Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bloodheads

“You see it, Feldard,” shouted Hasan. “Watch the bite,” he muttered, as he charged forward, swinging the great blade taken from Vlaak. It was much larger than that to what he was accustomed. Nevertheless, the blade swung through the air with a lust as great as the Feldard’s ax, the two weapons making a glorious harmony as the hacked into the spider.

Ludo turned towards the commotion and saw Hasan and Feldard hotly engaged in melee with the biggest spider he had ever seen. He dropped the book he was holding, drew his sword and charged into the melee holding his torch in front of him yelling to Stephen for assistance.

Hearing the commotion across the room as well as Ludo’s yell for help, Stephan lunged into the fray. The four companions soon had the wicked spider cornered and wounded. Stephan was enjoying this. “We’ll soon be done with this beast!” he yelled to the others. His words had a hollow ring, however, since the creature, despite wounds, moved with incredible speed through the dense webbing and disappeared.

“Where did it go?!”, Stephan said with obvious alarm in his voice. An eerie quiet fell over the chamber. The party watched the thick webs on the ceiling. A slight scratch from above and to the left caused them all to jerk their heads in unison to see what it may be. Then, with all eyes pointed east, the widow silently dropped from behind, landing on Stephan’s back.

“Aaarrrrgh!”, Stephan whirled trying to get the thing off his back. Despite its size, the spider was light. Stephan could feel its coarse hairs against his neck. The fangs lunged but his movement through it off for a split second. The bite drove deep into his pack.

With Stephan spinning about like top, Feldard, found himself suddenly a few feet behind the human warrior as the spider bit into the pack. With grunt, Feldard ran forward, swinging his axe in an upward angled stroke to bite deep into the red hourglass mark at the spiders underbelly which was clearly visible from it’s position atop of Stephen.

The spider thrashed suddenly, dropping from Stephan’s pack, it’s legs curling instinctively underneath it. “Finish it now, before it can recover.”

Turning in a rage, Stephan gripped the hilt of his sword with two hands; the blade pointed down in the battle-field execution position. The motion was fluid and rapid; the veteran’s muscle-memory from myriad battles coming into play. Bending his knees and clenching his back, Stephan thrust the sword clean through the widow’s abdomen and into a crack between the flagstones. A sickly fluid erupted from the cut in the spider’s thick hide. Those nearby instinctively turned to avoid getting the substance in the eyes or mouth.

Stephan jerked his blade free from the mess and took two step back, not fully believing the spider would not yet leap to the attack. After he was assured of the creature’s demise, he eyed his sword tip. “I’ll have to work on that a bit. Lucky at least that I hit between the flagstones.”

Stephan gave the dwarf a brief inspection. “Nice axe work, there. Good to have around.”

Ludo wiped the spider goo off his tunic, “this place is fill of surprises” he muttered to no in particular. “The books seem to be records of births and deaths of the people that used to live here, there is nothing of value here. I suggest we move on but with a little bit more caution”, he said looking at Hasan and Feldard in turn.

The dwarf met the rogues’ gaze steadily then gave a snort. “Yes, of course… because an excess of caution would have prevented all these creature-guards from attacking.” The dwarf gave his blade quick wipe then turned back to the door to the south and opened it striding through, ready to take on whatever came next.

Ludo looked on at Feldard as he moved through the door, shrugged his shoulders and kept his tongue, he figured that a retort would do more harm than good.

Maruc barely glanced across the library to see the melee ensuing. Only toward the end of the fight did he make out the poor unfortunate that had leapt out to brave the party. Halav protects, he mumbled to himself and drew another book. More communal records.

He sighed and stalked over to the balled arachnid. “Doubtless Miklos, font of all knowledge, will tell us species, gender and the names of its parents. Ahh, here he comes now.”

The mage looked over the armoured priest’s shoulder. “Its a black spider. What more do you want to know?” he snapped,”The state of its health? Give Ludo a few moments alone with it and he have its glands out.” He eye’d the wily rogue. “And this, he said expansively at the room in general, is a waste of paper, who wants to know whose uncle is whom’s? I’m no genealogist.” Frustrated he turned to the elf. “And what makes you think that he,” he gestured the the priest, “would know anything not written in his own language? This stuff is old Traladaran if I’m any student.”

“Traladaran you say? That would surprise me,” the elf looked curiously at the mage. “These ancients would have been a strange people then. The statues in the throne room down were common animals, just a dog. What man would worship a creature so unlike him? To see power in a great dragon or a mighty lion is not uncommon, but to see that in an ordinary cur? No, I think this tower belonged to some race that wasn’t human.”

The elf walked beside the mage, musing on the origin of the strange tower the walked. They exited the room, leaving the thief to his autopsy.

It was quickly determined that both exits opened out into the night. The southern exit opened into a plaza covered with overgrown foliage. The plaza led to the main entrance of the tower, two impressive tall bronze doors. One of the doors was open, and five Bloodhead hobgoblins stood guard inside. Their eyes gazed out into the night, not expecting to see anyone approach from the old library, a known spider lairs, and so they did not immediately notice the dim presence of torchlight.

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Books and a Black Widow

Ludo followed the party into the library, seeing the webs strung across the room he said “Hasan, does your keen eyesight see anything untoward”? He reached across and savagely broke off a piece of the bannister that was brittle with age. Ludo returned to the room where the body of Vlaak lay on the floor, he quickly and crudely made a torch from the worn curtains, lit the torch and returned to where Maruc was standing at the top of the wide staircase. “Where there are webs, there are usually spiders or other creepy crawlies, a bit of flame should help keep them at bay I suspect.”

Stephan spied the dusty tomes lining the walls. He could never imagine reading so much. “Least there’s no cubes here. Nice and unswept. Like a proper ruin.”

He scanned the ceiling. Gossamer webs drifted lightly in the air now disturbed by their entry and the upwelling heat of Ludo’s torch.

“I don’t see any jackal-headed statues here either….” he grinned sheepishly; grateful that the others probably could not see his flushed face.

Stephan hefted his shield and tested the heft of his sword. Making sure his footing was solid, he carefully took a couple steps down. It was a thrill, in a way, to be the first to step into this arcane place. Racks of mouldering, dusty scrolls and books lined the walls of the room, all of the coated with thick strands of web.

Feldard descended the steps after the group. He was still sour that his efforts with Vlaak had been for naught, and after all that he wasn’t even the one who got to finish off the foul thing. He’d thought Hasan had some magic in mind with his “great dog ghosts”. But whatever that had been, was cut short by their newest member. Feldard was beginning wonder about him.

Hasan paused to search through the bookshelves. The elf’s examination of the brittle covers, faded parchment, and unfamiliar languages left him with little more than a loud sneeze for his troubles.

Ludo having completed his makeshift torch, proceeded down the steps into the library. Holding the torch aloft, he moved over to the bookshelves. Carefully pulling a book out at random he opened a page and studied the manuscript trying to decipher the words on the page. “Hasan, Maruc, have you ever come across a language like this before? It’s like something I have never seen.”

From what the rogue could tell, the books were filled with records of innumerable births, marriages and deaths, but of what nationality or race, he had no clue.

Not being too much for books and seeing the dwarf going to check out the door on the right, Stephan made his way to the door on the left. He kept a wary eye on the webs draping from the ceiling.

Meanwhile, the elf and dwarf approached the southern door, when to their right they heard the sound of quick skittering movement. From a dark corner of the library, a giant black widow emerged from behind the webbing.

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Vlaak Interrogation

Maruc nodded toward the warriors his thanks. “Feldard, perhaps you should interrogate Vlaak. I’m sure Halav will forgive a certain amount of aggressive persuasion if he chooses to be… ah …difficult. We need the whereabouts of the yellow robed man.”

Maruc turned to Stephan, “Come here woodsman, you look in need of a little recuperative blessing.” The priest administered to his duty of maintaining his flock.

“Quite,” agreed the mage following Maruc’s train of thought. “There is of course the possibility that the yellow robed man is nearby. Maybe packing his bags as we speak? We may hope that he is truly arrogant in his trust to Vlaak’s might and has not fled. But he may well be a wily member of the Sons of Night for all we know.”

“Feldard, Vlaak must have knowledge of the his conspiracy and would be useful to confirm our suppositions so far. One, is the yellow robed man the leader of the Dymrak bandits? Two, is he a nobleman or a mage? Three, what was their agreement and why did they join forces. Four, has he heard of the Sons of Night? If so what does he know?”

Feldard looked between the cleric and the mage with a grimace as he used a worn piece of cloth to wipe the blood from his axe. He hated being the go between for these interrogations but the dwarf had to admit – he was persuasive – in painful sort of way.

With a grunt, Feldard headed over towards where Ludo was attempting to get the hobgoblin to talk. But the human seemed reluctant to apply the right sort of motivation. The dwarf had no such reluctance.

Finding a spot that was not web covered, the dwarf gave the helpless hobgoblin a kick. “You will answer our questions or your death will be so painful your young will feel it,” he threatened in Goblin tongue. Then he repeated Miklos’ questions one at a time, in Common. Feldard had no doubts that Vlaak could understand. When there was hesitation or reluctance to speak, Feldard would apply his … persuasion.

Hasan watched the dwarf’s fist crash into the carefully bound hobgoblin warrior’s jaw. One hundred drops of burgundy decorated the floor, accented by the yellow of two surprisingly delicate incisors. But the hobgoblin laughed and bellowed again. Feldard’s patience was a short as the time between punches, but Vlaak clearly was untouched the spectacle.

The elf could stand no more. “Stop, man,” he hissed in Dwarven at Feldard, catching the mailed fist as it prepared to strike again. “He will reveal nothing this way.”

The elf turned to leave. “Come, leave him, with the ghosts of those who he has haunted,” the elf indicated in the common human tongue. “Any pain we give him will be over soon, but the great dogs’ touch will leave him mad if he is lucky, or if not, living dead for the same millennia they have lived.”

The elf then took the hobgoblin’s battered shield and brilliant sword and marched on, out the eastern door.

As the elf left, the stone dogs around the room began to bark, quietly at first, but in great howls as the elf stepped on heedlessly. The prince smiled at the thought of Vlaak’s reaction to his still-in-effect ventriloquism spell.

Ludo stood by and watched without emotion as Feldard barked out his interrogation to Vlaak and got no reply. He figured that Vlaak would be tough to break, and he was right. Time was against them and he could see time would be required before any meaningful information from Vlaak would be forthcoming. He agreed with the Prince’s comments and collected his lightstone and bow and stood by ready to leave.

As the group left the room and went out the eastern door, he made sure he was last to leave, bending over Vlaak, he made sure that Vlaak would not bother them or anyone else again and then followed them out of the door.

From what Stephan could make out of what Vlaak spat out in hobgoblinish, Hasan was right; the big hobgoblin would happily die not giving the dwarf what he wanted.

He turned and followed the others out. Noticing Ludo lingering behind, he paused momentarily before he realized what the rogue was up to then continued to his typical place in line.

Out the door was a wide staircase leading into an old room that appeared to be a library. Spider webs hanging across the decrepit bookshelves seemed to indicate that it was rarely visited.

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Helpless Hobgoblin

Miklos’s last web incantation left his hand and bound the struggling Vlaak fast. He felt quite lightheaded after the exertion of controlling so much magic in such a short time. He vaguely wished for Dentiata’s wand right now. It would have solved a big problem.

The lull in the fighting lent a pathetic poignancy to the Vlaak’s cries. Miklos wondered what have overcome him a few moments before….it was almost spiritual. He stalked over to the the prone giant, and took careful aim and brained him with his staff. Stunned for a moment Vlaak shut up. “That’s better,” muttered the mage.

Maruc caught Feldard’s eye and it didn’t look good. He spun as the another crashed into the floor. Maruc did the only sensible thing in the circumstances. He rammed his flail into it.

Ludo almost sob with the emotion running through him, Vlaak was lying prostrate on the ground, helpless, bound tight by the magic that Miklos had cast upon him. Hr felt a great burden lift from his shoulders. Carefully he reached between the strands of the web, grabbed Vlaak’s mighty sword and threw it away against the far wall with a loud clatter. “Feldard can you finish off the dog? Vlaak, I think its time you and we had a little chat”.

Hasan charged forward with the mage, but his target was the great wolf that had greeted them – it seemed like ages ago. “For the Radlebb!” the elf shouted as his sword crashed down onto the thickly muscled shoulder of the wolf. The blow hit home hard, but the wolf still managed to slash a huge paw across Hasan’s legs, instantly felling the light warrior. “Help!” was all the elf could manage, rolling as the the wolf’s slavering jaws snapped in his ear.

Webs were not going to hold the frost wolf long, already the beast was mostly freed from it’s sticky threads. Feldard rushed to close the distance and struck at the wolf’s muzzle as it began to open its great maw in attack. It didn’t matter to Feldard which had been intended – bite or frost – both were lethal to the party at this point.

Stephan ran to assist Feldard with the attack on the second wolf. He saw the dwarf had already delivered hideous wounds and the beast was faltering. It was an easy job, between Feldard’s axe and Stephan’s sword to bring the fell creature to its last icy breath.

Vlaak was aghast. He had been utterly confident that he and his pets would be able to eliminate these troublemakers with no great difficulty. Now, both his prized Ostlandian wolves were dead, and he was trapped and helpless.

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Vlaak

Time seemed to slow down for Ludo as he glimpsed Vlaak suddenly appear from behind the curtain. Vlaak was here, the vision in his nightmares! Ludo gritted his teeth in determination, this time he would not be victim, this time he could fight back!

Time suddenly sped up as the second giant wolf attacked and clouded the area with its freezing breath. To avoid the freezing blast of Ludo dived behind the fountain. Too close for comfort he thought to himself. He stayed low and moved around the fountain trying to avoid the flickering illumination from the lightstones as he worked his way deeper into the shadows to approach Vlaak from an unexpected direction.

Mikos stopped in mid punch. His sharp eyes picked out the movement of the curtain. It was flung open. Miklos’s arm unbidden by any conscious thought traced the intricate sigil of his web spell which strangely had a will of its own. Everything slowed down. The huge hobgoblin released the wolf, its muscles bunched. Miklos felt strangely divorced from the scene unfolding before him. His fingers snapped the end of the incantation and mage-threads seemed to arc lazily from his hand and caress the giant’s sword and encompass his outstretched arm it gently enveloped the hindquarters of the wolf curiously linking the two foes as with a comforting blanket. Surprise crept across the hobgoblins face as the threads tightened with the bound of his wolf. He lost his footing as the wolf yanked back in mid leap and both foes sprawled with a satisfying smack onto the stone floor.

Miklos snapped back into real-time. He fumbled for his next web spell, one would not do for these giants!

As the webbing entangled Vlaak, Ludo used the distraction to bound across the room to the far side and ducked behind the old, musty, moth eaten curtain to work his way behind Vlaak.

Maruc pulled himself up. His heart pounded erratically, the thing had let him go. He saw Feldard pull his mage wrought axe out in a spray of gore. Maruc slammed his flail home again in frustration and pain. Too engrossed was he to notice the newcomers.

The sudden chill in the air was what alerted Feldard to the presence of the second wolf. Pulling his axe free of his current foe, he took a moment to take stock of the battle. The first wolf was gravely wounded, but still dangerous. It viciously tried to bite the cleric, but Maruc struck its head with his flail, bring it down at last.

Stephen was recovering from the seconds’ icy breath. Miklos looked to have momentarily entangled both the large hobgoblin and ice wolf, and he was preparing yet more magics. Hasan looked to be doing little but guarding the mage and Ludo was no where to be seen.

Stephan crouched in cold agony from the wolf’s blast which left him momentarily blind. Amassed against the wall and floor, he did not see the appearance of Vlaak and the second fiend. Struggling to gain control of his limbs, he fumbled for the small statue in his pouch. “Yes, that’s it”, he thought, “just like those big statues”. He drew the statuette out and as his vision came back to him, he spied Miklos weaving his magics.

Another blast of webbing coated the hobgoblin and his wolf.

“Miklos!” Stephan called out but was choked by icy fingers that still lingered from the wolf’s attack. He hoped that maybe the mage would know what to do with the statuette. Even so, with great effort, he still held the statuette up and tried to pronounce the runic word carved on the bottom. Standing awkwardly with his statue outstretched as his shouted command echoed off the stone walls of the chamber, the proud warrior felt a bit silly as he looked expectantly at the statues who did nothing but stare blankly into the distance.

Hasan watched the drama unfold with Miklos. Every instinct was to charge ahead, but he dared not leave the vulnerable mage’s side. As the elf saw Ludo creep to attack their great enemy, he intoned the words to his ventriloquism cantrip. The spell itself was trivial, suitable only for sideshows, but the elf hoped for a grander result this time. He cast his voice to the statuary nearest Vlaak and pronounced in his finest hobgoblinish, “Vlaak, the stone dogs arise now. Your kind have tread our ways too long.”

Careful not to get caught in the webs, Ludo moved as quietly as he could. He slid along the curtain and till he came up behind Vlaak struggling against the sticky bonds that held him. Ludo observed that with his tremendous strength, the web would not hold Vlaak for long. Using the hobgoblin’s confusion at the suddenly speaking statues, he struck and stabbed his sword straight through the curtain deep into the back of Vlaak.

The hobgoblin clanhead screamed with rage as he and his wolf desperately tried to free themselves.

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Brother Wolf

Hasan saw his companions surge forward. He saw the terrible beast before him, and Feldard grimly rising after being felled by some awful, unseen blow. Unsure of the nature of their opponent, the elf drew one of the magical arrows they had plundered from the goblin lair, and smoothly released it. He watched as the arrowhead bit deeply into the great wolf and blood soiled the pristine white of the animal’s fur.

The dwarf had already begun his advance on the beast when the icy blast struck. The chill near froze the very air in his lungs and he doubled over in an attempt to keep his core from freezing solid. It was more instinct than anything else.

The icy blast ended and Feldard gratefully felt the sharp biting pain of cold on his face and hands. He would have been in trouble if he’d froze numb.

With a grunt, he grabbed up his dropped battle-axe and rose from his crouched position. He could hear the whistle of arrows pasting around him. Engaging in melee would mean he would be just as likely a target but he couldn’t wait for this party to empty their quivers before attacking. He doubted he would fare as well against a second ice blast.

Feldard charged forward, and swung for the Frost Wolf with his axe.

Ludo saw the giant wolf breath a cone of icy air over Feldard and watched as Feldard doubled over. Charging forward he moved past Feldard, and as Feldard struck with his axe, shot his bow point blank into the flank of the wolf. Ludo then tossed his bow to one side, drew his sword and looked for an opening to strike further, whilst trying to avoid the snarling fangs and claws.

Stephan recklessly lunged past the archers and dwarf, eager to fight a real foe after the horror of the cubes.

“Halav shall vanquish you!” he bellowed as he leaped at the giant wolf. An arrow sizzled past him, plunging into the lupine’s side. The arrow seemed only to enrage the beast more and it turned on the fighter as his sword connected with its right shoulder. While the blades did some slicing, it seemed more to glance off what must have been thick, knotted muscle beneath the pristine fur. Nevertheless, a chunk of meat came clean off but the wolf had muscle to spare.

Maruc clanked up the stairs after the others to see what the commotion was all about. The temperature had dropped at the top of the stairs. Frost rimmed the landing and the doorway. His steel booted foot skidded on the glassy stonework.

“Watch your step Miklos.” he called back, “There’s something afoot. I suspect we’re getting a frosty welcome.” he grinned wolfishly and raised his Halav emblazoned shield and strode into the melee loosening his chain flail.

His eyes were drawn to the beast that dominated the room. “What in the name of Halav Incarnate is that?”

Edging around the enraged creature he tired to knock it off balance. If I could just loop the chain around its hind leg here…. he swung low and the chain whipped out snaring the limb. Yes! He yanked at the handle but he lost his footing and stumbled the foot kicked out and jarred against the priests shield. Its attention turned on him. Maruc yanked at the flail desperately trying to release it.

Miklos rolled his eyes at the priest’s remark. He edged to the doorway and glanced in. Hmmm.. Arctic Lupus Gargantium, that explains the nip in the air. “Bryll’s Fantastic Menagerie would suggest one should refrain from upsetting these creatures as they are liable to freeze you on the spot with their mere breath!” he said helpfully.

He was feeling pretty useless back by the doorway so he toyed with the idea of throwing a web over it but soon realized this would be counter productive. He tried a moral boosting comment instead. “Well done you chaps. That’s it! Yes! Another one of those swings should do it Feldard!” He was grimacing and punching the air like a shadow boxer when the spray of blood drenched him. “Nice.” he said flatly.

The wolf’s strong maw and sharp teeth bit deep into the cleric. Though his armor had afforded him some protection, the wound was quite painful. With the wolf’s attention momentarily on the cleric, the dwarf seized the moment and brought his axe down hard into the wolf’s back. It roared with pain as it released the priest from its maw.

From behind the curtain, Vlaak had been waiting patiently for the right moment, when all of the interlopers were fully engaged in battle with one his two prized pets. He held the other firmly by its leash. It was all he could do to restrain it as it watched his brother engaged in battle. Finally, he whipped open the curtain and barked the command for it to attack.

The wolf inhaled deeply and for the second time the room was filled with frosty air as the blast of cold air flew into Stephan.

Vlaak was the largest hobgoblin any of the heroes had ever seen. Armed with a magnificent giant sword, he charged into the battle.

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