In retrospect I guess I should have mentioned to someone that Auraluna knew that we were coming instead of just going back to sleep. In my defense though I’m no military strategist, how was I supposed to know that she’d stage a counter-attack? Wait that doesn’t sound right because we hadn’t attacked them yet. What’s it called when you attack someone before they can attack you? A preemptive attack yes, but I feel like there’s a specific name for it. My first indication that something was wrong is when an arrow came through the tent and hit me in the elbow. Have you ever been shot in the elbow? I’ve heard people say that getting kneecapped is the most painful thing possible. I’ll call bullshit on that unless any of those people have taken an arrow through the elbow and can compare the two. Plus I was fucking asleep! Waking up out of a dead sleep because you got shot? In the elbow? There was a moment there where if I had the means I would have amputated the arm just to stop the pain. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have an easy way to remove arms. Who would have ever guessed I’d say that?
A good distraction from the pain was when the side of the tent was ripped open by one of those curvy elf swords and a grey skinned elf with coal-black eyes (it looked like that because it was undead you see) came in trying to kill me the way it killed my tent. I rolled out of the way of its wild downward stroke with the bent elf-sword and it was such a powerful thrust that the blade got stuck in the ground. I don’t know if these things are mindless, I suspect not since it cut a hole in a tent, but it wasn’t smart enough to do anything other than try and yank the it’s sword out of the earth. I grabbed the holy symbol around my neck and thrust it into the ghoul’s face.
“In Adariel’s name I cast you out!!!”
This didn’t do a Gods damned thing. I bashed it with my Walking Stick but I’ve learned that the walking dead are generally pretty resistant to blunt force trauma. I assume because they they’re dead. That seems like it makes sense. The stupid undead elf was still trying to pull it’s sword out of the ground so I took a moment to slip my Sharpshooter’s Blade onto my Walking Stick and create the world’s shortest makeshift spear. Even the undead tend to lose motivation when you impale them through the skull – and without motivation they just go back to being dead dead. There’s probably a lesson of some kind there. I don’t know exactly what happened next, either someone fighting outside the tent fell into it, or someone else (Martialla probably) inside the tent was also fighting and smashed into the side but the entire thing came down and I found myself trapped under all that magical canvas.
I know this is going to sound crazy but being wrapped up in that tent I think the closest I’ve come to dying. I almost suffocated in there I did. I tried the command word to make it “untent” itself but it must have been too ripped up to still work. In the end I did manage to fight my way out before I choked to death, but it was honestly terrifying. As soon as I got free I saw fighting all around. Auraluna and her daughter (who looked great by the way, even better than before) and two other little spindly ashy looking broads were directing the attack of a score of undead elfs and festrogs. It was a Hells of a melee for sure. Baron Ridley and Kendrick had already slain (reslain?) half a dozen of the attackers and were rallying their men to counter-attack, which is the right term in this instance. I saw the annoying Strider-priest call upon his divine power and disintegrate a charging pack of undead hounds instantaneously. The strangest sight of all though was Ismail. His arms had transformed into the freaky hook-things of a giant mantis and he was slicing his opponents in half when he was ripping bloody hunks of dead flesh off them. That was a hideous sight for sure, it was like watching someone being ripped apart by a jigsaw.
While I was still on the ground half-suffocated, a festrog charged at me with its mouth hanging opening in a soundless howl. Mostly by luck it impaled itself on my makeshift spear and I reached into my Vest and set it ablaze with a tindertwig. Staggering away from the fire I was slashed across the back by another undead elf before I was able to whirl and stick it through the neck with my Stick-Blade. This action however revealed the flaw in my jury-rigging because the Blade got wedged in the body and came off the Walking Stick pretty easily. I’m probably the last person that should be improvising weapons, that’s pretty advanced murderology. While I had a moment of not being almost killed I drank a Healing draught from the Flask and took a blast from my Tankard for fighting spirit (and booze). I picked up one of the fallen elf-swords but it was so awkward that I was much more dangerous to myself than anyone else so I abandoned it quickly. With nothing else in the way of weapons I laid about at the undead with my Walking Stick for all the good it did.
As the fighting intensified I saw Auraluna take to the air (which hardly seems fair) and suddenly incinerate four of the Baron’s retainers with a massive blast of fire. All that was left was their skeletons. I know this because those skeletons remained standing, wreathed with fire and turned to attack the Strider priest with burning claws (which really doesn’t seem fair). Next she swooped at me, absorbing my clubbing attack like it was a gentle breeze. She slammed me to the ground and while in her withered state she was half as strong as she had been when she threw me around in Graltontown she was still plenty strong to dash me to the ground. She bared her wicked fangs at me as she pinned me to the ground like a cruel child (so just a child really) with a bug.
“No machines now! We’ll do this the old fashioned way!”
Remember that time that lake mermaid vampire tried to drink all my blood? I do. You don’t forget a thing like that. I was just out for a pleasant walk and then a lake mermaid vampire tried to kill me. Anyway, when Auraluna tucked into me at first it was a lot like that, like for maybe a second. But then something very curious happened. Curious in the sense that Auraluna recoiled in tremendous pain as beams of light issued forth from underneath her skin like some manner of holy force was burning her alive. Which is what I figured was happening when I saw a massive light-wound appear on her chest in the shape of Adariel’s symbol. The holy Symbol around my neck was hanging suspended in air as if held by invisible hands as light poured out of it into Auraluna’s body and light poured out of her body into the symbol – some kind of endless loop of destruction. Well, not endless, it ended after about fifteen seconds when the symbol exploded – a piece of metal shrapnel digging into my stomach – while Auraluna simultaneously crumbled like old bread before my very eyes, leaving behind only a pile of black grit.
“Huh, that was something.”
Once Auraluna was dead the fight turned against team hag swiftly. The other two dusty witch monsters were hacked to pieces quickly and all the various undead were sent back to their graves. Auraluna’s daughter escaped but I’m sure she’ll just go somewhere far away and never trouble anyone again. That seems likely right? The survivors of the battle made their way to the village, which was decidedly less than jubilant at their apparent salvation. Seems that Auraluna and her daughter had been there a while with some scaled down version of the Machine I saw in the Domiel manor basement-dungeon that they had been using on the village women to maintain Auraluna’s daughter. And this wasn’t even the first village. Remember that village the Baron ordered me to check out that had some manner of disease? Turns out it wasn’t a disease, at least not in the literal sense. The people there seemed sick because Auraluna was stealing their blood for her daughter. Eventually they bled the entire village dry and then moved on to this place. We arrived just in the nick of time, in the sense that only most of their young women had been killed instead of all. That evening we bad a bonfire going in the middle of the town square enjoying the fruits of victory, in this case nothing. Well that’s not true exactly, the villagers did bring us some fresh baked bread.
I looked over at Baron Ridley “I suppose in the horrible monster hunting business this is what you’re used to right? No joyous celebrations, no victor’s spoils, no fanfare, no warrior’s reward – just the slim comfort that there’s some traumatized people left to pick up the pieces.”
“That’s a forbidding way to put it, but yes, our work isn’t the romantic quest of a knight errant.”
“Most knights as assholes anyway. Speaking of grim business, when I was in Cauldron at the edge of the woods I saw some witches that had been nailed to trees and tortured. Did you do that?”
He looked at me evenly “Yes.”
“I had it done, that’s the same as if I pounded in the nails with my own hands.”
“Hags are hard to kill. Sometimes extreme measures are necessary. As you said it’s a grim business.” He was quiet for a while and I was about to say something but then he spoke again “You know what’s worse? Finding men that are willing to do it. Not just willing, but who do it without any qualms. That’s what scares me sometimes. How good I am at finding men who are skilled at doing atrocious things and don’t mind doing them. I tell myself that at least thing way I’m using their violent desires for a good end, but I wonder if that matters.”
“Yeah, be careful with that shit, you’re one of the good ones – the world needs you to stay not evil. He who hunts monsters and all that.”
He looked distinctly uncomfortable with these words and after a moment cleared his throat “Your friend and Kendrick seem to be hitting it off.”
I snorted “She’s a friendly gal.”
The good Baron seemed even more uncomfortable “I hope she’s mindful of his feelings. For all his bravado and skill at fighting he’s rather fragile when it comes to those sort of things. He plays himself as a bounder and cad but it’s just a way to try and protect himself. Since we’re going to be parting ways I hope that things between them can end without any issues.”
“I’ll talk to her.”
“Your friend Ismail is quite a fighter.”
I shrugged “Yeah, I guess so. That thing he did with his arms was pretty crazy.”
“I think we would have died without him.”
The Baron nodded “Yes. He destroyed almost half of the attacking undead. Even without that odd transformation of his body I’ve never seen anything quite like him. He was perfectly calm, perfectly in control. I’m not sure I’ve seen a more effective warrior.”
I looked around but Ismail was not in sight “Huh. How about that? Maybe I should start praying to a bug too.”
Funds: 28,040 platinum, 47,545 gold
Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Amulet of Dreams, Ela’s Traveling Outfit, Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Ring of Urban Grace, Black Marketers’ Bag (5), Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet, Ela’s Boots
Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring, pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring, tiny diamonds (26), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, tiara, masterwork red and black long greatcoat, Turnbill blade of first forging (one of three), assorted hag pieces
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag