Garlic and Rain
Big George finished the last bite of his garlic sausage, got up, and made his soggy way through the underbrush to the edge of the road. He peered through the gray summer rain and was surprised to see what he was looking for: a lone traveler approaching on foot. "Yo, Bill," he said softly. "We got company. One guy, walking kind of funny."
Bill got up as quickly as his rain-creaky bones would allow and considered his options as he joined his partner. Their standard practice was to shoot travelers from ambush, but the rain made that impossible; still, it wouldn't hurt to look things over...
"He's a gnoll," Bill said, once he had had a look. "One of those hyena-men from down south. He walks funny because he's wearing boots." George gave him a puzzled look, and Bill considered trying to explain the difficulties of walking on your heels in boots with feet designed for walking on your toes, and decided that was a path of madness. "Gnolls wear boots, sometimes, when they have to walk a long way. But it means he won't be able to run worth a damn." George nodded. "Our guns won't work in the rain, but his won't either, if he's got one. He probably knows how to fight; I've never met a gnoll that didn't." George nodded; thinking was Bill's job.
"Stay here, and stay out of sight. I am going to go down a bit, and after he passes you, I will step out and stop him. I'll keep him busy while you sneak up behind him, and bash his head it. He shouldn't be able to hear you over the rain. Got it?" George nodded.
George watched from cover as the gnoll approached and passed him. The gnoll was wearing a hat that kept the rain out of his eyes, but his big, square ears stuck up well above the hat. He was carrying a bundle on a stick over his right shoulder; George realized that the stick was an iron shod spear, held point forward. The gnoll's muzzle was grizzled with age, and there were finger sized holes in the middle of each ear. His clothes looked well made if a bit threadbare, and, as Bill had predicted, he was wearing odd, long toed boots.
Bill stepped into the path and said, "Hail, stranger. Bad day for traveling, no?"
The gnoll shrugged the pack off of his shoulder and let it carry the butt of his spear to the ground; he adjusted his grip on the spear. "Worse than most," he said.
"I've just been resting a bit," Bill said, moving closer. "I guess I'm ready to start walking again. Care for some company?"
The gnoll smiled toothily. "You don't have a pack."
"What?" He took another step.
"No what?" Another step.
"No, I don't want your company, and no, I don't want you to come any closer."
"But..." And another.
The gnoll pulled a pistol out of his coat with his left hand. "Stop."
Bill blinked. "That's not very friendly. Or very practical, in this weather." He took another look, and came yet another half step closer. "That gun isn't cocked or primed. I don't think it even has a flint." Another half step.
The gnoll turned the gun in his hand and looked at the lockwork. "Why, you're right. Silly of me..." He pivoted backwards on his right foot and shoved the pistol toward George's face, shouting the key word of an ignition spell as he did so. The gun roared, George's surviving eye bulged explosively, and the gnoll dropped the pistol, then pivoted back. Three quick hand movements drove the point of the spear into Bill's throat; the blade caught, and he let man and weapon fall. He drew his shortsword and knife as he turned back to watch George finish settling into the mud, then took a deep breath and held it as he turned slowly, mouth open, listening for any other movement. Finding none, he exhaled and sheathed his blades.
"Filch, my old jack," he said aloud, "You are so VERY lucky the big one liked garlic..."
He recovered his weapons, dragged his pack and the bodies to the side of the road, and then went looking for the bandit's camp. Once he had found it, he moved bodes and luggage there, and set out to explore his windfall.
The camp wasn't much, just a large piece of green canvas tied to a tree and staked down. Still, it blocked the rain and some of the wind, and there was firewood, and food, and even a skin of beer. By Filch's standards, on a rainy day, it was positively luxurious.
The bandits had been fairly well off, for bandits. They had a smattering of coins, two muskets, three pistols, and a supply of powder and shot, plus two shortswords and a collection of lesser cutlery. They also had clothing and boots and the canvas shelter. All told, it was a very nice haul, if Filch could find a way to transport it to a town; he supposed he could rig a travois, if he wanted to. But in the meantime...
In the meantime, it was raining, and he had shelter, and beer, more water than he wanted, and several hundred pounds of fresh meat.
"Filch, my old jack," he said aloud, "I think you deserve a day off."