Dog's Tongue goes outside the cavern and gets some of the jinkins to use their magical abilities to clean him of the smelly compost, then steels himself for the task at hand. He adjusts the bloody cap on his head, licks his lips several times, then re-enters the cavern, edging slowly forward until the beetle catches his scent.
The humongous beetle turns from the carcass beneath it, one of its huge mandibles slicing the air in front of the redcap, who quickly turns and begins leading the beetle out of the cavern and through the forest, staying just far enough in front of the beetle to be out of its reach yet not so far that it loses his scent.
The tribe of jinkins follows in the beetle's wake, laughing maniacally at the game of cat-and-mouse being played out before them as the beetle's thick carapace crashes through foliage and small trees, while the tasty redcap ahead taunts it with its flavorful scent.
No other denizens of the forest dare come close to the gigantic beetle as the varied group makes its way towards the Maggot Tree, leaving the group travelling in relative safety.
"Well, I think you are right about that big brother, this is turning from a clever outflanking/ambush to a case of shock and awe.
That means we need to inflict as much damage as fast as possible while they are reeling from the unexpected turn of events.
Everyone, get out your BIG hurty tools."
Yahirma jogs along with the rest of the group, contemplating how manure-smeared misery loves company. "I cannot speak for my capacity for 'big hurty,' but rest assured that I will..."
Constitution check for flavor1d20 ⇒ 8
She flags a bit, wheezing intermittently while trying to set a more sustainable pace. "Yes, I will, *ahem* call upon the 'big unpleasanty' tools." Yahirma continues to trot along in silence for a few moments while trying to conserve her breath. Recovering, she voices a possible tactic over the crashing of underbrush ahead, gasping out, "I may be able to call upon a second beetle, but know that it will be a figment - an illusion designed to sow greater discord among the enemy. If I invoke the name Kuwagrug, what follows shall be the spirits' trickery." Spent for breath, she labors another minute before jumping in again. "Actually, I suspect the spirits will be twisting my words such that I will not be able to pronounce my native tongue. Instead listen for the name Mormolutomae."
How far must I run? Perhaps I should have pulled myself on top of the insect to spare myself this torment!
"Warriors wearing the woodlands' waste," she mutters over the stampede ahead. "Those poor ogre-bound bandits know not the wrath they have invoked."
She continues to run in silence before positing a bit of humor. "Covered in compost we commence combat. Is this what you had when you called our organization the Gardeners?"
Derek chuckles at the witticism thrown about.
"good compost IS a necessity for a thriving garden, maybe we have found an alternative to our previous uniform?"
Stroking his beard with a contemplative face, Derek goes on."Every time we finish a battle, we can all just lie on the ground and flop about for a bit, that will spread our "uniform" around and make sure we have lovely flowers growing there in a few years."
He snaps his fingers with relish.
"That could be our calling card!"
"Oh look, flowers! But there shouldn't be any flowers here?"
"Ah, this must be the place where the gardeners vanquished the dreaded ant of Antioch 10 years ago!"
Here he suddenly gets a rather worried look in his face.
"Don't tell the other gardeners about this please, Amaya IS training to become a bard after all, I'd never hear the end of it! Plus it might not help with recruitment numbers..."
Shuddering a little at the smell, Derek continues.
"If we were fighting anything BUT ogres, we could win by just getting within smelling distance!
Sadly, with ogres, they would just consider us kind for wearing "gravy" as it were."
Apologies for not posting yesterday; I was too tired when I came home.
As the time approaches three in the morning, the relative tranquility around the Maggot Tree is disturbed by an exhausted Dog's Tongue emerging from the dark forest. Panting, he stumbles over a couple of sleeping men in the nearest camp and half-falls, half-jumps forward and aside, frantically trying to distance himself from the waking men.
The gargantuan beetle follows behind him, crashing through the last stretch of undergrowth, and immediately goes to work on the feast laid out before it, all the while trampling those unfortunate souls who find themselves beneath its legs. The screams of the men being eaten fill the air, waking the remains of their camp and alerting the guards to the beetle's presence. The entire encampment is driven into a frenzy, men and ogres alike thrown into chaos as the beetle continues feeding.
Just as it appears some resemblance of order is about to be gained, the opposite end of the encampment is assaulted by Madjaw and his tribe of redcaps, dividing the army as it tries to defend against the new enemies while still attempting to fend off the gigantic beetle. The six-legged birds take flight from the Maggot Tree, taking advantage of the situation as they begin pecking away at any who escape the beetle's trail of destruction.
Soon afterwards, there is commotion near the larger command tent. A huge bear of a man, wielding a pair of battleaxes, steps outside along with a group of pale-skinned humanoids wearing filthy-looking clothes. Surveying the situation, seemingly maintaining calmness, the man barks orders to the people with him, several of which spread out to run to the various parts of the ensuing battle and the two as-yet unassaulted camps.
The camp Fmughwa crashed into is about 200 ft to the south-east of the Maggot Tree.
The camp Madjaw assaulted is 300 ft to the west of Fmughwa's position, 100 ft south-west of the Maggot Tree.
The command tent is 400 ft north of Madjaw's assault, 200 ft north-west of the Maggot Tree.
Two camps are currently unassaulted. One is situated 100 ft east of the command tent, 100 ft north-west of the Maggot Tree. The other is 100 ft north-east of the Maggot Tree, about 300 ft north of Fmughwa's position.
Derek smiles grimly and points to the large man, marvelling secretly at finding a man rivalling his brother in stature.
"See? That is our target, we take down him and this battle is won, right now he is all that is keeping this "army" together.
Sever the head and the body dies.
Gardeners! To me!"
Drawing punchline and starting forward, Derek gives voice to the battle hymn known as "The last knight of the lost kingdom" while in the more rational (and rarely heard from) part of his mind he wonders when he decided to act like a commander at war.
"Drive off the attackers? Really? You agreed to that?"
Appario sighs again.
"I will guard your back, but I will not sacrifice myself for any here who does not wear our Gardener cloak."
Appario draws Extortion, prepping for battle.
"If we fight, we fight there first. You have it right Maddok. That camp is the one we must take. Let us be done with this so we and leave this forest to those who would leave here and find profit in it. For those are surely not us."
"You are right to stick to the deal struck, Appario," Yahirma agrees, "But in my...business we must at least acknowledge the spirit of the agreement and not just the letter. I have my own agreements to uphold, even if they are founded on implications with foundations of clay. The time for arguing technicalities shall come once arrows no longer fly; now is the time to test the strength of our convictions."
Perform (Oratory)1d20 + 9 ⇒ (3) + 9 = 12
Tightening her grip on her staff and adjusting her buckler, Yahirma adds, "Besides, we have a reputation to build. As Gardeners there are fields to sow, and seed to spread, uh, compost to...with the hoes forged by companionship we will...erm..." Her speech crashes to a halt as she misapplies idioms. Glancing towards the ground then back at Derek, she suffers a moment of awkward silence and uncomfortable looks before shouting, "To Derek! Lead the way!"
Semenya, glancing up ahead, murmurs through the message cantrip, "Shall I conceal myself and prepare to let loose fire and woe?" She's eyeing the trees looking for one tall enough to conceal herself in. And looking at the leader with the twin axes of the opposition.
"For the record, and it's not that I am a military man or anything, but I think we should assault of the two other camps first. However, I yield to the drunken thespian, for what could possibly go wrong?" Appario notes.
IF Derek had been paying attention, he might have have frowned and and reassesed his plan at Apparios ironic comment, but somehow a heroic charge at the head of the beast seems like the right thing to do.
The fact that a small and not very loud voice in his head yells that it is suicide is conveniently ignored.
Oh goodie! Let's attack one of the un-engaged camps first. What could possibly go wrong?
"Maddok, I still recommend engaging one of the other camps, however, if we must go across the battlefield, we might as well go the long way around...the forest is thick and we can skirt much of the battle if we circle back from the other side."
Appario proves an idea.
"Of course, it's a longer route, but might be safer."
And keep out us out this blasted conflict while these armies decimate each other.
"This really isn't my area of expertise. I'd think that the quickest way to solve the problem is to take out the leadership if that's doable. Getting there is....trickier than we'd thought. Another day and I could fly us there, fairly quickly. I don't see that that's a better choice than skulking around and through the woods..."
"Perhaps you would like to perform a suicidal, death-defying charge from the woods closer to the command tent. It would mean you would have to sustain your battlecry for less time before crashing into the front ranks."
While you begin your slow, stealthy approach just within the edge of the forest towards the command camp, you notice commotion in both of the unassaulted camps as they begin moving to aid the other camps.
The camp marked #4 moves to aid against the humongous beetle, which has even begun spewing streams of acid to make its "food" easier to digest. The camp marked #3 moves to aid against Madjaw and the redcap tribe, which seems to have been joined by Dog's Tongue now that he's regained his breath from leading Fmughwa to the clearing. Both camps leave behind small groups (2 ogres and 6 humans in each) to tend their fires, keep watch, and maintain communications.
As you approach closer to the command camp, it becomes obvious that among the men and women there, only the commander is human. A dozen small-sized humanoids are spread throughout the camp while three medium-sized humanoids keep close to the commander. The small ones wear filthy rags wrapped around their entire bodies, while the taller ones wear clean, spotless clothes and armor, although black scarves cover most of their faces. All, both small and tall, are pale-skinned.
Knowledge (local) DC 12:
These are all dark folk, a society of humanoids making their homes in dark places underground. They typically only venture forth aboveground when the urge to steal and cause mayhem becomes too great to resist. Usually encountered in groups, dark folk flee from bright light, but are quite brave in darkness.
The smaller ones are known as dark creepers. They're skilled in the use of poison, see perfectly in all forms of darkness (even magical), and know how to reach a foe's vital areas as well as a rogue.
Knowledge (local) DC 14:
As above, plus: The taller dark folk are known as dark stalkers. Revered almost like gods by the smaller dark creepers, these sinister creatures rarely come to the surface. When they do, they're always on a mission rather than partaking in random acts of mayhem.
Like their smaller brethren, dark stalkers are skilled in the use of poison and see perfectly in all forms of darkness, but they are even more skilled in the art of attacking a foe's vital areas than the dark creepers.
Knowledge (local) DC 17:
As above, plus: When slain, a dark creeper's body combusts in a flash of bright white light, blinding creatures within 10 ft.
Dark creepers also have the ability to create darkness.
Knowledge (local) DC 19:
As above, plus: When slain, a dark stalker's body combusts in a flash of white-hot flame, searing the flesh of creatures within 20 ft.
Dark stalkers also have the ability to create deeper darkness and fog clouds.
Yahirma blinks once in mild confusion when Appario asks for a light, but she begins searching for a sunrod.
I know not how to produce light. When will he learn?
By the time she wrestles a sunrod away from a spectral gremlin, Derek has already illuminated the woodlands. She blinks again, this time to clear the spots from her vision. To Maddok, busy with his transformation, she adds, "I shall keep an eye on Vahnwynne. Shu-Ak'eh-Di shall not have reason to strike in her direction."
Stealth to keep quieter during this scene1d20 + 6 ⇒ (14) + 6 = 20
If it seems like the group is about to start the charge, Yahirma will cast Protection from Evil on Maddok/The Beast.
You can place yourselves wherever you like within the green parts of this map (representing the forest), or off the map grid if you prefer. The black rectangle is the commander's tent (opening to the east).
Ancient Shoanti War Spirit 11 | 137/137 hp + 72 temps, Init +2, AC 29 (+1 near Derek) [touch 15, FF 27], Fort +18, Ref +11, Will +14; Perception +5;
The ritual is quicker this time, as Maddok performs what previously took minutes in mere seconds. The Shoanti's brief chant draws the ample nearby shadows closer, as if they were only water, into his frame.
Quickly, the hulking shape of the Beast of War appears once again, superimposed over Maddok's comatose form. Its massive body is somehow even larger than before, nearing ten feet tall, and bristles with physical power throughout his bulky frame.
A great gout of steam shoots from the warrior spirit's bovine nostrils as he surveys his surroundings.
Appario would have taken his aforementioned antitoxin before this point.
Stepping into the clearing, Appario sighs and draws Extortion and readies his shield.
I really need a better name for my shield other than "shield".
Focusing his divine energy on Extortion, Appario wills his connection with Abadar's angels into the weapon.
Divine Weapon for keen weapon enchantment for next 5 minutes.
Appario will stand in D2, hoping that Derek's light will be enough to sway this seemingly unbalanced battle.
"Derek, do not give let them at your backside, they will swarm you and stab you to pieces from all sides. Keep my back and I will keep yours," Appario whispers to the foo-, urhm, to the thespian warrior.
AC 25, touch 16, flat-footed 21. (+7 armor, +2 shield, +3 Dex, +2 deflection, +1 dodge)
hp 53 (5d10+2d8)
Fort +7 (+4 more vs. poison), Ref +10, Will +7
Lay on Hands: 4/day 2d6 healing
Smite Evil (+2 to hit, +2 AC, +5 damage) 2/day
Standing in E2 briefly to perform her ritual against evil on Maddok, Yahirma steps back to D1 to begin the battle. "Kairos estin," she intones, one hand already rising to perform one of many different incantations.
That's enough time to wait; I'm placing Semenya at B1.
As soon as talk begins of bringing the Morrowfall out from Derek's pocket to assist in the battle to come, Vahnwynne gives Maddok a kiss for good luck, then retreats further into the forest to avoid its lethal light.
"Be safe, my love. Hopefully soon such things will no longer keep us apart."