I thought it might be fun to share this short foray back into the world of the Adventurers while I'm working on edits and revisions for the next few Modern Magic stories (#6 will likely be up late next week, with #7 following shortly). Happy reading
CLANG! The Orc’s sword ricocheted off of the invisible sphere that surrounded and protected Tarly while he worked his magic. All around him battle raged as he and his companions sought to unseat the Orc camp from the recently deserted farmstead. It only became deserted once the Orcs had set their eyes on it as a new, and promptly run off and killed many of the locals. Tarly and the others, the Adventurers, had been hired to exact justice from the Orcs and return the farming lands to those that ruled over this land. None of the Adventurers were clear on just who that was, and they didn’t particularly care. They’d been approached by a brightly dressed messenger, and hired and paid by the same; as far as they were concerned the land now belonged to the messenger. As soon as they finished off these Orcs, of course.
Randell, a four-foot tall dwarf, full of anger, clad in steel, and wielding a vicious battle axe, let out a loud roar as he charged a group of Orcs that had Drudge, the Adventurers’ cleric, backed against a thick stone wall. His axe bit into the back of one and was quickly withdrawn and slashed across the calves of another. Two Orcs fell to Randell’s axe, and the others turned to confront his sudden attack. Behind him, from where he had charged, lay three more Orcs twisted gruesomely in the aftermath of poisoned arrows. Ilye was responsible for those. She was lurking and stalking in swift silence around the edges of the battle, firing her poisoned arrows into the backs of enemies as they faced her more obvious companions.
Drudge, given a little room to move, thanks to Randell’s intervention, switched his large club to one hand and grasped the other about a pendant hanging from his neck, and as he did so he shouted a divine prayer in the language of his Deity (the God of Doom and Gloom). Rock cracked underneath the cleric’s feet as his body swelled, tripling its muscle mass in seconds. Likewise, his equipment grew in scale with his body. The Orcs that had turned to face Randell were promptly smashed flat by the enlarge club of the divinely steroidal Doom Cleric.
Swords continued to slam against Tarly’s magical shield, thin cracks appearing in the air around him as the sheer force of the blows hammered away at the fabric of the protective spell. The wizard hastily pulled a handful of powdered iron from within his robes and began chanting an arcane incantation. The swords continued to fall, and when they finally broke his shield, Tarly spoke the activating word and cast the dust upon his foes. Sparks danced amongst the particles of iron. Faster, and faster. By the time the powder had reached the attacking Orcs, clinging to their bodies and weapons, there was a full-blown electrical storm contained within the cloud of iron.
In the shadowed distance, behind a crumbling well, Ilye released the tension on her bow, scanning the battlefield now that Tarly no longer appeared to be in immediate danger. She’d been sure the wizard was going to be finished, without help. Tarly had a tendency for performing the most lethally inconvenient mishaps with his magic. She was sure he’d even gotten them killed once, and then resurrected by Drudge, though neither the Cleric nor anyone else would speak of it. During the last couple of jobs, though, Tarly had been handling himself like a true battle mage, and not the squeamish, absent-minded, intellectual that he was. As Ilye set her sights on a new Orc back to puncture, she concluded that she’d found the old Tarly far more entertaining.
Randell was running toward a cluster of Orcs that stood blocking the farmhouse entrance, behind him drudge was Drudge; ten feet tall now, built like a mountain ogre, and smashing all about him with his giant club. Randell wasn’t sure if he was charging the Orcs, or if he was running from his friends laudable, but dangerous display of wanton destruction. Before he could come to any conclusion on the matter, and long before he could close with the Orcs, he heard the rush of air as Drudge’s club slammed into the ground next to him, throwing Randell from his feet and off to the side; out of the path between the huddled Orcs and the rampaging cleric.
The Orcs tried to make a stand, but the divinely infused Drudge threw both body and club into their ranks; demolishing their hopes, along with the entry hall to the farmhouse. Randell watched it all from his unexpectedly prone position. He was trying to be angry with the insolent cleric, but couldn’t get past his admiration for the sheer destruction that Drudge had wrought. The dwarf was completely oblivious to the darkly clad Orc that silently approached from behind him. At least, not until the Orc let out a sharp cough and staggered noisily for a few feet before collapsing. Randell instinctively rolled to his feet, swinging his axe as he did, but the Orc didn’t rise. As Randell carefully approached the fallen assailant, he saw the familiar markings of an arrow jutting out from its throat. Turning, Randell waved a thank you in the direction he figured the arrow had come from, knowing that Ilye was out there, though he certainly couldn’t spot her.
Ilye smiled to herself at her dwarven companion’s nonchalant behavior, as she continued to survey their surroundings for more hidden threats. The farm was littered with corpses. Old one from the farmers, and many more new ones from the Orcs. Drudge had collapsed along with the front of the farmhouse. He didn’t look to be hurt, just stunned. The same couldn’t be said of the Orcs he’d collapsed upon. Ilye’s eyes scanned to the wizard, assuring herself that Tarly had restored his protective spells and was in no immediate danger. Everything looked well. As far as her eyes could see the battle was over. Unless, of course, there was a band of Orc warriors hiding in the depths of the farmhouse. Ilye suspected there was, and kept a careful eye on the edges of the building.
Tarly and Randell both began approaching the stunned, and shrinking form of Drudge with increasing pace. The two hurried to their comrades’ side, arriving nearly in tandem. Randell turned the fallen cleric over as Tarly peered on worriedly. Drudge didn’t move, heading lolling back into Randell’s cradling hands. The cleric’s body suddenly jolted as he sucked in a deep breath, and let it out in an ear-splitting snore. Randell started at the sound and dropped drudge’s head onto the gore and debris ridden ground.
Tarly and Randell shared an exasperated look, left their companion to his bizarre restorations, and cautiously made their way past the wreckage and into the farmhouse. Randell led with his axe poised, and Tarly followed with a quiet and readied incantation upon his lips. Behind them, Ilye quietly loped up to the side of the building and disappeared through a shadowed window. A crashing sound came from inside.
Randell heard the crash, quickened his pace and headed towards the sound. Tarly followed suit, keeping a nervous eye on his footing in the poorly lit hallway. They burst through a wooden door, and into the waiting room. Randell’s axe was in flight, and Tarly was halfway through his spell’s command word when they realized it was Ilye that they faced. She was picking herself up from the broken remains of some piece of furniture that had sat beneath a small window. The Drow glowered at her two companions as they entered and attacked.
Tarly tripped in horrified surprise and unleashed a shining dart of fire into the thatched ceiling. Randell through his weight forward and down, forcing his swing to cut short and bury his blade within the stone floor. Ilye’s grimace didn’t change. She shook off wood splinters and stilled managed a haughty glare of indignation that it made it clear this particularly incident was to cease at once and be immediately forgotten. Tarly and Randell didn’t waste time consulting their brains before silently complying.
“Think there are any more holed up in here?” Randell casually, but quietly addressed Ilye.
The drow responded in a smooth whisper. “I’d put my money on it. There’s always more. Hell, all they need is one good necromancer left, and we’ll be left with just as many foes as before; but stronger, and meaner. I’ve fought Undead Orcs, and it isn’t something that I’m eager to repeat.”
Tarly and Randell both mulled this over for a moment. The dwarf nodded after a moment and spoke. “Right. We’ll check the rest of the house. After that, though, I say we call it finished. Other than what’s left of this house, there can’t be an Orc left within miles of here. Not after how many we’ve slain today.”
Tarly nodded dark agreement. Ilye shook her head dismissively at Randell. “There’s always more. Trust me on this.”
Ilye pushed past the others and made her way silently down the hallway. Randell and Tarly followed. Behind them, and above, a small bit of thatch was smoldering around a perfect circle that Tarly’s misfired spell had left in the roof. Thin wisps of smoke began seeping outward from the unnoticed hole.
The three adventurers carefully made their way through the maze of a farmhouse, finding frequent signs of the recent Orc residency, but finding no hints of anything living. Ilye’s nose started to twitch. At first, she thought it was the smell of torches lit in some hidden area beneath the floor. Then she heard it.
“They’ve set fire to the roof! Out, now! Tarly blast us a way through this wall; I don’t care how you do it, just do it!” Ilye pointed to the wall on their right. She’d been keeping careful track, and was confident that this was an outer wall. Outside, the wind began to blow, and the smoldering roof erupted into brilliant, cheerful flame.
Tarly desperately tried to ignore the lethal chaos surrounding him, and remember the workings to one of his most powerful spells. It was one he’d only recently learned and hadn’t yet field tested. The spell was designed to break apart everything it targeted, and turn the matter into harmless air.
The wizard spoke the words of power, inciting his mighty spell, and all hell broke loose. The wall evaporated into an exploding cloud of air, that rushed outwards in all directions. It blew the adventurers onto their backs and blasted into the roof; feeding the fire and weakening the ceiling into a quickly crumbling mass of flaming thatch. Tarly, Randell, and Ilye lay stunned from the burst of wind. They were unable to do anything but watch in horror as the ceiling collapsed onto them.
Tarly closed his eyes tight. Randell and Ilye stared on defiantly. And so it was they who saw the glowing body of drudge come barreling through the falling debris, and scooping up his imperiled companions with unnaturally elongated arms. The cleric swept up all three and carried them through the falling wreckage at inhuman speed, and with unnatural ease.
Drudge stopped some eighty feet from the farmhouse and set his companions down. They slowly regained their feet and joined Drudge in watching the building burn.
“Bastards set fire to it while we were inside, and took off. I’m sure of it.” Ilye spat the words and turned to drudge. “Did you see anything before you came in? Any torch-wielding Orcs fleeing into the distance?”
Drudge grunted noncommittally and looked at Tarly pointedly. The others didn’t notice, and Tarly had no idea why the cleric was staring at him. After this continued for some time. With Randell and Ilye debating the merits of chasing the runaway Orcs, and Tarly ignored the cleric’s discomforting stare, Drudge finally spoke.
“I don’t think it was Orcs. I think it was that fiery bolt that shot through the roof. Seemed like it came from the same area where all that crashing noise was.”
Tarly, Randell, and Ilye all stared at Drudge. The cleric rarely spoke, and then only sparingly. This was like a whole conversation for him. Then the implication of his words set in, and the stares changed places. Randell and Ilye glared at Tarly, who took a sudden interest in looking anywhere else.
“We’ll talk about this later. Right now, I just want to collect the rest of our pay, and get back to the Inn.”
The others nodded agreement with Ilya's words, and the four walked in terse silence back to their waiting mounts. They’d stabled the beasts a goodly distance off, and it was a long and uncomfortable trek back.