You could see it in the distance, an orange haze that seemed to rise above the mist and stretch out toward the clouds. Such a sight could be seen only as close as they were now, and such a sight was just the sort of thing you wanted to see when you were searching for men off the road, as they were. Ulbarich was peering through a murk of fog and condensation at that very moment. One hand was on the sword at his hip. The other was clutching a fistful of faded stone to steady him. Here they were in the ruins of a temple - and one that had been recently destroyed - yet he did not feel at ease, and he did not feel closer to his god.
Perhaps they were all simply victims of circumstance.
Stone structures had been sundered by orcish magic, of the sort that could peel flesh from bones in a crack and a flash. Half-shattered panes of stained glass jutted out from these ruined buildings. Vicious trees that cut and killed, some stained with blood as well as color, some forming towers as many as five stories high with whole sections of wall missing and only the mist to conceal their final ending point. Useless wrought iron, rusted from the inattentive dead, hung twisted and broken from many a ruined archway. Ulbarich did not like fighting in weather or conditions such as this. He also did not like the thought of these vagabonds escaping the justice they were due for the crime they had done. There was going to be a reckoning, even if he needed to force the issue.
There was their fire.
So it was that he was creeping between half-buried structures, sliding through snow as though it was always his home, and still gripping that sword of his. Not a sound came from his party. Carolmin had the rest of the men waiting to strike, at different points around the temple, but this party was to be the tip of the spear. There was Captain Uthral right behind him, and twice as quiet as himself - quite a feat, considering the fact that he could have come upon a mouse without its knowing - but her bow was at the ready, and her eyesight was keen. Ulbarich did not ask how she had become so useful as a soldier without proper training. It was not his place to know, and in any case he did not see any upside to asking.
At least, not right now.
"There are at least thirty of them, sir," Bravin murmured quietly.
Here was the man with his massive maul and his angry shoulders, peering darkly and belligerently into the mist. At least thirty. Bravin never overstated a number in his entire life, and the first time his scouting reports came back wrong would be the first time Ulbarich had ever received a bad bit of information from him. He and the other Einhajar were as good as a soldier could be without becoming an officer. Most of them disdained such things, because they knew how enlisted men felt about officers, and they did not want to be seen as the enemy. Ulbarich took a knew behind a blown-out section of wall. The beam hovered over them, yet cast no shadows on the ground.
Their hiding would have to be done in plain sight.
"You have the arrow prepared?" Ulbarich asked.
"Ready," Bravin replied in the same quiet tone. "I'm not sure how far it will reach, sir. They might not see it."
Bravin only nodded in as grim a fashion as a man could.
Ulbarich began by stripping away the fur lined coat from his shoulders. The massive buckle which held his sword-belt in place was undone, and the cloak fell away, into the snow. Now the belt was back on, over the leather uniform that held most of his plate. Vambraces and pauldrons were not enough, of course, if someone fired a pile arrow at you from only a few feet away. Ulbarich was going to have to watch his own back. In this fog, an archer's effectiveness would be reduced tremendously, but Captain Uthral insisted that she would be just fine. Ulbarich had no reason not to believe her aside from his bad feeling on the subject. Sunlight was goingg to creep over that ridge in less than an hour, quickly burning away the fog, so their time was limited and their chances of survival nearly non-existent.
And yet here they were.
"We'll come from the south, up and in," Ulbarich murmured quietly. "Try to get as close to the fire as you can without being seen. Don't scatter them. Make yourself vulnerable. Captain Uthral will fire the location arrow once combat is initiated. If we have both luck and skill, the bandits will scatter into the choke points and our men will cut them down like dogs. Try to take a few alive, so we may interview them. I will not weep if they all die."
"I may shed a tear," Bravin replied with a thin smile.
"I will allow it," Ulbarich returned the smile. "Captain Uthral, stay close. If you see anything I do not, please fill it with arrows until it is dead."