Monthly Archives: September 2012

Dead Pursuit

Hasan directed the four Hutakaan guards, “Escort the Mage Miklos. Do not let the dead enter a melee with him.” Jasiteq and the elf, moved to join Stephen and Feldard. “Stephan, please wait, and bring Maruc forward as quickly as you can. Jasiteq says the scream will bring the dead. We will need Halav’s hand in this fight. Feldard, you, Jasiteq and I can see in the dark, but Ludo cannot. We must move forward to save the young lad. Perhaps we will see this Kartoeba as well, but I fear not.” The elf moved into the forest, eyes and ears scrying the land ahead.

The dwarf gave a grunt and nod as Hasan assumed command of the situation. Feldard could only imagine what it might look like to others of his race, him following the lead of some elf prince; but he’d spent enough time now traveling with his companions to know that the elf had a good mind for this type of thing.

Feldard followed the slime trail quickly to the edge of the woods and from there proceeded more slowly as he tried -with next to no experience – to track the Kartoeba creature through the trees beyond. He kept Hasan, and Jasiteq in sight as they spread out to cover more area in search of Ludo and the Kartoeba.

Ludo gulped, his throat was dry, the scream in the night, the mist clinging to him and the cold night air… what had he been thinking of charging blindly into the night against. He suddenly realized he had no idea what was out here. Whoever had made the scream was most likely dead now. The fear clung to him like a heavy cloak. What a fool he had been to come out here alone without support. Suddenly he blinked, he could see some shapes in amongst the trees getting closer. Ducking down into the shrubbery for cover, he fumed at his own recklessness; a thought flashed through his mind ‘heroics are for lofty elves not for cunning rogues.’ He threw his torch to one side and, keeping low, darted off in the opposite direction making his way back to the Hutakkan village.

Stephan stuck close to Feldard relying on the dwarf’s night vision. Their progress was slow and careful; pausing often to see and hear. “You see anything out there?” he asked trying to keep his voice calm. Despite being a forester, he did not like traipsing about in dark, misty woods. “Feldard,” he hissed. “This is feeling like a trap.” That said, he continued to follow the dwarf.

Looking through the trees ahead and to the right, he noted that Ludo did not seem to be moving anymore. Well, he thought, at least his torch is not moving anymore.

The dwarf saw a squad of undead. A dozen skeletons were followed by a half dozen lumbering zombies. Some of the animated corpses appeared to be Hutaakan, while others seemed to be Traldar. The lesser undead seemed to be commanded by another of their kind. It looked like a Traldar, but bone-white and thin, with hollow, lifeless eyes. The undead were heading quickly toward the village. They were chasing Ludo!

Maruc glanced at the drag marks. “This is no trap. This creature hunts like the tiger not like the spider. It seems indiscriminent though. It has taken Hutakaan villagers. If this thing was under Hutaakan control, it would not do so. I fear this thing has been summoned for some purpose. It isn’t what I’d call natural. What think you Miklos?”

Mikos eye’d the gloom. Ludo was ahead of him a ways and he picked out odd dancing shadows beyond him. The rogue had stopped and was returning at pace. “I think,” he said in reply to the priest. “We may be about to find out.” He produced the glass rod which he used to focus his mage wrought lightning. “Be prepared to run if this doesn’t dissuade it.”

The rogue came out of the treeline. He had abandoned stealth as the undead were now in full pursuit. A dozen skeletons followed immediately behind him, with still more dark shadows moving in the forest behind.

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The Kartoeba Strikes

Ludo quickly grabbed his bow and quiver and scaled the perimeter wall and stood on the ramparts searching and listening for anything that might indicate who or what had made the scream. The inky blackness soaked up the light from the torches that had been placed at regular intervals along the wall and he couldn’t see anything in the darkness. “Feldard, Stephan I think the scream came from over yonder, he pointed. He grabbed a torch and slung himself over the wall to investigate.”

The mage had been in a good mood as he fell asleep. The food and wine coursed through his tired limbs and he felt more satisfied than he had for weeks. He hadn’t appreciated the stress of trying to sleep in a haunted land bereft of peace.

At first he thought it was a dream, but even in his fevered imagination could not have invented such a soul wrenching sound. He was out of bed scarce slower than the rogue. He pulled on his trusty backpack and without word followed Ludo into the dark.

Feldard was surprised how quickly he came alert out of his sleep after his long, long day but then bloodcurdling screams in the middle of the night tend to do that. The dwarf slung his crossbow over his shoulder and grabbed up his axe, forgoing his armor due to the urgency of the scream. He watched as the rogue climbed the wall, pointed off into the darkness and disappeared over the walls edge. “Idiot,” he grumbled and hurried his way to the city wall entrance and bullied his way out past the guards there.

Outside the wall, he searched the darkness for sign of the rogue and source of the scream. He saw a trail of slime, dotted here and there with blood, that led up over the wall.

Stephan felt almost as grumpy as Feldard’s normal state. Waking to such high-pitched screams left the supper and drink–he’d been so surprised to find delectable– quaking in his gut.

“Da,” he muttered in way of agreeing with Feldard’s assessment of Ludo’s maverick point guard action. Stephan too was up fast with only sword and bow. He followed Feldard out the village wall and to the edge of darkness beyond.

“What do your eyes see, dwarf? Even I can see Ludo’s torch. Would that I had some flaming arrows to launch into the darkness. Might be that we could pull the curtain back on this screaming.”

Soon he saw that Ludo had extinguished or otherwise hid his torch. He knew that the rogue must be in his stealthiest mode. No doubt the crafty Ludo would soon appear behind the unaware dwarf and human.

Stephan walked carefully to the right being as quiet as possible. This afforded a better view of the gnarly, grey woods. But the thick air hindered sight and provided a discomforting damp blanket.

“Jasiteq, come now,” commanded Hasan. “Leave some to guard your gate, but you and your best must come with us now. What do you know of that sound. We heard it once before. Last night.” Hasan moved the Hutakaa out of the gate quickly and scanned the dark night with eyes and ears.

The screams stopped. It was quiet now.

“It is the Kartoeba,” said the Hutaakan. “We must be careful now. The scream will attract the undead.”

Maruc started out of his meditations. Swiftly he rose to his feet, there was little time to get back into his armour but screams indicated assault. The others were well out of the room before he was ready, he followed as he could trying to keep up.

The priest’s shield flopped awkwardly on his back as he dragged at the strap to tighten it, Stephan’s silhouette traced across the wall ahead hae he caught up with him. “What’s the situation?” he whispered.

“The screaming started within the village walls then moved to yonder woods.” The forrester replied quietly. “Ludo is ahead and we await his signal. Follow silently, if you can.”

The rogue scanned his surroundings. Something had dragged one or more Hutaakans from within the village, then disappeared back into the night. His ears heard a branch crack in the distance, then another. Dark shapes were moving in the distance, and they were headed his way.

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Bloodcurdling Screams

“You have sworn peace under the eyes of the immortal,” Maruc seemed satisfied. “So I must fulfill my duty to do what I can to cleanse this land. If we are successful, delegations from both races must meet somewhere neutral to discuss how this peace will work and any griefs be put to rest. Come we need rest and food. On the morrow we shall seek the Vault of Elders and the Tome of Knowledge.”

When the Hutakkan priest finished speaking Ludo relaxed and turned to Stephan, “I still don’t trust these Hutakkans, however, I would not want it said that I am not willing to give them a chance and it will be nice to have day of rest. My back is sore with all the sleeping on the ground and a bed even for a night would be very welcome. I wonder if that rod is magical in some manner and now we have an opportunity Miklos has a wand that we do not yet know of its power; maybe today we could determine what type of wand it is”.

Stephan nodded at Ludo’s words. “Da. Some good food, drink and bed would be nice. But do these jackals use beds? And what sort of food and drink might they have? I wager the Traldar know how to brew a stout or two.”

Some while later, Miklos sat with the wand and ‘Elf rod’ in front of him. He turned the rod over in his hands. “Elves use a sorcery akin to magic-user magic. The Hutaakan’s are priests and its construction would be unfamiliar to them. I still believe that until we have done what is required of us they wouldn’t endanger us any more than necessary. I think this is the key to the vault but because it is different magic to clerical magic they have forgotten how to use it in the mists of time.” he focused his attention on the wand. “Ah a command rune is etched here, interesting. I recall a similar rune in my book.” he pulled out his spell book and opened it. “See here and here. Ahh now we are getting somewhere…”

The warrior Stephan looked at Miklos studying the rod. “Don’t think there’s much I can do to help with that.”

Stephan double checked his gear. His armor was in need of repair. The helm lining was badly worn. A seam on his quiver was coming lose. He tried to do what he could to find a place to work and fix these things. The Huataakans did not seem inclined to assist.

Hasan studied the want carefully with Miklos. Watching the Mage work, held said, “You must teach me that Analyze skill, and soon. And the lightning bolt, too, of course,” the elf smiled.

* * * * *

Miklos ascertained that the etchings upon the rod would cast forth a powerful knock spell. When the magic users finished their task, they rejoined the party for a celebratory dinner.

One of the Hutaakan priests led the party to an empty dwelling for them to stay for the night. With all the casualties of war, there was now extra space in the village. The mood in the village was tense. The Hutaakans were an austere race to begin with, and now they faced war and a curse upon their lands. The number of guards along the outer wall facing the valley were increased by reinforcements at nightfall.

Food was brought to them by another priest, who blessed the platter of food that consisted of a wheel of sweet bread, vegetables, a lamb roast and two pitchers of beer.

“Ahh, this is wonderful,” sighed Hasan, as the elf enjoyed a deep drink of the trenchant ale the Hutakaa served along with roast lamb. “After peace is found again in your vale, you will need to come to Radlebb, to visit my people ands are our stories, for both our people have seen golden times.”

As they rested for the night, it was comforting to be within the safety of a village. This secure feeling would be shortlived, as they were once again awoken by bloodcurdling screams in the middle of the night. They came from an area nearby, toward the village’s edge.

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