Turn 15 -- The Best Laid Plans...




As Kre rolls to his feet after stabbing the Troll, he surveys the on-going battle quickly. Seeing Garth in trouble, the half-elf decides to take the opportunity afforded him by the downed Troll and charges over to help his friend, hoping that Beleg or Druckner can take care of the Troll he just wounded. Praying that the Trolls attacking Garth won't see him coming, he sneaks up quietly on the foul creatures.

Both Trolls pay no heed to the quiet thief as they continue their attack on the weakening Garth. Desperately fighting for his life now though, Garth's adrenaline kicks in and he receives a brief surge of energy. Shield held high, he fends off a dizzying array of blows from the claws and fists of the creatures. Kre stands to his full height behind one of the beasts, still falling a couple of feet short of the massive creature. Turning Coldheart and his other dagger over in his hands, he plunges both blades into the exposed back of the Troll. A howl of pain roars from the maw of the Troll as the daggers penetrate it's skin, only to be twisted by the hands of Kre. A blind, backward swing of the right arm by the Troll sails over the head of Kre as he pulls ColdHeart free of the Troll's back and ducks, rolling backwards over the ground to spring to his feet as he draws another dagger in his left hand.

The attack is successful in taking the focus of the Troll from Garth as the beast now slowly walks toward the waiting Kre. From the corner of his right eye, Kre can see the previous Troll that he attacked moving toward him as well. Daggers held before him, the half-elf slowly backs away from the Trolls before him. Unfortunately for Kre, the beasts have now managed to cut him off from his companions.

 

Kersath quickly steps from the shadows and walks toward Ras and the Trolls trapped in the magical web. Bright green eyes flaring with menace and glowing with anticipation, he attacks viciously. Not motivated by rage anymore, his bloodlust is more like that of a calculated cold-blooded killer--perhaps his ancestry is finally showing through. Both his longswords plunge again and again into the struggling mass of Trolls trapped inside the webbing.

To the dark elf's right, Ras eyes the Trolls before Gnore and debates silencing one of the beasts with a rear attack. Before he can make his move though, one of the Trolls within the webbing reaches out and grasps the leg of the halfling. A quick yelp of surprise escapes Ras' lips before he can control it but he quickly plunges his short sword into the flesh of the Troll. The arm quickly pulls back within the webbing, the claw working to tear at the web. Ras decides he'd better take advantage of the downed beasts below him, as he begins to mimic Kersath's attack, thrusting his weapons time and time again into the shifting mass. Howls of rage and pain come from the Trolls within the webbing as the blades of Kersath and Ras stab into their flesh. The yells send a chill down the spine of Ras as he feels his blade find the familiar resistance of flesh and meat. Gritting his teeth and steeling his courage, he continues his assault.

 

Through blood soaked eyes and soul-rending pain, Gnore now realizes the truth of his dream. His weary mind focused on the Trolls before him, everything happening around him is momentarily lost as he hears nothing. Ducking a clumsy blow of one Troll, he shakes his head to clear it once again as he takes stock of what is going on around him now. Knowing that Snagger will be overrun shortly, he steps to his right to close the distance between his fellow dwarf and himself to protect the dwarven youth's left flank. Facing his own troubles now, Gnore curses the Trolls before him and struggles to remain conscious.

"So be it, you disease ridden filth! With this battle I begin my journey to Valhol! If this is my end, I face it without fear!" screams Gnore to the two beasts before him. Taking strength from his own words, the dwarf mounts his own assault on the beasts, no longer content to be on the defensive. Too slow and weak though, the large creatures manage to avoid the deadly strike of Gnore's bastard sword.

In the center of the protective circle of the Company, Dain removes a bit of worn leather from the confines of his robe. While rubbing it with determination, he slowly chants softly. A soft blue glow momentarily envelops his body and then dissipates. The mage staggers slightly from the sudden onset of fatigue caused from his casting, but quickly recovers his footing.

With a look of determination on his face, Dain grips his quarterstaff and steps forward to try and lead Snagger into the center of the wedge. The momentarily blinded dwarf yells out every curse he can think of (which is quite a lot) as he wildly swings his axe around in an attempt to keep the Trolls at bay and possibly hack something in the process. Dain ducks a wild swing, he tries desperately not to be the 'something' that gets hacked by Snagger.

"Calm down!" yells Dain as he ducks another wild blow. "I'm here to help ye. Keep swinging in front of ye and slow back up," he calls as he grasps Snagger from behind by his belt, slowly helping him to back up.

"Wulp, ahve seen badgers fight an dey seem ta do fine jus as long as dey keep hurtin' whoever i'tis dat dey'r fightin'! Might as well do da same," answers Snagger as he follows Dain's instructions and slowly backs up.

Druckner steps to his left and launches a series of attacks on one fo the Trolls before Snagger. The confusion of Druckner's attack affords Dain the time necessary to pull Snagger back into the circle. Druckner's quick attacks though were unable to harm the beast though as he worked to occupy all of the creatures.

To the definite surprise of both Snagger and Dain, one of the wild swings of the dwarf strikes home as it lands solidly into the chest of one of the more daring of the Trolls as it attempts to slip inside the deadly arc of Snagger's axe. Unfortunately for Snagger though, the strike slows the weapon and forces him to recover before swinging again. The Trolls quickly capitalize on this as both step forward to strike at Snagger. All four claws tear at the flesh of Snagger's face and exposed arms with one of the Trolls even managing to bite deep into the dwarf's left arm. Snagger cries out in pain as his arm begins to feel as if it is on fire. A quick jab from the iron-shod end of Dain's staff to the head of the Troll knocks the beast clear of Snagger and the two companions quickly backstep into the circle of the friends. The Trolls howl and snear at their prey that has eluded them for the moment.

"Dammit!" cries Garth as he takes a moment to catch his breath. The removal of the one Troll before him by Kre causing the second to hesitate. "We haven't any except Dain to fill a breach. Selune help us!" As the Trolls swarm around the Company, Beleg is momentarily brought back to another battle against the foul creatures. Ortho, at the point of the wedge, blurs into the mighty Astihon Coydhur - leader of Forseti's Chosen. But no, Astihon is dead and this is the Red Feather Company! With a mighty shout of "Forseti!", the young Paladin begins to wreak havoc on his foes. Troll's Bane descends in a vicious attack as Beleg brings the blade across the shoulder and chest of the Troll to his right. The head of the beast falls to the ground as the blade continues across the chest to exit the lower left side of the Troll. The magical blade cauterizes the wound as it moves through the creatures body before it falls lifeless to the ground.

As the putrid stench of the burned flesh of the Troll downed by Beleg begins to fill the cavern, the Trolls halt their attack somewhat as they re-evaluate the strength of the prey before them. The power of Troll's Bane and the warrior that wields it causes them to hesitate. They know that the others are weak and could be taken, but how many would die to the glowing blade and the mighty warrior? With no leader to guide them, the beasts seem reluctant to continue the attack.

"Tighten up!" roars Ortho as he takes the momentary hesitation of the creatures to yell his orders. "Tighten up so no more than two can face ye at a time! Gnore, Garth, get in the middle. Garth ye do what ye can ta help. Gnore, ye help Snagger as we back out o' 'ere - we need his blade in th' ring. Talimar! Lead us back out the way we came - if we stay we're done fer. Let's move!"

"By Moraddin, beastie, ye'll feel some more o' me axe!" Ortho says to the injured Troll before him. A quick flurry of swings from the dwarf strike home as Ortho opens new wounds to the chest and leg of the creature. Howling with rage, the Troll launches a further series of attacks against Ortho.

The dwarven priest is not as fortunate this time as the Troll's left claw flies out to hammer into the side of Ortho's helm. The talons of the beast rake across his ear and cheek as blood begins to flow down Ortho's face. The Troll's clansman takes heart at the success of it's companion and renews it's attack. Ortho, momentarily dazed by the previous blow is unable to avoid this new attack as a claw rakes across his right shoulder. His shield blocks the other claw of the creature but it grabs the shield and sinks it's teeth into the left shoulder of the priest. Ortho grits his teeth to refrain from yelling as the pain shoots up his shoulder. Raising his shield quickly, he hammers it into the jaw of the beast and knocks it clear of him.

 

Garth shakes his head as he hears the words of Ortho. Knowing his own weakened state and guessing the same for Gnore, he knows that neither of them will be able to retreat from the cavern. At best, they would only slow the others down and the Trolls would slowly kill them all off. "Quickly, press the wedge to the wall near Kersath and Ras. We can push the Trolls out of the way and pull them back in. Then we present a wedge o' three at a time to the Trolls and heal who we can in the middle," he calls out to his companions as he holds his shield and mace before him, his eyes on the Troll. "LET'S MOVE!! And break out the healing potions, I cast again and I'll surely pass out!"

Despite his own success with the Trolls, Beleg quickly realizes that the Company is in trouble. "Snagger blinded, Ortho wounded, and who knows what's happening behind me," he thinks to himself as he swings Troll's Bane before him, keeping the Trolls at bay. His revelry is quickly broken by Garth's shouted words.

"Reverse left wheel is the command", he thinks again to himself, realizing that the Company knows nothing of precision combat maneuvering. "Well, there's not much hope if we don't try something to change our bad positioning."

"Garth is right!" he shouts, using every bit of his powerful voice. "Everyone move back and to your right. We'll move as a unit with me as the pivot point. Ready, on my mark."

Beleg waits ten seconds as the Trolls mill about in confusion before he begins shouting in a slow regular cadence, "Step....Step...Step..." as he turns and begins to make his way toward the wall, hoping that the others are doing the same.

"Belay that Beleg!" shouts Ortho as Beleg begins his cadence. "We've got to get out! Without Garth and Gnore we won't last ten minutes in here. Now let's move it! Talimar, lead us out!" The stout dwarf, battling for all his life against the three Trolls before him, begins to retreat slowly into a tighter circle so that only two Trolls can attack him at a time. As he does so, he quickly realizes the difficulty in that. As Beleg foresaw, the chamber is simply too big, the Trolls are too many and the Company too few to block them off and fight effectively.

Gnore manages to hear Ortho and understand him. Although the stout dwarf is ready to enter Heaven's feasting halls, perhaps his divine hunger is not so urgent. He quickly decides that he and Snagger are not yet ready for peace eternal! He once again moves closer to Snagger in order to help the blinded youth. As he nears the newest member of the Company, he narrowly ducks a wild arc from Snagger's axe.

"Blasted dwarven fool! The beasts are doing a fine job of laying waste to my body without you adding to my death! Swing ahead and follow my voice back!" Gnore bellows as he prepares himself and Snagger for Ortho's call of retreat.

Through his fury, Snagger listens to the words of Gnore and after taking a second to try and figure out exactly what direction the voice is coming from, he slowly takes steps backwards in that direction, hoping all the while that he doesn't trip over a rock.

"I hope ye know what ye'r doin'...."

Gnore nearly jumps when Dain brushes past him to fill the hole vacated by he and Snagger.

"Fall back, caster! Keep level to me and be wary of Snagger's axe. I don't know what's deadlier to our lives right now, a Troll's foul breath or a blind dwarf's fury," Gnore calls out to Dain with a smile.

"Aye, tis a fine day to die, friend Gnore," answers Dain in the direction of Gnore, "but I'd rather it be by the Troll's fury than that of our companions." Sweat drips down Dain's face and hands as he fends off the Troll's blows. "Steady there, Snagger. Clean up yer eyes and get back out here!"

"For the honor of the Red Feather! Victory to the Red Feather!" yells Dain, taunting the beasts before him. Again for the moment, the beasts are content to watch and stalk the companions in their tight circle as they wait for them to weaken as they slowly regain their strength.

Talimar curses as he slashes at an approaching Troll with his sword. The blade misses but the beast steps back out of range of the elven warrior-mage. "Dwarves or no dwarves, next time we are outnumbered two to one, we are turning back!" he thinks to himself as he ponders an out for the Company.

"Fall back! Move back to back," he yells as he tries to get everyone together to face the Trolls as a single group.

Beleg stops his cadence at Talimar's call. "Fall back?!" he thinks to himself, "how do you fall back when you're surrounded?" Not clearly understanding what Talimar expects, Beleg stands his ground. Holding Troll's Bane menacingly before him, he smiles wickedly as he keeps the foul creatures at bay. He knows that the beasts grow stronger with each passing second. He waits to feel one of his companions at his back before he can move out of the chamber.

"Back-to-back?," yells Ortho after hearing Talimar's command. "Nay, elf, we can't stand here against these vermin! Most of us would be cut down in a matter of minutes! Even Beleg can't stand up to tha' sort o' tactic, as he showed when a-standin' at me own back against the Topknots. We must leave, or make some sort o' stand with a wall of stone at our backs. But it'll take five o' us ta make such a protective ring fer the others. Who do ye think can stand with me in such a ring o' protection?"

"Ah can!" Snagger shouts back, still waving his axe around. "Just as soo as ah get me sight back. Then ah'll join ye!"

"Fall back to where?" Garth cries as he ignores the words of the blinded dwarf. "The only hope for me is to make it to yon wall." A feeble wave of his mace indicates the closest wall to regroup. "If we move there then three of us can hold off the Trolls whilst we regroup. I'll be makin' it no further than that." Staggering and shuffling as he speaks, Talimar and the others can plainly see that Garth is not fit for more than a drunken stagger to the nearest wall for support.

Feeling desperate, Talimar runs through a myriad of options, discarding each almost as soon as he considers them. Finally, a plan forms in his head.

"Dain, follow my lead!" he yells without further explanation. Reaching into a pouch at his left side, he pulls forth a pinch of oddly coloured sand. Tossing the sand before him and speaking a command word, a large fan of colors erupts from his left hand to fly toward the faces of the two Trolls before him. Quickly engulfed by the spray of colors, the beast's howl with rage as they are momentarily blinded.

Dain quickly follows the lead of Talimar and duplicates the spell on the three Trolls before him. Just like their clansmen, the creatures are instantly struck blind by the magic of Dain.

"Beleg, continue your call, reverse direction," yells Talimar as the path to the northern wall is now clear of Trolls. Kersath waves the companions over as they slowly back toward the wall, avoiding the three Trolls trapped in webbing as Ras steps forward to help Garth.

Seeing their prey take action, the Trolls howl their challenges to the Companions as they renew their attack. The beasts are quickly repelled by the deadly weapons of Beleg, Druckner and Ortho. Within moments, the Companions back their way to the protection of the cavern wall. Beleg stands menacingly at the front of the group as Troll's Bane casts a bright glow before him. Three Trolls vie for position before him as they each try and goad the others into attacking the large warrior. To Beleg's left, Ortho backs his way into the protection of the half-circle, his wounds weakening him terribly, his arms barely able to hold his shield and axe aloft. Druckner secures the left flank of Beleg as he steps forward to keep the Trolls from getting to Ortho.

Talimar and Kersath stand side by side with longswords before them to Beleg's right flank. Snagger is the nearest to the chamber wall at the end of the half-circle as he holds his axe before him with one hand and works with his left to wipe the glob of phlegm from his eyes. In the center of the sanctuary, Garth collapses to the ground near Ras, blood streaming from a number of wounds to his small body. As he slips into unconsciousness, the dwarven priest is grateful to be free of the pounding in his head. Next to his dwarven kin, Gnore leans heavily on his bastard sword as he tries desperately to regain his strength.

 

Across the chamber, Kre looks on in horror as he sees his companions moving away from him. The second Troll initially battling with Garth decided against following the Companions and turned to try the young thief. Sweat drips freely from the face of Kre as he holds his daggers before him, his eyes on the three Trolls slowly closing on him. The beasts all grinn evilly at the Kre, spittle falling sickeningly from their chins as they creap forward.

 




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