Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Bitter Blades: The Liberation of Thorn Island Part 4 (The One That Got Away)

The end of the story. Previously told in Part 1Part 2, and Part 3. With special thanks to Alan KnightlyStephanie Donnel, and Andre Eckhers for playing and submitting their notes for this log.



Storm sat breathless as she, Tom, Kade, and Nat sat listening to the carnage outside. Even the wailing haunts and spirits had stopped, their attention also apparently focused on the kobold’s heroic stand against the orcish invaders. Odd, she thought, that she had come to think of herself and her friends as among the keep’s defenders, rather than a band of misfit adventurers here to loot the place. She worried that she might be possessed by one of the haunts somehow, then realized that if she was able to have such worries, it must not be true.

Tom suggested that they should have been out there helping Gore, but Kade, apparently the pragmatist, was quick to point out that the kobold had shut the door on them, and was apparently quite capable of handling the orcs himself, judging by the sounds. Storm was too scared to even comment. After several minutes, the sounds of breaking bones, the screams of dying orcs, and the thunk of arrows into the side of the old barracks stopped. Of course, so had Gore’s triumphant war-cries.

With the sudden silence, Tom shoved Kade aside and tried to open the door, but found it barred. One swing of his hammer against the old hinges, though, and the door collapsed. Outside was a slaughter. Gore lay in the center of a mass of thirty dead orcs and piles of bones from smashed skeletons. Blood was everywhere and Gore had an arrow through his eye. Storm wanted to run to the heroic kobold’s side, but Kade grabbed her skirt and pointed at the pack of a hobgoblins who had just turned in their direction at the sound of the door being smashed open.

Kade grabbed a ceramic flask and an…egg?…from his pouch and tossed them at the hobos. The egg hit first, bursting in a cloud of dust at their feet. Then the flask hit, erupting with a gout of flame, setting one hobos on fire, then igniting the dust with a small explosion. The one hobgoblin died in the fire. The other hobos scattered, beating out flames from their clothing, then began firing at us. Nat smiled and pulled two more similar flasks out and threw them, scattering a few, and killing another with the resulting conflagrations.

Storm, having only a couple of knives left, ducked back into the barracks for cover. Tom threw the glowing blue hammer, caving in the skull of another hobgoblin, but took an arrow in the shoulder and was forced to withdraw into the barracks as well. The haunts began wailing again as the two of them dashed inside.

Nat and Kade charged. Nat took a couple of arrows, before he reached the hobos and managed to run one through with his cutlass. Kade’s avoided the barrage and quickly kneecapped another of the hobos. Five of the hobos were down, and, slightly scorched and faced with such opposition, the other ran away out of the gates and down to a longboat waiting by the shore.

Nat quaffed a healing potion. Storm and Tom caught up. Kade pointed to the old watchtower cum chapel at the center of the keep. Clearly they were done with the outbuildings and should get on with finding how to put the undead to rest.

The entry hall of the chapel was strewn with rubble with a few rays of light filtering down from above. The upper floors of the tower collapsed long ago. The dried husks of two orcs lay near the door, their faces twisted in fright and their bodies seemingly drained of all fluids. Kade whispered “Vampire?” in a way that made Storm turn around suddenly. There was no vampire behind them, but she did get punched in the face by a zombie that was lurking in an alcove right inside the door.

Storm reeled back, the zombie, wearing fairly fresh star-spangled robes, swinging at her wildly with its bare hands. She stumbled over some rubble and fell onto something wet, but Tom intercepted the zombie, shoving it away from her and pounding at it with the glowing hammer. Four more zombies rose out of the shadows, two armed with swords, the others unarmed. Storm reached for the amulet that would let her command the zombies, but found that she could not move. She tried to scream, but her mouth would not open and it came out as only a mumbled “MMMMMMMM!”

Nat and Kade struggled with a trio of zombies. Tom dispatched the zombie that had first attacked Storm, then turned to deal with the fifth. He brushed Storm’s cloak as he went by, causing it to open, showing a strange glyph etched into the hardened leather of her breastplate. The zombie looked down and there was a sudden, brilliant flash of golden light. Storm couldn’t even shout a warning. Everyone was blinded by the flash, and the zombie facing Tom was burned to ashes by the radiance.

Nat, Kade, and Tom flailed about wildly, as did the zombies. They stumbled. They tripped over rubble. They occasionally landed a blow on their targets. Sometimes they hit each other, though they soon learned to coordinate their attacks slightly by yelling. Nat and Kade took several harsh blows.

After a minute, at least, Storm was able to see again. She still could not move, and something was oozing up her body. When her vision fully returned, her legs were covered with a clear slime. She saw Tom swing the big hammer blindly at a zombie that he had backed against a wall somehow. The hammer hit the zombie, taking its head clean off, but his follow-through struck a support.

A rain of rubble fell from above. Tom was clipped in the shoulder by a piece of rubble, but somehow managed to stumble out the door. Kade’s legs were pinned by a falling beam. Nat, and the other two zombies were crushed under a collapsing wall. Storm was somehow missed by all the falling debris, but still could not move or cry out. Kade could though, he shouted for Tom to “Run!”

And Tom did. His right hand clutching the glowing hammer, his left arm hanging limply. Bumping into old buildings and rubble all the way.

Storm could not see what made Kade shout like that, but she did hear his screams afterwards. Horrible screams. Long screams. As if he were being tortured, or burned.
Her own screams remained stifled by her frozen jaw, but she watched in horror as the clear, slimy thing into which she had fallen slowly engulfed her.

Tom, kept running. After a few minutes his sight returned enough for him to navigate to the shore and find Nat’s small boat, He threw the hammer in and shoved off, knowing from the sound of the screaming that all of his companions were dead. He continued to run a few feet out into the water, shoving the boat ahead of him, then pulled himself in with his one good arm. He lay on the bottom of the boat and drifted into unconsciousness.

The little boat was found a few miles south of Phlan two days later by some scavengers from the Slums. They took the hammer, of course, but were nice enough to help Tom return to his hovel and his daughter. With time his shoulder would heal, maybe even enough for him to return to his work as a mason…