The Days and Nights of Lence Arnimannes.
He sits on a pew in the Temple of the Triad, a painful look on his face, rubbing his temples with one hand. Shaking his head, he seems to be ruminating on the choices he has made, good, bad, and foolish.
What is this reckless abandon that makes him leap into danger when he should be more careful? What is it about him that makes him take one step forward and two steps back?
"I knew that Gnarl was okay… I should have stayed back!" he mutters to himself. He shakes his head. "No, no. You know you can't leave your friends to protect yourself... you KNOW."
He looks around... this was the first place he remembers from the very first time he went into the fugue from a Kobold adept's spell... and how fitting he should come to in this place again, after being cut down by another Kobold adept.
Pursing his lips, he gets up. Shoulders all the packs Gnarl dragged back from the Kobold warren on top of his body. Straps his greatsword onto his back, pops his helmet on.
"Dont look back. Never look back."
He exits the temple.
Lence sits in the back of the Grapevine, drinking some of the fine white wine the Norwick farmers have managed to squeeze from the vine this far north. Somewhere else in the inn he can hear Cormac talking loudly and Lence chuckles as the image of bleating goat pops into his head. But for all the amusement Cormac provides, it does nothing to settle his tumultuous thoughts.
So, the Bride of Frost. That is what they are calling that winter spirit. Defeated in favor of the vampyre covens. He grunts into his goblet. The devil you know. Apparently, folks are more comfortable with those than the one's they don't. Whatever that Autyarch is, if it's in the Rawlins, there's enough between it and us that's tough enough to kill most folks in that gods-forsaken forest anyway. We should have let that winter spirit kill as many of those vampyres as possible. Killing this... "Bride" just put Norwick front and center in the battle that's to come, and it will come to us, perhaps sooner than later. If this bride's master is flourishing in the Rawlins and consolidating powers, there's no alliance, holy or unholy, that will stop it from arriving on our doorstep. Rillifane give me the strength to protect my home.
Lence looks up at the sound of raised voices, cups hitting the floor and drinks being spilled as laughter erupts out of sight.
Fools. Go ahead and celebrate. It may be premature to do so, or proclaim victory. You are too comfortable siding with what you perceive as the lesser evil. All you've done is struck a blow at ancient evil to placate less ancient evil. I have the terrible feeling that now that the Autyarch's sight is set on Norwick, we'll know soon enough if folks made the right choice. That choice?
The devil you know.
Lence had heard of some magical vale near Kront, and thought it might be a good idea to map the passage. He took the caravan to Malvagard, and making sure he was well-stocked with some concealment potions, mounted Nelly and headed north. Heading north into the Great Dale, he was shocked to run across a flock of Eagles, lying in wait for any unprepared traveller.
Easing Nelly into a thicket, he grumbled. "Didn't know I was going to need this right away." He pulled out a potion, and opening it, he poured it into his hand. He rubbed Nelly's neck, reciting the words Omar had instructed him to, and after a couple of strokes, the horse became translucent, then invisible. Lence did the same to himself, and soon, they were both concealed from normal eyes. Lence hoped that the eagles weren't the kind that had keen sight. He chuckled to himself, thinking of the times he thought himself invisible to opponents, and being rudely disabused of that notion. Giving a tug on the reins, he guided Nelly past the eagles, keeping an eye on them should one notice the phantom moving past them. None did.
Once past the eagles, Lence headed west, traveling the Great Road, knowing that if he did not find this magical vale, he could always make a run for Bezentil. He kept more concealment potions handy on his belt, should he need to augment the power of the current enchantment. As he moved west, his mind turned to this magical "vale". Rumors had travelled north as far as Peltarch, and as anyone knew, anything that reaches Pelt from the south, makes a pit stop in Norwick first. Lence smiled. Omar may not say much at Spellweavers, but if you buy him a tankard or five in the Grapevine, he had no such inhibition. There were rumors that you found it through some woods south of the Great Road, and that if you didn't keep your wits about you, those woods might trap you inside them for a long time. Lence grinned at that. No elf, or half-elf ranger worth his salt would find any such wood confusing to the senses.
Crossing the Icelace and heading towards the Woodland Pass, he kept his eyes and ears open, intent on making as little noise as possible. That is surely what saved him, for as he entered the thickening woods, he saw some trees... swaying. Pulling Nelly up short, he leaned over and whispered in her ear. She shook her head in agreement, and stayed still. Lence's eyes narrowed as he realized that the trees were not swaying... they were walking. Branches snapped and creaked, and wonder turned to caution when Lence noticed how blighted the treants were. Fungus covered their bodies, limbs were gnarled and brittle. The leaves growing from them looked limp and sickly. Their faces belied the pain their bodies carried, and Lence made out at least four of the blight-spawned woodland creatures slowly making their way through the pass. Leaning over, he whispered in Nelly's ear again, and they gave the damned tree people a wide berth.
Following the edge of the woods, a wary eye on the distanced treants, Lence almost missed the marker by the path leading deeper into the woods. "The Mysteries of Marigold."
He had arrived.
Lence sits at the table outside the Dancing Mermaid, looking at his supplies. He pulls out a hand-drawn map of Narfell, knowing that his skills are lacking. This map is no wonder, not like the ones Stargazer's has to offer to travelers...
No matter, he thinks. This will do well enough for a scout such as myself... I must find other companions who will aid me in cataloguing the lands and making them known to all. I curse the gods, for every now and then, it's as if they don't want us to remember where we've been!
He looks up, peers at the town square. Perhaps some companions will help him with this latest challenge... he knows there are underground tunnels that cross the river east of the swamps. But there are too many fishmen nesting in there... too challenging for one on their own. But for a party of intrepid adventurers...
He looks through the closely grown trees, peering into the open fields. Looking over his shoulder, he sees the bodies of the Hobs laid out behind him. He grumbles to himself, thinking that hunting the umber would be so much easier if he didn't have to go through so many Hobs. Each one more viscious and blood-thirsty than the last. At least the charm keeps the Magicians from doing too much damage. And they go down nicely when I use my barbed sword, he thinks.
Clearing thoughts of the Hobs behind him, he focuses on the ones in front. Making his way through the trees, he skirts the field, heading south along the woods, hoping to avoid running into any Hobs, especially the ones who weild the morning stars. He runs a finger over a dent in his armor, where a particularly tough Hob nailed him on the arm. He stops up short when he sees a Hob across the clearing, hiding in the shadows of the trees. Squinting, he sees the Hob is one of the raiders.
Putting his sword silently into it's scabbard, he draws his ice-bow, notching an arrow. Aiming slowly he targets the Hob, and lets fly! The arrow spears the Hob in his chest, and the Hob falls back against a tree. Lence lets another arrow fly, and frowns when the Hob slaps it out of the air. The Hob pushes itself off the tree, making a beeline for him. Lence lets go another arrow, and this one bounces off the shoulder pad of the Hob's armor. Quickly shouldering his bow, he pulls his barbed sword out just as the Hob reaches him, swinging wildly. Lence sidesteps and slashes at the Hob as he runs past, cutting the Hob down.
The Hob crashes into the woods, still.
Looking down at the dead monster, he rolls him over and pulls the dead creature's purse off its wide leather belt. Pursing his lips, he moves east, taking his bow out again.
Moving quietly as the trees grow in closer to each other, making a trail instead of a clearing, he turns the corner on a thick copse of trees, and stops short. He recognizes the Hob warlock a moment before it does him, and he lets loose with an arrow. The warlock gets hit in the chest, just below the collarbone, but manages to get a spell off. Lence feels the hair on his arms stand up, the back of his neck feel electric. He shudders as red light surrounds him and he gets hit with some kind of negative energy. Gasping, he looses another arrow and this one embeds itself in the warlock's eye. It's remaining eye blazes with unearthly light, and then it's knees buckle and it falls forward.
Hand against a tree trunk, he supports his weight as he gasps, shaking off the effects of the spell.
Looking up at the sound of heavy footfalls.
The umber slides out of the mist, fifteen feet tall and all oily carapace. It shrieks at him and charges. He lets loose an arrow, runs back down the trail. He knows it's on his tail. He tries to keep ahead of it, loosing arrow after arrow at it. Most bounce off it's hard shell-like armor, but he gets some good ones in. One pops it's insect eye and ooze splatters out of it. He keeps ahead of it. Mostly. He misjudges where some trees are, and trying to keep away from the umber gets a giant claw swipe against his back. He tumbles and rolls, gets up and keeps running. He turns and shoots a couple more arrows into it. It isn't slowing down. Standing his ground, he aims. Letting loose with the arrow at the last moment, watching it's trajectory as it flies towards the umber, hitting it right beneath it's giant mandibles. The arrow almost appears to slide into the neck of the creature, disappearing into the soft skin. The creature crashes to the ground in front of Lence, sliding along the ground, head butting his knees as it comes to a stop. The tip of the arrow sticks out the back of it's head.
Lence lets out a sigh of relief.
He pulls out his skinning knife, but looks up as he hears approaching steps. Damn. He backs into the woods, keeping an eye out as more Hobs rush to the scene, and makes his way back to Norwick.
Bringing his longsword down, Lence cleaves the fishman from his left shoulder to his sternum, a spray of green ichor splashing his breastplate and helmet. He tugs at his sword, the barbed end catching on something inside the dead fishman. Hearing movement behind him, he places his boot on the sagging fishman's chest and pulls the sword out with a loud "schwickl!"
Turning quickly, he meets the fishman soldier coming at him with a dodge, then swings wide in a horizontal arc, taking the fishman's head off in one clean stroke. He crouches low, looking through the gloom of the caves, and ducks his head just as the crossbow bolt snaps by where his face used to be.
He jumps up and charges the crossbow-weilding fishman, smashing through the crossbow and it's chain shirt with one powerful downward sweep. He frowns. The broken crossbow would have brought some good coin at Stargazers. Turning to look deeper into the cave, he is hit by a trio of glowing magic missiles, the spell rocking his body as he zeros in on the mage casting the spell. Blinking his eyes to get rid of the after-image of the missile trails, he runs foward, striking the mage just as he tries to get another spell off. The residual magic swirls around them both as Lence sweeps the mage's leg with the longsword. The mage falls to one knee, and Lence slices his sword across it's chest. It falls backwards into the sand. Dead.
Three fishman workers pile on Lence. A grim look on his face, he quickly cuts them down. Workers are not as practiced as soldiers or crackshots, so they die fast. Panting, Lence looks across the chasm at the other side. More fishmen are there, peering through the darkness towards him.
Good, he thinks. More for me.
Lence smiles grimly as he chips away at the vein of tin in the rock, a number of fishmen bodies sprawled about. He sweats profusely, his armor weighs him down and limits his flexibility, and the pickaxe is unweildy in his hands.
Nonetheless, he attacks the vein with gusto, content in the hard work at hand. He's recent to mining… and has found out that there is value to it... The reward of a hard job well done. And he's gotten better at finding tin... soon he'll be able to move up to copper.... and then what? Start crafting?
He chuckles to himself. "Craft stuff? Yeah, right."
He finishes pulling as much tin from the vein as possible, aware that time is passing and more fishmen may show up at any moment. Putting the tin in his packs, he grunts under the load.
"Bloody hells. Good thing I pulled all their loot off those fishheads before I grabbed this!" He starts heading back to the surface, moving slowly, taking rests often.
Almost at the steps leading out into the cave snake warren, a fishman bomber appears and lobs some grenades at him. He grunts, not in pain, but in surprise as the bombs explode harmlessly around him, and, swinging around like a drunkard from the tin weighing him down manages to dispatch the bomber with his bow. He rubs the shiny buckle on his belt, made of black dragon skin, smiling.
"Keep chucking those acid bombs, fishheads." He stops for a second, thinking. "Probably shouldn't talk to myself all the time. Ah frak." He keeps his lips tightly pressed together.
He makes it through the snake warren, and steps out of the cave into pouring rain. He slips on the muddy ground, landing on his ass, gets covered in mud. Flittering under a nearby tree is a little sprite, sheltering herself from the rain. She lets out a little pixie laugh.
Lence rights himself with as much dignity as he can, runs his fingers along the inside coller of his breastplate neck to muck out the mud that ended up in there. Feigns ignorance of the pixie's presense. She giggles again and hides behind a low-hanging leaf. He slowly heads back towards Pelt, stiff upper lip and covered in mud, holding onto the little shred of dignity he can muster.
Lence drops a backpack on the table in front of Hemrod. It makes a sound like jewelry clinking together.
"What's this?" Hemrod looks at Lence, not at the bag.
"Stuff we picked off the fishmen," he replies. "It's good stuff."
Hemrod frowns. He slips the clasp on the backpack and pulls it back. Light spills out from inside, and Hemrod's eyes narrow to avoid the glare. Looking at Lence, he upends the bag on the table. Copper necklaces, a glittering chain, various gems and scrolls fall out, along with some other sundries. Hemrod picks at them.
"This is some good stuff, yes," he says, picking up the glittering necklace. "But do you know how many necklaces I have in the back? At least a hundred! Whenever you folks," meaning the adventurers, "you folks go out, you come back here with your trinkets and your scrolls… some if it still bloody, and you think I'll take it all."
Lence frowns. "But, wont you take it all?"
"Of course I'll take it all! Thats not the point!" He starts sorting out the loot. "I don't appreciate being taken for granted..."
"No one takes you for granted Hemrod, especially not me. I've made the journey up from Norwick many a time just to see you."
Hemrod seems mollified. A bit. He pickes up some magic nuts and looks them over. "These'll fetch a good price with some mages I know."
He tallies the total and hands Lence a bag of gold. "Thats quite a bit of gold."
Lence smiles. "It's not all mine. I have to split it with some friends."
Hemrod nods. Lence takes his leave, and just as he makes it to the door, Hemrod calls out.
"Those trinkets are nice and all... but what I'm looking for is a skin. A human skin. Those will get you 300 gold if you bring me one!"
Lence tries to hide his unease. Some times it is best to turn a blind eye.
"Uh, sure, Hemrod. Human skin. Got it. Farewell."
He makes a hasty exit out of the shop.
Lence sits on a rock. It's never easy hunting Umbers, and it's even harder when Hob Warlocks are about. But he managed to bag one. Once again. He wipes the blood from his face, most of it Umberhulk ichor, but some of it his blood too.
Giving a sigh, he painfully stands and shoulders his bow, debating whether to skin the Umber. Hearing a rustle in the copse of trees fifty feet away, he decides to forego any skinning, and skirts around the batch of trees to the south, keeping low to the ground, moving as silently as he can in his heavy plate. It clinks against itself, and he winces whenever it makes a loud sound.
He chuckles, talks to himself. "Maybe one day I'll make a good Ranger… but not today. Not in this."
He grins, thinking of Rasuil. "That bastard is like a ghost... but he doesnt have plate now does he?"
He skirts a gaggle of hobs... keeping out of their eye-line... hiding in the shadows of the trees, and heads back to Norwick.
So… it's come to this. I've been here before. The Fugue. More often than I would like to admit... Never have I questioned why I am here. I fell defending others and myself, and Norwick, Pelt, or whomever needed defending.
But today, today is different. The undead have been assailing the walls of Norwick since we've gotten it back from Ostromog. They are an unending horde, and no matter how many we put down, there are more more behind them. They show up unannounced, and proceed to lay waste to everything in their path...
But I did not know of this attack. I was south of the lake... mining Gobs. I was hoping to increase my stash by securing some of those masterwork swords the assassins carry, and those fine bows the archers sometimes have. I was doing okay... strking through the fog... keeping my distance so they couldn't get a bead on where my deadly arrows were striking from... I was smug with satisfaction, when what should I spy lumbering through the fog but a Bugbear Warrior!
My blood ran cold... chills went up my spine... I've fought a few bugbears in my time... but always in a group. Yet here was one, and I was one, and it saw me! I took off... spinning around and loosing arrow after arrow at it... some struck true... but not deeply enough! Gods! Rillifane save me! I can't beat a bugbear on my own! It became confused in the fog. I speared it with some more arrows... it came on! It gave chase... and I ran through the woods, using the trees as coverage, letting an arrow loose when I could. Still, it continued on! I lost it again in the fog, and made my way to a safe distance. I felt I could finish it off from the safety of the distance I put between us... but then, it drew a bow out!
Cold sweat wet my forehead... all right... if this was the way it was to be... I stood my ground, and loosed arrow after arrow at it. It responded in kind... but it must not been used to wielding a bow, for its shots went wide... my final arrow pierced it in it's gullet and went through it's neck to end up embedded in the tree trunk behind it! The creature collapsed!
I let our a roar of victory! "Yessssssssssss! Take that you vile frakker!"
I walked slowly up to it, looked down at it. It was trying to reach for it's throat, making gurgling sounds as it fought to breathe. It looked up at me, and snarled with frustration that I should have beaten it. I pursed my lips, and looked for that giant bugbear bow. I spied it, broken into two when the bugbear went down.
The creature became still, and as I watched it's life expire, the world around me seemed to vanish. I've hunted all manner or creatures... from Gobs and Hobs to Umbers to Fishmen to Orcs... but as the bugbear died, I realized that here was a creature that I had feared... and defeated.
The outside world intruded on my reverie, as I heard approaching Gobs. They must have realized that I still lived. I thought it the better part of valor to make myself scarce... and faded into the woods... to head north to Norwick, and find Gnarl or Beourn or Dermin and to crow about my single-handed victory over the bugbear.
As I approached the gates... the sound of battle was heavy in the air. As drew near... I saw the hordes of undead... they had returned! I ran forward, drawing out my greatsword, the one blessed with extra powers against the undead, and lay into the fray. But, where as I was lucky against the bugbear archer, I was not against the bone ones. I was speared repeated by undead arrows, and woke to find myself in the Fugue.
And that would have been fine. I sat there, knowing my friends would come to my aid when they could. I sat and prayed. And would have been content, but for young Nelor's arrival. This was his second visit to the Fugue in a day's adventuring, and he was not happy. I tried to sooth his frustration, but he was not to be salved. "Why do I even try?" he questioned. And it made me think. Why do I try. I've been here enough. I find it hard to keep my training up, so that I may reach a point where it is hard for me to end up in the Fugue... but why? Why do I keep at it, if all I do is end up getting killed? I was ready to join Nelor in his pessimism, and would have seriously thought about throwing in the towel, if not for the arrival of that winged harpy. She tempted me, offering me power if I should just follow her... and I realized.
There is no easy way.
Not one that doesn't require you to surrender part of your soul. And so when I rejected her offer, it was easy. Because, my soul belongs to Rillifane, and to Norwick.
He sits against the wall in the Pelt commons… rubs the weariness out of his eyes. What does he feel? Frustration. Pain. Anger.
Kalem and he and another.. his head was so tired and foggy from trekking through Narfell for two days he couldn't even remember his name... had agreed to take some supplies down to the PFLN - the Peoples Front for the Liberation of Norwick. Seven crates full of supplies... and it had gone all wrong. After verifying that there were only supplies in the crates... they headed south. They had tried to make it through the hole south of the Crossroads... but were beset upon by Goblin Assassins... who when realized they were defeated faded into the woods, leaving not a trace.
Kalem thought it better to go through the spider woods... there was a path through to the Silver Valley... close enough to the Goblin Hold where they were going to meet with the PFLN. But it was not to be... even with the help of Maria, they were beset upon by a multitude of spiders... all kinds... and sizes... and were not able to break through.
Lence fought and fought... and almost died... but even with their herculean effort, it was for naught. Hiding the crates in the woods for more lucky adventurers, they limped back to Pelt. Beaten. Battered. Bone-weary.
And still questions remain... what is going on in Norwick? Is there even a PFLN? Why do some folks seem dead set against guerilla tactics to help Norwick's cause?