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Hammerknight's quest continues!
Drake surveys the three other volunteers and then says, “Alright, some of your talents are obvious given your gear and the way you handled yourselves during the battle. As we’re going to be working together I believe its important to know what what other skills we all posses.”
It quickly becomes evident that Reuck is skilled in the art of tracking and not wanting to delay further the party of volunteers heads of with him in the lead. As they head off they exchange knowledge of each of their talents.
Vincenzo at first hesitates to share any information with these strangers. He honestly doesn’t know who to trust anymore. He contemplates in his head as the others are sharing. He comes to a conclusion that considering the ways these brave souls carried themselves during the battle, they are worth while. So Vincenzo informs the group of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat, stealthiness, dynamic dagger skills, and his cunning vocabulary. As Reuck leads the group, Vincenzo trails a little far in the back of the group. Nobody seemed to have noticed, so Vincenzo sneaks off, as he is still a little hesitant to trust these people. He spots a small group of Badlanders that had retreated. He resisted the strong urge to kill them right then and there, and he listened. He could not hear fully, but what he did hear was that they had a small outpost stationed far north from the Badlands Trading Post and Cantina. Vincenzo figured maybe he would tell the others, and they could possibly get a lead from there. (and he was pretty excited to get his hands on all the dirty little Badlanders too) Vincenzo hurries off to find the rest of the volunteers to inform them of the news.
Ethan looks about at the carnage. Though satisfied with the preparedness of Gunter’s patrons, Drogo’s involvement does not bode well. It will be a wizard’s duel. The others are better suited for the coming war in the shadows.
The grizzled veteran stands at the Cantina door. His eyes train to the sky then along the horizon. His sword is sheathed on his back, but his hand is on the hilt. He awaits the return of Reuck. There must be a trail to follow.
The Gypsy, Ethan does not much care for his sort. Still, this will be an unconventional battle. He has already proven himself useful with news of an Outpost. The Hunter should be able to discern for their numbers along the trail.
Ethan knows these outposts. Their standard defense, who and what to expect. How to slip entire armies beneath their sight. Lay siege, if they must, but there is no time. Not while the Royal Family is in Drogo’s clutches.
The Badlands have many creatures of strange tongue and custom. Ethan knows most, if not all. He can earn a troll’s respect with words and manners just as easily as cutting him down with his sword.
Ethan shouts orders to the other patrons. He positions them at strategic points around and inside the Cantina. Groups of four, six hour watch shift per man. Two spend six more hours on patrol. No more than an hour’s walk away from the Cantina. Two if patrolling by horse. Four if you have the stones to ride a gryphon.
Having secured the perimeter, Ethan sets about gathering provisions and gear for the journey. No more than a horse can carry. Should you want more, pack a mule and walk. Ethan demonstratively shows the proper way to dress a horse for a long journey. Perhaps the others might not notice his preference to walk.
He also demonstrates his martial skills with a crossbow, mace, and every type of weapon that is handed to him. Not to boast, but to prove that he was not idle during the quieter years.
Ethan’s eyes turn to Drake Tanner. He is the expedition’s best chance to defeat the evil Wizard. Fight fire with fire. To that end, Ethan makes a silent vow to protect the Warmage. He chuckles to himself: “I have gone from Swordsman to Shieldbearer”.
The trail, the outpost, the wizard. Everything is coming together to formulate a strategy of quick strikes and advances.
Before Vincenzo can return to the others he is surrounded by twenty or more Trolls. The trolls are fully armored and ready for battle, with the taste of blood raging through them, killing is the only thing that is on their minds. Will Vincenzo being breathing his last breaths of life? Should he of stayed with the others were there is safty in numbers? Will the others realize that he is gone and come to his rescue, or will they think that he might be a doppleganger running to inform the Badlanders of Gunter’s plans? Friend or foe? This is not a time to keep secrets from the only people that can save your life. Ethan, Drake, and Reuck are Vincenzo only life line.
Reuck finds the trail and back tracks to rejoin Ethan and Drake, but there is no Vincenzo to be found.
Vincenzo sees them in the distance. “REUCK! ETHAN! DRAKE! THERE IS A BADLANDERS OUTPOST NORTH!” he screams out to them. He hopes that he hears them, but they keep walking. Then he becomes surrounded by Trolls. He simply gives a smirk, and draws his dagger, Tsura, named after his mother. He has been waiting for his opportunity. One troll charges forward. The troll swings with his sword and misses. Vincenzo sidesteps and slashes the troll’s jugular. The troll cries out and falls to the ground, blood spreading in a puddle around him. The trolls step back for a moment, now realizing what Vincenzo can do. But these trolls are relentless, so the rest charge forward at once. Vincenzo smiles and runs towards them. he kills about six, but then starts to get overwhelmed.
“There is too many” Vincenzo thought to himself.
He finally realizes the mistake he made. He let his thirst for revenge overcome his thinking, and he should have thought before he left the group. He kills two more, but a troll comes from the side and stabs him in the ribs. The remaining trolls see Vincenzo bleeding out, and run back into the forest laughing maniacally so Vincenzo can die a slow death.
Vincenzo is fighting. He has no intentions of dying anytime soon. Vincenzo screams as loud as he can to try and get the attention of the others, but will they hear him?
“Yes, Vincenzo was gone a while back,” confirms Drake as Reuck asks where he went, “I’m not sure where he went.”
Drake continues, “It didn’t make sense for us to go searching without you but now that you’re here. . .” The small group begins their search for their missing companion. Fortunately Vincenzo wasn’t trying to hide his tracks when he skulked away and, according to Reuck, he has rather distinctive boots so he wasn’t difficult to track.
Eventually the hear Vincenzo’s cries and come charging to his aid. Unfortunately for the remaining trolls the forest is in the direction of the three rescuers. Drake looks over at Ethan and Reuck points towards a the left flank of the cackling trolls saying, “You guys go left, I’ll handle the right.” Ethan pauses for only a moment as he considers his earlier silent vow. In the heat of battle he doesn’t have time to argue but makes sure to not wander to far from his new ward.
With that, Drake begins to chant, quietly at first and then louder as the trolls near. Drake waits until the trolls are alarmingly close before he acts further. Almost at the last minute he raises his ornate black & green spear above his head and brings the but down hard into the ground while at the same time ending his chant with a deep shout! The next moment Drake is standing in a rain of lime green blood expelled from what soft flesh the trolls had as it separates from their skeletons into a fine puree created by dozens of spectral spears wheeling through the air. All the troll bodies fall to the ground missing random chunks of flesh.
Drake turns to the left flank to take account of the battle there. He sees that the other two have proven, once again this day, up to the task as they finish dispensing of their foes.
In the aftermath of the battle Drake can be heard mumbling to himself as he shakes the bulk of the green blood from his close, “I hate it when they charge into the wall; its so messy.”
When Vincenzo’s rescuers finally get close enough to realize how wounded he is a look of concern crosses their faces. Drake reached into one of his pouches producing a vial and pours some of the contents onto the wound in Vincenzo’s rib cage. The flow of blood begins to staunch immediately and the wound closes somewhat. Vincenzo feels a great wave of relief as some of the pain subsides. “There, that should help a bit.” Drake speaks with a slight hint of irritation, “You’re a damn fool Vincenzo. Why would you wander off without letting us know what you were up to?” Drake puts the stopper back on his vial and continues saying, “Now I only have a limited supply of this stuff so don’t make a habit of getting yourself stabbed.” He waits a moment before continuing, “What’s left of your wound will heal but its going to hurt for a while. I’ll leave you with that as a reminder.”
As the group gather their thoughts Drake makes a revelation in a surprisingly monotone voice, “Well with a wound like you had, we can be pretty sure that your not a changeling at least. As for the rest of us, and those we take into confidence from now on, I’m going to have to design a test”.
As the group takes on the trolls, Vincenzo tries to help. But his wounds are too severe. After the trolls are all dead, Drake pours something into the wounds. They start to close up a bit, but not fully. Vincenzo does not respond to Drakes lectures, he soaks in what Drake is saying, and shames himself in his head. Vincenzo looks on the bright side of what he can take away from this little catastrophe. He learns that he can finally trust these people. They saved his life, after all.
Though impressed with Drake’s quick thinking, and moreso with Drake’s power, Ethan has advice for all.
“Vincenzo, lad, if you must go sneaking about, be wise to cover your tracks. Reuck picked up your scent quite easily. You gave the trolls every sign that you were alone.”
“Reuck, good work. Without you, the trolls would have a shirt made of gypsy hide. Might I ask, how are you with a bow, perhaps a sling? So many enemies, arrows and bullets are more effective than a sword.”
“Drake, a most powerful display. But you must conserve your strength and potions for Drogo. As well as you, young Vincenzo. We do not have a healer among us. If the blessure is not grave, I know how to set bone and stitch cuts. When we rescue the fair Princess, you can tell her how you got that scar.”
“Of concern for all of us is the sheer number of trolls that attacked. Twenty to one, and Vincenzo managed to cut down a third with a dagger. Still, an amazing feat. Let me see…”
Ethan proceeds to review the dead trolls for signs. Were they merely a gang of vermin? He notes that the trolls are well-armed and armored. Ethan suspects that they were part of an elite group.
Had Drogo dispatched crack troops for the attack? He might have under-estimated Gunter’s resolve. If true, this is good. Already, the expedition has delivered a mighty blow.
The opposite may be true. These twenty were mere cannon-fodder. If so, Drogo’s army must be enormous and could rival that of the Kingdom itself.
Ethan continues his examination: weapons, heraldry, signs of rank, sacks of gold, any parchments or scrolls. Even if the trolls can’t read, it does not mean that they couldn’t be couriers.
A few hours pass as the party gathers what further information they can from the battleground and surrounding countryside. As the day wears on and evening threatens to turn to dusk Drake gathers the party together so they can plan their next move.
“I think its time we take a census of what we’ve learned before continuing on.” Drake continues, “So far Reuck has confirmed that the attackers came from the north but their tracks just seemed to appear out of nowhere just across that ravine.” Drake points in the direction he’s referring. That seems consistent with the theory that our attackers were teleported here. There aren’t many mage’s that could pull it off so Drogo is still on the top of our list of suspects.”
“We also know that there are few places well suited in the badlands for keeping prisoners. Once again, a keep would server that purpose well. I am not aware of any others, besides Drogo’s, in the region so once again, everything is pointing at Drogo.” Drake pauses at that moment and looks between the other three, “Someone please correct me if I’m wrong about there being no other keeps around these parts.”
Drake continues, “If Drogo’s forces are truly as large as first signs seem to be we will need stealth. It is better we travel on foot though because we will be better able to use stealth to our advantage. If it was truly their intent to take prisoners then the Queen and Princess are likely still alive. If not then we are likely to late already.”
Then Drake broaches another topic, “One lesson learned from Argus, or whatever that Doppelgangers name was, is that we need to be careful of who we trust. I’ve realized that it wasn’t the severity of the wounds that prevented the him from keeping his guise. It was the pain. The inherent magic used to change form requires a great deal of concentration. I believe I have come up with a way to test those of us who haven’t already be tested. I believe it is the quickest way for us to come to trust one another. As Ethan says though, our resources must be preserved and used wisely. The tests will take some of my power so I would rather perform them before we rest. Also that will weaken whoever is tested for a few hours so i suggest only one person endures the test at a time. Before you agree to be tested I must warn you, it will hurt. . . a lot”.
Vincenzo quickly agrees to go through the tests. He feels that he has to make it up to the others from before. At some point on the journey, he also wants to prove to the others his ability and expertise in stealth, since Drake told of needing stealth. Vincenzo figures he can prove himself useful.
Drake nods at Vincenzo as he agrees to take the test Drake has suggested, “Considering the wound you just took, it would be impressive indeed to have kept your concentration were you a face shifter. Even still I will honor your request, but not for a few days. Your wound needs some time to heal a bit further before then I put you through that”.
After a night of rest the four continue their quest. Ahead of them they find a mirrored pool that is of good size. It would take a while for them to walk around it, maybe days. What will the four do? What is this mysterious pool? None of them have ever seen or heard of a mirrored pool before. How did it get there?
Ethan shrugs off Drake’s request to “test” whether he is a doppleganger. Magicians are suspect of everything around them. Exposure to strange energies and elixirs sometimes make people see things that are not there.
There is no time to hesitate or folly. Ethan is convinced that all members of the compliment are Men. Should anyone prove otherwise, he will deal with the spy then.
Ethan is also confident that the trolls and the doppleganger were shock troops. Drogo’s strategy was to catch the Cantina off-guard. The Wizard overplayed his hand. It cost him dearly. Dopplegangers are not common.
~ The Mirrored Pool
‘Tis no pool but a lake, if it takes days to walk around. Ethan checks the expedition’s supply of fresh water: “There will be no drinking from this swamp.”
Is the water still, almost solid? Or does it behave like water? He looks for a dock or a boat along the shore. Ethan feels it would be unwise to cross over the lake. However, a boat or fishing dock could mean an encounter. He listens for birds and watches for animals. How are they reacting to the mysterious body?
“Reuck, what do you see here? Tell us your feelings about this… pool. What do your hunter’s instincts tell you?”
The pool is has no movement, flat like a sheet of ice. No boats or docks to be seen.
Drake of course takes note of Ethan’s reluctance to undergo the ritual test he has derived. He can understand many reasons as to why an innocent person would avoid it. The pain and discomfort he had mentioned only being the first of many. Besides, Ethan’s actions so far have been those of a loyal defender of the realm. Drake just hates trusting his gut. He has always had so much difficulty reading peoples emotions and body language. His instincts when it comes to who he can trust are obviously poor. Otherwise he wouldn’t have traveled so far with a Doppelganger. Drake shakes the thought away; there is no time for doubt right now.
“I for one do not want to be stuck in the middle of the lake if we get noticed. Besides, the way the water is so smooth does not seem natural to me. There is no telling what we might have to deal with on the lake. Vincenzo, do you think we could scurry around the water’s edge without being noticed?”
“I feel this may be a trap. If our hunches are correct, this could be the workings of Drogo. Heck, for all we know, this could be the very portal the troops went through to get to the Cantina. I don’t know, I do not have any knowledge of any types of portals, or this odd mirrored pool for that matter. Nonetheless, it would be much safer, in my opinion, to travel around it.”
Drake arches his eye brows at Vincenzo’s suggestion that this lake might be a portal, “That’s a curious idea; give me a moment.” With that Drake begins to concentrate humming under his breath. Soon his eyes glaze over with a pale teal glow and he glances left to right. The glow only lasts for a moment and subsides before Drake speaks again. “Well Vincenzo, you may be correct but if this lake was used as a portal it is not currently active. Magic has been used in the area in the last few days but I don’t know the nature of the magic or even if it was related to the lake.”
Not far from the adventures, there is a slash and a cry for help coming from the pool.
Drake sheeths his spear in the firm ground at his side to free his hands, draws his bow and knocks an arrow prepairing for what ever lies ahead. He whispers, “Be ready.”
A young girl is struggling to free herself from an unknown force a few yards from the edge of the pool.
“Ethan, Reuck, see if you can help her.”
“Vincenzo, watch everyone’s backs.”
Drake’s eye’s begin to emit a strange light once again as he scans for active magic in the area.”
Ethan and Reuck rush to help the young girl, and Drake scans for magic. But Vincenzo does not listen to Drake’s orders. instead he draws a throwing knife from his belt, charges past Ethan and Reuck, and throws his knife. Everyone screams, because they think Vincenzo is trying to kill the little girl. The knife flies past her face & gets stuck behind her. A shape forms around the knife, and it becomes a goblin. The goblin falls to the ground. Ethan sighs relief, Reuck chuckles, but Drake just gives a dirty look to Vincenzo. It seems to Vincenzo that Drake doesn’t like him very much. Reuck brings the girl away from the pool.
Reuck says “We have invisible goblins now!?”
Ethan says, “Yes Reuck, with the power of Drogo behind them, expect anything. But why would the goblin want that girl in the pool so badly?”
Vincenzo retreives his throwing knife from between the goblin’s eyes.
Drake surveys the area for a bit, and shares his ideas with the others.
Ethan attends to the still shaking girl. First, to attend to any wounds and calm her nerves. He soothes her with a knight’s assurance that all is well. As he speaks softly and helps the victim re-braid her hair, Ethan discretely scans the victim for clues. Is she wet or dry? Any strange residues from the pool?
“My lady, a thousand pardons, I did not realize it was you!”
Ethan recognizes the Princess! He quickly removes his hands, as it is unbecoming of a gentleman to touch Royalty.
“You are safe now. Please, tell us news of your mother, our Queen, and the King.”
The Princess tells how Drogo’s goblins had kidnapped her and her parents. They separated the Royal family. The Queen and her were taken to a Keep. They were allowed to roam the grounds with few guards. She speaks of a courtyard, patched in thistles and poison oak.
One night, she saw Drogo enter the Keep through a mirror in the Hall. The Princess decided to escape the same way. She had begged her mother to come, but the Queen refused.
So it was, during the Princess’ escape, that she re-appeared in the mirrored pool. The goblin had tried to drag her back through the portal. She fears for her mother’s life. She knows not the King’s fate. Other than he was taken by carriage over land not spirited away by magic.
Ethan grunts, “So Drogo was here personally. If this portal leads us to the Keep, those demons will hang from the trees in their curs’ed garden.”
“Lads, we must deliver the Princess to safety. Then plan our attack. Storm their Keep. Gods save the King and Queen!”
Drake takes a few more glances about while his eyes are still glowing. Once the glowing subsides Drake wanders foreword studying the group. He observes the girl; she is of course visibly distraught but Drake is not sure how to react so he smiles slightly hoping, but not really knowing, if it will help ease her concern. His voice as he speaks is calm. “Hello your heinous. I was stationed at your east wing in the castle as guard captain on a few occasions. I am grateful we were able to find you.”
Drake looks past the group at the water again and keeps his eyes locked there. “I am sorry princess but there is little time to chat.” Drake squints and changes his focus as if he saw something. “I agree Ethan, we must get the princess to safety; I saw other goblins amongst the water. They saw us advance and drew back as their number was few. I suspect they were only expecting to have to deal with the princess. One thing is for certain, we can’t stay here. This place will be teaming with goblins in no time.”
As the group retreats Reuck hastily covers their tracks as best as he can and watches for followers. As they go Drake says, “I saw the magical horizon as the goblins retreated. If we return here I think I will be able to activate the portal. It will be watched for certain but it is likely the most direct rout.”
Once the Adventures are comfortable with the Princess among them they drop their guard, big mistake. The mirror pool is no portal, anything that enters the depths of the pool will return from it the total opposite. The reason the Goblins ran was because they were afraid, they were turned into kind loving souls to gentle to want a fight. The Princess was lying, she pulls a blade from her dress and stabs Vincenzo in the back whipping around and attacks Ethan with her fangs and claws. Her fangs begin to break the skin on his neck. Will the other two adventures be able to stop her and what will they do with her, she is still the princess.
Should the Goblins attempt to help the Princess been stopped?
“Ethan, watch out!” shouts Drake. Drake doesn’t have time to consider his next action, he only has time to act so act he does. He lunges with his spear; except that, instead of stabbing, he brings the haft down in a slashing motion so the haft strikes both of the princes arms where she is grappling Ethan. As he brings the weapon down he emotes a quick chant and sends bolt of eldrich force cascading down the length of his spear until it engulfs not only the princess but Ethan and himself as well. They are all suspended for, what seems to them at least, an eternity but to onlookers just a few seconds pass. The pain that they all endure is well beyond what any of them have experienced before and they are all stunned once the energy dissipates.
The spell had its desired effect and immobilized the princess, thereby freeing Ethan from her grasp. Unfortunately, even though the princess took the brunt of the assault, both Ethan and Drake are left feeling week for a few moments. Being a veteran of many battles Ethan is the most accustomed to pain and he begins to recover the quickest. Ethan quickly realizes that the primary effect of the magic must have been exclusively to cause pain with little other effect.
Drake on the other hand collapses to his hands and feet gasping, “Get the princess … back to the lake … is Vincenzo … OK?”
Drake struggles to get to his feet but isn’t yet able to and he drops back down once again. Meanwhile, the princess is lying prone on the ground seemingly unconscious, occasionally twitching.
Vincenzo stands among the struggling bodies on the ground, thoroughly confused as to what just happened. He does not know what to do, so he follows Drakes orders. He picks up the princess’s body and throws her into the lake. she goes through the lake surface, but it lay completely still as before.
“…What just happened?” asked Vincenzo, as he starts to calm himself.
Drake finally receovers enough to get to his feet, although shakily. He props himself up using his spear for support.
Just moments later the The princess begins to rise through the still motionless water. Appearantly whatever magic was in the lake it had a dampenning effect and Drake’s spell began to wear off. The group looks over in apprehension of what she will do now…
Why does Vincenzo not notice that he had been stabbed in the back?
oh god that post wasn’t even on my thread…
sorry my computer is really messed up.
INSTEAD of Vincenzo simply bringing the princess to the pool,
he starts to feel woozy. Ethan, since he is most prone to pain, recovers the fastest (as said above) so he throws the seemingly lifeless body of the princess into the still pool.
The blood lost from his last cut, and the new wound in his back is enough blood lost to make him feel lightheaded. He falls to the ground, and cannot move, for the wound is so close to his spine, he becomes temporarily paralyzed. He cries quietly to himself, figuring these are his last minutes. But then something miraculous happens. The strange liquid that was poured by Drake into Vincenzo’s rib wound apparently had stayed within Vincenzo’s body. This means that any of Vincenzo’s wounds will be almost completely healed. Vincenzo knows this new found power won’t last for long though. This is when the princess rises from the lake once again. Vincenzo draws Tsura, but does not stand. he stays on the ground because he is still too feeble and weak.
Drake, also weak, simply says “Get Ready.” as the princess charges.
Right as the princess gets in Reuck’s face with a big grin, (who is in the front) she disappears in a cloud of red dust as they hear an evil chuckle.
Drake wispers, almost to himself but just loud enough for Vincenzo, Ethan and Reuck to hear, “I was wondering how long this charade was going to go on.” There is almost a hint of a smile on Drake’s face. “Now we finally get to it.” Drake and the others turn to face the entity now chuckling.
Sorry, guys. Been out of pocket the past couple of days, visitors from out of town and such. I’ll rejoin the party soon.
I’ll check in now and then to make sure Ethan’s still alive. ;9
~ Ethan curses himself as he binds the wound on his neck. He will not under-estimate Drogo again.
“Drake, is the Princess possessed or is that but a demon to strike down?”
Ethan reaches into the leather pouch at his hip. He produces an shiny ebony ball capped with what looks to be a striking flint. He stands at the ready.
“If she is not the Princess, she will be no more.”
Drake’s eyes are glowing once again as he speaks, “If princess she was, she is no longer. Whatever vile creature is left has no noble blood to spill. Make this the end of it Ethan.”
Looks like Hammerknight opened a new RPG Corner this week. As for me, I have out-of-town visitors for the next couple of weeks. This’ll probably be my last contribution to the adventure.
~ Saddened and enraged, Ethan strikes the flint. He silently counts, timing his throw to explode in front of the demon’s face. There is a blinding flash, smoke, the earth itself shakes.
Strangely there is no noise. The air itself seems to have been destroyed. The sensation is suffocating. Moments later, a deafening boom. The air expands with such force, it knocks down men, horses, and trees. Even rocks are disturbed.
When all settles, and the party is back on its feet, the mirrored lake is shattered. There are no shards of glass, yet the water itself looks to be cracked. Drogo will have to build a new portal.
“Perhaps the Princess still lives. Maybe she was knocked through the mirror, changed back to her true self. Maybe…” Ethan tries to reconcile his decision to vanquish the demon.
Ethan turns to the party. “We shall bind our wounds, rest a moment. This was rather rough patch.”
The veteran reaches into his pouch and produces one more bomb. “I will personally shove this Drogo’s throat.”