Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 9

Sebastian calls out to Aesis for protection rushes over to bind Rowan’s wounds. Vellk and Tuskor bravely stand back to back between them and the growling Warg.  The former brandishing his axe and giving their enemies a grin that rivals the massive wolf’s and the latter hefting his spiked ivory quarterstaff.  

Tuskor runs toward the two remaining Goblins, brandishing his staff and bringing it down on the stone floor with a resounding explosion.  Arcane runes flash out from the impact and a thunderous boom reverberates through the chamber.  The two creatures take a faltering step backward but howl their defiance, preparing to retaliate.

Vellk takes a cue from his Dwarven companion and leaps forward to the attack.  His axe bites savagely into the side of the warg.  It howls in pain and bites him on the thigh before he can get out of reach of its teeth.

Rowan rushes to help Tuskor the instant Sebastian ties the bandage on her arm, stabbing over the Dwarf’s head, barely missing the green skinned monster as it jumps back out of reach.

Sebastian seeing the dire straits that his squad is in steels his resolve and he tries to remember his military training. He runs over the checklist in his mind. First assess the severity of the wound, second apply tincture powder (ground Acacia, Figwort, Oak Bark, White Willow Bark) and mandrake root directly to the wound to staunch the bleeding. Apply absorptive and sticky bandages (coated with Sea Buckthorn Oil and Copaiba Balsam) to the wounds.

Hajima sizes up the health of his comrades and the imminent threat of the enemies. He mutters to himself, “This bugbear must be stopped, no matter the cost.”  He takes careful aim again and waits for an opening.  When the monster opens its mouth to shout an order, Hajima fires a speeding bolt directly into the left eye of the bugbear.

The monster shrieks in pain, “Margk rakka kallanzarh!”  It shouts gesturing at the party with the hand that no longer holds the Warg’s chain.  After issuing the command, likely for their deaths, it jerks a javelin from a quiver on its back and hurls it into Tuskor’s leg.  The Dwarf stumbles, reaching for the missile transfixing his leg before his eyes roll back in his head and he slumps to the ground, unconscious.

Lanaver runs to assist Vellk, using the pack tactics so recently exhibited by the wolves against their larger cousin and striking it from the other side while it’s distracted by the larger warrior.  He opens grievous wounds with his blades but it fights on with wild animal rage.

The Warg attempts to savage Vellk again but the leg Lanaver wounded buckles at the last minute and the warrior evades the gnashing, yellowed teeth. The two Goblins round on Lanaver, slashing out at him with scimitars.  One blow skitters across his dagger and slices away the skin of his forearm when he tries to parry but the other hits him in the side, hacking through his leather armor and cutting into flesh beneath.  He topples to one side with blood running freely from the wounds.

Rowan springs into action, striking out at the Goblin who cut into Lanaver’s torso and piercing him through the throat, killing him.  “Get back from him you green skinned fiends!”  She shouts, her eyes bright with the exhilaration of combat.

The fierce attack and swift killing of his fighting partner startles the last Goblin who turns to run.  The moment his back is turned, Rowan’s rapier stabs into it with ruthless efficiency.  The point skewers vital organs before she twists it and pulls it out and her foe collapses to bleed his life out on the cavern floor.

Sebastian, still running through his mantra of field medicine, moves to assist the fallen Tuskor.  Hacking off the end of the javelin with his sword, he draws the weapon from the wound, sterilizing it and staunching the bleeding before wrapping it tightly.

The Bugbear, clutching his bloodied eye socket, the bolt protruding through his fingers, advances on Vellk, to flank him with the Warg.  Raising his morning star, he smashes it into Vellk’s armored shoulder with enough force to nearly drive the big man to his knees.

Hajima drops his crossbow and approaches the Warg at an oblique angle, waiting for the right moment before stabbing it through the spine.  It yelps and goes prone, twitching, trying to control its body despite the debilitating wound.

Baring his teeth in defiance, Vellk swings his axe in a counter stroke at the monster’s blind left side.  The weapon bites deeply into the monster’s jaw and neck, nearly severing the creature’s head.  With a surprised gurgle, it topples to the ground, lifeless.

A brief silence descends before it is broken by the sound of greater alarm coming from the earthen caverns beyond. The sounds of scores of Goblins shrieking in alarm and readying themselves for attack. Vellk sneaks into the room where the bugbear and his minions came from.  He sees that this room  is better furnished than the previous rooms, with some serviceable tables and chairs, some flagons of ale and haunches of roasted meat are on the table.  

Several passages lead out of the room deeper into the cave, but he sees what he is looking for at the back. There are two large cages at the back of the room, one holds the prisoners taken from the peat bog. In the other cage sits a human dressed in black underclothing, the kind you would typically wear under armor.

“Keys, I need keys to free the prisoners!”  Vellk shouts.

Rowan finds keys after rifling through the disgusting belongings of the Bugbear.  Now that the adrenaline of fighting is gone, his stench threatens to make her gorge rise.   She tosses them to Vellk who proceeds to unlock the prisoners from their cages.

The warrior, spits on the Bugbear’s corpse and despite looking thin and wasted picks up the monster’s morning star.  “Thank you, strangers, I am Chaab. You have saved me from yonder filth, but we must flee now, for they come!” He points down the corridors where the sound of Goblin feet can be heard flapping on stone, a strange accompaniment to their guttural cries for blood.

Sebastian applies healing balms and bandages to Lanaver’s wounds, bringing the rogue out of his unconsciousness with a bottle of smelling salts after he finishes.  Together they begin to carry the comatose Tuskor towards the exit.

Everyone moves from the Bugbear’s room, back out through the guardroom.  Hajima Jom offering sniping cover while Chaab and Vellk take the position of rear guard.  Rowan leads the refugees, working with Haldred, Millivent’s husband to keep people together.  

“Do you know how many of them there are?”  She asks.

The peat bog workers are terrified but grateful for being rescued.  Haldred is carrying one of his daughters and chivying the rest along, but otherwise cannot offer much in the way of information or assistance.  “I ain’t seen naught but this place here yer – ah – ladyship?”

Rowan ignores the talk of title or rank, smiling encouragingly at the prisoners.  “It’s all over but the running my friends!   We have to get outside and fast.  There’s a cart outside, and a donkey. Head toward town as fast as you can. We will guard your retreat!”

“Wait!”  Lanaver sprints to the front of the line of hurrying refugees.  “There’s a trap just outside the door that might make some noise and perhaps do worse if the falling stones start an avalanche.”  

Rowan watches him helping the prisoners out, keeping an anxious eye on the cave “Hopefully they will be disheartened by the death of their leader and his warg and will not follow.”

Rowan helps the weakest and slowest into the wagon, as well as encouraging the worst wounded of her friends to climb aboard.  “Easy up there little one.  Watch your step there.  Here, grab his arm please.”  Her assistance is slightly hampered by anxious glances towards the cave entrance, looking for enemies.

Hajima and Vellk are last to leave the cave. “Run!  Why are you still here?  There’s a veritable swarm of the green skinned devils behind us!”  Vellk punctuates the statement by hurling a hand axe into the cave mouth.

Rowan pulls her war pipes from Bo’s tack, pumping the bellows and unleashing an ear splitting shriek, hoping to frighten them and slow them a little.  Either their bloodlust or Rowan’s piping confuses the Goblins for as the wagon begins to roll away, they boil out of the cave and run smack into the traps laid there.  String tangled in their feet and a tumble of rocks cascades down on them.  

Howls of rage become screams of pain, and Hajima fires bolt after bolt into the writhing mass of Goblins until the wagon is out of range.  After a few nervous minutes of speedily jouncing along on the wagon, they begin to breathe easier.  The sounds of angry Goblins fades away as the stolid donkeys widen their lead.  After a few bends in the trail no sign of pursuit seems to be coming, so they slow the speed of their flight.

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