"Alas!" answered Agostino mournfully, "no other career is open to me, and I am more to be pitied than you suppose. I am the only one left of a band formerly as complete as yours; the executioner has deprived me of my brave comrades one by one, and now I am obliged to carry on my operations entirely alone - dressing up my scarecrows, as your friend calls them, and assuming different voices to make believe that I am supported by a numerous company. Ah! mine is a sad fate; and then my road is such a poor one - so few travellers come this way."
--Captain Fracasse, Theophile Gautier
This is a great little tragicomic encounter. PCs are ambushed on a dark road. They are surrounded by shadowy figures, demanding the PCs' money or their lives. (Several of the bandits talk; the DM should use a variety of funny voices.)
When the PCs inevitably attack, they will be cutting down inanimate scarecrows which are armed with wooden swords.
The only real bandits are Agostino and his ward, a half-wild and thuggish little girl. (In Captain Fracasse, Agostino says he wants money to "buy a decent cloak for poor Chiquita besides; she needs it badly enough, poor thing!")
If the PCs take pity on the bandits and give them money, Chiquita will be grateful, in her primal way.
She fixed her sparkling eyes on Isabelle, and said in a low, earnest voice, "Oh! you are very, very good, and I will never, never kill you." Then she ran swiftly back to the pine grove.
If the PCs befriend the bandits, they'll be getting a valuable ally. The next time the PCs are in real trouble (captured, for instance), an eerie and bloodthirsty little girl may come to their rescue.
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