Of Blackness, Madness, and Mayhem - Part 9
G'Vern's Adventures continues

G’Vern opens his eyes to what had, until recently become a distant memory. A figure stands over him, decidedly female with ashen skin, hood over her head and carrying an hourglass filled with blood red sand.

Woman: “Welcome back G’Vern Leshren, I had expected you sooner. I assume you won’t be staying long?”

G: “Pharasma, normally it’d be good to see you.”

P: “But not this time. Is this not the result of another of Malan’s perversions? Are you not relieved to be beyond his cruelty and maliciousness?”

G: “Not this time. This time fate brought me here. I let my guard down at the wrong time. At least this time I died in the service of good people, and beside those I could consider friends, heh, and a rather rambunctious rock.”

P: “Ah yes, he will be here soon too.”

G: “Ah, I figured he would be too headstrong to run. That’s right, you know all of this already don’t you?”

P: “I do, but even a god desires conversation at times. And with your comings and goings in my realm, your story has become something of a curiosity to me.”

G: “I suppose I should be looking towards my new permanent residence?”

P: “That choice has not yet been made, though it does appear your companions haven’t left you behind.”

G: “It is strange, being here and wishing to go back rather than moving on. Never would I have thought I would make myself at home with men, a goblin, a shapeshifter, and for a time a couple of dwarves even. When I met them in Sandpoint I never understood how such a gangly group had managed not to kill each other, much less work together. Nevertheless, suddenly I found myself on a path that I could not convince my feet to leave. Through the horrors of a house devoid of life yet not abandoned, to the curiosities of cults chasing ancient evil powers and beyond that to legendary monstrosities. We fought orcs, goblins, trolls, and men of both brute strength and magical prowess, and although we had some narrow escapes, we always came through. Cold and calculating, whimsical and carefree, full of faith, love, and comradery was this group. Aneira, Davros, Pitticus, Bugga, Ronlin, heck even Morgrym to some point…they are all heroes in their own rights, even though some have forged their own paths now. They made me willing to put myself in harm’s way after years of even going to far as to seek death to avoid it.”

P: “And so here you sit among the bones, hoping to be denied the passage you have begged me for over and over again.”

G: “And so here I sit. Dreading to ask the question, but knowing I will get the answer in any case. Is it my time to move on?”

P: “That question will be answered in due time, for now rest if you can. I must tend to my duties with the others.”

Ronlin - Fort Rannick Fight #1

Ronlin slowly pulled back the rain drenched hood of his dark cloak while scanning the yard around him. The mostly gutted but still burning cook house and barracks illuminated the area with a constant orange glow allowing him to take in the results of their initial assault. Numerous ogre bodies lie along the top of the wall, near the guard post, and face down in a large puddle in the middle of the yard. Based on the acrid stench filling the crisp night air, the alchemist succeeded in trapping at least a few ogres inside the barracks. They would have met their end being burned alive which was a terrible way to die, but nothing was too painful for these brutes to endure after what they had done to his former brothers in arms.

As Ronlin stooped down to retrieve an arrow that had missed its mark, Lobo padded over, stopping a few feet away to shake out some of the water soaking into his thick grey coat. Ronlin gently touched the wolf’s snout, dispelling the magic that he had used to expand the size and effectiveness of his companion’s bite. As Ronlin pulled his hand away Lobo playfully snapped at it while growling questioningly.

“Don’t’ worry boy. There are plenty more ogres inside the keep for you to sink your teeth into.”

With that Ronlin stood back up, depositing the recovered arrow into his quiver just as Jakardros drifted down from the sky, landing gingerly on the ground beside him. A moment later Kibb came sauntering across the yard to sit at his master’s feet.

“Well done sir,” Ronlin began, “your support from the air allowed Bleck and I to eliminate the brutes in the old guard post and stable. Plus you bought time for our new allies to work their magic.” Ronlin firmly clasped Jakardros on the shoulder before continuing.

“Jakardros. We will retake the Fort. The plan worked and the hardest part is behind us.”

“If you say so Ronlin…if you say so.” Jakardros leaned down to scratch Kibb behind the ears, gently shrugging off Ronlin’s hand as he did.

Though his reassurance was intended to try and help snap Jakardros out of the mood he had been in for weeks now, Ronlin found himself believing what he said. The plan had worked considerably better than he had thought it would. Attacks such as this one had a tendency to dissolve into chaos as unforeseen factors inevitably came into play. In this case though, things had gone just about as well as they could have hoped. There was no question in Ronlin’s mind though, without the aid of these new allies, they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Based on the somewhat arrogant account that Pitticus was currently giving to Vale and Kaven, he and G’vern had managed to kill 10 – 20 ogres just through well placed magic and bombs. Though his attitude sometimes rubbed Ronlin the wrong way, the evidence certainly supported their claims. There was an old Black Arrow saying – that a man whose deeds are truly great has no use for exaggerated exploits. That certainly seemed to be the case for both the sword wielding elf and the scientist.

As for Morgrym, it was still too early to determine how effective he would prove to be in a fight. That being said, with the keep still occupied by an unknown number of unknown forces, the dwarf would get a chance to show his mettle before this fight was done. His sword and shield style would be invaluable in the tighter quarters of the keep, where holding strategic points would be the key to victory.

Ronlin drifted back from his musings as the others began walking over.

“On to the keep then Captain?” Vale asked. “We won’t have the element of sur-“

“Talky-Kaboom longshanks used fire kabooms to burn lots of uglies,” Bleck interrupted excitedly. “Bleck love fire. Bleck love dead uglies. But Bleck sad he no get heads. Why skinny bomb man burn up Bleck’s heads? Maybe Bleck take bomb man hea-“

“Enough!” Ronlin said sharply, “we’ve won a small victory out here – but our real challenge lies in there,” he added while gesturing towards the front door of the keep.

“We don’t know what sort of numbers they have inside the keep. In fact, we don’t even know how they managed to overrun this place so quickly and efficiently to begin with. So be prepared for anything. I need everyone focused, especially you Bleck.” Ronlin shot Bleck a steeled look to ensure the goblin understood the severity of the situation.

“Sorry Ron-Lan,” Bleck said sheepishly.

“If you need any healing or to do any other preparations, now is the time,” Ronlin stated. “Once everyone is ready to continue, we push on through the keep.”

Ronlin turned away from the group and walked a few steps towards the heavy wooden doors barring their way into the keep. Even from this distance it was clear the doors had been bent and broken and then shoddily repaired. Ronlin slowed his approach to wait for the rest of his companions to follow. Within moments a short stout shape pushed past him striding with purpose towards the doors, calling back over his shoulder has he did,

“Dinna fash yirsel Ronlin. Ah will tak’ th’ leid oan this. The ogres wilnae fin’ it easy tae push bygane mah shield dyke.”

Ronlin cracked a slight smile as the rest of the company got into their positions for the assault. He had almost forgotten how comforting it was to fight alongside a loud mouthed dwarf.

Ronlin - Current #2

Ronlin slowly dropped down onto his haunches, trying to relax for a brief moment without actually sitting on the disgusting floor beneath his feet. He kicked an old pile of rags away as he leaned his back up against the wall behind him. Having found some small semblance of comfort, he began to gingerly rotate his left arm back and forth while massaging the area with his other hand. Only a few minutes ago, his shoulder had borne a particularly deep and nasty wound courtesy of the ogre’s hook weapon. Thanks to Pitticus’ healing wand, the flesh had mostly healed over and Ronlin felt only the smallest twinge of pain when he moved it. Healing magics may close wounds and restore vitality – but unfortunately they did little to remove the stiffness or fatigue that accompanied taking a massive blow to the shoulder. Fortunately, wounds like this were not uncommon in the service of the Black Arrows and Ronlin had learned long ago how to deal with tired and strained muscles.

Ronlin - Current #1

Since the moment they arrived at the house, Ronlin could feel the dark taint that seeped from every rotten board and shuttered window. Once Pitticus and Aneira managed to identify and disarm the various traps on the porch – Ronlin steeled himself for what they would find inside. The front room seemed to be ordinary enough, if not a bit rundown and in a state of disgusting disrepair. Yet even in that relatively normal room, you could feel the darkness clinging to every stained and moldy surface. Ronlin pushed deeper into the house, eager to discover the fate of his fellow Arrows. But the wave of pure evil that permeated from the room on the left stopped him dead in his tracks. Frantically he pushed back into his companions, forcing them once again into the front room. The look on Aneira’s face confirmed to Ronlin that he wasn’t the only one to sense death coming from that room. If not for the steeled expression in Davros’ eyes, Ronlin may have let the despair overwhelm him completely. But no, with these new allies by his side, Ronlin found the strength to push back into the rest of the house.

If truth be told, Ronlin was originally quite unsure of this band of adventurers. Aside from the soldier Davros, they seemed incredibly inexperienced and ill-equipped for the harsh brutality of the Hook Mountains to which they were headed. It was obvious that they had fought some battles together in the past, but defeating simple goblins or brigands on the road doesn’t prepare someone to face down an ogre or a full blood giant. The elf was prone to talking to himself. Or perhaps, Ronlin suspected, to that black blade he carried with him. Even worse, the scientist and the holy woman seemed intent on driving each other and everyone around them insane with their constant back and forth inane bickering. From what little sense Ronlin could make of it, it seemed Aneira’s young and slightly naive attempts to live out her faith in a practical manner somehow offended Pitticus’ more intellectual and cynical world view. No matter; in this part of the world, they would either realize their differences are what make them stronger together, or they would die like so many others.

Though initially wary of the group, the short time he had spent with them had done much to change Ronlin’s initial impression. They were more than competent in battle, if a bit lacking in their use of tactics. Davros was obviously a seasoned fighter and was used to working with others, as evidenced by his natural tendency to move into the enemy’s vulnerable flank and even open up weaknesses in his foe’s defenses for others to capitalize on. It was slightly unfortunate that his swordplay skills seemed to be a bit rusty. G’vern on the other hand displayed no such faltering in his ability to strike true with his rapier. Aided by powerful magics that he seemed to channel through the blade itself, Ronlin was fairly certain that in a 1 on 1 fight the elf would be tough to beat. Perhaps G’vern’s only real weakness was that he seemed to need a small window of time to reach his full fighting potential. In a similar manner, Aneira seemed capable of channeling her goddesses’ power to aid her both offensively and defensively. The power of a devout follower was nothing to scoff at and the war priestess was clearly both devout and a capable fighter in her own right. Her holy fire would certainly come in handy against the vile evil of the half-blood filth. Speaking of fire, the alchemist Pitticus was like nothing Ronlin had seen before. He had heard of the growing popularity of combining arcane magics with scientific methods but had no idea it would be so effective in battle. Being set aflame by a flask of liquid fire not only scarred an enemy physically, but Ronlin suspected it could go a long way to unnerving any foe, especially those with below average intelligence such as the ogrekin. Impressive as his arsenal was, Ronlin feared how Pitticus may fare in close quarters combat which was much too common when fighting ogres and their ilk.

What mattered more than any skirmish they had had or would have in the future was their character. Despite their differences, all 4 of these individuals had answered Ronlin’s request for assistance. Whatever brought them to Turtleback Ferry had been put aside so they could help Ronlin in his quest for answers and for revenge. He had promised them no money. No glory to speak of. And yet they stood beside him even in this god-forsaken place. That was the mark of a true hero.

Bugga's Story 12

/In the half-light of the tent, a small figure sits up in a big bed. Fidgeting with a bandage it wears over part of its face, it takes stock of its situation, attempting to gather its bearings. As it begins to scratch more at its injury it fails to notice the elegant approach of a shae, its flowing steps quiet in their grace. The small figure suddenly realizes it’s not alone, looking up in alarm and huddling into its blankets./

/The shae seems unsure of what to do with the trembling creature, halting at the edge of the room for a moment, but eventually the small figure relaxes, realizing the safety of its resting place, and resumes its scratching. The shae takes the opportunity to move in and sit on a chair beside the bed, folding her hands awkwardly before herself./

          Teansa: Are you okay? We were concerned that…. that you weren’t going to wake again. We are pleased that you are not permanently disabled.

/The shae is visibly uncomfortable, but is trying to appear comforting and warm./

          Bugga: Bugga’s fine, but….

          Teansa: … It will not grow back with the healing We have at Our disposal. We are sorry.

          Bugga: … Did you get him, uh, Teansa?

          Teansa: Yes. The battle’s victory was… complete, despite your injury and Our other losses. What drove you to attempt such a thing?

          Bugga: … W-well, Bugga was thinkin’ of um… Maybe Bugga was thinkin’ of a friend of Bugga’s. Not anyone you know, Mist- uh, Teansa. But Bugga’s friend is very brave.

… Bugga’s friend you never heard of before.

          Teansa: Are you sure We don’t know? It isn’t the warpriest, is it? Maybe that’s your secret friend, hmm…?

/Teansa tickles Bugga under her chin and the little goblin giggles and squirms./

          Bugga: Umm… okay, you got Bugga. Bugga not good at pretendin’ that the stuff she says is true when it not…

If Bugga has to say truths, Bugga maybe missin’ home a bit. Bugga knows you don’t like Warleader Pinchy… Bugga hope that not a probrem… there just been a lot of changes for Bugga, you know; never really sat down to think ‘bout it. Tribe dead, Gorn savin’ Bugga… then Gorn’s mam an’ dad and learnin’ magic from that smelly ol’ wizard… then the story-tellin’ trip, and Bugga’s new friends, and then Gorn left… then the bad licky man and Maganamar and Mister Sniffles wantin’ Bugga to help with the scurry dragon! That’s lots of stuff! Also other stuff Bugga forgets, like bein’ a queen now and the skellingtons and dat bad Spoon Punch guy…!

/The goblin summoner returns to scratching her injury for a second before continuing./

          Bugga: … All of dat to say that Bugga kinda wound up likin’ her humies. Bugga hope dat not a probrem for Mister- uh, Teansa…?

          Teansa: Well no, it’s not a problem. We are so very pleased that you are close enough to your humans that you miss them, because many of your people do not create such close connections, from what We’ve learned of you. We mean, of them-

          Bugga: …. Bugga has a big question, Teansa.

/Taken aback at the serious tone of the goblin, Teansa musters no response. She eventually motions that Bugga should speak./

          Bugga: … Why… did you find Bugga? Why did you…. pick… Bugga? Why is Bugga your friend, Teansa? Bugga’s not special like you said to Bugga’s humie friends, is Bugga?

/The shae looks like she is overcome with affection for Bugga for a moment, but not sure what to do about it. She fidgets instead, taking a moment before speaking./

          Teansa: No. You are not special, Bugga. The dream-creators are not new or unique in terms of history, though it is still a unique technique.

No, you are otherwise nothing more than what We assume is a regular member of your race, though one with an overactive imagination. Still, We came to you in need. We were alone and weak, desperate for help. We had learned of the oneirogen in Our youth, though We did not think We would meet one. We were simply looking… for a friend. For help. Much has happened here; much was lost. The forces raised against Our people are strong enough that we needed help… and so We looked. We looked, and We found you, also needing help.

… So you are not special, but you are very special… to Us.

You may not remember it because… well, it was your dreaming mind’s form, but you were the element needed to allow Us to escape. We needed to be able to conjure assistance. That was you.

… Regardless, if We are to protect you as promised, it is now time to rest: this was not the most important fight of the campaign, nor the last. The blow we struck today will reverberate through the entirety of their forces, and will reach the top. And while valor such as you displayed is unexpected and extremely risky, it also shows that our resistance is intent on victory.

          Bugga: If you not want Bugga to take risks, Bugga’s not sure what to do to help. Everyone else is big an’ strong and Bugga just little…

          Teansa: … Hm. … Actually, We think that We could teach you some things to improve your ability to strike from hiding. Yes, it will dovetail nicely with your natural subtlety and the changes you are experiencing from your ties to this plane. We could teach you how to strike against weaknesses while unseen…

… Just promise Us you won’t take such risks again!

Ronlin's Story Pt 1

Ronlin Jerath

The morning sun streams through a small window illuminating the interior of the sparse brick walled room. Ronlin’s eyes slowly flutter open, but the unexpected brightness in the room causes them to reflexively squeeze shut tightly. Waiting a moment to adjust, he slowly opens them while rolling over to climb out of his simple bed. It couldn’t have been more than a few hours since he returned from patrol, but the mid-morning sun meant it wouldn’t be long before Amos expected them to be ready to head out again. After 7 months of being with the Black Arrows, Ronlin was finally getting used to functioning on little to no sleep. In this case, the ogre tracks they had found earlier this morning created a sense of urgency that superseded the luxury of a few additional hours of sleep.

His undergarments and tunic sashed firmly, Ronlin begins strapping his leather armor on. As he does, he offers up silent prayers to Erastil thanking him for the simple roof over his head and the bounty of the previous day’s hunt, which he can smell cooking on the fire just outside his door. He adds a short petition to keep the remaining members of his family safe, lightly clasping his holy symbol and draping it around his neck as he does. Now dressed for patrol, Ronlin quickly grabs his pack, bow, and quiver and heads out his door into the Fort.

An hour or so later…

Amos quietly led Ronlin and Bhavock through the light underbrush into the direction of the tracks they had discovered on the previous evenings patrol. As Ronlin raises his left leg up to step over a large fallen tree, he looks back in time to see the dwarf plant both his hands on the massive trunk and deftly vault over the obstacle. He shoots Ronlin a glare as he lands, before pushing past him to catch up to Amos.

Ronlin wasn’t sure what to make of the dwarf. He had little experience with their kind in the first place, but he had also never encountered another civilized humanoid that was quite as foul mouthed and downright hostile as Bhavock. In addition, for reasons he would never discuss, the dwarf was completely bald and clean shaven. When he first arrived two weeks ago, one of the other new recruits had asked about it and the dwarf threatened and cussed him out so intensely that no one had brought it up since. Whatever Bhavock’s history or story was, in just two weeks he had certainly proved that he was more than capable of taking care of himself. Three days after his arrival, their patrol had come across 2 ogrekin lurking near Fort Rannick. The speed and brutal efficiency with which Bhavock introduced those half bred freaks to his greataxe was something Ronlin would not soon forget.

Realizing he had fallen behind the other two, Ronlin picks up his pace to catch up. As he pushes through the trees into a small clearing, he stops to take in the scene around him. The remains of what appear to be a full wolf pack are strewn about the clearing. Large misshapen humanoid foot prints cut back and forth through the space, indicating that there was indeed an ogre in this area and that he had run afoul of this vicious pack. Blood and gore are everywhere, making it difficult to determine how successful the wolves attack had really been. On the far side of the clearing, broken branches and trampled shrubs indicate the direction the ogre had eventually headed. At Amos’ signal, the three Black Arrow members move through the carnage and head after the wounded brute.

Several minutes later Amos stops abruptly and drops into a low crouch inches above the forest floor. Ronlin follows suit as does the dwarf. As they peer through the thick foliage, they can see the outline of a large, deformed, and wounded looking ogre leaning up against an outcropping of rocks jutting up from the ground below. Amos turns slightly to make eye contact with the other two as he gestures quickly with his hands to outline their plan of attack. With a slight nod of understanding, Bhavock silently moves to flank the creature. As he does, Ronlin closes his eyes while gently grasping his holy symbol between thumb and forefinger. As his eyes re-open, their normal appearance is replaced with a vibrant yellow iris and an expanded round black pupil. With dextrous fingers, Ronlin notches an arrow to his bow and awaits Amos’ signal. The light chirp of a robin flutters through the air. Amos’ hands began to make a flurry of intricate gestures as he stands and pushes his way through the woods separating them from the ogre. Ronlin follows closely as the druid’s chanting begins to pierce the relative quiet of the forest air.

“Ipterra nukola entan glor.” The words seem to have an earthy weight to them as Amos begins to tap into the raw power of nature. “Ipterra nukola entan glor.”

As the chant begins again, the individual blades of grass under the ogre’s feet seem to swell in size. Suddenly they shoot up and curl themselves around the humanoid’s legs. Where once there was only grass, a few weeds, or small thorns, there is now an entire blanket of thick restrictive plant life covering the forest floor. Completely unable to move his feet, the ogre lets out a brutal yell while reaching for his menacing spiked club.

In that same moment Bhavock comes charging out from behind the monstrosity. Running up along the outcropping of rocks, the dwarf manages to match the ogre’s height despite the initial 4 foot difference. Shouting something in dwarven, likely a curse word, Bhavock pushes off the rocks and slams his ax into the broad shoulder of the creature. The blades sink in deep as the ogre’s yell of anger and frustration turns into a scream of pain. Laughing manically, the dwarf wrenches his blade free and as he beings to fall to the ground below, manages to slam it home a second time.

Ronlin steps to the side of Amos and lets two arrows fly from his longbow. The first sinks into the shoulder wound created by Bhavock’s ax mere seconds before. The second arrow finds purchase in the ogres face, lodging in the side of its mouth by way of its cheeks. As the ogre reels back in pain, it lets out another bone chilling yell. Ronlin quickly reaches for another arrow from his quiver, trying to finish the creature off before it can recover. However the ogre, no longer surprised by their presence, rips its feet free of the entanglement while at the same time, swinging its large club down towards Bhavocks head. The blow glances off his skull dropping the dwarf to the ground where he is quickly swallowed up by the entangling mass covering the earth. With a victorious bellow, the ogre sets its sights on the two humans and charges towards them.

“Nix.” Uttering just a single word, the druid causes the mass of thick foliage to revert to its previous natural state, revealing an unconscious but still breathing Bhavock. The large ogre still bearing down on them, Amos shifts himself in front of Ronlin while dropping to all fours. As his posture changes, so too do his muscles, skin, and overall size. In a matter of moments, the humble leather clad form of Amos Greenbeard is replaced with that of a large bear. With a primal roar, he charges in towards the ogre.

Recognizing the danger of an enraged ogre, Ronlin quickly fires two additional arrows trying to at least slow the creature’s advance. The first arrow misses over the brute’s head, but the second strikes just below the soft spot on its throat. The ogre swipes at the shaft breaking it off, while leaving the arrowhead lodged in his throat. A moment later, the ogre and bear collide with a massive thud. The bear rears up on two legs as he claws, bites, and grapples the ogre, robbing Ronlin of any clear shots that won’t hit Amos’ considerable form.

Ronlin strafes to the side looking for any way to get another shot off. As he turns back and draws an arrow, he watches in horror as the ogre manages to wrestle his right arm free and swing his massive club into the side of the bear. Amos’ roars in pain while dropping back down to all 4’s and stumbling backwards. The ogre swings the club back the other way and with one 2-handed blow, caves in the side of the bears head. The massive form of the bear begins to shimmer as it slumps to the forest floor. As the wild shape fades away, all that remains is Amos lying in a pool of blood that rapidly grows as it pours out from the side of his head.

Realizing the ogre now has its sights set on him, Ronlin begins firing arrows as rapidly as he can towards the brute lumbering towards him. One arrow sinks into the elbow joint of the arm holding the spiked club, causing it to drop to the forest floor. As the ogre reaches down to pick it up with the other hand, the second arrow lodges into a bleeding bite wound caused by Amos’ bear form. The ogre roars in pain and stumbles back a step before renewing its charge towards the archer. The third arrow sinks deep into the humanoids left leg, but aside from a slight hobble in its step, does little to slow the advance. Realizing he won’t have time to fire another arrow before the ogre is upon him, Ronlin drops his bow to the ground, grabs for his holy symbol with his left hand and begins to manipulate his right hand fingers through an unusual set of patterns and gestures.

“Strach paura,” Ronlin calls out in a loud voice towards the ogre.

As the twisted fingers complete their final shape, a dark green sheen seems to surround Ronlin’s Adam’s apple. With a primal wolf like howl, a burst of shimmering energy bursts out from his throat. As it hits the charging ogre, the brute stops abruptly. A look of fear spreads across the humanoid’s misshapen face as it stares down at simple human in front of it. The wolf like howl Ronlin released echoes momentarily through the forest before fading away. As it quiets, another howl sounds back in return. Startled, Ronlin glances sideways in the direction the sound came from just in time to see a grey shape come sprinting out of the trees.

The shaken look in the ogre’s eyes fades as the momentary fear that gripped him vanishes. Grinning crookedly, he steps in towards the human swinging back his blood stained club. At the apex of his back-swing, the grey shape leaps up and latches its fangs onto the ogres throat. With its weight shifted backwards into the swing, the force of the attack knocks the ogre flat onto his back. In an instant the grey shape – a mid-sized wolf begins to tear out the brute’s throat. Ronlin looks on as the struggling ogre slows his thrashing before finally lying still. The sounds of his screams of pain are replaced by the slight hissing sound of air escaping from wounds in his throat. Once the creature has laid still for a minute or so, the wolf turns and stares at Ronlin.

Ignoring his fearful instincts, Ronlin instead crouches down to put himself at the same height as the wolf while keeping his eyes locked with the beasts. He very slowly extends his hand towards the creature, palm out, and holds that position. The wolf walks towards him with its teeth slightly bared before stopping at the tip of the outstretched palm. Hunter and beast lock their gaze for what seems to be a small eternity before the wolf slowly lets its eyes drop. Ronlin quickly turns his hand so the palm is now up, allowing the wolf to lightly sniff and then gingerly link it. The wolf moves closer to the man, its eyes and snout pointed down towards the ground. The beast stops with its teeth a mere inch from Ronlin’s torso. It lightly bumps its nose into Ronlin’s chest 3 or 4 times before the human realizes what it is doing. Ever so softly, the wolf is rubbing its snout up against the small but expertly carved wooden longbow holy symbol around Ronlin’s neck. As it does, Ronlin takes the opportunity to gently scratch the beasts head as he whispers to it,

“Lobo. Fitting name for a wolf don’t you think?”

Standing slowly, Ronlin makes his way over to Bhavock and gently rouses the unconscious dwarf. He awakens with a string of profanity, and frantically reaches for a weapon to attack the wolf. Ronlin explains what happened and the dwarf eventually calms down and stands to his feet. Together Ronlin and Bhavock wrap the body of Amos in their cloaks before retrieving their weapons, shouldering their packs, and carry their deceased leader back in the direction of Fort Rannick. At Ronlin’s side, matching him step for step, strides the hunter’s newest companion; Lobo.

Of Blackness, Madness, and Mayhem - Part 8
Inside of Vern's Head

Okay, this is a twist. Rather than this being a mission of recon or of search and destroy, this character pops up… Ronlin? Do we trust him? What do we even know of his band of Black Arrows? All we know is that he was attacked by goblins and then an Ogre-kin. That Ogre-kin was something else though huh? Man can he swing! I hope he’s alone out here. Having to face him and still more of his kind would not be something I’m looking forward to.

It won’t matter, you’ve got me here. The two of us together can be very devastating. Did you miss how we practically vaporized that goblin? And you’re only getting more powerful. I can feel it, every time one of your spells courses through my blade. I AM slightly worried about a trap though, what if that’s what this turns out to be? Are we supposed to just sit tight and wait… perhaps for the GOBLIN, who by the way we don’t know if she’ll ever come back. I mean sure “Mr/Mrs Sniff-shadow-demon McShiftyface” promised to keep her safe but do you really think we’re gonna see her any time soon?

No, truly I don’t think it will be any time soon before we see Bugga again. I wish there was some way to keep tabs on her, perhaps that’s something we should dig into, perhaps looking into some form of dream magic? If this IS a trap and we’re captured as opposed to killed we’ll have plenty of time to figure that out then. However Ronlin does seem quite sincere in his earnestness to rescue his squad-mates. And I don’t think we’re going to get much more out of him until we find them, be it alive or dead. I’m not usually a fan of doing people favors, but I’m not certain I would want to see even criminals subjected to the kind of torture a frenzied Ogre-kin or his minions could exert.

Mmm… broken bones take a little while to heal don’t they? Too bad there’s not some kind of magic to heal those wou…oh…wait…

It’s not the recovery, I don’t expect you to understand… here let me show you something.

-at this pint Ge’vern calls up a memory of Malan doing a bone count on Ge’vern by breaking each one he can find-

Oh… gods… that sense… is that what it is to be broken physically?

Yes. Be grateful for your indestructablility. Hopefully that makes it clear that right now, whether this band is evil or not, keeping them from this pain is the right thing to do. If they turn out to be malicious in their intent… well then perhaps we can grant them a quick death as opposed to that torture.

Wait a minute… didn’t you threaten Ironbriar with torture in the Mayor’s office?

Yeah thank goodness I didn’t have to go through with that, I don’t know if I could have followed through. Though I am a fan of justice and seeing men like Ironbriar get a taste of their own medicine… that justice was met out legally, which I think is even better. Now the public is aware of his maladies.

It will be interesting to see if you can follow through when it counts though… won’t it?

I hope it never comes to that. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, having an extra set of eyes and hands will be welcome as we keep on. And perhaps his friends will be useful in scouting the fort. First things first though… let’s find the rest of the Black Arrows.

Ronlin's Story Pt 3

Part 2

Later That Night

The crisp night air bites at Ronlin and Jakardros as they crouch near a small fire. Sitting on the other side of the flame is a tall muscular Shoanti man. Despite the cold he wears no shirt or armor, revealing tattoos that almost completely cover his chest, back, arms, and even shaved head. An enormous warhammer rests up against his leg. Barely visible at the edge of the faint circle of light emanating from the fire, the large form of the wolf Lobo along with Kibb the firepelt cougar shift impatiently waiting for sleep to set in.

The quiet whispers of the men around the fire are interrupted by the faint snapping sound of a breaking twig. In a flash Lobo leaps to his feet, growling towards the direction of the sound. A moment later a large spear streaks through the air narrowly missing the wolf and landing beside Kibb.

“Ambush,” Ronlin hollers. Then, in one smooth motion, he notches an arrow to his longbow and sends it whistling back in the direction the spear came from. “Black Arrows – defend yourselves.”

In an instant the small clearing becomes a flurry of activity as the other Black Arrow members scramble to grab whatever weapons and armor they can. As they do, a group of ogrekin fighters comes barreling out of the trees heading directly toward the fire. Leading the charge is a disgusting looking humanoid creature with a deformed right hand. Surrounding him is a pack of vicious hounds that immediately veer off towards the wolf and cougar. The sound of snarls, barks, and the occasional howl begin to fill the air. Bowstrings twang as Ronlin and Jakardros match each other shot for shot; releasing a flurry of arrows into the rapidly advancing ogre spawned force. The tattooed Shoanti man charges forward with a rage filled bellow, his massive warhammer swinging around him at dizzying speeds. He strikes out at a nearby dog, caving in its skull with a single massive blow.

As the deformed and now deceased beast skids across the grass, a sickly green energy begins to surround it. In the glow of the mysterious magic, a much shorter frail looking man is revealed. Like the barbarian, he is covered in tattoos which highlight his freakishly bony frame. Dark purple and green paint adorn his body making his figure look like that of a skeleton. As he finishes a series of intricate hand gestures he speaks loudly in an indiscernible tongue. The hound’s eyes begin to fill with the green energy, as its very form seems to absorb the magic. The beast slowly stands back to its feet, a green glow seeping out from the hole in its skull where the hammer struck. It slowly looks back at the painted man before charging towards one of the other attacking hounds, a ghoulish howl echoing from its throat.

Back near the fire, Akkar now stands beside Ronlin and Jakardros adding his own bow fire to their steady volley. As he releases an arrow, he speaks a single word in elvish. The arrow bursts into a bright red flame leaving a glowing trail through the night sky. Finding purchase in an ogrekin’s shoulder, the grotesque creature begins to scream in pain as the flames burn away flesh.

The burning arc of light momentarily illuminates the battlefield. The soft glow reveals Bhavock who wields a greataxe larger than he is tall. Fighting beside him is Vale, the same dark skinned man that the dwarf was insulting only a few hours prior. Vale fights with a pair of hand axes and combined with Bhavock’s greataxe, they chop and carve their way through a second group of ogrekin who emerged moments ago to attack the camp from the opposite side. Despite the brutal efficiency with which the pair wields their weapons, one larger ogrekin manages to send Vale sprawling when he catches him on the side of the head with a massive hook shaped weapon.

“Fuckin’ half bred filth!” Bhavock shouts as he slams his greataxe into the back of the foul creature’s leg, severing it off at the knee.

Spinning back the other way, the dwarf positions himself directly in front of his comrade’s unconscious form. The remaining four ogrekin grin wickedly as they begin to descend on the lone warrior in front of them. As one of them leans forward to swing his crude looking club, two silver glints pierce through the center of his chest. The humanoid monstrosity stumbles sideways as an agile looking woman flips up and over his now drooping right shoulder. At her side are two wicked looking daggers that drip with fresh blood. She twists effortlessly in mid-air, before slamming the daggers into the creature’s neck. Continuing her momentum forward, she carves a double line of crimson through his neck and down into the rib cage before finally pulling the blades free and landing silently at his feet. A thick spray of blood splashes the woman’s dark clothing along with the dwarf beside her.

“About time Hellian,” Bhavock says wiping blood away from his eyes. “I was startin to worry I’d have to kill all these fucks myself. Hate to steal that sick joy you get from slittin throats.”

“Yer shuch a genleman,” Hellian slurs back.

“And of course yer drunk. Why am I not surprised.” Shaking his head, Bhavock charges back towards one of the remaining three ogrekin, axe at the ready.

Under the pale light of the moon, Ronlin surveys the skirmishes around him. Despite being caught mostly unaware, the combat prowess of their two squads seems like it will be enough to drive the attackers back. To his left he sees Smaud the barbarian slam his heavy hammer through the chest cavity of a prone ogrekin. Slightly behind Smaud stands Vut the necromancer, who continues to assail his foes with a variety of dark arcane magic. Three of the ogrekin hounds have been reanimated to serve as Vut’s personal attack dogs. Combined with the ferocity of Lobo and Kibb, the other ogrekin pets all lay dead. Their initial task complete, the wolf and cougar have since turned their attention to helping fight the large ogre spawned brutes.

As he glances to his right, Ronlin sees Bhavock and Hellian fighting fiercely to protect a downed figure clutching a pair of handaxes – Vale. A flash of light from behind Ronlin causes him to spin around as the entire clearing is momentarily illuminated. There stands Braden, the man the other Black Arrows call “the Viper”. Heavy shield firmly held out in front, his mace now glows with a radiant light as he begins trading blows with a deformed ogrekin wielding a vicious looking cleaver. The glow sheds its soft light onto another human man who stands back to back with Braden. Kaven, the youngest of their company, fights gingerly with a rapier and small dagger. Ronlin watches as the young man expertly thrusts forward, skewering a wounded attacker who was attempting to strike at the Viper from his exposed flank. With a flick of his wrist, Kaven slices open the creature’s bowels, spilling their contents onto the grass at his feet.

With the immediate danger subsided, Ronlin’s stiff muscles remind him just how sore and tired he really is. As he turns to address Jakardros and Akkar, the air crackles with the hum of arcane energy. Everything goes white as a pulsing pain shoots through his body driving him to his knees. Pushing through the pain, Ronlin raises his gaze to the far end of the clearing. Charging through the trees is an attack group much larger than any of the other three that originally struck the camp. At their center walks a disgusting looking creature that seems much more ogre than human. Its horrid visage twists savagely as the air once again fills with arcane energy. Ronlin watches in horror as a red-ish colored ray lances out from the fiend’s fingertips catching Smaud full in the back. The moment the ray strikes him, the Shoanti barbarian slumps to the ground. Seeing the arcane magic narrowly miss him, Vut turns to confront the ray’s source. As he does, two spears sail out from the newly arrived attackers. Flying true, they punch through the necromancer’s torso sticking firmly into the earth behind him. While his limp form slowly slides down the wooden shafts, the green energy filling his thralls snuffs out and they fall to the ground lifeless once more.

“Fools” a harsh voice cries out. “We are to take these pathetic fighters back to mother…alive. You know the plan. Do what you want with them but we do not kills them!”

Emboldened by the shouts of their leader and the appearance of their remaining brethren, the other ogrekin begin fighting with a renewed frenzy. Ronlin watches in horror as a sizeable boulder, tossed by a particularly large ogrekin, knocks both Kaven and Braden to the ground. Their bodies lie motionless – but the severity of their injuries is impossible to determine from this distance. Not far away Bhavock, Hellian, and the still prone form of Vale find themselves surrounded. Twin blades and a hefty greataxe strike out again and again, but each blow landed from the butt end of the creatures’ spears drives the pair to their knees a little bit harder. Finally a wild swing from a club strikes the back of Bhavocks head and he slumps to the ground. Mere moments later, Hellian is grappled and restrained by the ogrekin behind her.

As Ronlin struggles to get back on his feet, he feels warm wet breath on his arm. A large grey shape pushes up against his torso bracing him into a feeble standing position.

“Lobo,” Ronlin says teeth clenched tightly in pain. “Hide. Follow wherever they take us. Stay hidden till I call you. Go”

Shifting his weight to stand a little taller, Ronlin watches Lobo disappear into the trees at the edge of the clearing. Looking down he sees Akkar lying motionless, the gentle rise and fall of his chest the only sign he is still living. Beside him, Jakardros slowly staggers to his feet, bow in hand. Shifting his gaze forward Ronlin sees four ogrekin soldiers charging towards them, swords and spears at the ready. Ronlin gives a slight nod towards Jakardros as they both aim and release an arrow in perfect harmony. Despite the throbbing pain wracking their bodies, both arrows fly true landing a hairs width apart in the throat of one of the half human abominations.

As Ronlin’s shaky hands begin to notch another arrow, it slips from his grasp falling to the ground. Bending down to retrieve it, Ronlin stands back up just in time to see the flat side of an ogrekin blade descending towards his skull. A sharp pain overwhelms his senses as everything goes black.

Ronlin's Story Pt 2

Part 1

3- 4 Weeks Before He Was Found

A dark haired man in his late 30’s or early 40’s reclines stiffly against a large oak tree. Due to the numerous scars and overall weathered skin that covers his body, his exact age is difficult to determine. He slowly chews a thick piece of cured meat while intermittently taking long swallows from a faded leather water skin. The man’s left hand absent mindedly scratches a large grey wolf that lies curled up beside him. This ordinarily intimidating beast seems perfectly calm and at ease as the man gently scratches his large head. There are several other humanoid figures nearby in various stages of eating, relaxing, or setting up a simple camp. Finally one of them, a dark skinned muscular human man breaks the silence:

“It just doesn’t add up. If this was an ogre attack they wouldn’t arrange the carnage into something so organized. I can’t help but think that – “

A harsh voice rudely interrupts the man. “Vale. Shut yer bloody mouth. We don’t care fer another of your stupid theories.” The voice’s owner, a burly yet oddly beardless dwarf, spits angrily into the dirt before continuing to gnaw on a stale piece of rye bread.

“Ah Bhavock,” a soft almost musical voice calls out. “Forever the expert on being something no one else cares for”.

“What did you just fuckin’ say to me Akkar? Ya know, I hear there are still a few places where a pair of elf ears fetch a pretty penny.”

“How quaint,” the tall elven man responds. “Would that be the same place where you shaved off and sold your raggedy old beard?” The elf shifts slightly as he continues to restring an ornately carved elven short bow.

“How dare ye even mention my beard ya dainty long legged pointy eared piece of –“

“Enough." With a low stern voice the dark haired man stands up quickly, his wolf rising up to stand beside him. “We are all restless,” the man continues. “So stow the shit until Braden returns and we figure out what to do next.”

“Apologies Ronlin” Akkar says quickly. “And … to you as well Bhavock. My comment was insensitive.”

“Shove it up yer flamin’ arsehole elf,” the dwarf retorts, turning his back on the conversation.

Silence once more descends upon the camp. Several minutes later the wolf lightly shifts his massive head, staring into the woods to the right of the small clearing the party is gathered in. With a slight non-threatening growl, he takes one step towards the edge of the clearing.

“Who is it Lobo?" Ronlin says gently while reaching for his longbow. “Braden?” he calls out slightly louder.

As he speaks, a stocky man with a shaved head emerges quietly from the trees, his large shield and mace strung tightly over his sturdy back.

“Ay it’s me Ronlin. And you’ll never guess who else stumbled across this mess.”

With that, a middle aged man with jet black hair steps out from behind the trees and into the clearing. A dark leather eyepatch covers the socket where his right eye once resided. Around the man’s neck hangs a dark purple and black holy symbol in the shape of a butterfly. Matching the man’s stride step for step is a fierce looking firepelt cougar. Seconds later four other human men and one woman step into view through the trees. They are carrying various weapons and armor and each bears the same Black Arrow mark as the rest of the gathered company.

“Jakardros? What are you doing here?” Ronlin asks slowly, clearly surprised by the mans appearance.

“Don’t look so happy to see us” the man replies in a jovial voice. “Our normal patrol route was even quieter than usual so we decided to pick up the pace and head a bit further east. See if we could arrive back at Fort Ranick before you. We didn’t expect to actually catch up to you though … how long have you been stopped here?”

“It’s been several days since we first found the bodies and the wreckage. Since then we have been trying to piece together how it happened. So far we haven’t learned much and the various trails the ogrekin leave seem to just lead us in circles. Something odd is definitely going on here – I just can’t figure out what.” Ronlin’s voice slowly trails off as he begins thinking.

“But come,” he adds quickly. “You must be tired. We were just setting up camp – join us”.

With a grin, Jakardros and the other members of his patrol make their way further into the clearing. Within moments the glade is filled with light conversation and the practiced sounds of camp being set up.

Part 2

Aneira's Story 16

Goblins are evil creatures. They raid helpless villages, kill their livestock, burn their crops, and kidnap their unwatched children for the fun of it. They’re monsters, deserving of no mercy, deserving to be culled from this world.

That’s what I would’ve said if asked my opinion on them just a few short months ago, what I would’ve said before Bugga…

Warleader Pinchy; the name Bugga had given Aneira soon after their meeting burns in her memory, unable to shake it.

What kind of “Warleader” have I been? How could I have not seen the signs, not put them together and realize what was happening, what Mr Sniffles, or rather, Teansa, was planning? Now Bugga is gone. Taken voluntarily or otherwise into the Plane of Shadow, on the word of a contract between her and this shadow creature…

Choking tears away, she looks down at her hands, small and delicate, but deadly with fingers ending in short but undeniably sharp claws. She clenches her fists, piercing her palms, letting free small trickles of blood. Aneira watches the blood, a deep crimson contrasted strongly by the paleness of her skin, drip off of her hands.

A flash of golden light breaks her free of her trance.

A sense of warmth and calm fills Aneira as she looks down at the source of the light. A hilt inlayed with rubies and cast in gold, resembling her holy symbol of Sarenrae, and a long curved blade, giving off the faintest hint of reddish-gold light. Etched into the blade is a prayer to redeem the repentant and consume the unremorseful.

Aniera steels herself, looking back at her hand, a wave of holy magic washing over her. The wound closes and the blood stops.

Sarenrae, you have been good to me. You have always lit the way for me, and I haven’t always followed. Despite that, you have always been good to me. There were times where I couldn’t feel you near, but you have always been good to me. Now, in my time of doubt, you are here, watching over me.

I have faith that you will watch over Bugga. Your divine light will break the shrowd of darkness in the Shadow Plane and you will protect and guide Bugga in her travels there.

Sarenrae, you are my Dawnflower, my Everlight. Here and now, I renew my vows to you. With these relics, and your healing fire, I will seek out those who need your guiding light, and to the irredeemable, I will send them to you for judgement.


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