Gritty Realism

Session 51

Wrestling, a wet horse and Judgement

I awoke to a commotion, someone had spotted a bird circling above us, though in my slumber I missed who. My first reaction was that it was a vulture, come to pick our bones once we had perished but the rest of the party seemed sure it wasn’t. I wasn’t exactly an expert on birds, though I had often been tempted to try hunting by falcon. It was too high up for us to do anything about, however it was a little disconcerting that the thing started to follow us as we moved on, never getting close enough that a well aimed arrow might take it out. As we passed over a bridge, we heard the sound of dogs in the distance behind us. It was too much of a coincidence, and we knew someone was tracking us. I scouted ahead on the horse, but finding nothing I returned to the party. I offered to drop back, confident that Greg could get me away from our pursuers before they could catch me, but the party was against it. Greg went from a trot to a canter as the party picked up the pace and marched hard, desperately looking for somewhere more defensible in the wilderness as our pursuers followed.

Eventually we saw a rocky hill, not huge but far better than anything else around us. We climbed the slippery surface, loose shale meant I had to dismount and lead Greg up the slope slowly. It would stop a charge at least, and put us in a better bargaining position. As we reached the peak we saw a small plateau, certainly enough to make our stand at least. Francis handed out some of the shields stowed on Greg, and we moved a few rocks to give a little cover. After a while the approaching group became more visible, eight men armed with a variety of weapons including some heavy crossbows, one of which visibly bigger than the others, plus half a dozen dogs. As they approached, the hawk circling us returned to one of the men, better dressed and clearly the leader of the band.

They stood at the base of the hill, so Stephen moved forward, hailing them. The man with the falcon stepped forward to ask why we were passing through. Stephen tells him that we escaped from the prison in Reinmann and are headed North. The leader pointed out that there was probably a bounty on our heads, which would be worth their while to collect. Stephen asked who they were, to make such threats. He introduced himself as Boris, and his party were the Brown Bulldog Gang. As the dogs were neither brown nor bulldogs, it took us a few moments to respond to this. As we were still determining whether or not they were a threat, Stephen took the initiative and transformed into a likeness of Theradix, the demon we freed from the prison in Reinmann. Taking his lead, I channeled my angel powers as I had in the prison, appearing as an angel before them, great wings sprouting from my back and bathing me in a heavenly glow. Seeing the demon, the four gang members holding heavy crossbows loosed bolts at the apparition, most of which missed or flew through the demon shape but one caught the bard in the arm. In addition to the crossbow bolts, one of the men ran towards him throwing a mace which missed wildly. Before the situation escalates, both sides are shouting at their own men to back down, and Boris begins yelling at the charging man, Jimmy, to come back. Azmodeus steps up, telling Boris that we are only passing through, that the gang should avoid the trouble, however Stephen seemed less impressed despite his injury and told Boris to leave, that this was our place now. Before the leader could respond, Stephen cast a suggestion spell at him, in some strange form of poetry I was not familiar with.
I’m a demon fool,
what makes you think you rule,
don’t throw a mace in my face,
just leave this place.
Boris seems confused by this, maybe sensing the confusion on his leader, the man holding the dogs by a single leash released them, and they charged towards Stephen, biting at him and causing him more injuries. Boris shouts at his men to get the dogs under control, and our own party get ready to fight but don’t attack. I ready my ki in my hands, preparing some bolts just in case. The man who was holding the dogs runs up the slope, grabbing the chain attached to all the dogs and pulls them back, allowing Stephen time to get up.

Boris tells everyone to calm down. Our parties are evenly matched and an all out fight wouldn’t do either any good. He asks if we would like to trade for some information instead. He asks us where we are headed, and we tell him North, to the mountains. He has some information that might help, so Francis offers a trade of some weapons for it. Boris seems happy with this deal, looking at his men they are equipped to varying standards, a few swords and shields could improve their lot considerably. He tells Francis that the land to the north belongs to the Forsaken Gang. They are not to be trusted, and prefer to attack at night using magic.

Francis then suggests a contest, a little wager for fun. Boris suggests a game, but Francis convinces him that a feat of strength would be more entertaining. Our strongest man against his in a wrestling match. Looking at Azmodeus, Boris doesn’t seem to think that the match will be a fair one, even against Mick, their Half-Orc. He suggests we use our smallest member Jarvok instead. Having seen Jarvok in battle, none of us think that Boris has the advantage that he think he does, yet Francis is quick to capitalise on it, telling him that he’ll agree if he’ll wager Mick’s greatsword. Mick is upset at this, but Boris seems certain that he won’t lose. He asks what we will put up, and eventually a wager of 10 gold is agreed. I realise that even 10 gold is a lot to the rest of our party, so I slap Jarvok on the shoulder, telling him to do us proud and giving him a little angelic guidance at the same time. Jarvok goes into his barbarian rage, and easily proves himself the stronger of the two half-orcs, pinning Mick before he knows what happened. Boris insists on the best of three, and Jarvok punches himself in the face, maintaining the rage that helped him in the first round. It’s too much for Mick who forfeits the fight, and his sword. Valin takes the sword, and Boris tells him that it’s name is The Forsaken Scalper, a powerful weapon against the Forsaken. Despite losing the sword, the Brown Bulldog Gang enjoyed the match, and with their new equipment they are suddenly more amenable to us, even offering to escort us North. The journey is silent, with no sounds of wildlife on the way. Frances asks why it’s like this, as it was not this way a few days ago when he travelled into Reinmann. According to Boris it was a new occurrence that the wilderness had been quiet all day, though he didn’t seem particularly concerned by it.

After 4 hours of small talk it’s early evening, and the Brown Bulldog Gang tell Francis that this is as far as they are willing to go. Before leaving, Boris reminds us not to trust the forsaken once more before leaving. Before long Darrick sees the bridge to the north in the distance and is visibly relieved, however it has gotten late and we realise that we won’t reach it before nightfall. Deciding to make camp and arrive at the bridge feeling fresher tomorrow, a few of us split off to find a good site and I come across a crater deep enough to conceal us from the road. We set about making camp, Francis and Jarvok spy a good fishing spot and I take Greg to patrol the area. Finding nothing, I head towards the river to see how they are getting on with their fishing. Neither have had any luck with the fish. Foolishly thinking I could do a better job, I decided that maybe I could hit something with a well thrown spear. I rode Greg into the stream, promptly discovering that not only was it deeper than it appeared, but that there was a strong current beneath the surface. As we began to get dragged below the surface, I grab onto Greg, as Francis ties a rope to a tree and the other end to us. I tie it around Greg, then try to climb up out of these deadly waters. Years of easy living haven’t exactly left me with a lot of natural strength, and after swallowing half the river and several attempts at climbing out I was finally safe. It took all of us to haul Greg to safety, and I attempted to try him off but I had lost what little trust I had gained with him. Fortunately Jarvok had more luck searching for food, enough to put together a stew for us.

We organised watches, and Stephen examined the dagger he had taken from Blaine’s box in the prison. He found the knife had been made to drain the life force of a holy being. I would not like to be on the receiving end of that, I feel like it would devour the angelic forces within me. In a darker twist, he felt that the dagger itself had some kind of thirst within it, and that Blaine had been given it by someone who was not its owner. I drifted off, safe in the knowledge that my trusty companions would spot anything that would threaten us.

I woke to the sounds of unearthly creatures attacking us from all sides. As I battled these animated skeletons I saw rotting dead people attacking the rest of the party, one of which was taking bites out of Greg. After dealing with the skeletons attacking me, I loosed a few blasts at the creature attacking Greg, finishing him just in time. As we killed these things, more waves were coming from behind, filling the gaps in their ranks. This was not a fight we were going to win. I remember someone once said to me that cowardice was the better part of valour, or something like that. Basically that sometimes it was time to run away and fight another day. As I retreated I could here my companions responding to something unheard. Then it was my time. A voice asked me ‘Who are you?’ Realising that giving anyone my name was not a good idea, I responded cordially, telling the voice that a gentleman introduces himself before asking the same of others. As I did this, I saw another wave of these stinking dead swarm Greg. He was a brave animal, and I felt bad that he had died because I had brought him into this. I didn’t think about it for too long however, as a great man with a great hammer appeared through the fog which had surrounded us, accompanied by his own steed, lit in flame. I watch as Francis desperately tries to help his man Jerome, and I heal him a little to aid his retreat, but to no avail as he too is pulled apart by these things.

I have no doubt that this man advancing through the undead before him is the one called Judgement, Ozymandius’s right hand. As we retreat, he smashes his hammer into the ground which erupts before him, and more of those damn things emerge from the earth, clawing their way up to pursue us. We have no choice but to flee, we won’t stand a chance against Judgement and his undead. We run, and we keep running. We make it to the bridge with the growing army on our heels, yet at the bridge they stop, seemingly unable or unwilling to go any further. They stop and watch us go.

It takes us almost an hour of travel to reach the great forest we could see from the bridge, and we were sure that in that time we were not being pursued. After hunting for a suitable spot, we found a hollow great tree which offered enough shelter for us to camp. We needed rest, and I prayed to my angel that we got it.

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