CruelSummerLord writes "Furduch Na’Gwaylar, Laird of the Gnome Vale, tightened his grip on his spear. As the cousin of High Laird Gwaylar, overall ruler of the Yatil vale named for its gnome inhabitants, he’d traveled to Highfolk to represent his community in the Knights’ strategic meetings. When he’d first learned of the Spine Breakers’ pending invasion, he’d returned to the Vale to prepare its defenses. He hadn’t expected to run into the adventurers who’d brought news of the invasion, much less that they’d ask him and the thirty Vale soldiers accompanying him to help strike at the Council of Crippled Helplessness.
The Best Defense
Is A Good Offense
“Get that wretch out of my sight,” Ugtharn said, gesturing
at the now-lifeless corpse at his feet. The two hobgoblin soldiers who’d held
the body saluted Ugtharn before they knelt down and dragged it away.
Ugtharn scowled as he tossed his bloodied scourge onto a
side table. When he wasn’t discussing strategy with the rest of the Council of
Crippled Helplessness, he was flogging soldiers who’d displeased him. He
flogged some of his troops to punish them for incompetence or infighting, and
also to vent his frustration at the Spine Breakers’ problems.
The Council’s original plan, as Ugtharn’s correspondents had
agreed, would be to send the Heart Piercers and the Hackers to overwhelm the
dwarf and gnome vanguards while the main Spine Breaker force pushed on to
attack Highfolk’s lowland communities like Verbeeg Hill and Highfolk Town
itself. Hurrarin’s efforts would keep the Knights and their allies at each
others’ throats, unable to coordinate a proper defense. The plan depended on
speed, overrunning the Highfolk before they could defend themselves.
That meddling band of adventurers-the Company of the Silver
Wolf, one of Ugtharn’s correspondents called them-were ruining everything.
They’d alerted the Knights and their allies to the Spine Breakers’ invasion,
giving the Knights time to prepare a defense. They’d exposed Ugtharn’s sabotaging
efforts, mending the disputes between the leaders of Highfolk’s defense. He
also suspected they were the ones who’d harassed his camp and patrols, setting
the Council’s troops at each others’ throats.
Now, the Spine Breakers’ assault was being slowed by infighting
and discipline problems. Soldiers fought their fellows from other clans and
even from their own, officers argued with commanders and units were slow to aid
each other. The Council’s brutal punishments still kept the army together, but their
path to victory would be harder won, if it was won at all. The advance warning
the dwarves and gnomes received gave more time to prepare their defense,
forcing the Spine Breakers to help their subordinate clans.
As much as Ugtharn and some of his fellow councillors
would’ve liked to join the main attack force heading towards Verbeeg Hill, they
needed a command area where they could coordinate all three hobgoblin clans. They
chose a mountain vale as their headquarters. The vale had multiple trails and
cave entrances that let runners easily bring messages to and from the front,
making it an ideal base.
Ugtharn glanced impatiently from side to side, one hand on
the pommel of the large sword at his side. He knew how vulnerable the Council
was to a potential attack, but that hardly mattered to him. He was eager for a
fight, as were many of his fellows.
More than anything, he wanted a chance at those adventurers
who’d caused the Council so much trouble.
Weimar watched the Council’s headquarters from a nearby
mountainside with his spyglass, concealed within a stand of yarpick trees. He
frowned at the odds the companions would likely face. The Council was well
protected with more than two-score soldiers, along with their personal guards. He
shifted his gaze to another mountainside across the way. He was sure he could
see Revafour and Seline there, concealed as they were in a stand of birch trees.
Everything was in place.
Nodding, he retracted his spyglass and put it in his pack. He
turned back towards Amyalla, who stood behind him nursing a small fire. She
nodded at Weimar as she unrolled a blanket towards him. He took one end of it
as they moved to have the fire between them. As the smoke started to
accumulate, they moved the blanket in the pattern Weimar taught Amyalla, signalling
to Revafour and Seline.
Weimar knew the companions risked alerting the hobgoblins by
smoke signalling to each other, but their options were limited. They had to
strike quickly if they wanted to slay the Council.
Even with the allies the companions were fortunate enough to
enlist, they would be fighting for their lives.
Furduch Na’Gwaylar, Laird of the Gnome Vale, tightened his
grip on his spear. As the cousin of High Laird Gwaylar, overall ruler of the
Yatil vale named for its gnome inhabitants, he’d traveled to Highfolk to
represent his community in the Knights’ strategic meetings. When he’d first
learned of the Spine Breakers’ pending invasion, he’d returned to the Vale to
prepare its defenses. He hadn’t expected to run into the adventurers who’d
brought news of the invasion, much less that they’d ask him and the thirty Vale
soldiers accompanying him to help strike at the Council of Crippled
Now, though, waiting in one of the tunnels leading to the
Council’s encampment, Furduch was all too ready for battle. His troops were no
less eager, more than willing to lay down their lives to protect their kin.
He exchanged glances with Airk, who was waiting to receive his
friends’ signal to attack. Airk was the one to convince Furduch to help the
adventurers, who otherwise faced long odds against the Council’s hobgoblin
Several of the Vale’s troops were surprised that Airk stood
silently with his eyes closed, seemingly ignoring everything around him.
Furduch knew better, knew that Airk was as focused as any of them. He could
only imagine what kind of battles Airk had faced to be so alert.
When Airk’s eyes opened, shining with their own inner light,
Furduch knew it was time. Turning to his soldiers, he shouted the order to
attack. They answered as one, raising their weapons as they gave the Vale
Between them, Airk and Furduch slew the small group of
hobgoblins guarding their camp’s perimeter before their fellow gnomes even
emerged from the cave. A large troop of hobgoblins wheeled to face them, but
the gnomes showed no fear as they charged in to attack.
As tense as she was, Seline praised herself on the set of
spells she’d memorized before the battle started. She’d cast an invisibility
spell to conceal herself and Revafour before they snuck into position, the
sound of Revafour’s heavy armor masked by a silencing spell Luna cast earlier. Then,
once she had a clear view of the cave where Airk and the Vale gnomes would
attack from, she and Revafour waited for Weimar’s smoke signal. Finally, she
cast a magical messaging spell to tell Airk the gnomes could attack.
The hobgoblins largely outnumbered the gnomes, but then
Seline cast her next spell. The split peas she held in one hand crumbled to
nothing as the spell’s energy consumed them. A thick wall of fog emerged from
Seline’s hand and blew into the middle of the hobgoblin force. The hobgoblins
rushing to help their fellows against the gnome suddenly stopped short, wary of
entering the thick mists, as Seline started on yet another spell.
Her invisibility spell vanished, broken by her aggressive
action, as she cast a lightning bolt through the hobgoblin troops, killing
nearly a score of them. Several of the surviving hobgoblins shouted in anger as
they caught sight of her, two of them throwing their spears at her. The spears
bounced harmlessly off the protective barrier Seline had cast before she
alerted Airk, protecting her for the few seconds she needed to draw a magical
wand from her pocket.
Another wall of mist streamed forth from the wand as Seline
activated its powers, but it was very different from the first one she cast. Several
hobgoblins fell dead as the mist passed over them, screaming in pain as the jet
of superheated steam burned them. The steam lingered over the hobgoblins, scorching
more of them as it slowly settled.
Seline’s magic tore through many of the hobgoblins who her
fog cloud had cut off from their fellows fighting the gnomes. Some of them
advanced to attack her, while others tried to push through the fog cloud to
help their kin. They were stopped short as Weimar and Revafour shot a flurry of
arrows, dropping the hobgoblins where they stood. Amyalla joined in with her
sling, her stones as effective as her human friends’ arrows. Seline moved
behind Revafour, back into the protection of the trees, before she cast another
steam cloud from her wand.
Seline flinched as a hobgoblin, his face scarred with steam
burns, threw a dagger straight at her. It struck her protective barrier and
landed on the ground, but it reminded her just how much peril the companions
and their gnome allies were in.
Luna narrowed her eyes as she tried to determine just where
to place her spell. She and Ma’non’go were hidden in another stand of yarpick
trees, the one closest to the Council. They were tasked with the final part of
the companions’ strategy, that of cutting the Council off from most of their
As Luna finally chose her position and started to cast her
spell, Ma’non’go glanced from side to side. He saw most of their friends
advancing towards the Council’s position from either side of the vale, one step
ahead of the hobgoblin troops. A few of the hobgoblins charged up the slopes to
attack them, but Weimar and Revafour fought them off as Amyalla and Seline
continued casting sling bullets and magical missiles into the hobgoblin force. As
Seline’s steam clouds dissipated, Airk and some of the Vale gnomes had passed
through her fog cloud. They engaged more of the hobgoblin troops, even as Airk
broke away from the melee and ran up to help Weimar fight off the hobgoblins
threatening him and Amyalla.
Luna finished her spell, tossing several sharpened twigs
into the air. The twigs vanished, consumed by the spell’s energy, as she picked
up her mace and shield. Taking a deep breath, she exchanged glances with
“Are you ready?” Ma’non’go said.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Luna said, her expression grim.
“Let’s end this.” "