3123 Thunder Hawk 12, Early Evening
Third Mission, Defense of Stoon Part 4
As we drug Artivan into the forest and down the path that led away from the city and towards our rendezvous point, Galashorn called to everyone quietly to wait while he checked into something. I immediately broke off my conversation with Artivan about the knight who had been his keeper and slid up alongside the rest of the party, moving forwards because I knew Galashorn was enough of a hothead to act before he came back to warn us. I was justified, if disappointed, in my assessment when I heard the twang of Galashorn’s bow. I instantly dove into the forest and found a tree near Galashorn’s location to hide behind as very large crunching sounds started moving towards us. I heard the others start to mobilize and watched in horror as what appeared to be Orc corpses rigged with the crystal armor and implants of the Builders charged into battle with us.
I felt a surge of strength in my limbs and knew Artivan had helped in the best way he could from his prone position. Looking at the Orcish nightmare charging Galashorn I instantly threw out a wave of energy that brought the forest alive to wrap around these abominations and trap or slow them down; but it didn’t have as impressive of an effect as I’d have liked. Their movement was slowed which allowed us to get some shots in at range, but it didn’t take long for them to get to us either. I heard a goblin cry of excitement from Nimitz followed by another of horror and dismay. These things packed an insane amount of punch. Galashorn ended up with one in his face and he had to take a step back from it to take a shot at it and afterwards we both watched it jerk wildly sideways and collapse to the ground in a shower of sparks and rotten flesh. Galashorn at this point turned to Liara and called out a thanks offering her her pick of drinks when they got back to camp.
I barely noticed Galashorn catcall Ta’or over Liara’s helping him but was thoroughly distracted by a surge of necromantic energy coming from deeper in the woods and heard a large crashing sound moving towards us. As the crashing got closer many of the smaller orc abominations were dealt with and I prepared to use my new spell to launch myself at this new threat from right under it’s feet. When it appeared by smashing aside the trees I dove into the earth and raced at it, knowing that my target had to be the destruction of the monstrosity which was the crystalized Ogre abomination before it could do too much damage to the others. I lunged at it from between its legs with my staff and hit it square, as hard as I could before diving down into the earth again. I felt the energy in it dissipate as it was destroyed by the others and I decided to check out the necromantic power I had felt earlier. I burrowed out as far as I could while still getting back to the others before my spell wore off and felt the necromantic presence racing off into the distance. I also felt the dying energy of a living creature above me and rose up to investigate. The force I had felt was the death of a humanoid who was wearing the accoutrements of The Bard, with a broken mask still covering half of its face. I knew that this was going to be something the others, and the leaders of the Rangers would need to see so I grabbed the corpse and pulled it back through the earth with me to the others. On my way back into the earth I caught a glimpse of a wolf staring at me as I raced off through the earth.
When I got back I noticed that Ta’or was picking over the corpses of the orcs at the crystals. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea but left him to it as I had more important news. I dragged the corpse over to Artivan as the others helped him back into his dragging-cot. I dropped it in front of everyone and described what I had felt as I checked the way ahead. It seemed that The Bard and the quest to save Artivan had been a trap, and one that had horrible connotations. Artivan seemed semi-mollified by this indication that his orders hadn’t been completely ignored with no reason but wasn’t convinced that Commander Draxx might not have sent out our group even without the Bard’s help. While that didn’t really register as something I needed to worry about, we worked up another carry-sling for the corpse and continued forward to the meet location.
It appeared that the other group had had a very rough time of their rescue, and their operation had also seemingly been a trap. Our groups pieced together, through what we found and the information we gathered among the rest of the Rangers, that there might have been a plot by a splinter group of the Rangers who was trying to gain more influence by proving the current leadership inept. As troubling as that was we had other problems that were more pressing, at least until something places those elements back in our way. If they try to derail us again then I will probably have to discuss with Artivan the despicable option of eliminating the branch of the Rangers which is trying so hard to hinder us in helping save the land. I know he will not like it but I am not certain I will be able to just stand aside and do nothing if this happens again as they would have basically allied themselves with the Prelacy.