Eternal Sun 23rd, 3127
Thank the Ascended for dwarves. Tough bastards. I’ll give them that. And running to rescue Blackstone even before he tied the knot. This marriage treaty must pretty damn important to send two hundred of their best to die against Blood Witches brood.
Still, for all their hard work, we may die yet.
Eternal Sun 19th, 3127
As previously written, we were recovering from our skirmish with the troglanesh ambush. Sergeant Grendel and his lover, RFC Ranna were gone, tragged off by undead builder golems. If that sentence seems like gibberish, then imagine writing it?
I was pretty badly torn up after the werewolf attack, but Ingrid was safe. So, worth it. But, the rest of the team was in only passable shape. And, our Ranger escort flaked on us, and RFC Blackstone defied a direct order to withdraw. So, Alpha Team was all going in, without backup.
It took time, but late in the 13th hour, evening of the 18th or morning of the 19th, we moved out north, following the fairly obvious tracks left by the undead Denier golems and the dragged bodies of our unconscious allies. We left Sergeant Muriel in charge with the other animals, managed by Blackstone’s Stahlheim smith. Who, was taking all of this surprisingly well…
Good news, the big oozing walkers move slowly. Bad news, we were hours behind, and floundering in the dark. And then, it started raining. Which, against a human opponents would have been good. Of course, troglanesh hunt via scent, so…all rain does is hamper us, and make us easier prey.
For hours we slogged through the rain, mud, and slush. Well, THEY did. I fought to stay aloft flying slow enough not to lose my team, and not pass out from the pain. Werewolves hurt. And speaking of wolves, the sneak formally known Aronzo was still dogging our group.
I know that werewolves and vampires are “intelligent” evil, but Aronzo freaked me out a little before going hairy. Now, I cannot understand keeping him around. Of course, if Grendel were here, he’d probably order Aronzo killed on the spot. While I’m normally opposed to the Silver Paladin’s knee jerk reactions, however, right then…
Three, maybe four hours north, our forward scout, the werewolf, stopped the team short. I was just behind. Cresting the ridge, I saw it too, the largest troglanesh horde I have ever heard of. Sitting in a wide field, the trog tent gather was at least a quarter mile across. Maybe…3000 trogs, wolves, vamps, and others.
Corporal Sssahliissstah’s expression was…telling. Not fear…realization.
With any hope of the team infiltrating the warband impossible, we were left with few options. One, we could simply walk away and report the size and location of the horde. Of course, by the time we accomplished said feat, Grendel and Ranna would be dead or converted, and the Guardian Gather of Fylg or Char already under siege.Two, we could charge headlong into the enemy camp. Which would be suicide. Three, put our fate in the hands of the werewolf.
I voted for option A. We chose C. Which, to be fair, is far better than what I expected Corporal Sssahlisssstah.
While the team spread out along the ridge line, I on the far left, Corporal Sssahlissstah trusted the werewolf to enter the camp and recover RFC Ranna’s mask. While we made those arrangements, The Explorer made his way around the right flank to set up a sniper’s nest around to the right. Once we were set, the werewolf, in Aronzo’s skin, loped off toward the distant camp.
In a horrifying way, the camp was impressive, hundreds of torches and campfires burning in the darkness, mist hanging low to the ground, like a blanket. Finally the rain let up, if a little. It was not hard enough to drive us under cover, but misting enough to make life miserable. My soak cloak clung to my skin, and my wings were waterlogged and heavy.
About halfway across the couple hundred meters between our position and the fence line the werewolf stopped short. I couldn’t see what who, or what, he was speaking with, but given the shadows, and his behavior, I assume the camp’s pickets were troglodytes. Invisible little ankle biters.
The werewolf had a brief altercation, then wolfed out and chased them off. If there was any lingering doubt as to how far our former ally had fallen…he is now the Enemy.
Once through the pickets, the werewolf reached the edge of the tents, and disappeared. We waited nearly an hour there, in the misting rain and darkness. Even I could not pick out the Explorer against the backdrop of darkness. Then, there was a commotion at the edge of the camp and a werewolf loped toward our skirmish line, a white mask in his mouth. I wondered that the Trog sentries did not stop the werewolf, then considered they had little to fear. First, anything other than a true Darkness creature could never penetrate their defenses. Second, nothing within a hundred miles could threaten such a horde.
Not even Fylg, less than fifty miles away might stand against the assembled hordes.
The werewolf arrived and dropped “Ben Toma’s Mask” in Sssahlissstah’s clawed hand. She clutched it and her eyes went unfocused, the surest sign of an Adept at work. It was not until her eyes starting glowing blue that I got concerned.
While Corporal Sssahlissstah communed with command, the werewolf approached. Something about his demeanor concerned me, more than the fact that he was, in fact, a werewolf. While recovering the mask, Aronzo encountered Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri and some of his winghunters imprisoned by the trogs. The werewolf was forced to free the winghunters in order to escape with the mask. I doubt he had much choice. Novri is a survivor if nothing else. What worried me was why was Novri here anyway? I assume the winghunters are still tracking us. So, maybe they ran into the trog forces while setting up an ambush. But then, why keep them alive? I know very little about this Blood Witch brood, but it seems unlikely they would bother unless Novri had something the trogs wanted? Whatever that might be, it can hardly be good for us.
A problem for another day.
When Sssahlissstah’s eyes fluttered open, a bit dazed, I worried for a heartbeat, but was heartened by the sudden decisiveness in the set of her toothy jaw. She had managed to contact Wolfhaven via the mask. Our orders, provide a distraction to permit the Ogres a chance to escape, but not to commit. Whether the Ogres make their escape, we were to harass the enemy, but withdraw south, then west toward the Black Mountains at our best speed. But how?
It was here that I suggested we use of the arcfire to set off an explosion. Since the werewolf is arcfire trained, he can readily deploy the weapon, though I doubted his ability to leave the camp after setting off the bomb. A win win.
However, all our detonators were with the Builder, so I volunteered to retrieve them. Given permission, I took off, skimming low in the direction of The Explorer. Though I couldn’t easily see him, I knew his habits and, eventually, managed to spot a darker spot against the hill. Coming up behind him, I managed to catch him napping. I might have given him a small heart attack when I clamped my hand over his mouth. At least he didn’t stab or shoot me.
Once he finished grumbling, he handed me a arcfire detonator. I made it back with no issue. Before handing an arcfire detonator to a werewolf, I requested a direct order, which Corporal Sssahlissstah gave without hesitation. Reluctantly, I handed the werewolf the bomb, and off he loped. I returned to my post and watched the fireworks.
Again, our pet werewolf loped back into the camp, but this time, the sentries attempted to stop the werewolf, who ran past without stopping. They raised an alarm. Any chance at subtely was now over.
Oddly, though, there was not an immediate uproar. From the distance it was difficult to see, but the camp seemed nigh empty, though there was a massive gathering of torches in the center of the camp. And drums. Lots of drums.
Everything that happened from the werewolf entering the camp to all Abyss breaking loose was too far way to see, save for the light display. But, I gathered from later reports that our pet werewolf reached the trog’s weapons cache and tossed the arcfire detonator. At the same time, Sergeant Grendel and RFC Ranna were in the center of camp. Grendel was engaged in a blood duel with his evil twin, Wendel while “Gram Gram” the demonic troll overlord looked on. Nearly the entire corrupted gather had, well, gathered to witness the bloodsport, leaving the rest of the camp almost deserted. Good for the werewolf. Also good for the winghunters as it happened.
The plan worked, for the most part. Trailed by trog soldiers, our werewolf scampered away from the weapons cache moments before the night was ripped apart by an explosion in camp. A fireball rose above the camp, spreading out into a mushroom before fading into the rain. Everything feel silent.
And in the silence, the night sky suddenly began to glow with a reddish color. All eyes turned skyward as half a dozen burning, red orbs drifted down toward the center of the camp. Fireballs. Winghunters.
Thaumaturgical artillery slammed into the center of camp, blasting apart trogs, tents, and our team in a roiling maelstrom of fire and death. In a heartbeat, Novri decimated the Blood Witch forces, and burned the heart out of their camp. He also managed to annihilate our own teammates in the camp as well. Treacherous backstabbing abyssals.
As the last explosion echoed across the plain, a new sound rumbled from the center of the destruction; a massive roar which shook the ground. Even from hundred of yards away, we could see the twisted form of “Gram Gram” rising above the cloud of smoke. She is HUGE. Not Korash huge, but heads taller than even our ogres. With a bellow, “Gram Gram” sent hundreds of trogs pouring out of camp north in the direction of Novri’s artillery.
That solves that little problem, and least for a moment. Though, I seriously doubt even a small horde of corrupted orcs can finish the Winghunters. They couldn’t finish me, so, doubtful they could do in Novri.
But, that still left Grendel and Ranna in the burning heart of what was once the trog camp. The explosions had stirred them up like an overturned anthill. A couple dozen spilled out into the open ground between our skirmish line and the camp. So long as we stayed low and quiet, there was every likelihood that they would never even…
…and then The Explorer opened fire into the camp.
I couldn’t see what he was firing on, but to give away his position, it had to be important as every trog head turned and once to the bright arcfire flashes illuminated him on the ridge. With hideous howls, they turned and bounded across the ground toward the lone Builder. Moments later, RFC Ranna exploded out of camp carrying Sergeant Grendel’s unconscious body.
But, by fortune or design, they came out behind the ravaging horde homing in on the Builder, and so their way was clear, mostly. Which solved that little problem, but still left The Explorer exposed.
Per our orders, Corporal Sssahlisssstah ordered our withdrawal. We had provided the distraction, with a little help from our Winghunter “friends”. I asked permission to cover The Explorer. The Corporal gave me the nod before providing covering fire for The Explorer, drawing off some of the trogs.
I sprinted to the Explorer, arriving just as he scampered from his hide with hobgoblins on his tail. I managed to drop in, felling one and pushing back the other. The Explorer surprised me. He can run pretty fast on his little legs when the need calls.
Once I was sure The Explorer had enough of a head start, I took off too, staying low and providing cover. RFCs Ingrid and Blackstone already had a decent lead. Kenzie was covering Ranna who charged forward blindly. She was making good time for someone in the heart of Novri’s explosion. In fact, she barely looked singed.
Corporal Sssahlisssstah disengaged from her own battle and followed after. All the while, I covered my team from the scrabbling, howling hordes.
They chased over hill and dale. Southward, ever onward. By some fortune, we managed to stay a step ahead of the horde, if only just. They nearly had us as we reached our roadside camp, but we lost them scrambling down a hillock.
Our Stahlheim friend had everything prepared. We reached the camp already packed for travel. Kenzie leaped onto Buttercup, Ingrid onto Diego, The Explorer onto Muriel, and Blackstone onto Tiny. Grendel was dumped into the wagon where our Stahlheim friend revived him. Ranna and Sssahlisssstah climbed in after.
Once revived, Grendel managed to take the driver’s seat, giving the command to away. Just in time. The lead scouts were just catching up.
Per orders, we charged west.
Eternal Sun 19th-23rd, 3127
For five days we rode, barely stopping, never sleeping with death nipping at our heals. I was fine for the first few days, but by day four my wings felt lead, my entire body ached, and I was so tired I was seeing quadruple.
Eternal Sun 23rd, 3127
By day five, I smashed into a tree, and the hounds were closing. By evening, troglodytes were already swarming the wagon. Corporal Sssahlisssstah and RFC Ranna managed to fend them off, but we would not survive the night.
And then, we saw them…like metal teeth along the distant ridge. Squat and metal. Not teeth…shields. Hundreds.
As we approached at full gallop, the shields straddling the road split, marching aside in perfect heavy booted step. We staggered through and collapsed.
I think the draft horse pulling the wagon’s heart gave out. Muriel tipped over, trapping The Explorer beneath. My wings just gave up, and I collapsed to the ground.
When I looked up, we were surrounded by heavily armored dwarves. At least they didn’t look hostile, or not hostile to us.
A stern looking elder dwarf approached RFC Blackstone while behind us, the reformed lines of dwarves engaged the advancing horde of darkness, but it was only a matter of time before the trogs brought in their heavies. As valiant as the dwarves were, they could not stand against such a force.
The dwarf introduced himself as Clan Chief Rock Breaker, of the Rock Breaker Clan. And, RFC Blackstone’s future father in law…
Curioser and curioser.
Clan Chief Rock Breaker had those of us injured taken on stretchers to their field hospital while the others attended his command tent. Since I’d taken a few arrows to the rear quarters, I allowed them to drag me as well. Kenzie and Grendel were taken as well.
With the battle raging less than two hundred meters away, I couldn’t stand by and eat cheese and drink wine. I told the healers to wrap my wings, so I could join the crossbowmen on the fire line. By the time I climbed the hill, The Explorer was already there, having the time of his life. And, for their part, the dwarves were holding their own, but it was a losing battle.
By true dark, we could see the hulking shapes of the Denier golems and trolls. The Explorer pulled off the line, likely to report the golems. He has an unhealthy fixation. At any rate, by the time the moon was high, I was beyond exhausted, and out of arrows. I retired from the line and found an open cot. Rumor has it that we are pulling back to a better defensive position.
Tomorrow, we are in one abyss of a fight.