The Chaos Marches
Chapter 3, Caught in a Battle
We left our heroes on a mountainside, outside the castle of the Black Mage, which is under siege by an army of orcs or something like them. We have just fought our way down the side of the mountain, eliminating (so far as we can tell) all the archers in a group of orcs that snuck under the Mage's force-dome about the time we materialized inside it. This leaves fifteen infantry-orcs unaccounted for.
A gigantic stone knight looms over the battlements and asks, "Who goes there?" Dafnord replies, "Dafnord of the Jack Crosstime Office, and companions. We are known to the Black Mage, and we are here to inquire after a mutual friend." This is more words than Dafnord usually uses in a week.
The stone knight replies, "His lordship is not currently receiving." We look over his shoulder, to where the Black Mage is apparently standing off the army, plus two dragons, with his own personal magic -- Boom! Crash! Zap! -- and have no trouble believing the knight. "I will see you are announced when appropriate," he goes on. "Can you give proof of your identity?" While Dafnord thinks this over, the knight either conjures or quickdraws a spear and chucks it at some target up the mountainside. ("Aauuugh!" Crash.)
"We are known to him," Dafnord says, "by sight, and we can name his new magic." The Black Mage was last seen wielding a transparent staff that we gave him -- Plastic Magic. Dafnord asks for refuge, especially for Tom, who is mortally wounded. The knight answers that he can give help, but he can't let us in. Fine, we just want shelter from these damned orcs.
The knight chucks another speak up the mountain, bows to us, and leaves.
Sheltering (slightly) behind a boulder, Robbie unpacks the field autodoc, which resembles a sleeping bag, and puts Tom into it. Mithriel, meanwhile, is invisible, making her maiden voyage into the air, not by levitation, but by standing on imaginary stairs. She spots some incoming orcs and relays the data to the others telepathically. Between this, her own archery, and Robbie's infrared vision and marksmanship, they whittle down the number of orcs.
Mithriel's invisibility, however, flickers when she shoots an arrow. An orc uses this to target a knife-toss at her, but it bounces off her armor. She begins moving down her invisible stairs, shooting as she goes. Kate joins in with her stunner and reduces the number of working orcs to 10.
Salimar, meanwhile, remembers the orc mage we tangled with in the last session, and wonders if he's really dead or just down. Sure enough, when she investigates his last known location, she spots something moving. Mithriel casts counter-glamour there, revealing a translucent figure in the act of rising into the air, executing an arcane gesture.
Salimar casts a brain-bolt at him, followed by a blaster-bolt from Dafnord. Before he goes invisible again the mage looks distinctly uncomfortable, but he doesn't drop. Salimar feels magic building, and decides to spin up a barrier of ectoplasm between us and the mage.
Good thing, too. The mage throws a black fireball at us. The ectoplastic barrier counters part of it, but the rest leaves us burning/freezing in the dark. Robbie and Dafnord shoot back, regardless. Mithriel, still up in the air and unhurt, sees our plight and casts the best counter-effect that comes to mind -- luminous fire-extinguisher foam.
We've been slimed. By friendly fire. But it does help with the black flames.
Dafnord has loaded two more blaster bolts into the orc mage, but he still hasn't dropped. Very annoying.
An orc-thrown knife knocks Mithriel's knee out from under her, and she comes tumbling down her imaginary stairs, just in time to be covered by another ectoplastic barrier from Salimar, countering another black fireball. Mithriel lights the mage up with another glamour-cast, Dafnord shoots him again, and he finally falls out of the air.
But by now the remaining infantry orcs are much closer. Our marksmen and archers resume whittling them down. Dafnord uses some diversionary tactics he learned from the neo-gorillas, involving pounding one's chest and roaring.
Suddenly, six to eight little round rocky people come popping down from over the castle wall. The orcs charge in response. A thrown knife knocks Mithriel out. Salimar leaps to her side and casts a protective barrier over the pair of them.
Meanwhile, the little rocky people have formed an arc before us, joined hands, and begun stretching and pulling themselves into a growing wall, pulling up the native rock with them. Behind this fortification, we resume the shooting.
Katrina and Robbie shoot down one of the last remaining orcs. Two or three run away. Dafnord is engaged by an orc ninja, while Robbie and Katrina are occupied with another such. Kate accidentally downs Katrina with a stun-bolt, then knocks out the orc, but not before he has taken down Robbie.
Dafnord finishes clobbering his orc, and we stand around puffing, those of us who are still upright.
Let's see: Katrina is unconscious but basically unhurt. Tom is healing in the autodoc, anxiously monitoring the telepathy net. Mithriel is regaining consciousness, to find herself invisible, under a clear, ectoplastic dome, being loomed over by a solicitous transparent dragon (Salimar). Robbie is out of commission. Dafnord, Kate, and Fr. Paddy are still up.
After a few minutes, Tom crawls out of the autodoc, still beat up but viable. He helps Salimar try to re-boot Robbie, and with the other, organic patch-ups. Kate and Dafnord go about cutting throats on unconscious enemies.
Tom, in the midst of his repairs, notices some stinging fluid on the tears in Robbie's plastic skin. It appears these orcs, or some of them, can have venomous talons. How fortunate that the only people to get hit with them were a robot and a shapeshifting alien (and even she screamed at the blow).
When Salimar goes to loot the orc mage, Fr. Paddy warns her away from certain amulets and charms, which look suspiciously Satanic to him. Fr. Paddy is not against magic in general, though, and is willing to use his native world's blend of charms and first aid on Kate.
Meanwhile, the little rock folk begin to wriggle out of the wall they have created for us, now grown to a dome. They sucked up local rock along with enlarging themselves, and, continuing this process, they are able to free themselves while leaving us a shelter. Between this and the apparently victory on our side of the battle, we are momentarily secure.
Welcome to Hreme.
©1984, 1994, 2005 Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.