Monthly Archives: November 2009

A Quick End to the Orcs

Maruc ducked. The scimitar clanked off his shield. The priest bobbed his head over the rim only to be met by the foetid breath of the orc but inches from his face. The orc snarled. Maruc grinned, then headbutted it. It lost its footing in surprise and backed into another orc. Maruc swung his flail in a lazy arc that connected with the beast’s head with a sickening crunch. “It seems they are quite game!” he said stepping over the corpse and engaged another.

Feldard knew his heavy crossbow would take too long to reload, so he dropped it to the floor behind him and pulled his battleaxe, moving forward to engage the charging orcs with his usual dwarven zeal.

As the first of the three came within reach of his battle axe, his weapon was already at its zenith in its arc. Feldard let the blade’s momentum work with his strength, giving him the power he needed to cleave through leather armour, orc flesh and bone. He paused just long enough, ignoring fresh wounds to determine if another strike was needed to finish the foul thing off or if he could move on to the next.

Too high on adrenalin to care about the pain, the mage bounced behind the the line of warriors, his staff clasped loosely in one hand. He tried to gauge the situation. The dancing light of the lightstones made it difficult so he held up his own. Four, no three left? Light caught Feldard’s magewrought axe as it sprung into his grasp. Miklos stepped back out of his swing. This was going to be a short battle…he hoped.

Disgusting bits of slimy orc meat sent flying by Feldard’s handiwork splattered Stephan as he made his own attack. Using the jumble of rocks to his advantage, Stephan maneuvered one of the brutes such that it soon tripped, falling backward, right into the path of Maruc’s flail.

The magic stone lights flicked about the stone walls while the battle raged.

Hasan, last to alight on the upper ground, would also be last to engage in battle. Still, he did what he could, and first things first — the elf ran past the mage, hoping to head off any orc that passed the dwarfs or the energetic Maruc before it reached the unarmored mage. Seeing none pass, the elf plunged headlong in the melee himself, swiping with his sword whenever orcflesh appeared in reach.

Hernane, grimaced in the flickering light cast from the lightstones, the heavy grunts and clashes of metal from the battle surrounded her, but did not distract her from the snarling orc’s face that was in front of her. Blocking an attack, she backhanded her axe and exhaled sharply as she felt the axe bite home cutting to the bone, the blood spurting to her left over towards Stephen. The blood of her ancestors and the honour of her clan dictated that this battle would be fought to the last, with no mercy and quarter asked for.

Pulling her axe free, Hernane did not realize at how flawlessly the Dwarf maidens’ combat training worked, she continued to swing her axe at whatever orc face appeared in front of her, the red mist of hatred for the green skin blocked out any pain and feeling of exhaustion that she was feeling. Hernane could feel the battle shift, she knew these orcs were beaten, and so apparently did they.

As the three remaining turned to flee, Hernane was determined that none would escape. She cut one down with her axe but the other two ran toward the rock teeth that partially blocked the exit.



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Battle at the Spider Pit

Hasan saw nothing above beyond the pit’s rim, but the jangling, noisy progress of a band of orcs could be confused only with the ways of goblins. In either case, Hasan wanted to be on level ground with them. “Up, up, up,” he urged. “Defend the rope, we have to get out of here!” He pushed those climbing the rope forward, trying to help as many up as he could.

Stephan hastily accepted the statuette back from Hasan. A nod of thanks was all he could afford before following the Prince’s advice, and was the first to scramble out of the pit.

He saw Miklos come up the rope behind him as he heard the approaching orcs’ armor clank as they started to maneuver through the ‘teeth’ at the entrance to the spider’s cave. “Blessed Halav,” Stephan blasphemed at the unpleasant thought of more battle. He genuflected the Halav sign telling himself to later repent to a greater degree for having muttered His name out of frustration.

Drawing his sword and hefting his shield into place, Stephan tried to assess the approach of the orcs. How close were they? He glanced around the chamber looking for advantages. See a pile of slag, he alighted on top, making sure he had good footing, so as to have a height advantage. He was, additionally, poised to the side of where the orcs would likely enter, giving him more upper hand.

Feldard agreed with Hasan’s assessment of the situation. Better to be fighting the orcs on level than to be trapped below. The dwarf impatiently waited his turn on the rope and clambered his way up as quick as his bulk would allow. It was by no means graceful or quiet but with the help of the others he managed to make it over the ledge of the pit before the orcs were on scene.

Miklos silently cursed. The orcs would be in the cavern before they were all up the rope. Feldard rose from the pit, and Miklos gestured toward the tunnel where the marching was coming from. He silently drifted to the right, flipped his book open and prepared a sleep spell. He gestured to the dwarf to take to the left.

Feldard moved away from the pit edge and pulled out his crossbow loading it as swiftly as possible. He’d likely only get one shot with it .. but the dwarf was quickly learning to take the advantage in a battle where ever and however it presented itself. A quick check assured him that his axe was easily at hand once the bolt was away. Feldard waited crossbow already in position.

Hernane sighed with frustration, she knew the orcs would be back. She hoped that they had not found Tekaryon and that he was safe. She quickly clambered up the rope after Feldard and crouched down beside him, pulling out her handaxe. The last encounter had unnerved her, what a chaotic situation however facing orcs in battle was something that she could make sense of. Let these orcs come on, she would give them cold Dwarf iron. She glanced at her companions, and noticed that everyone apart from a few minor scratches looked healthy enough. She could not help but admire the way that they all took up the best battle positions depending on their specific skills. Feldard has done well training this group she thought to herself.

Miklos suggested the center ground to Hernane with another gesture then continued with his study.

It was always difficult holding a read spell in his mind under pressure, still the battle at Sukiskyn had steeled his mettle, and he prepared as best he could awaiting the shadows of the orc guard before he released his incantation.

When the first of the party of orcs emerged from the stalactite/stalagmite bars, Miklos released his spell. He only caught three of them. It seemed the orc scouting party numbered eight, which left five orcs to contend with.

The humanoid warriors threw their spears, targeting the dwarves and mage. Stephan leapt from his ambush position, cutting down one of the them from behind before it could execute its spear throw. The orc party now numbered four.

Miklos cursed again as he saw that his spell was not as effective as he had intended. Then his eyes grew wide as he saw two spears headed his way. He awkwardly attempted to duck and roll away. One of the weapons pierced his calf muscle.

Feldard released his crossbow bolt. A miss. Damn! He glanced to his former betrothed. She too was struck by one of the spears, but it was only a scratch.

The orcs drew their swords. One turned to face Stephan and three charged toward the others.

Maruc hauled his bulk up the rope, the armour slowing him down. The sounds of battle spurred him on. With relief, he elbowed himself to the lip and watched the dwarves charge forth to meet the orcs. The priest grunted as he brought his knee over the edge and crawled heavily to his feet. He swung his shield from his back, loosened his flail and smiled as joined the fray.

Hasan was the last to scale the rope and he did so quickly and with fluid grace typical of an elf.


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Out Of The Chamber, Back Into The Pit

Stephan desperately fought to make a guarded retreat. Blood stung the corner of his eye where the jackal that had leaped on his face left that and many more lacerations across his countenance.

But as he fought to join Hasan in relative safety, he strained to see his own, smaller, jackal carving. And there it was!

His glance, however, cost him dearly. Two more jackals found there way to the few places his skin was exposed and proceeded to inflict damage like a weasel in a chicken coop. Tiny, vicious, knives of tooth and claw sent sparkles of pain ricocheting through his body. Nonetheless, he tried to kick his little statue, now beneath his feet, toward Hasan.

The relentless attack of the vermin was too much. He couldn’t be sure his boot even connected with the statue. And again, his effort of saving the little carving cost him. The jackals continued a hate-filled attack; one of them seemingly burrowing into the back of Stephan’s neck.

Flinging himself against the wall, Stephan was able to knock the most offending devil from his back but two others still clung to him. Plaster and some sort of decaying artwork cascaded to the floor from his impact. The shredded tapestry caught up his boots, tripping Stephan to his knees. More jackals leaped to attack somehow sensing a kill was near.

The priest leapt past Stephan. He jammed the edge of his shield into a grasping fiend sending it skittering angrily across the room. “Back off a second.” He looped the chain of his flail around the second and dislodged it enough to release its grip. Wedging the struggling creature against the wall he urged Stephan away.
The warrior gave space and Maruc ducked back into the tunnel and ran to the exit.
“Time to leave everyone!” he called.

Miklos scrabbled for the exit. This was no place for an unarmoured man. The floor had difficult footing but thankfully his natural clumsiness did not creep up on him as he threaded his way through the melee and the dubious safety of the tunnel. He made his way back to the midden and checked the rope. It was still secure. They couldn’t be caught down here and someone needed to guard it so hand over hand he scaled the rope with the lightstone gripped between his teeth.

With his battle axe too slow and cumbersome to effectively deal with these foes, Feldard tucked his axe between his armour and his pack for easy retrieval later then turned to using brute strength.

Feldard made his way towards the tunnel that the elf, then the humans made their escape down. Only Hernane and himself remained within the chamber and Feldard was going to ensure Hernane made it out before him.

Ignoring the ear piercing scratchings of talon and teeth on metal, and the occasional laceration that came along with having over half a dozen of the statuettes clambering over him, Feldard trudged his way to Hernane and with his gloved hands tore the creatures from her with a vengeance and flung them against the far wall. With the last of them off her, Feldard shoved her out through the tunnel and then barred the way past with his armoured body as he turned his attention to the ones that were swarming him.

But it seemed for every one Feldard managed to tear from him armour and beard, two more would take it’s place. The dwarfs only saving grace was that his armour protected him fairly well, only a small number of their attacks made it through and those were mostly minor but cumulatively they would wear him down if he could not manage somehow to get them off him to retreat.

Feldard stepped back into the tunnel, arms raised to protect his eyes as he peered at the tunnel around him to see if there were any structurally weak areas that he could exploit. If he could cause a tunnel cave-in much like the other side of the chamber that might keep the little devils contained.

So intent was Feldard in his study of the tunnels structure that he didn’t notice right away that the weight on his back and shoulders had lightened and that the tiny scramblings had ceased. But when he did, he looked back to the chamber.. and there they were standing once more around the chamber.. perfect little statuettes unmoving… just waiting. He gave a shudder then warily backed his way towards the midden pit, just in case the little devils changed their minds.

Hernane after being pushed through the tunnel by Feldard waited at the bottom of the rope she yelled “come on Feldard, its time to leave”! She then clambered up the rope and stood at the top gasping for breath looking down anxiously for Feldard. Turning to the others she queried them, “what was that all about, this place is cursed”.

Hasan offered a hand to the bulky dwarf as he stumbled from the room, but the dwarf passed him by. The elf turned to look back at what they had encountered. The statuary was so still and there amidst the newly-stirred dust clouds lay their tiny echo. Hasan stole back into the room and held his breath. Nothing moved, though his magic sight showed the fierce glimmering outlines around the statues all the while. The elf retrieved the charm. Stephan’s keepsake did not glow with the light of magic, but it was an interesting little bauble nonetheless. He walked out without a backwards glance.

Soon all of the party were out of the room safely. The statuary resumed their still poses in the alcoves of the old chamber.

Meanwhile, Miklos pulled himself over the pit lip and scanned the room above, just in time to hear the approach of a party of orcs.


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A Dozen Diminutive Devils

Miklos cried out in alarm. He threw out his arm in a dismissive gesture and threw the first spell that came to mind. Web. He tried to encompass as many of the statues as he could.

The closest vile jackal-creature reached toward Miklos as he backed away flinging enchanted web strands that coated the creature slowing its shining claws but inches from his face. Miklos grinned weakly. The magic caught, the arm snapped back. He caught the little devil and one of his brothers in the web. Unfortunately, with their tiny size and sharp teeth the webbing would not keep them stuck for long.

Maruc looked up. Looked down. Dropped the skull and brought the shield up as the first statue launched himself at him. His flail sung though the air and connected with the snarling beast. “Back to the tunnel! Their numbers will count little there!”

Fighting a desperate retreat ,he hoped he’d buy enough time for the others. He was waiting for Feldard and Stephan to block the tunnel.
Stephan snapped out of his apoplectic state, readying his sword and shield. Part of his mind pierced a concern into the large portion now devoted to melee.

My statue! — was the concern. He had tried to secure it but the small stone carving was fumbled between his and Miklos’ hands as the battle broke out. It fell, he knew not where.

But the little devils were on the loose and two were leaping right at Sukiskyn’s face…

Hernane using the combat training that all Dwarf maidens were trained in, retreated back towards the tunnel striking at any of the silver jackal-creatures that came within striking distance. In the melee she looked desperately to see where Feldard was to see if he was ok.

At Miklos’ alarmed cry, Feldard turned away from the collapsed tunnel, just in time to see two of the foot tall jackal-headed statues charge towards him. He raised his axe just in time to block their first attacks.

He followed that with an attack of his own, pressing his opponents back further into the room. He needed to get to the entrance and help protect Hernane and the others as they made their escape.

But it was easier planned than done. Despite their diminutive size the statues, like the golem from another adventure, were resistant to his attacks. But Feldard was not one to give up.

“Fall back, fall back!” Hasan echoed the cleric’s sentiments. He thrust his spellbook deeply into his backpack, dodging a silvered slashing claw as he stuttered backwards. There was no hope for him here, book in hand or hand deep in his pack. The elf fled as swiftly as he could. One of the little jackal-men jumped on his back and sunk its teeth into his shoulder. The elf knocked the statuette off with a sharp backhand as he made it out of the chamber. The statuettes that had been hot on his trail turned away as he exited and diverted its attention to those still in the room.


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Jackal-Headed Statues

Miklos stared in awe around the room. The wall paintings almost rivaled that of the Temple on Grey Mountain and were about in the same condition. He spent some time seeing if they depicted anything relevant.

Here and there amongst the cracked and flaking fresco, he could make out the shapes of more jackal-headed men engaged in various activities. Casting magical spells, praying at altars, creating artworks, etc.

Stephan inhaled sharply in shock. The others turned to see if he was choking on webbing or something.

“Merciful, Halav,” he genuflected as he spoke. Seemingly paralyzed for a moment, it was several seconds before Stephan clumsily fumbled at his neck pouch — which had to be hoisted out of the armor covering his chest — trying to extract something. Someone put a light on his hands and then everyone stepped closer to see the small object he held. It was a perfect replica of the larger, but still diminutive, statues that lined the walls.

Stephan found his voice again. “I’ve no idea what this is but have carried it since my youth.” He turned the statue for all to see. Then rotated it so his companions could see the bottom. “There are strange marks on the bottom.”

Hernane, squinted in the gloom of the glow stones at the tiny scratching on Stephen’s keepsake. She did not recognize them and could not tell what they might mean.

Hasan pulled his spellbook from his battered pack. He turned quickly through the familiar pages.

Maruc followed Feldard as he glanced over the taller statues for a moment before turning back to Stephen. “So what does it mean?” he questioned.

Maruc thought for a moment. “Well they don’t look too friendly.” he said. Feldard grunted and turned his attention to the caved in exit. Perhaps there was a way to clear it. This at least was something he understood.

The priest shrugged and went over to the corpses. He checked them over to see what they had died from. He picked up a skull. No damage, it didn’t tell him much. He looked over at the collapsed entrance. Probably caught here and unaware of the secret exit and starved to death in the dark. He hoped they hadn’t suffered too much. But the statues might be worth a new hospice in Specularum and the Mages Guild might pay handsomely for them. He turned to query Miklos but he was nose deep in an ancient book and talking to Stephan.

Feldard ran his hands over the rock of the cave in. “Hmm, they tried to clear it and brought fresh rock down, would be my guess.”

Maruc returned to the bones to see if there was anything about them to identify their age and identity. Ancient Priests? Thieves? Trapped scholars? Nay, they were orcs. Not of the Black Web tribe. Or perhaps, they were, but from a time before they had turned into a spider-cult.

He then turned his attention of the statues and noticed Stephan fumbling in his tunic and had produced a small statuette. They put Miklos in mind of Eastern tradition animal-gods worshiped by the nomadic desert tribes he’d studied.

Stefan had inverted his charm and indicated the glyphs on the bottom. Miklos craned over to see. “Interesting. May I?” Miklos held out his hand and Stephan passed it to him. There was something familiar about the markings. A bit like familiar symbols used to write a foreign language.

He delved into his pack and produced the Book of the Sons of Night. holding a lightstone between his teeth the statue upended on one hand the leafed through the pages of the Book trying to see if anything looked similar.

Hasan read slowly from the pages of his spellbook and then exhaled deliberately. The others then saw his brow furrow and his hands spasm between fists and full extension three times. And then he sighed in relief and was done.

Hasan gazed about the room with magicsight. He immediately saw that every statuette in the room glowed with arcane light.

Hernane leaned in closer to one of the statues. She wondered how much they might be worth in Rockhome. Curious to see how heavy they were and if they were solid silver, she put her hands on one of the silver statues to try to lift it up. The thing instantly came alive, bore its teeth and tried to bite her in the face!

Instinctively, Hernane pushed it back, putting some distance between her and the jackal-faced statuette. The other eleven statues also sprung into action, racing toward the nearest intruder.


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Ancient Chamber


“Hello. What do we have here?”said the mage as he traced the edge of the door. “Feldard, come down here and see what you make of this. I think its some sort of concealed door. I think its worth a look.”

Whilst the dwarf descended Miklos carefully checked for any noise and to see if there was a opening mechanism.

Maruc looked around and played out the rope then secured it to a close staligmite. He then lowered himself down the rope after the dwarf.

“Hernane, come on!” shouted Hasan, as he followed the humans down the rope ladder.

Stephan followed the others down the rope. “Hopefully this rope will remain for our exit.” He used his lightstone to inspect the midden paying special attention to the door edge Miklos discovered.

Hernane, upon hearing Hasan’s command, left her position of rear guard and follows the other group members down the rope.

It took some prompting to get Feldard attached to the rope and into the midden pit. Once down, he went straight for the opening, checking it out, ensuring it was stable enough to traverse through.

Satisfied, he glanced over the assembled group. “Lets make this quick before the orcs see that rope and toss it back down.”
With axe in hand, the dwarf set off down the opening.”

The small opening led to a dank but once-fine chamber. Dripping water and mold have smeared the wall-paintings and the plaster of the ceiling has flaked away, mixing with the bones of three humanoid creatures on the floor. Lined up on stone benches to either side, and apparently untouched by the decay around them, were a dozen silver statuettes, each about a foot high.

The statues depicted robed men with jackal-like heads. Stephan drew out the tiny statue he had found atop Mount Mt’a Ihkhara many years ago during his youth. The sculptures in the room were larger versions of his good luck charm.

A cave collapse has sealed off the only other exit from the chamber.


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