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Life and times of a MMORPG Altoholic

Nano – Day 16

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D16 Target: 26,667
Word Count: 17,598
65% of Target

Not much tonight but I’m just not feeling inspired. RL is kinda hectic and killing the creative juices – to be honest there wasn’t much there to begin with 🙂

************************
Rathebourne dismounted along with the rest of the squad as Burn, or Tamin the issue seemed confused, approached the soldiers that were busy clearing the Demimonde bodies to the side of the road. He noticed a female soldier tending some of the wounded off to one side. They all wore the livery of the Army of the twelve provinces but not Underspur. They were most likely a patrol out of one of the numerous towers that ran along the boarder with the Hollow Lands. He dismounted and made his approach, taking note as the elf maiden, Talia, silently dismount and follow him.

“May we be of assistance? I am a priest, and the maiden behind me,” Rathebourne turned and nodded to Talia, “Is trained in the magical arts.”

The woman who had been tending the wounded rose quickly and bowed to the acolyte and the elf. She was covered in blood but most of it wasn’t hers. She pointed to a prone figure dimly lit by the torches. His head was wrapped in bloody linen that was mostly read. There were two more soldiers but they were seated. One had an arrow in his shoulder and another had one in his thigh.

“Blessed be, yes please. Tormin here took a nasty hit to the head. Jorn and Krasim’s wounds are minor and I’ll see to them until you finish your healing.”

“Ok, let me see what I can do. Talia, thank you for your assistance. Please assist with the other two soldiers.”

Rathebourne bowed and began the chanting that would bring healing magic coursing through his body. He never felt closer to the Gods than when he was in the rapture of prayer. He chanted a prayer of healing which caused a finger of golden light to form gently in a spiral around his hand. Placing his hand on Tormin’s head, he willed the light to suffuse the wound. The light brightened briefly then died down. Tormin’s eyes fluttered open and the once critically wounded soldier let out a sigh.

Rathebourne then turned his attention to the other two soldiers. Talia had pushed the arrow through the troopers shoulder and the medic was attempting to do the same to the other’s leg. It was nasty work but ork arrows were ment to cripple and maim. Pulling them out an entry wound would do more damage than simply pushing the projectile through. She had left the shafts in place which helped slow the bleeding.

The priest knelt down next to the soldier with the shoulder wound. It had been pushed to the fletching leaving a good bit of the arrow exposed above the arrowhead. Grasping the exposed section with both hands, he gave a wink to the soldier who was watching him with apprehension.

“This will hurt just a bit.”

“Alright, let me get my breath and AARGH!”

Rathebourn had snapped the shaft. Moving quickly, he grabbed the arrow by the fletching and pulled it out. A spray of blood was staunched as he intoned a chant to stop the flow of blood then started the prayer that would speed the healing of the soft tissue. The soldier was still in a bit of shock when the priest patted him on the shoulder and moved to the next wounded trooper.

The medic was looking up at him expectantly. The leg wound was worse than she had thought. The arrow was lodged deep, possibly right next to the bone which made it more dangerous to move around. Rathebourne knelt down next to the man and started to unwrap the bandage that she had used to stabilize the arrow.

“That one will have to stay I think. It’s near the bone. I tried to push it. Krasim didn’t even scream. He just passed out.”

Talia nodded and added, “My magic won’t be of assistance here. I can knit a wound back together slowly but this wound is beyond my capability.”

“It will be ok. I have just the thing I think. I never understood why our order taught this prayer to we acolytes but now I think I understand.”

The priest gave a wink at the elf then started to softly chant. The shaft of the arrow began to glow with the same golden light that marked healing prayers. Slowly, the shaft started to change. The fletching fell off as the end split from the notch down to the shaft and reformed itself into a circular handle. Rathebourne grasped the arrow handle and gently pulled. The arrow emerged smoothly, it’s broad, jagged head encased in the wood that had been shaped around it. Handing the transformed arrow to Krasim, the priest stopped the bleeding and healed the wound as he had the other soldier.

“Marvelous, simply marvelous.” Talia was beaming at the unique application of such mundane magic.

“That is a rather useful prayer, I will have to remember to thank Mendicant Bryer for teaching it to me when I get back.”

Standing up, he noticed Burn (or was it Tamin) approaching. The flame haired trooper had a smile on his grime encrusted face. It was good to see a smile. It had been weeks since he had seen a smile or even smiled himself. It would be months before he would be able to let that emotion grace his face but it was good to see it on others. The tracker clasped the elf briefly then addressed them both.

“We are in luck. This squad had come upon some orks attempting to set up an ambush here. It would seem our ork friends were not content with persuit and instead tried to flank us. The squad leader has agreed to escort us all the way back to Underspur. We should reach there by the twelfth hour of the moon. We’ve made it Rathe, we’re on our way home.”

Written by Ventris

November 17, 2010 at 3:15 am

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 15

with one comment

D15 Target: 25000
Word Count: 16622
66% of Target

I did a nanonono and edited some of my previous work. This actually worked to my benefit as it added to my word count.

*****************

Rolling the body away from the horse. The man’s chest was a bloody mess and his armor had been unbuckled in places as if he had been searched. There were a couple of puncture wounds in the man’s chest but they seemed mostly healed. There was also a deep gash in the man’s abdomen which, like the arrow wounds, was mostly healed. The manhandling Burn was giving the body elicited a very low, almost inaudible moan.

Excitedly, Burn gave a sharp whistle which was a rehearsed signal for medical aid that the squad had worked out in previous drills. A whistle could cut through the din of battle and bring aid where it was desperately needed. Talia came thundering up and lept off her horse in that effortless way of the fey.

“Talia, this man is still alive. I think it’s Rathebourne.” The trooper was wearing the standard hardened leather of a normal cavalry trooper but his surcoat showed the symbol of Macha emblazoned on the chest and still visible even beneath all the blood.

The elf maid knelt down next to the priest and began chanting a spell of magical healing. Priestly spells were much more efficient in tending the wounded. It was quicker, sometimes manifesting beneficial effects immediately. Magical healing would work in a pinch but was much slowing, the effects took minutes instead of seconds.

Earis was a magic infused world. Most denizens could use it in some form or fashion though most abstained. The possibility of being tainted and possibly getting corrupted made even the most perfunctory magic a risky endeavor. Talia was what was known as a True Mage, one skilled in avoiding such taint at least for the most part. A lesser healing spell was well within her tolerance.

The soft green glow of magical energy slowly engulfed Talia’s hands then moved to Rathebourne’s chest as she covered the areas where he had been wounded that was most vital to his immediate survival. As soon as the glow left her hands she started chanting again to attempt a healing on his abdomen. Burn watched as the once dying man took one then another deep breath. He was far from out of the woods but this gave the group some hope that their search wasn’t in vain. The woulds slowly knitted over the next eight minutes and Rathebourne’s breathing became stronger.

While the priest healed, Meirien signaled to Grey to set the squad out into the woodline to form a loose picket while he and his team leaders conferred on what to do next. He set Burn to check the other corpses for the message. Granis reigned in and Burns joined the trio with a shake of his head, he had not found any kind of documentation in any of the saddlebags nor on the corpses themselves.

“I couldn’t find the notes that the journal indicated but they were searched so it is possible that the Demi took them. I also think this is the very Rathebourne that wrote the journal. The robes and sigil on his surcoat mark him as a priest of Macha.”

“So, we found ‘em. Let’s get the blazes outta here.”

“Agreed,”Meirien nodded, “how soon can we move him Talia?”

“Well, true magic healing is a little slower than priestly healing. It will be about ten to fifteen minutes. I don’t think I can speed …”

“I’ll be able to ride in moments if someone would be so kind as to give me a hand up.” A thin, raspy voice intoned from behind the squads leaders.

They all turned to see the priest, now propped up on one elbow, a wry grin on his face. He was drawn and had obviously been through the wringer but seemed to have an oddly optimistic air. Dark blond locks framed a warm and compassionate face. Rathebourne still had a certain peaceful, priestly aura even after having spent days in grime and gore. Talia was the first to reach him.

**************************

Grey quietly approached Decklan. The black haired youth had taken a wound during the initial ambush but Talia’s magic had healed him well enough to travel. Grey was checking on each of the pickets the squad had stationed around the clearing. When the leaders had gathered to confer, he had taken charge of the remaining squad members and established a security perimeter. In pairs, they had been arranged triangular pattern while Gilnas and he moved between the three points providing a roving patrol.

Decklan stood in the clearing holding the reigns of both his and Jimmy’s mount. Jimmy was a little deeper in the woodline, crouched down and trying to keep both eyes and ears open for any indicators of an approaching enemy. Sloth and Arron, Mina and Jerrin were dispersed similarly; one holding the mounts, one keeping watch. They were stretched thin.

“Awright Decklan lad, how ‘re ye holdin up?”

“I’m ok.” The youth puffed himself up but the image was ruined when a sudden coughing fit nearly doubled him over.

Grey reached over and patted the lad on the back. “Easy there lad. Ye took a arrer’ in the lung.”

Decklan gave a wan smile and nodded. The wood was quiet but that was normal for the Hollow Land where animal life was nonexistent. Grey scanned the woods until he spotted Jimmy’s brown and green cloak huddled within a sparse patch of green. The almost continuous burns that the Hollow Lands experienced cleared most of the underbrush which made concealment difficult. This benefited those on the defense since visibility was far greater than in a normal undergrowth infested wood.

They had been in the clearing only minutes. The bodies had been searched and they found one of the messengers alive which indicated the man had a very strong will to live. A sudden commotion at the center of the clearing drew Grey’s attention. The survivor was being propped up by Burn and Talia and suddenly a fine, golden mist enveloped the man’s chest and he waved off those supporting him.

Within seconds the man was able to stand on his own. He hunched over for a few seconds as if gathering his breath from a long run. He then straightened and began fastening the buckles on his armor. Granis and Talia moved to assist him as Burn spoke quietly off to the side with the squad leader.
“So that’s the priest aye,” the white haired elf intoned from beside the veteran.

“Aye, my bet that’s ‘im. Should be going soon. Go’an get Decklan and Jimmy. I’ll ‘ead around an gather the others.”

The elf nodded and wheeled his mount about.

“Grey hrk…”

Grey wheeled his horse around as an arrow whizzed by his head. He saw Gilnas fall off his mount and land in a heap on the ground as four orks charged from the woodline. They were eerily silent with only the noise they make as they crashed through the woods marking their passage. He saw Decklan’s body down along with the two horses all three riddled with arrows. Crouching low in his saddle turned his mount and spurred it to a gallop towards the center of the clearing.

“ORK, TO HORSE!” he cried. Grey could see comrades turn then almost as one, react to the danger. Talia was on her horse in a flash and reaching down to pull the priest behind her. Meirien begins to shout commands that would bring in the other pickets. Granis and Burn are also gain their horses quickly. The duergar unlimbered his axe and shield while Burn had already knocked a second arrow as the first one sped it’s way past Grey.

Grey heard a yelp behind him as Burn’s first arrow found it’s mark. A second arrow flashed by and another ork fell in a heap as Granis charged in to engage the remaining two assailants. Turning his mount once more, Grey moved to support his team leader. The duergar traded off blows with the orks, his axe flashing left and right. Another ork fell to arrows as it turned to face Grey’s charge. Now able to concentrate his attacks, Granis quickly dispatches the remaining ork.

Suddenly more cries of alarm sound from the two other pickets followed quickly by the brutal, guttural war cy of the orks. Grey glanced about the clearing. More orks were streaming in from where he had left the fallen Gilnas on the northern side. Sloth was engaged with two orks on the southeast side. A final cry came from the southwest side which meant that both Mina and Jerrin were probably lost.

************************

His command was crumbling around him. The cries of his falling troopers filled his ears and filled him with rage. Meirien knew what he had to do as soon as he saw the Greater Ork emerge from the woodline to bellow his challenge. In one had the beast held a bloody war axe, in the other was Mina’s severed head. He spared one last glance at his command.

Talia was preparing to hurl a spell but on horseback he rather doubt it would be effective. Burn was turning his mount and firing into the growing melee surrounding Sloth while Granis and Grey were finishing up those orks that had made it as far as the command team. More orks were streaming out of the woodline behind them and a few were already putting arrow to bow. Soon being out in the open would be pretty dangerous indeed.

“Burn get everyone out now!”

“Sir?” Burn sounded confused.

“Go! Pick up Sloth on the way, move!”

His command voice cut through the mounting confusion in his second. Burn had always reacted quickly to command and he nodded even as he realized what his commander intended. The younger soldier shouted loudly as he maneuvered his horse to comply with his commanders last request.

“Marauders to me!”

With a final salute, Burn turned and led Talia, Granis and Grey towards a struggling Sloth. The big man was holding the orks back with wild swings from his two hander. He was outnumbered and if he didn’t get help soon he would tire and create an opening. The orks simply hung back and waited.

Turning his horse, Meirien faced the leader of the opposing Demimonde squad. Sword flashing from it’s sheath, he lowered himself in his saddled and spurred his horse. The animal lept out as his prodding.

“For Garren, For the Overlands, for the King!”

The Greater Ork roared off his minions as they surged toward the lone rider bearing down on him. Cursing in the coarse language of the Demimonde the beast went so far as to cut down one of his own as it leveled a crossbow and took aim. When it shifted it’s focus back on Meirien the trooper had managed to close so quickly the ork barely had time to bring it’s axe up before it was trampled underneath almost a half ton of horseflesh.

The impact jarred Meirien loose from his saddle and threw him into the dry dead grass of the clearing. Rolling to his feet he wiped the grime from his eyes with his free hand. He had somehow managed to keep a hold on his sword and grinned as he saw the ork leader bellow his frustration. The ork was tangled up in Meirien’s mount and while the trooper pitied the animal he knew every second he kept their attention was another second his squad had to escape.

And it seemed his plan was working. The orks that started the initial ambush had turned when they heard their leader yelling. The other orks were forming a circle intent on watching their leader end the life of this one miserable human. He saw the remains of his squad hit the orks that were surrounding Sloth and scatter them. Meirien held that image in his mind as he redirected his attention back to the ork leader. The huge ork had finally extracted itself and was advancing.

The human didn’t bother with the normal flair and salute one would find in a duel among champions in the Outlands. He was pretty sure that the Demimonde had no concept of honor. The two opponents circled each other while the orkish horde roared it’s approval around them. Spitting on the ground, Meirien charged in hoping to catch his opponent off guard with a quick feint and thrust. The orks reactions were quicker than expected and Meirien was almost cut down when the ork sidestepped to dodge his thrust and swung his axe down.

Meirien took a quick step back and felt the prod of a spear graze his back. The other orks weren’t going to let the duel go on for much longer. Their blood was up and they were chaffing to kill. The ork boss roared his disapproval and the lesser orks backed off a little though they still growled their displeasure. Their movements had brought the southeastern portion of the clearing into view and the corporal saw the survivors of his command had breached the ork line and were escaping through the wood. They would have a good thirty second lead if they were lucky.

Smiling, Meirien let loose one last cry and charged the greater ork. It was a foolhardy charge but would serve to keep everyone’s eyes on him. It was a powerful cry, all the emotion of the last moments of his life wrapped themselves up into one last, loud yell. The sickening thud of an axe finding its way home cut his cry short. The corporal fell to his knees, sword falling from his lifeless fingers and his head landing with a dull thud a few feet away.

********************************

Talia heard Meirien’s final war shout and it’s abrupt end from the other side of the clearing. It was the last sound she heard before entering the wood and it was soon lost to the more general snapping and creaking as the squad charged pell mell between tree and brush. They were running for their lives and would not have time to grieve. The wind whistled a soft dirge in the elf maiden’s ears as she fought to keep side of the tracker as he weaved around trees ahead of her.

She was in the middle of the squad with Burn guiding them and Granis pulling up the rear. He had stooped down and had pulled up Sloth behind him. The large human was in a bad way. While their charge had broken the ork line a lucky strike had taken off Sloth’s left arm at the shoulder. If it wasn’t for Rathebourne the man would have bleed out in seconds. The priest had been able to invoke a prayer and the bleeding stopped instantly and it was a testament to the man’s vitality that he was able to remain standing until Granis could haul him up.

The continued this way for almost ten minutes before they had to let up and rest their horses. Rathebourne tended to Sloth’s wound as they walked beside their mounts to give them a rest. After about five minutes they mounted up and struck out toward the Overlands at a canter. Every so often Grey and Granis would double back to check on the pursuit. It was during one of these forays that fortune smiled on them and they came back with one of their squad mounts that had managed to win free of the ambush in the clearing.

After about a league or so they dismounted and walked with their horses in an attempt to extend the beasts endurance. From training they knew could keep up this pace for leagues if they had to. They needed to stretch them as far as they dared. Having a horse come up lame now would be very unfortunate. Leagues of dead wood streamed by as the sun worked it’s way past the apex in the sky.

Soon they crossed the abrupt threshold that separated the Hollow Lands from the Overlands. Though they still had to remain alert, Talia couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief. She had been tight with anxiety the entire flight from the clearing. They were now in friendlier territory though still within striking distance for a Demimonde raid. They dismounted again. They could slow a little now that they were in the Overlands but Talia kept an eye out. If they were spotted by areal scouts a Demi patrol could be on them in minutes. Talia moved up closer to Burn who had assumed point.

“Tamis, do you think we will make it back to Underspur before dark?” Though in the Overlands they were in unfamiliar territory.

“Well have to stop soon and get our bearings. I’ll have a better idea then.”

Talia nodded and clasped the young man on the shoulder. Burn put a hand on hers and squeezed gently. Releasing her hand, Burn turned and gave the signal for everyone to mount up. The elf noted that though weary the troops spirits were bouyed simply from being back in allied territory.

They came upon a hunting trail late in the day. The trail wound through the woods and the squad was able to make good time. The smooth, even flatland soon gave way to smooth, rolling hills. Burns led the squad up one of the larger hills that was dominated by massively tall pine tree.

“Lights almost gone. I’m going to try and get a bearing from up this tree. Talia, Granis, keep an eye out. I don’t want to be up there if company shows up.”

The duergar nodded. As Burn made his way up the tree, Grey set about getting the horse feed bags in place while Rathebourne saw to it that Sloth was comfortable. The large man was handling the loss of a limb well all things considered. In a few minutes Burn had climbed as high as he was willing to risk.

Scanning the land around the hill, Burn was able to make out a couple of key terrain features. He also noticed something else. He quickly scaled back down the tree. Pulling out a map from his saddlebags he traced where he thought their position was in reference to the landmarks. Mounting up he signaled the rest of the squad to gather. When they were ready he told them what he had found.

“Good news is I think we can make it back to Underspur in another hour or so if we press hard. There is a major road about half a league ahead of us. Once there we can make pretty good time. The bad news is that there is a Demimonde patrol about a half hour behind us. We need to move and move quickly.”

The squad filed in behind Burn as he led them back down to the hunting trail. They went as fast as they dared in the darkening wood. Demi could see well in the darkness and even on foot they could chew up ground. Burn was betting that the orks would give up chase once they hit the main road. The roads were regularly patrolled and the horses would have the advantage over the flat, even ground.

The sky grew darker but it was already pretty dark within the wood itself. If it wasn’t for a short rise Burn would have missed the road completely. Quickly the squad formed up and north toward Underspur. The darkness soon closed around them as they sped onward, hoping the orks had given up the chase.

They had been riding this way, silently and in a staggered column, for some time when a light flared suddenly ahead of them on the trail. Burn slowed them down wary of a potential ambush. Soon the single point of light revealed itself to be numerous torches that lit the scene of a recent battle.

Written by Ventris

November 16, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 12

with one comment

D12 Goal: 20,000
Word Count: 13849
69% of Target

Man … sucking wind here. Hope to catch up this week-end.

*************************
Within a half hour the squad had found their target. The small stream was really little more than a brook, it’s stony bed cut by a thin but steady flow of water. The size of the bed indicated a much larger body of water once inhabited the are but somehow had been reduced to creek no more than a stride and a half across. The channel that had been cut trough the land indicated that even at it’s height the stream would have been fordable by horse though would have posed a problem to those on foot.

It was greener in this section of the Hollow Lands. Small shoots of life erupted randomly and stood in stark contrast to the burned out husks of once magnificent trees. Some of the larger trees had survived the many burns the land had experienced and provided a very thin canopy above. The squad kept to these canopied areas when they stopped. The Demimonde employed griffin mounted goblins as a form of light attack and scouting force.

Burn signaled for a halt then dismounted to scout the near side banks. The squad arrayed itself to form a loose picket but remained mounted. The tracker spent less than two minutes on the ground and was back on his horse and heading to the other side of the stream. His eyes were on the ground and scanning the pebble strewn bed for anything that might indicate a track. The corporal motioned for Grey and another trooper to cover their tracker. Reaching the other side, Burn signaled for the rest of the squad over as he dismounted once more. Meirien moved into position next to Burn.

“Find anything?”

“Nothing though that doesn’t mean no one came this way.”

“Suggestions?”

The tracker thought for a moment then pointed upstream, “I say we follow the stream and scout the banks every so often. If I were trying to move quickly I’d stick to the water as much as possible and only leave it when absolutely necessary.”

“Alright, take Grey and Gilnas with you. Gil has keen eyes. Show him what to look for and have him track on the other bank. Grey has good instincts and can provide security while the two of you track. The rest of us will hand back a little and provide a more general security. I don’t want to move too fast but don’t like the idea of staying too long in one area. We will rely on you to set the pace.”

The tracker nodded his consent and mounted. Moving away from the squad, he gathered up Grey and Gilnas and proceeded ahead. Burn took Gilnas back to where they had originally entered the stream bed and use those tracks as an example of what to look for. The track would be a week older but the disruption would still be evident. They then moved out ahead of the group, Burn tracking on the right and Gilnas tracking on the left of the stream. Grey walked his horse down the middle scanning both banks for possible ambush.

Meirien waited until Burn and his group were about one hundred paces ahead then spurred his horse after them. He signaled the squad to follow in double file at alternating interval. The troopers knew enough to scan the woodline while their leaders kept an eye on things in front. Sloth and Mina took over rear guard. They continued this way for quiet some time. The stream meandered about the wood and sometimes they lost sight of their vanguard only to almost stumble upon them as they rounded a bend.

It was during one of these moments that the squad rounded a particularly tight bend and spied Grey motioning for them to close. Meirien spurred his horse to a trot and the squad kicked up water and pebbles as they closed the interval at double speed. They had traveled a total of over four leagues at barely a trot and this, coupled with the knowledge that the enemy knew of their presence, created a nervous anxiety that made their mounts skittish.

“Report,” the corporal said curtly. He didn’t mean to be so abrupt but they had been travelling at a much slower pace than he desired and every hour spent this way increased their risk.

It was then that Meirien noticed that the surrounding riverbed seemed a bit less uniform that it had for the previous four leagues or so. Deep furrows indicated where horses had dug in while attempting either to wheel about or change direction rapidly. There were a score of such furrows and something else that now caught the corporals eye. There was blood. The thick, viscus black blood of orken kind and the dull red of the finer races. He couldn’t make heads or tails of what happened. He hoped Burn was able to read the chaos better than he.

“Burn spotted something interesting and took Gil to investigate.” Grey pointed up the riverbank to the right. “The fight moved up o’er the bank there. ‘E left me ‘ere to guide you in.”

Grey turned his mount and led the squad up the bank. Evidence of the struggle was even more apparent once they cleared the steam. Freshly broken branches littered a trail of coarsely overturned ash and dirt. There were intermittent splashes of black and red blood scattered across branch and stone. Whomever cut the path had Demi on their tail.

In moments they had caught up with Burn who was dismounted and crouched on one knee next to the trail. Gilnas was mounted beside him, bow drawn and arrow knocked. Meirien dismounted and approached. He noticed that Burn held an arrow in his hand and was looking at something on the ground.

“What do you have Burn?”

“The disturbance in the stream bed indicated an ambush of some type. I checked the left bank and found some pretty nasty traps set out that were ment to impale riders fleeing that way. As luck would have it our brother troopers reacted according to their training and fought through the ambush instead of running away from it. I don’t think the orks were expecting that and were overrun. I found horse track covered over by orken with ork sign spread out up and down stream. I’d put the force at about ten to fifteen orks. These arrows and blood drops indicated a running battle this way. “

Burn pointed further down into the wood with an arrow. Meirien could barely make out a faint trail of churned up dirt that marked the passage of either horse or ork.

“I can’t tell if the blood is man or beast. From the imprint it looks like one of the horses was carrying a heavier load than the other. A doubled up horse would have slown them down, possibly slow enough for the ork to keep up. If one or more of the horse were wounded then the orks would definately have been able to keep apace.”

The tracker stood up and mounted his horse. It was now nearing afternoon and the squad had ridden without rest. Turning his mount, he slowly picked his way down the trail created by the fleeing troopers. There would be no rest until safely back in the the Overlands. Finding the messenger would take precedent. Looking back briefly, he saw the squad form up in column while Granis and Talia took up outrider positions. This formation wasn’t as safe as a wedge but allowed for a faster rate of travel.

They traveled for another half league in this fashion. Burn stopped every now and then and noted that the distance between the horse tracks were getting shorter which indicated the horses were tiring. The ork sign showed the same slowing as if to keep pace. This wasn’t so unusual. Any good hunter knew that a tired prey was easy prey. Burn also noticed something disturbing; at two different intervals several ork broke away from the main body. It would seem they were going to attempt and encirclement.
The trail abruptly ended in a clearing about fifty or 60 paces wide. The mid-afternoon sun streamed lazily down onto green grass that was slowly emerging out of the ash. Within the circle lay the broken bodies of two horses and the remains of the messenger party the squad had been hoping to find. The sunlight surrounded the fallen like a halo. The whole scene reminded Burn of a kind of offertory. He had seen similar arrangements left by the wood elves near his region though those offering contained less viscera.
Burn guided his horse slowly into the clearing while Meirien directed Talia and Granis’ teams to circle right and left to secure the perimeter. The two teams fanned out and moved through the wood in ghostly silence. The corporal took the remainder of Burn’s team and followed the scout who had reached the remains.

The smell of rot hit burn in a sickening wave. He fought back the nausea as he dismounted to inspect the results of an obviously successful ambush. The two horses had been gutted with multiple shafts protruding out at various angles. The two parties of orks that had broken away from the main band must have managed to range ahead and attack them once they entered the clearing. The orks following would have cut off the possibility of escape by retreat. One horse was slightly ahead of the other and there was a fallen trooper between the two beasts. The shafts of numerous arrows littered the area, poking out of the ground like strange flora.
Burn passed the first horse. It lay on it’s side with four shafts driven deep into it’s chest. A couple of paces ahead lay it’s rider. The dark haired trooper had several arrows driven into his chest. He lay slack jawed and open eyed on his back with his sword still held loosely in his right hand. It appeared as if his mount had crumpled as he attempted to fight his way out of the ambush the same way they had in the stream bed. He must have been flung forward and continued the assault on foot. The body was already showing the first stages of decay. He was probably in the van and bore the brunt of the initial attack.

A few more paces into the clearing brought him to the mount that had been carrying the two troopers. The horse lay parallel to the line of travel and it too bore multiple shafts in it’s chest. It also had an arrow lodged in it’s flank. One of the troopers lay splayed out on his stomach just to the side of the horse. There was several arrows burried up to the hilt in his back. His daggers had been flung to the side by the impact of those projectiles.

The other robe clad trooper lay cradled in the crevasse between the horses corpse and the ground. It looked as if he had crawled in there seeking sheleter from the elements. This was an unusual position for a body to find itself and stranger still, the body didn’t show the same state of decomposition as the other troopers. This gave Burn hope as he crouched down to check for signs of life.
Rolling the body away from the horse he heard a very low, almost inaudible moan. There were a couple of puncture wounds in the man’s chest but they seemed mostly healed. There was also a deep gash in the man’s abdomen which, like the arrow wounds, was mostly healed.Excitedly, Burn gave a sharp whistle which was a rehearsed signal for medical aid that the squad had worked out in previous drills. A whistle could cut through the din of battle and bring aid where it was desperately needed.Talia came thundering up and leapt off her horse in that effortless way of the fey.

“Talia, this man is still alive. I think it’s Rathebourne.” The trooper was wearing the standard hardened leather of a normal cavalry trooper but his surcoat showed the symbol of Macha emblazoned on the chest and still visible even beneath all the blood.

The elf maid knelt down next to the priest and began chanting a spell of magical healing. Priestly spells were much more efficient in tending the wounded. It was quicker, sometimes manifesting beneficial effects immediately. Magical healing would work in a pinch but was much slowing, the effects took minutes instead of seconds.

Earis was a magic infused world. Most denizens could use it in some form or fashion though most abstained. The possibility of being tainted and possibly getting corrupted made even the most perfunctory magic a risky endeavor. Talia was what was known as a True Mage, one skilled in avoiding such taint at least for the most part. A lesser healing spell was well within her tolerance.

The soft green glow of magical energy slowly engulfed Talia’s hands then moved to Rathebourne’s chest as she covered the areas where he had been wounded that was most vital to his immediate survival. As soon as the glow left her hands she started chanting again to attempt a healing on his abdomen. Burn watched as the once dying man took one then another deep breath. He was far from out of the woods but this gave the group some hope that their search wasn’t in vain. The woulds slowly knitted over the next eight minutes and Rathebournes breathing became stronger.

While the priest healed, Meirien set the squad out into the woodline to form a loose picket while he and his team leaders conferred on what to do next.

“So, we found ‘em. Let’s get the blazes outta here.”

“Agreed, how soon can we move him Talia?”

“Well, true magic healing is a little slower than priestly healing. It will be about ten to fifteen minutes. I don’t think I can speed …”

“I’ll be able to ride in moments if someone would be so kind as to give me a hand up.” A thin, raspy voice intoned from behind the squads leaders.

They all turned to see the priest, now propped up on one elbow, a wry grin on his face. He was drawn and had obviously been through the wringer but seemed to have an oddly optimistic air. Dark blond locks framed a warm and compassionate face. Rathebourne still had a certain peaceful, priestly aura even after having spent days in grime and gore. Talia was the first to reach him.

Written by Ventris

November 13, 2010 at 2:52 am

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 9

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*sigh*
Burning out. Going to try again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll be more inspired.

D9 Goal: 15000
Word Count: 11420
76% of Target

******************

The four troopers looked at each other and savored the irony of the last few passages. They were in almost the exact same predicament and possibly faced having to choose the same course of action. Normally facing a squad size group of orks wouldn’t pose much of a problem since they would be disorganized at best. But, while the Demi didn’t quite surround the encampment it wouldn’t take long for them to summon reinforcements. They would have to move soon but in the darkness the Demi would have the advantage.Motioning the others to take a knee, Meirien drew out a rough map of the camp and surrounding area on the ground before them.

“Well we are now in a fine pickle. Talia, how soon can we move the wounded?”

“Decklan got the worst of it. We were able to stabalize him but the arrow he took did a fair amount of damage and we were not able to repair all of it. Given another day or two we could have him ambulatory but I don’t think the orks will give us that time. Jarrin should be up and ready to ride in about an hour.”

“We may be pressed for time. What can you do to get Decklan in a condition to ride?”

“Not much I’m afraid. We’ve given him a mild sedative to help with the pain. If we have to ride he can go pillion but would either have to be strapped to the saddle or be tied in front of another trooper. Staying overnight would increase his chances greatly.”

“Ok. I don’t like it but I like the idea of about in the Hollow Lands in the dark even less. Granis, Burn. What do you think about these orks”

“Dem orks ‘re actin a bit perculiar of ye ask me,” Granis had packed and lit his pipe then took a long puff before continuing. “Tis strange the camp still stands. As large a force as Rathebourne described could ‘a easily taken the fort. Orks normally don’t play with their food like these ones did.”

“I agree with the duergar,” Burn replied. Looking at the rough map his squad leader had drawn out, he pointed to various spots around the perimter of the patrol base, If I were in charge I would place scouts here, here and here until more troops arrived. We know the camp can be held against a much larger force than is out there right now but we don’t have the supplies to last a siege nor the manpower to refuse a force larger than a troop sized element. We also don’t know if the larger force that was here a week ago went.”

“Alright, then that settles that,” their squad leader replied, “We will attempt a breakout just before dawn. We will camp here but noise discipline rules apply.”

Taking his knife, Meirien handed the implement to Burn and motioned toward the map, “Burn, we know the Troop were going to charge the southern line. How would that have played out?”

“If they burst out of the camp they would have had to break sharply to the right,” Burn drew the route of travel on the dirt map. It will be extremely difficult to spot week old tracks especially on horseback. I’m guessing though, since their goal is to ultimately reach the Overlands they would veer back east and pick up one of the many south-eastern routes back into friendly territory. There are at least a dozen trails leading through the southern wood and a tracker familiar with the area would know them all by heart.
“Which route would you chose?”

Burn pursed his lips and thought for a moment. The tracker pulled out his own map of the area and spread it out on the ground. He scanned over the possibilities in his mind and put himself in the shoes of those desperate troopers trying to make it back to safety. About a dozen possible trails jumped out at him but not all of them were suitable. There was one however that showed promise.

“If I were leading one of the smaller groups I would break from the main force in the woods and make my way here.” Burn’s finger traced its way along what was marked as a stream that wound it’s way first south then east. “I’d follow this stream. Demi can track by scent as well as sight. Cris crossing over the stream would break up the pattern f track and smell. It would provide a limited amount of safety for a small, three man unit.” The tracker stared at the map for a little longer, trying to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the other routes that were possible.

“There are some other paths they could take and it’s quite possible that the other groups went those ways. As for the main band, I can only guess that they kept moving south in order to divert the Demi for the longest time possible. It is possible to get back to the Overlands by the southern routes but you double your stay in hostile territory and half your chances of getting out alive.”
“Ok, if choose the stream, how much time do you think it will take to catch their trail?”

“Hard to say. It’s been a dry week but tracking in a stream is like trying to carry sand in a sieve. Scouting both sides of the stream will slow us down considerably.”

“Agreed, but it’s a chance we will have to take.” Meirien nodded looking to each of his leaders. “We are going to have to break out ourselves before any more Demi show up. We have about an hour of light left. We will attempt a break out just before dawn. We are going to follow the route Burn has laid out and hope that we can discover at least one of the messenger groups trails. Questions?”

He looked first to Burn then Granis and Talia. Each of them shook their head to indicate they had nothing further to say.

“Alright. Talia, see what you can do for Decklan. Granis, set up a watch rotation. I want double shifts with Talia exempt since she will need to ensure that someone in that watchtower has Cats Eyes on them at all times. Burn, see to the horse. Get them ready for the run tomorrow. Dismissed.”

The group dispersed and rejoined their teams. Granis sent Grey to the watchtower to get a status report. The veteran returned and reported some movement along the northern woodline but nothing to indicate a large movement of Demi into the surrounding area. Burn and Talia went about their assigned tasks, every now and then one would steal a glance at the other when they thought no one was looking.

The squad moved into a defensive posture for the night, making camp in the bailey. Talia awoke at regular intervals to ensure that the night watch had Cat’s Eyes cast upon them saw to it that Decklan was comfortable. The watches passed uneventfully.

“The watches reported no movement in the woodline and no Demi incursion toward our perimeter, at least none that we could detect.”

“I don’t like it,” Corporal Meirien knew these Demi were acting strange but he couldn’t spare too much time thinking about those implications. He had to get his men back to Overland territory. The Lord Marshall would be able to discern what all this meant better than he.

The edges of dawn were just beginning to creep over the Hollow Lands. Troopers assembled their gear and saddled their horses quietly and quickly. Granis and another trooper unbarred the gate and the squad prepared to burst through. They would have to move quickly to maximize both surprise and to gain as much distance as possible between the orks and themselves.

Meirien gave the signal and Burn kicked open the gate. The squad spurred their horses out of the bailey. Following Burn’s lead, they quickly doglegged right and headed toward the southern end of the clearing. There was a shout from the east and a horn was blown. Orks could be seen roiling at the woodline like a hound straining against it’s leash. A couple of orks broke ranks to give chase as the last of the squad cleared the gate.

Burn lead the squad to the woodline and struck out on a trail that lead in the general direction of the stream.

Written by Ventris

November 9, 2010 at 11:43 pm

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 6

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D6 Goal: 10000
Word Count: 10006
Woot!

*******************
Decklan fell forward into Grey’s arms. Another arrow whizzed through the space Decklan had been standing moments before. Two orks emerged from the shadows, dropping their swords and drawing long, jagged swords as they let loose a loud cry. They were closing fast and both Outlanders had only moments to draw their weapons and prepare for the assault.

Grey let Decklan down to the ground as gently as possible while Burn moved to intercept the onrushing orks. Red hair trailing behind him like a flaming comet, the young outland ranger had drawn his two sabers and began weaving a defensive pattern. Orks were larger than the average Outland human. Strong and fierce, they relied on those elements to overpower their enemy, rarely relying on cunning and guile.

Burn moved between the two orks, his blades a blur as he blocked their attacks. His style relied on deflecting and redirecting an opponents attacks instead of matching strength and blocking directly. He had always been slight but agile. Drill Master Fewt had instructed him to use his speed and dexterity as an advantage.

Within seconds he had scored numerous hits on one of the orks and it seemed to slow down considerably. His focus split between his two opponents, he had misjudged and the other ork had managed to flank him and was preparing to strike at his exposed back when a dagger suddenly erupted from it’s shoulder. The ork screamed in pain.

Grey moved in behind his compatriot. He had drawn his sword and another dagger. Growing up in the seedier side of Verenen had left it’s mark on the veteran Trooper. His style reflected the dirty infighting styles of the dark allys and streets where he was raised. Dodging first one strike then the next, Grey darted inside the ork’s guard, sidestepped and drove his dagger deep into the orks abdomen.

Burn pressed the remaining ork back as he redoubled his attacks. The ork was staggered as Burn’s blades cut deep furrows into it’s chest. Roaring his frustration at fighting something that wouldn’t stand still, the ork grasped his sword over his head and attempted to deliver a devastating overhead strike. This was just the opening Burn was looking for. Burn spun and drove both of his saberes deep into the orks chest. The ork stood for a second before dropping his sword behind him. Burn yanked his swords out of the dying orks chest.

The sound of galloping horses made Burn and Grey turn. Their squad was running pell mell right toward the gate.

“Oh this can’t be good.”

In pairs and small groups, the remaining squad members filed through the gate of the camp. Burn directed them to set up a defensive perimeter just inside the gate since he didn’t know just how many orks remained inside the wooden ring. A few of the troopers trained as corpsmen and set about treating their fellow soldiers. Burn was relieved to see Decklan still alive although the lad looked extremely pale. Turning to the remaining troopers, he dispatched three to secure the watchtower and get some intelligence on what exactly was going on in the woods surrounding the camp. At last Talia, Granis and a wounded Meirien made it inside the safety of the camp.

“What the hells happened?”

“Orken ambush lad,” Granis hopped off his mount and turned to ensure that the gate was being closed behind them. He noticed the dead orks lying about the bailey and inclined his head towards them. “Looks to be that they were scouting this area as well, same as us. Sneaky buggers laying that ambush.”

“Then that may be good news.” Talia approached the other leaders of the group. “Meirien is down for a bit. He took a lung hit and it will be a while before we can get him on his feet. Until then you are in command Tamis.”

“What do you mean by good news Talia,” replied the startled human.

“Well, it means there probably aren’t going to be any orks inside these walls though I’d still double check. More importantly it means that the orks that ambushed us in the woods were an element of equal size. We should be able to hold them off.”

“That be good news indeed but remember lass; we are in the middle of Demi territory. They can call fer backup an’ we can’t.”

“Granis is right Talia we have to move soon. Granis, take charge of the defenses. We may be here for a bit and I don’t want anyone else sneaking up on us.” The duergar nodded and headed of, his voice cutting into general din of soldiers on the edge of panic.
Burn turned to the elf maid, “Talia, see to the wounded and let me know how soon we can move them.” The elf nodded and headed off towards the small group of soldiers lying and sitting on the ground near the gate.

Noticing Grey assisting Granis in forming the defense he motioned the pepper haired veteran over. “Grey, get over to the watchtower and get an update. I want to know what those Demi are up to. If you think it’s secure leave two there and report back here.” Grey waved his acknowledgment of the order with a wrygrin and headed off in the direction of the watchtower.

There were twelve troopers remaining out of the original sixteen. Four had fallen in the woods in the initial ambush. Talia had the three wounded troopers; Meirien, Decklan and Jarrin. Grey had three other troopers securing the watchtower and should be reporting back soon. Burn was doing a mental headcount as he looked around the base.

It was a small base but impressive in that there were a few rough wooden structures throughout the camp. A lot of effort was put into maintaining such a permanent structure this deep into Demimonde territory. Aside from the watchtower, there was a command building and thre other buildings situated side by side that were possibly barracks and a mess.

He noticed Grey approaching with another trooper in tow. He recognized the young lad as Aaron, one of Talia’s team members.
“Yer right to get someone up there,” Grey indicated the tower with a thumb over the shoulder, “Demi’re movin all about the woodline to the east and north of us. So far the south and west seem quiet. Ah left Gilnas and Mina up in the tower. Gil’s fey eyes’re best used seeking out trouble. He’ll shout if he sees anything that needs to be relayed urgently otherwise will send Mina running.”

“Good.”

“Anythin else then? Young Aaron here could use something ta do, e’s shakin’ like a leaf.”

“Alright Grey, Aaron, come with me. We need to search the buildings and try to discern what happened here. Captain Greyson had good reason to leave the safety of this fort.”

Burn turned to check on the the rest of the squad. Talia was over by the gate tending to the wounded and Granis was directing the remainder of the squad in the defense of the camp. Sloth and Jimmy were crouched next to the duergar as he drew out reaction plans to different types of attacks that the Demi might throw at them.

“Granis,” he called to the duergar who looked up from his instruction. “Make sure we hold this gate, it’s the weakest point. The tower is secure. Keep an ear out for an alarm. I’m taking Grey and Aaron here to check out the rest of the camp.”

Burn turned and led the other two troopers to the nearest building. They entered what was obviously the base mess area. Long tables and bench seats and a huge fireplace was built into the back wall. Normally there would be a cookfire going at all times to accomodate the soldiers shift routines. Burn reached into the inner hearth and shifted through the ashes. It was cold with not even a dying ember present. There hadn’t been a fire in the pit for days.

The group moved to the next building which was a little larger that the mess. There were rows of bunks lining the walls and chests strewn about haphazardly. While the chaos did indicate something was amiss it didn’t seem to indicate a general panic amonst the troop. The other building showed similar dissaray. It was in this building that Burn found a books in a chest containing robes that would have belonged to a priest of some order. Burn pocketed the book for Meirien since he was the only one besides Talia who knew how to read.

The last building was obviously the command building. Maps were posted in the walls indicating the location of known enemy patrol routes as well as possible Demimonde unit locations. To one side were sleeping accommodations while a nook in the corner held a desk and writing utensils. There was nothing else to be found. Burn hoped that the book he found contained something useful or else they would have to go back to Underspur empty handed. Gathering up Grey and Aaron, he headed back out to the bailey and the rest of the squad.

Meirien as up and and conferring with Granis much to Burn’s relief. He didn’t mind taking charge when necessary but prefered to have another to follow. Especially when life and death decisions were involed. The corporal turned and noticed the group walking towards them. He mentioned for Burn to join him.

“Right, I’m taking Aaron here and getting some grub down is gullet fore ‘e pops.” Grey towed his fellow troop after him. The adrenaline was starting to wear off and now Aaron starting to go pale.

“Burn, good. What did you find?”

“Just this book sir, it was in amonst some priest robes. There was nothing in the Ce-Oh’s quarters to indicate why this post was abandoned.” Burn handed the book to Meirien and fell silent to await further orders.

The book turned out to be a personal journal which would normally prove useless except for the last dozen or so entries. Meirien scanned them over quickly the called over his three team leaders.

“Listen up folks. I think I might have an idea about what happend and I want to make sure each of you agree.” Flipping the book to the middle few pages the corporal began reading.

8/9/1328
A patrol came back with news of a disturbing build up of Demi forces to the east. This would be the fourth report of this kind. It seems the Demi are moving and we need to know why. Captain Greyson has ordered a combat patrol out to determine the size and strength of the enemy unit. While I agree that we need to gather more intelligence I don’t think reducing our strength by a quarter is a good idea. I hope that our leadership has made the right decision. The squad left later this evening, sixteen souls strong. I’ll miss Corporal Mara while she is gone. Our theological discussions were quite stimulating.

8/17/1328
The combat patrol returned. What was left of it. Gerris galloped right up to the gate as if Ashra was giving chase. His horse was lathered he was very badly wounded. It took every bit of knowledge and skil I had to bring him back from the edge of death. It also looks like Gerris unfortunately led them right back to us. I can’t fault the man for wanting to survive but he has put our entire unit in jepardy. The Captain is having the watch doubled and has pulled in the remote observation posts.
All was not a loss. Corporal Mara, gods rest her soul and speed her to the havens, was able to compile their observations.

8/18/1328
Garris was able to recover well enough to tell his tale. Everything was going well the first day or two. The patrol had found an unusually large body of Demi mond and shadowed their movement westward for three days. Every half day or so the band would be joined by smaller groups of Demi which were integrated into unit. Apparently the patrol misjudged the enemy movement and stumbled into a huge mixed horde of ork, kobolds and an Ogre or two that were joining the main body. Within minutes all but Gerris had fallen.
Garris explained that he was one of the first to fall after initial contact and that it was Mara that got him back onto his horse and ordered him to return with the patrols findings. She had stuffed the notes into his jerkin and smacked the rump of his mount with the flat of her blade. In his condition he was barely able to hang on. The last sound he heard was Mara’s battle cry as she charged back into the frey

.
Meirien look around to his junior leaders to see if they were following. Their recent losses reinforced the idea that their position was very tenuous. Burn nodded for him to continue.

8/19/1328
The alarm was raised early this morning as a large force of Demimonde was spotted moving into the woodline. By mid-morning our little fortress in the sea of evil was totally surrounded. I can’t tell you how little are chances are for survival. I said a service this morning asking that the gods protects us from the trials that were to follow.

8/28/1328
It’s been over a week since the Demimonde had surrounded our encampment. They have launched several attacks against us to test our defenses. Our supplies are now critically low. We will have to go down to half rations and that will only let us survive another two weeks at the most. The Captain has called for a meeting of his remaining squad and team leaders this evening. He asked me to attend as well though I’ve no idea what he would want with a lowly acolyte.

8/29/1328
It seems the Captain means to attempt a break through the Demimonde lines. It seems folly but I agree there seems little else we can do other than starve to death. The Demi know they have us surrounded and just have to wait us out. They could easily overwhelm us but choose to lay seige instead. This action is very strange and, coupled with Corporal Mara’s notes, seems to indicate a strategically minded intelligence behind this particular band of Demimonde. This has all of us concerned. Someone is guiding the Demi and that someone is doing a pretty good job of controlling this chaotic mass.

The plan is for the Troop to charge out en masse. No one is to stay behind. Once into the clearing we are going to form a flying wedge and try to breach the southern end of the Demi line. The main force will then turn west while three smaller groups will break away from the center and head in separate directions. These smaller groups will carry copies of Mara’s notes in the hopes that one of the groups will make it to Underspur. It is hoped that the larger group will draw the main Demimonde force after them and that the smaller groups would be ignored. I have my reservations about the plan but since I could not come up with anything better I will endeavor to make this one work. It seems the reason I was included in the planning is that they deem my healing would grant at least one of the groups a greater chance of survival. I also have a pretty good memory so I am to memorize Mara’s notes in case I have to burn the written copy I will be carrying.

8/30/1328
We will be attempting the breakout tonight during the gloaming. My group will consist of myself, Corporal Bellis and Vikir. Vikir is one of our best trackers and Bellis is one hell of a fighter. In fact he has no peer in the Troop. While I fear for the rest of my fellow soldiers I am somewhat relieved to have two of our most fierce and determined troopers in my group. Our chances are pretty good if the Troop can indeed effect a breach of the surrounding enemy ring. That is the weakest part of the plan in my opinion. The Demi are pretty thick but the southern end of the ring does seem the weakest. The raven and crescent standard I’ve seen from the watchtower is pretty intimidating. There are no other standards present. It’s almost as if they were a real army. This thought sends chills up my spine like no other.

This is to be my last entry. It is my hope that if we do not make it back to Underspur that this record survives and at least lets others know of our ordeal. If other members of the Outland Forces are reading this please pray for my comrades and I for we have most likely gone on to the Havens ahead of you.

Mara, I love you and hope to see you soon.

If it is Demimonde who read this know that you will burn in the Hells for all eternity. So say I.

Signed,
Rathebourne Sallis, Acolyte of Macha

Written by Ventris

November 7, 2010 at 3:58 am

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 5

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A bit late (into D7) but here it is:

D5 Goal: 8334
Word Count: 7121
85% of Target.

*******************

Burn halted the formation after another two hours of travel. The wind was picking up which tossed the grey soot into the air making it hard to breath for both man and beast. The grey false fog reduced visibility so he wanted to take the opportunity to suggest they tighten ranks and stop at regular intervals for a head count. Dismounting, the young tracker scanned the area for any recent indicators that anything else had passed through the area recently. The rest of his team kept watch and looked to the sky every so often. They didn’t relish the thought of being on the receiving end of an ork-a-pult.

Meirien reigned in next to Burn, staying quiet while his tracker did his job.

“Nothing new to report sir. No recent passage. Older marks seems to indicate shod horse which would make sense seeing as this is one of the routes we take on the way to the remote base. It might be a good idea to close it in a little and take a regular count if this wind picks up any more.”

“Very good Burn, I’ll let the others know. We will stop in another two hours or so unless you spot something amiss. We should reach the camp shortly after that if all goes well.”

“Roger sir.”

Burn nodded then turned to gesture the hand signals that would indicate a closer formation. Meirien put his horse into a trot and left to pass the message on to the other two teams.

The next two hours passed uneventfully. This time the squad dismounted, stretched their legs, fed and watered the horses. Most were used to eating in the saddle so this break was mainly for the benefit of their beasts of burden. Talia, Burn, Granis and Meirien gathered in the center of the squad to check their line of travel and come up with a plan for approaching the patrol base.

“The base hasn’t been heard from in over a week. Their last dispatch indicated an uptick in Demi activity to the east of their location but they didn’t suspect a mobilization. They were going to send a small detachment out to investigate and were to report back to Lord Garren what they found. That should have taken no more than two days and with one day for messenger travel we should have heard something by now. Since the scrizzards are unable to scry that area they suspect that the base has been compromised.”

Meirien pointed to the map they had spread out on the ground before them, “From my reconing we are about 11 leagues or so from the camp. We will call a halt a couple of leagues short of where the camp should be. We will then send out a smaller scout party ahead of the main formation. Talia, Granis, I also want your teams to send out two man outrider parties at regular intervals. We don’t want to get caught unawares by the Demi in their backyard.”

The squad leader took his dagger and began to roughly etch out the patrol camp and its surrounding are into the earth. He drew arrows indicating the squads approximate avenue of travel then a north facing arrow so that everyone could get a better grasp of how the drawing related to their maps.

“The camp is situated on a plan about half a league from this burned out woodline. The squad will halt in the cover of the woods while the scouting party will proceed to the camp. They are to discern if the camp still stands. One flash of the signal mirror will indicate the camp has held. Two flashes will indicate something is wrong. If the latter the scouts will have about half an hour to investigate. If they think it is safe then they will signal with one flash and the rest of the squad will break from the woodline and make their way to join them. If, on the other hand, they think something is wrong they are to return immediately to the woodline directly west of our location. We will then move to join with them. Questions?”

All three team leaders looked at the marking Meirien had drawn on the ground and took a moment to absorb his instruction. Not seeing any obvious flaw in the plan they all shook their head in the negative.

“Good, Burn I want you to lead the scout party. Take two others with you. Who will they be?”

Burn pursed his lips and though a moment before answering, “Well I’d like to take Grey if that’s alright with Granis. His experience with both Demimonde and the Hollows will be a great asset. I’ll also be taking Decklan since I’ve been teaching him a bit about tracking. He has good eyes and a quick mind.”

“Granis, any objections?”

“Nah, take the bugger. If anyone is good at sniffing out an ambush it’d be Grey.”

“Alright,” Meirien pointed to the map and drawing on the ground, “Each of you has about ten minuets to brief your teams and take turns bringing your teams here so that everyone gets a good look at what we are going to do. The last team will bring me the map and erase the drawing. Move out.”

The leaders broke and returned to their teams. In about ten minutes everyone had been briefed and were mounting up. The corporal gave the signal and they resumed traveling deeper in to the Hollow Lands. Soon they were traveling through what was once a heavily canopied forest. Now it stood stark and open, the burned husks of ancient trees stood up from the ground like skeletal fingers reaching towards the grey sky. They traveled through the silent, gloomy terrain for another hour. The eerie silence indicated a land devoid of life and some of the greener recruits found it a bit unnerving.

Meirien moved up to Burn’s team and signaled for the squad to adjust ranks as he sent Burn forward with this scouting party. He lead the remainder of the squad forward at a slower pace as Burn and his small group pulled ahead. The squad traveled in this fashion with Talia and Granis ending outriders every now and then to keep and eye on the flanks. The troopers did their best trying to keep to what little concealment there was in the burned wood. Eventually they came upon the advanced party and Meirien had everyone dismount. Every fourth trooper grabbed his comrades reins and lead the horses back a little deeper into the woods for better concealment. The corporal meanwhile moved to confer with Burn.

The camp still stood at least from all outward appearance. Thick walls were made of trees felled and tied together. A small watchtower stood a little higher than the wall of lumber and a pennant of the Overlands fluttered weakly in the breeze. There was a ring of smaller diameter, sharpened poles formed an abaitis that surrounded the camp except for one gap that allowed troops to pass through to the gate.

“Sir, as you can see the palisades surrounding the camp still stand, but we’ve been here for some time and there has been no activity that we could see. There is also no cookfire smoke which is pretty strange. We circled the camp from the woodline and the entire wall seems sound. The abaitis has not been breached.”

“Ok, we will proceed as planned. Take your team in and remember the signal pattern. One flash for clear, two for danger. If you have to get out of there in a hurry remember not to drag whatever is chasing you directly back to us. If you angle of we will have time to set up a hasty ambush and perhaps save your bacon.”

“Roger sir.” Burn nodded and then turned to tap Grey and Decklan on the shoulder.

The trio mounted up and proceeded into the clearing that circled the patrol base. There was indeed no movement discernable from within the camp even after the scouts broke from the woodline. There should have at least been some activity in the watch tower as observers relaid information the the approaching figures to the camp below.

“Grey, what d’you think?”

“Whelp, ah can’t rightly say. ‘Tis strange alright. No signs of a Demi attack but no o’er signs of life neither. We need be careful. Could be sickness in the camp we don’t want to catch it.”

Nodding, Burn indicated to Grey and Decklan that they should spread out a bit. They slowly approached the camp but were not verbally challenged even when right up at the gate. The gate itself was closed. Burn pounded on the gate but received no response. Taking out his small mirror he gave two short flashes back to where the rest of the squad was hidden. He then reached behind him and untied the rope he had secured to his saddle.

“Feel like doing a little climbing Decklan?”

Decklan nodded his agreement but didn’t look all to happy about the prospect. Grey was busy fixing his signal mirror to his sword. The top of the palisade wasn’t too much higher than a man ahorse and they wanted to at least get a look to see if there was anyone on the other side waiting to put an arrow in anything that popped over the top. It took a couple of tries but Burn was able to loop the rope over one of the logs in the wall and Decklan moved into position to climb while Burn steadies his mount.

“Looks t’be clear on the other side.” Grey had his arm and sword outstretched above him, the mirror had been affixed at angle that allowed the scout to see into the camp.

“Ok Decklan up you go. Up and over as quickly as possible. You should be able to unbar the gate once on the other side.”
Decklan took a deep breath to steady his fears then scampered up the wall. He was up and over in a flash, landing on the other side with a soft thump. Burn and Grey could hear the young lad struggle to get the crosspiece up and over the locking brace. They heard the sharp crack of heavy wood hitting hardened dirt and the gate slowly swung open.

Decklan stood in the opening gate with a huge grin on his face, “Easy peasy pudd …”

The lads eyes suddenly went wide as he was staggered forward by the force of a giant arrow punching through his heavy leather armor.

**************
Talia watched as the three men approached the patrol base. The half league distance was no problem for her as elves were known for their keen eyesight. Corporal Meirien stood next to her with a small looking glass. Together they watched as the three scouts attempted to get a response from inside the camp.

“Two flashes, well that confirms what we suspected.”

“Grey is a crafty devil, he’s using the mirror to look over the wall. I wonder how he attached to his sword.”

“Damn your elfin eyes Talia.” Granis said to the elf maid as he approached.

“Looks like Decklan is going over. They should be able to enter soon.” Meirien turned to see if the rest of the squat had ranged out as he had ordered. This action had both a fortunate and unfortunate effect. Unfortunate in that he caught a glimpse of an ork moving silently at the rear of his squad. Fortunate in that the arrow that was speading to his heart only managed to pass into the left side of his chest as he completed his turn.

Granis was the quickest to react, “Orks incoming!” he yelled, his deep vibrato cutting through the dead forest, “To horse! Move to the camp!”

Now that they had lost the element of surprise, the orks launched their attack with a blood curdling ‘WAAAGH!”

The woods errupted in chaos. Some of the Overlander troopers scrambled to fend of attacking orks while others followed the grizzled duergar veteran’s orders and sprung up on their horses trying to break from the woods and head towards the camp. Arrows whizzed by as Granis unlimbered his shield and axe and stepped in from of Talia while the elf started to cast a spell. An arrow thudded into Granis’ shield as the duergar grumbled under his breath about how some elves took all day to cast a simple arc lightning spell.

“Sloth, stop playing with the orks and get yer ass to the camp!” The huge trooper had formed up with two other troopers to effect a rear defense allowing a sizeable portion of the squad to recover and fight through the initial ambush. Sloth swung his huge two handed sword about causing the orks that were closest to him to move backwards into their oncoming fellow orks. This tactic was only mildly succesful as most of the orks simply passed around the trio who were soon surrounded.

“…chareth-ZIRRACH!” shouted Talia as a bolt of lightening leapt from her fingertips and arched towards the onrushing ork horde. The bolt smashed through one of the orks attempting to surround Sloth and his compatriots then sprang twice more taking two more orks out of the fight. Sloth used the sudden opening to his advantage and shouldered passed one of the stunned orks and barreled his way towards Granis and Talia.

By now the squad was streaming past the two team leaders, a few were slumped over with arrows sticking at odd angles from their bodies. Talia sprang up onto her horse while Granis reached down and hauled Meirien up from the ground. The corporal was still breathing but just barely. Granis snapped the arrow off just below the fletching then slung the man over the saddle in front of Talia.
Slapping the elfs horse on the rump, Granis turned to mount his own horse and saw that Sloth had managed to win his way to Meirien’s steed and was reaching down towards his one remaining comrade. The other was a few feet away, face down with three arrows burried deep in his back.

Granis wheeled about one last time. Sloth flew by with Jimmy riding pillion. An arrow whizzed by Granis’ ear.

“Right, enough of this.”

The duergar wheeled about once more and galloped after his squadmates easily outdistancing the range of the orkish arrows. The rest of the squad was ahead oh him, quickly covering the half league between the woodline and the camp.

Written by Ventris

November 6, 2010 at 4:18 am

Posted in NaNoWriMo

Nano – Day 4

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Not much done today.  Tired.  I hope to catch up some tomorrow.

D4 Goal: 6667

Word count: 304

70% of target.

***********

The soldiers broke ranks and set about gathering their gear for the patrol. The horses were stabled on the other side of camp for sanitary reasons which allowed the troopers to stop by the mess to grab some rations and the Blacksmith area to gather extra ammunition for their bows. Within the hour the squad was mounted and and ready to move. Corporal Meirien walked is mount to the head of the formation then wheeled about to address the squad.

“This is going to be a reconnaissance by force. We are going into the border territory between the Overlands and the Demimonde. I don’t have to tell you that we will be surrounded but all sorts of nasty beasties intent on putting us into their cookpots. Stay frosty. We may be in our own territories but Demi patrols have been spotted not a few leagues from here and deeper patrols are probably lurking around undetected. Burn, when you are ready take the lead.”

Burn did as ordered. He filed his horse through the gate, waving to the guards on duty as he passed.

“Good Luck and Good Hunting!” the sergeant-at-arms called out as the squad rode past. “Give ‘em hell.”

Once outside the palisade the squad formed up into a large inverted vee. Burn’s team was arrayed in a smaller inverted vee at the front of the formation while Granis and Talia formed their teams in similar formations to the left and the right about a hundred paces back. The troopers kept a distance of about thirty paces between each other and Meirien kept the the center of the squad. Every now and then he would move up to Burn and get an report of the situation. In about an hour they were at the edges of the Hollow Lands.

There was no gradual transition for Overlands to Demimonde territory. One moment the troopers were moving through lush, green vegetation. The next minute they were riding through the blackened, charred remains of what was once a vibrant forest. What wasn’t covered in grey soot was charred black and lifeless. Troopers loosened long, curved sabers in their scabbards and nocked arrows to their shortbows.

Written by Ventris

November 5, 2010 at 2:51 am

Posted in NaNoWriMo