|DM Doomed Hero|
Darian was late again.
Nathaniel Shepherd tapped his stylus against his glassteel slate in a slow staccato rhythm that echoed through the small unadorned meeting chamber.
"You knew he was going to be late, didn't you?" Nate asked the Oracle.
"Yes." the Oracle shrugged.
"So why didn't you just set the meeting time for when he was going to show up?" Nate said, clearly annoyed.
"It doesn't work that way. I knew he was going to be late. I didn't know exactly how late. The meeting time was an educated guess." the Oracle didn't tend to get impatient. Everything happened in its own time. While he waited he played a mindless game on his own slate, matching and manipulating geometric colored illusions as they appeared in sequence.
"Some all seeing Oracle you are." Thedra said with a wry smile. She stretched her arms behind her head and leaned back in her chair. Next to her a small glowing orb of light hung in the air.
"I don't think there's any amount of premonition that could predict the comings and goings of our dear Headmaster." the Oracle shook his head. He lost the game he was playing and looked up just in time to see Darian walk through the door.
His clothes were badly burned and his skin was looking new and pink, a sign of recent healing. He took his seat with a smile. "Sorry I'm late. That Lizardman Demigod possessed some priest of his and started raising his army from the dead. Had to go off city to deal with it."
"How many times do you have to kill that guy?" Thedra said, a bit amazed.
"Twice more." The Oracle said.
"Goooood to know." Darian said. "Anyway, meeting time?"
Nate called them to order. "Shard, you may begin." he said to the small glowing sphere near Thedra. It chimed and it's surface became a silvery mirror, showing them all in a distorted reflection.
Nate began ticking things off this slate. "Darian Kale, is present representing the Academy. Thedra Locke is present representing the Watch. The Oracle is present representing the Harbinger Contingencies. Nathaniel Shepherd is present representing the council. The Godstone Archon Shard is recording."
"First order of business: New blood. We've lost a lot of citizens recently. The next generation of Scions is still children. The academy is all but empty. We need to bring in Petitioners."
"I know where we can find a few." Thedra said pulling up some information on her slate. "They have the spark, but no contact has been made. We were dealing with the situation with that Genie and the Foundation at the time. They were tagged. I think we can find them again without much trouble."
Nate nodded. "Darian, how fast can you have them through the academy?"
Darian shrugged and looked to the Oracle. "If I can have access to the Experience Vault, I can have them through before the next Harbinger cycle."
The Oracle looked wary. "I'll have to vet them personally. A full liable probably analysis. If there's negligible mnemonic risk, then I can give you authorization."
"Second order of business:" Nate said, moving on. "The Labyrinth has been moved entirely off-city. All the breeches have been closed, but it is too late to really contain. The Architect says he's managed to mostly stabilize the structural infection, but it means some areas of the city are still uninhabitable. The spread has been stopped, but nearly fifteen percent of the city is now a quarantine zone."
Thedra picked up where Nate left off. "There are still missing people, and a number of flagged individuals have disappeared into this new maze, and we have reports that there have been portals opening and closing in the quarantined area. The unpredictable magics and shifting terrain is making our attempts at divination extremely unreliable. The entire place is a huge security risk."
"What's the risk to our people?" Darian asked.
"From the infection itself? None." Nate answered. "Only structures seem effected. Golems and artificial persons are at risk, but living creatures are only in danger from the sudden changes in their surroundings."
"Doesn't sound so bad." Darian grinned.
"Imagine trying to find your way out of a constantly changing maze that is also a giant angry Mimic." Nate said dryly.
"Huh. Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem." Darian said, no longer grinning.
"We need people skilled enough to scout the labyrinth and bring back information about what is going on inside. We need eyes inside and the Watch doesn't have manpower to spare." Thedra said pointedly.
"So I'm hearing 'train people faster.' Same as the last problem." Darian said with a small shake of his head. Then his eyes narrowed in thought. "What is the current threat assessment?"
"Journeyman scale." The Oracle said simply.
"The Crucible." Darian said, smiling again.
Thedra slowly joined his smile. Nate frowned. "What?"
"I've been meaning to come up with a new Crucible anyway." Darian explained. "Everyone knew about the forest. Students were starting to tell stories about it. This sounds like a great fit. Two birds with one stone."
Thedra nodded. "I like it. Means a nearly constant scout rotation through the quarantine. Also means when we lose people, they're still in city. No more trying to search that whole damn forest for bodies."
"So we're going to use a dangerous site of magical flux as a testing ground for unproven students?" Nate said, making some notes. He didn't particularly sound surprised.
"Same as before, really. Just urban instead of wilderness." Darian said innocently.
Nate sighed. "Third order of business." He didn't continue. He simply looked worried and looked up at the Oracle.
"Containment of the Eternium artifacts has been extremely draining. Together with the expenditures from the recent attacks that has meant we have lost a lot of our reserve energies. The Harbinger is nearing a critical risk state. I'm recommending that anyone we can spare be asked to donate Experience."
Thedra's brow furrowed. "I'll put the word out."
"This is going to mean a major reshuffling of our power structure." Nate said, sounding worried.
"We've done it before." the Oracle said. "We know what to expect."
|dien RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16|
|DM Doomed Hero|
Thedra sauntered into the headmaster's office. It was cluttered. The headmaster was asleep, his boots up on a stack of paperwork on his desk. Thedra rolled her eyes. "I know you're awake, Darian." she said taking a seat on the edge of his desk.
"I'm surprised you came in person." Darian said without opening his eyes.
"You wanted the Experience records. I don't let just anyone handle mine."
"Fair enough." He shrugged. "Let's see who you brought me."
Thedra slid a small case across the desk. Darian opened it with one hand. A row of small round gems sat inside. They ran through colors slowly, like they were made of some kind of crystallized aurora. "Who's first?"
"And second." Thedra added. "Two in the first pickup. A pair of nomads from a pretty eclectic Prime. All kinds of weird stuff on their plane. Not quite as prevalent as here, but enough that they should adapt easily."
Darian nodded and touched the crystal, entering Thedra's memories.
|DM Doomed Hero|
PM-D-003-066. Golarion. Nirmathas. Ruins on an island near Tamran. Dusk.
"F&$*ing Gnolls!" Thedra snarled, as she nimble dove out of the way of a net trap that had been hidden beneath the sand. She would have noticed it easily if she hadn't also been dodging a dozen Javelins that came thrown out of the shadows of ruined buildings. One glanced off her arm tearing her shirt and pale flesh. "I just bought this blouse!"
"I'll fix it." Spectrum said. He hadn't moved. Instead, the javelins had just veered away from him. Sometimes the elf's tricks were infuriating.
These gnolls hid well. Much better than they usually did. They were swarming up from broken, time ravaged buildings jutting out of the ground right where the sand met the edge of the jungle. Seven foot husky dog-men yipping in high-pitched laughter, hurling javelins or rushing through the rubble wielding wicked-looking axes made of the jaw bones of some big animal.
Spectrum vanished from sight. Thedra took cover and looked over her shoulder to their guides. "Get clear, we can handle this!"
The gnolls were coming in from behind them too.
There was nowhere to run and Gnolls were faster than men. Fighting was the only thing they could do.
Talas looked around wide-eyed, his brown eyes darting quickly over the sheer number of gnolls. When he'd met Garridan a month past in Tamran, he hadn't really anticipated a return home-- but then they'd met two strangers seeking Varisian locals to guide them, and, well, coin was coin. The trip had been enjoyable enough-- Thedra made up in personality what her friend provided in his looks-- and uneventful... until now.
Prudence urged that he do as the woman said and get the hell out, but Talas had a lifetime's worth of a simple rule: You watch the backs of those you're with.
But what could his blade do against so many gnolls? Talas ducked behind a highly-eroded, crumbled wall that broke from the sand, and used it for cover as he ran along behind it, bent nearly double so that his height wouldn't draw any javelins. His other hand fumbled at his pack as he ran, snagging the coil of rope that dangled from the side.
Here-- the remains of a pillar. Hurriedly, Talas threw a loop of the rope around the marble base, then took off running, straightening up once more over the open sand.
Three of the gnolls took off after him, yipping and laughing like the hyenas they resembled. Talas's long legs would buy him seconds, but he knew he couldn't outrun them in earnest. That was alright-- if Desna gave him a moment's favor...
He ran in a curve, jumping over clumps of jungle grasses that were invading the beach, throwing glances back over his shoulder until-- not now, not now... now...
Talas jerked the rope, still trailing in one hand, up with all his strength. The rope, half-invisible in the crumbled stones, sand, and scrub, shot upwards a foot. Right at gnoll-shin-height.
The force of the impact tore the rope from his grip, leaving a painful welt, but with adrenaline rushing through him, the lanky half-elf didn't feel it. Anyway, it did its job: the two further gnolls cursed and stumbled, and the nearest one fell to the ground outright, hitting the sand with a wheezed curse.
His father's blade was in his hands a second later: Talas took the moment, stepping forward to drive the elven sword down between the gnoll's shoulderblades. "Welcome to Varisia, enjoy the trip," he panted-- then took off running again, as the other two gnolls wrenched themselves out of his rope and headed towards him again.
First rule of the road: standing your ground was a good way to end up six feet under it....
Garridan enjoyed the trip back to Varisia with his newfound companion, Talas, and the two strangers who sought them out. While it had been exciting to begin his journey out into the wider world, it was nice to be back home... He knew Varisia and the untamed frontier which filled the expanse from town to town and city to city. He directed the group around the more dangerous locals, and made a point to direct them closer to some of the most breathtaking natural beauties one could find in Varisia. The company was great, Talas was a man from home, one who could understand Garrdian in a way non-Varisian natives never could... Even so, Spectrum and Thedra were still an interesting pair; both quite attractive and almost otherworldly. Despite his attempts to impress them with some of the scenes he showed them, it was if they had seen something greater before in their lifetime... With the elf, that was not all that surprising, but the human girl...
Before long they entered the expanse of jungle and found a crumbling ruin. He started to look around if he knew anything about them; however, a rain of javelins cut short his memories! The young man dodged around a few of them, but one javelin nicked his thigh and opened a red line of flowing blood down his leg. He looked up in time to see the gills rushing out to great them and a worry set in a brief moment. "Gnolls... Why'd it have to be Gnolls..." He takes cover behind a pillar across from Thesra just as the elf disappears from view. "A guide never leaves his group."
Garridan pulls out five metal discs from a pouch on his belt, holding them in his left hand. He hazards a quick glance around the pillar to see several Gnolls rushing his position... In a blur of moment, almost too quick to follow, Garridan sends two of the chakram streaking out towards the rushing Gnolls! One disc takes one in the neck, slicing open the soft tissue with a bright spray of arterial blood! The other goes low, taking a different gnoll's leg off mid-shin; the creature shrieks in pain as it suddenly collapses to the ground in a spray of leaves and rotting underbrush! He takes a glance to see where Talas might be, and spots the two Gnolls chasing him... Not a good situation...
|DM Doomed Hero|
Thedra was dangerous. The first three gnolls that rushed her swung brutally and but their weapons found nothing but air. They, on the other hand, found dagger. She ducked and weaved between them, jamming her blade into necks, hamstrings, lungs and kidneys. Unfortunately for her, there were more than three of them. They came in a laughing pack or ten or more. The ones throwing javelins changed targets now that their brethren were focusing on the blond woman at the center of the churning melee. The pair of guides moved, trying desperately to find cover, but there were just too many of them. They prepared for the end as the rain of javelins began, but it never came.
Instead a gale began, swirling, twisting kicking up the sand and carrying the javelins safely clear. The grit stung their eyes and quickly got in their mouths. It was harder to see, but they could clearly hear the angry yips of the frustrated Gnoll javeliners.
The respite was brief. Through the stinging sand the pair could see the javeliners drawing axes of their own, preparing to joint the fray.
Talas's eyes squeezed shut against the grit. The wind-- must be the work of Spectrum, he thought. Great, but there were still enemies coming--
Well, the wind had given him an idea. He thrust a hand down into the sand at his feet, grabbed a handful, and flung it into the face of the first gnoll to run his way. The creature spat and snarled, but Talas's blade swept across his gut before the gnoll could clear his eyes, spilling hot blood and twisted bowels out onto the beach.
Unfortunately, another had caught up with him in the seconds it took to do that. Talas's keen senses gave him enough warning to duck. The axe took off the last inch of his long hair-- but that was preferable to losing his whole head, Talas thought.
"You missed," he informed the gnoll, helpfully, before launching himself out of the beast's range with a sideways dive that he turned into a shoulder-roll on the sand. Had to keep moving, couldn't let them mob him--
One of the gnolls was focused on the far greater threat of Thedra. Talas almost couldn't follow her motions, fast as she was, but the gnoll's similar inability to keep up gave him an opening: he plucked a weighted throwing blade from his belt and sent it at the gnoll's unguarded back. The blade buried itself two inches to the side of the creature's spine, right in a kidney.
"Garridan! Can you cut down any of the ones on my heels?" Talas yelped as he scrambled back from more axes, and hot gnoll breath.
Garridan watches in horror as the javelins streak towards them, seeking desperately for somewhere to hide; however, his fears become suddenly unfounded as a magical wind snatches the weapons from the air. He lets out a sigh of relief as he contemplates the sheer ferocity of the blond woman and her companion, but questions come later. Death was upon them and it waited for no one.
He quickly scans the battlefield for the best set of targets... There was enough of them charging about, but Garridan needed to be choosy. Talas' shout suddenly draws the young man's attention and he spots the numerous gnolls chasing after him... "Duck now!" he shouts and immediately sends two more chakram streaking towards Talas.
Talas tumbles into a roll just as the razor-sharp discs streak directly over him and into the necks of two gnolls, whose axes were just about to cut the Varisian rogue down! A terrible choking sound fights for dominance amidst the clamor of battle as the gnolls clutched at their ruins throats, all the while choking upon their own blood.
Unfortunately Garridan's decision not to stay mobile was quickly catching up to him as he spots several gnolls rushing towards him! "Talas, a little quid pro quo would be appreciated about now!"
|DM Doomed Hero|
Out of the largest ruined building a light came up from below. A staircase? A door? It was hard to tell. More gnolls came, two by two out onto the sands. Armored in bone breastplates and helms, bearing tall shields of stretched leather over oval frames. They bore jagged polearms and moved in formation with practiced ease. Behind them came a powerfully built gnoll riding on a massive beast. It was the size of a horse, but built like a lanky badger. It's jaws were enormous and it's teeth all fused into a pair of serrated, bony ridges. The gnoll on it's back was thick, more akin to a mastiff than a hyena. A pair of heavy iron bars connected by a chain were draped around it's neck. It's heavy rasping bark joined the high pitched laughter of it's brethren.
"Spectrum..." Thedra called out to her partner, continuing to dodge Gnollish axes. She took off running toward the new foes. "Clear me a path!" she rolled her strange dagger in her hand. Her form flickered and suddenly there were five of her, ducking and dodging through the ruins.
A small streak of fire shot out from the sky above the fight, lancing into the formation of new foes. It exploded in a hellish blast that charred stone and left a layer of sand as fragmented glass cooling quickly in the wind storm. The armored gnolls were scattered, burned, mostly dead.
Their leader was scorched and mostly just looked angry.
The gnolls chasing the pair of guides flinched at the blast, then howled in anger. Many of their number were dead now but it seemed only to amplify their blood lust. They continued their pursuit of the pair of Varisians, tearing through the ruins after them, but the sands kicked up by the storm were getting thicker. The pair were able to regroup and hide behind a low wall. They had a brief respite, but they knew it wouldn't last.
"Anything for a friend!" Talas shouted back in response to Garridan's words. He jumped up onto one of the ruined walls, ran lightly along its length, and then vaulted off the far end to spring through mid-air and greet one of the pursuing gnolls with his blade. It was a clean kill, but his sword took a moment too long to wrench from the corpse of one gnoll; another came up at his side and this time the axe-strike left a line of burning fire on one thigh. Talas scrambled away once more, trying to find cover as the the winds kicked up more sands.
He threw himself behind another low wall, gasping for breath and clutching at his leg. When Garridan joined him, he looked up with his face sheened with some sweat. "You know-- something?" he wheezed, "--I think we should have asked-- for more pay for this gig--"
Talas leaned his head back momentarily against the low wall. "--I think they could have afforded it too-- have you ever seen anyone do the things they're doing? If we get out of this, nobody's going to believe us."
Blood was staining the supple leather of his trousers, seeping out through his fingers. Talas looked down at his leg, then back at Garridan. "I'm not going to be able to run much longer. I could make a scene-- you could probably get away in the cover of this wind," he said hesitantly. He was in no hurry to die, but he knew that, cornered, that was a likely fate.
"Or we can fight back-to-back, and make them pay to cut us down..."
Garridan curses as they spot the formation of clearly well-trained and armored gnolls. "What in the Nine hells...?" He swallows and begins to seriously contemplate an expeditious retreat; however, before he could say anything the world went insane! He watches in disbelief as Thedra charges towards the ranks of gnolls. "Stop! Are you insan--" The rest of his words were drowned out by the massive explosion that devastates the gnoll ranks.
He uses the sudden lull the sprint away with Talas turned a low wall where they take respite for just a moment. He glances at the bleeding wound, which causes his own wound to burn in response. He sighs, but then suddenly smiles and chuckles. "Yeah, I think we should definitely have asked for more pay... Perhaps we still should?" He pops over the top of the hall and hurls the last chakram in his hand, quickly cutting down the closest gnoll before ducking back down behind the cover.
Garridan becomes somber at Talas' suggestion. "I'm not leaving you to die. If this is to be our last moment, then let us make it one these bastards will never forget." He pulls out another five chakram. "I've got these five left, my boomerang, a couple of daggers, and my starknife... I'll try to thin out their numbers before they reach us."
|DM Doomed Hero|
A reinforced glass vial dropped neatly into Garridan's hands. "Mister Teskarova." Spectrum's even voice whispered just behind the ears of both guides. "I need you to throw this at Thedra. Her duplicates are defensive illusions. When they are gone, hit her with the vial."
The gnolls had gotten their bearings. Some ran to support their leader. The rest still hunted the two guides. They came like a pack of dogs, moving as one without plan or sophistication.
Talas suddenly vanished from sight, much to his and his partner's surprise. "Mister Arduinn, keep your partner alive. I will be too busy to aid you for roughly fifteen seconds."
Five darting duplicates of Thedra danced with the Gnoll chieften and his monstrous mount. The chain-bar flurried in a blur of steel. Jaws snapped. Thedra cried out in pain. Suddenly there were only three duplicates of her. Each of them was holding a wounded arm to her chest. The chieften was bleeding from two deep dagger wounds. It continued to laugh at her. The three of her laughed back.
Talas barely has time to register Spectrum's voice before he feels a brief touch on his shoulder, and he sees his own hand has become translucent as a shade. By Garridan's reaction, he realizes he can't be seen at all.
"....oh. Yes-- this would help," Talas says, an unseen grin twitching over his face. "I think the odds have just shifted, Garridan-- maybe we come through this after all..."
He pushes himself up from the rubble. His leg still hurts, but adrenaline dulls the pain, and Talas no longer feels like the hunted, but instead the hunter. The dog-men can't strike what they can't see.
"I've got your back," he whispers to Garridan. "Let's even the odds."
A gnoll rounds the corner looking for the two Varisians; Talas swings his father's sword right at neck level, grimly enjoying the ability to strike unseen and pick the most vulnerable spots on his foes.
Garridan jerks his head upward when the vial suddenly falls into his hand and then jumps at the invisible voice. He lets out a curse when he realizes it was Spectrum. "Don't do that!" He complained, but listens intently to the mage's instructions, looking rather bemused by what Spectrum was asking him to do... "You want me to..." He stops for a moment and remembers everything he has seen in the battle thus far. He then simply nods. "Done. I can do that. Right Talas?!" He turns to grin at his partner who suddenly vanishes from view.
"Hey! Oh, well in that case..." Garridan peaks around the edge of the wall to get a bearing on the closest gnoll who appears to be heading in their general direction. He pulls out a masterfully crafted darkwood boomerang, decorated with Varisian symbols and star-like depictions from a sheath at the small of his back. He kisses the weapon, draws it back, takes one more look around the wall, adjusts his aim, and whips the weapon around the wall! It curves around the wall with a whoosh and spins into a wicked arc as it flies unerringly towards its target. The gnoll has just enough time to look around when it hears the strange sound before the boomerang connects solidly with its temple, scrambling its brain and dropping it to the ground. "Please tell me you guys saw that! I didn't think it would actually work!"
Garridan realizes he's likely talking to himself as the invisible men likely were no longer with him. "Well... at least I saw it..." He grumbles to himself as he keeps a close watch on Thedra and his own dwindling supply of weapons...
"I saw," Talas's voice says from not very far from Garridan's shoulder, a smile audible in his tone at least.
"Our gifted-yet-mysterious employer told me to keep you alive, remember--?"
The gnolls have spotted them again-- well, spotted Garridan, at least-- and Talas goes silent again as he slips into a crouch, readying his blade for the approach of the first few. He feels like a shadow: untouchable, deadly in his own right. It's like one of the carnival games the wagons sometimes put on: a line of targets, all in a row...
Slash-- whirl-- step-- slice.
|DM Doomed Hero|
One of Thedra's decoys fell to the whirling chain bar. The gnoll paid for each it in blood, it's body striped with long gashes. More gnolls circled and struck at her heels, keeping her harried. She danced and weaved, but the bestial mount managed to get it's serrated jaws locked onto her wounded arm, a lucky strike with one decoy remaining. It shook her back and forth like a chew toy. She screamed and went limp for a moment as it bore her to the ground. Somehow her dagger was lodged in the thing's neck. She had something in her hand. She tossed it. Gaudy colored tiles no larger than a gold coin rained down like confetti amid the gnolls.
As Thdra struggled pair of guides moved through the sandstorm hunting their hunters, hoping they could reach her in time. Garridan used himself as bait, running, throwing things to hamper and distract pursuers. They ran right into Talas' invisible blades. Four more gnolls died in the amount of time it took Harridan to find a good firing line on Thedra
The little colored tiles hit the sand. Gnolls looked at them in curiosity. Nothing happened for a tense moment.
Then the ruin exploded.
The two Varisians dove into the sand as ancient stone turned the shrapnel. The sandstorm cleared the smoke almost as soon as it has erupted. Thedra rolled clear from the beast she'd used to shield her body from the blast. All around her were dead gnolls. She was bloody, ragged, her hair was on fire. She pulled it off, revealing hair red enough to match the flames that had been hidden beneath the blond wig. "That was an expensive wig, you mutt."
The gnoll chieften had been thrown clear in the explosion but had managed to avoid the worst of the blast. It picked itself up turning it's chain bar in a lazy circle. Froth gathered at the corners of it's wide canine grin. It wasn't laughing anymore.
Talas gaped as Thedra fell to the earth, the momentary hope of Spectrum's aid dashed again because surely Thedra was dead now--
"Come on!" he shouted to Garridan. "Whatever that thing you've got is supposed to do, I think she needs it now--"
He tried to cut down any gnolls in their path, those heading towards Thedra.... then the world became fire.
Coughing, Talas rolled onto his back, and then his feet. He had numerous new small, stinging bruises and cuts from the smallest bits of shrapnel, but he couldn't see the injuries clearly on his own quasi-translucent form. Couldn't see the blood, anyway, and that was probably for the best.
Still invisible, he grabbed at Garridan, trying to help the other man to his feet. "I'll distract the chief-- try and help Thedra!" he whispered fiercely, and dashed across the sand towards the intimidatingly large gnoll. As he ran, Talas tried to leap from bits of stone to other bits of stone-- knowing that, even unseen, his feet hitting the sand itself would provide a clue to his approach, and that his only hope in buying time for Garridan-- or even Thedra herself-- was in remaining undetected.
He struck with his blade, avoiding his natural penchant to try and say something clever. To Talas's dismay, the gnoll's thick hide seemed to blunt what should have been a beautiful blow. The chieftain was made of sterner stuff than his fellows, it seemed, and merely hissed in irritation at the small trickle of blood that Talas's blade had drawn. Talas had a sinking suspicion that he was about to be the next focus of the gnoll's fury, and hoped that his sortie had bought the others time to do whatever it was they needed.
Sorry took me so long to get a post in... Had to go to an awards ceremony this morning for work, and then I've had a pretty busy shift...
Garridan clutches the vial given to him by Spectrum as he and Talas work on closing the distance to get to Thedra quickly enough. There were several moments that he thought would be his last when Talas' invisible blade cut down a gnoll... He watched in curiosity as the objects Thedra tossed landed lazily onto the ground... and then turned the ruins into Hell! Garridan hit the ground as quickly as he could, but even then it was not quite fast enough... Bits of a shrapnel cut into him all over his body, and the force of the blast rocked his brain. Blood trickled out of his nose as he laboriously pushed himself off the ground, trying to shake away that horrible ringing sound in his ears. Darkness crept at the corners of his vision as he gazed at Thedra standing amidst countless bodies... her voice a strange muffled version...
And then with a sudden rush, the tunnel-vision cleared and the ringing in his ears cleared a little. He remembers the vial, still clutched in his hand, and scrambles to his feet as he tosses it towards the woman. "Thedra!" The glass vial strikes her and shatters its contents onto her body...
Garridan's concentration through the haze of his ringing ears took so much effort that he didn't notice what was happening around him.
Talas did though. The gnoll bodies twitched, bones popping and spasming unnaturally, pushing themselves to their feet. Their eyes burned with a sickening green flame.
The vial flew and struck true dousing her shoulder with a clear liquid that evaporated as soon as it touched her. Thedra glanced over her shoulder to see what had happened. The Gnoll chieften took that moment of distraction to strike. His bar flail ricocheted off a scintillating barrier, like a soap bubble writ large, which suddenly sprung into existence around Thedra.
Then all hell broke loose.
The ruin has already been blasted apart. There wasn't much left to become shrapnel. There was a whole lot of sand in the air though. It heated to red hot in an instant, then carbonized when the wave of acidic gas hit it. A powerful burst of electricity ripped through the carbon, fusing it in long erratic strands that traced the paths of the lightning creating a jagged webbing that rose up intricately from the slag the ground had become. Then a wave of frost crawled up the erratic structure coating flash-freezing everything in a thin sheet of ice. The whole thing looked like some sort of sculpture of black wires sheathed in glass, holding half-risen badly damaged corpses of dog men upright, like macabre puppets.
The gnoll chieften had been near the center of the blasts. Little was left of him but greasy smears of charred, frozen meat.
Thedra's bubble was coated in frost, like a window on a cold morning.
Letters began to form, painted from the inside of the sphere.
Garridan stops and stares at the utter destruction wrought upon the area and what was left of the gnoll chief... After a moment he blinks and looks around to see if any enemies remained nearby; however, he had a feeling there was nothing left living beyond... "Talas!? Where are you? Are you okay??" He shouts, looking for his companion... all the while wondering, why he and his fellow Varisian had been hired by these two... Gods... Who were they????
Talas had thrown himself to the ground at the newest wave of destruction, only to realize the ground was only marginally safer than the air. Eyes squeezed shut against the stinging, raging sand, he had crawled away from the center of the maelstrom, just trying to find somewhere to be that wasn't quite so.... existentially dangerous.
Garridan's shout made Talas slowly lift his had, squinting as if he had a sunburn. "'m alri'... you?" He coughed, spitting out some sand, and hauled himself to his feet. It felt like he'd gotten a full-body dermal abrasion therapy or something.
Uncertainly Talas looked around from the smeared remains of the chieftain, to the bubble holding Thedra. "Ah... Mister Spectrum.... sir? Still around...?"
It seemed a good idea to be respectful, under the circumstances.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The elf faded back to view near the edge of the devastated blast radius. His stark white clothes were clean. Not a strand of platinum hair was out of place. Laying on the ground at his feet, also fading into view from invisibility, was another gnoll. A muscular female covered in runic scars, her body locked in rigid paralysis, hand extended, hate-filled eyes fierce and unblinking.
He waved a hand toward Thedra's icy bubble and spoke a word in a strange tongue that seemed to contort in the ears. The thin sheet of ice burst to snow and Thedra stood with a flat expression on her face. She sighed, scanned her surroundings, noting that the guides were still alive and everythng else was not, and brushed the snow off her shoulders. She looked faintly amused by the tangle of icy wire-webbing she was surrounded with. Slipping a wand out of one of her bracers she stuck the end of it in her mouth like she was chewing on a pencil. Her wounds began to close.
Wincing from the multitude of slowly healing bruises, abrasions, burns and small shrapnel cuts peppering her body, she moved forward, occasionally smashing the strange jagged webs to clear her path.
She looked down at the paralyzed gnoll and up at her partner. "You are the most infuriating person I have ever met."
Spectrum rasied a manicured eyebrow. "Caine? K'Tarl? Lo Pan?"
"Right now, you have them all beat." Thedra muttered around the wand.
"I'm hurt." Spectrum said with no indication that he actually was.
"Who's she?" Thedra nodded at the paralyzed body.
"Their leader." Spectrum replied.
"And the big one I was fighting?"
"Not their leader."
"Gnolls are Matriarchal."
"You could have said something."
"She might have heard. I could not let her know I suspected her presence. I do not prepare anti-invisibility and detection magics when we work together. Normally your talents are sufficient in that arena. This one seems to have warded herself against your sort of perception." The elf reached down and plucked an amulet off the paralyzed gnoll's chest. "There. Can you read her now?"
Thedra knelt and looked hard at the gnoll, nodding. "I'm in." She cocked her head. "Can you say "think of the bleeding skull" in a language she'll understand?"
Spectrum considered a moment. "ਖੂਨ ਖੋਪੜੀ ਦੇ ਸੋਚੋ"
"That worked. She's trying not to think about it... got it. It's down the stairs the big one and his pals came from. Not even locked up. They're using it as a decoration. I'll be right back."
Thedra turned and sauntered down the stairs. Spectrum drew a strange, thick looking wand with a curved handle. He pulled the trigger. A thunderous retort rang out and the gnoll suddenly had a hole in it's head. It's frozen eyes glazed over in death.
He looked over at the two guides who were still simply staring. "You both did very well. A bonus will be included for the unexpected danger."
Garridan simply watched the exchange in a stunned silence, not really quite sure what to say... Blood trickled from numerous wounds from the many massive explosions and his pant leg was soaked with blood from his thigh wound early on in the battle; however, that strange wand Spectrum wielded was very intriguing. "Where can I get one of those?" He points at the object...
Garridan regards the elf with a confused glance. "And where is that, exactly?" He then glances at the hole Thedra disappeared into and chuckles. "A better question I suppose would be; Who in the nine Hells are you two?"
|DM Doomed Hero|
A bloody human skull flew out of the stairwell and plunked itself down near spectrum, cracking through the slagged layer of sand with a wet splat that left Spectrum's pristine white clothes flecked with red. Thedra sauntered out from the gnoll's sanctum with a smirk on her face. Spectrum looked exasperated.
A strange, soft ringing filled the air. Spectrum pulled a strange smooth rock from a pouch and activated a colored gem. His brows narrowed. he seemed to be listening to something.
Thedra looked like she was about to say something but stopped, clearly concerned.
"We are being diverted. There's a distress call from an Embassy. They are under siege by orcs."
Thedra nodded and rooted through one of her own pouches. She tossed a hefty coin purse to the two guides. "You two earned this. See you around."
Spectrum spoke into the stone. "Acnowledged. We have the item requested by the Starks. We are ready presently."
A line, like a ripple of extreme heat, opened like a seam in reality, tearing a wavering circular door in space. On the other side was a Tian-style garden that had been turned into a makeshift hospital. Without another word the strange pair stepped through the breach. The rift in space winked closed behind them leaving the stunned guides alone on a devistated beach.
-Arch Academy, Headmaster's Office-
Darian laughed, rich and hearty. "You know you're the only one in the city who gets to treat him like that, right? He'd probably blow up anyone else."
Thedra looked incredulous. "He blew up me. He blows me up every chance he gets."
"I think he likes you." Darian winked.
Thedra rolled her eyes. "I never date anyone prettier than I am. Besides, he has the social grace of a dusty textbook."
"My wife wants to try to seduce him. I'm not sure I blame her." Darian chuckled.
"Your wife wants to try to seduce everyone. You two can have him. Thedra said putting her feet up on the headmaster's desk.
Darian considered a moment then switched gears back to the reason they were here. "Those two did pretty well. Adapted fast, didn't run away, didn't panic. They'll do well. Who's next?"
"A dwarven warrior and a mystic. Both ours, but they don't know it. Descendants of Embassy operatives. Same world. This was right after after the mission you just watched. They called for help and we were diverted." Thedra said.
Darian nodded and touched the next crystal.
|DM Doomed Hero|
Thedra slammed her dagger into the side of the ogre's neck and rode the thrashing giant to the ground. It swung at her and gurgled but she dodged the blow and snarled. "Where are the humans you captured?"
The ogre spat at her. She twisted the knife. It jerked and died.
"I got it." She said to her partner. "They're caged up in the chief's cave"
Spectrum nodded. They looked down at the ogre camp from the ridge above. Normally he would be invisible right now and she'd be talking to empty air, but he must not have prepared more than one version of that spell. He probably had scrolls, but the elf was very stingy until he needed not to be.
Instead, his clothing was simply blending, like a chameleon, taking on the color and texture of the mountain stone.
The camp looked like it had once been some kind of military installation built into the side of the rock as a mountain check point. Now it was home to a clan of ogres who'd cobbled together a number of lean-tos and tents, kicked out a bunch of walls to serve as doorways, and added a whole lot of jagged metal and sharpened stakes as decoration. The back of the camp was against the mountain wall, a few large cave entrances pocking the stone.
Someone was being roasted on a spit in the center of camp. It was far too late to save them. The rest were inside being saved for later meals.
"I'll get the captives." Thedra said grimly. "You distract them."
The elf nodded, opening his reinforced spellbook. Thedra knew it wasn't actually his spellbook. It was a bound tome of scrolls. There were color coded and symbol marked tabs around the edges of the pages that made it easy to find what he needed. He flipped to the back.
She concentrated on a tanning rack where a skin was stretched near the largest of the cave entrances. The cave mouth was decorated with a multitude of skulls and bones and covered by a tattered, faded tapestry. Probably the chief's cave. Hopefully. She opened a dimension door and warped behind the tanning rack, crouched and hidden. She tried to ignore the smell.
Behind her in the center of the camp a half-ruined human barracks shuddered and ripped itself upward, stones flowing and reassembling into a gorrilla-like shape the size of a house. A massive stone arm backhanded an ogre and sent it flying like a rag doll. The mad scramble for weapons and the howling of brutish battle cries filled the air.
Thedra smiled and slipped to the entrance, peeking behind the tapestry into the cave only to immediately flatten herself against the wall outside the door. Two young ogres barreled past her to join the fight against the rampaging elemental. She peeked again.
The cave was simple, large, lit with a bonfire that filled the whole place with greasy smoke. At the back of the cave wall was one big iron-wrought cage full of battered and tied acolytes from the temple and one angry looking dwarf who was trussed up with chains.
The ogre chieftain was a massive, ugly brute. He was clearly drunk and bellowing at an ogre female in a rough sounding language. She yelled back and threw a big sheathed sword at him. He tried to catch it, fumbled, dropped it, picked it up and yanked it from it's sheath. It burst into flame. It was a greatsword made for humans. In the ogre's paw it looked almost small.
Thedra crept as best she could through the cave using the smoke and clutter as cover. The chief stormed into battle right into a hail of stone cannonballs. He bellowed and ducked back inside holding the tapestry wide to watch the fight.
It was raining rock. The ogres were being pelted. The falling boulders passed right through the elemental like it was made of water.
The ogre female was untying the rope that bound two enormous, mangy, dogs to a metal ring in front of the cage. They were barking excitedly and straining already. Thedra was stock still in her shadow behind a large wardrobe that had been tipped onto it's side to be used as an ogre sized breakfast table. She'd had enough of dogs for one day.
The hounds bolted charging past the chief out into the camp, barking and slavering.
The hail of stones stopped and the chief joined them leaving only the ogress in the cave.
Thedra tossed a rock into the cage, hitting a young monastic woman and getting her attention.
The two women locked eyes. Thedra put a finger to her lips.
The attack on the monastery had been sudden and brutal, the ogres merciless in their assault. Given the manner of the attack, Arelia held little hope that her parents were alive. That thought required her to take a deep breath, reinforcing the part of her mind where she held those emotions locked a way to deal with later.
Right now she needed to get the rest of them out of this alive. She'd been working on her bonds for the last half hour while the drunken chieftain pawed at the female. Every part of her ached like hell, and the bruises made her movements all the more painful, but she'd pretty much managed to get free when all hell seemed to break loose outside.
She was biding her time, the plan already forming in her mind, calculating, figuring how to take down the ogress, free Dolgrim when a small rock hit her.
Looking up she saw a beautiful pale-skinned redhead woman, oddly well dressed for the region, who didn't seem to be carrying much in the way of weaponry. Ariela of all people knew how little that last part actually mattered. Taking a deep breath she nodded to the stranger awaiting her next move. Anyone skilled enough to have made it past the entire ogre camp had to be very interesting indeed.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The cage lock was big and rusty. Picking it would take too long. The ogress would probably see her anyway. Assassinating the ogre first was an option, but she wanted to see how bad off the folks in the cage were. Giving them a chance at some payback would probably do them good.
She pulled one of Spectrum's alchemical vials out of one of her pouches and poured it over the big lock. The metal creaked and whined as it froze. Fog poured off of it. She then put one of her small colorful tiles into the keyhole and ducked behind the wardrobe-table.
She gestured for the prisoners to get down, waiting until they were as far back and low as they could get, then she simply glanced at the tile in the keyhole.
The lock exploded.
The ogreess spun around with a stupid expression on her face that contorted into anger as she saw the cage door swing free. She started thundering across the cave, grabbing up a hot poker that had been in the fire as she rushed the prisoners.
As the cage door swung open, Ariala's mind slipped in that comfortably battlefield processing, taking in everything around her, constantly assessing and reassessing the situation.
They could take the ogress, hell she could probably sit his one out were it not for the damned poker. She also needed to get Dolgrin free, but their mysterious benefactor might have better luck with his chains than she would.
Seeing the ogre bi+c# charging she went into action, jumping up out of her bonds, the rope falling to the ground as she ran right at the charging enemy that outweighed her by at least 300 pounds.
Her body protesting in pain, the young warrior times her movement perfectly, throwing herself wide just before they would collide, her leg shooting out to strike just behind her attacker's elbow, the shock of the blow sending the poker skittering across the floor as the rest of her fellow captives followed her charge, falling upon the giantess in a flurry of striking limbs.
"Take her down!"
The day had barely begun when the ogres attacked. Dolgrin had just started his first shift as a guard for the monastery. Despite his dutiful disposition, the despondent Dwarf had let his guard down as he thought about the female human who stole his heart back in Rolgrimmdur. His father was infuriated the moment he figured it out, and promptly sent Dolgrin off to a monastery. Of course it was a monastery.
Dolgrin didn't have time to ring the warning bell when he finally noticed the ogres. Well, it was less about noticing ogres, and more about suddenly being punched in the gut so hard that it threw the 200+ pound Dwarf off the rampart. In the following battle, he fought courageously as he rushed into the fray, killing two ogres and helping in the defeat of three others. It was a solid effort, but the ogres took him down, striped him of his armor and weapons, and chained him up for a Dwarf stew at a later time.
Within the cage, Dolgrin couldn't decide if he was furious, disgusted, ashamed, or all of the above at once. Not only was he still alive after his fatal mistake, but now he was chained within a cage, forced to watch the hedonistic ogres devour prisoners, dance at the bonfire, and many more things that he desperately wants to forget about. The mere smell was enough to nauseate him, and even if he closed his eyes, the sounds were too much to bare.
Yet he endured, and soon enough, the ogre chief was distracted with a battle outside. A woman sneaked in to free everyone, and the acolytes charged the remaining ogre. Then the woman came in and pick the locks of the red-haired Dwarf.
"By the forgefather's beard, thank you." said Dolgrin. "If you'll please excuse me, I HAVE A GIANT, FAT, DISGUSTING OGRE TO KILL!!"
With that, Dolgrin charges out of the cage, roaring at the top of his lungs. He keeps his head low, and makes a straight dash to the flabby, flailing ogre. "FOR MY G&~-D#!NED SANITY!!" he bellows, which may be an odd battle-cry, but it this case, it seems justified.
In the many years that Dolgrin studied at the military academy, he learned one very important fact: Dwarf skulls are thicker than just about anything. And so Dolgrin boldly charges headlong into the Ogre's stubby, misshapen, and frankly degenerate kneecap. A sickening CRACK resounds from the impact, and the Ogre falls face first into the stone floor.
Dolgrin laughs aloud as he shakes the vibration from his head. Turning around, he spots the still-hot poker laying on the ground, and a plan hatches within his mind.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The acolytes and the dwarf were more angry than scared, which was excellent. Hopefully they'd stay that way.
One had a broken leg. Two others were helping him along. That was going to be a problem.
She moved to the cave entrance and took peeked behind the tapestry. It was a mess out there. Spectrum was definitely doing his job.
She stood guard, just in case an ogre headed their way. The former captives needed this fight. It would get their blood up for the escape.
Looking over her shoulder Ariela could see that their benefactor was keeping a close eye out for anyone else entering the cave. Would thank her later, but the task at hand was to put the ogress down.
She could see Derrek and Lian supporting Kirrin on his broken leg. That would need to be set relatively soon, she found herself thinking. It was a habit of her. Even in the worst of situations......actually.....especially in the worst of situations, she tended to run through checklists in her mind, taking note of all sorts of details as everything seemed to become far clearer to her the more her adrenaline flowed.
Putting that all aside in her mind she grinned at the sight of Dolgrin going for the glowing poker. These filthy bastards were going to pay, starting with this one.
Surrendering to her more violent tendencies, the brilliant warrior ran directly at the toppled over wardrobe, kicking off of it into a graceful leap, a perfectly calculated trajectory that took her directly towards the ogress as she was struggling to rise.
At the peak of her arc, the mystic warrior reached back, grabbing a hold of both of her ankles in mid air, tensing her muscles as she plumetted knees first into the giantess' kindney, tucking into a roll as she felt the body shudder, grinning at the roar of pain that followed.
"Well I'll be damned" Dolgrin says as he watches in admiration one of the young acolytes leap with the grace of an elf. He checks her ears just to be sure. "Hey! Keep it pinned down eh? Let's finish this and get the hell out of here!"
Dolgrin knew that the acolytes wouldn't be able to continue this fight for long. Most were wounded, and nearly all of them were exhausted. The human who thinks she's an elf not-with-standing, Dolgrin figured he was probably the only one who could really keep going. The sooner this ogre was dead, the better.
With that in mind, Dolgrin boldly rushes over to the poker, barely dodging a flailing ogre hand in the process. With a mighty heave, he lifts the oversized hot poker by the hand, brandishing it much like a long spear. The poker was nearly the size of him, and weighed at least 20, if not 30 pounds, which Dolgrin knew was absolutely terrible for a weapon.
A charge to the side wouldn't garner much, Dolgrin figured. Too much fat. Instead, he would need a downward thrust at a weak point in order to utilize the poker effectively. Let the weight of the poker compensate for the bluntness. So Dolgrin begins to run over to the ogre, and yells out "Oi! Help me up there, please! Let's end this!" He stretches out an arm in hopes that the human can assist.
|DM Doomed Hero|
"Hurry it up, we need to move!" their blond rescuer hissed over her shoulder.
The thrashing ogress managed to fumble a rough carved wooden burl hanging from her neck to her split lips and blow into a bored hole. The sound was surprisingly musical, but wet from the blood she was blowing into the primitive instraument.
It was also loud.
Deep barking answered from outside.
"F*!#." Thedra's snarled.
"Damn it!" Ariela muttered, coming out of a roll off the ogress' back. Rushing forward she drove her foot, and the signal horn, through the giant's teeth with brutal force, turning her back and locking her fingers to boost Dolgrin up to the back of their jailer's neck to deliver the finishing blow.
They needed to get out of the cave before the rush of freedom and anger wore off and the brutal treatment by the ogres took its toll.
"She's all yours, make it count!"
Trudging at full speed, Dolgrin hefts his body up upon the ogre with the help of the human woman. The ogre struggles to move, but is held down firmly by the mass of acolytes.
Wielding the poker like a heavy spear, Dolgrin aims the point below him, right at the ogre's neck. "Say goodnight, Scum! To all your brother-sons and sister-daughters!"
Then with a great warcry, Dolgrin leaps up and skewers the ogre right through the neck with all of his weight. The poker sizzles into her flesh and blood, and forces a terrible cry out of the creature, but Dolgrin keeps pushing until the ogre is finally dead.
Sizing up their work, Dolgrin leaves the poker and says "Now let's get running, before they trap us here. LET'S MOVE!!"
|DM Doomed Hero|
The first massive hound burst through the door right into Thedra's dagger. She moved like a snake as it rushed past, striking and grabbing, yanking it to the side but being dragged along by it's momentum as she stabbed again and again, bearing it to a skidding halt on the floor.
The second one rushed right past her. It leapt on an acolyte, it's jaws clamping down on an unprotected arm and savaging back and forth. The acolyte screamed and beat the ugly beast's massive head with her fist, but it seemed to have little effect.
Seeing the massive beast savaging one of her friends, Ariela runs at the monstrous hound, a silvery shimmer enveloping her arms as she drew upon her inner reserve of focus and potential. Leaping onto the thing's back she holds on with her legs, locking on tight before unleashing a continuous series of relentless body blows, hammering ribs, spine and organs with an almost elegant brutality, blood beginning to stream out of it's mouth as it's actions begin to weaken, it's attention on the girl in it's grasp clearly waning.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The dog's attention shifted to the adversary on its back, it's salvo ring jaws snapping and snarling.
Thedra finished off the dog she'd downed and looked for an opening, wary of doing something that might get the young monk injured. She was in a precarious position wrapped around the beast's neck.
That opening came when Dolgrin charged forth, bodyslamming the dog (and monk)to the ground. His movements were never agile, but they always had power. Continuing with the momentum, the heavy Dwarf launched himself onto the dog, keeping it's muzzle shut with his bare hands. "Now's your chance!" He bellowed as the dog yelped in pain.
Rolling off the beast, Ariela calmed her breathing calling forth her focus. As she worked the the form, using mudras to center herself she focused on the tri-gram that always stood out most clearly in her mind.
Blue white flashes of electricity dances over her hand as she struck with a resonant shout, the volatile charge tearing through the hound's body.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The hound's angry snarl became a pained and fearful whine as electricity wracked it's body. It shuddered and finally died.
Thedra glanced out the door behind the tapestry again she spoke quickly over her shoulder.
"Alright. My name's Thedra and I'm here to get you all out of here. We're going out this door and heading right. Hug the wall all the way around the perimeter of the courtyard. Do not try to make a break for it straight down the center. Even if it looks tempting, don't do it. My partner's out there and you do not want to be in the middle of whatever he's throwing around. We move as a pack. That means hop-along here sets our pace. You two helping him out, keep it up. The rest of us, our job is to clear the way. Dwarf, you're on point. I'll be pulling up the rear."
"Time to move."
Dolgrin makes a serious salute to Thedra. "Yessum Miz Thedra. My name's Dolgrin, at your service. Moving out now."
Without another word, the red haired Dwarf marches double time out of the cave and heads to the right. He makes sure that while he makes pace that everyone behind him is doing fine, including Mr. Hop-Along.
Absolute chaos shook the courtyard as boulders flew like speeding arrows and smashed against stone and ogre alike. It didn't phase Dolgrin the same way it did to some of the acolytes. While this was surely intense and beyond his education, Dolgrin understands that he has an important task, and he keeps his word no matter what.
|DM Doomed Hero|
The courtyard was a disaster.
Massive boulders littered everything. Thy'd punched holes in the roofs of old human buildings and were continuing to rain down everywhere.
They were passing right through the immense body of a creature made of stone that was battling the ogres. A half dozen ogre corpses were strewn about. Others had taken cover as best they could. About a dozen others including the chieftain were simply braving the hail of boulders and trying to fight the stone monster.
Thick strands of webbing coated nearly every surface snaring and hindering ogres. The massive rock thing seemed too big to really be effected by the webs. They clung to it and broke as it tore through them, but it didn't seem to notice.
Some forty-odd feet above the ogre's camp an elf in white hung in the air, his form sometimes wavering and blending in with the sky. He gave the escapees as nod of acknowledgement and cast a spell that called down a swirling gale of icy wind and rain.
None of the spells touched the escapees though. The elf was expertly aiming them to avoid a five foot wide path along the mountain wall.
"Keep moving. No one could possibly keep such a barrage going forever. Let's not waste his efforts!" she shouts over the howling winds as she encourages the others following Dolgrin.[/b]