Monthly Archives: July 2012

Who Do We Wake Up First?

Ludo looked at Miklos, “Who do we wake up first?”

“No one, until all are tied up.” Miklos replied darkly. “I trust no one. This is an opportunity to question both sides and discover the truth.”

“Or two stories, neither of which are entirely true.” Maruc said, after he had finished sewing a nasty gash on the Traldar he was attending to.

Feldard began trussing up the sleeping Traldar and Hutaakan alike. Then looked up to the one Hasan had levitating. “Do you think they will understand us?” he mused aloud, then called up the jackal-headed humanoid. “My friend here is going to lower you. If you fight us or attempt to flee, I’ll have to shoot you,” he commented laying a hand on his once more loaded crossbow. Then nodded to Hasan to bring the Hutaakan down.

Ludo watched as the strangers were trussed up. He was of two minds. Was it a good thing to subdue both sides in a war against each other? He suspected that all they were going to do was make enermies of everyone in the valley, which would do them no good at all. As his Father once said, pick a side and support it fully, when you sat on a fench, all you ever got was a sore backside.

“What now Miklos, this is getting no closer to what the Sons of Night are after. How will we know when we question them who is telling the truth?”

“Why are we here? To find what the Sons want,” stated Hasan. “These men are worse than the dogs they hunt, and surely know less as well. And the Sons are human, as far as we know, and far more likely to have subjects than these Hutakaa. We should free the Hutakaa.”

Stephan stopped the tying up work along side Feldard. “And kill the Traldar, Hasan? I’m just a soldier but even I can see you’re jumping to conclusions. You call the Traldar worse than dogs when you know nothing of them! Your elven elitism is showing through, Hasan.”

When the levitated Hutaakan was back on the ground, he slowly held his open hands up in the air. Then he turned to the elf.

“Suilannad otornonya vorima. Elen sila lumenn’ omentielvo manenna sinarë…” The Hutaakan was speaking the language of the elves. It was an accent and dialect with which neither Hasan nor Miklos was familiar, but it was close enough to the elven tongues spoken by the varied tribes of Karameikos that they could understand. Though they were unfamiliar with it, the accent was a pleasant and refined.

“Please, I doth beseech thee,” implored the Hutaakan in Elven. He was one of their priesthood, judging from his garb. “These primitives with which thou dost now travel have brought blood and destruction upon the valley. For ages, my race hath been selflessly dedicated to keeping the forces of entropy and chaos at bay. These savages hath put all in peril with their recent hostile actions.”

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Again Miklos!

Feldard continued to use his crossbow used mainly for covering fire and maiming, until the Hukataans were met in melee by the Traldars. Then the normally battle-thirsty dwarf switched to his axe and moved forward to defend the priest, who was aiding the fallen Traldar. It was odd to see the dwarf not charging forward into pitched battle. But this war was not his and his goal presently was only to protect his own.

Maruc pulled the unfortunate Traldar warrior into the lee of the gully, he seemed to be dazed but was not close to death. He glanced up toward the chanting priests. This didn’t look good. He had to buy some time. He quicly picked up a piece of broken rock and swiftly cast a silence spell on it. With a grunt of effort he threw it at the spellcasters.

Stephan felt a surge of battle prowess take hold after shaking off the strange wave of fear. He soon discovered that it was the Hutaakan that seemed afraid to engage. The snarling canine-headed humanoid that initially confronted him fell back when it realized the woodsman was not cowering. He did not, however, seek to deliver any killing blows but instead sought only to keep the jackal-heads at bay.

They were not afraid, however, to hurl spears and the like and Stephan soon found himself the focus of the attack. Using his shield for all it was worth, he realized that he stood out among the Traldar–reason enough for him to be a target.

He reached in his armor and fumbled out the small Hutaakan statue he’d found years before.

Ludo struck again. The first attempt to stun the humanoid didn’t quite work, but the second attempt did. It crumpled to the ground, Ludo quickly searched the creature for any valuables and looked around to see where else he could strike.

“Again Miklos!” encouraged Hasan. “Let’s finish this.” The elf rained arrows into the battle, more quickly than carefully. Hasan watched as the arrows wounded two of the apparent Hutaaka and one Traldar.

Desperate to stop the fight with minimal bloodshed Miklos cast again to reduce more combatants into unconsciousness.

This time his spell had greater effect as all the remaining combatants, Traldar and Hutaakan alike, passed out from the enchantment.

It was so strange how the loud sounds of battle were now instantly replaced by the stillness of the valley. The six travelers looked about. Three of the Hutaakans were dead and so was one of the Traldar and along with one of their footpad lizards. Everyone else was sleeping, knocked unconscious..or floating high in the air.

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War In The Valley

Maruc instinctively raised his shield. “We are attacked!” He scrabbled for his mace and ran to one of the injured warriors to staunch his wounds.

Stephan, still in a state of shock at the realization that he somehow shared a heritage with the lizard riders, faltered a bit in getting his bow ready. Seeing Maruc run to the aid of one of the wounded, he loosed his arrow to cover the priest.

Running forward to take cover behind a boulder, he loosed another arrow. While his aim did not strike home, it did serve to harry the beastly jackal man now running forward in a snarling fury toward the Traldar. Stephan knelt behind a the rock and loosed several more arrows into the fray. He wondered if Miklos would unveil the tapestry map that seemed to have a powerful effect on all things jackal.

Feldard grimaced as the ambush descended on the riders ahead. These were the ones they were looking for…descendants of those who’d made the map. And now because of the stupid Traldars, his party had little choice but to defend themselves. Feldard took aim and fired off his crossbow, aiming for a leg. Maybe he could just maim one and they’d have someone to question.

The slender jackal-headed warriors switched to firing slingstones. The ambushers seemed content to engage from their high position, so the Traldar warriors sought to quickly charge upward and close the gap. Feldard would have to decide whether to continue with his crossbow, or switch to his axe and run up the side of the gulley.

“Traldar!” Stephan bellowed as he hefted his sword and shield for hand-to-hand combat. Sprinting across the gravelly ground, he again shouted “Traldar!” as he engaged a slavering jackal-head whose eyes bore pure hate and fury.

Hasan sighed on seeing Stephan charge bravely ahead. “Rash,” the elf complained to Miklos. “Stay here, we can bring them down from range.” Hasan let two arrows fly into the melee, and saw that one struck home, lodging deep in the shoulder of their nearly-elegant foe.

Miklos ducked back out of the line of fire, frustrated and angry. On the one hand his theory was proved, there were two warning factions, but he had hoped the Hukataans would have been more cerebral about it. Yet here they were proving themselves as vulgar as the Traldars. Perhaps he was foolish to think that they would be a peaceful conservative order of academics who fostered a wealth of knowledge. That they might find a library or university.
He tried to focus on the situation, but it was running ahead of him. More death would cure nothing and they as yet did not know the facts around the start of this war.

“We will not take sides Hasan. The Hukataans are simply attacking their enemy not us, we do not know who started this, I will not slay them and destroy any chance of their aid in finding what we seek. Although I shall defend us!”

Maruc observed the force above, some of the warrior did not wield slings, but rather drew maces. Three of them held aloft symbols and engaged in the tell-tale chanting and gesturing of spellcasters. Not arcania like his friend Miklos, but rather the priestly intokement of the will of the Immortals. From his current vantage, he could just make out the symbol of their chosen patron, a star symbol with which he was not familiar.

As charged up the embankment, Stephan’s courage all of a sudden became overtaken by a sudden surge of fear. His instincts shouted at him to turn and run the other way. He gritted his teeth and tried to will away the fright, and just as suddenly as it had come now it was gone. He resumed his charge.

The Traldar were now within 20 feet of the Hutaakans. The oddly shaped Traldar with the overgrown chest and neck let loose with a shout so loud that it thundered into the enemy and echoed across the valley. It stunned the Hutaakans, causing them to lose their balance and concentration. They tried to regain their composure as they tossed aside their slings, and prepared to engage in hand-to-hand combat. The majority of the ‘mutts’ drew short swords, with a half dozen of them armed with maces. The Traldar all wielded crude hand axes and their lizard mounts bit at the humanoid enemy with large pointed teeth.

Miklos had ducked across to the other side of the gully to get a better view, He knew the sleep incantation was indiscriminate which in this case was and advantage. He cast it into the general melee and knocked out four of the combatants, two from each side. This fight had to stop.

Hasan cast his levitate spell, lifting one of the attackers away from the combat. Jackal eyes went wide in amazement. They could not wonder long however, for the Traldar bloodlust was great and beyond distraction. Armed with crude hand axes, the Traldar fought with more skill, but the ‘mutts’ had superior equipment, making the two sides evenly matched.

Moving around the flanks of the combat, Ludo came up behind one of the slender humanoid creatures and struck it down with the pommel of his sword hoping to stun the creature into unconsciousness, they needed a prisoner, not corpses.

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Ve Ar Traldar! Ve Fight Vor Freedahm!

Maruc nodded to the others. “We shall see what they have to offer for explanation.”

Ludo shrugged his shoulders, “Thats if they are allowed the chance to talk.” Indicating the warriors with his thumb. “At least the tracks should be easy to follow.”

Hasan nodded his brief assent and grinned. Strange though it was, they were on a hunt for wild game. No circumstances were strange enough to emperil the elf prince’s confidence and pleasure at such a task. The elf strung his bow with shocking speed and moved forward into the party’s first rank.

The mage considered the options. Yes, they were putting themselves into the hands of degenerate warriors but they didn’t look much tougher than the bandits that they dealt with on the river all that time ago and they were now in a much better position to handle them. Miklos was still convinced that they wouldn’t be able to help in the search from an acedemic point of view but they might have an oral tradition which may hold some clues. Perhaps their village elders may be able to help? “Maruc is right, we must learn more before we can make any decision. But I for one promise no support without clear evidence.”

“Good, if we are all in agreement? Lead on, Warrior.” Maruc fell into step behind the guard.

“Ve ar Traldar! Ve fight vor freedahm!” shouted the lead rider. They set after the trail.

Feldard once more took up rear guard position, keeping alert, with his crossbow loaded. From this position he could also keep an eye on all of the riders.

Stephan fell in line but could not banish a strong feeling of wariness. Like Feldard, he readied his distance weapon for the march. Scanning the surroundings, he did not immediately see the evidence for ambush that the visceral part of his brain warned of. It was early in a day for such stress but such was the lot of the intrepid souls who by dint of circumstance, divine will or innate character were thrust upon a life of uncertain extremes.

The Traladaran reflected on the warrior’s rallying cry. Had he said ‘Traldar’? Their thick accents were a bit familiar, like something reminiscent of the old Traladaran gypsy dialect. Could it be these folk shared some distant heritage with his own people?

The tracks led into a shallow gulley. Stephan felt uneasy about this route, but the mounted warriors moved faster than the party could on foot, and thus were some distance ahead. Too late to caution them.

Thirsty for revenge, the Traldar warriors took little care to be covert in their movements. They had not travelled far when spears rained down on the warriors from behind some rocks above the gulley. A group of a dozen tall slender humanoid creatures with jackal-like heads emerged from their hiding spot. They looked exactly like the many ancient statues and relics that the adventurer’s had encountered along their journeys.

Two of the warriors were killed, impaled by enemy spears, and three others were wounded. “RAAAA!” shouted the leader. They quickly recovered and led their mounts up toward their attackers.

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You Want Our Help?

“You want our help?” asked Maruc. ”To avenge your fallen kin? We have come in search of knowledge, not fights. However we will not stand idle against injustice. Tell me your story, who started this war and why, only then will we be certain we fight for the cause of justice.”

Miklos lent over to Hasan, “I think these are brutish folk, I do not for a second image they are in possession of the secrets we seek. They have a war, let them keep it. I don’t wish to be dragged into a quarrel not of my making!”

Hasan hushed back to Miklos, “I too do not wish to be in their quarrel, but I think we want to be their friends. Also, might they not know something about what we seek?”

When it seemed the riders were more interested in talk than battle, Feldard lowered his stone, placing it on the pile with the others. Stephan relaxed a bit and smiled at the riders, trying to build more goodwill.

Feldard moved toward the back, keeping watch and listening to the others decide their next course of action.

“The mutts, Miklos, we need to know who are the mutts. Ask them. I cannot!” Hasan’s eyes shined with excitment, but his body was rigid as midwinter ice.

Milkos raised an eyebrow. “Look at the evidence,“ he mentioned quietly to the elf, “the world is full of ancient jackal headed statues of a high culture long gone. In its place we find a race of degenerate warriors. It seems to me the most likely cause was invasion.”

Ludo shook his head, and moved forward to stand beside Miklos. It looked like they had stumbled into the middle of a war,which was the last thing they needed. “Milos, Ludo whispered, we should focus on our task, finding out what the Sons of Night want from this valley, just because we stopped Golthar, does not mean that others will not follow. Ludo looked at these warriors,with suspicion.

Miklos nodded in agreement Ludo’s thoughts were with his own.

With a fresh trail leading to their enemy, the lizard riders did not wish to tarry.

“Come vit ars!” implored the stout warrior. “Yah vilt see, tho mutts be hind all tha be vicked en thas valley!”

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Thar Be Tracks

“Be still now, Feldard,” whispered Hasan. “It seems they speak a bit, but do not welcome unhumans. We shall have to educate them after Maruc wins their trust.” The elf stood still and watched.

Maruc pressed his point. “Please be at peace, I meant what I said. We seek knowledge. Feel free to check my weapon and clothing for blood. We have not slain your kin. We would hardly tarry and bury them were we guilty of their slaying?”

Maruc read their mistrusting faces. They were not sold on their story yet, but neither were they convinced of their guilt.

“We are travellers from beyond your valley, I am Maruc, a priest of Halav Incarnate, with me are my faithful and stalwart friends, three men; Ludo an orc prisoner we aided, Stephan of the Dymrak Forest and Miklos of Specularum on the sea. Here is Hasan of the noble houses of the elven Elyan, and finally Feldard the renowned dwarven warrior.” Maruc was not sure if Feldard would appreciate his past being associated with his name.

“What are your names and what quarrel do you have with the ‘Mutts’ that results in such violence?” he enquired boldly.

Miklos considered the term ‘mutt’. In Specularum it was normally used in reference to stray dogs. It didn’t take too much of a logical leap to suggest it was a derogatory term used for their foe. These people were probably not Hukaatan, they certainly didn’t look learned nor did they look like the broken statues that were cast about the landscape. He wondered why they were fighting. He deliberately chose to keep the tapestry hidden, it was unlikely to be the work of these people and may inflame them to violence.

Stephen wished he had his bow in hand. “How did we let these riders approach without realizing they were coming?” he muttered to Feldard.

The Sukiskyn tried to appear non-threatening without letting down his guard. He was in no mood for a fight with a strange enemy at the crack of dawn in a desolate, rocky land.

As the riders drew weapons, Feldard hefted the rock into a proper throwing position but held off his throw as Maruc continued to try and explain their presence. He gave a short snort at his introduction.

Ludo relaxed… a little, it least the strangers were talking and there didn’t seem to be any indicators that the strangers were inclined to fight; it least for now. Still he could not help but wonder, perhaps these were the killers of the poor souls that the party was burying. Ludo stayed at the back of the party watching to see how events would develope.

Maruc winced almost imperceptibly at Feldard’s sour reaction, He wondered if he would ever impress the taciturn warrior.

The warriors spoke in hushed tones amongst themselves, considering the logic of Maruc’s statements. One of the group had an abnormally large chest and neck, and did not speak. His eyes scanned the horizon. Two of the group broke away and rode their lizards closer to the bodies. One of them pointed to a speak nearby.

“Thar spear be a’ tho mutts!” he said.

Meanwhile, the large torso’d warrior rode his mount around the perimeter. He stopped and pointed to the ground. He spoke in a whisper that somehow carried on the wind to them all. “Thar be tracks,” he said.

“Yah be like ars,” said the lead warrior, pointing to Maruc and then to himself. “Tho mutts be dah curse ah tho valley. Thar be enkind wa’ tho dead. Veel yar halp venge ar keen?” he asked, clenching his fist.

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Yar’ve Keel’d Ar Kin!

Stephan quickly rose from the work of burying the dead. He stood ready with hand on the hilt of his un-drawn sword. He hoped it did not appear that they had slain the comrades of these riders. Oh how he wished for a horse right now!

He noted the strange tracks of the lizard mounts and cursed himself for not recognizing them before. But how could he? These were tracks never before seen by the likes of a woodsman from the south.

Feldard held the rock he had been about to place atop the dead and nodded to Maruc at his cautioning motion, as the priest greeted the lizard riders. The dwarf wouldn’t draw his weapon – at least not at the moment. However, if the mounted riders grew aggressive his rock would fly – straight towards the lead rider.

As soon as the riders appeared, Ludo crouched down, partly to create an impression of being less of threat to these strangers and also to quietly loosen his sword in his scabbard.

He wasn’t happy this situation looked very bad, here they were burying some bodies and caught red handed. Ludo would not be surprised, if the riders had not already made up their mind as to what had happened and demand retribution. He hoped that Feldard would not try and talk to these strangers, his skills in negotiating were not the best.

“I wish we had a spear or pole ax to set against their charge,” Hasan whispered bitterly to His companions.

Maruc turned to confront the newcomers. “Assuming you speak our common tongue I say hail and well met. We do not know your burial custom but when we came across your slain brethren we buried them as befitting as we could. I have spoken words of spirit guidance so their souls can rest in the great halls of their fathers. We grieve for your loss and would ask what foes trouble you for we are new come to your land in search of knowledge.”

Miklos held back. The priest was indeed brave to make a stand before armed cavalry but at least they were not of the undead. Cautiously he summoned to his mind a binding web spell in case things turned ugly. He didn’t chance to start the spell in case these were casters and take his actions as offensive. He waited their response. Miklos’s first impression was disappointment. Armed warriors was not what he expected of the high Hukataan culture. He hoped they might meet a more intellectual caste, Maybe these soldiers would lead them to the Hukataan secrets that the Sons of Night coveted? Or maybe not.

Miklos didn’t dwell of the alternative.

Hasan stood quietly next to Feldard and watched Maruc and the visitors. With bated breath, Stephan awaited the riders’ response to Maruc’s bold gambit.

Whispering to Hasan, “Lofty Prince, I hope your skills in diplomacy are up to the task to talk to these strangers, otherwise this could get ugly real quick”.

The riders slowed their charge and drew their weapons. “Yar’ve keel’d ar kin!” The lead rider spoke accusingly, with a thick accent that was difficult to understand.

“Harld!” spoke another of the riders. “Thar be strange far shar, tho thar be like ars. Not like tho mutts.”

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