The ogre-oxen-centaurs came at them in a ground shaking charge, howling in blind blood rage. Trees surrendered to the lumbering monstrosities as they attacked from each side of the marooned Waterdeep adventurers.
Blain and the others had stopped for a short respite bedside a natural spring from a formation of natural rock; however before their survivalist Sanford was able to warn his companions of their danger, the half-ogre/half-oxens attacked hurling primitive javelins as big as tree branches as they trampled everything in their path.
To the dwarf Blain they were as big as giants; smelled like giants; and too were possessed of their strength judging from the intimidating javelins they threw. Before Blain could react one of the javelins impaled his leg knocking him down in sprawl of confused pain and anger.
To his left Tyrus Skullborn looked stunned and horrified at Blain’s leg wound when a similar weapon flew bynarrowly missing the wizard as he stood- oblivious as to how close he came to dying right then.
Sanford, the only one here with enough time to react, was also the target of two opening volleys of angry javelins. Picking out the largest of their quarry two of the ‘ogren’ chose Sanford; one javelin was easily dodged however the other penetrated Sanford high on his left arm causing him to let out a cursing grimace of pain.
Blain, now reduced to hobbling on one leg, rolled to the left and pulled leather. His deadly shots could not have been farther from their mark, but the sound of his sterling revolvers seemed to unsettle and anger the ogren. How many rounds did he have left? He hoped it would be enough.
Elad saw the battle around him with a kind of extrasensory eye. There is a unique stage-play at work during combat where everyone had their places and everyone had their lines; as in dueling, dancing or politics… that was how Elad Edals perceived the battlefield and how he waited for an opportunity to cut in.
Instinctively Claudia Kelton reached for her trustworthy bow, it seemed to gather the shadows around her, and raised it level to the beast bearing down on Tyrus. She lamented her diminishing arrow supply but let fly nevertheless. Unfortunately for the Red Wizard her slight hesitation affected her aim and she missed cleanly, another arrow lost to the great forest beyond.
Tyrus snapped out of his momentary shock at Blain’s wound and pulled out a crimson parchment scroll and swung it at the approaching brute. Covered in sigils and glyphs of war Tyrus brought the scroll to bear as it took on the likeness of a two dimensional sword; as impressive as it looked the ogren dodged it easily. The beast seemed to become suddenly distracted so Tyrus tried to take advantage of the opportunity but pulled the crimson scroll to himself where it changed into a semblance of a shield shape of parchment.
Standing protectively near Meaghan, Shar cleared his drow mind and focused his magical energies where it would be the most effective… he decided on two of the ogren monstrosities flanking the warrior Sanford. Suddenly a vivid cone of flashing dissident purple colors lanced out from Shar’s outstretched palm. One beast bore the full dazzling effect falling blind and sunned to the ground while the other ogren escaped behind the bulk of its unfortunate mate.
Sanford, thankful for the support where ever it came from nodded toward Shar then switched his full deadly attention on his remaining ogren. He roared striking true with his oddly curved kukri swords, weapons that were now both sheathed in grey fire and then sidestepped to put the creature between himself and…
It was time to cut in. Elad produced two exotic curved swords, weapons won from a Calashite pasha, and stepped deftly out from cover and swiftly flanked the beast in a grand ‘you’re welcome very much’ fashion- only it clearly was just for show because his weapons just fell short and actually situated himself where the beast could easily attack either Elad and Sanford or both.
Yes Sanford thought to himself, he was the only fighter in this adventuring company.
The ogren completely ignored Elad and roared in after Sanford striking the warrior with a loud crack of its tree-like club. Sanford reeled off balance as his breath was suddenly stolen from his lungs but Sanford was tough and managed to regain himself quickly.
On the other side of the camp Meaghan, standing stern and protectively near Shar, bespoke divine words of guidance to her allies. Her motivating words flooded into her allies in this sudden life or death struggle. She looked and saw Shar was also using magic and thought of how that effort must be draining him.
The first two ogren were indeed distracted they had caught a scent and both turned to its source; one ogren –the closest- turned toward Meaghan while the other ogren reached for Claudia who was unaware of her new attacker.
Meaghan saw that the smaller of the two brutes bore red warpaint above its brow as it reached out and grabbed her. Its grip was unforgiving and when it finally had her struggling under control it made an odd wet whistling noise from its capacious nose. Meaghan began to scream.
The larger of the two ogren had no warpaint but bore several battle scars over its broad harry chest; it easily grabbed Claudia in its vice like grip then it too snorted deeply. Claudia tried first to break free, but the iron grip of the beast was beyond anything she had ever felt; she too began to scream for help.
Blain now reloaded stood, squared up, and began to fire silver death at the ogren that held Claudia. Taking care not to hit the girl, Blain’s shots missed but the thundering gunfire startled the creature giving Claudia enough of an opportunity to escape.
Tyrus, undiscouraged by his earlier production in combat spun and threw his crimson scroll at his former
Shar took a protective step away from the large beast that held Meaghan and whispered mild, sobering words in order to induce magical sleep in the ogren. As he completed the spell the ogre-beast lazily dropped Meaghan and collapsed to the ground like a sack of manure. His breath labored heavily through its vile mouth.
Sanford meanwhile held to his old reliables and waded into his opponent, his twin blades flashing. Leading a spin his left kukri Sanford cut savagely across the beast’s left flank; then following that up with a second attack nearly slicing away the creature’s left arm with his right blade. The beast staggered drunkenly a step then fell with a crash. Sanford roared to Tempus in victory.
Seeing how battle was now turning in their favor Elad moved to Shar’s blind and stunned beast and ended its suffering. To Elad’s right he could hear Meaghan uttering magical words healing upon Sanford who had suffered a javelin strike to his lower shoulder.
Blain watched as the beast that once held Claudia now turned his blood rage on him. Blain who had the terrible thunder-makers! He held up guns in futile defense but his weapons felt heavy and stupid in his hands but before Blain could ponder this curiosity further the monstrosity swung its bestial club down slamming full-on into the chest of helpless dwarf.
Blain Brightmantle suddenly awoke; he had fallen from a low rock in his sleep but now sat up rubbing his chest, eyes casting about. His hand went to his guns as it often did these days after their battle with the ogre-oxen; the ogren. Blain took in his surroundings as the fog of sleep cleared. Was that smokewood he smelled?
Their dwindling gear, ammunition, and equipment troubled Blain greatly but it was the utter absence of modern resources like gunpowder, alchemy, and serviceable tools that has kept Blain up at odd times for the past weeks and days.
As a result, Blain often volunteered for longer night watches and maintained their traveling camp, such as it was. The routine calmed Blain’s anxiety somewhat but what he really found himself doing was taking a mental inventory of everything and sizing up everyone.
The fact is they were all marooned with only the clothes on their backs, and the equipment in their sacks. Supplies were hastily dwindling and in his estimation that made those things crucial to their survival… and melairkyn dwarves are survivors.
The breeze calmed and the summer heat swelled in the mysterious forest; tonight was going to be hot again. Blain stood and raised his face to the air; the smell of smokewood was gone as if it was never there at all. Twenty yards away Blain watched as Sanford and Claudia returned from scouting the foot trail ahead, they acted excitedly and spoke enthusiastically. Blain silently wondered if they would confirm what he already suspected from the presence of smoke.
From beside Blain a thickly accented eastern voice spoke lazily but directly. “You don’t believe we are going to find a settlement or keep out here… wherever ‘here’ is… that will supply for our specialized needs do you dwarf?” Tyrus asked. The wizard had his own ways Blain mused; Tyrus had obviously identified the signs on his own.
“No,” Blain answered. “but what is your point… Thayan?” returning his crass ethnic regard.
The Red Wizard appeared amused but his only reply at first was a glance toward Shar Auvryndar, calling the dwarf’s attention to the drow, he was greatest potential liability of the party in Blain’s estimation. Everyone knew the drow was weakened because of the surface environment; and Meaghan, who wore a piecemeal outfit of clothing they happened to have, was somehow caring for him. The drow and woman seemed to have formed a bond that was not physical but something else.
“How do you think people out here… if they are people Blain… are going to react when they see a dark elf or a Thayan for that matter?” Tyrus stated frankly.
“That only a few of us approach this settlement or whatever there is to discover what’s what. We all see the signs but let us consider and not blindly walk into…”
“Split the party? We just had this conversation Tyrus.” Blain reminded the Red Wizard.
“Yes you needn’t remind me but you and I have special needs. It won’t be long before they realize the truth. That we- you and I Blain, are in fact our greatest liability.” Tyrus motioned to Sanford, Claudia, and Elad- but mostly to Sanford.
“Strictly speaking if it was not for Shar’s weakened condition his sorcerous blood actually makes him crucial to our survivability and by contrast further weakens our value. In short Blain you and I encumber our resources and yet provide no return.”
“But that is about to change.” Blain retorted motioning to the others who were holding their own council on how to proceed. Were they coming to the same conclusion? He hoped so.
“Is it? For them yes.” Again the Red Wizard motioned to the others, “but for you and me…” Tyrus let Blain reason out the rest. He and Tyrus would still be marooned without resources such as gunpowder for him and spells for Tyrus- they needed firepower.”
“I have already spoken with Elad Edals who agrees that one individual should be sent to investigate any civilization we encounter- I believe he reasons for more profitable gains but I think he sees the overall logic in caution.”
“Who else?” Blain asked skeptically.
Tyrus shook his head regretfully, “It is unlikely we will persuade anyone to delay now that the news is apparently out,” Tyrus said now hunkering down leveling himself with the dwarf. He motioned to the rest of the party as they packed their belongings. “I want to know if our needs are going to be met, if not we need to be proactive here wouldn’t you agree Blain?” He asked in a low voice.
Blain nodded skeptically waiting for the other boot to hit the ground.
“I want to know what everyone has.” Tyrus said greedily. “we do not want to be taken unawares by some magic or device we did not account for. Do we Blain? We need firepower.”