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Forums > Fantasy Roleplay Forum > Chronicles of Obelus: Seven Days (Closed)

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Day One: Winter & War

The morning air was sordid. Darkness covered the land in a thick fog. The message had arrived almost as fast as the night had ended. King Joseph’s decision not to return to Jubilee struck many hearts who sat pink faced in the council chambers—amongst them was the Queen herself. Erik had sent a raven as ordered and Lady Ellen crumbled the parchment in her hand. She tossed it over an open flame, letting it burn while she looked over the city thinking at least someone slept peacefully.

James the Duke was the only one who showed some kind of hope, with his daring humor. “So many salty faces this morning.” The King’s younger brother said through the silence. “If you all got out more than maybe you’d quite possibly understand Joseph’s love for his people.”

“Love?” Ellen spat the words.

The elders were afraid to look at her. Not that she was a tyrant, but they feared a woman scorned. James on the other hand feared no one. He was the only highborn with credence in this room. “Commander Delilah is out there with a quarter of our army. I respect that our King is going to see that she and our people get home.” He said. “Jospeh is doing the right thing.”

“The right thing? He is aiding a foreign queen. An elf savage who has given us nothing in return but a sweet face for him to gaze upon. I gave him children and he has left me to raise them alone. Now he has run off to war. You are wrong James. We need our King in Jubilee.” She retorted.

“And if Elvira is defeated...who’s to say that Jovina won’t invite her ogres to horde our country next?”

“Trust me, if Elvira is defeated which I’m sure could never happen, I will gladly open up my legs to whatever Orc beast seeks to penetrate. It will be much more comforting than my isolated bed rest.”

“You...are nasty your grace.” He laughed. “I am not sure I have a response for that. Luckily your husband cares for you enough to prevent that tragedy.” James finished.

“Are we done here? I understand that we are now officially at war, James. Tell General Baraktus to secure the perimeters. With our King out chasing Elvira’s sweet tail, we will need extra patrols around the region. Also, I want oil barrels and scattershot catapults set up for defenses. I won’t open my legs kindly, that’s for sure.” She winked at James.

The Degenerate smirked and did as he was told. He would be on the front line if necessary and unlike the rest of the council he was truly qualified and well trained to use a sword.

————————————-

Meanwhile, right on the edge of Jubilee country, the King and his Knights were already armed and ready to mount up. They rested at a temporary camp, where they stationed the night, after dealing with a clan of Saxons, who threatened the boarders. Joseph nibbled on a warm crunchy bread roll, one that Gloria had prepared for them; while he and his Hand observed the map of the Ivory Forest; with Lars who would be doing the usual scouting.

“We have to pick our poisons, literally. On the north end of the forest is a harsher track with wild ivy, deadly swamps and Cecropian tribes. Thus on the south there are bugbears and other things lurking in our way. To our advantage the lizard folk in the north are peaceful.” Lars advised

Joseph took it all in and would hear his Hands opinion before deciding a route.

On the opposite side of the map from Lars stands Gloria deVore. Like her lord, she is munching on one of the bread rolls she had prepared for their breakfast the night before. A small chunk of cheese and meat could be seen peaking out from the middle of the roll thanks to the bite she had taken meaning it would hopefully hold them over for a good part of the day to come. After all, the fewer stops they made for their own comfort, the sooner they would arrive at their destination.

Brushing the crumbs off her fingers on the side of her leather clad thigh, the King's Hand reaches out and smooths the map out a bit before she offers Joseph her thoughts on the matter. Unlike her wife Delilah and Craftsman Kinley, Gloria has never had would could be considered a tactical mindset. She's clever and intelligent certainly, but her strengths have always lain in adaptation and improvisation. Plotting and planning beyond one or two steps into any given situation simply seems like a waste to her when every great general will tell you that even the most meticulous and well thought out of tactics never survives contact with the enemy. Still, without her wife around Joseph is relying on her so his bodyguard does her best to frown and look thoughtful as she listens to Lars' assessment of their options.

"If the choice is between a harsh terrain or murderous locals, I would personally vote for the murderous locals," Gloria finally speaks up, having swallowed her bite of bread and cheese. With one sword calloused finger she outlines the swamps to the North. "I have no doubts Lars, Erik and Sarah would find it easy enough to slip through that area at speed, but if you intend to see us all make it through to find our Sunshine and the elf queen without falling ill or getting stuck, we'd be better off fighting our way through the goblinoids."

The small woman offers both men before her one of her patented smirks before continuing. "I'm afraid I have more faith in the strength of our arms than I do in Donovan's ability to walk softly over a sucking and poisonous marsh."



Outside the King's tent, the rest of The Sixteen have already struck the remainder of the camp, leaving only Joseph's to pack up before they are ready to begin their journey to the far side of the Ivory. Joseph's knights stand or sit idly around, awaiting the king's orders with varying levels of patience and decorum.

"The bloody feckin' hell is taking them so long? It ain't like we got a ton of options here," Bruce Legends grumbles to whoever is listening as he stalks around what had been their camp fire but is now only cinders and ash.

"She's doing the best she can in her wife's place," Lady Anne informed her ill bred and ill mannered companion from her perch atop her favored steed, Primrose. "We must allow her a little leeway."

"The both of them are going to leeway us into next week if they don't hurry up already." Brendan mutters, though just loudly enough so that only Nicolas standing beside him with arms crossed and brows furrowed can make out the words. The swordmaster's brows unknit themselves so that the dark arches can rise with mild contempt at his former pupil. He says nothing though. The older man is wise enough to know that complaining about the situation will not hasten their departure.

The Knights were all gathered around patiently, until Bruce Legends rebelled against that moment of silence. The Rogue looked up, while he swallowed down some simmered clam stew with wild onions.

“Easy there, Ginger.” He blew his onion breath on Legends’ visage. “You and Brendan have been spending way too much time together. Perhaps you should find a better tent mate.”

“What are you implying, Stephan?” Legends grunted with his brute voice; which was very awkward for a man of such short stature.

“That you two are starting to sound like an old married couple...no that would be far too malleable for Bruce Legends renowned repertoire.” The Rogue chuckled.

Chuckling was heard amongst the circle.

“What does that even mean?” Bruce said. “Forget it and keep your fancy words. I just want to get out there already.” He inhaled the forestry.

“Shut your bloody trap, Rogue. Hiding in the shadows like a rat, while real men do the dirty work for you. Typical Nightblade...always the critic but never the risk taker.” Brendan said.

“That is exactly why you aren’t the one in charge. If we followed you two we’d end up in quicksand somewhere.” Stephan jested.

“Enough. Must we bicker like impatient children?” Joseph said, coming out of his tent with Gloria and Lars beside him. “How we speak to each other, determines everything...it reflects our trust for each other and our character...we can’t fall apart, now.” He explained. “Our Queen does not support us. The council is trying to use our laws and customs to banish us and see us in chains. Meanwhile our country is in true danger. We are at war. And if we fall apart there will be no one left to defend it. All we have is us.” He said.

“All we have is us!” The Knights echoed their King in unison.

“So let’s start acting like the situation is serious. Lars, go ahead and explain the gritty details.” Joseph finished.

The group quieted and listened intently, feeling a sense of pride and unity after Joseph’s words. Apologies were said between Bruce and Stephan. Albeit, Brendan even though touched, spat at the thought of needing any of them—in his mind he felt more powerful without them; as if he was being held back because of them. But he loved Joseph like an older brother in spite of his own arrogance. In his conceited heart, he wanted to prove to him that he deserved Delilah’s spot as acting Commander; even though he hoped Delilah was doing well out there.

“We’ve decided to take the southern edge instead of trekking through the northern marshes of the Ivory.” Lars began. “Erik and Naled have already left and returned to make the report for me. Balthazar the panther has scouted a half a day ahead of us. We are going to take our chances with goblinoids.”

“Finally we get to serve justice. Those damn creatures all need to be put down!” Bruce Legends stood to gather his knives.

“We aren’t going to put them down like dogs. If we can avoid conflict we should save our strength.” Finley said.

“Of course the old man would need to conserve his strength. You just hang back and enjoy your milk while we lads cleanse out these savages.” Brendan said.

“Finley is correct,” Joseph silenced them, “Those hobgoblins outnumber us. So if we have a chance for peace or diplomatic solutions, will try first. If all else fails we will cleanse them from the realm as Brendan suggests. All we have is us.”

The Knights echoed him again, with rally and excitement.

All we have is us.

Gloria doesn't particularly like the sound of those words or what they imply. When the others repeat them back at Joseph his Hand does as well, though perhaps not with quite as much volume or energy. She wants to shake the strong, kind, handsome idiot and remind him that he is King, for Ecru's sake! She wants to reiterate that if he didn't leave the running of the country to that harpy of a wife he took perhaps he and his knights might not need to feel as if all they have is each other. They might not need to feel isolated and alone, fighting for a country that would ostracize them for being human and fallible. The Sixteen are a formidable force. There can be no mistake about it. They simply cannot take on all of Jubilee's enemies alone, no matter what their King may think, or perhaps wish.

She doesn't say anything now, however. The others have whole heartedly accepted their roll as their lord's entourage and companions and will follow him without question. Gloria alone (and to a much lesser extent Kinley) is willing to find fault in his choices, but she doesn't want to fight about this particular fault today. Not again. Not for what seems like the thousandth time. There are some things even she cannot convince her King of, as open as he usually is to criticism and advice. There is simply no way to ever convince Joseph Henry III to go home.

When he repeats the phrase a second time, Gloria does not join the others in echoing him. Instead she throws him a slightly dirty look before moving to help Boris and Donovan strike the last tent so that they can finally be on their way. Once that is done and her hated armor has been donned with the aid of Anjaliku, her adopted daughter of sorts, their party is ready to move. Fifteen horses snort and paw the ground, as impatient as their riders to be off. Even Gloria is impatient now. Whatever the reason for it, at the end of this journey her own home awaits. Her wife, Delilah.

Once Joseph gives the signal they will be off, Lars and Erik in the lead with Balthazar keeping pace for it is they who have seen the paths and terrain laid out before them. It is they who know the fastest and safest routes. Their companion's lives are in their hands. For whether Gloria likes it or not, all we have is us.

The look that Gloria gave him now was the opposite of the face that adored him the night prior. Even if it was an innocent foot rub that led her to a good night sleep. All of that was forgotten after he said his speech. Was it a look of rebuttal? Perhaps she wished for him to forfeit this excursion. They had not often seen eye to eye, but at the end of the day or the beginning of it, there was no Knight he wanted to listen to more than she; even if his whole plan was idiotic. Albeit now, he needed her to be a good Hand and get in line. The only way they could change their situation was to win this war; or else it wouldn’t matter who pulled the strings back home.

Joseph stepped on his white rouncey, a beautiful all-purpose horse that was fast and strong. Many breeders disapproved of the King for not taking a destrier like the Knights of old—just another way to criticize his liberalism. But Bella was smarter than any warhorse he’d ever seen or rode in those awful jousting tournaments. He and Bella had a good relationship. He fed her all the dried fruits that Gloria had tossed in their travels. How could she not like fruit, it was mother’s milk, he grinned in his thoughts.

“Ready, lady.” He let the beast eat from his calloused fingers. The rouncey cackled and stood upright for him to get on properly. Joseph took the reins and rode forward.

Boris and Donovan made sure to unpitch the last tent, rolling it up and making sure all of the makeshift fires were extinguished. “Gloria, I hope the extra layer of linen garb helps. Let me know how the aloe vera leaf oil holds up.” Donovan said making sure to tie everyone’s tents on his brown packhorse; the only breed big enough to hold the man and all of the Knights equipment.

Once everyone was mounted, Joseph gave his orders. “Go at a steady pace, all. Lars and Erik will take point, do not cross them! I don’t care how tired or bored you get, if you see or hear anything, blow your whistle. If you need to stop blow your whistle but do not take this journey lightly.” Each Knight was supplied with a wooden bird whistle that had become very effective in previous battles.

Anjaliku helped her mother on her horse and took Gloria’s hand to bald it in her own and bring Gloria’s ivory knuckles to her chocolate colored lips. She was only nineteen now, a young Afgarian girl who had watched her birth parents multilated in the Aceba desert at the age of fourteen—it took a year after that for her to talk again. “Ride true, mother. I see how our Lord looks at you. He truly loves you more than himself. You are a lucky woman to have the great Delilah and the stubborn Titan in your whim.” She whispered with laughter; only for Gloria to hear. “And he is right...no matter how hard we want Jubilee to love us, all we have is us. Until the hearts in our country change, they will never accept us.” Anjaliku had a desert zebra that she raised from Aceba. The female warrior mounted the saddle of her exotic mount easily, to ride in behind her King—her sharpened spear tightly gripped in hand.

Joseph signaled his order; Lars and Erik took off into the forest. The King looked back to see the others ready and smacked the reins to ride off after his scouts.

They would ride steady for at least an hour—now deep within the southern edge of the Ivory Forest. There was a elf made trail that they followed for the long of the ride; thus all respectfully halted when they seen Balthazar the panther siting erect near the trails end—licking his sharp paws calmly.

Gloria's thin, calloused fingers caress Anjaliku's cheek as the girl whispers words meant only for her. Ever determined to deny Joseph's feelings for her, the older of the two women laughs and shakes her head at the girl's assertions. "Our King loves all of us better than himself or anyone else and I don't wonder if that isn't half the problem some days. No heart can change in void, my child. Remember that. Now, to your mount. The sooner we begin the sooner we shall see Delilah."

Lucky she may seem in the eyes of some to be so admired and adored, but if what the Afgarian girl said were true (and of course it is true) it could be nothing but a constant source of pain and struggle for the King's Hand. Subsequently, she remains resolutely shielded within her self imposed cocoon of delusion and denial.

Gloria's own mount, Honor, is a rambunctious stallion, nearly as strong willed as his mistress. Only Erik has ever been able to soothe and corral the beast with any sort of ease. Though he may not always listen to his mistress, he is still always looking out for her. Where the King's body guard would charge forward into insurmountable odds to protect that which she values, Honor shies away seeking a less suicidal approach, determined to keep her out of harms way for that very same reason. Their relationship is nearly as contentious as that of herself and her King, but perhaps that is why she enjoys it so much.

For the first hour of their ride, however, there is nothing for any of them to be contentious about. Well, perhaps Brandon might be able to find something, as he is nearly as good at that as he is with his magic or his sword. For all of the others, however, it is an uneventful excursion. As the minutes roll by Lady Anne's voice, a gentle, near tremulous soprano, raises in a soft, lilting song to pass the time. It is one of many she learned in her youth while she was still being trained and molded to be the Grand Duchess of Jubilee. As she sings she is joined by Nicolas's untrained yet sturdy baritone and Gloria's warmer alto.

The sound of their voices raised together in praise of Jubilee helps ease the worry and uncertainty in the heart and soul of the King's hand more than anything else. She even feels comfortable enough to begin needling Stephan to join in despite the fact that it is well known among them all how grating his singing voice is upon the ear. The man truly is completely tone deaf. He can only be prevailed up to sing when he's too deep in his cups to care.

Spirits are high among the Sixteen as they travel quickly through the edge of the Ivory. Action and direction are always preferable to warriors of their ilk. Even Sarah seems more at ease than not as the low hanging branches brush across her hair and cloak, though she is silent and stoic as ever. So it is among them all until they come upon Balthazar sitting placidly in the middle of their path. Gloria frowns and pulls Honor up beside Joseph's Bella. The two horses touch noses briefly in greeting.

"What news? Trouble up ahead?"

The Rogue thought to himself while they rode and Lady Anne led them in chorus, that they really needed a true tenor to back them up. If only Boris could speak. Gloria always said he had a good voice as a kid. Hearing the noble Anne sing reminded Stephan of his mother. He just wanted to listen to the trio harmonize. It did not feel like an excursion anymore; it felt like a winter holiday.

Thus when Gloria tried to bait him to sing he coughed and made excuses about him being slightly sick. Besides she knew he was no good vocally until he got a pint of winter ale in him. As cold as the weather was out here, he needed some soon.

That was when Balthazar was spotted, sitting at the edge of a cliff was it...

All had halted. Gloria rode front not far behind Joseph, to halt beside him and speak with him. He answered her.

“I reckon much. Never seen the panther spooked before.” He pulled his map out to reflect on this unfamiliar glade region.

Lars and Erik rode back with their eyes as wide as pitted olives. “You might want to take a look at this.” Erik said, riding to the cliff and showing them all what he had discovered.

The King stepped down from Bella’s saddle to observe. It was a canyon that cut off the main road; a five mile radius hole that had a trail going into the depths of the underdark. To go around would mean hit the marshes or end up in the Black Sea and they could not afford that time. The nearest elven city was Welden'eve, which was two days east of this canyon. To get to the Haramon Capital would take ten days on horseback and they did not have that kind of time. Delilah was reported to be defending the southern edge so Welden'eve made sense.

“I don’t remember that hole before. We had no problems last time.” Joseph thought out loud.

“Because we had elves with us. They always know the secret routes we humans seem to forget.” Kinley reminded him.

“Let’s just get on with it. I don’t know what’s worst, hearing Nicolas sing or riding behind Lars’ fat mule.” Brendan said. “I’ll take point if you need me to.”

“Very well. Lars and Erik got us this far. Let the Battlemage carry us on. Will go on foot from here. The trail is too steep to ride. Just keep your mounts calm and your wits sharp. We don’t want to risk waking anyone down there.” Joseph said.

“Speak for yourself, your grace. My blades are hungry.” Bruce said. “I’ll go with Brenden.”

“Whatever is down there, they won’t miss your loud hair, that’s for sure. You might want to put a helmet on.” Stephan said.

Chuckling was heard amongst the Knights.

“Shut it, Rogue. Not now.” Bruce grunted.

“We have our point team, then. I recommend Erik going in with you guys. The Nightblade and The Beastmaster work well together. Brendan, just be a good lad and watch their backs. Bruce you do the same. The rest of you with me.”

Nothing else was said. Stephan placed his hood on his head and dissapeared. Balthazar went after the Nightblades scent and the others began to move out after that.

Gloria, like all the other Knights, dismounts in obedience to their King's orders. She takes a few moments to sooth Honor, patting his nose and pressing her forehead against his cheek, before leading him by the reins towards the front so that they are walking just a step or two behind Joseph and Bella. There is no singing now. The jovial atmosphere that had pervaded their journey just minutes before has vanished into smoke and uncertainty. Everyone's eyes are sharp and their ears perked to catch anything that might have noticed them from below. They don't make it more than ten feet before the King's Hand speaks up, unable to hold back her concerns.

"I don't like this," she muses softly, though not so soft as to be meant for the King's ears alone. There's simply no reason to draw any attention from unwanted sources by announcing her fears loudly and clearly. "Elves or not...a hole like this should be on our maps. Such a large canyon would have taken hundreds of years to carve itself out naturally. There is something rotten in Elvira's realm."

"The forest screams in agony."

Gloria nearly jumps out of her armor at the sound of Sarah's soft, scratchy voice coming from just over her shoulder, practically hissing in her ear. The King's bodyguard is shocked at the words for several reasons, not the least of which is how rare it is to hear The Witch's voice at all. It doesn't help that the woman is capable of stepping even more lightly than Stephan when they are in the wilds. Gloria growls softly, but attempts to keep her annoyance with the other woman in check. Joseph hadn't been wrong when he said that bickering amongst themselves would only hinder their cause.

"Yes. There. That. Thank you for that...enigmatic observation, Sarah." The King's Hand lets out a soft breath and turns her eyes upon Joseph's handsome visage so as to better judge his reaction to their words.

When the Nightblade went in stealth, Donovan was left to guide Stephan's horse and his own. His big forearms handled that duty thusly, like the mountain man that he was. As they moved down the trailed path, the light from the sun began to fade from view, the deeper they went. Gloria had voiced her concern among the group, and there were nods and murmuring that responded in her favor. When the Witch spoke, Boris hustled beside her, intrigued to hear her voice. He offered to take her reins to guide her horse so she can rest her arms. Sarah was still a woman, in spite of her odd aura, so she released the reins from her hand to allow Boris to have. He smiled excitingly and wrapped the leather straps around his broad arm like a boy trying to please his stewardess with candy apples. For a moment there may have been a pink hue that brightened Sarah's pale face; albeit it quickly dissolved as she heard Gloria's sharp comment. Boris frowned at Gloria and raised his fist with muted curses.

Joseph laughed at this. "Look at ol' Boris. A man after my own heart." He said to Gloria and those close enough to listen.

"And you keep encouraging him." Lady Anne smirked, who was near them. She disliked Sarah even more than Gloria did; just so odd the woman was. The Bowmaster had often protested why they even needed her. They needed more men, she thought. "Will no man help me with my horse?" She asked loudly for them all to hear.

"What men?" Naled chimed in for amusement.

"My point exactly." Lady Anne grinned.

"Oh please. Now you want to be a lady, all of a sudden, when your skin starts to sweat. But you had a man and a title back home." Brendan said. "Tither your own horse."

"I'll take your horse, Lady." Nikolas said to step up.

Brendan frowned on this, but out of all the knights, Nikolas was one he never disrespected. He was his teacher, The Swordmaster and probably one of the better men in their circle. Lady Anne smiled and thanked him kindly.

Time had passed and the trail was never ending, it seemed. Joseph looked up in the sky and could no longer see it. They were truly in the Underdark. Sarah had mentioned a scream in the forest, but what they heard now was a real scream. They had finally breached a flat surface to call ground. It was an underground forest, with trees that glowed bright and river pools that were enchanted and colorful to the eyes; a lake was in view that turned from pink to light green. The arcane life here was mystical and powerful. Even with these bright colors it was hard to see anything around them.

"Hold. do not come closer, or..." A Drow guard had said but was cut off with a slice to his throat; followed by hideous laughter.

Everyone unsheathed their blades in the Sixteen after hearing that. The knights were on guard now.

"Stephan?" Joseph said.

"No, I did not do that. Something else is here." The Rouge said.

More giggling was heard. Four large yellow eyes were seen in the darkness. Brendan lit a torch for them and Donovan pulled torches for everyone in his horses wooden crate; while Brendan lit each and passed them around.

Two Bugbears were seen... Beagly and Smedly.

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They circulated their blades, standing over two dead Drow guards; that bled out. Smedly had a sword and shield and Beagly wielded two long swords. Bruce Legends pulled his silvery daggers and moved in for the kill beside Brendan who wielded fire from his finger tips.

"Away from here, you evil creatures." Bruce warned them.

The Bugbears continued to laugh, pointing at the little Legends in hilarity. Bruce fumed at them, awaiting his King's orders.

"You insult my companion. It wont end well for you, I can promise that. Unless you tell me why you slaughtered those elf guards?" Joseph said.

"Those elves weak. Mistress Jenessta sent us to expose all weak things. Human not seem weak. Human holds interest to us. Perhaps human and Smedly can make deal?"

Just as Anne's fingers release her reins, intending to hand them over to Nicolas, she will find the straps of leather instead snatched away by Gloria's thin, calloused fingers. The King's Hand had been rolling her eyes at her noble counterparts complaints. "I will lead your horse if it please you, my lady. Sorry, Nicolas." She bobs her head in a small nod to the Swordmaster for stealing his gentlemanly offer from him, but there is a point to be made here. "Really, Anne, some of your ideas about men and women are simply archaic. Especially for one who has accepted the mantel of Knight. I think I almost agree with Brendan in this particular case."

Without missing a beat, the pale haired woman tilts her head so that she can look over at the mage where he is currently leading their party. "Don't let it go to your head," she warns him before lowering her voice once more. "As if that was even possible," the warrior added, though this was solely for the benefit of those in her immediate vicinity, namely Joseph, Nicolas and Anne.

Sir Nicolas frowns at Gloria, not particularly pleased by her interference in his gallant offer nor mollified by her rather curt apology. It doesn't help that he shares many of those ideas that Gloria seems to think are so archaic. "There is no honor in bucking tradition for the sole purpose of bucking tradition," he reminds her in his most sober tone of voice. Nicolas is a good man in every way, but there are a few things that he actually agrees with the Queen on, not that he would voice such thoughts before his king. He has too much respect for Joseph, and also too much affection for Gloria and Delilah, when they aren't flaunting their near revolutionary relationship in everyone's faces.

All of the bickering and teasing, good natured and otherwise, ends as their group finally reaches the bottom of the chasm. The strange world of both impenetrable darkness and brilliant colors simply shocks most of them into silence. It is unlike anything Gloria has seen before that is for sure. Pale lips part in awe at the sight. She can't even come up with any witty remarks for the occasion. After all, it is much easier to mock that which you understand. This is beyond anything she has ever experienced.

As soon as a voice calls out for their halt, Gloria releases Honor and Primrose, dropping their reins so that she can unsheath her sword and swing her shield from her back. Even in these dark surroundings First Light shimmered and gleamed, a beacon of hope. Drow. Well, depending on how blood thirsty these bastards are feeling today perhaps The Sixteen will receive some answers before they even reach the southern edge of the forest. Or not. The next moment the two guards lay bleeding and gurgling upon the floor. The King's bodyguard steps forward, her sword arm held aloft before Joseph in an obviously protective gesture. The man may be the Titan for good reason, but here in the dark and unknown recesses of the elven lands no precaution is too much. Gloria would rather perish than see her Lord struck down from the shadows.

"Perhaps," Gloria responded to the bugbear's strange offer. "Though only a fool agrees to something without knowing what it is first. Too bad for you we aren't feeling particularly foolish today."

There was still a bit of tension between Lady Anne and Gloria after she snatched the reins, negating Nikolas’ good chance. Nikolas just chuckled, letting it blow over. He was politically neutral; he upheld the good in tradition, but was not so pessimistic toward change. He supported his King even though he understood his Queen’s grief. He was here because he believed in choice. Lady Anne had walked away from her life and he respected her for it. Of course Lady Anne was not one to keep her mouth shut in the matter, especially after Gloria’s witty remarks and her action that proved her point that men are not entirely needed. The woman took her reins with no problem. Lady Anne sighed and moved her long hair from over her face, femininely.

“Not everyone can be as brave as you, Gloria. Remember, I was there at your wedding, so do not think I am that old fashion. But thank you for aiding this lady.” She offered a slight curtsy.

When Gloria had mentioned that she agreed with Brendan, the Battlemage had a stoic look on his face as if it did not fully register. His arrogance probably already convinced him that he was right in his conceited heart. So when Gloria said don’t let it go to his head, he looked at her absently.

“Think I care what you degenerates speak about? Trust me your compliments mean nothing.” He said to the acting General.

Then the Drow screaming was heard. Even with the brief tension, they all quickly got protective of each other when the threat was recognized. Like a family of brothers and sisters, they never fought publicly. What they discussed in private stayed there—every Knight was trusted. In times like these when the fray was near they all got along well.

The Bugbears were identified upon further observation, with the natural graces of torch light and their broken common. Stephan still invisible, had his blades ready and could cut them both down in four moves; leaving the execution for Legends and Brendan. But they were all just waiting on their King’s word. Gloria spoke out to the one who called himself Smedly.

“Foo? What does it mean, broda?” Beagly scratched his head.

“Fool means stupid, stupid Beagly. Idiot Bugbear.” Smedly chuckled. “No more talk. Else Jennessta send Beagly to big monster in dungeon.”

“Ha, me like big monster. Me eat him and spit guts of monster.” Beagly said. “Tell Jenessta to send.”

“Enough small talk. She is right...tell us about the deal and we decide if we want to let you live or not.” Joseph said. “And who is Jenessta?”

“Jenessta, Mistress, High Priestess of Eilistraee. Weak Drow at feet serve Matron Chalice of Lolth. Two territories. This Lolth side. We come infiltrate.” Smedly explained.

“Interesting. We are trying to get to the eastern tunnel. To get back on the surface. Is that on Jenessta’s side?” Joseph asked.

“Surface. Ah, yes. East tunnel in our side. But hard to get to with Chalice’s minions. You help Smedly take down Chalice. We get humans to surface.”

Kinley took Joseph and Gloria aside to speak with them. “We don’t know Drow politics. Whose to say Elvira might be in alliance with Chalice? We can not risk cutting down Elf blood. Whether it be dark or surfaced.”

“Maybe we can negotiate.” Joseph swallowed.

“Negotiate with a Priestess of Lolth. We are better off killing her and hoping that Jenessta is on the right side.” Kinley said.

“Naled if you speak Drowish, find out which side is allied with the wood elves.” Joseph turned to the Translator.

When Joseph looks to Gloria as they and Kinley speak privately, his Hand nods. "I agree with the old man on this matter. Servents of Lolth are no better than orcs in their blood lust, but it would be nearly impossible to disguise our presence in their land until we reached the far tunnel. Better to start with negotiation and deal with the fall out if we must than go in swords swinging and hope we don't lop off the wrong head. Again." Gloria smirks slightly. That last word is no doubt a good natured but perhaps ill timed jab at Joseph in reference to one of their first adventures together as true and honest Knights of Jubilee.

To the surprise of absolutely no one that has known her for longer than a fortnight, Naled gives her King an obedient nod at his request. She does indeed speak the tongue twisting language of the Drow. She doesn't say how or why for two very obvious reasons. Firstly because this is neither the time nor the place for such personal revelations and secondly because it is rare for the woman to speak of her life before being found by Erik and pledging her allegiance to Jubilee. While all of her companions are aware on at least a surface level of the hell she somehow found the strength to escape from, it is generally frowned upon, specifically by Erik, to speak of such things unless the Northerner brings them up herself. Naled never brings them up.

Turning dark eyes upon the boorish monsters currently standing in their path, the pale woman finally steps forward. "Usstan telanth whol lil' valuk de' nesstren vel'uss zhah abbilen xuil lil' valsharess d'lil darthiir. Udos orn naut malar nind vel'uss phlyle folggash xuil Valsharess Elvira. Udtila Jabbress Jenessta lac ulu morfeth thalack xor gre'as'anto xuil nindyn phor?"

The language sounds strange to the human's ears, hissing and stunted but the pauses are as much a part of the language as the words. The timing and duration of the speaker's pauses imparts nearly as much information to the listener as the tone of voice and actual syllables themselves. The way Naled chooses to utilize her pauses implies strength held in reserve, little to no respect for the listener but appropriate respect for the subjects of her sentences (namely Elvira and Jenessta) and an underlying current of impatience. She isn't called The Translator for nothing after all.

Joseph smirked at Gloria's playful jab. Such memories made the hue of his face turn pink; she knew how to put him under pressure. The Bugbears stood wide eyed, unable to understand most of what Gloria was saying. "They were heket. How were we to know those frog men had a peaceful agenda. They had spears with them and we had Bruce Legends. It was just a terrible memory." He grinned.

"And I have no regrets, cleansing the realm from those savages." Bruce smiled, with his prying ears.

"Blah, you two sound of one mind as always," Kinley said of Joseph and Gloria. "Even if you do agree with me, Gloria, you still choose to negotiate. I am just going to stay silent for now, until we find a way out of this mess."

"Good, you are less grumpy that way." Joseph chuckled.

When Naled decided to step forth and do her thing, the energy just did not feet right. The Bugbears did not respond. In fact, they seemed to vanish, no where to be found as if they had sensed the same. Joseph looked around and felt a knot in his stomach. He looked at Gloria and warned her with his eyes. Stephen grimaced. His cloak was seized by an electric cord, that exposed him and nearly knocked him unconscious. Blades were unsheathed again and the knights moved in to protect their fallen brother.

"Valuk de' nesstren, vel'uss zhah abbilen xuil darthiir. Dos kuuv telanth de' nindel c'nros jenessta ghil? folt zhah og'elendar lueth khurzon de' elghinn. Kev dosst saroless xor udos orn xuz dosst poorly stealthed companion!" The Drow Commander said.

Joseph looked around and seen at least fifty or more Drow, all standing guard, with bows, one had a staff and the rest were an army of swordsmen and swordswomen, prepared for the fray. They were outnumbered and Stephan was hurt. "What did he say?" Joseph said.

"He said to drop our weapons or they will kill Stephan." Naled translated.

The cords got tighter as Stephan struggled. Joseph noticed this and did not want to risk losing him. He did what any brother would do and laid his claymore on the ground. He nodded for everyone else to do the same, with a wink to Legends. He did not want to take a risk with their magic, but he'd be damn if he led them all to death. Bruce Legends got mad and tossed his knife into the throat of the Drow that threatened them. Scarlet squirted from his vessel. Bruce rushed the dying elf and removed his knife, cutting down a few more in his path.

"Donovan, now!" He roared. Joseph picked up his claymore and it blazed with fire, severing one Drow in half and taking out two more in a single thrust. Joseph in rage stepped back beside Gloria to watch her do her work.

The Drow had been watching the humans for some time; having prepared for an ambush. But they did not expect resistance. Donovan moved at his King's command, slamming his shield into the ground, near Stephan, that created a protective barrier around him and the Nightblade, blinding the eyes of the Drow enforcers. When many tried to rush in, their bodies deteriorated from the barrier. This gave Donovan time to cut the cord from Stephan's dangling body. "Be still, brother, your body has gone into shock," He explained, cutting the cloak and removing it from his body, without contacting the cord; he tossed it on the body of a drow with his tweezers and the Drow fell to the ground shaking, the cord seizing his neck.

Angrily, the horde of Drow began to move in, seeing their commander had fallen so easily. Bowmen launched arrows (Arrows 12) and a Drow mage would cast a deadly spell on Brendan who was lighting up Drow with his own hands (lightning spell 10).


rolled 1d20 and got 15
(Arrows 12 or higher for success on random Knights 20 critical)

rolled 1d20 and got 11
(Lightning spell on Brendan 10 or higgher for success 20 critical)

Like Joseph, when Naled informs them of the threat to Stephan's life Gloria is careful to ease down slowly until her sword and shield touch the ground. Aside from Joseph, Stephan and Boris are her favorites within their merry band of ruffians. She would no more see the incorrigible rogue hurt than she would her own brother if she had one. Giving up is not Joseph's style, though, so when Bruce suddenly started tossing daggers around, she knows that is the signal to straighten back up and show these elves the error of threatening one of the Sixteen. They are the best of the best not just within the human lands and they are loyal through and through most especially to each other. Despite their varied personalities and opinions, to insult one is to insult all, to hurt one is to hurt all and to aid one is to win the friendship of all.

Gloria's grip tightens upon her weapons as she springs back up from the ground. In the next moment she and Joseph are back to back, fighting to protect one another. While it is her job to see the King safe, she's been doing it so long it is practically second nature by now. Fighting with him like this is even easier than breathing in some ways, so well do they know each other.

"You know, generally we let Naled handle the negotiations," she calls over her shoulder towards her king. "As she is actually capable of exercising diplomacy. Interesting tactic letting Bruce handle it instead. Being forced into direct conflict with dark elves that outnumber us even more than the Northmen did yesterday isn't the outcome I was hoping for, but it's certainly a new approach. You always did like to innovate."

Each emphasized word is caused by a swing of her sword into the resistance of a drow body. 'Forced' and 'yesterday' see the end of an attacker each, one of which was about to bring his swords down upon Joseph's outstretched arm. All around them arrows fall, but Gloria manages to deflect the few that might have hit true by holding First Light high over their heads. Near the front Bruce isn't quite so lucky. Having charged first and being the closest target, two bright red fletchings bloom from his left arm. With a growl of ever growing, never ending anger the short man rips the arrows, barbed tips and all, from his skin, staining the ground with his blood. Had Donovan been near he would no doubt have berated the man for such a reckless act, but the healer is still occupied with easing and protecting Stephan's shaking and insensate form.

On the other side of the battlefield that has suddenly sprung up, Brendan is battling the dark elf's mage. His opponent's lightning has singed his fine cloak and taken his eyebrows, but the man is nearly as stubborn as Legends when it comes to battlefield injuries. In a brutal show of retaliation Brendan's hands whip through the air, shooting jagged shards of ice in a wide cone directly towards his personal opponent as well as the general direction of the hand full of archers standing behind her. (Ice spell 5)

Oddly, while all around her a battle rages, the only one currently unengaged in it is Sarah. The rest of the Sixteen have hurried forth to defend Stephan, Donovan and Bruce, even Naled who, despite her place among warriors prefers not to fight when at all possible. The Witch of Jubilee alone stands still and unmolested save for a few arrows that have buried their heads in the earth about her feet. Dark, thoughtful eyes regard not the players on the field but instead the field itself. She takes in the strangely glowing flora all around them for several long seconds before closing her eyes and drowning out the cacophonous sounds of the battle going on all around her. Her arms rise slowly, as if she is being kept from pulling them up from her sides by a terrible weight. As soon as her hands are above her head, her fingers clench themselves into fists and suddenly the earth begins to tremble. Bizarrely glowing vines and tendrils erupt from the ground beneath the combatants feet, grasping at limbs and weapons, friend and foe alike. (Entangling spell 5)

There is an old saying. Kill them all; let the gods sort them out. It would seem that Sarah proscribes to this theory of battle as well, though the vines are not so much deadly as they are restrictive. Once as many people have been caught as possible, she will begin going around and freeing her own party caught within the exotic plant's strangling embrace with a gentle caress of the vines and a barely audible word of power.


rolled 1d20 and got 10
Ice spell, above 5 to succeed, 20 crit

rolled 1d20 and got 6
Entangling spell, above 5 to succeed, 20 crit

The Drow that tried to sneak his blade on Joseph’s arm was swiftly negated by Gloria’s sword. He screamed when cold steel cut through his warm side—his body was mercilessly tossed into the sharp point of Anjaliku’s deadly spear. The Afgarian pulled her spear from the corpse and side stepped, to join Joseph and Gloria in the fray.

“I figured I’d improvise, for once.” He said to Gloria, taking the neck of a Drow that danced on his weak side. His fiery bastard sword met another Swordsman who wielded and circulated his duel scimitars with poise. Joseph and the Drow fenced until he grew tired of his brilliant defense and kicked the Drow into Anjaliku who caught him and sent her spear through his throat. “I mean, there’s only so much talking Naled could do. Sometimes I worry that she might despise her role.” He grinned.

Sarah began to induce her spell and the vines had managed to pull everyone from the ground—screaming was heard from the Drow who were lifted against their will. Lady Anne took advantage of the elevation. The Bowmaster pulled four grease laced arrows from her quiver and aimed at the archers who were giving everyone problems from above, calling out to Brendan as she knew he’d know what she meant. “Oils!”

Brendan’s eyes widened at her words. He was pleased with himself after he’d taken out the dark elf mage—her body smashed into a large pillar from his ice shard and she bled out. To hear his name made his chest harden. “Yeah, yeah.” He smirked at Anne. Anne let her soaked arrows fly and Brendan drenched them with flames. The arrows took down four Drow bowmen. The aggressive fire caught their garbs and burned their entire archery line. Deadly flames blinded them and prevented them from further advancing.

The Drow were angry having lost so many of their number. Hundreds more moved in. “You will die today humans! Lady Chalice is coming. May Lolth enjoy your blood. She has already tasted its sweeteness in her soil.” A Drow warrior said. Bruce Legends heard him and roared, rushing him with his deadly knives. The warrior tried to parry, but was brutally taken down—Bruce sifted his corpse on the ground, repeatedly. “She will enjoy yours first then.” He wiped the Drows blood on his face.

The Bugbears seeing this, no longer remained spectators. The two brothers, Beagly and Smedly reappeared from their stealth position and began to cut down Drow by the dozen. They made a road of dark elf corpses, cutting into where the Knights were surrounded. “Humans no die today. Mistress Jenessta agrees to help humans. Come this way.” Smedly said.

“Now you show up. Sneaky bastards.” Joseph said, cutting vines down and untangling Gloria and Anjaliku. “Everyone, to me! Donavon?!”

The Templar lifted Stephan and retreated from the barrier. “I will carry him.”

“Will have to abandon the horses.” Joseph cried. His heart was in dismay seeing his Bella severed in two by sword and arrows. “We have to go on foot from this point.”

“Come, King of men. Must hurry. Drow too much.” Smedly warned. He touched a cave wall and a secret door opened. Joseph would wait with Gloria by the entrance; the two had to make sure their Knights got in safely.

Beagly was an animal, cutting all down who dare cross his path toward the Knights. He made quick work out of many with his twin long swords that were the size of Donovan.


rolled 4d20 and got 43
Lady Anne’s Fiery Arrows 5 or higher for success, 20 critical

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