The man was leaning forward with both hands on his knees, taking deep breaths. The hallway they stood in was in chaos. Men and women were chasing each other about, everyone seemingly attacking each other at random, just the way Grash liked it. There was however, a method to the madness.
“Sir…we…found… her..” the man said between breaths. “She’s holed up at the end of the hall, she’s got him in there, we heard him calling out.”
The man pointed to the end of the hallway to a solid wooden door.
Grash looked to the door, then back to the messenger. He took out a dagger and slit the mans throat. Smiling, Grash shoved his way past the man, who was crumbling to the floor with a look of confusion on his face as his lifeblood left his body in great gushes.
Grash put his still bloody knife back in the sheath and walked to the door, stopping about 10 feet away. He reached ahead with his stump of a right arm. A shimmering glow appeared and unerringly floated towards the door, turning slowly into a shadow resembling a disembodied hand.
The shadow made its way around the door-frame, and Grash grinned when he found, through the mage hand, a small and ill fitting wire-trap .He quickly disarmed it and then started towards the door. He reached out and opened the door. Stepping into the room he first noticed a stunningly beautiful woman sitting with her feet up on a large wooden desk. To the side, an emaciated man was grasping at the bars of a cage that he’d obviously been living in for some time. The stench was the first thing that reached Grash, the refuse and the blood. This man was not going to live much longer.
The woman behind the desk looked at Grash then down to his missing hand and his scarred eye.
“Well, if it isn’t the boogeyman himself. I didn’t expect you so soon. How nice of you to join us.” Said the woman in what she must have thought was a seductive tone. “If I knew you were coming I would have cleaned up the place a little.”
As she finished a low growl came from behind the desk, and a very large dog, a warg, came padding out from behind it.
Grash kept his eyes on the woman. His gaze boring into her eyes. The woman shifted, visibly uncomfortable, knowing full well who stood in front of her, and what he would do to her should she let down her guard.
The woman stood, looking at the wizard, the warg and then Grash “I’ll give you one chance Grash, one chance only, leave now and I will let you live. If you stay I will make you regret it.”
Grash took out his sword and his dagger, standing casually, “I’m going to kill you, and then I will desecrate your corpse.” Grash tilted his head as he continued to stare.
The woman growled and so did the warg “How! How DARE you! You speak to me like that?! I’ll kill you! GET HIM!” and she pointed her swords, that were suddenly in her hands, at Grash. With that, the warg leaped across the table, however it’s paws hit the side and it slid across and landed on a thump on the floor. Before it landed Grash had already made his way to the creatures landing spot and impaled it with his weapons. Looking up at the woman, he finally smiled and leapt at her.
The fight was quick, as were most fights between combatants whose arts lay in misdirection and subtlety. This was not a duel between two honourable knights, but two who had learnt that treachery and tricks were deadlier than a sword.
The woman knew she was beat, and tried to make her way out the door to safety, however Grash expected it and launched a knife casually after her, which hit her in the thigh, bringing her down. Grash walked down the hallway, still in chaos with people madly partaking of the slaughter. He calmly walked up the screaming woman, lying on the ground trying to pull the knife out of her leg. He took her by an ankle and dragged her back into the room, slamming the door behind him.
After some time the screams subsided in the room, those rogues and bandits that were fighting outside had moved elsewhere as most that could have been plundered had been. In the room, Grash was standing over the cage whos previous occupant had been unceremoniously dumped on the ground and the woman put inside. Smoke wafted in through the small windows, Grash knew that someone had lit a fire outside. The building would be burnt, hiding any evidence that anything had happened here.
The woman sobbed and quivered in the cage, covered in blood and burn marks, whilst the mage, fresh from his prison, lay quivering on the cold stone floor. This man didn’t have long for this world.
“Who are you, mage? Who would want to waste such talents as yours..” Grash asked, half to himself.
The mage looked up at him, a slight look of familiarity flashed across his face, then was gone. “I..*cough*…I am Blonky, I was once a great mage accompanied to the Rak-Shasa. He kept me in a cage then cough and I have been in a cage ever since..” the mage replied, blood now showing on the side of this mouth.
Grash looked down at the frail man in disgust, then looking around the room for something he could take. “Bah, the sport is over and I have naught to show for it again.” Mumbled Grash, disappointed at the lack of evident spoils.
“You cough have showed me a glimpse of freedom in my last minutes *splutter*” the mage rambled on, as Grash began trashing the room, ripping books from the shelves and pushing over tables.
‘I can help you ack, I am no conjurer, but I can help with other spells, levitation, transmutation…teleportation…” mumbled the Mage.
Grash stopped smashing an expensive looking vase and turned back around to the mage, walked up to him, took his face roughly in his hands and stared unfalteringly into his face..
Meanwhile, Baer and Jalana are walking through the foothills almost two months travel to the West of the borders of Dharma, Marsala’s newly reclaimed Khanate. They’d been travelling for a few days, following an intriguing and elusive Halfling.
With the suns burning overhead and plenty of recently caught game and foraged food in their belies, they didn’t have a care in the world. Chatting between themselves and following the ever more infrequent sightings of the halfling, they enjoyed the fresh open air and traded stories about their adventures in Dharma.
Michi’ini would appear behind a boulder, beckoning them on, then sitting in a tree twiddling her thumbs, then all at once she’d be walking along beside them, looking frustrated at their slow progress.
“She’s a sprightly one” said Baer, admiring the speed and stealth of the little one. “I knew the halflings were a quick folk, and have seen a few in my time, but this one” he nodded towards Michi’ini who was slipping behind a copse of trees in the distance, “she is a shadow…”
Jalana nodded, knowing not what the Halflings were all about, but appreciated the stealth, likening it to the hunting cats from the islands she was born.
After some time, they stopped, realising that they hadn’t seen Michi’ini for at least several hours, and the sun was starting to get low.
“Maybe she grows tired of our slow progress?” mused Jalana. “Should I turn into a swifter steed and we can try to outpace her?” she chuckled.
“Haha! No, I think that no matter how hard we ride, we would not pass this one should she not wish it.” replied Baer.
As they talked they heard behind them a voice “We must hurry, my village is just ahead. Please, through those gaps in the hills, you will find a warm fire and plenty to eat.” smiled Michi’ini.
They both looked behind them to see the halfling walking towards them, her dark red hair swaying slowly in the breeze, a light redness to her cheeks and a smile full of warmth.
They let her pass between then, coming barely to Baers waist, and then she was off in a sprint. They watcher her go, and then picked up their pace, not wanting to rush the day and just enjoying the walk.
Towards the gap in the hills they went, both of them not wanting to rush their time in the outdoors, enjoying every minute of the open sky and open roads.
The suns were low, Arambha already set with Virama in fast pursuit, leaving the sky a mottled blue and purple, the bruise before the night. As they rounded the small hills, Baer caught sight of a few shapes in the distance, unlit and without movement that he could see.
“There are structures ahead, Jalana. Just where the girl said.” he pointed in the distance.
Jalana squinted her eyes and could just barely, with some imagination, make out some shapes. “Your eyes are that of a hawk, Baer. How you can see that, I cannot imagine.” she laughed.
“Well, if you could just turn your eyes into that of a bird, you’d see it too.” he joked. Jalana scowled and they both kept on.
Coming to a small bridge, broken and in disrepair, they found the ruins of what must have once been a watch tower, however, it was obvious to both of them that this tower had been ruins for quite some time.
As they neared the village, they both knew that something was wrong. There were no lights, no sounds and no people, things that one would usually find in a village at night.
They crossed the now dried up river bed and entered the line of buildings, all in the same state as the tower and bridge.
“We must tread carefully, I do not like the looks of this. Where is the village that the little one spoke of?” asked Jalana, warning Baer with a look.
“You don’t need to speak to me of ambuscades, Jalana. I am not one to be caught unawares” he replied.
They made their way to a few buildings, looking around for any signs of its inhabitants, however their efforts proved less than fruitful. The village was abandoned, perhaps for more than one hundred years.
“I don’t like this, I don’t like this at all.” mumbled Baer, getting more and more uneasy as time went on.
As they neared the centre of the village, they noticed a small fountain, although with no water to be seen in it. They did notice a small figure though, sitting on the edge with their face in their hands, and small sobbing sounds coming from it.
They approached, hands on their weapons, curious yet apprehensive. The figure seemed familiar, and as they got closer they realised it was the Halfling girl, sitting on the fountain, crying.
“Girl, why do you cry? Where are your people? What happened here?” asked Jalana, going to console the girl. As she got closer a feeling of dread crept up her spine, an uneasy and unnaturalness that brought her to her guard instantly. Recoiling from her she motioned Baer to stand back.
The girls hands left her face, and it was as if Virama had been back in the sky, a gloom settled over the ruins about them. They saw in her eyes a terrible darkness, a sadness that didn’t seem right on her otherwise cherubic face.
“I’m sorry” she said quietly, although they could both hear her, “I’m so sorry, I just wanted to help him…” she whispered….and then was gone, almost like a candle being blown out and the smoke drifting away on the wind.
They both stood there, in the sudden darkness, trying to make sense of what just happened, and a chill call came from around and above them to the eastern hills surrounding the ruins.
“Goblins…” muttered Baer, unsheathing Giant Slayer in a quick movement. Jalana was surprised, still not understanding what just happened. “We’ve been tricked” said Bear.
Jalana immediately took out her twin scimitars and looked about, wondering how she could have missed the stench of the goblins earlier. Bear was already circling and looking for the attackers and a possible route of escape.
Goblins started to come at them from every angle, Jalana took the opportunity to shift into the form of a horse and Baer leapt onto her back, and they both raced for an exit, seeing and hearing above them the cries of possibly hundreds more goblins and lord knows what else.
As they rounded a small bend, with the end of the village in sight, they were ambushed by a troupe of larger goblins, and with Baer being dismounted, Jalana swiftly turned back into the human form and back to back they fought, savagely and with much enthusiasm, not having been in a fight for some time.
Limbs and swords spinning everywhere and pieces of goblins just flying around, Jalana was quite suprised when Grash materialised directly in front of her with a surprised look on his face she had no time to stop her swing already aimed in that direction. Luckily Grash managed to duck just in time.
“Haha! Good to see you again Jalana!” he yelled, as he took out his weapons, eagerly looking around for a fight. Seeing most of the enemies surrounding them dead or dying, he decided to leapt and run as fast as he could to the surrounding hill, which at that time was covered with a veritable army of goblins. As Grash was making his way to the top, Jalana and Baer just looked at each other and shrugged. “You damned fool!” yelled Baer.
As Grash clambered his way to the top, the night was truely set and a light wind was picking up from the west. He reached the top and looked out, seeing the army of the beasts, smiliing he took from his belt the DragunShip and a small bag, full of noxious powder. Throwing both of them towards the army, who was as surprised as they all were to see Grash standing there, he yelled the command word for the Ship “MELON!” and as it expanded into the giant galley he launched the bag of powder at the closest ranks, which caused a large inconvenience to them all, as they could not breathe and started to die then and there.
As Grash stood with his weapons out smiling from scaley cheek to scaley cheek, the goblins in the front row took aim at him and fired, all 34 of them, at once. As Grash the now porcupine looking hero, tumbled backwards, he almost came completely down the side of the hill, a fair drop even for him, but luckily Jalana was there waiting, who, in her Panther form, snapped him up in her jaws and threw her body backwards off the cliff, cushioning their fall with her body.
As this was happening, Bear was skirting the sides of the battle, assesing the size of the host and looking for weak points. Coming to the realisation that a group of Goblins this size was more then likely not going to be tricked or hindered, he ran as fast as he could back to Jalana and the plumetting Grash, hoping against all hope that they both weren’t dead from the fall.
As he got there he noticed that Jalana, through her wounds, had reverted back to her human form, and Grash was coughing up a large amount of blood, still with a smile on his face.
“You damn fool! You could have gotten her killed!” he yelled, as he grabbed them and dragged them into the nearby hut. Jalana got to her feet, a bit shakey but still in the fight.
“Damn those beasts!” she yelled and heroically climbed onto the top of the hut, brandishing her swords and calling to the powers of nature to help them. As vines and snagging roots took a few of the approaching goblins from the walls that they were clambering down, the rest of the goblin band opened fire and peppered her with arrows, she took one step backwards and then fell straight back, landing in the dirt at the front of the hut.
“You damn fool!” yelled Baer, knowing that it was utterly pointless, and running out to again drag her into the flimsy safeness of the hut. As he administered aid to them both her could hear the goblins getting closer. He barely got them on their feet when the time came to run. And run they did.
Fleeing down the passages of the village they came to realise that they could not escape with their injuries and hiding, as impossible as it seemed, was their only chance to survive a while longer. They chose one at random and Baer, having half carried him the way, lay Grash down in the far corner of the room and took out the Giant Slayer again, his trusted long sword and took guard at the door. With Jalana by his side they could probably hold out a few more moments, at most.
“Well, it’s been fun, anyway” muttered Baer, baring his teeth and growling at the enemy.
Grash in his agony of death, was laughing in the corner, muttering things under his breath about a woman and saving him.
Jalana, looked at the two men who accompanied her in the broken forsaken room they had taken for cover, and considered her own death. For all their fool hardy actions, bravery and naivety that had brought them to this bloody end, she was actually glad for their company, and she regretted it would end so soon. She looked at the man standing beside her with a fierce spirit in her eyes “I’ve lived my whole life living with my enemies, I’d be honoured to die beside my friends.”
Baer looked back at her, realising there was much more to this one than he first thought. He couldn’t resist a smile which grew into a rambunctious laugh, looked back at the lizard man in delirious death throes and the young druid next to him, and he knew that this was not a bad way to go.
Jalana, standing in the doorway, faced the oncoming hoard with the power of Melora in her heart and commanded the black grey clouds above them to unleash sheets of ice on the goblins, causing much carnage.
Baer was inspired. “Let’s show them what we’re made of!” he yelled and he raised his sword above his head and was about to sprint out to meet them head on when a sudden and furious wall of white and grey swept past them just outside the entrance to their building, seeming like the ocean itself had risen and a giant wall had come crashing around them, the noise of steel and flesh and horses filled their ears and the smell of blood and dying goblins filled their noses.
They realised that some massive force of cavalry had come crashing around them, killing with wanton abandonment.
As Baer lowered his sword and Jalana hers, they saw the cavalry being joined by soldiers on foot. One of which poked his head into the hut, surprised to see them but not on his guard, “Are you safe? Are there any more of you?”
All they could do was shake their heads. “We’ll send a priest for that one, you two wait here, Lord Arryn will be wanting to see you all.” and with that he was gone to join the others in the killing of the Host of Blaghur, the second largest Goblin warband in the area.