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Spirit-Tainted What?by Greywolf-ELM
The slowly aging Annis Hag looks deep into her scrying mirror. Her hair is pulled back into a dreadlock tail, revealing a surprisingly plain face temporarily reflected in the surface. Not the overly hideous face of her covey sister Annselen that inspires physical weakness in others. Her covey sisters have gathered around for support as it should be. Together, the duration of the scrying spell can be extended. The day before, that Vile Runes warband had tracked and quickly killed a Land Shark, it is time to check in on their progress. It was fortuitous that one of the Orcs with them was shedding. It makes scrying that much easier. The surface of the mirror swirls until the face of Hobna comes into view. The orientation of the spell is quickly adjusted by a few hand motions, and the rest of the warband comes into view. As expected the Orc is again unable to detect the scrying effect. This group bears watching, they are growing strong enough to interfere with the Covey's plans.
Hobna gathers his equipment, and prepares for the hunting trip for a second Land Shark. Arrows proved to be ineffective against the beast, turning away at its armoured skin. Worry sets in about effectiveness in combat, and how useful a single Orc archer will be to the warband in the future. Gorga and the others are gaining in battle prowess, but that improvement does not seem to be spreading around to all the Orcs in the warband. Hobna watches as Gaak straps together the huge carcass of the Land Shark for transportation. There is an understanding that Hobna's is the shoulder that will bear the other end of that burden.
Looking around, Hobna can see Gorga and the Goblin Shaman, Sharraxtharkul arguing. That was not an unusual sight. That goblin was a strange one. He is bound by nature, but not in the usual ways of the shaman. Gorga is heard arguing that the Bard should play his drums to attract another Land Shark, and Sharraxtharkul suggests that he scout from the air. He has learned some new form of nature magic. Looking around for the rest of the warband Hobna can see, Guru is practicing a battle with unseen enemies, Darkhunt and Margrax are exploring the scents of the area; Drigka is working on his epic story of the hunt, Rhgl is listening in on Gorga and a Raven?
Hobna quickly pulls out his bow and knocks and arrow, yelling out to the warband.
"Crappit! Something just turned Sharraxtharkul into a bird."
As he runs forward to get a shot at the bird, Rhgl and Gorga interpose themselves, telling him it is ok. The Raven takes of with an ungainly flapping of wings.
"This is a new power Sharraxtharkul has learned."
Hobna backs off of the bow, and returns the arrow to his quiver. With a hand up to block the ever-burning sun, Hobna can see the Raven that is Sharraxtharkul circle far to the South, scouting ahead of the warband. Looking back to the campsite Rhgl has disappeared again. The goblin has a propensity for running off and hiding, or sneaking around to poke you in the ribs. He is getting almost too good at it. Lately he's been an odd duck in more ways than one. He'll take to flapping his arms, or waddling like a bird for no apparent reason. He almost drowned at the fording of the river, thinking he could swim like a bird.
Trying to get away from the cleanup of entrails and skeleton, Hobna sneaks around a ridge to hear but not see Rhgl among some rocks.
"Gorga! Gorga! Help me! Help me! ................. Gorga, just kidding."
After seeing that this spot is taken by the goblin prankster, Hobna heads back toward the camp. Better not to be found by that one, and used for practice stabbings, and sneaking.
Gorga is looking around for the goblin, as Hobna returns from is abortive attempt to skip out on work. He has a sneer on his face, and ill-temper to be avoided. The magic of Gorga's Ear ring is not to be abused. Sighing heavily, he stomps over to help Gaak with the Land Shark carcass. Soon Gaak and Hobna have the work completed.
The sound of squawking can be heard, as Sharraxtharkul returns from his flight. Everyone gathers around in morbid curiosity, even the previously unseen Rhgl, to watch Sharraxtharkul change shape from a bird, into a goblin.
Shaking off the last effects of the change, and readjusting to his normal physiology Shar tells the warband, "Not bad for a first flight."
Hobna sees Gorga looking at the Goblin, with some impatience apparent in his mien. Shar looks around at the gathered warband, and begins describing the lay of the land to the South.
Hobna listens in for the entire briefing. There are rolling hills, interspersed with copses of trees. There is a small kobold emplacement to the South and West. It looks like it has been attacked and damaged by something quite large. He was able to count 10 to 12 kobolds around the hill. Shar notes that there is probably twice that number around.
Guinny wipes her eyes, as she backs away from the Scrying mirror. Extended scrying is taxing on the mind and body. The mirror swirls back from the view of the Wyverns warband gathered around the goblin to that of a normal mirror.
"It seems these Orcs are on the fast branch down the river to finding our Land Shark hides. They are hunting in Norvox and Muad lands, and they are not yet involved." At a nod from Guinny the three Hags move toward the Cavern of Rituals, steadying themselves as they go. "We will be prepared for the ritual when they return."Walking in silence until reaching the Cavern of Rituals, all three consider what the next topic of discussion will be.
"Our plans in Kol are moving along nicely, soon others will learn of the alliance between giants and the kobolds."
Annselen eagerly responds. "Yes, that secret is no longer worth hiding. The D'Aisiswa, and Diashar-Derelle tribes contend with the Orcs of the Fat Lips tribe. So far that conflict has been kept quiet."
Guinny looks at her sisters. "We will watch after these Orcs as we can. Trouble follows them, and they are involved in much that turns the Broken Lands."
Hobna watches as Shar mounts Margrax to lead the warband to the kobold outpost. With the order from Gorga for the warband to hustle, Hobna picks up his end of the burden, and tries hard to keep up with Gaak. Sharraxtharkul and Margrax take the most direct route through the hills, up and down, rather than through the lower elevations. Soon there will be battle with the kobolds.
Hobna recovers arrows that are undamaged, and kills any injured kobolds still left breathing. Seven were captured of the five-hand still living here after the Land Shark attack. From what Gorga was able to get out of them, after a few minutes of convincing, there is a Spirit-Tainted Land Shark called the Cabres-Yudra. Hobna has to hold back interrupting the interrogation to ask, "Spirit-Tainted what?" One of the living kobolds saw it, and all have heard of its' legend. It hunts periodically during the night. Beyond the body armour normally indicative of a Land Shark, it also has some horns pointing forward, red glowing eyes, and large wings. At that point in the description Hobna scoffed and looked at the skin that was already collected. If he knew this warband, the coming battle would go much the same.
Hobna ties up the kobolds, at Gorga's direction, and the warband makes camp, in a small clearing, among some trees. While Drigka carefully picks the correct phrasing for his new epic story, Sharraxtharkul communicates with a bird. But what it really interesting, is listening to Rhgl detail a plan to use the Land Shark skin to disguise the warband to get close enough to next Land Shark.
Gorga explains to Rhgl. "At first I dismissed you as an idiot. On second thought, that idea has merit. Actually, no you are an idiot. Land Shark's are territorial and will attack us in any case."
Sharraxtharkul pipes up with additional information "It is Land Shark mating season, and they have rough mounting skills."
This seems to strike a nerve with the Rhgl. "Don't tell me about rough mounting! I know about rough mounting!" (2)
Hobna listens as Gorga hands out the watch assignments, and quickly beds down after being given a spot on second watch. Awakened roughly with a boot to the ribs, like usual, Hobna awakens to a dimming campfire, and the sounds of snoring Orcs. Looking around, he takes up a position on the far side of the camp from Gaak. You never know what that Ogre will do in his sleep.
After watching and listening at the ground for nearly a boar (1) Hobna hears a whooshing sound before a large creature comes crashing out of the sky, landing atop Gaak, and Rhgl. With a battle-cry, it awakens the Ogre, who rolls out from under the great winged creature. Who knew it could fly. Hobna, knowing the futility begins firing arrows at the beast, hoping one will hit a soft spot, or something vital. Rhgl begins squawking and flapping his arms like a bird. Gorga and Darkhunt charge in from the other side of the clearing, and Guru somehow manages to sleep through this. The battle is fierce, with the Land Shark biting, and swallowing the helpless shaman Shar, before tearing into the Ogre as he stands up. Guru finally awakens, and gets his feet beneath him, and an Axe in hand. Hobna can only watch in amazement as the goblin Rhgl darts in, and slices at something near the eyes, and Gaak nearly splits the monster in two with a powerful chop of his new Great Axe. Quickly Gorga guides the slicing open of the creature to recover the shaman. Gorga's spiritual adviser is important to all in the warband. Especially with Gaak as wounded as he is now. With some sputtering, and wailing the goblin comes around, and calls upon his powers to heal the Ogre.
Two days later, the warband is back at Wogar's Breath with the task completed. Two Land Shark skins, some Bones, and the meat wasn't half bad. The Ogre and two Orcs are still at the cave, and one, Hobna hears called Gretch, runs in to notify the Hags. Hobna gets a weird chill, thinking about those three. He can see Darkhunt and Gorga talking about something. The idea of a talking Worg was still difficult to understand. They were creatures that the old Orcs and Goblins talked about. Generations had passed since they were seen in the Blood Orc Lands. Curses upon the goblins to the North. The huge Hag comes out to greet the warband, and Gorga haggles some money out of the Hag for returning with the carcass of a Spirit-Tainted Land Shark. She looks at Hobna for a moment, and he feels like she is looking into his mind. He shakes off the look, and can just see her grinning when she calls for her Orcs to retrieve the Land Shark bodies. The warband must make camp and wait a day for the ritual to be completed, and Iirkh to be returned to the body of an Ogre.
Some time during the next day, while Hobna is on guard duty, a lone Orc approaches the camp. Hobna gets to actually do something. "What is your business with the Wyverns? Vaunted warband of the Vile Runes."
"I am Digenic. I come to learn the teaching of Drigka, War Drummer. I request the right of learning from him, as requested by Garnash One-Tusk."
Hobna puts away his bow and finds the Battle Drummer.
Next Up: Giants and Kobolds, and Worg oh my!
(1) Boar - Measure of time it takes to skin a boar, about one hour. Spits are also used as a measure of time. A boar on a spit is turned over a fire 6 times in about a minute. So a spit is ten seconds.
(2) Rhgl had an experience with a Troll Hag, he will not soon forget