Monthly Archives: June 2010

Drinks & Dinner at Digger’s Gulch

“Feldard, do you think this town would have a library?” asked Miklos. “I would visit there to learn more of the moors and Xitaqa. I think the more we know first, the better.”

“Miklos, I saw a small inn, Digger’s Gulch, back at the corner of Gold Way and Pick Place, I’ll arrange rooms for us there,” Hasan offered. “I’ll see you for dinner,” the elf called, shrugging over the shoulder he had already turned from hi companions, “but for now, I could use a siesta.”

Stephan watched Hasan make his way to arrange lodging. He looked around the stark, stony village. ‘Seems safe enough’, he thought. But he couldn’t help feeling some angst at one of the party heading off alone in a strange village. The Iron Ring were everywhere.

“Do you suppose there are any subterranean pubs, master dwarf”, he spoke this loudly enough for some of the locals to hear. Perhaps one might be friendly enough to direct them to such an establishment.

What did he look like a tour guide!? Feldard snorted before answering. “Not likely Miklos. Our trades are passed on by apprenticeship not books.” He looked then to Stephan, “Just listen for the sound of dwarven singing.”

Feldard then took his own advice and sought out the nearest pub to ask after Hernane. He walked a bit easier now that the cleric had healed most of his wounds when they had reached the security of the settlement’s borders.

Ludo patted Stephen on his back, “Come on, let’s sort the horses out and find the nearest pub and get rousing drunk. I am sure we are safe enough from the Iron Ring here.” With that comment he guided Stephen down the street to the Diggers Gulch which had a stable located next door for the horses.

Later in the evening after a few ales, Ludo sat back and placed his feet up on a bench beside a rousing fire and contemplated his situation. The last few weeks had been very tiring and action packed. Yet after meeting this eclectic group of misfits he felt more comfortable than he had in a long while. If only his father could see him now, he thought. He rubbed his leg where the arrow had been removed, it was healing over nicely. He would have to see about repairing his equipment tomorrow; no doubt these Dwarves would do a find job there.

“Stephen, do you think we should proceed up the river by boat or stick to using the horses?”

Maruc had followed his moody companions to the Digger’s Gulch, but as they lost himself in their cups, the priest lost interest. He excused himself with exacting politesse — to the surprise of nobody. The priest wandered in the small village, under the starlight, pondering their progress from the fires of Sukiskyn until now. The crazed antics of little gnomes–explosions of fire and light dotted the streets–seemed almost normal in this strange settlement, but none were stranger than the deep bonds he had formed with his companions. As the moon began to set, the cleric finally returned to the inn and collapsed, well sated, in his bed.

* * * * *

Maruc, like the others, was exhausted after all their extensive travels. So much so that he slept right through all the noise his companions had made returning to the room in varied states of inebriation. The first to go to sleep, he was the first to awake.

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To Highforge

“And so we return to where we started, back to the Iron Ring. I wonder if these men come from Xitaqa. More proof that man and beast are working together,” mulled Hasan. “The deep evil of slavery that these man have pursued deserves our vengeance, although their own scars maybe show manacles was part of their own past. But what kind of man turns on his fellows and joins his captors. Sickening,” the elf finished with unusual vehemence.

On seeing that the remaining bandit would give them no further aid, the elf approached a last time. “Tie him to a horse, Maruc, snared as he is.” The big man looked out from under the webbing in surprise. “Learn this face, slaver. And warn your fellows, if you find them, that Hasan Elyan, Prince of the Radlebb Wood, will break the Iron Ring.” He slapped the horse into a trot and saw the man bounce off toward the Dymrak and the river Kelvin.

Stephan drew a sharp breath upon seeing the marking on the arms of the ruffians. He genuflected to Halav and said “These are slaves to the Cult of Leptar. It is known that the Ring and the cult work together.” In answer to Hasan, “Their minds and spirits are corrupted by Leptar. This is why they join their own captors. And why the fought without concern about dying here in the mud today…”

He shook off the creepy feelings and helped Ludo round up the horses.

“We have enough mounts and but they’ve been rode hard. They will speed our journey, but we should go easy on them for a day or two.” Stephan busied himself adjusting the tack and other gear. The bandits kept the straps too tight causing some painful rubbing on the horses’ flanks. He adjusted the straps to allow the wounds some air. “We’ll have to keep the flies off the wounds,” he said to no one in particular.

Stephan watched the lone bandit diminish in the distance. “That will send a powerful message, Hasan! We shall break the Ring!”

Ludo retrieved his bow and finished rounding up the horses. Whilst in generally poor connection he had seen worse and thought that in a few days they would improve.

Seeing Hasan release a prisoner made him shake his head, after knowing what the Iron Ring did to their prisoners he felt that Hasan was being too kind. A cut throat was all the slaver deserved, nothing more and nothing less. Still what else did you expect from Royalty? Acts of cruelty on one hand, willing to have the masses starve and become homeless over petty disputes with neighbouring Kingdoms and then think that by throwing a party or by showing an random act of kindness that they were benevolent and worthy of their station and rank. Bah the hypocrisy made him sick.

He called to Hasan as he adjusted a bridle, “I think you will regret your actions, he would not show you the same act of kindness. The Iron Ring is blood thirsty and ruthless, you cross them at your peril. Now they know you, they will hunt you down. Far better to leave no witnesses and keep them guessing as to where we are and where we could be heading. Still it least we have some horses, far better for us to ride now that we are out of the forest we will cover more ground.”

“Stephen you know these lands is there anywhere we can go and rest up, both Feldard and Hasan have taken quite a hammering from these slavers, I think we need a place to rest up for a day or two. What about High Forge, we are passing quite close, surely High Forge would be a safe place for a while?”

“Both lay in the wrong direction,” Stephan said as he retrieved his arrows. “We want to head northeastish, to Xitaqa. But of course that leads through the heart of the Moori. Folks say the undead move there. And the land is treacherous. We’ll have to move carefully.” Stephan scanned the horizon. “If we could find a Darine guide, that would help. They know ways through the bogs.”

With battle over, Feldard pulled stuck arrows from his armour and flesh, grimacing at the pain. He bound what wounds he could access without having to remove every last piece of armour.

When Maruc approached to offer assistance, Feldard was too weary to complain and instead accepted the priests aid graciously, (well graciously for him). “Remind me to give half my portion of these treasures we find to the church.”

Watching Hasan, and Stephen tie the slaver to the horse and let him go, Feldard nodded. Feldard cared little as to what happened to the slaver. If he did survive to return, Feldard would kill him at that time.

Glancing about, Feldard noted the horse he’d injured laying on it’s side still in pain and unable to ever walk again. He retrieved his crossbow and put a bolt through the head of the downed horse. The dwarf could feel the breeders angry glare behind him. Feldard snorted. “Would you rather I had left it alive to suffer?”

Without waiting for an answer Feldard, moved off a short distance ahead, loading his crossbow, to keep watch while the others discussed where they would go next.

Feldard snorted again at the Ludo’s notion that he needed rest (true though it was), and Feldard was about to deny it when the question of High Forge’s safety came up, causing the dwarf to pause and frown. Highforge was where Hernane had been headed before returning home.

“Safe or not, we should check out Highforge before continuing on to Xitaqa” Feldard stated. That would give him an opportunity to ensure Hernane was safe. Worry over her would be a distraction otherwise.

He made his way over to the horse breeder with a bit of a scowl. “Help me mount up.” The idea of riding the huge beast was daunting but if it would save his already weary legs and speed their journey he would suffer the amused glances of the others at the sight of him on a horse.

And sure enough, there was amusement aplenty at his ungainly clambering up onto the saddle even with assistance. Dwarves were not meant to ride horses – ponies perhaps but not horses. The stirrups were useless to the dwarf – his legs just couldn’t reach no matter how high Stephen adjusted them. Feldard, stubborn about not riding with another, would just have to keep him self balanced.

“Lets’ get on with this,” grumbled the dwarf as he finally was settled. He nudged his mount into movement.

“Stephen, I understand your urgency to get to Xitaqa, however in our current condition I would think it prudent to rest for a few days in safety. What say you Maruc? I think High Forge would be the safest place, the reach of the Iron ring is long, but even they would hesitate to attack us there.

“Friends, let us to Highforge,” chimed in Miklos. “To rest. To learn what we can of how long the Iron Ring has been seen near the moors. Surely our most noble elven friend’s promise demands that new wariness, but it will win us friends as well. But most of all, let us to Highforge to cross the river. Surely we will have more chance of finding a boat across from Highforge than in the moors.” Miklos swung into his horse, far more easily than the dwarf, and led the party east.

* * * * *

And so it was. The group made their way to the gnome and dwarf community settled in the Wulfwolde Hills. They knew they were close when they started encountering quarries and shafts that dotted the region surrounding the settlement. Arriving in the evening, they found Highforge to be composed of a relatively small number of exterior stone buildings, with the bulk of the settlement below ground level. With Feldard leading the way, the group was not given any trouble from the locals, although having such an odd assortment of races traveling together did draw some stares.

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Defeating The Horsemen

As the riders charged into melee, Ludo discarded his bow and drew his dagger. As one of the riders came within reach, Ludo with a running leap vaulted onto the back of a horseman, grabbed the rider around the waist and dragged him off the horse to ground. As the horseman fell he lost his axe in the dirt. Pulling a dagger of his own he charged Ludo.

In the dust of the melee, surrounded by the throng of horsemen they fought; each looking for an advantage over their opponent. Ludo ducked as his attacker swung widely, the sunlight glinting off the blade and then counter attacked by wrestling his opponent, grabbing his attackers arm. Feeling his strength falter as they struggled together, he desperately and viciously head butted his opponent across the bridge of the nose, with a sickening crunch he felt his opponents nose break. Taking this opportunity Ludo thrust his dagger into the gut of the horseman and watched him collapse to the ground.

Feldard turned to the next opponent. The horse rider this time, had learned from his companions mistake and urged his horse forward to trample the dwarf, but Feldard wasn’t just going to stand still for that. With a grunt, the dwarf swung his axe… not for the man.. but for the horses front legs. It was a shame to have to harm the beast to get to the man, but Feldard did what had to be done.

The horse’s shrill scream rent the battle din as the dwarfs’ battle axe cleaved its front legs. It reared onto it’s hind, flailing it’s bloody stumps in the air before crashing down onto its knees.

Feldard moved in and struck for the rider next, killing him.

Two horse-held men bypassed the mad dwarven charge and rounded on Maruc and Hasan, hurtling in from the pair’s left. Maruc grinned as the swords whistled their greeting from 20 feet. The mounted swordsman charged together, on the elf and cleric’s left and right. The sword to the left swung and landed on the cleric’s shoulder, but the morningstar hit harder. The rider held on to his mount, barely, slumping listlessly to the coal nag’s right. On the right, Hasan’s arrow gashed through the swordsman’s leather jerkin. But the man’s swing was true, and Hasan lost his feet as the ensuing uppercut caught him full in the chest. Hasan staggered to his feet as the horses wheeled.

Stephan used his bow as long as he could. His last arrow was shot at nearly point-blank range as one of the mounted assailants bore down on him. The arrow sung through the cool air and found its mark in the upper left chest of the rider striking him dead.

Another rider joined the attack and Stephan had to roll to his right, discarding the bow, to avoid being trampled. The rider had to turn his mount to afford attack with his sword arm giving Stephan time to ready his own blade and new shield.

The shield seemed light and veritably flew into position to block the attack.

Clack! The sound of the man’s sword on his shield was sharp and decisive. Stephan’s counter strike cut deeply into the man’s calf as well as into the horse’s flank. Both horse and man reeled in pain, the horse rearing violently. Unable to maintain the saddle, the man was cast to the moist ground. Stephan lost no time in again striking, he delivered a death blow to the man’s chest.

Amid the clattering and confusion of the battle, Miklos found himself cut off from his companions. Looking left, he saw two horsemen between himself and Maruc and Hasan. Looking right, just one, already dismounted, between himself and Stephen. The mage released his web spell on the man and saw him quickly ensnared.

WIth their dwindling numbers, the men, clad in leather armor and armed with short swords, were outmatched. In spite of this, their morale never seemed to wane and they ferociously fought to the last.

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Arrows To Swords

Ludo grunted as the arrow hit, focusing past the pain he quickly moved to the left side of the group, the idea being that he would present a moving target for these bandits, making it less likely that they would hit him again. His training kicked in and whilst on the move he quickly shot more arrows at the bandits leader, “take this dog down and most likely the others will run” was his only thought.

Shocked at the effrontery of the riders, Stephan took quick side step and knelt to achieve a lower profile that still afforded a stable launch for one of his new, enchanted arrows.

“I’ll let it fly but I must find it afterwards,” he muttered to himself as the arrow flew at the leader. The aim was good but he couldn’t help but notice how the arrow seemed to curve between the air to find its target. Lodging in the upper arm of the leader, Stephan worried the man might break it in tearing it out.

Groaning with more disgust than pain, the leader, for the moment, paid no mind to the arrows peppering his body. The man fought on despite the inconvenience of a few wounds.

And so too did Stephan and the companions.

Hasan gasped in pain and shrank back behind the heavily armored priest to his left. “Your damn scruples are a bit inconvenient at times like this,” the elf grunted at Maruc, as the elf drew his bow and fired, while the cleric huddled behind his shield, with no arrows to bring to bear. “I thought your Halav was a warrior god!”

Maruc winced at the elf’s words, but guarded his speech. As he watched the elf and humans fire away with cool glee, he could admit to a slight pang of jealousy. But the thunk another deflected arrow made off his sturdy iron-wrapped wood was a comforting sound for this priest, a warrior to the bottom of his soul. He gripped his morningstar anew and waited for the first horseman to fall.

Seeing the riders raise their bows towards him and his companions, Feldard let loose with his crossbow bolt. He didn’t wait to see how well his aim was, nor did he attempt to fiddle with loading another. He dropped the crossbox and pulled his axe, even as an arrow pierced into a joint of his armour. Heedless of it, he charged the riders with a dwarven shout.

Feldard became the obvious choice of target for the riders. Another volley of arrows came, and but Feldard charged on regardless, focused on closing the distance, still letting out his dwarven roar.

With his charge and shouting, he hoped spook the horses somewhat. These didn’t look to be warmounts. If he could spook the horses, the riders would be forced to hold the reins and leave off firing at him and his companions.

As he came within melee range a third volley came – with fewer arrows this time, now that most were having to keep their horse from bolting, and still the dwarf kept on, the pain of his wounds fueling his battle rage. Thankfully his hard armor had offered him some protection.

Being mounted his foe was mostly out of reach but the mans legs and lower torso was fair game…

Miklos fell back as the arrow protruded from his thigh. Yet even so he had enough sense of mind to call on his magic. The riders were yet out of range of his web spell, so he quickly recalled an alternative. He pointed towards the leader and from his fingers – flew a magical missile, which impacted the man without fail.

The leader was now gravely wounded, and so moved his position backward while ordering the others to charge forth. The remaining foes switched their bows for swords, looking to engage their opponents in melee combat from atop their steeds.

An arrow from the elf, struck the leader in the neck, cutting him off from belaying any further orders. It was too late though, the riders were not looking back at him any more, instead focusing their attention to the battle ahead.

Feldard raised his axe to confront the closest rider, dodging around the flailing front hooves of the horse as he swung his blade. As the rider had leaned forward to swing at the dwarf, Feldard cleaved the man’s arm off at the shoulder. The man fell off his steed and would fight no more, leaving six riders to contend with.

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Arrow Exchange

Though groggy still, Stephan was much improved with the sleep and ministrations of Maruc. He marched behind Hasan, glad to be free of the goblin territory and content in the leadership of this keen elf. Upon Hasan’s indication of approaching riders, Stephan had to squint hard to see them.

“Right. They see us as well. And they approach in a hurry.”

Upon seeing the Horsemen fast approaching, Ludo became wary. Quickly determining that no cover was available, he quickly notched an arrow to his bow and and aimed at the lead horsemen.

Stephan too quickly readied his bow joining Feldard and Ludo in preparations for missile defense. He looked to Hasan to parlay with these strangers if they were not immediately given to battle.

Miklos moved off the path and readied his web for the riders. They looked like rough men of a variety of ethnicities. Not a good omen.

The lead rider wore chain and carried a shield. The others were all clad in leather. There were eight of them in total.

At the elf’s warning, Feldard glanced about for a more defensible position for the party – just in case. There wasn’t much cover in this area.. no hills to give them the advantage of height on the approaching horsemen, so he had to make do with loading his crossbow and having it at the ready -pointing to the ground just in front of the horsemen as they neared. He called out loudly to be heard over the pounding of horse hooves. “Slow your approach or I will take out your leader!”

Maruc watched as the horsemen seemed to be complying to the dwarf’s instruction. Surely, the riders meant no ill, still it was wise to be cautious. With a prayer for Halav’s watchful intervention in mind, Maruc stepped forward with the elf, hands spread likewise. “Greetings, ” he called out. ” Forgive our dwarven companion. He’s…”

In unison, the riders raised their bows and loosed a volley of arrows as the companions did the same.

“…seen too much battle of late and is overly tense,” finished the priest as he raised his shield to block the incoming missiles.

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