The Rise of Apparition

Krevlorneswath the Dwarf (Part 1)

Lorne's view of the first day

We three agents boarded the dark ship once more and set off on this most perilous of missions. I, Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok clan, am a simple treasure-hunter and thief. I admit my skills are known well amongst the shady circles my kind move in, but I cannot claim great fame, and I do prefer it that way.
I find my two companions most suspicious creatures. The shady Apparition seems untrustworthy by nature, and Bellatore is a human Black Guard; probably shifty, unreliable, and foolish, like the rest of his race. The only question is who will betray whom first. I shall watch them carefully.
We sit in the uneasy luxury of this great and mysterious ship, and begin our plans. These ships are known, apparently, to bring death and destruction in their wake, so we must strive to appear utterly unconnected with the Bonescrapers’ appearance in the skies of the 6th Plane. We decide to disembark within the boundaries of House Dae, and infiltrate one of the towns for more information. Hopefully, if the ship is spotted, suspicion will fall on House Dae, and the strains in this bizarre alliance will begin to tell.

In the darkness above the lands of House Dae, we spot a line of torches marching up the road from the heart of this region. Some group from castle Dae, or a delegation returning to House Carfax? Who knows, but we need information, and this is our best bet.
We disembark, 200ft above some ancient ruins in the forest nearby. Bellatore, familiar with his ring of feather-falling, steps off the ship and falls into the night, landing softly on his feet. Apparition merely winks out and reappears on the forest floor. I too have a ring of feather-falling, but it’s really new to me, and I just don’t trust magic. So, sue me.
I know all I have to do is step out, but the height is so great it chills my bones and all I can think of is how great a splash I will make if this stupid ring fails. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have the same doubts!

With the jeers and whispers of my fellows below turning my dark skin red, I step off into the emptiness. Or at least, that was the plan. I must have tripped? However it happened, I found myself plummeting to the ground below, head first, mouth ripped open in a silent scream. Ten feet to the floor, the magic kicks in, and I float the last distance, to land gently on my head, at the feet of my sneering companions. Without saying a word, I get up, dust myself off and glare at these two idiots. “Well” I demand gruffly, “Let’s be off, aye?”
The tall bastards can’t resist a final sneer, looking down their noses at me, in my worn leather surcoat and breeches, against their arrogant coal-black garments. Admittedly, most people look down their noses at me; I am a dwarf after all.

We creep to the side of the road as the caravan approaches, I merely hunker down in the bushes, but Bellatore and Apparition don their disguises. I am now accompanied by a bald monk in a ratty brown robe – the bugger looks like he takes care of sick birds and the like – and a smarmy looking elf, crimson cape swirling behind him. Morgoth, I hate show-offs. Well, I don’t want to disappoint Triac; I prefer my guts on the inside thank you very much.

As the caravan passes, I can see that this is a serious undertaking. The torches are held by a band of 2-300 hardened human mercenaries, led by an Orc centaur, a horrific monstrosity 15ft tall, with tusks curling from his snarling mouth. I shrink back further into the bushes; I’d rather not be spotted by that thing!

Nestled in the centre of this martial display is a shining silver carriage, the object of this protective force, I assume. My companions and I confer and decide that we should try to find out who rides within. The caravan passes, and behind are the expected hangers-on, tinkers, itinerant smiths, whores, beggars, priests and beer vendors; the usual hive of villainy that attaches itself to any army. Bellatore and I are to infiltrate this group whilst Apparition will shadow the convoy from the woods.

Bellatore merely steps into place with the gaggle, fiddling with his robe as if he’d stepped off the path to piss, and blends seamlessly with the other ragged holy men in the crowd. I spot a dwarven purveyor of drink, and stride in to walk beside him, grabbing a pitcher of beer from the chained Orc carrying his stock. I flip the dwarf a coin and quaff with him like an old friend. I am a little perturbed by the Orc, but he seems drugged into insensibility, and as I watch out of the corner of my eye, I see a drunken goblin jump onto stirrups on the Orcs’ back, undo his pants and start having at it with whoops and whistles to the crowd. He flips the dwarf beside me a gold piece and rapes that Orc good. Well. It takes all sorts…

I drink and chat with the clearly intoxicated dwarf beside me and he seems to accept me as brethren, fool that he is, so I ask about the carriage ahead. He tells me that it carries the lady Arundrell, niece to The Lord of Carfax, returning home from a diplomatic mission to the Lord of Dae. The large convoy is demonstration enough that Carfax still does not trust Dae, and Bildur (the dwarf), tells me that there were hard words between the retinues of the two houses whilst they were staying in Dae.

“I tell thee hic those slanty eyed bastards were ready to start the war all over again when they saw the crest of Carfax outside their walls hic. Close-run thing, but the Earl of Dae kept a tight grip on his men, s’far as I could see. Wouldn’t let scum like us inside their precious walls.” He grinned at me evilly. “Not to say there weren’t plenty of locals who wouldnae refuse a frothy mug ‘a beer, and a ride on ol’ Whitey there.”

“Indeed.” I said, disgusted by this pitiful excuse of a dwarf. The fool thought he could control his Orc – ‘Ol’ Whitey’ – and abuse him without consequence. The only good orc is a dead one. Alive and they’ll fuck your shit up, I tell thee now.

I passed the information I’d unearthed to Apparition hiding in the shadows, whispering in our ears, and he and Bellatore came up with some fool plan to talk to the lady Arundrell, maybe even kill her if they saw the chance. Well, a monk and a well-dressed elf might be able to gain audience with a noble, but I’m just a simple dwarf, no chance I’d get invited in. I decide to stay with Bildur, smelly drunk that he is, and keep an eye out from the rear. My companions disappear, and the first I knew of them approaching the caravan from the front was when the order to halt goes out.

I will say, those mercenaries were trained! As soon as we’d halted, scouts filtered into the tree line, spears were raised all round, and pretty soon, there was a hedgehog of blades radiating out from the carriage. Of course they didn’t include the camp followers, who would? So, we were mainly backing away from the spears thrust in our direction, sobering some of the drunker members of the party up. The only one who didn’t notice was that stupid goblin humping the orc behind us. I could hear the “hrngh, hrngh” behind me as the company rumbled to an uneasy halt.

Of course I couldn’t hear anything about what happened up there at the front, but the guys told me later that they managed to get an audience with some cock-and-bull story about representing House Hob. These little lordlings can be such easy marks!
Anyway, next thing I know, a soldier is diving into our rowdy little band asking questions, questions about a ship which sound a lot like the Bonescraper! Now, I’m not the quickest of fellows, but even I could figure out that they could only have heard about the ship from one of us three; it’d hardly been in this plane for more than a few hours. So, I called out that I might have seen such a ship, and the blasted fellow only grabbed me and asked what I knew! Well, that pissed me off, but I wasn’t going to spoil the play, so I let him keep both arms attached. For now.

“Well-ee sor,” I said, playing a bit dumb, a bit drunk, like my fellows, “I was off near the old ruins out to the West, and well, mebbee I was drunk, mebbee I wasn’t, but either way, I was flat on me back. I were looking up, and everything was dark as dark. But then, it came! Arrr, sor, you’ve never felt such cold as when it passed over me, it were like men walking under me grave, n I got the shivers something bad! All in black, with ‘orrible white spines stickin’ here n’ there, it looked like the very omen of death. Now, ten minutes earlier, and I would ‘ave said I wa’n’t in no state to be walking, but after seein’ that, well, I were on me feet and running as fast as me feet could take me! Then I ran into cousin Bildur here, an’ I been drinkin’ as fast as I could to get that terr’ble thing outta me mind!”

Okay, so I hammed it up a bit, but you know, you just start playing the role!
“Where did it come from? Where was it bound?” Said the young soldier, pale now with fear.
“Well, I gots no knowin’ of where it come from, but I tell ‘ee now, it were goin’ South, straight into Dae’s lands. And so, here I am, gettin’ out of Dae as quick as I can. It were death, mister, that ship smelled like death down to the bones.”

I figured we were still trying to implicate House Dae, so this was a nice opportunity to sell it, and it seemed to work. The soldier was looking most uncertain now, and he threw me a bag of gold pieces without even counting them out! Not bad for a few minutes work if I do say so! Probably better than those two idiots in the lady’s carriage would do, eh?

Well, looked like we all did our work too well for the lady’s comfort, ‘cos it wasn’t ten minutes before the soldiers were given new orders and started shoving and smashing at the untidy followers; I guess they thought they could do without the distraction. Anyway, it wasn’t long before some idiot got himself speared up the wazoo for not moving along toot-sweet, and that’s when the entire lot of fools scattered. I stuck by Bildur, because, hey, his beer was actually pretty good!

After I finished my beer though, I started getting worried; sooner or later this moron would sober up, and he might remember that he’d never met me ‘afore, an that I’d joined the caravan not long before everything went to shit for them. Now if he were smart, he’d keep his mouth shut, ‘cos messing with nobility is a fool’s game if you ain’t a player. But, he clearly wasn’t smart, he was a grade ten twit and ten gets you one he’d sneak word to the lady that she’d been had and then our whole game would be knocked back. So, I figured, he had to go. Cheered my whole day up, that did – he was an obnoxious little shit, and anyone who keeps a sex-orc is at least three bricks shy of a load.

So, as he wandered along the deserted road, the caravan just a trail of dust ahead of us, I slipped my punch-dagger into my hand and rammed it into his chest. One-two-three hits into his guts and kidneys and he was a goner, even if he didn’t know it. Too much pain to scream, he just fell over, blood washing out from him in a thick pool. I watched for a moment, granite-faced, then slashed out his throat and let his life drain into the ground.

With that task done, I went to smash the chains on the orc – it’d be hours before he sobered up and I’d be long gone by then. The thought of a rampaging orc ravaging these people who’d raped him sodden kind of appealed anyway. Before I reached him though, that damned goblin jumped down, grabbed Bildur’s bag of gold and scarpered! I’d completely forgotten about him, and apparently he’d been loving Whitey strong the entire time, only Bildur’s murder waking him up! Well, he seemed smarter than Bildur, so probably wouldn’t rat on me. Probably. Bugger.

I was still standing there looking after the damn goblin when Bellatore and Apparition found me.

Apparently they’d found out where Plath was going – he was no longer in House Carfax – and since killing him is our primary mission, makes sense to go after him. We argued about calling the ship and sailing across all leisurely like, but the others voted me down. (What? I’ve got little legs; cross-country in the dark really doesn’t appeal.) So, we set off to intercept Plath on the other main road in Carfax – apparently he was heading along there from Carfax this very night.

Alright, I’m not going to describe those four hours of slog through dark forest. It wasn’t great. Sure, I can see in the dark, but darkvision gives me a headache if I have to rely on it for too long, and the big bastards set a murderous pace. (Look, I could walk them into the ground if I wanted to, but I ain’t got the speed is all…)

Anyway, we arrived on the other road just as it was getting light, and there was already traffic on the road. Well, there was a man and a cow. Never look a gift cow in the…. never mind. So we asked for news of Plath – I mean, who can miss a great big crowd of so-called holy man, all trying to get near their icon. Well, we can, apparently. He’d passed by 4-5 hours ago, whilst we were stumbling through the trees (if we’d taken the ship like I said…).
I just crossed my arms and watched as the biggers conferred. Clearly, they weren’t listening to me, so why bother? Anyway, big surprise – we’re going after them.

It wasn’t far down the road that we came across this peddler with a little table by the side of the road. Now, he had three cups on the table, and I knew what that meant! Yes, I gamble, I like the winning! Anyway, he was standing there, looking sort of pitiful, though there was a big figure in a cloak behind him, so Bellatore and I figured we’d stop for a breather, and maybe a game or two. That cold bastard, Apparition, faded back into the trees, as if he were afraid of these two charlatans! Well, I can cheat with the best of them, so I didn’t think I was gonna get scammed out on this dusty road. I paid the man, as did Bellatore, and we stepped up to pick up the cups.

Whoops! Big mistake, eh? Must have been some kind of contact poison, and it near did for Belle right there! The cups were covered in some black oozy shit, nasty stuff, and it made me see stars and unicorns for a moment. Now I was shaking it off a little, but Belle was swaying and going green, even as he reached for his big scythe. That little twerp had his hands on a pair of daggers and I could see that this had all gone tits up so I reached for my Urgrosh. Now, I don’t know what happened, but maybe I tripped or something because I couldn’t get my weapon out (if you know what I mean hurr hurr). Okay, so the poison was doing funny things to me, but I’m pretty hardy, I didn’t think some two-bit scammer would have anything like this! Bit embarrassing really.

I watched as Belle’s scythe smashed into the peddler’s chest, ripping flesh and smashing ribs, it was a pretty nice piece of work! But the peddler, coughing blood and stumbling, reaches into his pocket and pulls out a stone vial, which he opens and drinks. I can see his flesh knitting back together again – as nice a healing potion as I’ve ever seen. Clearly, this guy has got some resources.

Well, whilst Belle is making a mess of this guy’s shirt, the hooded figure at the back throws off his cloak and moves into the fight. Well, I had to stop and stare a bit, it looked a bit like a troll, but it was entirely made of black stone. To be honest, I was a bit freaked – I ain’t the fighter I used to be, and these old bones might not be up to a magic construct.

The troll thing smashes its fist into Belle’s face, once, twice, BOOM! Now, those were pretty solid blows, but Belle’s looking totally dazed and confused – he opens his mouth, and I can just see “Where am…?” coming out. Oh crap, well, up to me I guess.

I sneak round the back of the beastie, raise my urgrosh high, and swing low. The back of the blade smashes into its knee with a mighty KKKRACK, flakes of stone chip off the leg, and cracks spider web up and out of the wound. It’s a good, solid hit, but all I seem to have done is pissed it off! It turns around and starts on me next.

Urgros10.jpg

Then it all goes dark. Yes, dark. Thanks Apparition.
So, our comrade casts darkness, and I can hear Belle confusedly stumbling about, scythe whirring in all directions, occasionally clanging off the creature. It’s clearly still focused on me, ‘cos what feels like a house comes out of nowhere and smacks me across the jaw. I feel kinda fuzzy now, it’s like there’s a spell of some kind on its fists! Give me a few moments to clear my head and I could figure this out, but I’m feeling kind of woozy now…

Only thing to do is to go for the kill, so I plant both feet in the dark, and listen for the swing of that great arm. As soon as I hear it coming, I launch another low attack, then high on the rebound. CRUNCH, CRACK and SMASH sounds out of the impossible shadows, and as suddenly as it fell, the darkness lifts. I’m standing behind the creature again, Urgrosh held high after that last swing, and its swaying with the damage we’ve inflicted, cracks all over its surface now. But the bloody thing won’t stop!

I look round and see that Apparition has been having an easy time of it, attacking the wimpy peddler. Can’t have got many hits in ‘cos that scammer’s still moving, though admittedly covered in blood. Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t have looked away; next thing I know, another punch comes from those giant fists, and I’m seeing double, head ringing like a great big bell. But, I guess I’m lucky ‘cos Belle can’t seem to avoid any of the hits and each one seems to knock the pants (and the smarts as we later realised) out of him. Only one thing to do, so I grab my beard and pull sharply on the plait with the ring of the Ram threaded on it. Three times I pull, and a great force rockets into the stone creature, fracturing every piece of it and blasting it back 15 feet. The peddler has mostly recovered at this point and he calls his beast back, as they stumble off into the forest.

I’m exhausted, but no time to rest after this, as there’s something seriously wrong with Belle. He’s giggling at us and blowing bubbles… You look in his eyes and you realise there’s just no-one home. Now, I’m a fair healer, and to me, it looks like at least two weeks of bed rest before Belle is back up to full strength again. We’re gonna have to drag him around with a rope ‘cos he won’t even follow us on his own. That is not inconspicuous! What a balls-up, we’re one man down and the mission ain’t even really started yet! If Triac hears about this…

Apparition has barely a scratch on him, and I trust him even less now than before. The look he gives Belle is like a hungry wolf staring at a nice, fat rabbit…

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