Sunday, January 22, 2017

Wolfbang and the Unexpected Prisoner

It was time for Wolfbang to get far away from Hommelet again. Burne’s men reported strange noises from the dungeon beneath the moathouse and stranger dreams when they spent the night there. Finding adventurer willing to explore was a lost cause. And there were reports of a young man traipsing through the woods followed by a menagerie of beasts. Jaroo’s seniority on the council of elders gave him an edge when debating with Burne and Rufuson the merits of calling on the Lords of Drentenbury for military assistance. But no for much longer. If Wolfbang took a little trip, maybe things would quiet down.

And there was something to do. Even without access to the pools, it seems that Burne was disseminating knowledge of elven magic to humans—with what the elves and Jaroo considered predictably unpredictable results. In the area of Gold Hill, the orcs were attacking human settlements, seemingly emboldened by their association with a wizard, seemingly human, who had the power to turn his enemies to stone. Jaroo confided to Wolfbang that he was especially concerned because Valu had not been seen for some time. While solitary contemplation in the forest was an essential part of the boy’s druidic training, the druid college would especially like to know his whereabouts now—to be certain that this malevolent wizard wasn’t searching for their chosen one. (Spoiler alert: Wolfbang immediately suggested that Valu himself was the renegade wizard.)

Following Jaroo’s instructions, Wolfgang travelled to Gold Hill, bypassing the Hill itself, the trding post, and the Sherriff, making his way instead for Trago Hall. Lord Trago would be expecting him.

And yet by the time Wolfbang reached Trago Hall, Lord Trago was already gone. As the steward explained, there was a signal fire at the watch tower three days ago. Lord Trago and three of his knights had gone to investigate. They found the place overrun by orcs and sent one f their number back to report that the others would pursue the orcs and destroy them, wizard or no wizard. They had not returned.

The next morning, Wolfbang and his animal companions set out for the watchtower. /as expected they found evidence of a battle. And they a path of destruction that presumably indicated which way the orcs had travelled—and Lord Trago had followed. Following this path, they found the typical hallmarks of orc activity—smoldering fires, uprooted saplings, dead bunnies.

And they found Valu. They heard him first, muttering to himself, and Wolfbang secreted himself in a thornbush. Valu seemed to be alone. When Wolfbang revealed himself, Valu was only half-surprised. “You need to help me,” he said, “the orcs have got me.”

There was no time to explain. There were voices, a large number of orc voices, drawing closer. “Valu! Valu! What are you doing little shit?”

“I’m over here, I think I found the leaves I need for the chief!” He scooped up a random handful of debris from the forest floor and told Wolfgang were to find them. A ruined temple, due north, easy to find. But don’ go up to he man entrance. There was a secret entrance to he left of the steps, hidden by a mulberry bush.

And then he ran to meet the orcs.

Having no human companions to consult with, Wolfbng pressed forward. Wary that he was being double- or triple- crossed, Wolfbang was relieved to find things as Valu had told him—a clear path to the temple and a secret entrance to the left of the steps.

The secret entrance brought Wolfbang into long, unlit tunnel dug out of the earth under the temple and ending in a small chamber with a rough staircase leading up to the ceiling. With a mixture of skill, strength, and luck he found a stone in the ceiling that could be lifted, permitting him access to the room above. This was a larder. Without inspecting too closely the meats stored there, Wolfbang explored elsewhere and soon found himself in the main hall of temple. The two orcs on guard there were surprised by his sudden and bold appearance and by bestial associates. They shouted a challenge but did not attack. Uncertain of how the druidic of benevolent neutrality covered situations like this one, Wolfbang simply ignored their challenge and advanced. Physical hostility erupted and soon both orcs were dead. Wolfbang surveyed the temple. It’s most striking feature was a trio of very realistic statues of fighting men in armor,

Wolfbang glanced out the main doors of the temple onto the large portico where, as the sun set, drowsy guards were beginning to rouse. Their limited attention was fixed on the surrounding forest, and Wolfbang escaped their notice.  He elected to explore the inside of the temple. Moving from room to room, he came upon a pair of sleeping monsters, both much bigger than the orcs, one exceptionally hirsute, the other most notable for his large yellow teeth. Wolfbang didn’t waver, but gave each monster a quiet death in its sleep.

In another room, Wolfbang found Valu. The boy jumped with a start, and seemed relieved at who had entered. Valu explained that he had found a wand capable of turning people to stone. The orc chief insisted on holding it most of the time and only gave it to Valu when he needed the boh to work its magic.

Valu agreed to take Wolfbang to the chief immediately. The great orc was awake, sitting up in bed and polishing his axe. He was civil, but haughty, dropping unsubtle insuts amidst every sentence he spoke to Wolfbang, like the other orcs, he referred to Valu as “little shit” even when, tired of his conversation with the animal lover, he thrust the wand into Valu’s hands. “Make me another statute for my throne room.”

Value didn’t hesitate for a moment before memorializing the orc chief in stone.

The immediate threat disposed of, Wolfbang and Valu began to argue. Wolfbng would have wanted the chief’s axe, but the impressive weapon was now an integral part of the statue. Wolfbang though that he take possession of the wand but Valu made t clear he had learned his lesson about the futility of trying to appease a bully. Their argument drew the attention of a group of orcs, more intrigud than alarmed by the sound of human consternation in their chief’s bedroom. The sight of their chief in his new state had a profound effect on them as did Bruno and Wolfie’s claws and fangs. They fled, but were pursued and killed.

It dawned on Wolfbang that he had accomplished everything that had been asked of him. He had foun the orcs’ stronghold, neutralized their most threatening features, and rescued the druids’ great hope. It was time to leave. Almost. Valu put on the orc chief’s armor. Nd that reminded Wolfbang, where do the orcs store their weapons?

Valu knew—it was next to the larder. #there was a good selection of weapons, most orc-made, but there were some notable exceptions. Wolfbang lookd over the swords, selected those forged by human smiths and tied them together with rope for easy carrying. Valu meanwhile tried out all the crossbows, testing whether any of them had magical properties.

Another group of orcs arrived and attacked the inruder. With the help of Bro the Badger, most of these orcs were quickly dispatched, but the survivors raised the alarm and ran for the barracks. Wolfbang and his animals eagerly gave chase and Valu followed closely behind.

The orcs were many, but most had just wakened and were not well-prepared for battle. Wolbang chanted as his menagerie brought the forest’s vengeance down on its desecrators. Valu stood a safe distance away and, as Wolfbang commanded, transformed orcs into stone.

And then the party got lame. Valu’s wand fizzled. Several orcs crowded around Wolfbang and he had to end his chanting to keep them at bay. Bro the badge received a grievous wound and Wolfie was yelping. Wolfbang ordered a retreat. Valu ran to the trapdoor with most of the animals behind him while Wolfbang and Bro stood to guard their retreat. Wolfbang tried to pick up the badger and got a viscous bite for his trouble. The orcs pressed their advantage as Wolfbang backed away from them swinging his staff to deflet the worst of their spear thrusts. Valu shouted for Wolfbang to make a break for it. Bro made a last explosive attack and then followed Wolfbang down the hole. The orcs slammed the covering stone down over them.

The party ran down the corridor, out the secret door, and into the forest. The orcs fired arrows arrows from the safety of the temple but did not pursue.

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