(D&D) Pushing a Lion with a Donkey

The orcs that razed Sing’jar quickly took the mayors manor on the north plateau overlooking the north bay, smashing the porcelain and hording the silver. The art on the walls was thrown in a bonfire to celebrate the conquest of the civilized peoples of Sing’jar. To bring the rejoicing destruction to its pinnacle, Scabwart Blaktooth, the aged commander of the orc assault legion, herded the mayor, her husband, the half-elven retinue, and the gnome ambassador of Faroth on the mayoral barge, and murdered them while the ship was set alight with burning pitch. General Blaktooth swam back to shore with a refreshed grin on his face and ordered the wine cellar opened.

Orcs, half-orcs, and kobolds filled their cups with the mayors wine and set about the gardens, seeing what would take to fire, and stomping what would not burn. Cattle that bolted were caught and spits were erected to roast fine cattle and sheep. The best eating the Blaktooth orcs remembered for decades! Most grew up in the Galentaspar region, catching small rodents and working the granite piles constantly watched by Drow or their lieutenants.

hobgoblin-archer-silScabwart sat back on a couch that had been hefted atop an overturned cart for a good vantage point of the looting. The mayor’s silver platter with a side of beef ribs was sitting near and a water bucket half filled with wine was sitting in his lap. The sun would rise in about two hours and the December air was as cold as he’d ever experienced it. He moved the bucket to the table and wrapped a tapestry—something with dumb fey hominids on it—around him, and resumed pouring the wine into his mouth.

Geael Brunfur, a heavily maned hobgoblin with gray whiskers and white eyebrows kicks gnawed ribs away as he approached Scabwarts makeshift dinner post. “Dining in pleasure, I see, General Blaktooth!” Gaeal shouted as he approached.

Wat? Oh, Gaeal! GAEAL! Hah!,” (spits), “I love this campaign! Such routing of elves! Such frightened civilians! What enjoyably week militia! Ate them we did! We will be eating these prisoners for weeks!” Scabwart smiled, then winced, as a raindrop hit him in the eye.

“General,” Gaeal continued as he made himself a seat next to the orc on the couch, “Its time to discuss some rear guard actions. Our last supply chain has made it through the woods and follows your host. I say, but you’ve left us with very little to eat in your wake. It’s a good thing we came with some rations. I never knew a whole city…a whole city! Hah! A whole city would barely fill your appetite!”

“An orc’s apetite is never sated when there are fey around, you know this you old goblin!” Scabwart poked at Brunfur’s arm, then smacked away the hobgobin’s hand that was reaching for a rib on the tray. “Mine, you old thief! Your help is appreciated, but I won this fight and you won’t pull the carcass out from under my claws while I’m chewing it! Do what you want with the rear guard. There’s plenty to go around, you lot of beggars. And why are you souring my meal with work talk? Why aren’t your beating some half elf or chewing on some damned dwarf’s leg? Don’t you enjoy how they squeal? Isn’t it delightful?”

“Yes…yes, general. But you must meet the new city managers I’ve brought along. We want to keep the shipyards running, you know. Here, here—meet Logician Uulopa Sadgrin our new city manager…and here is our new guard captain Wylan Darkglove, he’ll organize the our defenses…and here’s Yuseph Pitland, our new Dockmaster, too keep trade in the bay profitable.”

Scabwart’s grin faltered and his upper lip raised in a perplexed scowl as three cloaked and devious characters came into the firelight. There was the shadows of hobgoblin warriors behind each, hands on hilts, at attention. Replacing his wine bucket and resting his hands at his sides at this development, Scabwart knew he needed to move first, but move smoothly. There was a dagger in each of his palms already. These hobgoblins were too orderly…to sure of themselves to ever be trusted.

“Plans can wait for the morning,” the General said as he raised his half-fist towards the old hobgoblin, “we didn’t expect you for days. You’re early! What we need official-like peoples here for already, Brunfur?” And while enunciating his name, Scabwart flicked the dagger right at Gaels throat and threw his left handed dagger at skinny figure Uulopa Sadgrin. His hands were on his scimitar before the daggers would land!

The dagger thrown at Uulopa merely caught in his thick robes. Scabwart felt time slow down as he watched as the dagger flopped to the ground. General! General, we’re under attack! The screams of the captured were now the shrieks of orcs? Something caught Scabwart’s eye as he began the swing of his scimitar towards Brunfur—a orc was standing next to him waving his hands to stop him? Why preserve the life of crappy hobgob? The scimitar seemed to cut individual wisps of smoke as it lazily traced its path to the hobgoblin. Why is the rack of ribs smacking me in the face?

Brunfur pulled the dagger out of his shoulder armor, rose and plunged it into the back of the clearly confused and disoriented Scabwart. Scabwart cringed in meek terror at the surprisingly brutal attack. Uulopa stepped forth with a green glow about the blade of a darkened iron dagger and with the phrase for Tharzidun! Jabbed his dagger into the orc general’s eye and watched as his flesh bubbled as boils and gangrene spread across Scabwart’s shrieking face.

Dawn broke through the smoky darkness surrounding the mansion, and a new bonfire was erected: the wood of the outbuildings of the manner was piled and set alight and as the flames fought the falling raindrops, dozens of orc bodies were heaped on the pyre. Gaeal Brunfur set up command of his hobgoblin army in the captured mayor’s mansion, and took command from the invading orcs.

Behind the platoons of orcs that slaughtered the defenders of Sing’jar, larger ranks of goblins commanded by hobgoblins pulled the supply chain behind. No one likes orcs. Especially not when there’s money to be made. Sing’jar is where money and power will be made, and General Gaeal Brunfur was just beginning to see his plan set in motion.

(D&D) Lotheric v. Barkar’s Bugbear

The morning after Wiri hired Lotheric, Ville, Ulipa and Alex on a hit contract, they were packed up and walking out of the inn on the Bolitus pavilion–when Barkar, flanked by a huge bugbear and four beefy orcs start jogging toward them. Everyone drops their backpacks and draws their weapons–but unfortunately the party gets separated into two groups.

Barkar and two orcs attack Ville and Alex and the bugbear and other two orcs gang up on Lotheric. The fighting is heavy–Lotheric is unusually slow this morning and nearly hurts Ulipa when he over-swings and misses the bugbear. In contrast: orcs are fresh and cunning, landing piercing and stunning blows to Lotheric and Ville with brutal accuracy. These orcs must be representing for all their fallen comrades, they hit so hard!

Lotheric barely has time to wipe the sweat dripping into his eyes before he is struck again and nearly toppled. This is preposterous. Time for bigger guns, Lotheric says to himself. Putting his left hand to his right, he twists his Ring of the Ram into position and fires a mighty blast into the bugbear–to great effect!

Lotheric has a bit of time to take a few steps back and Ulipa makes it back to him an restores him somewhat. At about half his energy, Lotheric looks over his shoulder and finds that the bugbear, shoved many yards away and tumbling an orc in the process, has gotten up and is shaking himself like a dog to fling the dust off. That orc that should have been killed by a huge bugbear falling on it is nearly back up as well. What the hell?

A little breather is better than no breather, so Lotheric grips his greatsword again. He has a second to look over at Ville, who’s taken a viscious blow and is down, with Alex and Tiberious standing over him, fighting off Barkar and the other two orcs. We’re not winning, Lotheric mumbles to himself. This is bad. Everyone is injured and–amazingly Tiberious lands a killing blow on an orc!

But we’re still out-matched, Lotheric mumbles, and swings at the bugbear again. Finally, a solid hit! But an orc is behind him and strikes at the same time. And Lotheric hears a scream as Tiberious is hit. Ulipa is hit trying to get close to Lotheric. Things are going so rough he barely notices the sound of horse hooves and the jingle of new swords.

Their bouncer orc that introduced them to Wiri was at his side, parying blows from the other orcs! And a half elf ranger he hadn’t seen for months was at his other side–where did he come from? No time to talk…

But the orcs kept hewing at them and the bugbear wasn’t showing any signs of wearing down. Tiberious and Alex were retreating and draging Ville to the mules, but Barkar and an orc were still hewing at them as well. Everyone was going defensive.

Two arrows sang through the air and stuck the orcs before Lotheric, followed by a rough voice, “Hands off! Those people are mine!” commanded Wiri. He stood with his hand on a short sword, and four rouges half orcs on either side of him, two of them with longbows and two brandishing longswords. Before the moment of confusion was over, Wiri was already standing over Barkar, brandishing his sword at his neck. “This one is mine.”

Wiri’s crew pushed away Barkar’s hirelings and they turned and fled, the bugbear crashing right through the leatherworker’s tent to many curses from the vendor.

“Lotheric!” Wiri announced, “That was disappointing. I’m going to have to reduce your rate. I expected more of you and your crew. Don’t hang around here, go do your task, and return promptly–I want to see evidence of your task soon!.”

Lotheric sighed. Day is off to poor start. Getting harassed by evil crime lord is embarassing…

And the team gathered their packs and headed south, looking forward to a short night of rest halfway to Anitus. The offer of 800 gold for their job getting cut somewhat–how much? Very frustrating. If they don’t develop a reputation for working with the crime lords in the cairn towns, though…how will they learn where the evil power in the region actually resides?

(D&D) Adventures in Anitus

barrel-head

Thorfinn, Eliza, Petal, Arjanir, and Grigor return south to Anitus, passing by the trading pavilions after Lotheric, Tiberious and A__ followed Atala who insisted on freeing the captive elves in the slave caravan heading north.

Our party wanders into the Rock Pub near the south end of the cairn trading pavilion. The half orc bouncers at the door are not impressed with the clean and legal look of our party. At the bar are a cloaked mage, a wiry ranger and a steer sized half orc. The other patrons are mostly humans with service aprons on, tossing coppers on the floor to bet on arm wrestling matches. The wiry ranger teases Grigor about not being able to beat Knuckles (half orc) in an arm wrestling match.

Grigor is so nervous being in this entirely evil place that he jumps the gun on the first match and pins the half orc’s arm in a quick moment. The next round, Knuckles squeezed Grigors hand into a sausage and won. The pressed on with one more round and Knuckles won in a more matched challenge.

Eliza was challenged next by the ranger. Eliza introduced herself and likewise the ranger introduced himself as Daturan. The high-elf and the half-drow were equally matched. Ever the advantage seeker, Daturan surprised Eliza with a leg sweep and Eliza lost her footing off the top of the big wrestling stone—but recovered by spinning and landing on her opposite leg. The crowd cheered and threw more coin on the floor. Eliza dodged a shove, and then did a kick at Daturan’s knee. Daturan swung away from the strick but over-extended, and Eliza threw her off the wrestling rock.

With the winnings, Eliza bought the part another round of hard cider. It tasted like fermented goat piss, which was probably pretty good—by orc standards. Conversation was rather strained between the two parties. The skinny hooded half-orc next to them chipped in with bitter jokes and private out-loud laughs. Thorfinn would ask where to get some good jobs, and Daturan would respond with an evasive answer that showed kind of a patronizing distrust of the party. Knuckles would joke about how Thorfinn and Grigor seemed too clean and smelled like pine cones. Maybe they liked elves?

Time to go, decided Thorfinn. As they walked to the door, the half-orc bouncers were joking about easy marks. Thorfinn, sensing a trap preemptively twisted out of the way when passing the bouncer on the left, but Grigor got struck in the ankle by the opposite bouncer. They fought—but Thorfinn, Eliza and Grigor were subduing the half orcs but really not hitting them effectively. Petal flew out of Eliza’s hair, and started entangling the fight with ground vines and a sleep spell on Knuckles who rushed out to the melee rather late.

Thorfinn and Eliza wrestled free of the vines and finished subduing the half orcs. Daturan and the hooded figure, Allda, started golf-clapping–”Not bad, forest lovers. Grab a hold and let’s sell these suckers to Trader Sam’s”. Grigor, Arjitan, and Eliza agreed that people should not be sold into slavery, even if they were evil half-orcs, and said to meet up with them north of the cairn. Daturan continued to loot the bodies and placed 8 gold pieces into Thorfinn’s hand, saying “I’ll get more from selling these chumps then I’m handing you. Let’s go!” Thorfinn silently but grudgingly agreed—mostly to see the process this place considered normal—and helped Daturan drag the half orc around to an adjacent tent with an orc banner hanging over the entrance. With a few more gold in their purses, they left north.

At Daturan’s camp, the group discussed what they thought the plan was. The evil in the land is the power of a network of curses on a group of cairns around Galentaspar. The whole region is unhallowed. Additionally, each cairn is a desecrated area. The most powerful people in the region are necromancers and unholy clerics. The drow really only admit trade with peoples obeisant to Lolth.

Daturan hates the mayor of Anitus. Not really a yaor—more like a charismatic evangelist. Such a clever talker, Fray Underhof tricked Daturan out of a caravan full of slaves by selling Daturan right to another slaver an opposite route. Daturan has tried to assassinate Fray many times, but had failed repeatedly Fray has only increased his influence and has his own cadre of cairn keepers and henchmen. Fray lives in a tiny gap between the rocks at the base of cairn. According to Daturan, only pawns can now get close enough to Fray to be effective—and Daturan is too well known to get close.

Eliza says it is probably important enough to buy a hawk as soon as possible to let Feltor know what he’s up against. Where would they find a hawk? Should they rather go back to the rock wall? Or should they just continue to infiltrate Fray’s organization and complete Daturan’s revenge?

Faroth: How Lothric Meets Eliza

barrel-head(Still in progress)

Faroth Adventures 2017-04-02 — 4/7

Liam/Lothric and Eloise/Eliza

In the north Sing’jar mountians, elder high elf wizard Simon Blackpine and the camp captain stood on a boulder surveying the burning valley of Sing’jar below. “Feltor,” Simon sighed, “our camp and our tribe are not strong. We are becoming shadowy and scared…we hide when we should command.”

Feltor, captain of the high elf camp, Trap’pyz, grimaced as he looked out onto the rising plumes of smoke that began to level about the elevation of their camp, bending as the wind changed direction with the mountain-top elevation. “Simon, I agree. While we have been repelling these orcs daily for years, they still thrive. Something gives them great strength. We know now that they have been interdicting the iron shipments from Faroth for some time. It would seem they want the resources of Sing’jar bay for themselves. It is a shrewd strategem. No one orc I’ve followed in the east would have the foresight to plan so far ahead. We should anticipate a greater host marching west. I shall stay with my band and patrol our realm, Simon. The islands need to know. They yet offer some hope.

”I will send two strong fighers with you, Simon, you need to warn them.”

“Not for some time have I had the joints or hardiness to walk so far, Feltor…” Simon tried to object, but was met with Feltor’s leveled gaze…unblinking. Simon sighed, and admitted to himself he needed to push himself even at five hundreds years old. He would miss his laboratory in the roots of Y’ntil, the largest Fir on the mountain.

Footsteps, then, “Captain!” announced W’ibnee, an elven ranger in a restrained rush, “We have lost…”, he gasped for breath, held it a second to long…”We have lost your son…Zok.”

“Where was he? Was he on patrol? Didn’t I order him back into camp for his next mission?”

“Sir, I heard he came back to camp in the morning after his shift was half finished. He said he needed food. He dropped off an orc dagger on the table and mentioned something about finding an orc cart. I heard your request moments later, and I traced him up the east road where he patrols. There, I saw a wrecked cart with dead goblins still chained to it. Signs of a bear attack. Zok had tracked them north to cave on the east side of the stream. Tracks all around. We found him, dead in the stream. He had been burned by magical fire and … and by acid. He had seen wounds before that, he probably killed six orcs. There were more dead orcs near the mouth of the cave. G’inday is hauling back his body, sir…so sorry, sir.”

Feltor pulled his gaze up off the ground and leveled his eyes at the ranger W’ibnee. “I…wish he had not been so headstrong. He challenged everyone…including myself. Dark…dark times. I shall tell B’ellahra. Go fetch Eliza to us. Her mission is pressing. Then help G’inday prepare rites for Zok.”

Simon looked out over the valley and his heart sank and for the first time in four hundred hears he was…quite nervous? Actually feeling anxious, in fact. He abruptly forced himself to stop rubbing the mole on the back of his right hand. He was going to rub it raw and that wouldn’t do for traveling—and it sounded like he would only have one traveling companion: Feltor’s niece, Eliza.

* * *

Lothric didn’t mind being a bouncer at the Basalt Fist…the “finest brawling tavern in Bibbon Bay.” There was a big uphill climb to it which denied many of the old villagers from making this their daily pub in the winter. The roads were freezing mud and the winds didn’t stop. After a day, the bar tender of the ‘Fist told Lothric to not open the door to just anyone. They needed to pay for a fighting chip or the cover charge, and stop letting in the damned cold air! The ‘Fist’s owner, Big Man, a glitzed out gnome with turtle shell spectacles, glossy black side burns and braided gold chains all over his shark skin vest and turtle shell boots…was constantly complaining about “the help.” The last bouncer got an knife in the ribs and was hauled off to the tallow pits earlier that week. Yesterday, Cleo the Cleaver was again the cage match champion. She was a monk with a frown as deep as her leap was high. Lotheric presumed she could do a dead vertical leap and grab the bars at the top of the match cage and break someone’s neck with a foot hold on them. Usually, she bounded along the wall of the cage and sank a hardened fist into the opponent’s trachea before they took a second step from the center of the ring when the gong rang.

Tonight was a pretty light night, beginning with two sailors trying to scam past the door fee by saying their amulets showed the account payed for by their ship. No, six silver to get past me guys, and then four silver to get inside…a gold piece will do nicely, fellas. The minotaur and sea elf chalked the fight board as Franky the Fist and Gerald the Genie. Gerald and Macho-X-Three started the first round. Gerald began to levitate (against the rules…NO weapons, NO buffs) and the sprang at each other. Macho didn’t have much of a chance, scoring only one or two points before Gerald flipped him and knocked him out with a body slam.

No one was walking up the bluff road, so Lothric closed the door and sat on a stool to watch the next match: Franky the Fist vs. Harry the Hammer. The Doc, a cracked old cleric who announced the fights and swabbed the canvas, announced Franky as a returning former champion, challenging Harry, another former challenger for the belt. Franky pulled his mug of beer between the ropes and balanced it atop his flat skull between his two oxen horns and walked a proud circle on the canvas—twirling his fists into a blur. The audience loved it! Fist! Fist-fist! They shouted. Franky bobbed his head, caught his mug, drained it, and threw it out of the cage to the bar maid. Harry met him in the middle of the mat. “I’m going to love twisting those horns off, bull head!” Harry grumbled. Fist-bump. Gong!

Right off to a surprising beginning: the Hammer sped forward and collided with Franky right into his groin with his head. Franky fell forward over the dwarf, clutching his abdomen and the Hammer sped to the opposite corner not breaking his stride. Franky’s nose was to the mat but one of his horns had pierced the canvas! He jerked his head back and his horn gave way with a rip, leaving at least a foot sized hole. Spinning around, Franky looked up to find Harry falling right on him from a leap off the stool. They both hit the mat. Franky, rolling to a crouch, spun his fists and leap up, striking Harry right in the chin and sending him sailing into the chain wall. The went at each other madly. Then badly: after two more throw-downs and a thrown stool, Franky landed a falling elbow on the Hammer’s sternum in a body slam off the remaining stool. Gong! Ten points and a beer for the Fist! And a cure serious for our sad dwarf here…K-O!

Franky and Gerald denied the crowd a fight as they worked on the same boat. The were not heckled. Franky flipped a silver to the bar maid over the wall of the cage and she delivered him another beer from between the ropes. He balanced it on his head again and walked a victory circle. “I’m all warmed up, now! Who’s next? Next!” and he caught his tipping mug, took a swig, and hung it on his right horn. “This minotaur is ready for a real fight!” The crowd loved it. The Big Man was collecting in on bets tonight, or not…a Drow in a black linen shirt and black vest with a broken nose and greasy hair appeared to be the shark tonight.

The crowd settled to a murmur as the bar-maid rang her bell three times. In from the the rear door stepped Cleo the Cleaver. “Ooooh.” Was the response as she tossed her cloak on the table and pointed a rigid finger at Franky. You’re on, dough boy! I don’t fight rolly-polly dwarves. She stepped between the ropes and was at the mat in a mere moment. Franky drained his beer, raised a cheer, and tossed his mug over the fence. Gong! Barely a fist bump and she sprang to his left, leaping up to the cage wall and running across two sides of it and launched herself to his right shoulder, attempting an in air choke hold landing on Franky the Fist. Franky fell back to the mat to draw her balance off and they both fell to the mat, and rolled away from each other, eyes locked. She flipped backwards, landed on the stool, lept up to grab the roof of the cage and flung the stool at him with her feet. He flicked it away, but she had swung her feet back to and launched herself in a flying fist strike to his face. Franky was not slow, but didn’t anticipate her momentum well enough. He crossed his arms to catch her outstretched fist but her forehead connected with his snout, spraying blood across the ring! They landed side by side, and Cleo brought her feet up to do a repetitive kick to his solar plexus…that did nothing to phase Franky. Grabbing Cleo by the arm, Franky stood and flung her against the cage wall, scraping gouges along the length of her arm, pinning her hand to the fence with his right horn.

That wasn’t even dirty fighting, but the actions were authentic. Franky must have been easily twice as strong as Cleo, if half as fast. At the Basalt Fist, if the fighting isn’t dirty, you haven’t got your money’s worth. This is the good part of town, you know!

Cleo hung by her pinned hand and swung her knees up to strike Franky in the kidneys, bending the fence out towards the crowd with a shriek of metal. Roaring, Franky flipped left, freeing Cleo, and clutched at the small of his back. Blood flowed down his face and he snorted and sneezed out a baseball sized lump of bloody phlegm on the mat. Growing pools of blood at Cleo’s feet were fed by deep scratches along her shins to her knees. She sprinted at Franky! Franky swung a foot forward with his fist to punch her in the face and she fell…into the hold in the canvas, a blood streaked smear right into the gash left by Franky’s horn. Franky’s fist passed right over her head. With more tearing of canvas, Cleo swing both her feet forward and bounced the canvas below Franky and he slipped backwards, pinning his horn into the fencing. Cleo wrestled herself back up on the mat, and sprinted forward again, fists ready to strike multiple times…and Franky stood and with a shriek of metal, the cage tore open and flapped onto the canvas and started sliding out to the floor. Patrons scooted back from their tables and looked alarmed. Whack-wha-wha-whack! Cleo landed four blows right into Franky’s ribs and he just lifted his arm and slammed her down to the mat. Not before she turned with the blow and tried to sweep kick him. He raised his shin and there was a crack of bone on bone she limply yanked her leg away from his. His hand shot forward unexpectedly…Cleo while reversing her spin pulled him forward of his center of gravity and he fell, wide-eyed, off the mat and crushed a tavern table!

Now we were into foul play. Looks like I’m on duty now, Lothric thought as he pushed forward towards the fight. Franky yelled, surprised to be so unexpectedly thrown and was irrationally angry. He picked up the crushed table and flung it into the ring at Cleo. Lothric launched his fist into Franky’s jaw as Franky swung around from the fling. Cleo dodged the flying table and jumped off the ring and landed on Frany’s back, grabbing him in a choke-hold. Franky’s eyes bulged and his anger rose, about to break himself or Cleo to get free…but Lothric quickly slammed the pommel of his great-sword up into Franky’s face and knocked the minotaur out. Whew! That was close…a raging minotaur would have driven off some business, huh?

* * *

Eliza had admired uncle Feltor since she was a child. Her mother and father seemed to take forever to accept she was worthy of a sword. Day and night, she kept her practice sword near her. After her first broke, she kept the shortened practice sword and with her new longer adult sized practice sword, she learned a two handed technique. As an elven teenager, cleaning armor and sharpening the older elves’ swords, she earned two used elven swords. There was no excuse to wait around the house now…she set out east to find the Trap’pyz base camp. After following the eastern trail, she was herded into camp by ranger G’inday while he patrolled.

Feltor was not amused. “You are a child with sharp sticks. I don’t expect much of you, child. You’ve been jabbing at hay your whole life. I’m busy…don’t pester me.” And Feltor turned his back on Eliza, pointed to a corporal, and the corporal walked over and introduced himself as Y’ntil.

Y’ntil taught Eliza and Zok the paths surrounding Trap’pyz and where the traps to catch orcs were places so she could avoid them. The orcs were felling trees and stealing whatever they could from the area. Zok was eager and always carried his sword out. People were constantly telling him to put it away, but Zok’s reply was, “the orcs are so close–going to kill one any minute now!”

Any minute now was just about accurate: the very next day, in a glade along the eastern path Zok and Eliza spotted a campsite: a smoking fire ring and rabbit bones, a two-person saw and a rotting canvas backpack. Crashing out of the bushes, two orcs ran at them with their swords drawn! Adrenaline flooded Eliza as she drew her two swords and crossed them to block the overhead swing from her attacker. Her arms rang from the ferocity of his blow. Swing his cutlass away with the long sword and jab him in the guts with the short sword. That was too easy, her swords were much sharper than she realized. The orc didn’t appear to register pain, just anger and it swung again. Offhand parry and slash with the long blade. As the orc fell to the ground, Eliza was shocked to see the result of her own strength: that downward slash busted through the collar bone and cut the orcs chest open to the rib cage. It lost blood so quickly it only had time to briefly pant a few times before expiring.

Eliza turned to see Zok sheathing his sword, a dead orc at his feet. He should have wiped his blade before sheathing it. Dried blood isn’t going to come off without effort.She kept a rag in her belt just for wiping down her steel…a holdover from her days assisting the blacksmith. Eliza asked, “Should we return to base camp and tell Y’ntil we killed these orcs?”

“No, let’s go kill some more.” Zok replied. “We’re still on patrol. Our shift isn’t over.” And for the next day, that was all they tried to do…but no more orcs were present. Zok didn’t seem to carry his blade out openly as he did before. His eagerness for blood apparently sated. He carried his bow as he walked now. And the following day, he went on patrol with his bow in his hand.

That was yesterday. The orcs were mostly too far south to drive off…except those in the cave that killed Zok. Smoke still rose from Sing’jar bay as the troops below continued to ravage and burn the city. All the boats that had left the bay with refugees probably already left. Now Simon and Feltor stood beside her. Feltor addressed her, “Eliza, your mission is to protect Simon. You are going to South Faroth island and Simon is going to contact the mayor of Bibbon in order to find a high elf rogue named Avo’ka-o, or Avo. He has connections that will help build a resistance network for the survivors of the attack.

“Stay hidden. Don’t take risks. Simon of course will use magic however he sees fit, but your job is to not go off killing orcs like Zok did.” Feltor snapped his head away and closed his eyes for a few seconds, and appeared to whisper to himself…then he snapped his head back and brushed a tear away with the back of his hand. “You are probably as prepared now as you ever will be. May Elhonna bless your journey and keep you safe.”

* * *

The Doc places a few silver into Lothric’s palm, saying policy is for the Basalt Fist doesn’t allow guests to pass out on premises when closed. Hefting the bulky dwarf, whom Lothric doesn’t have any idea where Harry was borded…just figures drop him off at the next inn. Not really my problem. Nearly sliding down the icy mud in the lane down the bluff to the rest of Bibbon, he approaches the Bucking Donkey inn. The door opens and Gerald the Genie pokes his head out (muttering something about fools) and waves Lothric in and takes Harry…with a wince and a grunt. Lothric closes the door behind him with his heel and heads over to the fireplace in the lobby of the inn. The icy mud is seeping in between his toes and his teeth are clenched with cold. That dwarf must weigh two hundred pounds. Fingers stiff with cold, he frees himself of his boots and just throws them right on the coals…and just places his feet right into the ash in the hearth. He can’t feel the heat yet…but that will come in a minute.

Just as he settles back into the chair, the sound of clothing near him makes him jerk his head: in the dim, Mon’eu-lon has crouched beside him. What is this? “I never pictured you as a bouncer, Lothric. It seems well below your capabilities.” Yes. “Well, you are finally are earning something, I suppose. Me? I just had to eject some human mercenary that thought they could be part of my crew. Found him pocketing a few silver I leave on my captain’s table just for bait. Threw the bastard right into the icy water. Hard to find good people…” Certainly is. “I don’t suppose you’ve re-considered my proposal? An honest and strong arm like your own would take you far on my ship, friend.” Friend? “I do a weekly route between South Faroth and Sing’jar. I ship coal and lumber between here and Faroth. Would you like to know who I was buying coal from yesterday?”

Lothric leaned his head up off the back of the chair and looked squarely at Mon. “Who?”

“Orcs.” Orcs? “Yes. It’s clear why the orc army attacked Sing’jar now. The resources of Sing’jar are too great to pass up. Prices are already twice what they were on my last visit.” Mon-eu’lon leaned forward, “No captain or pirate I know has any love of orcs. The captains on this island are amenable to banding together over nothing less than a threat like them. Would you join me? Help raise the resistance to the orcs?”

“I’m interested.” Lothric answered, “but I’m no sailor.”

“You…would learn much just by being muscle on my boat for one week. I can show you the ports on the islands, point out the big men in the game. You are shrewd, people respect a strong man like you. Pirates on the islands wouldn’t pick a fight with you. Come to my boat if you agree–I’m about to start my route again in two days.”

And with a quiet draft of air, Mon-eu’lon was quietly out the door. What was that smell? His boots were burning! And his feet…hot hot hot! All the hair on my feet gone? Damnit! Lothric jumped up, got his searing hot boots on, and gripping his cloak, was out the door. Damnit, so cold!

A few buildings further and he found the Grumpy Goat. Locked. To cold already to be angry, he drew his dagger and jabbed it into the generous gap of the door jam and lifted up the wooden bar behind the inn’s front door, and slipped in. Picked that trick up from Zendra. And there she was…asleep…maybe…in front of a generous fire looking freshly built in the fireplace. Finding a cot, Lothric…

…woke up to screaming coming from the other side of the window above where he slept. Shooting bolt upright, the room spun. He threw out his hands, one landed on the window sill, and the scene from the street came into focus: figures with scimitars were slashing at fleeing people and a large shadowy figure was climbing out of a large cart. Scimitars…orcs!

Lothric lurched to his feet, gripping his sword by the scabbard. Zendra…gone. Anyone? Thorfin was blinking and sitting up. “Thorfin! We fight!” And out the door he ran…into two orcs. These beasts immediately missed their slashes at him and fell in a second. Metal crashing to the street drew his attention to the cart: the rear of the cart was actually a cage that the door just fell off of. Hunched in the street quickly rose a figure in a pale cloak that in a moment stood eight feet tall. With a furred hand, it plucked a wheel from the wagon and spun it like a disk across the street into the window of the Velvet Curtain, the finest tavern in Bibbon. This dire bugbear quickly loped after his wheel and plunged through the front windows of the tavern after his toy.

Grunting from behind, two more orcs ran up behind Lothric. Thorfin, just coming out of the the ‘Goat, swung his mace and one orc flipped backwards into the icy slush of the lane. Lotheric swung and stood poised as the orc impaled itself on the blade of the great-sword…two feet longer than the scimitar it carried. Flinging the body away, two thick snakes slid out from the tarps covering the cart and slid right across Lothric’s path towards other buildings. Snakes? Huge snakes? …later.

Stepping around the cart, the glow of magic shone from the broken windows of the tavern. Approaching, Lothric saw pirate Sasha directing a spray of light at the dire bugbear, blinding it. The bugbear might not have actually cared, however. It held a table and bench in each hand, effortlessly (and blindly) batting away city guards trying to hack at it with long-swords. Sasha was backed against the wall and the bugbear had her pinned.

“Bugbear, STOP! Bugbear, kill humans in STREET!” Barked Lothric in goblin, hoping that this beast was too stupid to tell what accent of goblin was being spoken.

Miracle! The bugbear stood erect and faced the window, dropping a table from one hand reaching out towards the sunlight. “Hoo-muhn-ss?” it slobbered. Quite dazed by the prismatic spray, it nearly tripped in the window sill as it fumbled out of the tavern the way it had entered. “Kill?”

The bugbear was wearing a cloak fashioned of waxed or oiled canvas, as from a large canvas sail of a very large craft. Streaks on it showed where the slippery surface had rejected sword strikes from the guard. Crude, but surprisingly effective. And probably flammable. “Here! You dumb knuckle dragger! You can’t hit a cow, you turd!” Lothric yelled, drawing attention to himself.

Swinging a fist bigger than a dinner plate, Lothric slid backwards out of the way. Sasha, stepping out of the window, raised her hands to the sky, and with a downward gesture conjured a bright column of fire from the middle of the cloudy sky that landed squarely on the oily beast. “Warm!” it said…and smiled.

Lothric covered his eyes as the oiled cloak lit in a flash. Summoning city guards carrying spears, Lothric directed them to use their spears.  “Too warm!” The bugbear blurted as the hem of his burning cloak dropped away in flaming bits. The rancid smell of burning paraffin and fat was quickly turning into the acrid smell of burning fur. The bugbear was waving its arms around and starting to panic. Lothric would approach but the the amount of heat the fire was giving off was too great…the snow around the best was steaming and bubbling away as burning shreds of the oily cloak fell to the ground.

The guards advanced. One jabbed at the bugbear whom felt the spear, grabbing it reflexively and twisted it away with such casual strength that the guard was swung across the street. The second guard caught his spear into the cloak…his spear already on licking with flame…and tore a huge shred of the cloak off the back of the bugbear. “Hot warm!” Shouted the bugbear with growing alarm.

Time to strike! Lothric jumped with his sword to land in the clavicle gap of the bugbear’s neck and as he descended, the bugbear began to flail its arms, batting him away. He landed on his back in the icy muck. Damnit! Thorfin ran in and smashed the kneecap of the beast before likewise getting tossed aside. Rolling up to a kneel, Lothric slashed across the back of the bugbear’s thigh and his blade bit right through hamstrings.

The beast fell back! Lothric stood and waved the city guards forward. Lothric pierced between the beast’s ribs. and the guards pierced the beast in the abdomen. Blue streaks flew from the broken window and sizzled into the bugbear. Sasha stepped out after her missiles fired. In a few moments the beast lay dead.

Sasha walked over to Lothric and placed a gold piece in his hand. “I owe you a drink for saving my hide back there. That ugly thing had me cornered. Thanks.” As she walked off, her black cloak flapped wildly exposing a black leather satchel strung across her back, holding her black over-sized felted pirate hat to her head to keep the wind from whisking it away.  Lothric considered how he missed an opportunity to deal. If I had any idea she’d trick me out of owing me a favor for her life, I’d have refused to take that coin.

***

The western paths of the mountains led Simon and Eliza to the logging roads. Shame we have to sell our trees to these damned humans…orcs…anyone. The rutted trails lead them to gravel packed roads and then to the most disgusting kind of use of wood: the planked road. Right to the bay that floated hundreds of felled trunks, waiting to be sawed and sold. What waste, why not… Orcs! Patrol of three, to the left. Ducking behind a cart and waiting, the patrol passed. A grunt and a sigh drew Eliza’s attention. Simon was clearly uncomfortable, even dressed in his triple layers of cloak and two hats. Age…or infirmity…was not making travel easy on him. His face was pale. Where Eliza’s nose and ears were pink from the frosty air, Simon’s were white as paper, and his face was more lined than she’d ever seen it. He was tired, an no amount of high elven grace was showing now. Are you going to make it old one?

Street by street, they attempted to walk from shadow to shadow in the aging afternoon. As they approached the harbor, the patrols appeared to be fewer…until they turned a corner that placed them at a road-block. Backing themselves up, Simon waved a bit of mirrored metal in front of Eliza and said, “this lasts only a minute. Walk quickly and quietly.” Looking down at her hands, she could see through herself. She turned the corner, and strictly breathing slow regular breaths, she walked up to the orc on guard at the barricade. There was a gap between the barricades. Calmly, trying to turn sideways so to not bump the wooden saw horses placed in the road, she stepped between the obstacles.

Twisting left, facing her, looking up and sniffing…sniffing more! “Here! I smell elves! Stay sharp! Look for elves!” Time to go…bump. The sawhorse behind her ground a few inches across the snow as she finished stepping past it. Unsheathing his cutlass, the orc lept in her direction and brought his sword slashing down. Swirling, she dodged the strike but now she could see herself!  Oh, that’s bad. She drew steel!

Fear crept along her neck as she parried the blows, watching three other orcs run across the snow to arrest…or kill her. Blue flashes caught the rear orc in the back and it slipped backwards into the street. Well, Simon isn’t dead yet. Her short sword deflected a cutlass and her longsword clattered across the rivets of a helmet. In a few seconds she would be surrounded. But instead…it grew warm!

Orange light ginted in the black eyes of the orc she fought. He blinked and she swung her long blade up and chopped the left arm off the orc, her short sword thrusting up under his sternum a moment later. That orc fell and behind him two more were a step behind, trying to slash down at her! Jabbing her short and long swords out into each of their thighs, they tumbled into the wall of flame behind her and the hides wore became fuel that promptly started cooking them into orc bacon. Time to go!

A gong sounded and then a small bell, then a crude cow horn. Simon stiffly ran towards Eliza and waved his fingers at her, motioning her to tip the barricades over. In a quarter of an hour, they had run along a canal that lead to a logging dock. Loosening it’s ropes, a craft labeled the Silver Pearl was about to push off. Drow were milling around on the pier near it, and they looked perplexed as two cloaked high elves ran towards them. “Hold my hand!” Gasped Simon. And before the puzzled Drow could finish drawing their steel, they rose in the air over their heads and descended onto the main deck of the ship.

Seizing the moment, Simon raised a finger at the sky and flicked salt with his other hand and a gust of wind smacked the sails so quickly the ropes sang, and the Silver Pearl was underway. A gnome with a fur-trimmed and shiny leather cloak and a tooled leather cap on blond hair trotted forward shouting, “I didn’t invite you aboard! Get off my ship!” But a startling flurry of black arrows landing on the deck around them proved that the deal this captain was trying to make wasn’t in his interest. Snapping his mouth shut, the gnome just held out his open palm, awaiting payment. Simon dug somewhere beneath his cloaks and produced a small gold nugget as payment. “Finally…some profit!” shouted the gnome. With some quick flair, Captain Peron Jimdo waved a ringed hand at the docking cleat and the rope untied itself and snaked back to the deck. A flick of a blue wand at the sails with the other hand and a causal foot on a locked chest, the Silver Pearl whisked from the docking slip so fast that everyone grabbed a rail. “To Bibbon bay, then!” Peron shouted!

* * *

Four dead pythons later and a dozen spooked citizens reassured, an elven woman in a fur lined and satin trimmed cloak, a thin silver band tooled in the pattern of holly leaves over a fitted wool balaclava approached Lotheric and Thorfin and lead them out of the street. Stepping out of the wind into an outfitter’s shop, Cinnitta Holleycrown, mayor of Bibbon bay led Lotheric and Thorfin into a conversation, “You have helped defend Bibbon!” she said with a big smile. Waving the owner up to them, “Outfit these men with new cloaks and boots and make them warm against our winds. They set sail soon.”

Ignoring the shop keeper (who was pulling a measuring ribbon out of his pocket) the elven mayor continued, “Where are you staying? I’ll settle up your accounts there. When you’re done here, I have a job for you. Please come to city hall and we’ll talk. Soon, right?” Lothric, looking puzzled, surprised to be given things, pursed his libs and nodded. Mayor Holleycrown turned and walked out the door. In a few minutes, Lothric and Thorfin left the outfitters with nicely lined heavy elven wool cloaks that appeared to simply ignore the wind, and new rabbit lined leggings and boots with nicely riveted dagger pockets and hard leather knees that sat nicely over his chain leggings. The shop keeper even had a boy brush rust off his chainmail while they stood waiting.

Outdoors again, the wind still smacked him in the face. But now the snow didn’t leak into his boots, and for the first time in years he didn’t immediately hunch his shoulders and grimace from cold when the wind gusted. Thorfin chuckled and merely said, “Niiice!” in complete contrast to his typically concerned and selfless clerical mannerisms. Shop keepers were busy sweeping debris and fixing porches with hammers and lumber, a glazier shouted at his helper to not drop the glass and the city gaurds grunted as they hauled the burnt, stinking corpse back into the cart used in the surprise attack. What a mess…but probably a good time to quit that dumb bouncer job at the Basalt Fist, thought Lothric.

Later, Lothric meets mayor Hollycrown in her office. She is introduces him to an tan faced sea elf named Avo who sports a nicely shined leather vest with…cleverly tooled pockets for throwing knives…twelve throwing knives, if Lothric isn’t mistaken. Avo opens the office door and ushers in an aged looking elf with a lumpy cloak that probably hides a menagerie of pockets and blonde high elf woman, two swords over scale armor, who wraps her own cloak over the old elve’s shoulders at they sit. Unusual that such an old elf seems so aged. he seems to shiver even in a warm room.

The mayor stand an gestures, “Here are Eliza and Simon, liasons of the north Sing’jar mountains. They are here to help plan resistance and cooperation…to spread the fight to two fronts against the orcs. Simon has time to help create a bomb. This can be planted on the  Jobin’Gahr, orc warloard Garnog‘s three decked battle galleon, anchored out in the bay. “We need to send a reprisal against the Garnog immediately, to show we’re not helpless. If this magic is played well, we might actually damage the Jobin’Gahr enough to keep it from landing more orcs. Lotheric, you’re here to help as muscle if the orcs see through whatever disguises Simon can come up with.”

And as afternoon turns to evening, Lothric quits being a bouncer, buys some hide armor with Eliza, and they go to the tallow maker, and gain bits of smelly orc fat and darken the armor with fat, charcoal and ash. They now stink, and get on a dingy that rows them to the High Moon, Mon-eu’lon’s frigate. Mon sails them fairly quickly to just outside cannon range of the galleon. Avo, thin, was easily strong enough to row the distance to the galleon. Richley, a young wizard, quietly discussed the plan. Eliza would be invisible, the dingy silenced, and she would climb the ship and haul up the crate of enchanted lamp oil. She would lug it under her cloak to get it below decks.

Eliza was scared. The spell might wear off at any time. He hated smelling like orc. She heard her own footsteps. Finding a staircase, she quietly walked down it and was on the main deck with at least twenty other orcs mostly sitting at tables. The spell is going to wear off any second. I really want to drop this right here and go! Taking a big breath as quietly as she could, Eliza turned away from the stairs and placed the box behind a few barrels of salt pork. Twisting the minute-glass tied to the enchanted barrel, she escaped back to the dingy.

None too soon! As she dropped the last foot into the dingy, There was a flash and a shudder from inside the galleon and orcs started screaming! A ball of flame mushroomed up from the aft hatch. Time to go. As they rowed back, the sun started brightening the horizon. the ship was not sunk. The sails were still furled. A column of smoke drifted into the sky and glowed high above as the first rays of dawn touched it.

When they meet next, three more ships will join the battle later:

  • Captain Lintz Gavali and the Swinging Arm
  • Captain Quinoa Garvy and the Red Hook
  • Captain Brinker Kinlee and the Toothless Skull

And that is where we will begin our next adventure.