The next morning was just the perfect temperature. Tegan whistled to herself as she checked her arrows, and Crusoe took a moment to wax rhapsodic about the chipmunks he’d seen “doing it” as he took his morning walk.
Only Marielle and Clement seemed ill-at-ease. Marielle had started her day with a mouth full of bad breath and cleric stubble! Clement’s latest dream (where Marielle had perished of a demon-borne disease) had been so vivid that he had sleep-walked. Okay, sleep-healed? Thank goodness his CPR hadn’t been vigorous enough to break any ribs. Clement could tell that his affliction was progressing, and privately feared a psychotic break should things continue in this way for another month. Pelor, he beseeched. Help your unworthy servant…
Armed with a plan Patton would have envied, Father Neil’s strike forces prepared to enact their audacious raid. When the counts are 8 against 150, and one of those eight is a little owl (okay, owl-shaped magical beast), you just need to cheat. Guerrilla warfare was the way to go.
Divination is how you cheat, though, if you’re a power-mad orog.
“They’re going to strike again today, Smeerdûk?”
“Of that I am certain, Sleegan. I just wish I dared spend another divination spell to determine the time of day. You and your beloved will have a difficult job, keeping the sorceress, cleric, ranger, and feebleminded druid busy, but I have two earth elementals waiting below ground right at the point where Gruumsh said they would be.”
“A third has returned from the Underdark, my liege. Vuno and I will wait underground.”
“Excellent. So you and Vuno to serve as a distraction, hmm, yes. That leaves four chosen ones to kill the bard, owl, and rogue. That rogue! At last my brother Thrull can rest in peace…”
“And you’re sure the dragon will be no trouble?”
“So saith Gruumsh. And soon we’ll be able to nearly double our divinations! The ritual to create the fifth jewel is nearly complete.”
“May good fortune be with us, Father Smeerdûk.”
Outside the walls of Glister.
Strike Force Alpha (Billy, Juno Nim, and Copernicus) reveled in the freedom provided by spider climb, sphere of invisibility, and silence. It was almost too easy. Juno giggled soundlessly as they crept over the wall, close enough to see the orog guard picking his nose with gusto. Popping down, they swaggered through the streets of Glister. They walked right up the side of Nikolai’s store and paused to reconnoiter.
Below them, they saw the manticore dozing in his pen, orcs and orogs on patrol, and Smeerdûk before the altar in the town square. He was completely intent on a small glowing jewel.
So close, thought Smeerdûk. I dare not make a mistake, or it is all for naught…
Juno inclined his head to the south, where a luxury hotel called the Nanther Arms lay. He and Billy could faintly hear the tinkling of a lute.
The adventurers stepped over to a side window and smashed it while still under the silence spell. Candy from a baby! Smirking slightly, Billy cast haste on himself and Juno and stroked Copernicus’ head three times: the signal for Marielle to start bombing.
In the forest
“There’s the signal!” cried Marielle. “Eat flame, suckers!” She began casting.
Tegan yawned. “I’m the best sword we got, Clem. I just want a chance to stab something. Is that so wrong?”
“Don’t fret, daughter. There are worse things than boredom.”
“Do you hear the explosion? Attack! Damn it, where is Vuno?” The rocky hulks ignored Sleegan’s pleas, and her orc underlings raised their swords.
In a disused tavern
Zarielle read the dimension door scroll. Dramuel said a small prayer of supplication that Mally and Smeerdûk wouldn’t make them wait long. They were nearby, after all.
In the market square
The manticore howled in pain as it was engulfed in fire. Yards away, orcs were burning to death. Not NOW! thought Smeerdûk, redoubling his concentration on the precious jewel…
Inside the store
Billy and Juno had only gotten a few scrolls from Nikolai’s “safe” before Zarielle, Dramuel and their servants arrived. The battle was joined! In mere seconds, Juno’s arrows and Billy’s blade had sent Zarielle to her grave. Dramuel roared in horror. Where was his brother? And how had someone silenced Mally’s lute? Was that a choking sound he’d heard? Was there … a traitor in the ranks of evil?
In the forest
“By the Gracious Beams!” sputtered Clement, as rock and soil flew into the air. Three large earth elementals, three wolves, Sleegan, and many orc helpers emerged within seconds. They cut Crusoe down like a flower, and he was bleeding out. Tegan’s battlecry echoed through the trees. Marielle kept firing at Glister, but spared a moment to taunt the orcs and engage her Frightful Presence; some of the orcs fled, and even Sleegan was shaken.
In Nikolai’s store
And one more down! “Die, dumbass cleric!” Billy cried as he cut Dramuel to ribbons. Juno took the chance to grab another scroll while “hastily” attacking a mountain orc. How many more scrolls did they dare take? Was the jig already up?
My mistress! Copernicus cried internally. “HOOT! HOOT!” Why won’t these dumb two-leg fuckers listen to me? Trouble! Trouble! Get back to the forest. Billy looked at the panicked owl and knew something had gone wrong…
The smell of flame had saturated Glister. Scores of orcs, even strong orogs lay dead in the streets, victims of Marielle’s “artillery fire.” I have no other choice, thought Smeerdûk, weeping bitterly. He let the spell lapse and the jewel turned into wood chips with a small explosion. At least now I’ll get to kill the rogue. He wheeled toward the shop, drinking a potion of haste as he went. His hand was on the door…
In the forest
Crusoe’s blood dripped ever faster into the leaves. Seconds remained before his soul departed. Clement was half-dead of his wounds, and Marielle had given up on fireballs in exchange for lightning bolts to save the cleric’s life. Tegan fought like a demon, kicking up clouds of rock powder from the earth elemental’s chest in her fury.
In the store
Seeing Smeerdûk through the shop window, Billy had a decision to make in his last few seconds in the shop. What were the priorities? To re-seal the safe, surely. Another scroll? They were precious! Could they withstand one round of the mad cleric’s attacks? Perhaps it would be worth it to bear the attack and learn about Smeerdûk’s powers. After all, the two orogs they’d killed already weren’t much. His heart racing, he made his decision and delayed. He’d stab that crazy Smeerdûk right in the face, by Fharlanghn!
Speaking the unholy words in the ancient tongue, Smeerdûk felt the awesome power of the Helm rush over him. His false ruby eye blazed like a red coal. Brother, you are avenged! he thought, as two spells hit the interior of the shop: fireball and unholy blight.
As the twin clouds of flame and palpable evil took him, Copernicus thought to himself: Oh right. I remember this. Death. His little heart stopped beating.
In the forest
“Taste my power!” Marielle screamed, as she filled Sleegan full of electricity. The huge female orog shuddered and was still. “Oh no!” Marielle cried. “My familiar … is dead.” As Tegan stabbed a wolf with her short sword, her eyes welled up.
“If they come back soon, I can revive the beast,” said Clement. “Pray that they will do so…”
As if on command, Billy and Juno returned, with scrolls tucked in their belts and the lifeless body of Copernicus in hand. The battle raged on slowly as Billy and Clement took the time to revive Crusoe and Copernicus before death could truly bear them away.
After a few more rounds, it was all over. “Damn shame we couldn’t have killed Zarielle and Dramuel here,” said Tegan. “Smeerdûk will surely have cast raise dead by now.”
“Every bit of magic we force him to expend helps us, Tegan.” said Clement. “By my calculations, less than half the evil forces remain.”
Marielle raised her fireball finger and touched it provocatively to her ass. “Honey, you know I’m hot stuff.”
Part 3: Every sorceress deserves a smoke break, now and then.