I was still on the deck of the ship staring at the monster. I could not imagine that the pain that must have been involved with being turned in to such a beast. Two name givers melded together, losing an arm and a leg. I wanted nothing to do with it. The horror had told me that I would be forced into the same fate. My heart was heavy with dought. I went to my room and wrote instructions in case of my death in my journal. I then hid it in Dremnin’s blanket to be found if I did not make it back.
I then went back to the main deck to see what I could do. An entourage of trolls showed up at the gang plank. They were led by Rorik and Honus Steelskull. They came aboard and demanded to know what happened. As Stilicho had not shown up yet he looked to me to answer his questions. I told him about the attack and that we had been forced to kill his sons that had been twisted into a horror construct. I was surprised at how well he had taken that news and how quickly he had moved past it. I was still grieving the loss of my children that he had never met.
I told him that one of our crew had been killed by Zartan Firesky. That we had beaten the spell caster unconscious. He was tied up and lying at the back of the main deck. Rorik ordered two trolls to take him to the main hall and hold him there. Four trolls were ordered to collect combined bodies of Vargas and Elgorn. The Unchained claimed the axe of the monster and were also told that the possessions of Firesky were to be ours and that they would be delivered to the ship.
When Rorik was ready to leave he told us that he would be leading a group of trolls up the mountain to the cave we had found. He want us to go with them. The Unchained were gathered around him while he was talking. There was no discussion about if we were going, the members just started rattling off what they were going to need before we left. One was healing, Rorik said that he would send a healer. The other was time to mentally prepare by doing karma rituals. Rorik was pleased and told us to meet him at the hall when we were ready. He wanted to leave before dawn. I moved off of the boat. I tried to concentrate on the dance but the rhythm was not there. Noise, laughter, and the mocking words of the horror telling me that I would betray my friends were all that I could hear. I did not finish the ritual. I stopped and prayed to Flourannus for strength of mind and victory over the horror. I continued that if I was not allowed this victory that I would at least be granted an honorable death.
I went back to the ship and collected my gear. I found Vridich, Stilicho, and Urgral talking, I could not tell about what, but I knew when they looked at me. They were worried I would turn against them it was written on their faces. I could not blame them. I was worried about the same thing. The four of us just looked at each other.
Dremnin and Suulin came up on to deck and broke the awkward silence. Dremnin was chipper about hunting down this horror. The rest of The Unchained just wanted to get it done. I was scared to death.
We went to the hall to meet up with the trolls. The sun had yet to crest the horizon. There were about twenty five trolls waiting for us. We were given horns of ale. Rorik climbed up on to a tree stump and started to speak. He was trying to rouse the spirits of the ones following him up to the top of the mountain. The trolls were fired up. They now had an enemy and knew where to find it. Every word he spoke sounded like death nail being driven in to my coffin. I raised my horn and drank. The ale tasted sour even my last drink would be tainted.
The Unchained lead the way up the mountain. We were scouting the route for the twelve trolls that were going to assault the cave. We got to the last plateau below the cave entrance. Urgral and I lead the way across.
The voice in my head had been quiet all the way up the mountain, laughter broke the silence. I wanted to shout a warning but it was too late. A giant worm burst out of the snow right behind Urgral and attacked him. The worm got a mouth full of steel armor and nothing eles. The Unchained wasted no time. The worm never got the chance to make a second attack. I took a breath, I was sure that the fight was going to be worse than that. That is when the howling came.
Mountain wargs, huge wolves, were singing there battle song. Five of them leapt from the top of the cliff 30 feet above. They glided to the ground and charged to attack. I shouted to Urgral and Stilicho, “you two get those three and I will take these two. We need to stop them from getting to Suulin and Vridich. Dremnin beat me to my move and ran past me and smashed his axe in to the lead wolf driving it to the ground. One of Suulin’s bolas flew past me and wound around the front legs of the other warg. I slid up next to Dremnin and smashed my tail mace in to the face of his downed warg. It yelped in pain but I was sure that he was not out of the fight. I slammed my hammer in to the side of the second warg. It bounced off of the bolder next to it and lost his footing. It had sprawled out in to the snow. I saw that Stilicho and Urgral had stopped the advance of the other three wargs.
I thought to the voice in my head, “Ha, we have this attack wrapped up to.” The only response was, “Behind you.”
I could hear the beating of wings and primal screams. I looked over my right shoulder and saw over twenty flying apes. They were heading right for us. I looked to Dremnin, “Finish the wargs, I will try to slow down the other attack. I took off running preforming my gliding stride I rose up in to the air to meet the flock in the air. As the first one came in to range I swung the hammer low to high. I caught the first ape under the chin. It snapped his head back and he flipped over backwards. He ran in to the next ape behind him and then fell to the ground. The flying ape on his right was the next to venture close enough. I waited an extra second, I wanted him just a little closer. My tail mace whipped out and wrapped around to strike the flying ape right in the base of his wing. I could hear the bone brake. The ape had a shocked look on his face as he dropped out of the sky. I did little to slow the flock. I heard that Suulin had engaged the flock with her arcane mutterings and the right side of the flock stopped causing a midair collision.
This was still not enough. Numbers of the apes flew past me. I knew that my friends would be in trouble. I took on 6 apes for a few seconds. Claws and teeth were on all sides of me. I spun and danced keeping the hammer moving. None were willing to over commit to their attack opening themselves to a shot from my hammer. I heard Vridich shout several words in elvish that had to be obscenities. Then I heard Suulin scream. This scream hurt right down to my soul. I could feel through the group bond that she was severely hurt. I dropped down out of the sky falling out of the circle of flying apes. I reengaged gliding stride and started to run to Suulin but I could see that she was not moving and the apes were leaving her alone. Thought it was best not to attract attention to her so I ran to Vridich who was lying on the ground. I stood about a foot over him and smashed the skull of an ape that was moving in to claw at the elf. I could feel the skull break and the ape fell lifelessly to the ground.
I could see that we were all separated and had no group defense. Things looked grim. There was no way to get back together. I heard Vridich shout a command word in the magic tongue. The power of the spell could be felt in his word. The world went dark but I could still see. The apes could not, they started to stumble around swinging wildly. We took advantage and started dropping apes left and right.
I could hear the trolls coming up the mountain. Their battle cry put fear in the apes. The numbers were much closer now. The apes started to try to flee. Several escapes, but most lay dead on the field when it was all over.
Vridich was tending to Suulin. He cast a spell and several of her wounds closed, her bleeding stopped and her eyes opened. We pulled her to her feet. She was okay physically but you could tell the blow had shaken her mentally.
The trolls called the apes Ice Flyers. We were told that the wing feathers were very valuable so we collected as many as we could get and put them in a sack. The trolls told us that they had been attacked by a pack of tainted wargs and came to our aid as soon as they could.
We told the trolls what had happened last time that we had gone in to the cave and that we needed to kill the crystal above all else first. Urgral moved to the front of the group with Rorik to lead the charge in to the cave. I was in the back of the group with Dremnin.
Dremnin put his axe in the ring on his belt and drew out his new bow. He strung it and set an arrow to the string. I stepped close to him and said in a low tone. “Swear to me that if you see me start to move against our friends you with shoot me. Pin my arm to my body or whatever you have to do to keep me from using this hammer against anything but evil.” He looked shocked. “I will not stand next to you during this battle. So if I come for you, you put me down. Don’t you hesitate to think about it, you shoot me!” “I’d rather take a good death at the end of your bow than hurt any of you.” “So you have to swear it.”
Dremnin looked very somber, “I swear that I will not let you hurt any of us.”
With that contingency plan in place I steeled my mind, hefted my hammer and charged in to the cave after the trolls.
Ardor Zomay Skram
6th Circle Taildancer