Monthly Archives: April 2009

Everyone At The Ready!

“First things, first,” Stephan muttered as he ran back up to the room to douse any fires that may have been burning out of control. He found the table cloth he’d accidentally set afire smoldering and producing some smoke but, luckily, the fabric was not readily flammable. He made sure it was out and then checked the shutters to assure they were locked shut.

Back in the main room, and seeing Miklos and Alphana lying prone, a sickly white hue in their skin, “What can be done for such ailment? I know not.” And he swooned a bit. His own wounds and the lack of sleep were taking their toll. His hand involuntarily grasped a nearby chairback for support.

While Kuzma knelt over the more seriously injured to pray that the demonic bat poison be cleansed, Irina saw Stephan’s swoon.

“Here, Stephan, sit. You are bleeding yet. Drink this.” Placing the symbol of the Immortal King Halav on first her left then right cheek and then on the forehead, she prayed for healing.

Feldard’s head still ached from where he’d been struck by the slingstone, but he tried not to concern himself with it—his wounds were minor now compared to some the others still bore. What did bother him was the presence of the goblins outside, surrounding the keep. Everything about them irritated the dwarf. He imagined he could smell them even at this distance, could hear them sneaking up at this very moment. Their chanting had stopped—they’d be attacking soon.

“Everyone at the ready!” Feldard bellowed out in warning. His volume ringing painfully in his own head.

The dwarf glanced around the hall but what with the attack by bats apparently, everyone else was up in the tower. He’d have to hold the entrance on his own. He waited battle axe at hand, the adrenaline of imminent battle staving off the effects of his concussion.

Maruc cast his shiled and flail asside and checked Miklos. Eyes dilated. Heartbeat slow, irregular. He grabbed a torch for a nearby sconce and waved it over the mage’s face a slight iris reaction. Good, he’s in a bad way but its not terminal. Maruc pulled him back up the stairwell and groaned when he saw Alphana. Kuzma was attending to her, calling to Halav in her native Traladaran tongue. Though the wound may be healed, there was little that could be done for the paralysis. She was in the same state as the mage. Maruc joined the Sukiska elder and checked the body for the puncture wound. He placed his mouth against the rent and sucked the excess fluid away spitting the rancid contents aside.

“Get me boiling water and a clean towel!” his strenuous voice was directed at no one in particular, but he expected it to happen so he went to Miklos and pulled the robe aside to investigate the contusion on his shoulder. This was cleaner but closer to the heart so it had affected him quicker. He started sucking at the wound. He continued until the clink of a bowl of steaming water broke his rhythm. “Thanks,” he said absently and began washing Alphana’s injury before turning back to Miklos and doing the same.

At the dwarf’s bellow, Maruc saw the grey-faced elf pulling on his armour, and preparing himself to defend the hall. “You’re not fit to defend anything. Come here and no arguments. Blessed Halav!” he cried, “Mighty Halav on your earthly throne, I seek your aid to further your cause. Strengthen this worthy elf-prince Hasan so that he may aid me and thus aid you!”

The mage’s mind swum as his legs no longer supported his weight. It was an odd sensation, it was like realizing you were only a puppet after your strings got cut. He has rolled a ways down the stairs and picked up a few scratches. As he laid there as his breathing became shallow, his arm was twisted behind his back. Not painfully, but his bodyweight was making his hand go numb.

Time passed.

He felt movement. Maruc was suddenly there. Then the blight glare of a torch, he tried to squint and failed. He was being pulled back up the stairs. No not there! That were he was running away from. He was powerless. Maruc was gone again.

More time passed.

Then Maruc was back. Miklos was barely conscious, he couldn’t close his eyes. He gazed sightless at the ceiling.

Hasan felt warmth emerge from a small spot in the crook of his elbow. Not heat, just warmth. It then spread through to the rest of his arm, a tingling feeling followed by the gentle ease of a late summer morning. He had been blessed again by healing grace. He grinned and went down to see the dwarf. Light began to shine through a chink in the thatch above the great hall. Not sunlight yet. But dawn would come soon.

The dwarf greeted the elf with a grunt. “So what was with the bats?”

The others quickly gave the dwarf the news, and he grimaced at hearing of the Miklos and Alphana. “That is unfortunate.. however…our plan remains the same as previous. We have our remaining archers pick them off as they spend time ramming down the make-shift door. Once they are through, we warriors hold them here in the hall for as long as possible before retreating up through the tower. The hall stairway to the upper level is nigh impassable—I’ve seen to that—so they’ll have to use the tower stairs following us. We will then use that advantage to cut them down one by one on the stair. They will rue this attack!” The dwarf’s fervored gaze fixed on the elf’s for a moment then looked to the door—anticipating the upcoming battle, perhaps a little too much.

The spotters noticed movement in the forest. It seemed the goblins were gathering to the east. There was no more drumming, but chanting started up again. It was different in tone—less rhythmic, more shrill and chaotic.

“I know this ,” said Stephan. Having served in the Duke’s Army, he was no stranger to the battle customs of the Dymrak goblins. “It is their death chant.”



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Stephan bolted up at the noise. And a lucky thing too as one of the voracious bats had just alighted on his leg, making to sink its hollow fangs into his femoral. With a spasm, Stephan launched the wad of leather and rubber–for that is what the bat seemed to be–across the room.

Irina screamed. The bats, there were at least three in the room, made grating hissing noises and fluttered about in a veritable tornado of black wings.

Grabbing a torch from a wall sconce, Stephan began waving the flame and tarry smoke at the bats.

“Look, I can herd them. Open that windhole. I’ll try to flush them out!” His words were stunned with sudden adrenalin after being only moments ago in blissful sleep.

Darya opened the wood shutters add two of the bats fled the easy route. But to her horror, she saw several more bat claws and heads peeking through the now open window from the outside. Had she been able to see the tower from the outside, her blood would have curdled. What seemed to be dozens of additional vampire bats clung to the tower’s stonework, seeking entry through various means.

She quickly shut the windhole.

“No, keep it open! I can get this last out.”

“No, Stephan. There are many more out there!”


Using the torch as a cudgel, Stephan swung, missed and set a table cloth on fire. Swinging again, however, he smashed the bat to the board-work floor and quickly got a boot on it.

But the creature was hardy and took more than a stamping to kill. Irina quickly saw that a heavy table was near. With what strength she had, she turned the table over such that the falling, heavy edge of it came straight down on the hissing head of the bat.

The crush was too much even for the rubber and leather-bodied hellion.

A stillness settled on the room. In the quiet, they heard cries from other parts of the tower.

“Quickly, there are more…”

Keeping a grip on the torch and wielding his short sword, Stephan rushed from the room.

Adrenalin wired the mage. The first thought that raced though Miklos’s mind was, ‘Now that isn’t someting you see everyday’. The second was ‘I am now conpletely awake’. The next thing that happened, happened in a flurry of activity. “It’s a, ahh… a damn heavy bat! HELP!” He yelled trying the foist the thing from him.

Wings and fangs and beady glass eyes were everywhere. Miklos flailed his left arm round trying to buy himself enough time to grap at his staff. Grappling claws snagged in his cloak fuelling the mages fear and excitment. He shrugged the garment off in an aggitated disire to be well away from the room. The staff forgotten he lauched himself toward the stairwell casting as much of the cloak as possible over the creature. It was then he counted more. “Bats! Giant Bats! We are assailed!” He called as he leapt down the stairs two at a time.

Maruc snapped out of his meditation. He scrabbled for his weaponery and rushed toward the tower and the screaming. He saw Miklos rushing down the stairs. A bat, larger than any bat had a right to be, flapped and flustered down the stairwell after the white-faced mage. It bit into the spellcaster’s shoulder. Miklos dropped to the ground, unable to move.

Maruc rounded the brought up his burnished Halavist Shield that glinted in the torchlight, and flung his chainflail at it, killing the thing.

The commotion from above had awakened Hasan, who awkwardly rolled out of bed, his sword arm still very stiff and sore. As he went up the stairs, he heard Miklos shrieking about bats. Just in time, he grabbed a torch from the wall sconce and shoved its flame into the face of one of the creatures. It twitched and shrieked as it rolled in death spasms on the ground.

The armoury was uncontaminated, so Hasan had locked the shutters tight. Going up one more level, Hasan entered just as the the pale, slender mage did. With a bang, Stephan and Darya had eradicated the last pest in that room as well, one just as it had almost been on top of Kuzma. Hasan checked the latches, and asked, “was anybody keeping watch from the top level of the tower? if so, we’ll have to save them!”

Thankfully, the shrieking noises from room above had stopped. On its way in, one of the bats bit Alphana, paralyzing her. Pyotr angrily slashed it in half, and, along with Taras, successfully repelled the others.

All the bats in the tower were dead, and no more tried to enter. The smoke, fire and death cries of their fellows had caused them to fly off.

Meanwhile, the dwarf, below, drowsily guarding the hall entrance door had glanced up at the shouting. Bats?! There was something wrong with that notion even to the dwarf. Concussion or not, the dwarf suspected another ruse. A distraction. He kept to his post. Fighting to keep alert. Once again, the chanting and drumming of the goblins stopped. Dawn was approaching. Instinct told him they were getting ready for a final assault.


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A Threat From Above

Hasan nodded at Maruc’s pronouncement. There was no other choice. He slowly moved up the stairs to the second level of the great hall, and turned to find rest in one of the bedrooms nearby. He collapsed, still armored, into the modest bed and was soon asleep.

Aside to Maruc, Stephan said, “Maruc, I’m sure Irina can assist but Kuzma is much more experienced.”

“Of course Stephan. Forgive me revered Kuzuma.” smiled Maruc. The old woman shook her head, smiled and continued her ministrations

Stephan then checked on his brother. “Ah! Darya and Kuzma have fixed you up nicely, Pyotr!” He visually inspected the bandages.

“Yes, they have. And Halav his taken the pain away. I feel very well, all things considered.”

The elder brother’s eyes focused in concern. “How is it brother? Do we know more of the enemy? How many are there? This mix of tribes is disturbing.”

“The yellow-dressed ‘woman’ was a ruse, if you didn’t hear that. Hasan and Feldard are lucky to be yet alive and with us here. The dwarf, I can tell you, fought valiantly and suffer a grievous head wound. But Halav has helped through His servants Kuzma and Irina.”

“I shall not forget his deeds in the defense of my house. Nor the deeds of the others that came with you. Brother, I am glad you brought these mighty companions! If we all yet live to see brighter days, I will endeavor to repay in some way, their and your kindness.”

Miklos nodded at the cleric. He was bone tired, his eyes ached and he needed rest. All this running about and stress wasn’t doing his concentration any good. “I’m going to lie down for a bit. Wake me if anything happens.” Miklos climbed back up to the tower room and curled up in the softest corner he could find.

Though the dwarf was far from whole, the clerics of Halav had healed the worst of his wounds and the dwarf argued aggressively that he was well enough to keep watch and defend the hall if need be. Any who tried to coax him otherwise was cussed at and threatened with violence with such vehemence that it surprised his long time companions.

So the dwarf was allowed to keep watch interrupted infrequently by bouts of nausea and drowsiness.

* * * * *

Nearly two hours passed. The goblins had continued their chanting and drumming, but made no move to encroach upon the defenders.

Spellcasting takes a toll on the mind, and so, amidst all this, Miklos had somehow drifted off to sleep. He awoke with a start! The largest bat he had ever seen in his life was directly on top of him, its fangs poised to strike!

Noise and commotion erupted in the tower. While the watchers had kept a keen eye upon the treeline, they had failed to notice a threat from above. Giant vampire bats had flown onto the tower and squeezed inside the upper floors.


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“What Happened?”

The noise of the armored dwarf’s clatterous fall rang through through the night, but followed by a sudden, nearly-complete silence. The fall of the indomitable dwarf stunned all but the crickets, who still faithfully chirped their evening forecast. Hasan could hear it. The crickets felt the night would stay hot.

Hasan hunched toward the dwarf. He grasped an arm with his own lone usable hand and heaved. The dwarf’s body moved three inches. The elf’s strength was too little.

But two steps behind Hasan, Stephan also moved out to bring the noble Feldard back. He reached to assist Hasan. Despite the dwarf’s size, he weight was considerable but together, though the elf’s arm was wounded, they brought the dwarf toward safety.

“Damn! Foolish dwarf playing the hero once again.” Maruc helped the others haul the unconscious dwarf through the doorway. “I hope one day he’ll learn. Irina! Irina! I hope you have performed your rites! He is bleeding out.”

Miklos pulled the table across after the others had pulled the dwarf through, wedging it into place he slumped uselessly against it watching with horror the pale warrior fight for his life.

“Kuzma, please, Feldard is gravely wounded,“ called Stephan. “He needs your attention.”

Stephan did his best to unbuckle the dwarf’s armor and helm. The welt on the dwarf’s skull looked hideous. Stephan’s lips tightened. He’s seen this sort of wound before and witnessed the after effects which left the poor soul witless. But this was on humans. Perhaps, he hoped, the demi-human would fare differently.

Kuzma was soon at the Feldard’s side, her gentle hands inspecting the wounds.

“We’ll need tumin and asperic. And bring the Blessed Water of Havlav,” she instructed Irina. “And bring a cushion.”

Kuzma produced her holy symbol of Havlav from her garbs and began to pray of Feldard.

Maruc pushed his hastily prepared poultice into the worst of Feldards’ welts.

Irina appeared a worried expression crossed her face. She pressed her hand against Feldard’s head. “Oh mighty Halav I beseach you..”
“Thee!” interupted Maruc.
“Thee!” hastened Irinia “To abdure this wound of your faithless…”
“Faithful!” Maruc corrected.
“Faithfull servant Feldard!” She completed the incantation. Maruc smiled. “Well done you have saved another life. You are Blessed.”

… Damn, his head ached. Feldard groggily raised a hand to the lump on his skull, and gingerly touched the sensitive area. He winced but was grateful he could feel that the bone itself was intact and that his brains weren’t seeping out.
He could hear an old woman praying.

The dwarf opened his eyes, everything was blurry for the first bit, but slowly came into focus as he struggled to sit up. “What happened?”


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Where’s Feldard?

Stephan heaved the blood-soaked wolf off his chest pushing it to the side. Gathering his wits and trying to expel the stench from his nostrils, he looked for Pyotr.

“Pyotr! What are you doing, man?”, his elder brother, despite a serious wound at the base of his neck, was assisting Maruc with some heavy lifting. Darya and Irina soon noticed and were at their man’s side in an instant, taking him firmly but gently to a chair.

Despite tears, Darya spoke with an authoritative resolve. “Come sit here, husband. ‘Twould be worse that you bleed more cleaning up the aftermath.” Darya and Irina began to assess the damage and bind the wound.

“I’ll help with that Maruc,” Stephan said, half stumbling after bearing the weight of the wolf.

The priest picked himself up. The goblin lay in a pool of its own blood staining the floor by the doorway. “Give me a hand Pyotr, we’ll drag these corpses out and re-secure the doorway. Leave it ajar, I expect Hasan and Feldard will be here any moment.” Maruc scanned the courtyard from behind the table, now against the doorway and waited for the elf and the dwarf.

Hasan appeared round the corner but looked confused. Feldard wasn’t with him.

To Maruc’s eye Hasan looked to have weathered the escapade beyond the tower walls relatively well. He couldn’t understand the elf’s faltering steps.

“Where’s Feldard?”

Then the elf turned, and the cleric hissed. A goblin’s ax had left the elf’s swordarm, his right arm, dangling like wet cloth at his side. Maruc saw the luster of the pendant the elf wore habitually had extinguished, blood drenched and darkened. Hasan said, “That was no woman. A trap. Feldard must be helped.”

* * * * *

Feldard struggled as he continued to engage the goblins. ‘Surely Hasan must have made the safety of the tower by now’ – but the dwarf dared not risk a glance behind to check. It took all his attention to keep the goblins engaging him from cutting him down. His arms ached with the weight of his axe and his wounds seeped freely with each maneuver. There were just too many for him; the dwarf hated to admit it, but the fact was that he’d die by their blades if he didn’t retreat now, and even in retreating his chances were slim. Feldard hoped he’d bought the elf enough time. With a bellow, Feldard swung at the goblin to his left, catching him in the shoulder. Then before another could fill the gap, the dwarf charged through heading back for the clearing. Dwarves are not fast runners; dwarves in plate mail…were ridiculously slow, but Feldard pumped his legs with all that he had left in him. His axe remained in hand, just in case. Feldard could hear the whistle of sling stones being launched towards him. It was not an encouraging sound.

* * * * *

Juggling the flasks of oil he had grabbed from the stores below Miklos arrived just in time to see the last of the remaining goblins limping out of range of the archers in the tower. “Ahh, it seems I have missed the action! Nevermind, well done.” He placed the flasks in a row by the wall.

“Darya, could you keep an eye out to make sure this isn’t some clever feint? I shall prepare a spell directly from my book to aid our friends returning form the sortie.” Miklos dated over to the other arrowslit to asses the situation that Feldard and Hasan were in. He couldn’t see the elf, but the dwarven warrior was cursing his battle cries as he fended of the goblins at the treeline. They seemed to have thought better of following him into the open. But that didn’t stop Miklos from crouching behind the arrowslit and prepare the incantation. “Taras, come over here and watch the treeline in case the goblins chase after Feldard. I shall be ready in a couple of minutes.”

The goblins, fearing being targeted by magic and arrows from the tower, stayed back. They chose instead to launch a hail of slingstones at the retreating dwarf. The archers in the tower shot arrows into the dark forest, trying to target any movement they saw in the brush.

Holding his shield above his head, Feldard deflected many of the rock projectiles, while others dinged off his plate armor. Still, they were taking their toll upon him as he made his way back to the tower.

Finally, the doorway was in sight. Maybe, he would make it afterall. His shield dropped slightly, as the wounded dwarf’s strength was slowly running out. A perfectly aimed stone bounced off the dwarf’s skull. Feldard was dizzy. Struggling to remain conscious, he stumbled forward, finally collapsing only a few feet away from the doorway.


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Desperate Struggle

The snarl of the wolf sent a chill down Stephan’s spine. But he kept his wits and keeping his wounded side away from the wolf, he tightened his grip on his sword and raised his shield.

Muttering perhaps loudly enough for Pyotr to hear he said, “Watch the eyes! They’ll clue you in where he’ll strike. And go for the groin!”

Stephan knew that a wolf’s soft underbelly between the back legs were the most sensitive. His full attention was on the wolf and he failed to notice the gob about to leap down on him from a table. But Pyotr noticed and turned to cut the goblin down in mid air.

The dire wolf saw its opening and lunged for Stephan’s brother, locking his jaw at the base of his neck.

Stephan yelled, “No!” and brought his blade heavily down on the stiff hide of the beast. The blow did little good and Pyotr’s legs flailed under the hideous weight and bite.

Stephan dropped his sword and let this shield dangle from his arm. Without really thinking about it, he did was he learned on the ranch when a rabid dog had to be pulled off someone. He grabbed the wolf’s hind legs and with a mighty heave lifted them off the floor.

“Faaaaa!”, he strained under the weight. This was a huge mass of muscle! But the ploy worked. The beast’s fangs loosened, freeing his brother who rolled in agony to his side.

With a guttural snarl, the wolf writhed and twisted, causing Stephan to lose hold. In a flash, the beast was on him but almost equally as fast, he felt the wolf slump. It’s stinking, slimy weight resting on his chest. Lifeless. The wolf breathed a final putrid breath into Stephan’s face causing him to wretch despite the weight on his chest.

Maruc was distracted. Blades and cudgels swung from all directions and it took all is concentration to fend them off. “Blessed Halav is testing me again.” he mumbled as he ducked behind his shield once more. The stench of wolf blood met him and he risked a sideward glance but there was very little he could do as the two goblins he was facing seemed to be too fast for his parries. He tried a trick trusting to Mighty Halav. He swung his shield wide stunning the low swing begun by the left hand goblin. He drove the edge of his shield forward pivoting the goblins punch gripped shield and exposing its flank. Maruc’s flail made a swift wild arc forcing the other goblin to duck. But the blow wasn’t aimed at him. It connected with a rib splintering thud. A second later Maruc was covered with a spray of black blood coughed up by the collapsing goblin. Using the stopping power of the first blow he reversed the swing and wrapped the chain around the leg of the second goblin. Maruc pulled back with all his weight unbalancing the goblin and himself and they both crashed to the floor. A desperate struggle ensued as both grappled for their weapons and their lives.

Miklos gave a satisfied smile as the goblins fell like a house of cards his friends were safe now, he didn’t stay at the window long enough to watch the foolhardy dwarf re-enter the wood. He turned back to the more immediate problem of the fight below. “That’s it my friends! Keep shooting! I’ll be back in a minute.”

He ducked down the spiral staircase back into the stores, hunting around for more flasks of lamp oil. Maruc must have grabbed them all, he thought through his frantic search but eventually he found a couple more and started back up the stairs.

* * * * *

It was impossible to tell how many goblins lay in wait just at the edge of the woods. But the dwarf could hear the telltale whistle of many slings being prepared. Feldard also noted that the screaming had stopped—either she was dead or it had been a ruse all along.

The dwarf looked to his elven companion. Hasan was not faring well. A stone or two would be all it would take to bring the elf down for good. “Make for the tower, I will keep the goblins occupied!” And with that the dwarf charged back into the woods, axe raised making himself the more threatening target. “You currs, pull your blades and face me in battle, if you dare.”

The goblins were on him instantly. His plan was working in so far as the goblins put away their slings in favor of engaging the dwarf. Their short swords stabbed and slashed at the dwarf as he tried to buy the elf what time he could. His axe slaughtered one of the creatures—another instantly took its place.

Hasan had assumed the dwarf was with him and had continued on toward the tower. Slingstones thudded into the grass around him—though not nearly as many stones as he had expected. With his elven speed, he was able to dodge virtually all of them. By the time he noticed Feldard was missing, he was nearly to safety.


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