Monthly Archives: September 2009

Overcoming Orcs

The clang of metal on metal called to Feldard and he was driven in his effort to move—even in the slightest. Bah! But there seemed not even a twitch. Damned spider! Of all the ways to go down.. by a damned spider bite!

Hernane too struggled as best she could against the paralysis. Her mental anguish cried out “If only Grofnar was here! He could strike these orcs down in one mighty swing of his axe and the beast would have fallen long ago against his prowess”.

“In your own time Hasan!” Maruc grinned wildly at the three brute warriors in front of him. He ducked as a blade stung his cheek, and another rang against his shield. The wall to his back offered no retreat ,and he wondered at his actions. Foetid breath and orc spittal assaulted him. His impulsiveness would get him killed. He jabbed an orc with the pummel of his flail, the shock made the orc step back a fraction then Maruc just about managed to get enough room to swing it properly. The orc glazed at the impact and the priest booted the orc in front of him, this one had lost concentration as it joked at his fallen comrade. Not so, the last of the trio who dug beneath Maruc’s guard and violently dented the plates in the side of his armour. Damn that’ll take some beating out though Maruc.

He was starting to feel light headed. It wasn’t a good sign.

With few options left Miklos grabbed his staff. One of the orcs flew backward clutching at his nose. The mage took the opportunity to brain him. In his minds eye the staff all but took the orc’s head off with a sickening thud.

Reality told a somewhat different tale. He looked around to see if anyone had noticed.

Hasan stepped away from the onrushing orcs easily enough, although it it was harder to avoid the garish flight of Miklos’s staff, which featured two twirls for every whirling strike. But the elf stood near the mage—not quite side by side, by near enough—equally animated in defense of the two striken dwarf’s that lay just beyond.

The situation was not at all pleasant. In fact, with his back to the wall and warm streams of blood down both his cheek and side, Stephan was beginning to have that sinking feeling he imagined soldiers had just before death.

The whirling staff of Miklos yanked him from the precipice of despair. He noted the dazzling spins and jabs and thought to suggest the mage perform such in a theatre. But the staff served as more than entertainment. The distraction pulled the attention of the orc facing him away and held it long enough for the fighter to see the opening. He struck with a gutteral call to Halav that reverberated in the cavern. The orc in turn issued a piercing scream that seemed out of place for a brute that size. It fell in the cave muck and was soon trampled by the orc on Stephan’s right.

The clangs and screams set up a deafening resonance. Perhaps it was that, coupled with the warm slick blood coarsing his cheek that somehow focused his battle venom. He found in those moments a narrowing of purpose—an almost insane concentration of will—that shut out all sensory input but a pulsating cave drip that set a perfect pace of melee.

Drip. The shield went up.

Drip. Around came the blade.

Drip. Step to the left.

Drip. Knee to the side.

Drip. Sword down for the kill.

And so he continued in the fight hearing only an all powerful drip that seemed to echo through the cave. When at last the game was up, poor Stephan was flooded with sights, sounds and feelings that overcame his constitution. The fighter slumped against the cave wall.

The orcs had fought fiercely to the last. Unusual for creatures such as these, but they had been motivated by zealotry. In the end, superior armor and weaponry had proved too much for them.

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Past and Present

Feldard raged impotently, unable to move from the ground where the cleric had dumped him. Worse yet, he couldn’t even see what was happening. All he could see was the back of Hernane’s head and the cavern wall beyond.

It filtered through his red haze that the orcs had stopped their chanting; he even heard a few orcish exclamations – but why? What was going on?

Mentally, he cussed and fumed, cursed and called on the Gods for aid. He needed to move, needed to help his companions fight these orcs—not lie on the ground helpless like a mole whelp! And what of Hernane? He couldn’t protect her like this. With that thought he fought against his paralysis some more.

Damned female! This was all her fault. He wouldn’t be lying here unable to move if she hadn’t fled Rockhome. If not for her misplaced notion of marriage for love, he’d be anyplace than here.

In the few seconds before the orcs pitched battle against his remaining companions, Feldard had time to review how he’d come to this predicament.

His father had paid a handsome brideprice for the betrothal. And for a short while it seemed a good match – Hernane was quiet back then. But as they spent more time together, she began to speak her mind, and her mind was almost always opposite of what Feldard thought. She spoke of love and romance. What rubbish! A good dwarven husband provided riches for his wife, stood in battle beside her against the raidings of orcs and goblins and satisfied her maternal instincts by getting her with child as needed. Romance was a notion best left to elves!

Feldard, truth be told, had noticed Hernane growing more and more distant and unhappy as time progressed and the date of their marriage was announced for later that month. He had guessed it to be just pre-marriage jitters and that she’d get over it. But in an attempt to placate her somewhat, he’d offered to get her with child before the actual wedding—to give her a focus for all those overly sentimental emotions she seemed to have. That hadn’t gone so well. She’d called him an insensitive lout and a brutish boar. Instead of placating her, he’d tipped the scale of her tolerance. She fled both him and the Rockhome entirely.

Meanwhile, Hernane could sense being moved. By whom she did not know and panic gripped her. Eaten alive by the beast?—she could not stand it, and prayed for deliverance.

Oh how she missed home, how she missed her one true love. She fleetingly thought that if she survived this, she would have to be honest with herself and with Feldard. As much as she admired Feldard for his traditional values, his strength and pride, she never loved him. It was unfair that she had placed him in this danger. She decided then and there that if she lived she would be honest with everyone and take the consequences of her past actions. Feldard deserved to know that she would not marry him; that she was in love with his Feldards younger brother Grofnar and that on her return to Rockhome that she would seek to marry him.

She knew the terrible anger that this decision would produce, however she could no longer live this lie and could now see that her actions of absconding from Rockhome had not helped the situation but only made it worse.

The sounds of battle bought her back to reality, again she prayed for victory just to make this whole nightmare go away.

* * * * *

Miklos looked with consternation as the flames flickered around the tunnel mouth. He had to time his spell to perfection. To early and it would burn away before it could form. Too late and the orcs would charge and his spell would be useless.

The spider was on the run! The orcs were confounded by the exit of the spider. Some looked uncertain as they considered whether to chase after their wounded object of worship.

From what Miklos knew of the psychology of goblinoid races they were mostly brazenly direct and the fall of the two dwarves would give them hope of victory considering their numbers. His intuitions proved correct as the largest of their number withdrew a dark longsword and ordered the attack.

The predator in Stephan took control and he lunged after only to come within striking range of the startled orcs. Catching one still reeling from the flight of the spider, his sword brought a killing impalement.

From behind Hasan, Miklos threw his spell amidst the orc warband. Enchanted strands leapt from Miklos’s outstretched hand coalescing as they flew. The spell struck orcs, the floor, the tunnel wall opposite. It was impossible to aim. But the mage tried. In the final moments of the spell Miklos only just anchored it on the nearside of the tunnel mouth. Orc curses rang about the room.

The dwarf’s fall and the spider’s flight spurred Hasan out of his calm. But neither was more shocking than to see fresh webs streak out of the dark ether, until the elf remembered the mage’s warning. He waited to see the result of these efforts, and those of human’s savage assault. Hasan admired the industry of Maruc, who was wading into the combat with what appeared to be more glee than the elf expected from the religous man. As he watched and waited, the elf casually unleashed another arrow into the scrum. He looked back at Miklos, whose own efforts had wound up. The two, spellcasters and combatants from distance, shared a wry smile. And then they returned to their watching.

He stood back to assess how successful he’d been. He had managed to catch three of them. Unfortunate for them that they had discarded their torches as they began their charge, for now they would no doubt be stuck for the entirety of the melee.

Maruc braced himself as he had charged to the defensive line just in time to watch Feldard cramp up. “Halav, is testing us.” he muttered as the cast his weapons back down and grabbed the collapsing dwarf before he hit the floor. “Ohf!” he wheezed, as he took the weight. “You need a diet Feldard!”

The priest shuffled backward as quickly as he could and dumped the dwarf next to Hernane. He didn’t wait. He bounded back to his weapons in time to grab his shield. A wicked orc scimitar bit into it’s edge and glanced off Maruc’s pauldron. Maruc scrabbled for his flail, his fingers curling around its familiar haft as more blows reigned down. He surged to his feet. A bright grin played across his face that mocked the trickle of blood that seeped from beneath his helm.

“My turn.” he said.

To his left, the Sukiskyn body-slammed with his shield a beefy, black-web-tattooed orc. The oils of the slimy green skin exuded a pungent smell quelled only by the more piquant, sickly breath of the orc who bellowed inches from his face.

Bringing his sword around, the fighter side-stepped throwing the orc off balance, but the side-step, while executed with the skill of a nimble mountain goat negotiating the crags of Mt’a Ihkhara, took the fighter directly into the path of another orc’s spiked mace!

Hasan was forced to drop his bow as two orcs broke away to engage the elf. The orcs superior numbers had initially overwhelmed Maruc and Stephan. Their armor could only do so much to protect them. Putting their backs literally to the wall, the two humans avoided becoming completely surrounded. Each of them faced off against three orc opponents. Wounds on both sides were taking their toll.

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Dwarf vs. Spider

Not expecting Hernane’s sudden collapse, Miklos was completely unprepared as the creature darted here and there right in front of him. In shock he jumped back, saw Hasan, tried to miss him, and stumbled onto the unyielding floor. “Agh!”

‘Curses!” cried the priest casting his flail and shield aside. He leapt across the melee narrowly avoiding the arrow that sped from Hasan’s bow. He waited a second for Feldard to attract the spiders attention again then grabbed Hernane by the feet and dragged her unceremoniously from the fight into the cavern. He knew without checking that fresh posion had cramped her muscles. “There’s not a lot I can do for you at the moment my dear,” he said and glanced up at Stephan and Feldard desperately evading the creatures envenomed fangs and unnerving dexterity. “I shall return.” He got up and retrieved his weapon and shield.

Miklos picked himself up, rubbing his back. His dignity in taters, not for the first time nor the last, he thought ruefully. This spider was being remarkably resistant! Suddenly there was an ear splitting screech as Feldards mage-wrought battle axe found some weakness in its thick skin. This fight would not last forever and Miklos knew he must be ready to ensnare the orcs. He held aloft his own lightstone to count the group of orcs behind. At least seven prehaps more.

No use taking risks, these orcs might speak common. “Prince Hasan.” Miklos used his elven dialect. “I shall allow two orcs to enter the cavern and engage Feldard and Stephan. I shall cast my enchanted web to the centre and rear of the orc battle group rooting the web across to mouth of the tunnel to capture as many as possible.”

Feldard heard Hernane’s cry, saw her fall and instantly felt that same berserker rage as earlier. He bellowed out an incomprehensible challenge to the 8 legged beast and with an upswing went for the spiders underbelly. He didn’t pause even a second to see if his attack landed true; he pulled his axe again and this time swung for its head; then a downward arc to its leg. Again and again, Feldard battered at the venomous creature that had felled his betrothed. He spared not a moments thought for the orcs which were behind the spider, his red tinged vision was focused on solely one goal. Killing that spider.

Hoping to use the spider to eliminate at least some of the orcs before having to slay the creature, Stephan cried. “My friends when the beast is slain let them come to us!” Hopefully they would see the sense in the poor footing that the corpse of a spider would offer their attackers.

Desperately, Stephan again tried to spread more fire from the oil of the lantern or other torches to drive the spider back to the orcs. “Let it work to our advantage!”, he bellowed. “Make the beast eat orc meat! Drive it back!”

The dwarf of course, wasn’t even listening. He swung his blade into the shroud spider’s hide just as it sunk its bite into the warrior. The dwarf succumbed to the same fate that befell his betrothed, collapsing to the floor.

However, the spider was gravely hurt and let out a tremendous shriek. The orcs were stunned at the sound of their godhead’s pain, and momentarily stopped their cantillations. Seeing an opening, the wounded beast charged through their ranks with blinding speed and skittered out of the chamber.

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Spider In The Middle

Miklos sighed and made a mental note of the spiders markings, what was it? The Beastiary Diabolica probably had an entry on it, but sadly Fauna Lore never really excited him at college. Time for an alternative strategy. The orcs shouted at and goaded their spider pet, it took no linguist to work out what they were saying. Crowded into the narrow tunnel mouth they seemed to be unwilling to rush over the spider to get to the dwarves, which surprised Miklos knowing the long term enmity between the two races. If only he’d had time to recharge Dentiata’s wand.

Stephan kicked the burning lantern toward the spider. Using his torch, he tried to start a conflagration that would drive the beast back toward the orcs to block them in the tunnel. “Drive it back! Drive it back!”, was all he could manage in way of telling his companions what he was trying to do.

As he struggled to create a greater light than the orcs so that the spider would be driven back, he remembered the light stone. Cupping it in his hand, he directed a beam at the spider’s eyes. The spider winced at the bright light and Stephan used the beam as a sort of long-handled prod to herd the creature back to the orcs.

The orcs in turn began frantically waving their torches. “NYY-AKKK! NYY-AKKK!” they chanted loudly, likewise doing their best to drive the spider to attack their foes.

“Arrows!” yelled the warrior, seemingly having gone daft. Feldard, Stephan noted, was onto it. The dwarf grabbed up his crossbow, which was still cocked and loaded from before he was levitated, and fired off the bolt towards the spider but his aim was high and it flew over.. bah with any luck it would hit one of the orcs behind. Then with a bellow, Feldard moved in after Hernane with his battle axe, lashing out at the spider, driving it back away from his betrothed and towards the orcs.

Hernane, observing that the spider was not stunned or asleep, but already committed to her charge continued to strike at the spider, fury giving strength to her blows. Her intention was to drive the spider back into the tunnel to provide a barrier between herself and the orcs. She didn’t care about the orcs at the moment. All she wanted to do was kill the spider, then she would worry about the orcs. She gasped to Feldard “drive the creature back into the Tunnel, watch out for bite, one cut and you will be done for”.

Hasan could only draw his bow as his three companions charged past him. As the spider winced away from Stephan’s lights, the elf’s arrow darted forward. At such close range, the arrow’s flight could not miss its target, but glanced harmlessly off the spider’s tough shell.”

“This will be fun.” Maruc muttered to himself. There was a flurry of activity as the dwarves piled in with what Maruc had come to call their usual zeal. He couldn’t fail but to be impressed by them. Stephan’s bulk sealed off any other approach to attack the spider. The elf next to him had seemed to come to the same conclusion as he gracefully and effortlessly managed to bring his bow to bear, nock and loose an arrow with unerring accuracy. The priest was suck behind the churning blades as they clattered almost rhythmically against the beleaguered arachnid. There was little else he could do but offer a swift prayer… “King Halav on your carven throne, guide our weapons against the darkness!”

Meanwhile, Miklos wondered what lore there orcs had gleaned from their symbiotic relationship with this spider. Their knotted muscles flexed beneath their tough greenish skin. Miklos felt a nice irony for these black miscreants would be the recipient for his web spell. Despite his height, it was too risky to cast it from here behind the darting dwarves. He had to wait.

With the orcs superior numbers, the spider had nowhere to go but back into the cavern. The spider’s sharp legs dug into the rock as it pivoted around. Hernane blocked its path, as she swung her axe at the creature. It was faster than the she-dwarf though, and Hernane paid the price for her hotheadedness as its maw bit into her. As Hernane felt the spider sink its fangs into her, she cried out. Dropping her weapon, she then fell to the ground.

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The Black Web Orcs

blackweborc

Quick as a flash, Miklos released his spell at the eight legged monstrosity. Layer upon layer of twisting translucent magic curled around its horned carapace. It lurched and struggled, but then shook off the effects of the spell.

As Miklos exhaled, his eyes widened. Apparently this encounter was not going to be so easy!

Maruc feared this creature was not in fact responsible for the marching noise. As his eyes looked to the cavern entrance, he saw a crowd of a dozen orcs come round the corner. The orcs were outfitted entirely in black, with white flourescent paint in the patterns of spider webbing drawn onto their armor. Web tattoos decorated their faces. Bearing torches, they had been guiding the beast back to its lair.

With a steely look, Hernane glared at the spider that she knew had killed and most likely eaten many of her friends. She would show Feldard that she was no damsel requiring rescue but a warrior as every bit as brave and courageous as he was. She was still armed with her hand axe, since she had managed to sheath it even as the spider had ensnared her in its paralytic webbing.

Feldard quickly strode forward toward the front when Hernane darted forward right in his path.

“Hernane! Get out of the way!”

Stephan quickly re-lit his torch with the still burning lantern. He held the torch as a shield, and raised his blade. His mind raced as he considered possible battle tactics. Ahead of the group was a giant spider that was trapped between the fire-bearing orcs and he and his friends.

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The Shroud Spider

shroudspider
Miklos scrabbled in his backpack yanked out his spellbook, he wondered if he had enough time. Probably not. He shoved it back in and prepared the sleep spell he had at hand.

Torn between the possible need to burn a spider, and the need to hide from the approaching cacophony of armor, Stephan opted for the more tangible evidence and doused the torch. He readied his shield and light stone — keeping it shrouded for the moment.

At the readying for battle around him by his companions, Feldards first though was for Hernane’s protection. The elf had indicated from which tunnel the threat lay and Feldard immediately placed himself between it and Hernane. He readied his axe and strained his infravision against the sudden darkness.

“Lets hope they’re friendly, but just in case…” Maruc unhooked his mace. “Hernane, exactly how many fellow miners did you have with you? And were they armed and armoured?”

Hernane whispered to Maruc, “There are no other survivors that I am aware of. Of course I have been out of it for a little while”.

She moved closer to Tekaryon, to provide protection for him and readies her weapon for combat. She thought after surviving a Dwarf eating giant spider and a horde of Gobbos, what else could go wrong today? Oh for a tankard of ale and a hearty meal. Inwardly she sighed, she was so tired, after these adventures she was starting to wish she was back with her clan in Rockhome with her one true love.

goldmine10Torchlight reflected off the cave walls as the sounds grew closer. The group could now hear a deep, rhythmic chanting emanating from that direction.

Hasan stepped forward, the inkling of what was to come and how he would handle it already in his mind. The strange presence of the orc had bothered him since its discovery, and he felt now that puzzle was about to be explained. Though his Elyan forebears had been insulated from the ravages of the orcs for an age, the ancient enmity between the elves and orcs immediately chilled his mind and soul. Should these indeed be orcs, Hasan would provoke their charge and lead them straight into his companions. He drew himself to full height, breathed, and just as the heatshapes began to separate into discernable individuals, Hasan commanded, “Halt! Who approaches my repose? Who dares disturb Hasan, Prince of the Elyan?”

A giant eight-legged spider, as large as a man, emerged from around the corner, skittering into the cavern. Turning its red eyes away from the torches that had been forcing it back to its lair, the dark creature looked to the elf and the others who stood in front of its spiderhole.

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Introducing Hernane

Maruc finished the ministrations on the final body. He could tell that Feldard wanted little to do with the goblins or the orc. But Maruc was morally obliged to see if they were alive. As his old abbot constantly reminded him ‘the fact that society shuns you for your creed or perhaps race – judge not until you are in a position to judge. Have you not noticed that certain Traladarans view our order contempt? Especially the bigots of the Church themselves. What makes us different from them is that we see the truth and we care enough to allow those who cross our paths the chance to prove themselves.’ Wise words.

And what was interesting was that Feldard had taken just as much care lowering all the bundles. Maruc doubted he would have given them a second glance three months ago. Small but important steps.

It was too late for one of the goblins. Its pale scaly face scarred and pitted with years of abuse and battle looked almost serene. Almost. He went to the next goblin. This one hadn’t been under the influence of the poison for so long and there was a flicker of life in it, a labouring pulse it was severely dehydrated and starving. Not much and without some serious attention wouldn’t last until the morning. The orc was alive. Maruc could tell it had been envenomed several times to keep it docile but even now realising it was free of the web was starting to struggle against its bindings. Maruc glanced up to the ceiling and wondered if the spider had been concussed buy Miklos’s magic.

Now he understood the condition of the victims he turned to Stephan. “Pull the orc through to the main chamber. I’ll pull this one.”

Stephan, looked quizzically at the priest then returned he gaze to the web-laden roof. “They are not the chosen of Halav. Why aid them?”

“That is what makes us different from them.” explained Maruc. “I can give you more reasons but for now lets get them out of here before she wakes up?” Maruc grinned.

“She who? Ah, the spider..” Stephan stowed his blade and showing impressive strength hauled the body back out into the main chamber with one arm. The other not letting go of the burning brand and not for one minute did his experienced eyes stop scanning for movement above.

Maruc hauled his burden to one side and checking once more to see if it was not getting significantly worse turned an registered the strange conversation that was happening behind him. He didn’t understand a word of it, but that wasn’t what struck him. It was the fact that the dwarf was up and about. Amazing creatures, dwarves he thought.

Miklos pulled the reminiscence of the webbing from the poor gnomish miner. “There you are my friend.” He proffered his water skin which the gnome took gratefully and gulped at. “Lucky we popped by eh?” The gnomes eyes swiveled toward the spider’s chamber radiating fear. “Ah, its unconscious, don’t worry we have dispatched one or two spiders in our adventures.”

“You don’t speak much do you. I’m Miklos.” the mage introduced the others. “…and that fine dwarven warrior is the redoubtable Feldard.” At these last words a flicker of recognition crossed his face. “Ah, you know Feldard? No. Heard his name before….. from…” the gnomes eyes betrayed his dwarf companion. “…from her. Interesting.”

Miklos looked over to the Dwarves engaged in a hushed and urgent conversation. “How timely and delightful! One might almost believe in fate, or religion eh Maruc?”

The priest shook his head. He let the the mages’ jibe go.

“You know who it is don’t you,” insisted the mage barely keeping his excitement down. “We wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her.”

“You mean this is Feldards ‘friend’? Ah, I see your thinking. The quick side journey to Highforge,” he said without rancor. “Well bless me. Halav truly guides our steps. What more proof do you need Miklos! Join us. Forget all those dusty books and arcana and embrace the love of Halav. Rejoice! Rejoice!”

Miklos recoiled, “Err Maruc, I think you’ve been on the communion wine, old chap,” then the mage noticed the grin. “Ha-ha, very funny.”

It was petty, but worth it just to see Miklos’s expression. “You have any idea what they’re going on about?” Maruc asked.

“Not a clue.” replied the mage.

Feldard nodded at Hernane’s request and turned towards the rest of the group, only to find Miklos and Maruc watching, him and Hernane in amused interest. Feldard gave the pair of humans one of his infamous scowls before proceeding with introductions. “Hernane of Rockhome,” he stated simply in answer to the questioning looks from his companions.

“Maruc, devote follower of Halav—and a priestly healer. Miklos—our groups record-keeper and mage. Hasan, of the Elyan elves.” Feldard pointed toward each as he introduced them. “And Stephan – a local of the Sukiska clan whose brothers homestead was attacked not that long ago by these same goblins. It is their trail that brought us here.”

Feldard looked over towards the awakening orc and grimaced. “Despite my similar desire to see these beasts killed outright… we need to question them first.”

“Pleased to meet you Hernane of Rockhome!” said Maruc and made a perfunctory bow. “Doubtless you will not wish to be administered to, however like Master Feldard here, you don’t get a choice. Say Ahhh. Good, eyes…clear. Excellent. You look a little pale my dear. But plenty of water a good meal and sunshine will cure that. How do you feel? No. Don’t answer that, you’d probably say something like ’stop fussing you irritating human’.” Maruc grinned wolfishly. “Good, well you’ll live. Whats the name of your silent friend over there?” Maruc could feel the ‘why don’t you ask him’ coming from a mile away…

“Likewise, Miss Hernane.” added Miklos, “Master Feldard here has been most tenacious in his attempts to locate you. I’m glad I could help in my small way! But my chief concern is the nest of spiders. How many are there that you are aware of and what are their markings? We must see to our safety first. I’d suggest a small conflagration and since Stephan is already there with a burning brand this should take too long.”

Hernane nodded to each in turn and haltingly stated after giving Feldard a quizzical look, “I give you my thanks for your timely intervention and rescue of my Gnomish friend and I”.

“As Feldard has already confirmed I am Hernane of Rockhome, Feldard and I am kinsman, his clan and mine have a long and lasting friendship,” looking at Feldard as if reconfirming this statement. “And my Gnomish friend here is Tekaryon.

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” said the gnome. Now recovered from the webbing’s effects, it could be clearly seen that he was a wide-eyed, animated fellow, his pupils darting about as he spoke. “My brother and I discovered this goldmine. We were set to turn quite a profit until these Wolfskullers showed up.”

“If you want to torch what you can in the cavern, feel free, but I am now unsure if the beast is even here and I suspect it will do little good. Personally, I suggest we move on as quickly as possible. I suspect the beast will soon return and I am in no mood to face it a second time. I am surprised that it has not already shown its presence. I also suggest that if you have to question the Orc and Goblin that we do it a bit later and we all move to a safer environment, for me I would rather just be rid of their foul stench once and for all. Their kind has killed many of my new friends and has caused much suffering“.

“I am surprised that the ‘green skins’ found the mine,” said the gnome. “We took great care to keep its presence as low key as possible, and this part of the forest is off the beaten path. Still I suppose it was inevitable, but I wonder what has led them here.”

“Sadly they were many in number and did not care of the losses and damage we inflicted upon them,” continued Hernane. “When we began to be overwhelmed we were forced to retreat into the mine and inadvertently freed the creature. It was indeed a sad day when these green skins stumbled upon the mine.”

“Where did this orc come from though?” inquired Tekaryon scratching his head.

“Stephen is it?” asked Hernane. “I am sorry for your loss that these creatures have wrought on you and your family. They are heartless and pitiless creatures, and you have my deepest sympathies. I will gladly aid you in hunting down any survivors for I too have a score to settle with them. As Feldard can confirm, I have a strong arm and stout heart and it will be my pleasure in helping you in hunt down these foul creatures. Plus I do need to discuss some personal matters with Feldard. Feldard, once again you have my thanks and gratitude for your timely intervention, I will never forget your loyalty and devotion to duty. Your Father will know of your courage.”

Stephan stabbed a nod at Hernane but kept scanning the cavern roof. “Pleased to meet you. I agree, let’s get out. The greenskins will be more pliable in the sunlight. No need to torch if we can just get out.”

The fighter, for all his strength, seemed uneased by the webs and what they may conceal in the lofty shadows. He glanced about to ensure their exit route was clear. “Leave the greenies bundled in the web. We’ll drag them out.”

Hasan nodded with gravity at the new dwarf and her story of retreat and fear. He headed to the southeast tunnel, ready to move on from the grand cavern. Still, despite the horror of the tale, the elf could not fail to remark to himself at the wonder of the two dwarfs finding one another. It appeared that the world beyond his Radlebb home was smaller in some ways than it seemed.

The others emerged from behind the teeth, dragging the three humanoid packages along with them. The elf turned his head. His keen hearing was the first to pick up the sound of armored movements approaching.

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