Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Adventure 5: Defending D'Brickashaw

We needed a break. After that fight with the evil paladin, we were spent. I think I slept 19 straight hours once we got back to the town’s inn. And I was better off than most. Bolt had once again taken the brunt of the damage (enemies just seem to be drawn to him for some reason – maybe it’s the ceaseless insults he hurls at them, but there's a good chance it's the Axe Body Spray) and needed a week of recovery. The rest of us recuperated in our own way while Lotheryn tended to his wounds (lucky bastard – I wish MY wounds needed tending). I got a chance to break in the new bow I hadn’t been able to use yet. Moonglum spent most of his time in Ye Olde Arcana Shoppe, browsing the merchandise. Ieuan and Lotheryn, when she wasn’t tending Bolt, spent a lot of time in deep elvish meditation. Amaryllis volunteered her time down at the local orphanage. Malak did…well, I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell, but I’m sure it was whatever barbarians do when they’re not killing stuff.

The only one who didn’t enjoy the break was Bolt, and not just because he had stitches covering most of his body. He seemed restless, anxious to be moving on. When asked about it, he was evasive, saying he just wanted to get back on his feet. Finally Bolt seemed well enough to resume our travelling. We decided to take one more day in town to re-supply ourselves and we’d depart the following day. That night I awoke late to the sound of someone moving down the hallway. I decided to follow.

When I got outside the inn, I made myself known.

“Bolt. Where do you think you’re off to?”

The paladin turned around, surprised. “How’d you hear me?”

“You’re wearing banded mail. A china shop doing a cartwheel would make less noise than you. Now what’s going on?”

At that moment, Lotheryn, Amaryllis, and Ieuan all emerged from the shadows. Bolt was even more incredulous. “Wha…?”

“See? THAT’S how you move silently. Now let’s have it. What’s the deal with the late night escape?”

Bolt sighed. “Look, it’s nothing against you guys, I just have this weird sense that something’s wrong back home. I can’t shake it. It’s been bothering me since we got back here. This isn’t your problem, so I’m going alone to find out what the deal is. It’s been interesting hanging around with the lot of you, but I gotta go take care of this.”

The rest of us looked at each other in unspoken agreement. Ieuan went over to Bolt and put her hand on his arm. “We’re coming with you. Whatever trouble there is, you’ll be better off with friends around. We know you think you can handle this on your own, but let us help you. You’ve saved our lives countless times – give us a chance to do the same for you.”

“Besides, Bolt,” I added with a wry grin, “Who’s going to shove a health potion down your throat when you get knocked unconscious? “

The tall paladin looked as uncomfortable as I’ve ever seen him (and I’ve seen him face to face with a giant red dragon breathing flame down his armor). He glanced at each of us and finally resigned himself to the situation. “You guys aren’t going away, are you?” We shook our heads. “Fine. Come with me then. But just know that I didn’t ask you to do this!” He tried to sound as annoyed as possible, but I caught a hint of relief in there as well.

We re-supplied the next morning and left as soon as we could. We traveled for several days before we finally came to the outskirts of Bolt’s ancestral lands. I could sense his growing excitement as he quickened the pace of his walk. We were headed for a village called D’Brickashaw, but Bolt wanted to make a stop first. He told us about a small outpost on the edge of the kingdom where he’d spent a lot of his time training for the Holy Knighthood. Bolt was hoping to reunite with the grizzled veteran, Pedidimus, who had commanded the outpost when he trained there. But as we crested a small rise, I saw Bolt’s face harden. I looked down into the vale and saw nothing but smoldering shells of buildings. Bolt took off faster than I’d ever seen him, running breakneck down the hill. We hurried after him.

The young lord was seething as he looked around at the razed outpost. “Who could have done this?!? What happened here? I swear vengeance on whoever perpetrated this crime!”

The rest of us began looking for clues as to what might have happened. The wreckage didn’t appear to be more than a day old. I smelled the stench of orcs as soon as I got close, but there was obviously another group involved. As I was examining an embedded arrow with some strange, uncouth runes, I heard Moonglum muttering to himself, “Sand people! But these arrow volleys, too accurate for sand people. Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise…”

I was confused. “What was that, gnome?”

Moonglum looked up suddenly, unaware that I had been standing there. “What? Oh, nothing…just, uhh, mumbling to myself.”

What a strange race, those gnomes. Through a quick search we determined that it wasn’t Imperial Stormtroopers, whatever the heck those are, but actually a large group of gnolls that had apparently allied themselves with the orcs to raid the outpost. Judging by the tracks they left as they marched out, they were headed straight for D’Brickashaw. But I was able to give Bolt some good news.

“Lord Bolt! Do not despair yet – there are other tracks here among the orcs and gnolls, made several hours before the raid. I do not believe your people were taken at unawares. It appears they retreated before the enemy, possibly to take up defenses at a better location.”

Bolt looked grim as he glanced at the setting sun, “Well, let’s get going and catch up to these fools before they do any more damage.”

We jogged at a brisk pace all evening and night. It took us 5 solid hours, but we made it. I carried Amaryllis and Malak carried Moonglum most of the way. What is it they say about short people? I don't remember, but I do know I've never felt more like I needed a horse. We were sucking wind by the time we got to town. Bolt shouted the greeting of the Knighthood to the stationed guard, and we were let in through the gates. It didn’t take us long to find out what had happened. Most of the men stationed at the outpost had retreated to D’Brickashaw and taken up defenses there. The orcs and gnolls had issued a challenge, but had not yet attacked. Some men had gone to warn other towns further into the kingdom and to find a garrison of men to provide reinforcements. Bolt found his old friend, Pedidimus, and set about planning the defense of the village. The rest of us swore our weapons and abilities to the cause. We went about the next day fortifying the town.

At nightfall, the attack came. The orcs came from the east, the gnolls from the west. I quickly saw what it was that had left the strange arrows – gnoll demonic archers, deadly in their accuracy and ruthlessness. Everyone fought valiantly, but there were tremendous losses on both sides. The next night brought much of the same. When we gathered at the dawn of the third morning, the sound of clanging weapons only minutes subsided, the only ones left hale were six of us adventurers (Amaryllis had been struck by a poisoned arrow from one of the demonic archers and was stable, but not in any condition to fight), and two men of the Knighthood. Pedidimus was at a loss. “We can’t hold them off and I have no idea where our reinforcements are at! The defenses of the town are destroyed! This is a dark day for the Knighthood indeed…”

I interjected. “Look, I know you all have your pride; I have mine as well. But I think it’s time to get the civilians out of here. Bolt and Malak – take Amaryllis and the healthy Knights and get your people out to safety. Gnolls and Orcs both hate the light. If you leave by early afternoon and stick to the open hills, you should be far enough away by nightfall that you’ll be out of danger. Ieuan, Lotheryn, Moonglum, and I will do what we can to delay these guys until you can get back, hopefully with reinforcements. I don’t think we’ll be able to save the entire town, but hopefully we can harry them enough to save most of it. It’s not the ideal plan, but it’s the one that stands the best chance of saving the most lives.”

Bolt looked furious. “Why should I go? I should stay and fight!”

“You and Malak are the strongest ones here!” I countered. “There are sick people that need to be carried on litters. Your strength and leadership are needed to keep people from panicking. As soon as you get the villagers to a safe place, get back here. I’m sure there will be fighting enough left for you. I promise I’ll save you a gnoll or two.”

We set the plan into action and got everyone out as planned. I clasped hands with Bolt as he left, hoping I would still be able to do so when he returned. It was like a ghost town as the four of us waited for nightfall. As the sun set, we heard snarling coming from both sides of town. I climbed up on a nearby roof and fired an arrow at the nearest orc. “That was a warning shot!” (Actually it was meant for the orc's head, but the orc didn’t need to know that.) “Come any closer and you’ll get another one of those in your eye. You are not wanted here. But if it is death you desire, I am open for business, as are my friends.” Well, it wasn’t the best battle speech, but I thought it sounded decent. I’d worked on it most of the day.

The orcs weren’t all that impressed. I heard their guttural laughter as they tossed torches onto the outbuildings. The fight was on. Ieuan and I ran up to the rooftops and hurried our way over to the burning buildings via wooden planks we had set up in preparation. We had also set buckets of water on each of the roofs for this very purpose. Moonglum summoned a centipede to help fight off the gnolls on the west side of town. Lotheryn did some strange druid-y spell to allow her and Anca to run up the walls, evading the gnolls and doing some damage of their own. I made a mental note to ask how she did that when this was over.

I, meanwhile, ran as fast as I could to get to the first fire. At this point, the fire had spread, and I had to jump in the midst of the flames to grab the bucket of water. Not thinking clearly, I grabbed the metal handle of the bucket, which by now was scalding. I managed to put out the flames, but my hands were wracked with searing pain from the white hot metal. I picked up my bow again and began firing arrows at the orcs, who were well lit by the firelight. It didn’t matter – the pain in my hands was excruciating and I couldn’t have hit an orc if my life depended on it (and it was looking more and more likely that it would). Thankfully, Ieuan was able to keep the orcs at bay with her magic missiles and various rays.

The orcs were now amongst the buildings and had found the ladder we used to climb up the building. I was too far away to save one of the buildings, so I kicked out the plank to keep the fire from spreading and ran to help Ieuan. We hadn’t downed any of the orcs, and only one of the gnolls was even bleeding. It didn’t look good.

At that moment I saw a large shape sprint out of the shadows and slam into an orc about to throw another torch.

“Malak!” I shouted. “Bout time you showed up! There’s killing to do!” Malak grunted in response as he hacked away at a couple of orcs.

I heard a shout of encouragement on the other end of town, as Bolt ran in to help Lotheryn and Moonglum with the gnolls. As I watched Malak do his business, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Ieuan, looking rather nervous. “I hate to interrupt your gruntfest over here, but there are several orcs and a gnoll looking at me rather inappropriately. And I don’t mean from a distance. They’re right there. Seeing as how you’re the one with the armor and the flail and whatnot, I just thought I’d let you know. I’m going to stand over here.”

Well, I couldn’t hit the broadside of a dragon with my bow anyway, so I pulled out Narqualme and charged in to do some real damage. I managed to hem the demon archer in the fire, but he just cackled with glee and tried to get himself into position for another shot. Ieuan nailed him with a magic missile and knocked him off the roof. We also managed to take down some of the orcs, and I put out the fire before it spread too much. Moonglum, Bolt and Lotheryn had almost finished off the gnolls. Malak, while looking somewhat worse for wear, was a sword stroke away from killing the orcs he was fighting. Not only had we managed to minimize damage to the town, but we were actually going to fight these guys off!

And then we saw the ettin. This thing was the ugliest beast I’d ever seen, made all the uglier since it had two hideous heads, instead of just one. He shambled into the torch light, gave a loud yell, and looked straight at Malak with rage in his eye.

“Oh shit,” was all the barbarian could muster as the ettin charged in and took a swing at him with his massive club. The sound was like the crunch of dry leaves as the club hit Malak squarely on the shoulder.

We managed to dispatch the remaining orcs and gnolls and raced toward Malak to help. As we ran, I shouted to Bolt, "Where are the reinforcements? They'll be here any minute, right?"

Bolt shook his head, "The messengers were waylaid by the gnolls just outside of town. It's all on us. Don't worry. We got this." I wish I shared his optimism.

Lotheryn used her crazy spider-climbing to get to Malak first. She was able to heal his shoulder without drawing attention from the ettin. Bolt ran in headlong and opened up a couple of wounds on the ettin, only to get knocked unconscious by the giant. I kept firing arrow after arrow at its tough hide as Moonglum and Ieuan launched their magic missiles. Anca bit its leg and Malak hacked at its torso. Finally it staggered when I hit it in the throat with a shot and Ieuan’s missile brought it down. Right then the first rays of sunlight crept over the eastern horizon. We had won. The town was safe, if a little singed.

As we nursed our wounds that day, the townspeople came in and thanked us for our help. Bolt was lauded as the finest Knight they’d seen, a title which seemed to suit him just fine. When we finally got a moment’s peace, I walked over to the paladin.

“Next time you invite us to your kingdom, show us a little hospitality, huh? Can’t you just bake some cookies or something?”

He grinned and shot right back, “Hey, this is how we do it here. Why do you think I’m such a pimp? Get your cookies somewhere else, we only serve justice in my country.”


Lotheryn said...

Ahh, so that's why you couldn't hit anything. A burned hand. ;)

Lord Bolt said...

i had no idea that was my hood. my people should have been used to the roofs burning. we don't need no water.

anyway, thanks for the support everybody. y'all real.

Taran said...

I enjoyed meeting your "brotha's." It was a very cultural experience. Who knew that chicken and waffles worked so well together?