Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 24

Thanks to its stone camouflage, the Grick that was hiding in the southeast corner of the room has made its way around the rubble strewn about the dark room and, hanging from a stone wall, lashes out at Lanaver, who is attempting to free its dinner.

As Rowan stumbles away from the hideous creature the two nearest obelisks begin to glow and faintly hum before a pulse of magic energy is emitted into the room. Meanwhile, Hajima and Tallisk simultaneously hear the issuing forth of low wolf growl from within the southern room followed by excited barking and slavering.

The Grick surprises Rowan and Lanaver and writhes toward them. It attacks Lanaver, tentacles lashing out to strike him with terrible force, dragging him close as its beak snaps at the air in front of his face.

Rowan lets out a yelp and cringes away from the monster, diving behind a pile of rubble in a desperate attempt to put something between her and the tentacled horror.  She weaves magic and song together even as she rolls to a stop, unleashing a spell at the Grick, but feels the monster resist the effect.

Lanaver draws his rapier and stabs at the Grick’s snapping beak, the tip of his blade skittering off the hard bone with its serrated edges before biting deep into the soft flesh next to where the tentacles connect to its face.

Tuskor shouts a spell and the now familiar worms writhe up from the floor, wrapping tightly around the Grick and holding it in place.

Sebastian enters, casting a spell to ward Rowan from harm. “We have company from the other room and it sounds like they have a wolf!”

The Grick thrashes against its bonds, partially breaking free as it snaps and bites at Rowan, but the monster is unable to get close enough for its beak or tentacles to find purchase on her flesh.

Four guards bust out of the guard room yelling, “What’s going on in here? Which of you bastards wants a day in the funhouse?!”  They see Hajima standing there with a loaded crossbow. “Well well well, what have we got here? Get out here you lazy bastards we got a break in!”

The first of them levels a heavy crossbow at Hajima and curses as his bowstring snaps and the weapon misfires. A guard wielding a halberd moves around to flank Hajima and strikes him while his attention is on the man with the crossbow. The third guard is wielding a spear and shield, he moves out near the prisoners and hurls his spear at Tallisk.

Tallisk sways sideways at the last second as though drunk, the spear misses her narrowly burying into the wooden door frame she is standing near. The guard with the booming voice who is obviously their leader swings a broadsword at Hajima which misses. He then moves back into the room and unleashes the wolf.

Tallisk moves languidly to one side and back, almost falling but catching herself on the spear with her right, using it to pull herself back up to her feet. She stumbles a few steps forward, leaning heavily on her staff and seems to trip, flinging her left hand forward and causing her staff to glance off the guard’s shield.

He stumbles backward and she reels drunkenly forward, bringing her right foot down hard on the man’s instep. “Oh! Shorry.” She slurs, “I jusht wandered in from the shtreet…”

The scurrying of clawed feet on stone heralds the arrival of the trained wolf as it round the corner out of the guard room. It bares its teeth at Tallisk as she harries its master and attempts to bite her leg but she stumbles to one side and its teeth snap closed on the open air.

“Nish doggy, good puppy.”  Tallisk says, her voice warbling a drunken croon.

Hajima shifts about and strikes out at the guard with the halberd, taking him in the chest with his rapier. The guard spits a curse, “You’ll pay dearly for that, scum.”

Rowan ducks her head out from behind the stones she is hiding behind and hisses a sibilant and angry song towards the Grick. The monster reels in mental agony from the bard’s spell, and Rowan ducks back behind the stones, noting that her magic has more of an effect on the Grick than her allies’ non-magical weapons do.

Rowan shouts at the top of her lungs, “Use magic if you have it!!!”

“Why’d we give that tooth back!?”  Lanaver growls, leaving the cage and drawing a dagger into his off hand. He dashes behind Rowan and past Tuskor, building momentum as he nears Tallisk. He engages the wolf harassing the monk with both blades driving toward what he hopes are vital organs.  The wolf yelps and slumps down to the stone floor.

Sebastian hurls a ray of frost at the Grick. Screams erupt from its beak as its reptilian form is blasted with ice. Sebastian stands tall next to Rowan, knowing that should his blade ward fail his healing art should keep his Halfling companion alive.

Tuskor grimaces at the death of the wolf, hating to see any woodland creature brought low thus. As the last breath leaves the dying wolf Tuskor places his tusk staff onto his back. His eyes roll up into his head leaving them pupil-less and a transformation begins. The staff begins to melt into Tuskor’s back and the end lingers like a tail.

Suddenly with a crunch Tuskor’s knees snap backwards and he falls to his hands, or rather the paws that sit where he hands should be. His already massive grey man grows longer, encompassing his entire body and with a scream of rage his face thrusts outwards becoming lupine in shape. The scream turns into a howl and left where Tuskor once stood is a mighty grey wolf.

Racing to the still entangled Grick, Tuskor snarls and lunges, trying to sink his new teeth into the monster. In spite of its restraints, the thing’s hide resists the wolf’s attempt to savage it.

The Grick busts free of its entanglement with a strong effort. It moves up to menace Sebastian, tentacles writhing and mouth snapping with hunger.

The guard sergeant emerges and swings his bastard sword at Hajima. He roars in anger when the other deftly blocks the blow on a leather bracer and prompts his companions to fight harder.  “Come on you worthless cowards, kill these bastards!”

The guard with the halberd swings it at Hajima, taking advantage of the opening his leader had made.  The blow strikes deep his side, sliding beneath the arm that is still raised, blocking the bastard sword blow.

Another guard fires his crossbow at Tallisk.  The girl twitches her head sideways and the bolt grazes her ear, slicing a few locks of her bright red hair as it flashes past.

“HEY!”  Tallisk shouts, “Watch th hair ya shithead!”  She spins and smashes the halberd wielding guard in the gut with her staff and then brings her knee up into his nose with a sickening crunch when he doubles over in pain.  The man falls, twitching to the ground and she prods him with a toe.

“Ah… are ya OK laddie?”  She asks, but she’s not putting much of an effort into her usual deception.  The satisfied smile on her lips doesn’t help matters.

Hajima holds his side, gasping in pain “Medic!”  He throws a grateful look at Tallisk whose attack has allowed him to retreat from the thick of the battle.

Sebastian calls out “By Clangedins’ beard this things breath smells like the nine hells! I’m coming Hajima, hold on!”  Sebastian hears the cry for help from Hajima, but the Grick blocks his way.

Rowan plays a rill on her flute and lights begin to flash in front of the monster’s face, but although it shies away from the dancing lights it is too hungry to stop be distracted from its intended meal.  As it continues to attack Sebastian and Tuskor, Rowan finds some rubble to hide behind.

Lanaver backs away from the guards, blood flowing liberally from his wounds and shouts to Sebastian, “Doc, ya better patch me up quick!  Seems like there’s more a this red stuff outside me than in!”

Tuskor, still in wolf form, savages the Grick with his jaws, growling in defiance and rage.  Sebastian tosses Lanaver a healing potion then proceeds to blast the Grick with another burst of frosty magic and it screeches loudly in anguish. Even as it thrashes in its death throes, it rears up and tentacle attacks Tuskor, ripping into the Druid’s wolf hide.

The guard sergeant swings his broadsword at Hajima who desperately parries the attack with his rapier.  The crossbowman drops his crossbow and advances on Hajima, drawing an axe and swinging it at him in a series of wide strikes. Somehow Hajima parries and dodges the attacks, backing up until he runs into the wall; safe from injury for now but surrounded by enemies.

His breath comes in short gasps, and he uses his martial discipline to force his body to stop bleeding through sheer force of will.  “You can’t kill me that easily you bastards.”  He grates between clenched teeth.

Rowan pulls out her hand crossbow, seeking to put an end to the wounded Grick, but her shot goes wide, clattering against the stone wall.

Lanaver moves toward the axe man with renewed vigor, flanking him. He circles around toward Hajima, vying for an advantage and supporting his comrade.  There! He spies an opening in the man’s defenses and leaps to the attack.

“Die you bastard!”  Lanaver cries, leaping forward and stabbing his dagger deep into axe man’s back.  The guard falls to his knees, dropping his gore splattered axe. Lanaver grasps the man by the throat and with a single efficient movement, slashes the man’s throat from ear to ear.

Sebastian draws Hajima back from the attacking enemies, using the hole in the action that Lanaver’s brutal slaying of the axe wielding guard created.  He quickly slaps field bandages on his wounds.  “Damn damn damn!”  He curses, unable to contain his worry for his friend and for their situation.

Tuskor relentlessly pursues the Grick, his claws scraping against the cold stone floor as he attempts once again to bring the foul creature down. The wolf whines in consternation as the Grick eludes his lupine form, weakly sliding away from his snapping jaws.

The monster turns on him and manages to latch onto him with a tentacle, dragging him forward and sinking its beak into his flank.  The effort causes it to shudder, leaking foul smelling ichor but in a show of terrible, unnatural stamina it continues to fight.  With a yelp Tuskor is knocked out of his wolf form and lies unmoving face down on the ground.

The sergeant moves in on Hajima as Sebastian is attempting to patch him up. He grins an evil grin, stabbing the prone man in the gut.  He twists his blade as he removes it, leaving Hajima gasping in pain and bleeding profusely.

Spurred on by his leader’s brutal attack, the other guard swings his axe, cutting into Lanaver’s side.  The crunch of splintering ribs and Lanaver’s cry of pain are overshadowed by the guard’s shout of triumph.

Tallisk watches in horror as her new friends endure grievous wounds in defense of her and their young charge. Summoning the inner strength and power her Master had drilled into her over long hours of practice, she springs into action. Her quarterstaff becomes a humming blur of motion, the iron bands on either end causing it to whistle as it tears through the air to strike the axe man on the back of the head with the rebound, she brings an elbow into his face.

The man falls and Tallisk appears to stumble over him, treading heavily on his neck in the process.  “Ohmygosh, are ya ok?”  She asks, her voice dripping with false sincerity.  She stumbles toward the Sergeant, at the last minute swinging a shin in a low arc that connects with considerable force on the back of his knees.

Sebastian stares in amazement, they had seen Tallisk fight before, but never like this.  That sudden, deadly explosion of attacks banished any doubts he had about her abilities.  No matter her soft and plump appearance, she had obviously made the dealing physical violence one of her life’s greatest passions.

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