Week Five – I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes

A few hours pass and you come to a place where the tunnel widens. On the east, several branching tunnels lead off from the main chamber. The tunnel you’ve been following, White Ennox Tunnel according to the map, leads off to the left, almost due North.

You’re getting close to where the map shows another split when you hear the sound of distant shouts and the ring of metal on metal that is the familiar signature of combat. As you hurry and arrive at the split, you find a battle engaged between a dwindling troop of Dwarves and a small horde of burly humanoids with a hide of overlapping plates and thick, claw-like hands encased in metal gauntlets.

The Dwarves are putting up a spirited fight, but they are poorly armed with picks, shovels and walking sticks. Dwarves are nearly born with mining tools in their hand, and they are quite proficient in their use, including how to fight with them, but there is a reason that warriors don’t fight with shovels and put long handles on a pick before calling it a weapon. The Dwarves aren’t faring well and several already lie upon the ground, unconscious or dead. More

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Week Four – Dark Dwarves, a Xill and a Sphinx

A bit more travel and it’s becoming apparent that it must be getting late above ground because you’re all getting tired and hungry.

Other than the skittering of small animals in the darkness beyond your light, your rest passes by undisturbed.

You march on for another three hours. The cross-tunnels and mine shafts are numerous. Then, without warning, you’re taking fire from in front and behind. There appear to be a half dozen or so dark dwarves, forty feet in either direction, dropping crossbows and pulling out war hammers.

Zef wastes no time dropping his biggest fireball from his necklace on one of the two groups, devastating all of the rank-and-file dark dwarves. A few more fatalities and the Duergar are focused on trying to retrieve their dead, and doing poorly at that as well. Finally, a rare few manage to escape, though they are unable to drag off any of their kinsmen.

The Duergar seemed well-equipped and organized. It is likely that there are others down here in the mines, and that they will soon know of your presence from those that escaped. You resume your journey with a renewed sense of urgency, making good time for the rest of the “day”, inasmuch as you can distinguish day from night. More

A Night by the Fire

The boy stood alone on a clear winter morning, close behind a tree at the base of a ridge. The cold was brutal, but he paid it little mind. In the distance, a boy and a girl his own age were having a hard go of it. Yesterday’s snow had crusted during the night and each step held for just an instance before the boot punched through the crust and then a good foot or two into the snow underneath. It made travel difficult and was a good way to get snow in your boot.

Master,” the boy said inside his head, though there was no outward physical sign, “People will notice. They will become suspicious. I will be found out.

As always, the master’s voice came as the rushing of a wind from afar before coalescing into syllables. “There are many ways to avoid detection, human, and I will teach them to you.”

But Master,” he began to protest, but was cut off.

You made the pact, boy,” the voice sneered inside his head, “and you will either keep it voluntarily or you will be compelled. Either way is the same in my regard, but have you forgotten the pain of compulsion?More

Week Three – Angels and Ogres

You throw up a web of rope above your heads using the rafters of the building behind and iron spikes into the towers and crenellations. It isn’t exactly sturdy, but its purpose is to frustrate any snaptails that try to snatch someone off the battlements.

Another wave of nukks and currs surmount the wall and are repulsed, but not without consequence. Seles’ healing is needed to set things right, but it is still before noon and Thane’s power will not last at this pace. A snaptail swoops in at the height of the fighting. Zef’s magic causes it to fall asleep and it crashes into the battlements, barely surviving the impact, and is quickly slaughtered. The ropes are repaired, but the corpse of the snaptail is warning enough for others to stay clear. Other areas of the wall are not so lucky, but the idea of the ropes spreads rapidly throughout keep. A number of snaptails are brought down when they cling to the ropes thinking they have a man and become entangled or are whipped into the walls.

Again the horde throws itself at the castle and is repulsed and again the toll in resources is high. Other parts of the wall see less combat because of their greater height, but they lack healers. One by one, their ranks are thinned. Unlike the previous days, the dead and dying are stacking up, and the defense becomes desperate. More

A Boy in the Wood

The boy pulled the glove from his right hand clumsily. It wasn’t that he was ungraceful, but the cold seeped through his coat and his gloves and he could barely feel his hands. Being chilled to the bone wasn’t new. He suffered it nearly every day. But it didn’t get easier.

Sharp pain stabbed into his bare fingers. Carefully, he pulled an oiled string from his coat pocket and slid the loop over the end of the bow. This part was easy, but the other side would be hard. Using all of this strength and weight, pitiful as it was, he managed to bend the wood of the bow just enough for the string to reach. Twice, then three times he tried and failed to slip the loop over. Finally, it went. He quickly put the glove back on and jammed his hand under his armpit to warm.

The boy never complained. There wasn’t anyone around to complain to most of the time. Most of the others paired up for hunting, but they didn’t much like the boy and he was okay with that. He’d tried to fit in once and that didn’t work out. He’d come away with the kind of scars that don’t heal. More

Week Two – On the Walls of the Gatehouse

Twice more on the first day of the siege, the boys from Dunmar repel attempts by the nukks to gain the walls. Their marksmanship with the bolt guns is excellent, with the scrawny but dexterous Paladin of Narl, Beck, repeatedly sending nukks pitching backward onto their ladders as they came through the crenellations.

The most excellent event of the day occurs when Zeph causes no fewer than four nukks to sleep as they crest the wall. All four slump into unconsciousness and fall to their deaths, fifty feet below!

The French castle Avignon upon which the town of Galton Ferry is modeled.

Finally, the shadows grow long and the nukks begin to lose their enthusiasm. The first sure sign of their retreat is the sound of ladders dragging down the walls as they are pulled back to be used again later.

The defenders of Galton Ferry have inflicted terrible damage upon the attackers, only losing four dead and a score wounded. The bodies of nukks and currs litter the ground around the keep, sometimes two and three deep. Some were drug off, but not from any sense of camaraderie among the nukks you guess. A faint but nauseating smell of boiling meat wafts your way from the army. Their numbers seem undiminished. You see more than one townsman fingering his spare crystals with a worried look on his face.  More

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