By Brian Flood
Chapter 11 - Uninvited Guests
Along the Uldoon Trail
Within the Reaching Woods, The Sunset Vale
Midnight, 23rd Day of Eleint, Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
Alani and Alric take their watch at around midnight. As they wake, they can feel and smell a great dampness in the air. A rumbling heralds the approach of the storm. The clouds have hidden the light provided by Selune and her tears and left the campsite in a deep, foreboding darkness.
Soon after the pair’s watch begins, the first large raindrops begin to fall. The storm quickly moves in, and the rumbling of thunder turns to a load crescendo that seems to be directly overhead of the small campsite. A bright flash of light provided by a nearby lightning strike startles the two guards. The accompanying thunderclap follows an instant later.
As the storm rages on, the guards peer warily at the camp perimeter. The surrounding forest is dark as the blackest night. The occasional lightning strike provides a brief moment of light before the campsite is once again plunged into darkness.
Over the staccato rhythm of the rain, during a pause between crashes of thunder, Alani detects a strange sound. She turns and uses her infravision to look to the southwest of the campsite.
Then, at the extreme range of her infravision, she detects a heat source. To her infravision, the creature appears as a tall and thin red silhouette. Alani gasps as she realizes that it has also noticed her – and is running directly at her!
Alric is startled by a sudden outburst
from Alani. “ALRIC!”
yells Alani warningly, as she goes down on one knee, knocks an arrow and fires
off into the darkness to the southwest of camp. “ATTACK! WE
ARE UNDER ATTACK!” she screams at the rest of the party.
She pulls another arrow from her leg sheaf and fires at the creature
again in one smooth action.
A grunting howl of pain gives evidence that at least one of Alani’s arrows found its mark.
A tall, thin creature – bleeding a green oozing blood from its wounds -- charges Alani and attacks in a blur of fury. Two claws, at the end of long, gangly arms, swipe out at Alani. Alani attempts to block the blow with her bow, but the powerful attack makes it through her defenses and rips into her left side. Alani winces in pain as the creature’s second claw descends. Fortunately for the elven scout, the creature’s momentum from its first attack causes it to slip on the slick forest floor --- it stumbles, and then sways as it attempts to keep its balance.
Alric shouts “LIGHT!” and sprints across the clearing, drawing his longsword as he moves. The weapon emanates a pale, blue light in the paladin’s hand. Arriving at Alani’s side, Alric moves to defend the wounded scout. Alric’s weapon lashes out at the creature in retaliation. His sword slices into the creature’s legs, leaving a green, bloody gash in its wake.
A second creature then appears and lashes out at Alani. The attack catches the elf unprepared and Alani’s head snaps back from the blow of the creature’s claws. Alani’s eyes close as she loses unconsciousness and collapses into a heap on the wet ground.
* * * * *
Alani’s shouts awaken the party. “ATTACK!” she cries. “WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” As the companions throw back their blankets, the first thing they notice is that the storm has begun. Rain falls in a torrent and thunder rumbles ominously overhead. Alric’s cry of “LIGHT!” punctuates the darkness.
As the party members come awake, a flash of lightning illuminates a startling scene within the clearing. Two frightening creatures have reached the southern edge of the camp. The intruders appear thin and frail with arms and legs that are long and ungainly. Their arms end in wide powerful hands with sharpened claws. Their rubbery hide is mottled green and a writhing mass of greenish black hair grows from their scalps. One of the creatures oozes a greenish ichor from several wounds.
moment of light provides a glimpse of the camp’s guards as well.
Alric, holding a longsword that gives off a soft, blue light, stands
facing the two creatures. A motionless form on the forest floor nearby displays
Alani’s trademark black hair. An
instant later, the illumination from the lightning is gone, once again plunging
the campsite into darkness – only a dimly lit circle surrounding Alric’s
sword remains. “Kruk! Traligarn!” curses Dolak as he takes in the two
intruders. As he rolls out of his
shelter, he shouts some hurried instructions to Lucas and Kjira – the others
are unable to hear the exact words over the din of the storm.
the party struggles to arise, the creatures lash out at Alric.
The wounded monster lashes out with its vicious claws.
Alric is struck in his shield arm by the first blow, but manages to
intercept the second blow with his shield.
The claws make a screeching hiss as they scrape across the paladin’s
shield. The monster lunges forward
with its jaws, attempting to bite; its teeth grind on Alric’s armored shoulder
but fail to penetrate his armor.
second creature strikes out immediately in the wake of the first. Alric fails to block its attack and its right claw lands a
powerful blow to the paladin’s side. Bones
crunch and Alric gasps in pain before collapsing to the ground.
The brave paladin’s sword extinguishes itself as it falls from his limp
bursts from Darius’ shelter and runs around the campfire to stand over
Alani’s body. The wolf crouches
and growls menacingly at the two creatures.
In his wake, the other party members begin to emerge from their shelters
and into the raging storm.
extricates himself from his shelter and stands just outside of it, studying the
scene in the campsite. Seeing the
creatures, his hands begin to move in intricate gestures as he mutters mystical
shouts “Stardust!” and his drawn saber begins to emit a soft, sea green
light. The mariner races the short
distance to the fallen paladin’s side and assumes an ‘en guard’ position
facing the wounded creature with his saber held at the ready.
rolls out of her shelter and toward the forest.
She comes to her feet with her deadly looking bow in her hands.
also moves into the forest to the east of campsite.
His form is soon lost to sight as he begins to search for a flanking
back flap of the wagon flies open and Ori – with Tomar on his heels – drops
from the back of the wagon and onto the wet earth.
The gnome’s short legs churn under him as he races around the wagon,
heading for the draft horses that are picketed to its front. Tomar focuses his attention at the emerging melee at the
south end of the camp, his hands fumble under his robes at his belt.
A dent briefly appears in the top of Kjira’s tent before the lady mage darts out of the canvas structure and into the night, clutching her quarterstaff. Overwhelmed by the darkness, she instinctively barks out, “Light!” and her quarterstaff begins to glow faintly.
Suddenly, a bellowed war cry of “CHAKA SHOK! CHAKA COR!” rises above the storm’s fury. Dolak’s face twists in unbridled rage as he races toward the wounded intruder, his double-bitted axe grasped in his hands. The dwarf skids to a stop over Alric’s fallen body.
Darius rolls out from under his shelter and makes it to his feet. His spear hangs loosely in his hand as he surveys the situation.
The unmistakable howl of an angry hunting cat bursts from Zell’s shelter. An instant later, a blur of movement erupts from the back of the shelter and races into the woods to the west of camp.
Lucas completes his spell and a vivid, fan-shaped spray of clashing colors to springs forth from his hand. The spray streaks over the heads of Kjira, Dolak and Soft Fang to strike both creatures in the face. The unwounded creature appears unaffected, but the wounded monster jerks as a stunned look comes over its horrid face.
Slyvia’s draws an arrow from her quiver and begins to chant in magical dialect as she nocks the missile to her bow.
Soft-Fang attacks the unwounded creature in the wake of the spell’s effects. The creature howls in rage as the wolf’s jaws tear a jagged line along its abdomen. As with the first creature, the wound bleeds with a sickly green ichor.
Kryian takes advantage of the first creature’s stunned condition to lunge forward with his saber. The glowing weapon impales the creature through its abdomen. The creature fails to react to the attack or the resulting wound.
Zell emerges from her shelter and moves to the fire cairn. She crouches next to the piled stones and begins to blow on the glowing embers.
Kjira moves to Alani’s fallen form, keeping Soft Fang between herself and the unwounded creature. As she reaches Alani, she notices a pool of blood spreading in a diluted puddle around the scout’s crumpled form. She grabs the fallen elf’s cloak with her free hand and strains against the body’s weight, attempting to drag the body backward. She groans in pain and frustration at her inability to move Alani’s body.
As Kjira struggles with Alani’s body, Dolak follows Kryian’s attack on the wounded creature with one of his own. The dwarf’s axe sweeps in to strike the creature in its side. The creature groans as the axe bites deep into its lower body and then bloody combatant collapses to the forest floor.
The surviving creature howls in rage as the dwarf cuts down its companion. It strikes out at the stout warrior with its deadly claws and fangs. The first swipe of a claw sweeps over Dolak’s ducking head. The second claw and the creature’s jaws both strike the dwarf but fail to penetrate his expertly crafted dwarven armor.
Cyzicus, clutching two short swords in his hands, suddenly appears at the rear of the remaining monster. His weapons lash out at the creature’s unprotected backside. The halfling’s first attack slides off the creature’s tough hide and his second misses completely as he loses his footing. The diminutive warrior’s feet fly out from under him as he slips on the slick forest floor, landing on his back hard enough to jar his breathing.
Darius notices Kjira struggling with Alani and he races around the west and south sides of the fire. He skids to a stop at the mage’s side and uses his free hand to grab a handhold on Alani’s wrist. The two companions strain together to move the fallen scout.
Slyvia completes her incantation and releases her arrow from point blank range. The missile strikes the remaining monster in the right arm. An instant after it pierces flesh, a bright flash consumes the arrow. The creature howls as the smell of ozone and burnt flesh rises above the forest smells.
Noting the effectiveness of his first spell, Lucas sends a second fan of colors at the surviving creature. The spray hits the creature in hits head, again. This time, it stumbles slightly and looks around as if lost.
Slyvia draws another arrow from her quiver and once again begins the incantation required to enchant it.
Biting with his jaws, Soft-Fang leaps at the stunned enemy. The wolf’s teeth tear a jagged gouge into the creature’s left leg before he drops back into a guarded crouch.
Leaving the second monster for Dolak and Soft-Fang, Kryian crouches down and grabs Alric’s wrist. The sailor strains with the effort to move the large armored man. After a few seconds, he groans in frustration.
Behind the monster, Cyzicus struggles to his knees. The halfling pauses as he tries to regain control of his breathing and his weapons.
Zell continues to try to get the fire restarted. Unfortunately, the pouring rain douses the flames whenever she tries to remove the protective cover from over the embers.
Together, Darius and Kjira manage to drag Alani back a few paces from the second creature. After they have done so, Darius steps forward to kneel at the fallen elf’s side as he examines her wounds.
Meanwhile, Dolak strikes at the remaining – and stunned – foe. “Kruk!” the dwarf curses as the deadly axe slips in his grasp and misses the creature.
Cyzicus finally manages to make it to his feet. He adjusts his grip on his weapons and readies himself to attack the surviving intruder.
As Kjira stands watch by his side, Darius finishes his quick examination of Alani. “She’s alive,” the druid pronounces, “but just barely.”
Just before Slyvia releases her enchanted arrow, a flash of lightning startles her. The ensorcelled missle flies wide of its mark and disappears into the dark forest. A brief flash signals its impact on some distant object.
Dolak recovers from his miscue and growls in effort as he reverses the motion of his axe. The back swing catches the creature in the abdomen, cleaving through flesh to stop at its spinal cord. A miniature geyser of green ichor erupts from the creature’s mouth as it falls to the ground.
After the creature collapses, Dolak notices a sleek black hunting cat standing menacingly behind the corpse. The cat is looking at the body of the first creature. Suddenly, it takes a short hop back as if startled.
Glancing down at the body of the first creature, Dolak frowns. Then, the creature’s eyes blink open.
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