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    The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-Slow Burn
    Posted on Wed, February 14, 2018 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "Of the score of trolls who had attacked the village, half of them had fallen to acid or to Luna’s fiery magic. The defenders gathered up the rest of the trolls and stacked them in a large pile. Luna stood before the pile of trolls, chanting another spell. She gestured to the sky and Pelor responded, as the pile of troll corpses burst into flame. The trolls’ makeshift funeral pyre filled the air with a disgusting stink, making many of the defenders want to retch.


    Chapter Two

    Slow Burn

    There were few things that disgusted Weimar than trolls. The wretched things were tall and spindly, with lumpy green-gray skin covered in small pustules and splotches of dried blood and muck. Their hands and feet ended in wickedly sharp claws, and their wide mouths were filled with deadly needle-like teeth. Their faces were framed with long, pointy noses, their eyes were black pits of despair and their hair was a wild jet-black mess. Their stench was seemingly a combination of every other bad smell Weimar had encountered in his life, owing to the fact that the wretched creatures never bathed.

    Why do trolls have to stink so much? Weimar thought to himself. Considering how much they attack humans and our ilk, they could at least have the courtesy to have a more pleasant odor, like rotting carrion or dog excrement.

    And more than that, why I am I thinking about this now? Weimar wondered, gritting his teeth as his shield deflected the troll’s slashing claws. The blow nearly knocked Weimar down, but he quickly regained his balance. Rage flashed in Weimar’s eyes as he struck back with his axe, tearing a long gash down the troll’s arm. Striking again before the troll could recover, Weimar clove deep into its leg, causing it to lose its balance. The troll couldn’t defend itself as Weimar struck a third time, driving his axe squarely into the wretched thing’s chest.

    Howling in pain, the troll collapsed.

    Weimar dropped his axe and shield, picking up the troll’s arms. There were bodies all around him, most of them of the trolls that Weimar and the Flan warriors he was fighting beside had ambushed. Unfortunately, four of those bodies were of the same Flan warriors. Weimar lamented the warriors’ passing, but he was grim-faced and silent as he dragged the troll he had fought and tossed it onto the pile of troll corpses the Flan warriors had stacked up.

    Taking a flask of oil out of his backpack, Weimar stuffed it with a rag, as several of the Flan warriors followed his lead. Each of the warriors holding a flask lit the rags with their tinderboxes and tossed the flasks onto the pile of troll bodies. The flasks exploded as they struck the trolls, spreading flames that rapidly consumed the monsters’ bodies. Some of the trolls had almost healed to being able to move again, but they couldn’t escape their impromptu funeral pyre. Screaming in agony, the dying trolls spat curses at the humans who watched them perish.

    Weimar hardly cared for the trolls’ fates. He was more worried about the Flan warriors of the community of Oakdale, on whose behalf Dennine had come to Greyhawk seeking help.

    Dressed for combat, Weimar cut a very different figure from the easygoing man he was in Greyhawk. He carried a large and bloody battleaxe in one hand, and a shield of bronzewood, painted silver and black and decorated with the profile of an angry boar’s head, in the other. A dangerous-looking longbow was strapped to his back, and several wicked-looking daggers hung from his belt. He was completely at ease in the woods, his every sense on alert as he took in everything around him.

    “How many more do you think there are in this part of the woods?” Revafour asked, coming up behind Weimar. While the Flan warriors of Oakdale wore light leather jerkins, ringed mail or brigandine, Revafour wore thick plate armor. The ease with which Revafour moved in his armor, and the ease with which he carried his huge two-handed broadsword, spoke to his experience in using them. His beaded cloak and moccasins added a splash of color to the ensemble, contrasting oddly with his silvery-gray sword and armor.

    “Probably one or two packs at most, depending on how well we’ve done,” Weimar said. “Trolls don’t exactly breed as fast as other humanoids, of course.”

    Revafour nodded.

    “How do you think the others are doing?” he said.

    “Who knows?” Weimar said with a shrug. “These trolls weren’t particularly clever…”

    “Pray to Pelor it was like that for all of them,” Revafour said, before he turned around to rejoin the warriors of Oakdale. Weimar quickly followed, picking up his axe and shield as he went.

    Weimar saw the wide smile that crossed Revafour’s fact as he exchanged a few words with Dennine, who had led their war party. Weimar had only known Revafour for a few weeks, but he already saw how reserved his friend was with most people. Revafour was able to open up to Weimar and the rest of their companions, but otherwise Weimar had noted how Revafour was usually only comfortable among his fellow Flan. Weimar also noticed how the Flan of Oakdale were also somewhat reserved around him.

    Weimar didn’t blame the Flan for not being entirely comfortable with him. He knew full well the ugly history of the Flanaess, and how the Flan had been repeatedly betrayed and attacked by the Oeridian and Suel humans that had come later. The Flan, much like the Rhennee, still had to deal with much of the same bigotry and violence they’d always faced. Weimar himself had gotten into more than one tavern brawl with thugs who thought that attacking Rhennee or Flan men who they outnumbered somehow proved their courage and strength.

    Weimar didn’t blame the Flan for their discomfort, but he couldn’t help but stew with resentment at it.

    “Is everything ready?” Amyalla asked Seline, who only smiled. Amyalla wore the same traveling gown as she had in Greyhawk, but now several daggers hung from her belt. Seline wore her same robes, but she carried a stout quarterstaff and a wand protruded from one of her pockets.

    The Oakdale warriors forming the rest of their war party returned Seline’s smile before they set off, led by Amyalla.

    Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors she was leading heard the troll pack before they saw it. The monsters of the pack were making no effort to be silent, snapping branches and ripping bushes as they tore through the woods. The trolls howled eagerly as they caught the scent of the humans and halfling, eager for fresh prey. Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors paused long enough for the trolls to catch sight of them before they fled, screaming for their lives.

    The trolls eagerly pursued Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors, but then they stopped short as a cloud of fog seemed to come up from almost out of nowhere. The trolls lost sight of Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors and huddled together, wary of an attack. Suddenly unsure of what to do, the trolls turned from using their sense of sight to their sense of smell. They easily picked up the scents of their prey…

    …as well as the smell of electricity in the air as a lightning bolt tore through them.

    The trolls began to heal from their injuries, but they were enraged at the attack. They had been played for fools, and now they could hear their human and halfling victims running away and taunting them. In a fury, many of the trolls resumed their chase, eager for revenge.  

    The trolls stopped immediately as they emerged into an open, cleared trail. The trail was regularly used by many of the inhabitants of the Cairn Hills, and it was an obvious point for an ambush. Right away, the trolls saw Amyalla and many of the Oakdale warriors gathered in the trees, obviously hoping to take the trolls by surprise.

    The trolls only cackled at the humans’ foolishness. The humans and halfling had apparently forgotten that trolls were experts at climbing, and they could make their way through the upper tree branches as well as any human or halfling. Howling with glee, the trolls leapt up and sprang into the trees. Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors, in turn, screamed in terror at the realization that their ambush had failed. They desperately turned to flee, knowing that it was only a matter of time until the trolls caught them.

    The trolls were so eager for bloodshed that they didn’t notice the netting that the Oakdale warriors had so expertly hidden on the foliage. The Oakdale warriors dropped the netting on the trolls before they could react, and they were fully entangled. Crying out in annoyance, they set about cutting themselves free…

    …and began screaming in horror once Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors pulled on the cords they were holding. The cords were connected to a series of small wooden boxes, cunningly concealed among the highest branches of the trees. When Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors pulled on the cords, they pulled the boxes’ bottoms free, and dropped the bottles in the boxes right on the trolls. The trolls’ screams became all the louder as the bottles broken open, spilling the acid they contained all over the trolls.

    Writhing in pain from the acid searing through their flesh, many of the trolls lost their balance and fell out of the trees. Sickening crunches filled the air as the trolls landed heavily on the ground, bones cracking and breaking with the impact. The trolls would have healed from the injuries they sustained in their falls, except that they had already been burned by the acid, which was just as fatal to them as any fire.

    Amyalla smiled at the victory. It had not been easy for her to purchase the acid in Greyhawk, or in working with the Oakdale warriors to rig all of the netting and boxes, but the trolls’ deaths made all the effort worthwhile. Her knowledge of traps, the Flan’s knowledge of where to set the ambush, and Seline’s magic had all made a powerful combination.

    Amyalla led the Oakdale warriors back to the ground, eager to see how Seline had made out.

    So far, so good, Seline thought with a thrill of pride as she faded from sight. Let’s just hope that everything works out to the last…

    In her mind, Seline gave a heartfelt prayer of thanks to the gods. The wand she had obtained some weeks before, in the conflict at the Bearded Lord’s Hollow, could emit clouds of fog and steam. The silver ring she wore, set with a deep blue opal, was a keepsake of her old life as an Aerdi noble that allowed her to become invisible to mortal eyes. The power of Seline’s wand and ring saved her from having to memorize spells for those effects. Instead, she had been able to prepare other useful dweomers, like the lightning bolt she had used to anger the trolls, and the spells she would use in the next part of her plan.

    Skipping light-footedly down the slope in front of her, in the opposite direction from where the trolls had pursued Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors, Seline entered into the cave at the slope’s base. The cave was little more than an old bear’s den, long since abandoned by its owner, but it served Seline’s purpose well. Making herself visible, she called out insults to any of the trolls that might be nearby, identifying herself as the mage who cast the lightning bolt.

    As Seline had guessed, several of the trolls had not directly pursued Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors. Those other trolls were determined to kill whoever had hit them with the lightning bolt. When the creatures heard Seline’s call, they responded almost immediately, charging into the cave. 

    As the trolls raced towards Seline, eager for the kill, she reached into her pocket. Pulling out a mass of sticky webbing, she began chanting quickly.

    The trolls were suddenly stopped short, as the webbing in Seline’s hand exploded into a mass of tendrils that fully entangled them. Roaring angrily, the trolls began to flex their claws and rip through the webbing. The strands of webbing were strong, but they couldn’t hope to hold the trolls for more than a minute.

    That was more than enough time for Seline. Sulphur, tallow and iron fell to dust from her hands as she cast another spell, one that conjured an orb of bright orange fire in her hand. Tossing the fiery orb at the floor of the cave, Seline directed it towards the trolls, who redoubled their efforts to break free of Seline’s web. It was to no avail, however, as Seline’s fiery ball ignited her web and the trolls with it. The creatures screamed in agony, falling to the ground as Seline’s webbing disintegrated and the fiery sphere rolled over them. Some of them tried to get up, but Seline brought her fiery sphere back towards her, burning the trolls yet again.

    The trolls were already wounded by Seline’s lightning, and her fiery sphere soon reduced them to charred corpses lying amid the ashes of webbing. Seline crinkled her nose at the stench, but had to admit that it was still better than the way they smelled when they were alive.

    Making her way out of the cave to rejoin Amyalla and the Oakdale warriors, Seline felt a thrill at how well everything had come together. She felt a keen sense of pride at how well she’d worked her magic, and how well the spells she’d chosen had all come together.

    It’s almost like music, she thought to herself, choosing the correct instruments and using them in the correct order for a symphony. That’s the thing about magic-with the right spells, a wizard can be so infinitely creative when she sets her mind to it!

    While some of Oakdale’s defenders had set out to confront the troll packs, others had set up to defend the town itself. The defenders set up a series of fires around the village’s perimeter to deter the trolls from attacking directly.

    When the trolls attacked, they started the assault by hurling large bales of wet grass and mud from the surrounding woods. The bales landed on the fires around Oakdale’s perimeter, snuffing them out and allowing the trolls to attack freely. The defenders of Oakdale had been expecting that, of course. They realized the trolls would have been expecting fires, and would have taken precautions against them. The trolls would get a false sense of security from snuffing out the fires, and so the humans set a series of additional traps as well.

    As the trolls charged into Oakdale, they triggered tripwires that the defenders had expertly set and concealed a little distance behind the fires. Acid poured from the containers triggered by the wires, burning the trolls and catching them off guard.

    Ma’non’go eagerly charged forward, more than ready to play his part. Despite his size, he moved with remarkable speed, his leather armor not slowing him in the least. He thrust the trident in his hands with practiced ease into the first troll he encountered, avoiding the monster’s slashing claws. Normally, the troll knew no fear, but as it stared into Ma’non’go’s eyes it was startled at the intensity that shimmered within them.

    Another troll came at Ma’non’go from the left, but he pivoted towards the second troll, swinging his trident as he did so. The troll he had stabbed flew off the tines of his weapon and crashed into the second troll, knocking them both flat on their backs. The trolls tried to get back to their feet as Ma’non’go charged, and the first troll collapsed again as Ma’non’go drove his trident into its face. The second troll managed to get back up and ducked under Ma’non’go’s next thrust, sinking its teeth into his arm. Ma’non’go gritted his teeth in pain, but he made no sound as he reached out with his free hand and drove his fingers into the troll’s eyes. The creature recoiled, and Ma’non’go slashed it viciously across the chest.

    The second troll fell on top of the first, overcome by its injuries. Ma’non’go knew he had to act fast, as the hateful creatures would soon heal from their wounds. Pulling a metal bottle from his pocket, Ma’non’go carefully opened it, his nose twitching at the acrid stench of its contents. Pouring the acid the bottle contained over the downed trolls, Ma’non’go smiled in satisfaction as the trolls screamed in pain, the acid finishing the job he had started with his trident. 

    Luna knew what she had to do as the trolls attacked. Placing one hand on the pendant around her neck, she grasped a leaf from the sumac tree in the other. Gripping both items tightly, Luna chanted a prayer to Pelor, asking him to help her protect the mortals his light shone on. She could sense the magic flowing through her as Pelor answered her prayer, causing her right hand to glow a bright yellowish-red. The burning light surrounding her hand extended into the shape of a mace, confirming to Luna that Pelor approved her actions.

    Now, clad in silvery chain mail over her blue and gold robes, and picking up a heavy shield decorated with the emblem of a sunburst with her left hand, Luna was ready to do her part in defending Oakdale. As the defenders of Oakdale fought the trolls, Luna ran to assist them. Whenever any of the trolls were too injured to fight, Luna finished the wretched creatures off, the fiery magic of her spell ensuring they could not recover.

    Luna heard Airk cursing off to her right, and she hurried to help him. Airk was clad in heavy plate armor and a helmet resembling a dragon’s head. He held a viciously curved military pick in one hand, and in the other he held a shield decorated with the image of the crescent moons of Luna and Celene, surrounded by a ring of six stars. A spiked morning star hung from his belt, one Luna knew he wielded just as skillfully as his pick. Airk’s skill was shown by the four trolls that had already fallen to him, and Luna quickly struck them all with her fiery mace, ensuring that they died once and for all.

    Airk slashed his latest opponent across the eyes, seeming not to care about the blood pouring from the gash the troll had torn in his shoulder. Luna only frowned at that, even as she drove her flaming mace into the troll’s skull. The creature screamed and died, even as a fresh stench of burned troll flesh filled Luna’s nostrils.

    A part of her wanted to cry out in disgust, not so much at the stink but at all the fire and death around her, fire she herself was forced to wield.

    Luna felt a sick sensation of despair rising up within her, as her ears filled with the screams of the dying.

    It was all she could do to suppress it, forcing herself to continue as she joined Airk in assaulting another group of trolls.

    The defenders of Oakdale could not immediately slay all of the attacking trolls with oil or acid. The defenders had to give much of their supply out to their war parties, so they were forced to leave many of the trolls incapacitated but not dead, constantly striking the monsters so they could not heal enough to fight again. Fortunately, the defenders realized that there were not as many trolls as they had feared. The humans’ own war parties had destroyed most of the creatures before they could attack Oakdale itself.

    Of the score of trolls who had attacked the village, half of them had fallen to acid or to Luna’s fiery magic. The defenders gathered up the rest of the trolls and stacked them in a large pile. Luna stood before the pile of trolls, chanting another spell. She gestured to the sky and Pelor responded, as the pile of troll corpses burst into flame. The trolls’ makeshift funeral pyre filled the air with a disgusting stink, making many of the defenders want to retch.

    Ma’non’go hated the smell of the burning trolls, but not as much as he hated the carnage all around him. Wounded men cried out in pain as their priests tried to ease their suffering. Women and children sang songs of lament for their fallen kin. The land itself was scarred with blood, acid and flame. Ma’non’go had seen too many similar scenes in the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and Hepmonaland, scenes of people suffering and dying at the hands of monsters, even as their loved ones often vainly tried to protect them. More powerful individuals like Ma’non’go could try to protect them, as he had done in Oakdale, for Luna and Seline in Aerdy, and to his kin in X’tandelexamenka, but the gains were hard won when they were won at all.

    Ma’non’go only frowned at the effect the conflict had on his friends. Airk scowled, his eyes constantly flickering back and forth, and Ma’non’go heard him continually muttering under his breath about “hateful wars”. Luna made an effort to keep up a brave face, but the strain in her eyes and her stance was all too clear to her perceptive guardian.

    Shaking his head, the tall Olman moved to clean the gore off his trident and see what he could do about helping to tend with the wounded and begin work on rebuilding.

    Ma’non’go didn’t feel any better when the Oakdale war parties and the rest of his friends returned to the village. Although the Flan warriors were victorious, most of them were not inclined to celebrate, given how many of their kin were dead at the trolls’ hands. Luna and the village’s priests worked diligently to heal the wounded, while other villagers began repairing the damage to their homes or stood guard in case the trolls attacked again.

    There’s no rest for the weary, Ma’non’go thought to himself as he carried one of the large bales of grass and mud the trolls had thrown to douse the fires the defenders had set. Where are all these creatures coming from, I wonder?

    Ma’non’go tossed the bale into the woods and began walking back towards the village when a conversation in Flan made him pause. Glancing off to his left, Ma’non’go saw Dennine and Revafour speaking. Ma’non’go knew Dennine well, as he and several of the other companions had encountered an Oakdale patrol led by Dennine when they were searching for a kidnapped nobleman’s son named Teddyrun. Once the companions had convinced Dennine and his troops that they posed no threat to Oakdale, the Flan had helped the companions find the Bearded Lord’s Hollow where Teddyrun was being kept.

    Ma’non’go slowed his pace to match Revafour and Dennine, as he continued to listen to their conversation.

     “How many did you lose?” Revafour asked.  

    “A good thirty men,” Dennine said. “The hunting’s going to be bad this fall.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Revafour said, frowning.

    “It would have been much worse if it hadn’t been for you and your friends,” Dennine reminded him.

    “You would have won against these creatures,” Revafour said.

    “Even if we had, we would have lost far more people than we did,” Dennine said.

    Dennine tried to smile at that, but Revafour didn’t react.

    “It never should have gotten this bad to begin with,” Revafour said. “Where were the dwarves of Greysmere, the people of Greyhawk’s mining colonies, or any of the other settlements in these hills? Where were our fellow Flan, of all people?” he demanded, his voice becoming more agitated.

    “They likely had problems of their own,” Dennine said. “It was the dwarves who provided us so much of our oil and acid, after all!”

    Revafour didn’t respond, simply turning about and stalking off, the tension palpable on his face.

    Ma’non’go only shook his head and sighed.

    He’d seen far too many Flan show that same tension during his travels with Luna and Seline in the eastern Flanaess. He could identify with what Revafour and the other Flan experienced likely more than any of the other companions. He recalled the bigoted insults so many people in Aerdi had thrown at him. In the more benign lands of Idee, the insults were more subtle, but Ma’non’go picked up on them all the same. 

    Not that his old homeland X’tandelexamenka was necessarily any better, of course. 

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