Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Battle of Dragon Bridge – Part I

The Archers of Dragon Bridge

The winds blew over the snow enshrouded forest, the trees swaying and creaking, as the party of heroes fought a courageous battle against the archers on the high rocks. Bantum plowed through the snow towards Praymar and Ben who were crouching behind two trees hoping to avoid being hit by the far flying arrows from above. Lanna and Star of Justice followed behind him, dodging behind trees and rocks as they dashed forward.

From the high cliff on the south side Hermel and Arik bound the archer they had subdued and Hermel took his bow and quiver of arrows. He felt that he could hit the archer on the opposing rock, whom he could see was firing at his friends below. Meanwhile Praymar and the others crept forward through the trees toward the base of the rocky hill on which the archer had situated himself.

There was a brief firefight. Arik stood in front of Hermel with his shield raised as high as he could while Hermel aimed. Twak. A miss. The archer, who had not yet noticed his companion's defeat, fired again at Praymar, hitting him in the arm with a long black shafted arrow.

“Oh Shit!” Praymar shouted in his squeaky voice, his white hair and skin spattered with blood.

“Now son,” answered Ben sternly, “getting hit with an arrow is no excuse for cursing.”

“Oh gosh, dad, I’m sorry,” said Praymar grimacing as Ben yanked the arrow out and covering the bleeding wound with a bit of cloth.

Hermel, having sighted the archer on the opposing rock, prepared to take his shot.

“Hold steady. Draw back. Take a deep breath…” Hermel was saying to himself as he drew the bow. He let the arrow fly with a sharp 'twang'. High into the air it arched, and curving just so in the winter wind... it wafted downward and with an audible ‘thwap’ hit the archer in the arm. His cry echoed from the surrounding hills.

Ben took the opportunity to sprint through the snow toward the base of the hill as the archer fell to one knee. The others trailed through the snow behind him, as when Ben pours his mystic power into sprinting he picks up an amazing speed. As they ran forward the archer drew the arrow from his arm with a grunt, and threw it down. He turned towards Hermel, pulled an arrow from his quiver and aimed it. Arik, seeing this, stood stoutly in front of his friend with his shield raised. The arrow 'Thhhhhunked' into Ariks shield.

“Is that the best you got?” shouted Arik across the chasm between them. The archer on the far rock cursed, and drew another arrow. Hermel was already cocked and ready to fire. His arrow flew high across the chasm and hit the archer between the shoulder and the neck. The man went down with a groan and a curse.

“If you throw down your bow, we won’t kill you!” shouted Arik across wind blown the distance. “You can’t hit us, but we can hit you! If you put down your bow, we’ll let you go!” he added with a little flourish of his hand, thinking that wasn’t such a bad rhyme. He was starting to enjoy the whole poetry thing he had learned from the Earth creatures they’d met in Underland.

The man, looking pale, tossed his bow a few feet from himself and sat down in the snow next to a tree. Hermel decided to untie the archer that was at his feet and stripping him of his armor and weapons, sent him on his way.

“If you run back to the inn, you probably won’t freeze to death,” said Hermel, and the man, relieved to be let go alive, took off with a curt bow and mumbled thanks.

The adventurers made their way to base of the cliff where the second archer was and found an interceding channel of fast flowing water, mostly frozen over. They found a set of rocks that were above the water line by which they could ford. Climbing over carefully they found themselves at the base of a cliff, an so wound their way along the edge of the brook pressing against the cliff wall until they came to a trail that climbed the stones to the top. They followed the trail and within a few minutes climbed to the top. There they found a cluster of snow covered pine trees, and the archer sitting against one of them panting heavily. Blood soaked the snow around him.

“Now what are we going to do with you?” asked Hermel of the lean and grizzly archer panting at his feet.

“… I was … going to … ask you that…” replied the man rasping between breaths.

“Ok, well, I think the first thing you need is some medical attention,” answered Hermel. The man looked surprised as the good hearted adventurer bent down and dressed his wounds, and used his mystical healing stone to provide comfort and relief to his punctured flesh.

“I’m wounded too,” mentioned Praymar in his squeaky little voice as he followed up from behind.

“Oh, well… um… sure, sure, we should heal the weird little red-eyed kid, too, I think,” stammered Arik as he went over, a little reluctantly, to help Praymar. Lanna came up quickly to him and held his head in her arms as she tried to dress his wounds. However, in her haste and distress she wound up fumbling around and dropped the bandages in the snow. Star of Justice came up and dressed his wound.

“What are you two archers doing up here, anyway?” asked Hermel.

“We’re following our orders, which are to keep anyone from leaving the vale,” answered the archer.

“Well what if I order you to leave us alone, will that work?” asked Hermel.

“Um, well you beat me for sure, and you healed me, too. I’d have to say I’m obliged, so yes, that would work,” replied the man humbly. It was decided to let him go. The archer, getting to his feet with an unsteady wobble, straightened himself up, and noticed in fact that he felt quite a bit better.  And so he stumbled off toward the path that led down the cliff side, and planned to take himself for a nice long bath and meal and ale at the Inn after all.

“Aye, that we did,” stated Arik with a mixture of pride and resignation as he watched the man disappear down the trail, not well convinced it was such a great idea to let the archers go.

The Unbelievable Attack

From their commanding position on the heights they looked down below and saw a cluster of men occupying the Dragon Bridge ahead of them. They could see two men in cloaks standing on the middle of the bridge, and before them were four more men wearing shields and carrying swords. Arik looked around to see if he could find a good spot from the cliff’s edge to fire arrows down on the men holding the bridge. There was no other way out of the vale than to pass over the Dragon Bridge.  It peeved him greatly.

There was a brief discussion about what to do next. The archers that they let go could cause them trouble, mentioned Arik, suggesting that they might bring back another troop of fighters from the Inn once they got there.

“Well, by the time they get back from the Inn it will be at least a half hour,” squeaked Praymar, “and I will be finished feasting on the bowels of their friends.” Everyone turned around to stare at him. He gave a very innocent smile. Ben hit him across the top of his head.

“Cut that out, Praymar. Not everyone appreciates your sense of humor,” he said sternly.

“Aw, dad… no one even pays any attention to me when I’m wounded… so what’s the difference?” pouted Praymar, losing his smile and kicking at the snow.

“I can see that there’s no way to get a good line of site on those men at the bridge from up here,” commented Arik. “Too many trees in the way for a good shot.  Our only choice is to march down there. Perhaps if we chop down a tree to span the brook before the bridge we can sidle along the other side of the cliff base and try to surprise them from behind.”

That idea, though was not embraced with any enthusiasm from the others. “Well, we could try climbing the other cliff and then rain down arrows on them from over there,” said Arik pointing to another cliff that loomed over the bridge. That idea, which depended on chopping down a tree to ford the brook, also garnered little enthusiasm.

“Pehaps we should talk to them before we attack them,” suggested Star. “After all, they do not have bows, and we have three long bows now,” he added.

“If they retreat we don’t want them heading south toward Hobbington. If they do they’ll be harassing us all the way to the township. We don’t want that,” said Hermel.

“Perhaps we should form a shield wall, and approach them while firing arrows, and then when we get close enough we’ll charge forward and take them out,” offered Arik. Hermel sighed, and began to sulk.

“Lets send one person forward to discuss things while everyone else waits off to the side in the woods. We’ll try to convince them to get out of our way, and if that doesn’t work… well, then we’ll just have to blaze our way through,” responded Hermel with a great long sigh, and stony stare.  With this Hermel convinced them all that his plan was worth adhering to. “It’s good to know that my sulking skill still works,” thought Hermel to himself as they walked, concealing his mouth with his arm while smiling secretly. He managed to keep his eyes, however, fixed with the stony stare, so no one was the wiser.

It was decided that Hermel should be the one to go ahead on the trail and make the proposal. They climbed down the cliff, trudged through the snow back to the ford, crossed the freezing brook, and made their way through the snow to an area of forest closest to road. They passed through the trees and came to the road.  It was covered with snow, but at least it was packed down and easier to walk on.

“Honey,” said Lanna to Ben. “Let me borrow that magnificent bow of yours, 'Shar', and you can use one of the long bows we’ve captured. It would give me a better chance of hitting those bad men.”

“I’m sorry darling,” replied Ben with a smile, “but you know how many times I told you to practice your archery, and you have been really quite lazy about it. So I’m not inclined to give you ‘Shar’. She's a bit tricky to use, and you might break her string,” he said with a wry smile. She hit him, hard, on the arm, but he didn’t relent. She pouted. But Ben, her husband, was immune to that as well. And so Lanna took the long bow with a 'harumph', and they all followed him into the woods as Hermel approached the men on the bridge.

“Listen up,” shouted Hermel from somewhere around one hundred feet away, putting his shield to the side, and holding his longbow square in his left hand.  "You men are to abandon the bridge.  Come to this side and cross over to your left, and head to that clump of trees over there," he said pointing.

“You listen,” said one of the two men in cloaks on the center of the bridge. “Go back. No one is allowed to leave the vale. Return to the Inn and you will not be harmed.”

“Shoot,” said Hermel to himself, annoyed that his ploy didn’t work. The fighting men on the bridge took their shields and braced them in front of themselves to form a shield wall. Hermel drew an arrow from his quiver and knocked the bow. The other members of the party, seeing how things were going, prepared to form their own shield wall, and knocked their arrows as Lanna and Ben stepped out onto the road to flank Hermel.

The two cloaked men on the bridge began chanting ominously, and waving their arms in the air. The fighters who formed the shield wall braced themselves.

There was a stirring in the trees to the north of the party. The trees shook suddenly, large plumes of snow falling to the ground with a 'Thhhhruuuusssshhh'. Hermel could not see anything, and said, “Ok, no problem. Whatever it is they tried, they missed.  Hah.”

A light blue mist came billowing out from the trees and covered the ground up to the hero’s ankles. Praymar turned to the trees and sought to Sense Danger with his mystic senses.  With his mind focused on the area of the trees from which they heard the shaking he did indeed sense ... great ... big ... Danger.

Great Bird of Prey

“Oh gosh,” cried Praymar to the group, “there’s something dangerous in those trees!” As they watched a very large blue eagle rose above the tree line. It was enormous in fact, perhaps the size of an elephant. It had a blue sheen of crystals glinting from its wings, and its eyes looked to be made of blue ice. Pale mist poured out of the sides of its mouth.

“Pretty birdie!” cried Bantum.

“I disbelieve the bird,” said Arik to himself and closed his eyes. When he opened them again in a moment, he was annoyed to see that the great blue crystalish eagle was still there, and lofting towards them. It landed on top of two trees, causing snow to drop in a huge curtain with a roar as the monster gripped their tops in its two massive blue talons. It gave an ear shattering ‘Screeeeee’.

“It’s magic,” shouted Hermel to his companions. “We hide in the trees and wait it out!”

The party retreated into the trees. The forest was very dense with the branches of the pine trees being close the ground, and the trees set close to each other, and thus it was difficult for them to move into the forest. They ran short ways back on the road and wound their way down a small path into a snow shrouded clearing. Hermel found a spot in the trees from which he could shoot into the sky and waited for the bird to fly overhead.

With another ear shattering ‘Screeeeee’ the bird poured forth a billowing cone of pale blue mist from its mouth, covering the tree next to Hermel, freezing it solid. The stalwart worthy crouched down in the snow, trying to stay on the opposite side of the tree from the gigantic bird.

The bird launched itself into the air and flew after the party who had arrived in the clearing. It flew over their heads and landed about sixty feet in front of them on an open patch of snow. Praymar ran towards the bird. Lanna ran after him, crying out (slow-motion sequence here please), “Prrraaaaaayyyyyymmmmmaaaaarrrrrrr…. NoooooooooOOOOOOooooooooooo…” as she tried to position herself to take a shot at the bird with her bow.  Ben was just coming through the trees and had no time to take any action. Star called upon Eldrik to bring down his wrath upon the terrible creature. As Bantum ran into the clearing, Dr. Chickenheimer managed to twist himself around to get a good look at his gigantic cousin.

“Hmmm…,” thought Chickenhiemer, “That is no ordinary bird! In fact, that is no bird at all!” But his advanced comprehension did none of them any good, as he could only communicate to Bantum, who was dumber than dirt, and hardly understood ten percent of what he was told, and certainly had no ability to pay attention in a crisis situation such as this. So Dr. Chickenhiemer hung his head with a resigned cluck, and concealed himself beneath his wings, as did all the other chickens dangling precariously from Bantums bandoleer.

“By the Might of Eldrik, thou icy fowl, may you be swept back to your icy perch, never to darken our fair brows again!” cried out Star, raising his hands up toward the sky. At that moment the clouds parted and a ray of sunlight beamed forth through the dark gap, striking the crystalline wings, which the great icy eagle swung to cover its face. The beam of sunlight was so fierce that the reflection hitting the nearby trees began to smoke, sizzling away the snow away into clouds of steam.

Arik hurled his hatchet with a massive effort, hitting the great creature in a wing, breaking a feather with a shattering sound.

“How do you like that, frosty?!” he shouted gleefully. “There’s plenty more where that came from!”

Star felt that Eldrik’s power had overwhelmed the monstrous eagle, and watched as it launched itself into the air, flying backwards. At this point Ben had emerged from the trees, and knocked an arrow in his famous bow, ‘Shar’. The bow itself was quite heavy, made of iron wood inlaid with animal designs and Runes of Power, Speed and Accuracy. Lanna and Praymar quickly moved out of his path of fire.

The horrible blue eagle spread its wings and filled its chest with a huge breath of air. With its icy blue eyes glinting, it billowed forth with a wide cone of mystical blue mist. The nature of this mystical attack is such that shields and armors are of no use, as the deadly nature of such spells is not to the body, but to the mind, the heart and the soul. Bantum was in the path of the blue billowing mist, as was Lanna, while Praymar luckily managed to dart out of the way, his mind quickly evading the dreadful compulsion. Frost covered the two of them, but what happened really in their spirits was an assault of dreadful icy fear, paralyzing their hearts, draining their will to fight, and even, potentially driving them insane. Fortunately, their mystic energies were able to absorb some of the shock, and Lanna quickly wrapped herself in her cloak and rubbed her hands together, shaking off the worst of the fear through a sheer dint of will. Fortunately for Bantum, he was only grazed by billowing cone, and in his own stupid way, was barely influenced by the icy fear after all.  The blue eagle was surprised how difficult it was to influence Bantum's sub-functional mind.  "Cluck," said Dr. Chickenhiemer from behind his wings.

Ben, seeing Lanna covered over in the cone of frosty mist, removed two black stones from his pouch and rubbing them quickly against his leather britches with one in each hand smacked them together as hard as he could. A bright blue spark of lightning shot forth and hit the giant bird on hits head, staggering it backwards. Arik was vigorously rubbing his beard with both of his hands, and taking aim with the small iron rod he carried for just this purpose, also shot forth a blue-white arrow of lightning, hitting the monstrous eagle's shoulder, shuddering it visibly, and shattering two of its crystalline feathers. Star once again summoned Elrik’s might, and again the clouds parted and a beam of sunlight shone down upon the dreadful icy eagle, causing it’s feathers to smolder with steam, and forcing it to fly backwards toward the shade of the nearby trees.

At that moment Dr. Chickenhiemer flew up onto Bantum’s head and cried out with a gigantic sounding “Cockadoodle Doooooo!!!” forcing the creature backwards.  And so it flew up into the air backwards, flying further and further away until the great dreadful Frost Eagle became a dark blue cloud and vanished from view.  Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief!  Dr. Chickenhiemer clucked away merrily, and hopped into Bantum’s arms. 

Hermel came out from his sniper hole, and listening carefully heard only the sounds of the wind. He followed the tracks of his friends through the snow into the clearing where he found them heaving and panting, and looking unusually bedraggled.

Dr. Chickenhiemer then turned and looked at the weary party. He shook his head, and clucked away to Bantum who could only understand a little of what the brilliant Doctor was saying. What he said, in fact, was that the party fell directly into the Wizard’s trap, and used up a considerable amount of their mystic powers on defending themselves from a mere illusion. He could dispel it finally when it had taken enough mystical damage from Eldrik’s Might, and the combined mystic attacks of the heroes to weaken it sufficiently. His “Cockadoodle Doo” broke the spell.

And so it was that the party now found themselves facing two Wizards, guarded by warriors in a highly defensible position on the Dragon Bridge.


Previous Episode:  Interlude: The Unexpected Rendezvous
Next Episode: Battle of Dragon Bridge - Part II

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