one of the first to join up. I think they had only existed for a short while then, and we were still only a handful of men. Not very well equipped, either. We took on the jobs of messengers, mainly, and guarded a few caravans. I do remember, one time before Sigbold, the man I want to tell you about, one time before Sigbold joined, we had an encounter with bandits. I don’t know if they even managed to kill one of us. All in all we were quite lucky. Our luck was about to change, however.”

“We had accepted to carry a package to Bogenheim. It lay in the west, surrounded by great, dark forests. The forests, back then, they truly were a fearsome thing. Nowadays, the worst thing that could happen upon you is a stray boar, or a wolf, who I hear haven’t all been hunted down yet. Back then… there were other kinds of wolves. We were ambushed by a small pack of werewolves on the way to Bogenheim! It was only four or so of them, but each one is a match for two well-trained warriors. Their claws… huge. They are huge, and their limbs seem to consist only of muscle. And they’re fast. I have seen werewolves kill three men in the time it took a warrior to ready his sword!”

“The ambush was frightening, but we were disciplined enough to hold the line against the wolfmen coming out of the trees. We outnumbered them, as well, and I believe that was a good thing. They tore one of my comrades apart, Gebhard I think it was, but were then in turn put down with arrow, spear and sword.” Reynhart takes a long sip from his cup. “We were relieved to have survived the encounter, and made haste to reach Bogenheim. It wasn’t far away, and a quite big settlement that promised safety from the dark of the forests.”

“But luck, again, was not on our side. Another pack of werewolves had somehow picked up our scent. While we hurried toward Bogenheim, we could hear them howl in the distance. They were many… many more than before. You could tell from the different wails and bellows they made, coming from different directions. We blast out of the forest at a run, scrambling towards the city. It wasn’t walled, but the militia had also heard the howling and had already gathered around the entrance to the town. Our scout came running up toward the head of our column as we dashed past the militia, and reported he had seen the first dark fur, and that we only had two or three minutes left until they would be upon us.”

“The militia, of course, didn’t want to pay our bill alone. It was clear we couldn’t just draw a hunting pack into their town and then leave it all to them. One of the founders – I do remember his helmet, he had a real helmet already at that point – turned around and shouted orders for us to form a shieldwall right there with the militiamen, but he never stopped running. He and the quartermaster headed into the city, towards the market square, as fast as their feet would take them. Of course, we obeyed. We might have been sellswords, but we were being paid, fed and equipped, and so had no reason to reject the command. Forming a shieldwall and readying our weaponry was routine, anyway.”

“Now, what happened next, I don’t exactly know, as we were already focussing on our battle preparations. However, from what I gathered and heard from others after the battle, our founder and our quartermaster must have raced into the market square, shouted for help and a reward of several dozen crowns per head, and at the same time grabbed whatever shields and spears they could find at the merchants. Apparently, some men were willing to help out now that a lot of money was offered, and one of them was Sigbold. It all must have gone by terribly fast, because just as the werewolves came into our view, they were back from the marketplace, the quartermaster pushing spears into the hands of our newfound brothers, and our founder shoving them into the shieldwall to help strengthen the line.”

“I was looking left and right, at the faces of the new’uns, and I remember they seemed so violently surprised they didn’t even show fear. ‘I never knew what hit me’ said one of them afterwards, I still remember it!” Reynhart chuckles. “Now, the wolfbeasts were closing in really fast. There were many, nearly a dozen. And right before the first of the monsters hit our spears, I saw that one man had – in all the hurry! – not even been given a spear! Sigbold, the poor sod, was standing there just holding a wooden shield. It was too late now to hand him a weapon, as a short moment later a werewolf crashed into said shield!”

Reynhart raises his eyebrows and looks around the fire for dramatic effect. “And what did Sigbold do. He didn’t break and run, throwing shield and all concern away… no. He grabbed the rim of his shield, shoving it against the wolfman to get him off balance, and then – he started punching the beast with his bare fist! Bam, and bam, and again, hitting the snout and the ugly visage, bam and bam like it was some sort of bar fight. Around him, the beasts were howling and clawing, some of our brothers being bloodied by their onslaught, some of them already impaled upon our spears, and there stood Sigbold Dogpuncher and punched and punched a werewolf in the face!”

While he waits for the laughter to die down, Reynhart empties his wine cup. “Yes, my friends, and I do believe you can now understand why Sigbold was given the honorary title of ‘Dogpuncher’ right after the battle. We won, with a few losses on our side and more on the militia’s, but we were glad nonetheless. Had those beasts caught us out in the open, I would not be sitting here today. And we were glad, too, that we had found a new Sword, a man who was worthy of displaying our colours, a man who was not afraid to face down a werewolf with his bare fists. This, my friends, this is the story of Sigbold Dogpuncher, only one of the strange and remarkable things I witnessed when I was with the Autumn Swords.”