Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Empty Crypt

After a moments hesitation Ludo moved forward to the ornate door. Logic dictated that this door would lead into the tower and inside the tower Ludo was sure he would find the blackhearted Hobgoblin ‘Vlaak’.

Ludo approached the door, carefully brushed the cobwebs away, crouched down and pressed his head against the door to listen for any sounds coming from the other side. He inserted his dagger between the doorframe and door to feel for any trap triggers, finding none he stepped back and quietly opened the door.

“Miklos, I think we may need some light from here on in, can you help with that”?

When Feldard got close enough to see the doorway and what Ludo was doing he moved up along the line to hiss low at the rogue. “What are you doing? That door hasn’t seen use in how many years? And with all the goblins about you don’t think that’s odd? It’s probably the entrance to some dark temple. We should leave it alone.”

However, even as he spoke this, he realized that actually his reasons spoke more for investigating the building further. He gave a deep sigh. “Nevermind. I’ll keep rearguard.”

The dwarf resumed his position at the back as the group entered.

As soon as Ludo asked Miklos for some light, the fighter fumbled around for his light stone and, holding it tight in his fist, let a single beam out between his fingers to illuminate the dark beyond the door.

Miklos passed a lightstone to a member of each rank of the party—Hasan and Ludo leading, probing silently in the dark; Maruc and Stephan striding forward in their heavy mail; and he and the dwarf in the rear, the strangest pair of them all, in his mind.

Maruc gingerly followed Ludo into the tunnel. He worried that they were nearing ancient holy ground to the mad jackals that had built this place. “Careful, Ludo,” he hissed. “The dead may walk in this place. Let me face them first.”

Hasan moved ahead, easily keeping pace with Ludo despite his misgivings. The elf wished he carried a spear. His bow was less useful in these close quarters, but a weapon with some range was nice. The elf drew his sword, instead.

Ludo with a murmur of “Thanks Miklos”, took the lightstone from Miklos. He advanced with sword in hand into the room shining the light before him, his senses alert for danger.

The room had the air of a crypt, but all the alcoves they could see appeared to be empty, with not even so much as a piece of debris littering the ground.

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No Turning Back

Maruc’s scowl smeared across his face. “The grace and strength of Halav has guided our hands until now, but leaving beasts like these behind us is never wise. Still,” the cleric shrugged, “we cannot undo what has been done. The mages have wrought their craft and thrown their stone. We must play the game.” The dark man turned up the street and walked in steady steps toward the tower.

Hasan followed, but the cleric’s jangling gait unnerved him. The elf soon passed the human and took up his accustomed role in advance of the party, aiming to take a quick look at the tower before entering.

Miklos followed, toying with the idea of calling down a lightning bolt on the trapped hobgoblins. He wasn’t sure how the spell would affect the ancient construction, but it certainly would be fun to discover. Still, the magician pressed onward, close by the taciturn cleric. There was no turning back from the tower now, and he sensed his greatest feats would be needed there.

Feldard gave a snort of disgust at the decision made but moved back into his position as rearguard. Stealth? What did he know of stealth, with his plate mail armour? But the dwarf followed the group and tried not to make too much of a racket.

Ludo followed Hasan towards the front of the group, looking up he could see the dark tower looming above him and wondered what mysteries were held within the walls.

Like Hasan, Stephan found himself somewhat blocked by the ambling of Maruc. And like the elf, he too, when opportunity presented, gaited past the holy man to take position immediately after the prince.

The narrow siq funneled a warm mix of dust and burnt smell into the companions’ faces. Somewhere, a pebble rolled down a crumbling rock face. The siq’s breath seemed to push them back from their progress toward certain doom.

As they continued, those gifted with infravision noticed that the next door was different than the others. It was larger and decorated with ancient carvings, again of the jackal-headed humanoids that they had been encountering with increased frequency. The door was not locked, but from the cobwebs around it, did not appear to have been entered recently.

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Wizard Locked

While Ludo and Hasan gave proper attention to the doors. Stephan scanned the surrounding for any unfriendlies. ‘There might be a guard or two around here’, he thought.

A guttural paroxysm of hobgoblin laughter caught the attention of Stephan’s ears. His limited goblinese was able to make out a few of the words: “Golthar”, “Vlaak”, “old map”, “prisoner” and “Iron Ring.” He could not make out much else.

Hasan began to dig through his backpack. After much rummaging, the elf withdrew his battered, brown-leather spellbook. Maruc’s eyes widened in surprise. “Hasan, now is not the time for study.”

The elf, reading slowly from his spellbook, gathered the magical energies that he withdrew from the innermost recesses of his mind and the surrounding environs. His arms outstretched, he cast the gathered magical energies into a binding on the door.

Miklos saw the elf’s intent well before the others, recognizing the ancient antecedents of his own training in the elf’s motions. His own motions were considerably more compact, but he found them magnified by the magical energies gathered nearby. Together, the two mages enchanted the two doors. There would be no escape from these portals for the goblins within.

“We can move on, or we can ambush these from another entry,” panted Hasan, still strained from his exertions.

“We should move,” said Miklos. “These little ones cannot be the ones we are called to face first. We can return to them at our leisure.”

It took Stephan some extended seconds to realize what happened but when he did, he was relieved to not have to give battle again so soon.

“Yes,” he said in concurrence with Miklos, “let’s move on to the real prize. And rid these lands of this evil!” putting hissing emphasis on the last syllable.

Feldard grimaced. “I don’t much like the idea of leaving the enemy alive behind us.” The dwarf looked over the building assessing what other exits might be usable by the hobgoblins and buildings overall sturdiness. “Miklos, would you have anything that might deal with the hobgoblins in one fell swoop? Something to bring down the building on them?”

Ludo moved back from the building now that it seemed unlikely that the Gobbos would be engaged in combat. Slinking into the shadows he listened for any sounds that might indicate trouble approaching.

He whispered to Feldard and Miklos, “Do you think it a good idea to bring down the whole building? It would bring every Gobbo and their pets for miles around. I suggest we move on and use stealth to achieve our aims. I don’t think it is wise to take on an entire Gobbo tribe. If the doors are barred then that should be enough for the moment. In my experience it is best to avoid the direct approach and strike where you are least expected”.

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Proceeding With Caution

Stephan wiped blood and dust from his brow. Despite the noise of melee that was still ebbing away, he felt it necessary to keep his voice down. In a hissing whisper, “We need to be away from here now! Ludo, can you lead us into some hiding place?”

Ludo whispered to anyone in range “It’s no point hiding now, our main advantage is speed and force of action, let’s continue before these green skins gather what forces they have to intercept us.”

Stephan nodded at Ludo’s recommendation and prepared to follow the rogue.

Maruc looked out from the close quarters of their melee to see the street bedecked with gore, including some elven blood, judging by the way Hasan reeled toward Ludo. Maruc quickly moved forward. Invoking the power of his deity, the cleric laid his healing hands on the thin elf’s wounded chest.

Hasan’s posture improved immediately. The elf waited as the group approached, but anxiously looked up the path from which the hobgoblins and baboons had emerged. “There lies our path,” he whispered. “I had worried that the hobgoblins might occupy the outbuildings, and something worse lay within the tower beyond, so it is a good sign to see them coming toward us from the tower. Let us make speed.”

“The legendary patience of elves seems lost on you,” chuckled Miklos. “Yes, let us proceed, but should we not make our way a bit more cautiously than what brought us to this point? You are the master huntsman, but lead us a bit more slowly this time, no?

While the others discussed plans, Feldard finished off the sleeping hobgoblins. It would do no good if they awoke to alert others to the groups presence.

Once that task was done the dwarf resumed his rearguard as the group continued on.

Ludo kept to the shadows, moving as silently as he could along the dark cobbled pathway between the eerily silent buildings. He thought to himself how unusual to use baboons as guard animals, but in retrospect his family’s gamekeeper had wanted to use geese to warn of intruders on the family estate. However, his father, in his usual arrogant way, scoffed at that idea and insisted on using guard dogs that no one could really control. He smiled to himself maybe his father should have used baboons.

Glancing at the sky, he figured that it was close to midnight. With any luck, the bodies would not be found for a few hours, maybe not even till day light. Ludo was the first to hear it, and then Hasan. Sounds of the hobgoblin tongue. The source was obvious. A pair of doorways to the right were marked with the crimson red bloodskull of Vlaad’s hobgoblin tribe.

Ludo approached a dark doorway. He stopped, motioned for Hasan to cover him crouched down and listened intently. Both doorways seem to lead to the same place. The rogue was on edge, feeling as though a band of the ugly humanoids could come charging out any moment.

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Hobgoblins and Baboons

At the first cry of alarm, Ludo darted from the shadows and with a powerful lunge thrust his sword deep into the back of one of the Hobgoblins. As the Hobgoblin dropped to the ground, Ludo moved swiftly onto the next.

Maruc rose in alarm as he saw Miklos engage their enemy. With no time to react, he threw up his shield and swung away, somewhat blindly, but with characteristic vigor and conviction, at the shadow that approached the wall. There was little mistaking the sound of the mace bludgeoning some kind of living form.

But the freed baboon rose above his injuries and above the half-built wall as well. Screaming his hate and joy in combat, the creature’s squat body and long arms nearly obscured the bright moon. The animal swiped a claw fiercely at the cleric, but the human’s stout armor absorbed most of the blow. As Maruc prepared his backhand swing at the creature’s still-outstretched arm, Miklos shrank into the shadows behind.

Hearing the loud calls of the baboons suddenly approaching quickly, Feldard stepped out of hiding, took aim at the closest of the baboons and fired. Dropping his crossbow, the dwarf, exchanged long distance for his melee weapon, and moved forward timing his approach to the swing of his axe, so that he met the creature just as his blade was descending.

Alert to the activity of the battle, Feldard noted the cleric protecting the mage from a baboon, and Ludo and the elf taking on the two awake hobgoblins. Stephen, he knew well enough to know that the man would be right behind him in joining the fray – though what the man’s target would be was a still a guess. Would he aid in dispatching the hobgoblins or confront the last screaming baboon?

The question was answered when one of the apes jumped on top of the cleric, attempting to bite the holy man. Miklos, fearing for his friend, charged forth and struck at the thing clumsily with his quarterstaff. The baboon spinned, and now jumped on the mage. His sharp teeth bit through the young man’s robes. Miklos couldn’t help but let out a cry of pain. The beast then collapsed on top of him, as his head was bashed in by the priest’s flail.

Hasan saw Ludo’s charge into the thick of their enemy. Seeing little choice, he dropped his bow and charged in support, his sword whistling through the air as it crashed down on the hobgoblin nearest the thief. The hobgoblin engaged the elf, cutting Hasan with his sword as he then ran in retreat. Ludo drew his bow and fired as best he could in the dark. Hasan picked his up off the ground and did the same. With his elfsight, the prince was able to fell the hobgoblin before it got out of range.

Meanwhile, Stephan and Feldard had both killed a baboon apiece, leaving all the enemy dead or disabled.

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Sniffed Out

Stephan waited tensely in the shadows. A warm breeze preceded the approaching baboons and hobgoblins.

He tried to make eye contact with Feldard, but couldn’t make out the dwarf’s countenance in the dark. He imagined, however, that the dwarf could see him.

He held tight, not making a move unless the battle was on. He hoped his companions would let these greenskins pass and not engage in battle if possible.

The still night air clearly carried the clanking armoured sounds of the approaching patrol. Ludo had heard of dogs being used to patrol estates, but using baboons was new to him. He tightly held his grip on his sword and slowed his breathing desperate not to make a sound. He hoped the others were well hidden and this patrol would pass on by. Still knowing Feldard as he did, he doubted if Feldard would be able to contain himself and so mentally prepared himself for combat.

Feldard hid and waited. He could see Stephan’s tense expression and wondered if the human could keep still long enough to not draw attention.

Hasan watched the hunting party pass him impassively. He wasn’t sure who was hunting whom in this situation, but he was confident in his cover and even more confident in his company, should the cover fail.

Miklos’s idle chatter stilled, and he and Maruc watched the guard patrol’s noisy approach. Maruc had little to go by but the sounds he heard, but that was plenty to know the enemy was close and not at all human.

Miklos watched the snarling baboons lope past Hasan and Ludo with nary a clue of their presence. He fancied the remaining four’s chance of escaping undetected much less than the party’s advanced unit. Miklos reached into one of his gown’s voluminous pockets and drew forth fronds of camomile and a bit of a well-worn lambswool blanket–the material components that served to catalyze his mental energy into a sleep spell. He crouched, peeking over the stall’s half-built wall, ready to cast his spell if any of the guardsmen should so much as walk askance.

One of the baboons halted its gait as it nostrils flared, taking in the smells around it. It started to cry out an alarm as the mage released his enchantment. Four of the hobgoblins dropped to the ground, and the baboons found themselves unleashed. They did as they had been trained to do and used their olfactory senses to guide them toward the hidden invaders.

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Hiding In The Gloom

Hasan reacted quickly to the noises ahead, moving quickly to seek shelter in the shadow of a ruined outbuilding. The chinked walls allowed his close-pressed eyes some view of the arc before him. The elf waited and sightlessly drew an arrow from his quiver.

Maruc’s pace quickened as he saw the elf skitter under cover, and he also dashed behind a nearby wall. It was a short wall, though, perhaps the stall of an ancient vendor of fruits or some less tasty morsel, and so the cleric knelt low beneath the half-open wall. Maruc clutched his shield to his chest, whispering a silent prayer to Halav, and waited for a sound that signal his charge.

Miklos had followed his friend to the vendor’s stall, but watched the man’s preparation for combat with a bemused smile. He ducked low beside Maruc, but couldn’t contain himself. “A nice ball of fire would do nicely now, don’t you think? I’ve read of such spells. The plane of energy can source great bursts, I believe, if you can open the channel.”

Feldard watched the ruins warily. Because he was facing away from Hasan mostly, he was the last to become aware of the threat ahead.

Hearing the sounds of the patrol approaching the group, Ludo silently disappeared off into the shadows using a crumbling misshapen stone column as cover. Crouching down he waited for the patrol to pass him.

Stephan continued to keep an eye on Feldard, hoping that his night vision would be an early warning of any attack. All he knew was that Hasan and Ludo had stopped. Stephan also stopped, adrenalin the senses. His entire being was focused on listening.

“Okay, Stephan,” he said to himself. “Take it easy. Just breathe. It’s like the calm we had before the Battle of Zadreth.” He felt his nerves settle. “Blessed Halav,” he continued with his inner voice, “keep them dreaming down there,” he muttered from the old ‘Dream of Halav’ poem he learned for confirmation.

Clank! He heard the distinctive sounds of an armored foe! Looking to his companions, hidden in the gloom, he could see they too had heard the clamber of approaching battle and now were searching for intruders.

As the dwarf turned around to glance ahead, he noted the group scattering, seeking cover. Feldard cussed under his breath and motioned for Stephan to take cover, even as he sought out the same. He moved into the ruins of a building. He ensured his bow was cocked and loaded and waited in anticipation.

Stephan did as Feldard suggested and took cover. He readied his short bow, checking the angles.

As he peaked around the corner, he saw them. At the head of the group was a foursome of baboons chained with iron leashes around their necks. Holding the chains were were six hobgoblins. Their shields were emblazoned with the same blood red skull symbol that the companions had seen at the door to Vlaak’s quarters in the Wolfskull lair and their armor was decorated with faux red blood.

They did not seem to see the party as they hid amongst the ruins as they charged past Hasan and Ludo.

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