The Spades

At the abbey's doors

The dust started to settle down, charred corpses here and there enhancing the smell of burned flesh in the court yard made the moment last longer than it really was. Then, slowly the realization of want was happening got through; the soldiers were running away in all directions for their lives. Not a moment too soon.

Kneeling, putting the head of his war hammer down, putting both his hands on the handle, bending his head silent relief, Cordell made a silent prayer to Tamor for her divine help and support in this battle for life and justice.

Remembering the events of the last few hours, coming into the abbey, establishing contact with the monks, investigating the siege and offering the groups help and support. Finally succeeding to sabotage the catapult and making the army retire was small and quick victory. When the drider and her spider infestation came and rallied the troops, organizing another siege effort, the monk’s spirit and hope were dwindling down rapidly. The group when and tried to eliminate as much as possible soldiers of the army in an attempt of raiding one of their position. The raid was not successful and triggered the attack on the monastery. Many monks failed to swarms of spider and fireball from the drider arcane power. But again, the group prevailed by a thread and was able to push back the spiders only to be almost overrun by the human soldiers. Ramming the abbey’s doors, their cavalry charging inside made progress but when we though the day was close to a win, elite troops came in. These fighters where coordinated, fast and deadly. Cordell’s healing power and the monk’s wand save the life of Kalim and Balazar while Hayyan bombs and Zanhorn arrows where sizzling and leaving their mark. Both Kalim and Balanzar where busy defending the abbey’s wall and killing everything that moved while Riku support them as much as he could.
The sounds of rolling fireballs and ghostly spirits from the grave put the final nail into the enemies coffin, and they fled. The reinforcement that the monk’s requested had arrived to repel the invading army and give us the needed final support and strike we were seeking to win the day.

Thanks to the power granted me by my faith, my companions and I are still alive and will fight another day. Now is time to heal our wounds and rest before the next league of our mission…

Elthon, eîdon, eniksa.

Notes from Riku's diary: July 10th, 994

The siege had paused for some unknown reason over the evening. Taking this good fortune the party had a few hours to relax and prepare more effectively than they might of. Without the spells needed or prepared, an evening attack was put on hold until the morning. Cordell did his best to shore up the wall with a wall of stone, but the cleric didn’t hold out much hope that he’s only slightly delayed the walls collapse.

Morning saw the catapults sitting quietly and then resume their firing a few hours later. As expected the wall did breach, but no attack followed. Riku convinced the Abbot to attempt to talk with the enemy forces to gather either some intelligence or convince them they were sorely mistaken in their siege of the the abbey. The Abbot agreed and they hailed the forces and a meeting was attended halfway between the two sides. Cordell and Riku attended dressed as monks along with the abbey’s third in command. The meeting did stop the fighting for a brief while and left them convinced that the enemy were pretty determined that the monks had items of great value.

Seizing the meeting as a good distraction Hayyan slipped out and under cover of various magics was able to disable one of the catapults and was almost successful in taking down the other. He returned safely and later in the early evening Cordell was able to empower Riku with divine magic and he flew up off into the night and unleashed a stream of fireballs at the tents and fires of the enemy. Hoping to kill some, maim others and create general chaos among the enemy force. This was in tandem with a summoned air elemental who also wreaked havoc in the opposing camp.

With the rising sun the next morning the party watched from the walls of the abbey as the enemy broke camp and began to pull back. It was unclear exactly how much damage they’d done, but it seemed to be enough to cause them to think about the heavy price they’d have to pay to continue their attack.

Hearts fell about fifteen minutes later as the troops were leaving the field and were met by spiders under the command of a drider and another mysterious figure who came from the woods. They seemed to talk, and the now combined forces began to set-up camp again. It seemed that the siege was going to continue and things were looking a whole lot worse after a very brief moment of hope was dashed before them.

Riku was standing next to Cordell and the pair of them watched the events unfolding from one of the towers. “Shit, I’m guessing you didn’t see this coming. I’m also guessing you don’t have a “Protection from Spiders” spell prepared either?”
The cleric grimaced and pursed his lips before replying, “What do you think? This is also something I didn’t see coming…we are again in an even worse situation. It seems I will be doing more praying than usual. I can’t say if their is much divine help with spiders as a general rule, but I will see what I can do.”

The two of them watched the enemy now set the tents back up that they’d only just taken down and they both sighed.

At the wrong place, at the wrong time...

Dammit, this isn’t smart and it isn’t going to end well!”, Riku spoke aloud to the abbey they’d taken refuge in. Everything in his military training spoke against joining a outmanned force against a superior enemy, but that’s just want they had gone and done.

Thankfully, most forces weren’t looking for small groups breaking in and were more concerned with much larger forces coming in to reinforce those who were besieged. Hopefully they had gotten in undetected or realizing weakness in their pickets they’d likely change up something, might not get away with that twice.

This was what he mulled over as he took off his armor and gear and laid out his bedroll. Looking around the monks seemed to know how to handle themselves, I mean living so close to such a nasty area must be good for improved martial toughness, but the relics and other perceived treasure looked to be too great a draw for the soulless idiots gathered outside the abbey walls. Riku again shook his head as having agreed to accompany the others on what could be a very ill-fated attempt at helping some historian brethren. The feeling Riku had in the pit of his stomach wasn’t the kind of thing that made it into any of the heroic tales he’d heard as a child…good thing too…he’d of seriously thought about become a candlestick maker if that had been the case.

Leaning up against the wall he brought out his spellbook and laid it in his lap. He didn’t have anything available to him like a mage might, but at least he’d been in large pitched battles more often than he’d like to think about, and he knew what to expect. That small fact comforted him a bit and he open the spellbook and began to go through his list. Whatever the outcome, some of those immoral fuckers outside were going to pay a heavy price. Riku relaxed his mind and began to memorize…

Sheltered by the Jörmunsul...

You did not expect to be able to open your eyes once more. But here you are, unharmed and unarmed in this unearthly place. You quickly realize that your companion and Hayyan’s bodyguard, in equaly good condition, are standing next to you. The moonlight shining down allows you to observe your surroundings.

In the distance, to your left and right, are lines of evergreens standing side by side. Before you is a gigantic Ash tree, large as a castle, that seems to stretch up to the heavens. Its green foliage gently oscillate from the breeze. Between its roots, patches of purple iris and crocuses, yellow aconites and sprigs of jasmine and snowdrops intermixes with the lush grass. At the foot of the tree, sits a young dwarven maiden with beautiful long red wavy hair wearing a simple yet elegant white dress. Her eyes closed, she plays a captivating melancolic melody on her wooden flute. Next to her is a basket full of flowers.

You unhurriedly make you way towards the maiden. When you reach her, not wanting to interupt her, you sit and listen to the tune. Once she finishes, she opens her eyes, green as the purest jade. She looks at you, briefly smile and looks up. You follow her gaze to a branch above you where a white barn owl is perched.

«Her powers are quickly fading. She has no power in the realm of the living… But even in her state, she still has some sway over the dead…»

«Hear her song!»

The owl begins to hoot and a sudden gust lifts up, forcing the Ash tree into releasing millions of green, yellow and red leaves that quickly surrounds you and the maiden.

A flash of bright light blinds you.

Kalim suddenly straightens up start coughing up blood violently, interupting Hayyan’s silent prayer. After the initial shock, Hayyan beams: «It is fortunate you did not dally any longer returning to us, I was about to cremate you as per our custom!».

First struggle

Pathei Mathos, friends.

I bear witness to this epic struggle where ambushed by a stone giant and several elementals, my companions of adventure and I faced a great challenge with all our strength and abilities. The combat lasted long and was deadly.

Looking afterward at the lifeless bodies of Balazarius, with muscles and body crushed by large element hands of rock; Zanhorn, the ranger in a full plate which didn’t save him from the inevitable crushing despair of hammer hands crushing his body like a twig between the hammer and the anvil. Latest is Kalim, the trusted friend and body of Hayyan, pound down two times before finally reluctantly welcoming death by the stone giant. Kyrie eléèson companions.

I found myself is a strange struggle, although I am trying desperately to prove that the True Faith is the one true good, my companion Hayyan and I have survive an ordeal of faith and skills after most of our companions have met their faith. I think we have come to an unspoken understanding of each other and will build a good relationship and opposed our religious views in a friendly competitive way. I foud myself hoping we will in the future become more than adventuring companions.

Well, we are far from this tunnel now, and I have witness the return to life of my dead companions. I am pleased that our group sacrifice did not go unnoticed and we have been rewarded beyond any material means. Faith is a powerful tool and help bringing the light to everyone – Fiat Lux…

Pathei mathos, friends.

Plowshares to swords

As lovely as the previous day had been, the next day was hellish. Riku woke to the sound of rain which ended as the sun rose, but left behind a dank, humid overcast day. It was days like this that he hated most. For the kobold however, it was ideal for it was not possible to train under direct sunlight.

Looking over to the small chair where he now spotlessly clean armor sat he debated putting it on, but thought better of it. It would be nice to have it tidy for a least one day he thought to himself. The kobold attendants came to bring him to eat, but he waved them off and headed for the spot he’d chosen to run his drills.

Arriving at a little plateau overlooking Çata, he looked around and used his boots to kick the larger stones out of the way, clearing as much of space as smoothly as he could manage. Almost finished he looked down to see Cordell leading what would be the members of his unit up to join him on the plateau. The cleric towered over the kobolds and seemed not to be bothered by the oppressive heat and humid conditions. For whatever reason, Cordell seemed much more at easy among the kobolds. Riku had only ever fought them, and they’d been a hellish enemy. Kobolds were cunning and had to use tactics and numbers to make up for their lack of size. It also hadn’t helped that they were generally under the sway of a more powerful humanoid race, he shuddered as he remember the effectiveness with which the Goblin Mages had used them. But these weren’t normal kobolds, they behaved unlike any he’d ever run across and his negative past as adversely affected his present and he had to force the negati ve thoughts from his mind.

As for a training a smaller race Riku had only trained with a small company of Halfling slingers. That had been easy, Ongus’ Halflings shared a language and were a friendly, if not overly friendly race. The slingers had been easy to train and easy to lead, but these kobolds were a unknown and Riku just didn’t know where this was going to go.

Cordell took a moment to ask Riku what he wanted to do and after about a minute of talking between themselves Cordell addressed the kobolds who’d gathered before them. He explained in their native tongue what Riku intended to do and then the cleric hurried off to act as a translator for the other groups in training before his spell expired.

Now left alone in the square with the kobolds roughly drawn up into a semblance of a formation Riku began to run through the first couple of his drills. It was a lot of starting and stopping with Riku swearing and using a lot of pantomiming to get his points across. What had begun roughly and crudely, began to work smoothly – and within an hour and a half the kobolds had it down. By the end of the day they were able to work through three of the drills with the practiced look of a veteran squad.

Riku now covered in sweat smiled slightly to himself, as they headed in as the sky grew dark above them. He didn’t know how the others had fared, but given a couple of weeks, he’d be worried for first foes they fought.

The Soldier and The Commander

The oppressive heat and humidity had lifted briefly and the overcast conditions were now sunny and perfect weather. At least perfect weather as the party was concerned. This lead to them now sunning themselves on what was once the roof of a massive granary. They were eating and drinking along the roofline, except for Riku who was leaning up against the sun warmed stone about a hundred feet away.

Riku was sitting leaning on the ledge with his eyes closed as his armor dried in the sun. He’d spent the last fifteen minutes scrubbing the stink out of his armor. Two weeks in the swamp was not place one went to reduce the smell of one’s clothing. So the armor and other clothing lay in the sun, along with the contents of his haversack. All Riku’s worldly goods were sunning themselves as Balazarius picked his way through the scattered items and sat beside him. The fighter’s guisarme clattered to the ground, as the dragonborn made himself comfortable.

One of Riku’s eyes opened and he looked over and raised himself up into a sitting position. “You need something my friend? What exactly..”

Balazarius cut him off, “You need to stop being an asshole. Your attitude is going to get us killed. I can understand your reasoning, but it’s been two weeks and no one waits this long to attack someone when they’re right in their grasp”

Riku’s eyes widened and he glared, “So tell me how your really feel? Don’t judge me, big fella. I was naïve enough in my youth and I paid for that sin back then, I don’t intend to pay twice. The Arctus Incursion was a valuable wake-up call and I’ll not let that lesson go to waste…so keep your judgement to yourself!” The last few words were much louder than the rest and the other members of the party stopped and looked down the way at the two former soldiers.

After a couple seconds of silence the dragonborn spoke again, “So, you did serve with Marshall Arctus, you’re indeed lucky to have escaped execution. Were you there when the officers revolted after the…(Riku was silent and Balazarius changed tactics) However, that doesn’t change what I said. We need to get these kobolds trained. Your paranoia about our being attacked and not trusting them might be warranted with other humanoids, but not with these ones.”

The magus seemed ready to yell something back, but he closed his mouth and thought for a minute. Then he answered, “I’m not in the army now, because I don’t want to be someplace where I can’t use my skills to help. Someplace where I’ve got the ability to react as quickly as I want to…I was still really green only barely out of training when Marshall Arctus took us over the border. My arcane skills have always made up for my lack of skill with a blade…I mean I’m decent enough I suppose, but straight up you’d gut me. I’ve had to use my talents to even things out. In any case I’d been assigned with his reserve guard, because I could fight and deal with ranged attackers. We figured out pretty quickly after we crossed the border and sacked Unlation Pass and Joss that something was wrong with the man. But you know that when you’re a soldier you follow orders, even if those orders are wrong, even if those orders are coming from someone who’s not even fit to slop hogs. You also need to remember that in any confrontation the losers are most times just suckers following orders. You are right about my being lucky, I knew a lot of the guys they hung and if I’d been a grunt I’d of joined them. Magic saved my ass then, and I’m counting on it to save it here. I was too valuable to kill, they needed as many casters with military experience to go into the Nestor Forest and hunt the Goblin mages that had wiped out the half-elves down in that part of the woods. I spent that next year fighting the most twisted bunch of sick bastards you can imagine.
You wonder why I’m paranoid…I fucking earned it.”

Riku seems a bit spent as he unloads on the dragonborn fighter who sits calmly taking in all the magus is saying and then responds, “That was some rough shit. I’ve served and dealt with it too, I’m just saying that for the here and the now, you’re going to raise problems for us with the way your behaving. The others haven’t put me up to this, but as a fellow brother-in-arms I’ve come just to talk. It’s my life on the line too. If what they’ve been telling Cordell is true…we are going to need them. I’ve always trusted my skill too, but I didn’t earn them doing things the wrong way. These little buggers are ready to lay it all out there and with our help I think we’ll be a lot further along than with it. The two of us have indeed seen some shit…why don’t we turn that back somewhere it will be of use? We’re here and have a lot to do, why not make it easier on ourselves and use the tools we’ve been given (he motions over to a half-dozen kobold warriors who’ve been watching the party members relaxing)?”

The magus’ hard stare slowly fades and he begins to laugh and then raises his head up to the heavens, “I’m not saying you’re completely right, but for some reason you’ve made a number of good points…you must be lucky too. I agree these folk are as different as any kobold that I’ve seen. We would be foolish not to use the tools provided to us to do something to help ourselves through this. Well I’m sure you’ve got some other stellar ideas in mind??”

The dragonborn chuckled and he outlined a couple of drills he’d been running some of the interested kobold warriors through. Riku nodded and they planned a couple of highly effective drills they’d run tonight.

All hands on deck!

Even after being an arcane caster for as long as he’d been, Riku always got a kick out of teleportation. He knew the theory and could work out how to do it in his mind, but being able to do it in reality was another story. They’d been gathered in a empty stone-walled room and then they were somewhere else. He shook his head and smiled, they’d gone hundreds of miles in the blink of an eye…what’s not to love about that.
However, that was the only easy part of the mission, now they had to get out on the high seas.

This was as far as they could go with a teleport spell, the rest of the trip was by boat. Riku’s skills weren’t suited to dealing in obtaining passage for the party, so he stayed behind and watched over their gear. He could look fierce enough if he wanted to, and a few glares kept the curious at bay until they’d found space on a ship. Passage that far south wasn’t cheap, but he certainly didn’t want to ride or walk all that way on land. Seven to ten days was all it was going to take, at least according to the ship’s captain.

It was during the third day that Riku seriously began to question why he’d never joined the navy. He hadn’t been seasick like some of the others, and the work they were expected to do to help the slightly under-crewed ship along was hard but rewarding. He was sleeping like a rock for the first time in a long time and the sea air had cleared his head and he felt as focused had he’d been when he was a young man. The winds had been kind and they were making good time. In fact the only problem that had cropped up was Hayyan’s bodyguard/valet he’d hired shortly before they’d left the city. That fellow didn’t like Riku at all and Riku wasn’t at all fond of the icy stare the goliath fixed on him pretty much whenever he was around. For the life of him he couldn’t figure out what he’d done to incure the man’s wrath, but Riku had made a mental note that he’d save the goliath’s life last…if such a situation happened to present itself.

A shout from crow’s nest alerted those standing on deck that the end of their voyage was near. Sailors leap up from where they’d been lounging and swarmed up the rigging and began to take in the sails. It appear to Riku that they were about a half-hour from shore and it wouldn’t be very wise to run into a unmarked rock at full speed. So the captain had slowed the ship and while the vessel bled some of her speed, a group of sailor worked to lower one of the ship’s boats over the side (which was a lot harder than it looked). Soon a boat trailed the ship on a two hundred foot leader, the sails had been trimed and they were near enough that Riku could make out the branches of the various trees lining the shore. They were also near enough for the captain’s liking as he gave the order to drop the anchor. Within a minute and a half they’d had their progress arrested and were gathering their gear to load into the longboat which had been pulled up to the side of the ship.

Riku’s hair stood up on the neck, it was at a time like this where a quickly launched ambush from shore would be so effective. Catching them all at a bad time in a very bad positon, but his fear was unfounded as they made it to shore and soon stood in a pile of gear watching the boat head back to the ship. This was what they’d come for and it wasn’t going to do anyone anygood mooning over the only way back the way they’d come. Steeling himself Riku went and gathered his pack, and as much as he could carry of the other various supplies they’d brought and looked over at the others and said, “I guess it’s time to get going, eh?”

Once more unto the breach...

The word had come down that the group was to leave and this meant that Riku would have to be properly outfitted. He had everything he owned with him and it wasn’t a lot. Some he’d leave behind as exploring a swamp and a tomb would require items other than those he happened to have. Riku had spent enough time as a soldier to know how to pack quickly and with proper attention paid to the little things. It always seemed to be the little things that could save a life or make a bad situation a little bit better.

The ranger Zanhorn seemed to know what he was doing, but Riku wondered about the full plate suit the man wore. He’d be easy enough to follow with the silvery glint coming off the armour, and Riku was waiting to see how Zanhorn handled himself outside of a city. Rangers talked a good game most of the time and pumped the tales of their exploits plumper than they needed to be. The problem was knowing where to poke holes in their stories. Riku figured himself a very smart man, but he’d spent little time in the forest and even less time by himself in conditions that would require him searching about for his own food.

He’d twice been let down by the claims rangers had made and both times it had resulted in people getting killed, but that was durning wartime and different rules govern things when nations are at war. In Zanhorn’s case he’d said and done all the right things and armour choice aside, Riku was going to count on the ranger’s skill and deal harshly if disapointed a third time.

A long afternoon shopping trip provided Riku with all the additional gear he needed and it got loaded into his pack. Knowing that he’d done what he needed brought Riku a sense of calm and he relaxed with the stress of the unknown fading away. Being prepared was the best defense again stress, and less stress was always better than more stress. Someone downstairs shouted up that it was time to go and Riku shouldered the pack and belted his sword and headed down.

A New Home...

Riku sat back on the cot in the small room he’d been assigned. He’d been out running through some old drills trying to keep himself sharp. Looking around the room it reminded him a great deal of the room he’d had as a young man, except this room was a tad bigger.

It also wasn’t in a run down row of dorms reeking of sweat and full of the chatter of noisy young soldiers. This building was far better maintained and very quiet, it was perfect. He honestly was just happy that it was dry and the rest of what this organization offered was a bonus.
Finding Hayyan was easy and he’d been nice enough that Riku was going to keep a close watch over him. How Hayyan would handle himself in combat, or merely a tight situation was currently a mystery, but Riku had been a soldier long enough to expect surprises. In any case they were going to be getting on the road and out of town soon.

He lay back on his cot and looked at his battered pack hanging on the oaken door, it was going to be time to fill it, but until then he’d rest.


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