As a way to start the day, getting attacked by tunnel people has to be one of the worst ways to do it.
A few months ago, an explorer found a promising tangle of conduits down the maintenance access of one of the drive shafts. When tapped, they proved to be full of fresh water and nutrient slurry. Food prices in the Tireless Cog Tribe being what they are, prospectors soon set up camp nearby. Once a camp was set up, that brought in others to supply the slurry miners needs. Tailors, smiths, cooks, and others were now turning what was a mining camp into a small village. Not everyone is from the Tireless Cog Tribe. Fortune seekers, some from as far away as the Echoing Vault Tribe, have come to take advantage of the strike.
That, of course, explains why you are out here. What it doesn’t explain is why a dozen brutish tunnel people came screaming out of the darkness today. Bellowing war cries and swinging pieces of chain, metal bars, and jagged pieces of tubing, the tunnel people set upon the villagers and started killing them without warning.
“Wait, there’s no need for this! Just explain what you want and…”
My voice trails off as I realize that talking will accomplish nothing. And so, reluctantly, I pick up my club and go to beat off the tunnel people.
I’m a Stonebearer now, after all, so I suppose it’s my duty to protect the tribe.
When the screaming started, Diemut had been trying the new armour she bought. Nothing fancy, just a buff-jacket. The weight would take some getting use too. Unfortunatly, there wasn’t a lot of time.
It didn’t take long for her to find the cause of the the problem. Gritting her teeth in anger, she made her way toward the thugs as fast as she was able, Sigmund’s Legacy in hand.
Rolf looked up from adjusting his power bow for the fifth time today. Just in time to see the mob of tunnel folk rush towards the camp.
He drew one of his arrows from it’s quiver. Of course he had only brought his hunting arrows. His very lethal hunting arrows.
Of course. This is going to be a bad day. he thought.
He nocked and drew in one fluid motion only to see the scholar fly past him waving his club like a maniac.
“Scholar, Head down! Your left, right, no behind you! ARRRRGH!”
Someone was going to be blamed for the boy’s death, and surely it would be him.
“I hope your skin is metal, boy!”
He aimed carefully at one of the larger dwellers knee. Aim to wound.
Around you, a dozen warriors, clad in armor made from pieces of scrap metal and chain and wearing copper-green war paint, attack anyone nearby. The tent village is rapidly becoming a mess, with people fleeing the attackers, others rushing in with weapons, and tents being trampled or toppled.
Diemut charges towards a few of the attackers closest, making as little noise as possible, lance tip forwards. It’s a little tricky, on the oil-slicked metal, but she should be able to run-through one of these invaders before the others notice.
It was a simple thing for Rolf to make a shot like this. Just a breath in, then a breath out and release, timing the shot just so between one heartbeat and the next.
Then he was on the move again racing across the tunnel, leaping from one foothold to the next, setting up his next shot.
Diemut leaps out from behind a half-collapsed tent, spearing one of the raiders in the side. The spearpoint shrieks as it punches through a piece of sheet metal, but it fails to end the raider’s life immediately. Rolf’s arrow takes another in the shoulder, leaving a nasty wound, as he nimbly navigates up the tangle of pipes surrounding the camp.
The injured raiders begin to fall back. One takes a feeble swing at Diemut as he backs away, clutching his side. However, the others rush forward to meet the sudden resistance, a pair converging on each Stonebearer. A handful of village warriors joins the fray, occupying the rest, but they are slightly outnumbered and disorganized. The raiders near Diemut swing at her with a metal pole and a length of chain, while the pair chasing Rolf begin clambering up the pipeworks after the Arcdancer.
Diemut cursed under breath as she knocks aside the incoming attacks, blocking the first one with practiced ease, but nearly takes a metal pole to the ribs for not paying enough attention to the second assult. She barely get’s her head together in time to dodge a chain swung in her direction.
“It’s going to be one of those days, isn’t it?” she asked her attackers. Not that she expected them to answer. Diemut just wanted a minor distraction as she knocked one of the tent’s remaining supports towards her assailents. As the metal and synth-leather fall, Diemut uses it as camoflage for her next strike, steping foreward as her uncle’s deadly spear spins in her hands, toawrds the wounded enemy.
This time, you won’t survive…
Rolf grins as he races toward the curving tunnel wall. The tunnel dwellers thought he would be easy prey, did they? They should know better even a rat would turn deadly in a corner. He draws another arrow from his quiver.
A simple curve in the tunnel wall, reasonably clean, with a minor ledge about a yard or so up the wall. To Rolf Hesser a gift from the Shining Ones. He draws his bow and runs up the curve of the wall using his elemental strength, then a quick kick off the wall, releasing the arrow directly at his lead pursuer.
“Arrow to the head!”
As he lands he plucks a single knife from its place and throws it in a glittering arc at his second pursuer.
Wow, that all happened fast. I should probably spend less time thinking about what I’m going to do, and more time doing it.
Hm. That guy with the chain, the one attacking Diemut, is standing right next to a damaged tent. It’ll get in his way if he tries to step away from an attack. And Diemut’s doing a damn good job distracting him.
He’s my target, then.
I step towards him and swing my club in a high arc overhead. I’m aiming for his collarbone, hoping to drop him without crushing his skull.
Diemut’s spear punches cleanly through her victim’s chest, killing him instantly. Nkylis comes to her aid as the falling tent momentarily tangles up her attackers, cracking the chain-wielder across the shoulder, but sadly causes the man no more than a nasty bruise.
Rolf’s mid-air shot misses his target and instead impacts into the side of a conduit. The conduit ruptures, spraying high-pressure nutrient slurry in a thick slick accross the area. The slippery goo makes the footing on the narrow ledge trecherous, but Rolf manages to keep his balance. Your pursuers are not quite so lucky, slipping and falling headlong into the sludge.
The two tunnel people pursuing Rolf struggle back to their feet and take some careful steps forward, still intent upon their pursuit. The warrior Nyklis just clubbed turns upon him and lashes out with a nasty backhand swing, while his ally brings his weapon down in an overhead smash, trying to crush Diemut while she’s overextended. The other tunnel people are having an easier time of things – one of the village warriors has gone down to a nasty spear wound.
Diemut barely has time to jump out of the way, even with her sou-steel pike pushing it away from her, as the massive broken pipe came slamming down in front of her. Clearly this tunnel-punk had been working out.
Not that it gave her a moment’s pause. There was not time to hesitate, at least one of the villagers was down. One of the people she was supposed to protect. Snarling, “You all will pay!”, she pointed the blunt end of her spear at her most recent asailent and ran forward…
Onto the very weapon that nearly hit her.
She didn’t stay on it for very long. The excess weight would probberly cause the metal to bend, if not snap and that was assuming her attacker didn’t drop the darn thing. Which would leave her on the ground and off balance. So she did something her uncle told her about once.
She jumped off the weapon barely a quarter of a second after she got on it. Twisting in midair, she pulled the dire-lance around and up in a circlar motion, the blade-tip whistling with the wrath and whispers of the dead. If I did this right, I should slice him from lower back to his throat.
Hm. Looks like this guy’s tougher than I thought.
But his feet are still tangled up in a tent. And some of that nutrient slurry burst just sprayed into his face.
And unlike me, he’s not magic. So I find it easy enough to stop his attack dead with a slap of my club against his wrist.
I follow that up with a second club slap against the guy’s face. I borrow a bit of extra power from my Stone as I do so.
Now, one of the raiders just died. His corpse is lying behind the guy attacking me, and as I attack I force my opponent backwards over it. If he falls down and hits his head on this metallic floor, he’ll be knocked senseless.
Rolf swears broadly, his rough voice carrying loudly through the metal walls. He always misjudged the amount of power his elemental could give him. Always. And now if they didn’t end the fight quickly, get that slurry pipe patched, he might have just ruined this strike.
Not again. No one dies because of my foolishness. Never again.
His mouth set in a determined line he taps deeper into his Binding Stone, aiming carefully at his lead pursuer and throws out a bolt of pure electricity.
Diemut’s attack strikes home, but the blade only scores a deep groove accross one of the warrior’s armor plates. Nyklis batters his opponent’s weapon away and hammers down on his opponent, knocking him unconcious in a single swing. Rolf’s bolt of lightning flash-cooks his opponent, sending a scorched corpse sliding backwards through the slurry.
The two warriors fighting the Domini realize how overmatched they are and make an attempt to withdraw, the one managing to fight his way to his feet despite the slurry coating the floor. The others, though, have the village warrirors hard pressed to defend themselves. The villagers are surrounded, fighting back to back to keep from being caught defenseless. They’ve managed to put one of the tunnel people out of the fight, but another of their own is down and bleeding.
Diemut barely glanced around to see how the others were doing. It did not serve well to take one’s yes off one’s opponents after all. But ignoring the other enemies was a bad move too. While she and her fellow stonebearers were doing well, the same could not be said for the villagers.
Biting back a curse as she watched the third villager fall, Diemut’s grip tightened on her lance. Taking adavantage on of the distance her oppsition was putting between them, she took a few steps back herself. It might help surprise the guy when I make my move.
First things first though, she called out to the others. “Rolf! Nyklis! Give the villagers a hand. I got these two!”
And that is when she charged forward, spear pointed at the fellow she failed to kill on her last swing. Her sandals rapidly clicking across the metal floor, one could almost forgive missing when they stopped doing so in the midst of combat. Especially when it happens two setps after they’ve tried to run you through with a honking big spear. Then again, using one’s foe in order to pole-vault is an odd, but not unknown combat technique.
Pushing the blade-tip down just as she jumped and pulling her body up, Diemut could only hope she hit hard the invader hard so she could stick the landing.
Otherwise this was going to hurt – a lot.
Oh, good. They’re running.
That’ll give us a chance to rescue the villagers over there.
My heart tells me to staunch the wounds of the downed villagers, but my brain tells me that the best way to keep them alive is to knock out their attackers.
The fight’ll probably end within 15 seconds, anyway. Nobody bleeds out that fast.
So I charge in after Diemut, using her body to prevent the thugs from seeing me clearly. When she lands her crazy jump attack, I step out from behind her and brain whoever’s still standing.
I make sure to move so that my target is between me and a villager, so as to divide their attention. The benefits of flanking, combined with power drawn from my Stone, ought to make it easy for me to drop this fellow.
Rolf dashes back towards the other Stonebearers. “Coming mother.”
He chuckles under his breath as he preps another arrow, he was actually having fun. His hand comes up to his chin, he aims at the closest tunnel rat to make an opening in their lethal circle, so he and his fellow Domini can begin extracting the surrounded villagers.
Breathe and release.
Diemut kicks the fleeing warrior in the head, sending him stumbling and causing him to clutch his head. He continues to try to stagger away, but he’s steps have the drunken gait of a man with a hefty concussion.
Nyklis drops another warrior with a blow to the back of the head, then Rolf puts an arrow straight through a third. The remaining warriors, seeing the sudden shift in the odds, attempt to flee.
Diemut rolled her eyes as she spun round and knocked the concussed one out with the blunt end of spear. “Rolf, you keep this up, and I’ll send you to bed without supper.”
Naturally she began to chase and run-through the remaining attackers, particularly the ones nearest the villagers. After all, it was her duty to protect them.
I wonder why she’s chasing them. They’re not a threat any more, and we have wounded people to worry about.
I turn to the villagers and ask,
“Is there a healer here? Our wounded need help, we don’t want them bleeding out.”
I really hope there’s a healer here. Otherwise I might have to bind people’s wounds myself.
Rolf laughs heartily, “Another day, another fight.”
He looses an arrow or two at the fleeing tunnel people, of course you had to make sure. The legend of the Stonebearers must be spread, Diemut, poor girl would spend the next few hours chasing them.
“When you are done with the wounded scholar I’d be highly grateful, if you could take a look at the mess back there.” He thumbs the tangle of pipes gushing nutrient slurry all over the place. If they weren’t very quick they would have a Servitor to the Taker come along and then where would they be? Very, very dead.
Not that Rolf could do anything. He hadn’t the skill.
Once the last of the of the invaders had escaped, (while Diemut had dealing with another one), she turned her attention back on the village. She wasn’t going to bother chasing down these thugs for hours, just make them pay for every drop of blood they shed here. Besides, you can’t leave the village undefended at a time like this.
So helped the rest of the villagers in whatever way she could, mostly by clearing the mess made by the attack and helping set a few of the tents back up.
She also tied up the last greenskin left alive in the village, the one she knocked out. Sooner or later, he’d come too. Then there would be some interesting questions.
Under Nyklis’ direction, the casualties are seen to. Thankfully, most of the raiders were wielding clubs and other blunt weapons, so most of the wounded will be back up and about in a day or two. The worst of them, though, took several deep knife wounds and will need a couple of months of bed rest at least, if he doesn’t die of a wound infection.
A couple of miners manage to get the pipe leak sealed off fairly quickly, belting a wad of rubber into the hole.
Though Diemut and Rolf manage to bring down a few of the fleeing warriors, most manage to get away. Diemut’s census of the enemy’s fallen reveals more still alive than she had thought. It seems that in addition to the man she dropped, both men that Nyklis fought are still breathing.
"Okay, it looks like we’re out of immediate danger.
But still, this isn’t a great situation. This camp isn’t terribly well-defended, and we don’t have a real doctor to help our wounded.
Still, we can’t abandon the camp to the barbarians. We should interrogate our prisoners and find out what we’re up against. Then we can act to solve the issue, whatever it is.
If this was just an opportunistic raid we can probably head off more violence with a threat. If it wasn’t, we might have to go to war.
Does that sound like a plan?"
Rolf looks up from his nutrient slurry. For this we fight?
He turns to Nyklis "That was surprisingly well thought out scholar. Sadly the council was quite clear “We send out our Domini, we pray for your victorious return.” We’re it. The whole show. We had bad year for bondings. And elementals."
Well, might as well make the best of it."
I point to one of the miners.
“You there, tie up the raiders. Make sure they can’t hurt us when they wake up.”
Then I look around a bit, before pointing to another slurry miner.
"Bring Heissa here. We need a healer, and this is no time for her to be napping in her tent.
From here on out, we should probably have a healer ready at all times. We should be prepared in case those raiders come back.
I’m going to interrogate one of our prisoners. Rolf, Diemut, I’ll leave the job of defending the camp to you."
Once the raiders are restrained, I poke one of them until he wakes up.
Sorry to wake you up so soon after knocking you out, but I need to know what you’re doing here.
Is this just an ordinary raid or something more serious?"
Napping in a lean-to behind her tent in a makeshift hammock of patchy artificial leather, Heissa has her eyes closed but is unconsciously mumbling something about “gallons and gallons of sweet sweet jel.” She falls out of her hammock as a hurried slurry miner comes to her calling for a healer.
She grumbles about having her dream interrupted until she hears the word “attack.” At that, she gets a serious look on her face and demands concrete details about the casualties so that she can pack. Quickly putting her supplies in a bag and letting her familiar, a tail-less glow rat named Gulhen, jump in after, Heissa finally looks back up at the miner.
“Let’s go,” she says in a lower octave while throwing on her wide brimmed black traveling hat.
As they rush out, Heissa almost trips and squeaks but catches herself and keeps going. “An attack?… As if mining wasn’t already dangerous enough,” she says softly.
The greenskin stares at you without comprehending, then says something in a language you don’t understand. His speech sounds like someone trying to gargle with a mouthful of iron bolts.
Well, that’s inconvenient.
I turn to face the camp and cup my hands to form an improvised megaphone.
“Does anyone here speak the local barbarian language?”
If nobody does, I wake up more of our prisoners and speak to each of them in turn in both of the languages I know. Hopefully one of them will know either Taken or Old Realm.
None of the barbarians speak Taken or Old Realm, though they do seem to recognize Old Realm. A quick survey of the village reveals no one who knows the same language as the greenskins.
"Okay, so we lack a common language.
This is probably going to be a problem. Any ideas on how to deal with this?
We could just have them lead us back to their camp. They’ve probably got a shaman who speaks Old Realm there.
But that seems risky. I mean, we might end up having to fight the whole camp. Which would not be ideal."
Finally arriving on the scene, Heissa sees that most of the wounded have been well-treated under Nyklis’ watch. She notes who she thinks might need more care, particularly the man who took multiple knife wounds and could use her Wound-Cauterizing Touch, and starts planning a triage order in her head.
First, however, she decides to check in with Nyklis to understand what happened and to get a closer look at the green-skins. Walking towards the Glass Knife and, overhearing his last statement, Heissa remarks, “Sad times, Eisen. Maybe we could broker some sort of peace with these tunnel folk even without speech? They must have been desperate to attack and a little bit of food might stave off another conflict. Or at least keep them from attacking when we meet again.”
As she ends her sentence, Heissa tries to concentrate on the greenskin’s speech, hoping something anything about their language seems familiar or recognizable. Any knowledge, she hopes, might help prevent more people from getting hurt.
Rolf shakes his head.
Not only did the fools attack a camp full of people but none of them even spoke the common tongue. Which meant his usual battle patter had gone totally unheard.
Wait a beat….
“Scholar, Healer, Correct me, but doesn’t everyone in the tunnels speak some variation of Taken or even the Old Tongue? And… the ones chasing me, they ran when I used my elemental. Something strange is going on here. Let me try something.”
Rolf steps to center of the circle forming around the bound prisoners.
“OY! You lot! Look at me!”
Once it is clear the prisoners are focused on him Rolf motions the villagers and others back a few steps.
He was tired and cranky, his elemental nearly drained but he had to know. Was what he was thinking even possible?
He digs deep into his elemental’s strength and sends a surging arc of pure electricity upward in a spectacular display of raw power.
“What’d you wogs think of that then?” he snarls at the prisoners, carefully gauging their reactions.
From what words the prisoners are exchanging, you gather that the one that seems nominally in-charge is named Grok. Their language is far removed from Old Realm – you think you hear what seems like some common root words, but you’re not sure if you’re just fooling yourself.
Rolf’s crackling bolt of lightning splashes across the ceiling of the chamber, getting the attention of everyone in camp and showering all nearby with sparks. The greenskins seem intimidated, but not awe-stricken. You get the feeling that they’ve seen something like it before.
Speaking in Taken, knowing that the greenskins seem unable to fully understand the language, Heissa whispers to her companions, “I think I can make out some Old Realm survivals, Rolf… but I can only gleam a bit. See that man over there? I think he is their leader or at least something of an authority. They are calling him Grok; I’m going to try to get on his good side by checking on his people.”
Heissa goes to find the local who was injured, bathes his wound in alcohol, and quickly goes about healing him within view of the greenskins. She then begins seeing to the injured greenskins, showing that they are being treated as kindly as locals are treated. In doing her healing publicly as a performance designed to emphasize her kindness, Heissa is trying build an intimacy of trust or goodwill among the greenskins and Grok in particular.
“Good idea. Meanwhile, I’ll look and see if they brought anything that might give a clue to what they’re up to.”
I take a look and see if any of the raiders brought bags or any other kind of gear beyond their weapons. If they did, I look though what they’ve got.
If they’ve got maps or anything like that with them, it could make everything much easier.
The invaders’ packs don’t contain anything so obvious as a map. Their gear is made of a variety of materials – rubber, resin, sheet metal, cloth, leather of some kind – apparently anything they could easily scavenge. What decoration you can see on it is done in bits of polished copper or copper-tarnish green paint. Inside their packs you find waterskins, long crystals of what looks like nutrient slurry, rope, bedrolls, and other traveling gear. Their gear is simple, but well-made for its kind. It isn’t as sophisticated as Tireless Cog metalwork, but more than serviceable.
Rolf shrugs. A hunter’s heart had to be full of hope, hope that somehow they could find one more resource, one more prey animal. What was around the bend of the tunnel was his business.
Still wouldn’t that be something. Someone not of this wretched tunnel.
He contents himself with the innumerable tasks of camp life. Water, nutrient slurry, fire, back for more water. Work was never ending.
He makes a special point of glaring fiercely at the one called Grok making sure to display his throwing knives.
“We are not easy prey,” he mentally growls at Grok each time he passes the tunnel rat.
After seeing to the injured, Heissa starts collecting nutrient slurry. Just enough to provide a small meal for each of the greenskins. After putting it all into a container, she finds her fellow Domini.
She speaks very quickly to the group without pausing, obviously a little over-excited about her plan, “I want to try and offer the leader some slurry in exchange for some cooperation. First, I’m going to take the food to Grok so he know what we’re offering, but I’m not going to let him have it. Rolf, I’m going to need some backup for this. Then, I’m going to point in the direction of where they attacked and only give them meals if they seem to acknowledged that they are going to do something for it. Best case scenario, they lead us back to their camp. Worst case scenario, they scatter and our skilled hunter here can track them to their home… Okay, real worst case scenario, they immediately attack again but we have their weapons so I think it’s a risk worth taking.”
Taking a breath after that stream of consciousnesses, she finishes, “Does that sound like a plan?”
"Yes. It sounds like a plan.
It doesn’t sound like a great plan, but given the situation greatness is rather too much to ask for. Let’s do it."
While sticking her tounge out at Nyklis in faux indignation, Heissa picks up the container of slurry and brings it to Grok. She goes through her planned motions to make her offer of hospitality and sustinance but keeps near her fellow domini and any other volenteers to imply that the offer is conditional and that the Taken are still the dominant party invovled.
The entire time, while using her best ‘bed side manner,’ Heissa keeps repeating in her head “I hope this works. I hope this works. I hope this works.”