Back in Barrataur in the Forgotten Realms, the Dark Elves of Barrataur were having problems… It wasn’t so much that the local surface-dwellers didn’t trust them. They’d known that THAT was going to happen. It was the attacks and raids. The Sun Elves hadn’t been to helpful – and, while the Moon Elves had sent some supplies, they had few resources in the area.
The Dark Elves were having some difficulty adjusting to surface warfare anyway. They were too used to working with a tunnel system. The tunnels made tracking your enemies and fortifying the approaches a lot simpler, ranged weapons a lot less important, and individually-targeted magics more valuable than area effects. The tactical adjustments, and learning the new skills, took time. Admittedly, the surface made it easier to fall back, and the monsters were a lot less trouble – but they hadn’t had the time to make adjustments yet.
There were several Thralls assigned to Barrataur, and an Amarant Solutions office. Marty had set that up – and exchanged Thrall-services and a promise of protection for later child custody – when he’d found that his celebrations in the underdark had left several pregnancies behind. With those children not yet born, it wasn’t long before the Thralls assigned to Barrataur called for more assistance. They needed a team or two to track down the attackers and see what could be done about them.
Being that this would be direct service to Kevin and Marty, several teams rushed to get there – and one, of course, was first by several hours. They’d only been one gate away, rather than being back in Kadia and having to use a chain. Kevin had wanted to avoid offending the local gods, so he hadn’t opened a direct gate to Kadia.
That gave them a great chance to impress Kevin and Marty!
This particular Thrall-team included:
- Alaria. (Abjuration, Illusion, and Transmutation, with the Dark Flame Witchcraft ability, her Luck upgraded to apply to skills as well as saves, and some skill in negotiation).
- Tom Kesselworth. (Conjuration, Evocation, and Divination, with extended-duration summonings Mindspeech for summoned creatures only, and a good knowledge of summonable creatures).
- Francisco Adivera, Kholichmen (Abjuration, Enchantment, and Necromancy, with a fair degree of control over the lesser undead)
Through the gateway, the dark forests of the Forgotten Realms spread out before them – haunted by all the monsters and troubles one would expect of an old gaming world. Hadn’t all those old authors realized that people would actually have to live there sometime?
Well, to be fair, that had probably never occurred to most of them back in the days of ignorance! It wasn’t like the modern era, where people were expected to write responsibly!
It was about twenty miles to Barrataur – and, according to the local Thralls, the attacks so far had involved basic small-party raids, arrow-sniping from the woods with occasional attempts to set something on fire, various provoking depredations against the neighbors being blamed on Barrataur, and some fairly powerful summoned monsters. Not too serious yet, but the threat was definitely growing.
It would be a mere day along the road, probably two or three if they skulked through the deep woods. Of course, it would be less than an hour as the eagle flew – so they shapeshifted. Speed was more important than conserving their power at the moment!
Tom called up a few more eagles for an escort. You never knew what would be flying around in places like this, and being unceremoniously sent back to Kadia would be downright embarrassing! Hopefully no one would notice that they were extraplainer eagles that did not normally flock…
The flight was peaceful at first – but there was an odd predominance of carnivorous animals in the area. It looked like rather too many to find enough to eat normally. Perhaps some of the summoned animals they were having problems with? The beasts did seem to be concentrated around the new fields and farms, and around a small complex of buildings – although they seem to be lurking there, rather than hunting.
Hm… Most of them seem to have been charmed, given some instructions – lurk, wait for panics and such during raids, target the most vulnerable first on those occasions – and set loose. Others were larger than usual and intelligent – if clearly quite nasty.
So, at least one nature or enchantment oriented mystic in the area – and one who was nasty enough to give a set of orders that amounted to “starve until you get a chance to devour frightened children”. That was just mean! Still, it was no wonder that the Thralls currently present hadn’t had much luck; they were all protectors, builders, producers of supplies, and healers, rather than being investigators or combatants. Besides, it was hard to investigate while bodyguarding pregnant women.
They passed their findings on to the local Thralls and set out to track the animals back to their source. That way they could try to get some hunter or druid types in deal with or cure the animals.
Sending flocks of eagles and ravens out to scout seemed best. That had limits, but they had excellent eyesight and could cover a lot of territory.
Their hosts of magical minions (aided by a little computer analysis) soon determined that the animals were thickest on the foothills side of the city, where the roads didn’t pass and there were high bluffs. They seemed to thin out past that though – whereas their population was about normal across most of the rest of the region. The hills themselves commanded a fair view of the city and were heavily wooded. The birds had noted traces of smoke, but no apparent fires. Most of the raids, however, had been from the north, while the bluffs were to the east.
Hiding out in the bluffs and trying to fake another direction or multiple groups?
Never mind! If they waited too long, other groups would catch up! They needed to find someone and stomp them!
Tom was rather impaitient and direct about it. He’d just spent far too long summoning boring birds! He wanted to head over to the bluffs, so he could summon more interesting things, like predatory cats!
Unfortunately for that, a detailed search of the hills called for dogs, squirrels, birds, and gophers (just in case they had an underground base). It left him almost screaming with boredom!
It took more hours – and shapeshifting into canines in the interestes of concealment and to check scents themselves – but eventually the scent of smoke led to a very well-concealed camp, with a few magical wards on it as well. There was a complex altar of piled stones with carefully arranged wooden carvings of various animals around it and green and red runes painted all over it. An older man was sitting by it meditating – doing something telepathic and directed at normal animals. Sadly, there was no easy way of telling just what.
A ritualist perhaps?
- A younger man with light leather armor, a bow, and a rapier. A scout or expert type?
- An unpleasant looking fellow wearing very light looking black chainmail and carrying rather a lot of knives. Probably a killer of some sort.
- A tall man wearing furs and carrying a very large sword. Looked like a fairly classical “barbarian warrior” of some sort.
- A youngster who was amusing himself by sending little bolts of black fire leaping from finger to finger. There was quite a lot of power there. Some sort of special talent? Wait! The summoned creatures had been reported as being “made of black fire”; perhaps he was a summoner?
- A lizard-man who was roasting something over a fire. He wasn’t wearing much, but was carrying two of the oddest weapons – circles of steel with jagged blades sticking out, a bit like a sunburst with the center missing. No telling what HE was.
- A fellow who seemed to be partially made of metal? Didn’t that sort of thing belong over in Crusader?
- A trio of youthful, mostly-naked, female drow, apparently recently enslaved. All three of them were gagged.
Well, they certainly looked like adventuring types. They could just hide somewhere and send in a mob of creatures to get them, but it probably wouldn’t work so well. The captives looked like normal drow, probably about sixty or so. Still, a ritual plus bound slaves usually equaled bad stuff – at least if they were related.
The wards were mostly illusion-concealment, alarms, and anti-detection. Not much in the way of keep-things-out or block magic. Evidently they thought that they could handle most things themselves if they weren’t surprised. It looked like breaking them would send up the alarm if they weren’t VERY careful too.
Oh what the heck! Tom proposed simply having some eagles dive bomb them all at once. No one expected that! Then they could follow up with a really big dogs and a dog sled to rescue the girls
Well, why not? Alaria liked sledding, and the eagles would make a good distraction – and she could see that Tom was frantic to get into the action.
Still, it was hard to be a hero if you kept getting killed! It might be best to keep this to a rescue rather than trying to end it all in one fell swoop.
Even if it was a great many fell swoops aiming for their heads.
While they were summoning up their horde, a procession of wolves wandered into the camp and sat quietly while the old fellow enchanted them and gave them their orders. It looked like there was a tactical change underway; they were getting a few ritual spells and guidance and were being sent into the city to raid the priestesses of Ellistree in particular. Apparently – from the discussion – in conjunction with the kid summoning something.
The kid wasn’t in on the talking though, he’d taken one of the drow girls into a tent and seemed to be distracted.
Tom passed the warnings back to town while Alaria prepared to have the eagles rip the tent apart – albeit without killing anyone inside. He was a teenaged boy, and she was NOT going to stand for whatever he was planning! A summoner taking away a slave might not be for fun!
They set up some vision enhancement spells, summoned some mist, and took their little horde in, disrupting the wards as they went. They gave a priority to the black fire kid; he seemed to be central to their plans and might be a caster – so they had the birds concentrate on swarming him for distraction and damage as convenient.
The wards sounded the alarm as the rain of hawks dropped in – but that caused most of their targets to snatch weapons and look into the forest, then to look up at the birds – and then all around as the ground forces started rushing out, while the obscuring mist and tent-ripping added a little confusion. It gave them a few, precious, moments in which to work.
Alaria led off with a brief hypnotic spell on as many of the targets as possible, but only managed to get most of the wolves (good! they were under control after all!) and the presumed barbarian – and it wouldn’t hold him long.
Tom hurled nets of webbing. There was nothing like entanglement for area denial! Or at least not until you got into much more powerful spells than he could handle… He was lucky enough to get the barbarian, the ritualist, the matallic fellow, somw wolves, and the bowman. They too would break free in moments, but that might be enough to get another shot in!
Francisco set up some debilitating spells to hit the kid as soon as the hawks tore away the tent. If he was vital to the enemy, best to cripple him as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, Francisco was hurled back from the tent as a towering monstrosity of black flame erupted from it. The kid was nowhere to be seen, although the dark elf girl was there. At least she looked to be normal enough, if a bit naked and shocked.
Tom headed in to scoop up the girls and run – redirecting the birds to the giant flaming thing in lieu of the kid along the way.
Alaria sped up the dogs; she couldn’t do much spreading a spell over that many targets, but she could buff them a bit – and every little bit would help.
They scooped up the two in the open before the adventurers got organized and started striking back.
The ritualist unleashed a firestorm across the area, exempting his own allies – but incinerating an awful lot of their summoned creatures. The bowman was engaged with the dogs, but that obviously wasn’t going to take him long. The knife expert caught Alaria with a poisoned blade (and some fairly impressive damage; fortunately, she could easily counter both – but she couldn’t keep that up for long!) while the lizard man was generating a flame-vortex around himself with those weird weapons to finish off what birds the firestorm and a burst of dark power from the flame-entity had left.
Only the metallic fellow and the barbarian were still out of action, and that wasn’t going to last. Not so good. These guys were evidently all pretty powerful.
Francisco was confronting the black flame thing – yanking the girl out of the way and unleashing a double set of high-powered power-word blasts, which the thing simply seemed to absorb.
Alaria was using her own power words – unleashing a nauseating cloud while also trying to shrink the knife-thrower… Wait; the cloud had affected the ritualist and the metallic fellow – she could almost feel sorry for him, he was having no luck at all. It sent most of the wolves fleeing too, which was a bonus – although it wasn’t like they’d been accomplishing anything anyway. Wait. It had annoyed the flame-thing? She’d thought it was just a construct or a summoning! Was the kid just wearing a demon as a form of armor? They should do something about that!
Tom unleashed the biggest effect he had available – a massive lightning-spell, that could hit up to four targets – and hit the ritualist, the flame-thing, the lizard-man, and the archer. Sadly, the flame-thing just absorbed it and the lizard-man deflected it, but it hurt the ritualist and knocked the archer unconscious.
For a surprise-ambush with massive magical setup and a lot of limited-shot stuff in reserve this was not going so well!
The ritualist triggered something that healed him – and threw an Ice Storm that exempted his allies. The fellow with the knives flicked a couple Tom’s way, once again adding poisoning to injury – and draining his reserves. The black flame thing was looking a bit battered – but pointed a hand at Francisco and unleashed his own blasting spells back at him, which left him nearly unconscious even WITH his healing powers. The metallic fellow recovered from his hypnosis, and Alaria managed to avoid the lizard-man – but only barely.
Alaria tried to chill the lizard-guys flaming weapons as she hauled the last girl aboard their sled -but it didn’t seem to have much effect beyond snuffing the firestorm he’d been generating… Oh well, at least that was something!
Wait, those things… “Wind Fire Wheels”? That wasn’t supposed to be literal!
Tom used the lizard-mans fire – and all the ones the firestorm had ignited – as a source for some pyrotechnics and choking smoke. Their smartclothes could compensate – and he had a bad feeling about that kid… That dark fire was looking more and more like some form of dragonfire construct – they usually called it “Nightfire” locally – and trying to use THAT as a flame source was likely to go very VERY wrong.
It blinded the ritualist and the knife expert for a few moments anyway.
Francisco was not in good shape. On the other hand, the Forgotten Realms did allow guns… and a bit of cheating would let him use Core weapons, rather than the local quasi-black powder variants. An autofire burst from gyroc launcher with explosive shells was enough to finish disrupting the flame-construct – revealing an angry youngster with nothing on but a shirt and flickers of black flame.
With the ritualist and the knife-thrower recovering their eyesight, the metallic fellow ripping free of the webbing, and the archer unconscious (but apparently starting to recover), the lizard-man reignited his firestorm and sent waves of flame boiling after all three of them – flattening Francisco and inflicting vicious burns on Alaria and Tom. The kid simply renewed his nightfire construct armor, flaring up once more, and the barbarian struck at Tom, hammering right though his force field, smartclothes, and personal resistance to injury.
Time to run. They flung spells of silence and minor witchcraft-illusions to cover their retreat.
The metallic fellow nearly hit them with a tree, while the lizard-man sent burning winds chasing them – but the fires behind them gave them a few moments head start.
They let the Thralls in town know that they were coming in with some Dark Elf captives that they’d retrieved – and threw more boosting-spells at the dogs pulling the sled. Fortunately, even minor illusions were great for diverting pursuit.
Describing the group to the local Thralls got an ID – the “Obsidian Blades”, a mercenary group (although the kid was new, and had apparently been the one sending constructs into town). According the what little was currently known, they were supposed to be working for a nearby mageguild – but they might be middlemen; they were a small group and shouldn’t have that much cash…
They’d have to look into that next!
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 163 – The Celestial Gardens (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 162 – Being Raised by Wolves (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session Timeline IV (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse, Session 159 – Crimson Twilight (ruscumag.wordpress.com)
- Federation-Apocalypse Session 160 – Social Pitfalls (ruscumag.wordpress.com)