Somarrian Hunt – Adventure Notes
May 27, 2021
The following transcript is a direct translation from the RPG session, in the player and DM's own words.
Mixed with a small dose of creative license spice from the DM filling in gaps where needed.
(*) Please forgive typoes: written and produced at Actoroke speed.
Darrell Judd “Torgrum Thorsvoldsomsen” – Dwarven - Barbarian
Denise Robinson “Claw” – Wilder elf – Druid
Gabriel Mondo Vega “Armando Equis Blake” – Human – Bard
Patrick Keeffe “Calsimeer Alderman” – Human – Cleric
XiaoWen Wu “Pansy Lightfoot” – Halfling – Rogue.
Hajra (Somarrian Hunt Referee assigned to Pierre de Clement)
Hastacius (Atar leader)
Pierre de Clement (Aimilleus graver)
Rashidi (Somarrian Hunt Referee assigned to Ballbarians)
Scathach (Priest of Arawn; Hunt official)
Armando, Calsimeer, Claw, Pansy, and Torgrum
Following the victory over the Tunnel Terror
The spider safely secured inside the magical bag, Torgrum scanned the nest. “I wonder if there is anything else interesting in this nest,” Torgrum pondered, “say for instance… previous victims?”
“Where is Armando?” Claw said.
Now on Somarrian Hunt
EPISODE 3 BEGINS
The Ballbarians gathered at the center of the Tunnel Terror’s nest, energy spent, covered in Tunnel Terror body parts and ichor. Each afraid of what else might be lurking in the dark.
The dark grotto was covered in thick overlapping webbing—webs and more webs—making it impossible to ascertain its features and size.
They scanned, eyes taking in the contours, textures and… eggs.
The grotto was filled with hundreds of large foot tall Tunnel Terror eggs. Soon to be new Tunnel Terror offspring, by the looks of the nearly full-term eggs.
“Kill it with fire,” said Claw, “Kill it. Kill it. Kill it with fire.”
“No, into the bag,” Torgrum retorted.
Eyes lighting up, Claw saw where Torgrum was going, “Aww. Babies. Spider babies.”
“That’s right,” said Pansy.
“That’s a great idea,” Calsimeer quipped.
“Count these, jerk face,” Claw laughed, imagining the hunt officials counting fifty rambunctious juvenile Tunnel Terrors.
Rashidi floated near, doing as instructed grabbing three that were easily accessible. The rest were covered in a tumult of thick sticky webbing.
“If we only had a small dexterous individual,” Torgrum said, pulling Tunnel Terror remains from his beard.
Claw turned to Pansy, “If only.”
Pansy eyed the sinister webbed environment nervously, “Yes,” she said meekly.
While Pansy considered the webbing more thoughtfully, Claw began distributing Good Berries to her compatriots. “Just in case we run into any friends of the Tunnel Terror.”
TIME STAMP: 16:02
At closer examination, their eyes now more accustomed to the dark environs, they saw larger shapes in the webbing.
Hanging in and amongst the webbing and eggs were large cocoons. Human size, halfling, possibly even orc size.
Torgrum laughed at the poor suckers.
Everyone was wasted and weary from the fight to know what to do next.
“Are we always exhausted?” Pansy said, not so much a question as a statement. They hadn’t had a full night rest since landing in this gods forsaken place.
Claw made busy creating Good Berries, (10), which restored 1 hit point to anyone who ate them.
“Whoever is hurt the worse. I will share the love.”
Calsimeer limped near, “I would very much appreciate one of those. I’m feeling a little bit worse for wear.”
“We will start you off,” They smiled handing him a berry which he gobbled greedily.
“Who else needs help,” Claw asked scanning the others, “Tasty, tasty berries.”
“Calsimeer healed me,” Torgrum said waving a hand, “before I entered the tunnel. I’m in pretty good shape.”
“No one else? Okay.” Claw handed two more to Calsimmeer and kept the remaining five.
Calsimeer happily accepted the berries, “Oh goodness. Thank you so much, Claw,” he said, “This is very much appreciated.”
Claw smiled, “We are all in this together, friend.”
“What exactly do these do?” he laughed, realizing he should have asked before eating them.
“They heal you,” they said, “using nature’s goodness.”
Narrator: “They are as good as Brandi’s healing potions.”
Calsimeer nodded, “Ahh, that is true. We have quite a bit of those.”
Torgrum turned a constructive eye toward the cocoons. “These cocoons, if they have things in them, this spider behaves likes it’s smaller counterparts. They are probably still alive on some level. Maybe drugged. They could go into the bag as captured creatures, right?”
Claw considered what he was saying, “Assuming we don’t want to loot them.”
“We can check them out first and stick ‘em in the bag.”
Do humanoids count as creatures in this sense?” Calsimeer asked, savoring the good berries.
Torgrum kicked one of the cocoons,” Creature is a creature.”
“So long as they don’t have a flag,” Claw answered.
Torgrum yawned, “We should rest first.”
“I say we burn this place and get out of here.” Pansy offered.
“Check to see if any of them are writhing first,” Calsimeer offered quickly.
“Right,” Torgrum nodded, “Check to see if any of them are still alive.”
Alive huh? The group considered their options. Maybe cut the webbing. Would that work?
The four hacked ‘n slashed their way through the thick webbing to the first cocoon. It was hard going, as each stroke, the webbing glue stuck to their weapons like an ogre booger.
Quickly they concluded, there was no way they could clear all the webbing enough to search all the cocoons—not in week, not a month—the tunnel was much too large and the webs too formidable.
At the first cocoon, Torgrum cut ferociously at the webbing, intrigued and somewhat apprehensive for what he would find inside. The webbing was like fibrous steel—highly resistant to hacking and slashing. Finally with Claw and the others helping, they tore the webbing free revealing an orc. A rather dead orc. Dead to be sure and for a goodly long time.
An aroma unlike anything they’d ever conceived rose forth like a living cloud that massaged their senses, caressed their nasal cavities.
Repulsed the group stepped back stifling gags.
Essence of preserved orc evoked a deep primal fear in each of them. Run. Get away. Never return.
There was probably a thousand insidious ways one could die. Poisoned by a Tunnel Terror and cocooned alive had to top any known list. Who knows how long the orc had lived before passing? Unconscious if they were lucky. But possibly awake, aware, knowing they would be consumed by a wretched creature. Days. Weeks. Months? The hell the creature must have endured.
The orc was remarkably preserved.
Just over the shoulder, there were two more cocoons, about ten hours of hard labor deeper into the cave.
Indicating the others Torgrum said, “And likely older and more dead.”
Torgrum turned to Rashidi, “Does this guy count?”
Rashidi shook his head, “That is not a defeated trophy. If he has something of value, of course you can keep it.”
Torgrum nodded, “Sure.”
“Excellent,” Claw said.
“Check the body,” Torgrum said to one and all.
“Personally,” Claw said, “I’m in favor of getting the heck out. And blocking the tunnel, so we don’t have to worry about any babies coming out at us. And setting up camp and resting.”
“If we can’t get to any more eggs,” Torgrum said reluctantly, “I’m in favoring of burning it down.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Calsimeer agreed.
Everyone nodded. They were in favoring of burning and damning the place to hell.
“Burn it with fire versus block it off?” Claw asked.
“Burn it with fire,” Torgrum said, “and then block it off.”
“I’m concerned that there may be things alive in there, but unless we check every single one. Which I don’t think we have time to.”
It was hard to imagine anyone of these poor cocooned souls still alive.
“Fire it up. Fire it up. Fire it up.” Claw chanted, moving to the exits.
“Fire. Fire. Fire.” Pansy agreed, following Claw.
With oil, flint & steel, the companions set the webbing and cocoons on fire. It took a bit of coaxing but eventually the flames took hold. For all the resistance to edged weapons, the spider silk was rather flammable and once going the flames roared to life forcing the Ballbarians out.
“Thank gods, there is ventilation,” Calsimeer said waving his hands trying to get away from the acrid smoke.
The team waited outside the entrance as thick black smoke roiled forth. Waiting, apprehensive, was there anything else alive down there that might try to escape. Baby Tunnel Terrors perhaps or something else that had adopted the pit.
As the flames grew hotter the smoke lessoned turning to waves of heat.
And sooner than anyone had expected the fire and heat receded enough for them to once more, with trepidation, slowly entered the cave to see what ruin they had wrought.
To their relief the destruction had been thorough and complete.
Torgrum returned to the orc that was a pile of smoking charcoal—if he, or she, had anything of value, it was reduced to ash.
He glanced around the cave of smoking ruin and caught a glimpse of steel further back in an area previously thick with impenetrable webs.
TIME STAMP: 24:25
Torgrum kicked a skull. Nudged a pelvis. Under a pile of charred corpses, a year of previous meals, Torgrum found a double-bladed sword—with a sizeable hilt large enough to support dual blades that resembled fangs.
The dwarf hefted the heavy blade for all to see, “A great weapon—barbarian crafted,” he said.
“If this is a double-bladed sword. We know where this is heading. Let’s ride that theme.” the narrator said.
“Not for me,” Claw said.
Pansy shoot her head marveling at the size of Torgrum’s magnificent new weapon, “I can’t even lift it,” she said.
They all chuckled.
Torgrum drug the thing closer for all to inspect. “I’m afraid the previous owner didn’t make it.”
“It’s taller than me,” Pansy said.
The kingdom of Arusha is well known for families of barbarian clans. It was likely the sword’s previous owner was from one of these barbarian clans.
The Tunnel Terror’s grotto had been reduced to char and ash. Anything of value that might’ve been there was gone, the sole exception was the sword. It’s steel, magic alloy, maybe, was certainly resistant to fire and heat.
Claw slapped Torgrum on the shoulder, “You can claim that. I’m going to get away from the smoke.”
They exited the tunnel and set up camp to rest.
They considered searching for Armando, but after the grueling fight with the Tunnel Terror and the previous nights shenanigans with Pierre; they were exhausted. The thought of tracking Armando across the vast hot plains was unappealing as it was foolhardy.
The last time they saw Armando was right here.
“Let’s just sit and chill,” Claw suggesting, hoping everyone agreed.
“Maybe we can send the dogs to find him,” Pansy said, trying to figure a way to do both, rest and find their friend.
“Go find, Armando,” Torgrum said, under his breath, testing in his mind if such a command to the dogs would work. Not likely.
“I think they need someone to go with them,” Claw pointed out.
The dogs had found shade and were heads down in the grass. There was no discussion amongst the dogs, how they felt.
Calsimeer said, “I think we might be very tired. If we go looking for Armando we probably wouldn’t get too far. A I feel like, we should probably stay close.”
Claw gestured to Calsimeer, “I say, Priest of Dionysus. Do you have any wine? We could just sit down—”
“And relax,” Pansy chimed in.
“Take a moment,” Claw continued, “For five minutes and maybe pour one out, for Armando, just in case.
That was enough chitchat banter for Pansy. She curled up on her bed role and closed her eyes.
Calsimeer pulled out his water skin, held it up in solute, “Did anyone say, wine? This is all this is full of.” He drank.
“Well, that will work,” Claw said.
Torgrum joined Pansy, rolling out his bed roll. He laid down cradling the sword to his chest, lovingly like a newborn child.
“That will look quite handsome on you, Torgrum,“ Calsimeer said appreciatively.
Claw grinned, amused by the barbarian dwarf and his new toy, “Looks a bit dangerous,” They said, “Be careful you don’t cut your beard off.”
“Don’t cut yourself,” Pansy agreed and rolled over.
Calsimeer approached Claw, “Do we want to take first watch?”
“Perfect,” Claw said.
LIGHTING STRIKE #1
TIME STAMP: 31:52
It was LATE AFTERNOON by the time they had settled down. Torgrum and Pansy were quickly counting sheep and studying the insides of their eyelids.
Torgrum dreamt fondly of future bloody battles, his dual blade spilling guts and splendor.
Pansy also had vivid dreams, but instead of epic blood showcases, she was with Prodigal, the Anumian. They were in a Dorian public house, the Remedial Scholar in Dorsang. The pub was filled to overflowing, the streets filled with revelry and merrymaking.
Pansy stood upon the bar, “Drinks for everyone,” she proclaimed. “Bartender, your best wine. I’m buying”.
The drunken throng surged to the bar, cheering Pansy’s name as the more and more bartenders opened bottles and tapped kegs.
The wine flowed without end.
Calsimeer and Claw found a fallen tree to rest their weary backs, their eyes on the savannah to the east and possibly the return of Armando.
“We don’t need a campfire. But I will take a swig of that wine.”
“I can tell you, it’s not the best but it does the job.”
“Fabulous. I mean, I’ve never sat down with a priest of Dionysus before. So this is a whole new experience. How do you become a priest of Dionysus? Become really drunk one day?”
“Well, sort of,” the priest said contemplatively, “Dionysus is a very interesting god. Your not too far off, as far as coming a priest of Dionysus. You sort of do get rather drunk. He takes a look at the strength of your character. Exactly where you fall. And as far as things go, they reach out to you. In a dream like state. Sort of, once you’ve gotten very inebriated,” he looked at Claw, eyes wide, “like very inebriated. Past the point when you really remember. But no, there is sort of a vision that happens. At least this is the way that it happened for me. I haven’t met many more followers,” he raised his hands, “considering.”
Claw nodded, “Well that is fascinating. I just went for the nature.”
“Nature is not a bad…” Calsimeer stopped, considering, “deities is not exactly the right word?”
“No. No. It’s a presence. It’s an all-encompassing presence. That’s what I go for. How did you personally…? Actually, how did you get here? What are you in for? I came out of jail. I was framed.”
Claw hung air quotes, “For poaching. They called it. There was a minor detail of me killing a few guards who were trying to apprehend me.”
“I didn’t anticipate exactly how weak a lowly, generic human guard would be when I hit them with a thunder wave.
Calsimeer laughed despite the grave nature of what Claw was admitting.
“It was self-defense. You know?”
“What was the poaching about? You said you worship nature.”
“Nature involves predators. It involves carnivores. It involves herbivores. Despite what rumors may have, not all elves are vegetarian. This one certainly isn’t. I found some nice pheasants and deer. I was going to get myself a nice dinner. Unfortunately, it happened to be on the local lordlings land. He took poorly to my--” again with the air quotes, “stealing. His. Animals. Ridiculous.”
Claw stretched, “enough about me. What about you?
Calsimeer grinned, “Do you want the long or short version?”
“We have a four-hour watch, I think.”
“That’s fair,” Calsimeer ruminated how to unweave the tale that landed him in Somarria. Finally after organizing the chain of events he said, “We’ll work backwards on this end. So as far as how exactly I got here, you and I don’t have too little in common. I was also a bit of a thief. There was this particular city I wound up in. And I, I was looking for my mentor. Shahrazad. Means a great deal to me. He helped me quite a bit. As I was, sort of, wayward in my youth. I’ll go into a little bit of that later. I ended up falling in with this group of thieves. Which I think we were fairly benevolent. We took from the rich and gave to the poor. Which happened to be us at the time.”
“Right,” Claw and Calsimeer giggled together, understanding the truth of it. “How many poor were hanging around?”
“It was all a matter of convenience. We did many jobs. We were very busy. We couldn’t exactly go looking for charity cases. We looked around at us and realized we were all charity cases.”
“That is perfectly logical.”
“Yes, that seemed to be the most opportune situation at the time.”
“And who doesn’t want to be an opportunist?”
“Exactly. I’m actually very proud of Pansy in that regard.”
“Yes,” Claw agreed, approvingly.
“I know. I hope she’ s enjoying some good dreams flying through the air around on giant bees.”
Lightning struck the two lovebirds ablaze. Not the typical blinding flash with titanic hammer detonation common at the peak of thunderstorm season but it was no less powerful.
The next few sleepy hours slowed and at the same time simultaneously flew buy—a rift in spacetime fueled by the metaphysics of burgeoning intrigue and infatuation.
Were they tired? Yes.
Should they have rested. Likely.
Was that ever going to happen. No.
Sleep deprivation was a worthy adversary they didn’t mind sparring as long as they were together.
LIGHTING STRIKE #2
TIME STAMP: 38:31
Armando’s friends elected to not go searching for him, therefore he was looking rather screwed.
Meanwhile on the Serengeti Armando was talking to his ride, “Horse,” he said, “There’s nothing to worry about. They are all out looking for us. They are scouting within five miles of us. And they will find us in no time flat.”
As an aside, Armando was damn happy he wasn’t inside one of the Tunnel Terror cocoons.
After a couple of hours, the Arushan plains and sporadic gaboon trees in mirage oasis fashion, were all looked rather the same. And Armando had to finally admit, he was hopelessly lost.
He had searched, hoping to find the Rhino tracks, or Pierre’s tracks, or possible the mound where the Tunnel Terror came out of. Primarily he was hoping to discover the area, where the Serengeti plains transition into the deeper jungle. Even something as large as the jungle was missing from view.
Finally, the larger clusters of mahogany and gaboon meant he was nearing the jungle once more where he suspected, “hoped” his friends might be. If he’d ventured too far north, he would have surely hit the sea, that meant he was south. But how far?
Nighttime was approaching. Sun had moved to the western skies, giving way to Moon and Warrior.
His ass hurt and his mind had moved far past tired to exhausted, feeling like he could sleep in the saddle.
“Horse,” he said once more. “We need to find shelter. Where are we going to find shelter? And why am I talking like Calsimeer?”
Did he really expect the horse to understand or possibly respond? Who knows, maybe Danika’s horses were mystically trained and could understand Kordavan. His parents had named him Equis, (his middle name of course), and if he shifted the ‘i’ to ‘u’, it would be Equus, which meant horse. Maybe, he and the horse were soul brothers.
Calsimeer worried that his exhausted body was turning into an exhausted mind, lapsing into hysterical thoughts.
He giggled, “I’m just horsing around.”
Armando and horse looked for a place to bed down for the night. Best that he find a place where Rhino’s wouldn’t trample him, or beasts eat him. Horse would make for a goodly meal, to a pride of lions.
He approached warily an oasis of several gaboon trees. While they weren’t much against the elements if a storm approached, he felt less exposed.
He curled up at the base of a tree with horse standing guard over him. It was the tropics, so thankfully it wasn’t that cold.
The horse grazed on grass.
“Remember, horse,” he said, “What happens in the forest, stays in the forest.”
With that, he closed his eyes and allowed exhaustion to lull him to sleep.
Armando was immediately, like a boot strike to the head, startled awake by a thunder crack.
Horse neighed, pranced scared by the sonic detonation. Armando snatched the reins making sure the horse didn’t bolt and scanned the horizon as he tried to calm the horse.
Warrior had shifted further to the east, meaning it was sometime in the middle of the night. But otherwise, the sky was clear.
Where had…? He thought. But before he could finish his thought another bolt of lightning lit up the world.
A blue bolt of lightning sizzled across the heavens illuminating trees and grass, bathing them awash in azure brilliance, if just momentarily.
Armando leapt to his feet terrified.
This time he felt the thunderclap in his chest.
There would be no more sleep tonight.
The bolt shot straight down, like an arrow loosed from a bow. With none of the telltale frizzled erratic static one would expect from lightning. The energy, like a beam of light, impacted dirt not too far distant.
And he thought momentarily as the thunder cracked and rolled, that he heard yelling.
He scanned the clear horizon left to right, his eyes seeking storm heads but saw none.
This was no natural thunderstorm, he thought.
AT THE SAME TIME – BACK YONDER – WITH THE REST OF THE CREW
As Warrior marched across the sky ticking away the hours, Claw and Calsimeer had shifted closer, hip-to-hip, shoulder-to-shoulder, gathering warmth from each other as they talked conspiratorially.
The impromptu light show and thunder calamity brought them to the present, interrupting their hushed conversation.
They were tired to say the least having only slept marginally since arriving in Somarria. The blissful dream world had called to them like will ‘o wisps into the moors. But sleep hadn’t turned quite desperate yet and they used guard duty as an excuse to stave off slumber so that they could talk and get better acquainted.
By the time, the second bolt hit ground adrenaline was racing and eradicating any sense of fatigue.
From their advantage ground zero was quite a few miles distant and so they watched wondering.
“Signs of nature,” Claw said.
“And the gods,” Calsimeer finished.
Pansy stirred, roused by the light and sound. She glanced over to the two on guard duty, who shifted awkwardly apart, upon her glance.
“Did I miss anything,” Pansy said, “What’s going on?
“There was this light in the sky,” Claw said faster than the lightning itself. “Like…” They glanced over at Calsimeer for backup.
“A straight bolt of lightning,” he said.
The two looked guilty as toddlers with their hands caught in the cookie jar and were madly talking over each other.
“Lightning. A fast whiz bang bolt of lightning.”
“It startled us.”
Pansy rolled up, “I thought I was dreaming.”
“Maybe it was a meteor,” Calsimeer said, “or a Starfall”.
“Two meteors?” Claw asked.
He shrugged. “Could it have been a spell?”
Whatever it was, it had happened so quickly and out of the blue, it was impossible to know what had caused it.
Pansy rose, “Is Armando here? Did he get back?”
“No,” Claw said, “Maybe he was lit up by this.”
“I certainly hope not,” Calsimeer interjected.
Claw laughed, “Not literally.”
Pansy looked in the direction of the lightning, “I’m starting to get worried.”
Claw joined her, “Do you want to stay here with Torgrum, let him get some sleep. And the spellcasters--”
“What?” Torgrum’s rough voice, cut the air. “I’m up.”
“Oh, you’re up. Oh good.”
“Claw, you and Calsimeer look exhausted. I think you two need to get some rest while Torgrum and I investigate.”
Calsimeer looking hang dogged, staggered to his feet, “I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling tapped out.”
“I’m okay with staying behind and getting some rest,” Claw said, “That sounds quite lovely,
REST UPDATE (Warning: Game Mechanics)
- Claw and Calsimeer are at level 2 exhaustion having not slept. Peter was gracious not to move them to level 3. Death comes at level 6.
- Pansy and Torgrum (if they decide to rise and investigate), are at no exhaustion. But did not sleep long enough to get “a long rest”.
Calsimeer’s eyes were aflutter, “if you need us to go…” his voice faded, not finishing his thought.
Torgrum was up, hefting his new toy, “It could be a sign from Thor. I gotta go.”
The thought of Thor calling to Torgrum, implied many possibilities, “Yeah, you gotta work that,” Claw agreed.
Pansy motioned, “with that new sword.”
Calsimeer grinned, “just saying.”
Claw motioned, “Team tiny, you go. I’m gonna trance out.”
“Get some rest,” Pansy said.
Team small ventured forth, while team tall slept.
BACK TO ARMANDO BRAVO
“Horse agrees with thee and me,” Armando said to himself, “we shall investigate this lightning.”
In literature, anytime someone moved toward the light, light meant danger.
Back in the saddle, Armando kicked his heels, “Toward the danger,” he declared.
REST UPDATE (Warning: Game Mechanics)
- Armando slept enough that he was no longer exhausted, did not sleep long enough to get “a long rest”.
It’s not long before Armando heard the sounds of battle, the ring of metal, weapons and shouting and gray objects moving fast in the night sky.
He reined in horse dismounted, hunkering low so as not to be seen.
Fearing horse may get scared, being as he wasn’t a warhorse, Armando tied him off to a fallen tree and continued cautiously on foot.
Movement caught his eye and he glanced skyward. Two more anumians, Warband and Ballerina joined Warrior. Had they come to watch, as he had, the conflict, or were the Anumians as he suspected, unaware of the mortals below on Chaldea? In the same way, Armando passed ants, even now, unnoticed beneath his heel.
The Anumians graceful movements playful and even frisky made him forget, for a moment, where he was. Until another lightning bolt lit up the world followed by a tremendous sonic detonation.
The streak like before, came out of the heavens like a dart of light and hit close. Such was the resounding force; it nearly knocked him off his feet.
After his ears recovered, the sound of battle was close, immediate even. Many multiple opponents lay ahead, but how many was unknown. Armando crept slowly into the deeper shadows near a cluster of large boulders, hoping to hide his presence.
He saw someone or something, a shadow form hovering stationary in the air, about a hundred-foot distance and about thirty feet in the air. It reminded him of a floating statue, arms crossed and staring unmoving.
The hairs that stood erect on his arms and neck told him to run, but the overwhelming desire to see and understand the source of the lightning overrode that fear.
He moved closer, his back hugging the stones, safe in the feeling at least, his back was against something solid.
Armando jerked frightened as a gust of powerful wind passed close over his left shoulder buffeting his hair wildly.
No, not lightning.
The wind was pushed by a quadruped with wings—large, graceful, and terrible.
His mind shrieked, dragon. As that was the first thing that lept to mind. But this was no dragon.
It was an Atar.
A mythic Mycenaean duality creature: half centaur and pegasus with four sets of wings, (two horse wings, two human wings). Extraordinarily little was known about Atars, at least from what Armando understood. They were from the island continent of Ata-Aimilleuse and were militant in their desire to be undisturbed and left in peace.
The fact that Atars were in Somarria, was unsettling to say the least. Were they part of the hunt? Seemed unlikely.
Static electricity rippled frenetic, like fine chain mesh shielding around the creature’s equine form. The pulsing light revealed her to be female. She was a wielding a dark lance and shield and she directed that lance at someone on the ground.
She hurled the lance and as it flew all the electricity building up around her body released all at once, turning the lance into a lightning bolt striking an adversary on the ground.
Night turned day and, in that instant, Armando took in the battle. His mind quickly calculated: eight Atars and Pierre de Clement and his friends—the five men that had accosted them the night prior looking for the dagger Pansy had stolen.
Eight Atars?! He thought. What had he wandered into?
Pierre and his friends were losing. That was plain and obvious. The five humans were fighting with their backs together against five Atar ground soldiers with swords, while three aerial cavalry circled hurled lighting from above.
Gods, he thought. It’s gonna be a slaughter.
He considered his options. Was there an option? Dare he get involved?
The shadow form that had floating mysteriously at a distance, watching. Moved. Curved behind Armando dropping close. She and Armando’s eyes met.
It was Hajra, the hunt referee assigned to Pierre and his hunting party. Like Rashidi, she was dressed in Pentavalo black and silver robes.
By rule, referees were not permitted to get involved. Whatever was happening. Transpiring between the men of Aimilleuse and their neighboring Atars, didn’t involve her and she watched with casual detachment.
“I can’t stand by and do nothing,” he said to her, “I just can’t.”
Hajra said nothing.
The two watched the battle unfold.
“You stole from us,” said the leader of the Atars. He was the largest the Atars with distinctive long flowing black hair wrapped in iron bands. He hurled weapons and insults at Pierre with equal hatred. Most of what he said was lost in the din of battle and the tumult of wind and circling Atars.
Pierre and the Atar crossed swords. Close enough to smell each other’s breath. “You didn’t think we would find you,” said the Atar, “Now it’s time to pay up. With your life.”
“I don’t have the dagger,” Pierre screamed.
“You do,” the Atar shot back.
“If I did, how could you have found me?”
To Pierre’s right, the duelist named Thiebauz lost an arm at the shoulder dropping his rapier. He staggered, screaming madly from pain and acute shock. His bloody stump undulated oddly, twitching like some kind of alien thing. And then his pain was relieved as his head was removed ear to shoulder with one swift stroke of an Atar’s slashing blade.
“O, boy,” Armando muttered to himself.
Another duelist, the one known as Vacce staggered, skin fried crispy from lightning burns, fell, and was finished off with a lance to the back.
“Excuse me,” Armando yelled stepping out from his hiding place behind the boulder, “I’m lost and need directions to get back to my party. Could you guys help me?”
The woman in the sky above that had thrown the lightning lance flew toward Armando.
“I warn you to stay away,” she said, pointing the lance at him, “Stay out of this. This is a personal grudge. Once we’ve settled business here.” She jerked a thumb over her shoulder to the dying duelists. “We’ll be happy to help you find your companions.”
“Perhaps, I could help,” Armando said. “I like to help people.”
The Atar flew in a graceful arc slowly around Armando, never taking the point of her lance off him, “We don’t need help. We are gonna kill this man.”
Gozon, the youngest duelist who had suffered massive burns over his body, his hair scorched, leaving nothing but a bloody scalp, succumbed to his many wounds. The Atar finished him rearing up and bringing down his two front hooves forcefully to his head with a sickening crunch. The result quite bloody and messy.
Pierre and Lohier moved back-to-back, two against impossible odds.
Hajra unfolded her arms, “Huh? I did not see this coming.” She said to Armando smiling.
Armando rolled his eyes up, “No. And I see it ending very soon. I don’t think I could do anything to make a difference here.”
“I think it wise if you stay out of this one. Tough la caballería, these Atars.”
“You are with the Ballbarians, right?”
“Yes, I am. I am the Bard-barian”
“I think I spotted you early,” she said, a hint of a smile played and danced at the edge of her delicate lips.
Amid all the chaos and violence, Armando was struck by her calm countenance and beauty.
LIGHTING STRIKE #3
TIME STAMP: 59:45
“When you spotted me, was I with four other individuals?” Armando asked.
Behind Armando and Hajra’s casual conversation, sinister business climaxed. Lohier the last of Pierre’s comrades fell twitching, gagging on a javelin to the throat.
Alas, it would seem, Pierre would never realize the much-cherished dinner and wine with Cordelia, nor would he trouble Pansy over the dagger. The theft that had started political dominoes tumbling.
For Pierre, time was ebbing away, like the last few droplets of blood oozing out of his four dead friends.
Pierre stood alone, defiant before the onslaught of heavy sword strikes.
Hajra caressed her chin, “I think my group is done for.”
Armando winked, “You can join our group, if you’d like.”
“I am a referee. I will take you--” But her sentence was cut short by a scream of rage and anguish.
The Bard-barian and the referee turned and watched, as Pierre was pin cushioned by swords and javelins from every side. Even after death, the weapons rose and fell reducing him to a bloody mess.
The Atars were not merely happy to see him dead, they meant to exact revenge, retribution, punishment.
The leader, who had cursed Pierre tore the man apart searching. “Where is it?” he screamed. “WHERE IS IT?!”
These men were the people who had accosted Pansy last night. And now they were being accosted in return. This Pierre had a way with people—stirring up raw emotions with everyone they meet, Armando thought.
Whatever he was searching for he obviously hadn’t found, and every second it didn’t appear his fury increased like the winter north wind. He took a couple of minor items of worth, stowing them with a casual thrust into a satchel before turning his wrath upon Hajra and Armando.
He wheeled around and came trotting over to the boulders where Armando stood and Hajra hovered.
“You were with this group,” the Atar said, pointing his sword angrily at the referee, “and you stood by and did nothing while we slaughtered them. You have no honor.”
Hajra scoffed amused, “I am just a referee of the hunt. It is not really my business to get involved with the actual fighting.”
“You are a witness,” he proclaimed. The statement was both an accusation and the continuation of hostilities.
Electric energy formed once more around the three flying Atars, surging like a storm.
“Wait,” the bard said, “I’m doing research on Atars. I’ll dedicate an entire chapter to your great leadership.”
The Atars were a high-strung species and incredible xenophobic hating anything not Atar—especially humans. Their view towards racism was understood to be a highly tuned art form.
The Atars recognized the bard’s slipper tongue exposition and was not going to be persuaded by his insipid bullshit.
The Atars so far from home, were on a mission, a path of destruction and would not be denied the ultimate truth they sought.
This conversation was going to end ugly. For that Armando had no doubt.
Hajra motioned Armando gentle aside, “I got this.”
Hajra raised her fists, revealing Pentavalo metal etched bracers. She snapped her fingers, and the bracers delicate inlaid silver filigree came to life illuminated black and purple. The enchanted light pulsed with heartbeat precision.
A column of black smoke almost liquid in appearance formed on the ground beneath Hajra.
Small at first and then larger, the smoke that had the acrid smell of charred flesh swirled right and then left, it’s dark mass writhing chaotically and thrashing like snakes desperate to escape a fiery death. The dark mass continued to expand outward—as if from a fire that didn’t exist or a rift in space—until it was twenty feet high and half again as wide.
A gold blade two-feet wide and a triple-thick appeared with a seismic baritone rumble as its tip impacted and cut deep into the ground.
Chaldea shuddered at its bladed touch. Grass and vegetation withered and died spreading like quick flood waters across the plains.
A second blade set down next to the first and from the smoke strode forth a twelve-foot-tall giant, propelled on bladed legs.
This thing was not a giant, but a demon.
And not from Chaldea or any civilized world known to man, elf or dwarf. Where it strode law unraveled, and chaos blossomed.
It had roughly humanoid torso, arms, and upper legs, but that’s where the human similarities ended. It’s skull head-like-thing, if you could consider it that, was a towering inverted hollow triangle that wasn’t so much a face but a metallic symbol of chaos.
From its broad upper arms, jutted sharp angular blades that curved out and up.
From its knees down, it walked straight legged upon long golden metal blades.
Heat waves of chaos energy radiated from it’s arms, shoulders and the chaos triangle hummed like a deep seismic tuning fork.
Armando’s eyes blossomed. He tried to blink but found that he couldn’t, “You guys are gonna get it so-bad,” Armando said with awe. And he stepped back happily as Hajra instructed.
If the first demon was not enough, a second identical clone appeared alongside the first.
Hastacius galloped and launched himself at Hajra, propelled quickly on powerful wings his sword raised to strike.
Pentavalo demon summoners were only as powerful as the creatures they controlled, and the leader of the Atars seemed to understand.
But to understand at thing and execute a thing was two different things.
“Kill the Atars,” Hajra instructed.
The first demon performed a reverse roundhouse kick, it’s bladed right leg caught Hastacius in the chest, slicing him clean in two like a vorpal blade through neck tissue.
The slabs of wet meat skidded through the thick grass.
The lightning cavalry in the sky above seeing their leader dead, hurled lightning at Hajra.
With speed-of-light reflexes, Hajra reacted without thinking, lifting fist and bracers. The bolt grounded on forearm metal, drinking megawatts of juice.
A second and a third bolt hit in rapid succession. Boom. Boom!
Hajra disappeared in the blinding white intensity of the electrical storm.
Every hair on Armando’s body stood erect, brought to attention by the riot of electricity. He fell back, covering his eyes from the intensity.
If Armando thought he was somehow going to avoid getting involved in this dustup, he was rightly and sadly mistaken.
A female warrior in Mycanean leather vest and tunic, wielding a slashing long sword, galloped fleet of foot towards the bard, surprisingly so, her arm danced fluidly weaving a series of swords strikes startling Armando by the precision. As she passed, her blade slipped past his defenses cutting him across the ribs. [9 damage]
Armando dipped and weaved, doing everything in his power to avoid the angry Atar and her dancing blade. With an ache in his ribs and blood running down his side, he lept over a slow slung rock, and struck a defiant thespian pose with the rock between them as defense.
He casted Vicious mockery cantrip at her: “A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats,” he screamed loudly at her, “a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson, glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.”
A dimple ever so minute creased her blood-stained cheek. Her amusement at his intended mockery, if that was what it was, lasted the space between heartbeats before she continued her onslaught. If she was amused, or felt any emotion, it didn’t hinder her desire to see the bard dead.
Her next attack went wide. [miss]
Heaving a quick sigh of relief, he thought, maybe the vicious mockery did have an effect afterall.
He prepared another cantrip: True strike. Armando sang:
“Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream;
Highlows pass as patent leathers;
Jackdaws strut in peacock's feathers.
So they do.”
Accompany the final line Armando struck true with his long sword drawing blood. [inflicting 6 damage]
The Atar faulted on her next attack. [miss]
Armando struck again, [in audible X damage] “This is too good to be true. There is a song about that, but I’ll spare you.”
She faulted again, [miss].
Hajra’s demons were moving through the field like farmers harvesting wheat, systematically engaging the Atars. Already four lay mangled and dead.
A couple of the Atars tried to flee but were yanked out of the sky by conjured black chains, like hundred-foot-long flying cat o’ nine tails. The serrated chains hit, bit and spun, wrapping the equine bodies in metal cocoons.
The demons yanked with summoned strength, slapping the Atars hard onto the ground knocking them silly.
And then Hajra was there floating on the wind, between Armando and the Atar attacking him.
Was she in fact flying? Using levitation or wind walking? All the above or something else. Armando knew not which.
She dove at the Atar like a bird of prey but not with weapons, but with open hand and fists.
It tried to maneuver free, but Hajra was fast like a mongoose after a cobra, feisty and determined. She grabbed the Atar by the throat. Her fist clenched, locked vice tight.
The Atar struggled, flapping, and kicking. Sword flailing. The Atar was far more massive than the human referee for sure, but the size difference made no matter.
Hajra snarled, her features shifted dark and sinister, like a storm cloud moving in front of the sun.
She squeezed and squeezed and squeezed. Such was the power and ferocity of her demonic grip she snapped bones and crushed cartilage. The Atar’s muscular frame sagged, wings drooped, legs dangled.
Hajra slowly let the neck slip from her grasp, allowing it to tumble with a loud crash to the ground.
She whirled on Armando her face dark and grave—pupils’ abyssal obsidian.
Those pupilless eyes quickly darted up and down, inspecting him stem to stern. Seeing that he was alive and no worse for the fight, her mood brightened, determination shifted jocular, as an infectious wry smirk returned to her sanguine lips.
The storm clouds that had hidden her once radiant face dissipated.
The night is darkest before the dawn, he thought.
Hajra’s smile was dawn. Her raven hair shimmered with blue highlights as a mischievous sparkle danced in her eye, she said, “You did some damage. A couple of hits in there.”
A loud torturous scream yanked Armando’s attention right. A demon had ripped the right wing off an Atar and was in the process of working on the left. The Atar’s ear piercing tormented scream was enough to fracture nerves and curdle blood. A haunting sound Armando would likely never forget. He shuddered.
Hajra glanced over to see how things were progressing. Satisfied, returned her attention to the bard, “I tried to protect you.”
Armando watched as the second demon had an Atar by the tail and was using it to beat a third.
Never had Armando witnessed such hate and cruelty, such unadulterated carnage. It was mesmerizing, tantalizing in its base fury.
The demon punched the Atar in the chest, sinking it’s arm up to it’s elbow. It fished around for a second in the chest cavity before pulling free its heart.
He let the Atar fall lifeless to the ground before crushing the organ in its fist.
Armando blinked and blinked again trying to get the frightful image out of his mind. Finally, he pried his attention away from the gruesome performance back to Hajra and that smile.
“Yes. Yes,” he said, all consumed by her radiance, “Will you marry me?”
She waved an aw-shucks hand his direction. The same bloody hand moments early that had crushed the life out of an Atar. “You got to meet my family first,” she said bashfully.
Her determination was like the courtship of Sun and Moon. Her prowess regal. Intellect calculating.
Something wasn’t right. He didn’t know this girl. How could this be wrong, it felt so right.
Love at first sight, was a thing. He knew it. He believed it. Here it was in its truest form.
Had she cast a spell on him? Maybe not an enchanted spell, but an enchanting spell definitely. His thoughts, desires, emotions, was overwhelmed by her aura.
“How sweet,” she said floating closer. “We should at least have dinner first. That was your plan after all, was it not?”
“It was,” he agreed enthusiastically, nodding like a woodpecker. “You saw right through me.”
“Dinner at least,” she agreed. “But first, let us clean up this mess before we get you back to your Ballbarians.”
She took his arm into hers, “they have a bearing loose” and chuckled.
If he had been an iceberg, he would have melted into a lake at that moment. He was putty in her hands, willing and open to any suggestion.
“What was the point of the lightning?” he asked, “Did the Atar travel here upon lightning?”
“Atars are masters at working with that elemental force. It is fundamental to who they are.”
The two demons that had gone through the Atars like an obese man through dinner, stood erect. Job complete and motionless showered in dripping blood and gristle.
“Friends of yours?” Armando said, wanting to smile but didn’t.
The demons were obedient soldiers waiting orders.
Armando suddenly had a dreadful thought, a feeling the Pentavalo girl with her infectious smile was playing him a fool and he would be the next victim to have head rend from torso.
Hajra snapped her fingers.
Low harmonics rumbled faintly as the demons bowed servantly. And then in the time between blinks they were gone. Simply gone with no theatrics.
Hajra flew down to Pierre, inspecting the Aimilleuse man’s pin-cushioned bloody corpse. She shook her head sadly but said nothing.
What a mess, Armando thought.
Armando marveled at the carnage. A morass of blood and body parts strewn about the savannah. Five men and eight Atars, their corpses shredded, almost to unrecognizable. What an absolute slaughter, he thought.
For a couple of hundred paces in every direction all vegetation was dead. The ground stained with the soot of chaos.
These two species, Armando thought, Atars and demons were not human—anything but. Killing wasn’t a necessity of survival. They enjoyed death—reveled in it. An unquenchable primal lust.
Armando was never so happy to be human.
“He should have listened to me,” Armando said. “He’d still be alive.”
Hajra shrugged and went about cleaning up things. First, she stuffed Pierre and his friends into the bag of holding. Taking time to gather fallen weapons and whatever else they might have dropped.
A couple of the horses were dead, killed in the fighting or the lightning strikes. She stuffed them in as well.
And lastly, she gathered the Atars and their things.
For a few minutes she floated higher scanning the field to make sure she didn’t miss anything. When she was satisfied, she descended to where Armando sat resting on a rock.
“The grass will grow back,” she said offhandedly.
She stretched and yawned, “Well, I think my referee job is over. But I will take you back to your group.”
“Let me grab my horse,” Armando said, heading back in the direction where he left him. Hoping that he was still there.
“Yes, by all means.”
When he’d returned with horse, he found Hajra eyes closed concentrating, her index fingers pressed sharply to her temples.
Armando waited. Should he wait?
He cleared his throat.
She held up a finger to wait, “hold on.”
A second later she said, “Okay. I know where they are at. Let’s go.”
With Armando on horse and Hajra flying, they headed westerly toward the jungle.
Presently they come upon Torgrum and Pansy followed distantly by Rashidi.
“Armando,” Pansy shrieked with glee.
“Armando,” Torgrum echoed Pansy’s enthusiasm.
“We can have an engagement party,” Armando said grinning broadly, “this is wonderful.”
“We missed you,” Pansy said.
“Hi guys. Look who I found,” Armando motioned to Hajra.
“Who is this,” Torgrum asked.
“Wow. Who is this lady?” Pansy said.
Armando regaled Torgrum and Pansy with the exploits of the past few hours as they returned to the camp where Claw and Calsimeer slept waiting.
As Armando attempted to explain to Torgrum and Pansy about the Atars and Pierre and the subsequent demon carnage, Rashidi and Hajra slipped to the rear to converse.
As the two referees floated silent behind the others, Hajra gave the senior referee an update.
“I don’t know what to do,” Hajra said, her voice low, “The whole hunting party was wiped out by Atars. Far as I recollect, they were not on the schedule.”
She waited for Rashidi to respond as he considered the situation thoughtfully.
She continued, “They weren’t on the list of creatures around here. I don’t know where they came from.”
Rashidi found the story perplexing and did not have much insight to offer, “Huh. That’s odd. I don’t know anything about Atars in the hunting zone. Brigthwyna will want to hear about this. Did you happen to capture any of them?
“Yes,” she said, “A couple of them might be still alive when I captured them. It was a bit of a bloody mess at the end there.”
“Good. Good. Brigthwyna will want them. Was Armando with you?” Rashidi asked, changing the topic.
“Yes,” she nodded, “he was involved from the outset.”
“And did he assist? Was he involved in the fight with the Atars?”
She shrugged, “Well, I mean, kind of...” she trailed off.
“Did he run away?” Rashidi said forcefully, “Did he fight any of them?”
Hajra considered the question thoughtfully.
“I’m not asking if he was affective. Did he fight them? Yes, or no?”
“Well, yes,” she admitted, “he was quite brave. There were eight of them and he actually mixed it up, receiving and giving wounds equally.”
“Very well. If he fought the Atars, the Ballbarians are awarded the trophies.”
Hajra held back a scoff, “He didn’t do that much.”
Rashidi arched a raised brow, “Those are the rules. What do you care?”
She smirked, “You are right. Why should I care. My party is dead.”
Hajra handed over the bag to Rashidi, “By the regulations of the Somarrian hunt these are yours. My job here is done.” She rubbed her hands together, removing herself from the equation, “I’m heading back to The Lodge.”
She exhaled a heavy sigh, “Whew! Four days early. You can find me at the bar.”
She turned to leave and then slowly looked back over her shoulder at Armando who was in the process of soaking in her back side, “See you later Armando,” she said, her fingers danced a flirtatious good-bye, “nice to meet you.”
He waved, “The pleasure was all…”
Whoosh! She was gone—flying faster than anything naturally could.
“…mine.” he finished sotto.
What a woman, he thought. What a woman.
He turned to find Pansy staring, “a-huh”, she said, “What was going on there?”
“Do you have a date, later?” Torgrum said not mincing words.
“I’m going to marry her. You’ll see.”
“Until then,” Torgrum said, “Let’s get back to the other two and get some sleep.”
No more words were said as they returned to Claw and Calsimeer.
Back at Camp Tunnel Terror, they finally, had a long and much deserved rest.
TIME STAMP: 1:33:38
The Ballbarians awoke, fully rested, fully healed—ready to rock ‘n roll with all their abilities restored.
Yes, siree Ballbarians!
The Ballbarian hunters were on the verge of progressing further into the hunt, when they heard an odd noise coming from the Tunnel Terror hole.
They reacted to the noise, pulling weapons and readying spells. Was this about to be a dreaded Tunnel Terror sequel no one requested nor wanted?
Torgrum hefted his new blade, “of course,” he muttered expecting to see an eight-legged freak.
A tiny, emaciated hand clawed forth attached to an elderly wizened goblin. In her other hand she had an orange safety flag she waved eagerly.
She slowly extricated herself from the hole, scrambled hand over hand up and out of the ground. Breathing profusely, like the fat merchant after sex.
“Oh man,” she exhaled panting, “oh my. That’s a, that’s a, mighty deep one. So glad to be out of that thing.”
Calsimeer half-laughed disturbed by centenarian thing before him, “Oh my gods. Are you okay?”
“Oh yeah, I’m fine. How are you guys?” she said in perfect Kordavan.
“I always wondered how goblins were born,” Armando said.
“You guys are ugly,” she said examining each in turn, as she continued to wave the flag, like she was trying to wave down a taxi.
“You don’t sell healing potions, do you?” Torgrum asked, trying to grasp what the heck was happening here.
“No. No. No-no-no. I would certainly not sell. You guys wanna fight? You wanna throw-down?”
“Are you by yourself?” Calsimeer said, glancing about, waiting for the next goblin foot to fall.
“No, I’m with you. Fucking idiot.”
She cracked her neck, “a bunch of stupid gravers out here. Maybe I can taunt you into fighting.”
“I see there is a halfling there,” she said, directing her flag at Pansy, “If I had a crossbow, I would shoot that halfling in the mouth and feel nothing.” She chortled and then hacked violently. Finally spitting a massive loogy at the feet of Pansy.
Calsimeer groaned, “right.”
“Don’t worry,” Torgrum said, “you’re shooting your own mouth off pretty good right now.”
“I don’t tell halfling jokes very often,” she continued, “but when I do, I keep ‘em short.”
Calsimeer gave a patronizing slow clap.
“Point for the goblin,” Claw said.
“I might be short,” Pansy said, “I’m not buried in cave, where I gotta scratch and claw out of the place. I am live on civilized streets. Who knows where you’re from?”
“You there, outcast dwarf. What did you do so bad that you got kicked out of a society built on greed?”
Torgrum slapped his leg, “Wait. You called me greedy. Why your wit is sharp as Thor’s hammer.”
“All dwarves are greedy.”
Torgrum held up his hand placating the goblin wench, “Wait. Wait. Let me help you. Dwarves are also insular. Tunnel digging. Gem snatching. Sterile. Stateless. Aquaphobic troglodytes.”
The goblin counted off each description repeating after Torgrum, “Greedy. Greedy. Greedy. Greedy. Greedy. Yeah. Yeah. All those things with greedy in front of it.”
Torgrum wasn’t done. He had zero intention of taking lip from no goblin, insufferable matriarch or not, “Maybe you should try a little harder next time. Then saying a halfling is short. A dwarf is greedy. Because, you know, kinda weak.”
“It’s quite surprising. We burnt that tunnel quite a while ago,” Calsimeer said, “And yet, you’re still getting roasted.”
She spat again, “Okay, so far, we have a backstabber and a greedy dwarf—yes, I know, redundant. Which leaves the other three, a walking hyperbole of the dumbest gravers in Somarria. Whose leg did you have to hump to get invited?
“Claw, the elf here,” the goblin said, pointing a thumb at Claw, “worships dragons, so fanatical is their devotion, they changed their name to Claw Claw Bite. Life is about kicking ass not licking it. Stand still, why I wipe that off your nose.”
“Claw entered an archery contest last summer. Did they mention? No? Well, Vishkon, you know, the elder dragon of nature, was in the gallery watching. Claw was so nervous by the dragon’s presence, when it was their turn to let loose an arrow, they shat a missile out of their britches. Now they’re called Shit Claw head toilet usher.”
“I was unaware combat through words, was one of the Somarrian hunt options,” Claw stated.
“She’s not exactly armed with a weapon, with this battle of wits thing,” Torgrum said to Claw.
“You’re right. We really shouldn’t attack an unarmed goblin.”
“We can throw down the flags,” the goblin said, “fight the old-fashioned way. Should we put these down?”
Seeing as they weren’t yet ready to fight, she continued to hurl insults, “Hunting game in Somarria is serious business, and you bring a bard. Actors always want to be singers and singers want to be actors. And bards can’t do either.
What is his role in this gang of misfits? Pen the obituary? Sing the demise? Armando has witnessed more tragedies than Kordaava and the spear of Set.
Calsimeer ignored the half-witted goblin, as long they had their safety flag held up, there was no fear from her. He looked about, searching the trees, grass, high and low. Was the goblin alone as she appeared. Surely not.
Claw asked, “Are we being punked? Is there an audience enjoying this? Is this really happening? I feel like I just woke up and this,” she fingered the goblin, “is here.”
“I rank this hunting party, inept, very inept and Calsimeer. Dionysus, didn’t waste many grapes on your vintage, did he? What kind of shat god is he anyway, huh? Bottom of the barrel, obviously. Kicked out of Chaldea by what, a demi-god of Set? Really? Feck off eejit.”
Claw gave up on the goblin and began packing their horse.
Torgrum followed their lead, mounting his horse. “This goblin is a little…” he twirled his finger around his noggin.
“Bye,” Pansy said, mounting her pony, “Stay in your cave.”
Torgrum gave a fond farewell salute to the goblin as the ballbarians rode away, “see you later you troll licking jotnar.”
“Wait, wait. Wait.” the goblin said, motioning them back, “you guys… really?”
The horses headed deeper into the jungle.
The goblin shook her head in disbelief, “Really? C’mon,” and threw down the flag in disgust.
“Should I shoot her?” Claw asked the others.
“We have to put down our flag first,” Torgrum said, “Why would we waste our time?”
“Why bother?” Pansy snorted.
“Points,” Claw pointed out, “Points.”
The goblin heaved a sigh at the departing horse and riders, “You guys aren’t going to do it, are you?”
As a last parting gesture, the goblin grabbed the torc around her neck and released a flood of spells enhancements all at once.
The once diminutive frail goblin woman exploded to the size of an ogre with the strength to match, “C’MON YOU BALLBARIANS. LET’S FIGHT?
Pansy turned back to Rashidi, who had not moved. “Are you coming?” she said. Still not movement.
During the whole game of words with the goblin, Rashidi had not moved. In fact, he still wasn’t moving. Stationary to the point of unnatural.
Claw pointed out to the others, “Did she break our referee?”
Just as the others turned around, a man—human—appeared, phasing corporeal from nothingness. He took the two magical bags of holding from Rashidi.
“No, no, no.” They all said in unison.
“That ain’t going to happen,” Claw said, kicking their horse into motion.
The others followed, returning the short distance back to their referee and the man who was the pillaging their trophies.
As the Ballbarians approached, he held up his hand defensively. “Wait. Wait. Wait. I am not stealing these from you. I’m stealing these from him,” gesturing to Rashidi.
The goblin had provoked a reaction but theft of their hunting trophies they were willing to spill blood over.
“I will return to all your trophies,” he said, “If you stand down.”
He gestured to the ogre sized goblin, “Sally, you too. Stand down”.
The spell enchantments that had her pumped up and primed for battle dissipated like an unfettered balloon, returning her to her previously diminutive wizened goblin self. No longer fueled by potent magic, she immediately passed out, toppling over first onto her keister and then shoulder and head.
The man kept his hands aloft away from his wand and scabbard, indicating he had no desire for conflict, “I am merely here to steal from this man. I will give you all your trophies.”
He turned over the bag, “I hope nothing in here is alive.”
“Wait…” Calsimeer yelled, “Can you…?”
The contents of the bag fell out onto the ground, including the Tunnel Terror that was very much still alive.
The battle against the three-legged spider erupted renewed once more. The dogs having learned the lessen from the previous day flew at the beast ready to rend it dead.
Torgrum lept from his steed with his barbarian blade, ending the fight with the Tunnel Terror before it began. “Stay dead, bitch. As for you,” Torgrum said, wheeling on the man.
Rashidi disappeared, forced into the bag by the man who had shoved it over his head.
“This is all I want,” he said, “This you can have,” flipping Pierre’s bag to Claw.
“Who are you?” Calsimeer and Claw said together, reading each other’s mind.
“Why do you need, Rashidi?” Torgrum demanded.
“What are you doing here?” Pansy intoned.
“My name is Sagacious. I too am participating in the hunt, but unlike you, he is my trophy.”
Calsimeer rode closer, no longer quite as concerned as he had been. “That is our referee. Why are you stealing our referee? You said you were stealing from the man. Not stealing the man.”
Pansy was incredulous, “Without the referee, we cannot win the game.”
“Well met. Ladies and gentlemen,” Sagacious said bowing respectfully. He gestured to Sally, “Come Sally, this way.”
Sally woke from her slumber. Rose and waddled after Sagacious, “It would have been a glorious fight. Glorious,” she said flatly. “Ahh. Next time, I suppose.”
Sagacious waved his hand and flew away fast, out into the planes, yanking Sally behind him on an invisible tether.
“What?” Pansy said stamping her foot.
Calsimeer was at a loss for words, and managed a frustrated “WHAT?”
“He just stole our referee,” Claw said, stating the obvious, trying to organize what just happened in their head.
“What are we going to do,” Pansy said to the others.
“This isn’t happening,” War of words over, Calsimeer fired off a Guiding Bolt at the flying man, striking him in the back. [3 points of damage]
Claw released an arrow from their bow but missed striking a snag tree. [missed]
Pansy swung her sling, loosing a rock and also missed. [missed]
Facing ranged weapons in his back, and possibly lucky strike at even extreme range, Sagacious placed a firm hand on Sally and waved, “Bye”. He cast dimensioned door and appeared five-hundred feet further out into the plains.
“No offense,” Sagacious yelled, his voice heightened by the wind.
“Offense taken,” Claw yelled.
“Offense, very much taken,” Armando spit.
“As well as our referee,” Claw pointed out.
“Armando. Armando. Do you know how to contact your girlfriend?” Pansy pleaded, hopeful.
“I was gong to get her contact information over dinner. We’re going to meet up in the bar when the hunt is over.”
Torgrum just managed to chuckle and went about gathering up the remains of the Tunnel Terror and the eggs, placing them inside their new Bag of Holding.
“Okay, that was weird,” Torgrum said.
Calsimeer took a drink from his flask of wine, said, “I very much agree, Torgrum”
“This dude just kidnapped our referee,” Claw said, still trying to grasp what this meant for them and the hunt.
“What are we going to do?” Pansy asked.
“I think we need Armando’s fiancée,” Claw decided.
“Should we go back to town?”
“Two things,” Armando said, holding up split fingers. “Thing number one: I could try to make Hajra my psychic friend. By calling 976 and bridging my mind with hers. And two, how long of a ride would it be back to town? Always have a backup plan.”
Calsimeer considered the town option, “If we go back to town, do they see that as us returning—"
“Early?” Torgrum finished the thought, “Will that disqualify us?”
“And lose the game?” Pansy said not liking the sound of that. What would Rahat and Razin do if they heard they’d been disqualified?
“We don’t have a referee,” Armando said exasperated.
“This is not in the handbook,” Pansy exploded.
“What if only one of us goes back? And I volunteer,” Armando suggested. “I have experience doing that.”
“Split the party. Split the party.” the smart-ass chant rolled off Claw’s tongue fueled by mounting frustration.
“We just got Armando back,” Calsimeer noted, “We missed you terribly,” he said patting Armando on the shoulder fondly.
“We have the bag,” Torgrum said holding it up, “We can always bag anything else we, ahh, bag.”
“I assume they can always, just check what is in the bag?” Calsimeer said, shrugging.
Torgrum nodded, “It’s not our fault the referee got kidnapped.”
What else could go wrong? Pansy wondered. Was there anymore hunting parties nearby to ruin their fun. Dire Rhinos perhaps. Tunnel Terrors. Madlib goblin matrons. She scanned the horizon and saw movement.
It could get worse, she thought.
“What is that?” Pansy said pointing.
Armando screamed with glee, “.
Claw made sure the orange safety flag was up, high, and prominent. Insurance against the inevitable at this point and waited for whoever was coming.
Pansy wasn’t as cocksure as the others and was looking, as most rogues do, for the quickest, shortest route to safety if things went suddenly pear shaped. Back down the Tunnel Terror hole? Deeper into the jungle? They were out in the Arushan savannah. They only thing this place had in high abundance was wide open space and no place to hide.
Armando however, was completely convinced his psychic bridge had worked and waited patiently for the newcomers to arrive.
TIME STAMP: 2:00:32
A few minutes later, the distant movement solidified into three individuals flying fast over the savannah.
Armando, of course, immediately recognized Hajra. And with her, was a leggy Dorian woman, powerfully built physique, tightly honed muscles, and formidable in pretty much every regard a warrior can be.
Unlike Hajra, she was not dressed in Pentavalo silver and black but instead, Celtic priestly vestments giving her an aura of a holy person.
Behind the two-woman standing resolute guard was one of them blade demons that Armando had witnessed destroy the Atars. But this one was even large, twice again as tall.
At fifty feet distance, the flying trio landed.
The priest woman came closer hovering on the air of authority.
The seismic harmonic hum from the demon’s triangle head hurt the Ballbarians ears, rattling their brains to the point of a mad hangover pounding.
“I didn’t summon the demon,” Armando said nervously, “I just want to go on record.”
Despite the towering demon, Torgrum was relieved to see Hajra and the other woman. He motioned them in with eager waves.
The taller woman surveyed the Ballbarians, not seeing their assigned referee said, “I am Scathach the hunt official in charge of this tournament. Where is Rashidi?”
“Funny story,” Calsimeer said nervously.
Torgrum pointed at the bag in his hand.
Claw stepped back, motioning Armando to the fore, “Bard you got this. Right, Mr. Charisma?”
Armando stepped in front of the party, “Ahh, well. Apparently, we were waylaid, by an amazingly powerful adversary.”
Hajra whispered into her Scathach’s ear pointing at Armando, “That’s the charmer I told you about.”
Scathach stiff armed Hajra irritably away from her ear. “Go on,” she said to Armando.
He gulped, finding his throat dry. Continued, “And. He just, he just. Took him. And flew off.”
“Who?” demanded Scathach.
“Who took him? Someone took Rashidi? Who took him?” Scathach demanded.
“Yes,” Torgrum said as did the others. “A man. A man named Sagacious. A wizard I think. Took Rashidi. And also a cantankerous elderly goblin named Sally. We heard the man call her, Sally.”
Pansy pointed to the Tunnel Terror hole, “The goblin came out of that hole over there.”
“Sagacious and Sally,” Torgrum spit their names. “Never heard of ‘em.”
“Oh yes,” Scathach said, looking to Hajra who returned a nod, “We know who they are.”
“Sagacious was terrible, polite,” Armando said.
“If you mean polite, by taking our Rashidi?” Torgrum remarked dismissing the thought with an agitated middle finger.
“They kidnapped, Rashidi?” The Pentavalo leader asked, “How did they take him? Did Rashidi put up a fight?”
“He was frozen, stationary,” Torgrum answered, “Sagacious must have cast a spell on him because he was paralyzed. He didn’t move or say anything.”
“He didn’t resist,” Claw agreed, backing up Torgrum’s account, “At all,”
“Very odd,” Calsimeer muttered.
Claw lifted their chin, “We gave them, what for?” She looked at the others and nodded in return.
“We did,” Armando added, “And then they dimensioned doored out there.” Scathach turned followed his gaze but saw nothing.
“We tried to stop them,” Torgrum said, “but, none of us fly.”
The hunt official was trying to piece the news into a cohesive picture, “So how did they capture him?”
“Well… they took the bag you gave us and they just kind of…” Calsimeer mimed two hands yanking an invisible bag over Rashidi’s head. “They dumped out all the other things in the bag kindly enough. And then they just bagged him up.”
“They took his bag?”
“Yeah,” Torgrum said nodding affirmative.
“They took the secondary bag,” Calsimeer explained.
“No. They took our bag,” Torgrum corrected.
“Oh right, they took our bag. We have your bag. That is correct.”
Hajra kept trying to interject commentary, only to be cut off by the other woman’s shush hand gesture.
“I was trying to explain,” Hajra said rapid fire quick before she could be cut off, “We had two bags, because the other party got wiped out and…and…and…”
“Okay, fill me in,” The woman said, turning to Hajra, “You have the floor.”
Hajra then explained everything starting with the Atars attacking Pierre and the duelists and ending with Rashidi taking the two bags.
“How did you know to come?” Torgrum asked.
The priest furrowed her brow and stared at Torgrum. For a couple of beats the only sound was the wind and the distant call of pea fowl. Finally, she said, “Rashidi works for me.”
“Oh, Okay,” Torgrum shrugged. Sheesh. As if he understood their guild structure.
Scathach recited what she understood thus far, “Sagacious took the bag off Rashidi and captured Rashidi with that bag.”
“Yes.” They all said together.
“And where is the other bag?”
“We still have it,” Torgrum said pointing at it in his mitts.
“Right there,” Pansy pointed.
She grabbed her head in frustration and seemed to become fiercer and physically imposing. “I’m confused. You say, Rashidi at some point, stopped moving. He was frozen somehow. Sagacious comes up, grabs bag number one and then dumps out the Tunnel Terror.” She looked at the others for confirmation.
“And then took Rashidi with that bag. And the other bag?”
“Sagacious gave it to us with everything in it.”
Hajra chimed in from the side, “That’s the bag my party had with Pierre de Clement, and all the duelists. And dead Atars.”
Scathach thought for a few moments as everyone stood around silent and kicking dirt.
“What a day. First Brigthwyna goes off on that dwarven princess and now we're down a referee. I haven't even had breakfast yet,” said Scathach.
She pointed to the Ballbarians, “For you, the hunt is over!”
FADE TO BLACK
Actoroke is a registered trademark of Chaldea LLC.
Chaldea is a registered trademark of Chaldea LLC.
The Chaldea Logo and the Tavjan Lion are trademarks of Chaldea LLC.