Small Packages: Strange Bedfellows
Luca crossed the stream, followed tentatively by the wolves and his somewhat shocked brother. Once across the hive-infested zombie bull scratched the ground with its hoof then turned it in an unnatural manner that resembled a merchant holding out their palm. Luca read the situation as a request for payment.
“I will relinquish the wand to one of your minions once we have rested and we are nearly out of your lands. I swear by Iz, my Eidolon that I will fulfill the bargain once I can be certain you are holding to yours for safe passage. Is this acceptable?” Luca waited hands outstretched until the beast snorted and nodded yes.
As Luca strode another step forward a tiny marble of fire streaked into the bull’s ribcage and exploded outward in a sphere of flames. Luca felt the heat wash over his face but was not touched by it. The zombie bull and its hive were consumed instantly.
“You are under arrest for the crimes of murder and sedition against the Orcish Imperium, surrender your weapons and any magical items and come peacefully or be slain.”
The orc speaking wore black robes cinched with a crimson sash littered with various pouches and a wickedly long curved dagger. A large silver medallion with an onyx spire indicated him to be a master of the black spire college. He was flanked by two red robed apprentices and a score of archers and another score of legion footmen.
It would not be a long fight. Fleeing wasn’t much an option either as the day’s run had all but depleted them. Luca had but one option, to bluff.
“You have no jurisdiction here. I and my party have an agreement for safe passage through this independent kingdom which belongs to the Famine King. Cross that river and you and all that come with you will perish. In death you will still walk the earth, serving as a home for whatever vermin the famine king sees fit.”
Silence hung in the air for a moment after Luca spoke his words. He and the black spire commander locked gazes as they appraised one another. The moment was broken by a chorus of inhuman roars as the famine king’s denizens poured out of the hills behind Luca.
The orc wizard raised and lowered his free hand and the archers let loose. He muttered arcane phrases and made motions that would summon a killing fog of deadly gas. It would if it overcame Luca’s willful counterspell. It would be the only one Luca would be able to stop but the swarms and his wolves would otherwise die.
Arrows scored hits on Luca, Marius, and two of the wolves though none were yet slain. Another act of will had Luca calling on a burst of positive energy to heal everyone, including Iz. The legionnaires formed up in front of the wizards and archers.
Zombies burst out of the ground between the gnomes and the orcs, followed by swarms of rats and biting insects. The western sunset behind them was rapidly blotted out as thousands of flying buzzing insects filled the air.
In the face of such horrors the legion held formation, determination and training outweighing any fear. The zombies made a formation of their own in an almost mocking tribute. The swarming hordes filled the air between the gnomes and the orcs spoiling any missile fire or the ability to aim. A fireball cleared the air for a few seconds but the effort was futile, a wall of undead and vermin massed along the stream but stepped no further.
Luca recognized the truth in the situation and turned away. He’d lead his pack deeper into the Famine King’s lands and he’d honor their bargain. For better or worse the gnomes had made a new ally and a deadly enemy in the same day. They’d find a camp and sleep under the watchful gaze of one of the world’s greatest terrors.
A magic mouth appeared before them, “I am Captain Septimus Clovis, master instructor of the black spire college, ship commander of the Burning Dawn. You gnomes will pay for your crimes.”
The words faded with the sounds of a million tiny wings.