Monthly Archives: October 2011

Golthar’s Last Gasp

Maruc turned to Ludo. “I’ve got to check over Stephan then Feldard.” He stared meaningfully at both injured warriors with a look at brooked no argument. “I suspect our floating mage ran out of buoyancy. My advice would be to ensure he doesn’t relearn it. I also suspect Stephan here would like to discuss in depth his part in the destruction of Pyotr’s Homestead. Equally, we need to know to what he believes the tapestry leads to and more importantly, his involvement in the Sons of Night.”

The dwarf grumbled as half the party darted off into the woods searching for the downed Golthar. He’d best go after them in case the mage still had some trick up his sleeve. He gave a nod to priest. “We’ll be back. See to Stephan and yourself first.” Feldard started off after the others into the woods.

Stephan sat heavily on a fallen log and prayed along with Maruc. His sided ached and he had a searing gash in his shoulder.

Ludo finished trussing up Jolenta and then picking up his sword ran off into the undergrowth looking for the fallen mage. Miklos counted down the seconds and felt the numbing constriction leave his arms and legs. He sprang to his feet and swung his gaze over the field of battle. Someone had been quiet efficient in dispatching the webbed and unconscious foe. He guessed it was Feldard’s work. He was notorious for his lack of compassion as far a non-dwarves were concerned.

Satisfied that the party were not going to be surprised by a resurgent force, he hopped after the rogue. He was about to deal with a mage after all, and there is nothing worse than a mage with no sense of humour.

Hasan grimaced, then smiled. “Stricken no more,” he laughed. The elf followed Miklos as fast as his still-awkward gait would allow.

After some searching they eventually found him lying prostrate on the ground, his body a mess of cuts and by the look of things both legs were broken. Ludo could see he was still alive…just. He advanced towards the wizard, his fear gone; now that he could see that Golthar was helpless and near death.

Golthar sputtered, “What have I ever done to you boy?”

Ludo riffled through Golthar’s belongings, looking for anything of value. He spoke to Golthar “I believe that our mage who is good and just will be able to use your spellbook far better than you, you wretch, you have caused so much pain and suffering. Thankfully your evil ends here. You can die knowing that your plans have come to nought.”

There was no spellbook to be found. Golthar smiled, his secrets would not be so easily found. He gathered his strength to make one last statement. “You meddle with forces you do not understand, boy. You fools may find Hutaaka, but it only bring you deathhhhh…” hH hissed as his last breathe left him.

Ludo searched Golthar’s body. He wore a jade ring that looked quite valuable, and also concealed on his person was a pouch filled with gemstones.

The dwarf was slower at moving though; every muscle and nerve ending in his body still ached from the magic bolts Golthar had cast at him. There was little physical damage he could see but he certainly felt like hell.

Feldard found Ludo and Miklos standing around an already dead Golthar. “Did he have much to say before passing on?”

When the others came back from the downed Golthar, Stephan asked “Was my arrow stuck in his evil hide? I’d like it back.” He staggered to his feet, then went to retrieve the arrow himself.

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Desperate and Enraged

Maruc grinned his thanks to Ludo. “Nice timing.”

Seeing that Maruc looked ok, Ludo turned towards Jolenta. He did not know how long the cleric’s spell would keep her still. So, he charged over to her and used his sword to disarm her by bashing her mace and shield far away from her. He then reversed his shield and used the hilt of his sword to knock her into unconsciousness. Golthar’s forces were falling one by one.

Miklos smiled to himself, he could see by the body language of the floating Mage that things were not going as he planned. ‘Go on Golthar, time to fly off.’ he thought. ‘Your fly spell will not last forever. I wonder if you have been keeping count since you cast it? It would be a shame to drop from the skies from your own ineptitude.’

Far from running off, Golthar was desperate and enraged. His forces were being overwhelmed. He would not be able to get reinforcements in time to recover the tapestry or follow the group. This was it. There would be no other chances. Sligh was a formidable warrior. Golthar had one spell left. He targeted the dwarf who seemed to be the opponent’s most formidable foe. If he could take him out, maybe that would buy Sligh enough time to hold his own until the wererats escaped from their webs.

Three more bolts of magic shrieked down from the sky and struck Feldard. Keeping his combat inertia, the priest charged toward Sligh to give Feldard time to recover. The priest was impressed, this man with all his force in tatters was still fighting on. No, not just fighting on, grinning. He attacked the priest ferociously and landed two wounds in quick succession.

Ludo’s assuredness now proved fleeting as he saw the wererats biting and clawing their way out of the Miklos’ web. Everyone else was engaged. It would be up to him to stop them before they got out.

An arrow whizzed by the mage. All he had left were his daggers. It would have to do. If he flew off, then Sligh would have to contend with three of them at once. He flew closer to get in range, and hoped outmaneuver the Karameikan’s arrows. He let a dagger fly. He grinned as it struck the warrior shooting at him from the ground.

Stephan knocked another arrow, this time the enchanted one. He aimed at the now attacking Golthar and let the missile fly. The arrow flew but so too did the yellow-robed mage. The arrow looked to be on target but Golthar was too far and the night now too thick to be sure it hit its mark. There was, however, a screaming curse. How bad was the wound? No one was sure. Only Golthar knew.

“Get him!” He shrieked splitting up blood. The wererats had broken free. Ludo had killed one of them with his sword and wounded another. The healthy one charged straight at the Traladaran who had harmed the master.

Feldard took advantage of the cleric’s aid and now it was his turn to return the favor. The dwarf swung his axe once more at the large warrior. Maruc watched as Feldard’s mage-wrought axe bit deep into the warriors side. The man was concentrating too much on Feldard’s assault to notice Maruc’s charge. His chain flail swept low as he passed and wrapped around the warrior’s leg and Maruc yanked hard, spilling Sligh onto the floor as the dwarf’s axe ripped into him with a death blow. He winked at the dwarf. “Not that you needed the help of course.”

Quickly, Stephan turned to meet the new threat with his sword. He was wary of more daggers flying at him from the sky, but there were none. His armor served him well and it was not long before the wererat was finished. Ludo too held his own and finished off the remaining rat-man.

The crew looked upward as they quickly dispatched the surviving minons, continually searching the sky for a sign of Golthar. Two of the fighters were near death and the woodsman quickly relieved their misery. The others instilled no confidence that they were anything but a burden on society and so Stephan exercised the Law of the Wood to ensure the burden was lifted. They did not dispatch Jolenta just yet.

Finally, there was a crash of timber as something crashed into the wood nearby.

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Take Out The Mage!

Miklos felt the icy grasp of magic curl around his limbs. His knees buckled as he collapsed to the floor. His mind drifted back to the dark night in the tower at Sukiskyn’s holdings. Venom had laid him low before though. His leg was caught awkwardly beneath him, his ankle twisting at a painful angle. Fortunately he was on his back, this afforded a good view of Golthar. He spent his time keeping his eye on him.

He tried to remember how long the enchantment would last. A few minutes at best he suspected, but probably longer than his sleep spell, but as his master said, timings were notoriously vague. He prepared himself by carefully planning his actions when the tendrils of magic departed.

Stephan had been in a perilous position–flailing on the ground with some hideous were beast seemingly attached to his neck and laying before a formidable opponent who meant to see him dead.

The Traladaran twisted in the crunching leaves grasping at the wererat on his shoulder. The creature was surprisingly strong but the woodsman got an iron grip on the thing and wrenched it from his shoulder. Somehow, Sligh was not able to land a killing blow at this critical moment. In a split second, Stephan had the wererat smashed in the dirt. He push hard, trying to suffocate it and break its back. But this was a second only before he just rolled and flung the thing into the gloomy woods. He heard a high-pitched squeal at it sailed through the dampening air.

Maruc grinned and winked at Jolenta. He hefted his shield and launched himself at the remaining wererat that was fighting Stephan. The creature was twisted and ugly, it whipped out with its claws. Volos was enraged, he grabbed both sides of the priests shield, dragging it down with his weight. He stretched his maw and lunged at the priests head.

Maruc’s shield dropped away. The creatures angry eyes bore down on him, he ducked his head and felt it bite his helm. He pivoted with its momentum and twisted out of its grip and swung his loose flail around and cracked it behind the leg.

Vokos spat. His tough mandibles jarred against the priests metal helm. He scrabbled as he was tipped off balance, but his preternatural dexterity kept him upright until a sharp pain around his knee took his leg from beneath him. He kicked out viscously catching the priest in the greave.

Untangling his flail Maruc brought it down on the prone wererat, but before the blow landed he lost his footing as it struck his leg away. The creature was on its feet before Maruc righted himself. He mentally adjusted his tactics taking into account the creatures fast reflexes.

He tried plan B, “Lucius!”

Turned his head and looked in the direction of Maruc – mouthing the words “on my way”, he shock his head at the strange silence he was engulfed in. He charged towards the ratman, and with the silence masking his attacked struck it fully from behind with a perfect overhead swing. Not graceful, but what it lacked in style made up for in savagery. Vokos crumpled to the ground.

Continuing to roll, Stephan tried to find an opening to stand and again fight. He did! And happily found himself not having to fend off the wererat, who was now fighting Maruc.

Seeing Sligh, Stephan charged with shield up. Just before closing to striking range, he did a turning sidestep, coming down and around with his sword to hack into Sligh’s upper back. The fighter’s armor was strong but Stephan’s blow still managed to cause some real pain. Sligh let off a sickening bellow.

Leaving the first Hound to bleed out, Feldard crossed the distance to the second, blocking an attack aimed at Ludo as the man turned to give aid to the priest. Even as he swung his axe at the berzerker, the dwarf was noting that the two spellcasters were down, possibly killed by whatever magic was cast by Golthar.

Feldard cut down the unskilled madman with ease, then bellowed out in goblin towards Stephen, “We need your bow! Take out the Mage!”

Sligh staggered away to recover. Stephan heard Feldard’s bellow and somehow found his bow. Knocking arrow after arrow, he fired a volley at Golthar. Trying to hit the flying man reminded Stephan of the Battle of Tul when he served in the archery corps in the Duke’s service.

Stephan kept having to maneuver to shoot at the flitting mage. He intended to empty his quiver if necessary.

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Showdown With The Iron Ring

Maruc grinned at Miklos. “Nice work there.”

“My turn.” he said in dark tones of death.

His eyes met the cold blue of Jolenta’s. Imperceptibly he nodded at his foe. She, recognizing the challenge smiled slowly. He wondered how prepared she was? Or whether she was spent. “Let us see.” he muttered to himself.

“Halav constrain thee!” he cried and cast his Hold enchantment about the other priest. knowing that a powerful spell like this focused on one individual had the greatest chance of success. But also did he know that blessed priest were protected by their gods. Maruc had faith that no god could gainsay Halav Re-Incarnate for he was present in the physical world and not separated by vast planes of space and time. His power was pure and immediate.

Miklos nodded to Maruc, “No problem.” His eyes took in the charging were-beasts. “As yet.” he added.
He wondered momentarily if a sleep incantation would work on werecreatures. “Interesting,” he said conversationally, “Homovermin-Lunus, in demi form if I’m not mistaken. Quite unpleasant don’t you think? Probably impervious to sleep and charm spells. Time for a web I think.” He spread his hands and raised his arms gathering the magic from the firmament. With force he thrust his web spell at the front ranks of the enemy.

The magical tendrils ensnared three of the lycanthropes. Vokos raged as he saw his brothers become trapped.

The dwarf had his mouth open as he charged the Hound, apparently bellowing something, but Silence stole his battle roar. Regardless of the lack of sound, Feldard swung at the crazed fighter. He wasn’t intimidated by the wild-eyed look of the seemingly berzerker human. No human, or elf for that matter, could compare to a dwarf when it came to a battle frenzy. Not that Feldard was anywhere near that state now. He could take these humans on without need of it.

The crazed Hound managed to land a glancing blow to the dwarf, who returned the favor by nearly cleaving the man in half at the waist. One maniacal Iron Ring fanatic down, one to go.

Ludo moved forward into combat, yelling… and then everything went silent, one of Golthar’s spells he thought. He attacked the second Hound that was trying to flank Feldard, moving in he struck savagely with his sword and as the Hound parried, Ludo turned on his heel and used his dagger to cut deep into the Hounds arm. Stepping back he prepared for the Hounds anticipated counter attack.

The battle din was unnaturally truncated. The sight of Sligh was made even more eerie in the silence. The hulking man bore the signs of many battles. He wore only a skull-cap helm which revealed the absence of his left ear; a gnarled lump of flesh, marked its former position. Sligh wore surprisingly little armor; his arms mostly bare and knotted with sinew.

They fought. In the dusk. Leaves and sticks crushed beneath their feet made no sound. The melee took an erratic course as the two experienced fighters parried. Sligh knew something about fighting in the brambles. Turning, he hacked a leafy branch that cascaded into Stephan’s face. Without missing a beat, Sligh thrust his blade through the obscuring foliage delivering a nasty cut to the Traladaran’s shoulder.

But Stephan knew the woods long before he knew the sword. He too had some tricks for fighting in the trees. Seeing a hefty, dead branch just overhead, he parried off Sligh and then struck the limb so it would fall on his opponent’s side. The ploy worked but didn’t garner more for Stephan than a good hack at Sligh’s right arm. Blood splattered his blade.

Suddenly, the desperate racket of armed conflict erupted in Stephan’s ears. Sligh and the woodsman’s dance of death had led them to the edge of the cone of silence. Twirling and spinning with sword and shield, Stephan was subjected to a startling sequence of noise, silence, noise, silence.

“‘ARRRRcchu’”, Ding!”

Silence.

“‘Aieeeeeee’, Thud!”

Silence.

“‘Goltha..’,” Twang!”

Silence.

The effect was surreal but Stephan was able to maintain a focus on Sligh who, equally, seemed to have no other interest in the world than Stephan. Until a diabolical grin spread across his face—snaggle teeth and all. Sligh spied something behind Stephan.

‘No way,’ Stephan thought. ‘I’m not falling for that old trick.’

But something struck Stephan from behind. Something was on his back. Something was trying to bite his neck.

Turning and twisting in a frenzy, Stephan grasped at the thing on his back. He felt a stinging pain in his neck and flailed into the foliage in frantic attempt to rid himself of the pest.

Slight did not lose the opportunity and lunged forward at the stricken woodsman. Slicing down and across with his sword, the hulking fighter pressing the attack.

Hasan watched the woodsman’s fight. It was evenly matched until the were rat interceded. Hasan saw Stephan slump under the were creatures horrible bite. Finally the elf saw the clear shot he had waited for. The arrow raced forward and buried itself in Sligh’s upraised arm. It was a grievous blow, but the great man halted only momentarily before his battle cry rose again in the strange half quiet night.

Golthar smiled. Just as he had expected, the enemy was fully engaged with the ground forces. He flew back within range. First, he had to take out their spellcasters. He knew well that this young wizard was powerful, having heard spy reports that he had a lightning bolt spell in his arsenal. He couldn’t have that. And that damn elf. The arrow lodged in his thigh was causing him more pain than he had experienced in a very long time. He focused his concentration on his magic. Just as Maruc had paralyzed Jolenta, Golthar cast a hold spell at Miklos and Hasan. Their movements ceased and they fell to the ground, conscious but helplessly paralyzed.

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Wizards and Wererats

Vokos had picked up the trail. It was easy for one such as he. He sent one of his brothers back to the gate to inform the Master. It was not long before the others joined him. He tried to stay back out of ear shot, a difficult task given that one of the prey was an elf. It was made easier when Jolenta arrived. She told him that the Master would give the signal to attack and then she cast an incantation of silence, allowing them to creep close to their quarry.

Already fully transformed, he had to concentrate fully on keeping his composure as the bloodlust grew inside of him and his brothers.

* * * * *

The screamed command from above startled the dwarf. He heard Miklos cry out but it all seemed distant and far away and as there was nothing he could do for Miklos at the moment. The yellow robes from above made too tempting a target and the dwarf fired off his crossbow bolt towards the cowardly mage.

“Hasan, can you return the sentiment?” the dwarf called out as he switched over to his battle axe.

Hasan grinned at Feldard’s crack and directed his own arrow at the marauding mage. He had expected to see him aloft upon Cardia’s Carpet, but the mage was flying via his own spell, as he had when he had fled from the tower in Xitaqa. The arrow flew fast and true, slicing through the mage’s robes. He shouted in pain, and then quickly flew out of range.

Hearing Golthar cry out, Ludo had ducked and waited for what seemed like eternity for oblivion. Then, realizing he was still alive, he stood up, and waited for the charge of his enemies. He knew this would be fight to the death.

The first to emerge from the brush were a pack of four rat creatures. Stephan well knew that lycanthropes were a common threat in the wilds of Karameikos, and immediately recognized them to be wererats. Behind those, two wild-eyed humans ran out ahead of a band of warriors. From the looks of them, they were the brainwashed cultists known as Hounds of the Iron Ring. Ten humans in chain, were commanded by a large fighter who Ludo recognized as Sligh, the agent that Golthar had dispatched earlier. Last was Jolenta. A tall woman with short hair and piercing blue eyes, she wore a blue cloak over chain and wielded a mace.

Even as the enemy charged from the forest, silence still ruled the forest a byproduct of Jolenta’s enchantment as all the sounds of those around her were stilled. The unnatural absence ensnared the party all around, until the ratmen got further away Jolenta and their viscious snarls echoed through the night air.

Maruc had considered casting his own silence spell toward Golthar, but the mage was flying out of range. Instead, his arm snaked out to steady his wounded friend. “Halav bless thee Miklos!” he cried, casting one of his precious cures. Next, he turned and raised his fist to the skies. “Flee if you value your treacherous skin, Golthar! We have what you seek, and we will burn it before you lay hands upon it!” Maruc’s gaze swept the moving bushes and he readied his flail and shield.

“Thank you,” Miklos sighed. And then the wizard crept close to the sturdy cleric, gripping his staff, hoping he wouldn’t need it. The healing balm took the burning sensation away from his chest. The young mage’s eyes narrowed. But that he’d have had time to memorise another lightning bolt spell. He doubted a sleep incantation would work on a mage of Golthar’s power and he was at the limit for the range of a web spell. He glanced at the foes emerging from the bushes, and prepared a sleep incantation. He targeted it to where it would do the most damage, the middle of the group of charging warriors. Shields and swords fell all about as the entire force of ten fighters fell instantly asleep.

Meanwhile, Feldard charged to take on the first of the two Hounds. Time seem to slow down and in slow motion he saw Feldard charge the attackers. As the first of Golthar’s crazed lackeys rushed in, the dwarf met his attackers head on.

Stephan dropped his shield and readied his short bow. The mage was out of range, so he fired off two arrows at the large warrior that seemed to be the leader of the ground forces. He was not sure if one or both of the arrows he hastily knocked and shot were the enchanted ones he kept in the quiver with the others.

Then, the ground attack was on. Stephan rolled, dropping the bow and retrieving his shield. The familiar sound of a quickly drawn sword reverberated in the dim wood as he engaged Sligh.

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Attack!

“We’re being watched,” Hasan said his companions, as they began to move toward the boatman. “We can’t act otherwise, but know that we’re being watched. Stephan, be ready to turn.”

Miklos and Maruc glanced at each other. Neither distrusted the elf, but his pronouncement was unexpected. The party made their way to the riverbank.

Stephan’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean, we’re being followed,” he directed at Hasan when the elf revealed his concerns.

Gently dipping the oars into the river Ludo silently directed the river boat into the shoreline and as the boat gently ran up onto the river bank he jumped ashore splashing a couple of times in the shallow water. After pulling the boat up onto the bank he knelt down in the grass to listen. Strange he thought in the cool night air he could not hear anything you would normally expect, something was amiss. Picking up his sword he scampered off deeper into the bush away from the river, his senses alert for any sort of an attack.

Feldard remained hidden in the woods, crossbow loaded, watching in the growing dusk as Stephen and Hasan made their way first towards the city entrance, then towards the river. “What are they up to now?”
He searched the area for any visible threat.

Ludo headed towards where he thought the road was, the bush was thick and making it impossible for him to determine if the others were waiting for him or even if they had left Threshold. Walking around a tree as quietly as he could he literally stumbled over Feldard who was staring intently into the gathering gloom.

As the group was reunited, a voice from high over their heads screamed, “Attack!”

Three bolts of energy came down from above, illuminating the party’s position. Miklos could do nothing as he saw that he was the target of the spell. “Aaaaaaggghhhh” he cried as the magic missiles struck him.

They scanned the sky and saw the yellow-robed Golthar flying above them. From the woods around them, they heard the sound of enemies approaching.

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Followed

Perched high up in the shadows Ludo smiled, his hunch had been right, Golthar had been found and he had some accomplices which up to now had been unknown, ‘Sligh’ and ‘Jolenta’. Feldard and the others would like this information. Now all he had to do was find them. They had left the inn, so he would head to the river, steal a boat and make his way up river. They would need to reenter the town unseen, with luck they could make an assault on the Inn and surprise Golthar in his own lair. Ludo almost laughed out loud – his plan was brilliant.

With that though he swiftly and silently repelled down the wall and darted off into the city. Keeping to the alley ways, he headed to the river looking for a small fishing boat to steal.

* * * * *

Just as Hasan guessed, at dusk the city again came into view. Stephan, sensing no immediate danger, doffed his gear and set about eating some rations.

“A tankard of Beluvian Ale would be good about now,” Stephan exhaled while reclining in the dry forest debris. “I can see the city gate from here, I’ll watch a bit for our stealthy friend.”

Later, after no sign of Ludo, Stephan rose. “Let’s foray toward the gate. Perhaps Ludo is lurking about in the wood.”

Feldard grumbled at the long and needless trek through the woodlands just to end up back at the city. “We’re likely circling one another. We should just sit and wait. He’ll show eventually. But if you really want to head to the gate, I’ll cover you from here.” the dwarf said, patting his crossbow.

* * * * *

Stealing the boat took Ludo longer than he anticipated, the local fisherman did not finish working on their boats and fishing nets until dusk. However Ludo spied an old fisherman just finishing repairing an equally old net. Eventually the old man shuffled across the street into a tavern leaving his boat unattended. Taking a chance Ludo dated across the road to the river bank, pushed the boat out and leaped in. In the dusky gloom and flickering evening lights of Threshold, he quickly headed out into the middle of the river, rowed past the townsgate and looked for a landing spot on the river bank where he could hide the boat until he could find his friends. He hoped they had not abandoned him.

Stephan and Maruc made their way toward the town gate to watch for Ludo in the gathering dusk. The woods were a little thicker giving the two some cover.

“Stephan,” Maruc hissed in a low voice. “Look.”

Stephan looked where the priest pointed and spied the small boat manned by a single oarsman slipping silently past the town gate. Squinting in the low light, Stephan guessed what Maruc was thinking.

“Must be Ludo. Let’s get down river of him and let him know we’re here.” The two rushed off to get to a spot on the river bank from which to hail Ludo.

The elf’s senses perked up. His keen forest instincts told him that something was not right. Somehow, their trail had been picked up. They were being followed.

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