Small Packages: A Simple Errand
It was approaching dusk and Trigon was running late. The dusk was a favorite time for the grass lions to hunt and all manner of predator preferred the cover of darkness to the light of day. Though he netted a delicious sapphire mana butterfly it had taken him off course for his delivery and if he failed his duty, the elders would be quite cross.
Though he was adventurous for the usually insular grass spider race Trigon had to admit, he was not overly fond of the idea of being in the Famine King’s hills after dark. He towed on his back the six bolts of spider silk for which the Famine King traded a drowned swarm of locusts every fortnight. His sending the locusts to a watery grave as they repopulated in his colonies meant that the grasses were kept safe from the insects penchant for devastation. Instead the locusts fed both his people and the fish of Noman’s Creek and Deadman’s Creek, both of which fed the Compact Tributary on the banks of which almost the entirety of the grass spider race dwelled.
What the Famine King did with the silk was anyone’s guess. Likely the Angry Grass Halfling guerillas traded for it, as they had been observed chasing game into the Famine King’s lands which likely fed his vampires and provided new corpses for his other pursuits.
Grass Spiders are roughly the size of a dog, with pale green chiton marked with mud brown spots that to outsiders generally looked the same but to the spiders themselves were as distinguishing as facial features. Trigon wove a net of grasses over his backside like a ghillie suit when traveling as doing so made him look like a tiny hill when he crouched down.
Unlike most of his insular people, he and a few other braves, had ventured into and introduced himself to the neighboring peoples of Briar Hills. Unlike Humans, Orcs, and goblins; the Halflings seemed to accept and appreciate the overtures and did not try to stomp on them upon being introduced.
Trigon had even trained a few years with their great hero Jared Twist. A set of starstone blades had been custom made to fit over the ends of his front two legs and were enchanted to adhere there when he desired. These fine weapons and his ninja training from the half goblin had made him the elder’s top pick to make the runs.
To cross the water and deliver the goods dryly required a combination of spell and skills. Trigon had the inherent abilities shared by all grass spiders, but he was also a spell thief ninja trained by a legend. While formidable, grass spiders preferred to remain unnoticed rather than embroil themselves in conflict. Bottom line was that Trigon had a unique combination of skills and the ability to borrow more spells from the elders who were too old and could not make the journey.
Trigon usually got this particular errand out of the way early in the day, but he had found that sapphire mana butterflies not only empowered his spell like abilities but strengthened his ki. This particular specimen had been an elusive flyer and it took him a couple hours out of his way. It had also been a potent intoxicant and he lost more hours with hallucinatory visions of a desert city that bled dreams into reality.
On his way back he had been harried at by what must have been a suicidal or starving owl. Lucky for Trigon that that stupid owl put him on his guard because he had adopted an attitude of stealth just before he nearly ran headlong into a trium of orc legionnaires. The orcs were in formations around the log Trigon sometimes used to cross deadman’s creek.
Across the way was a mass of zombies with colonies of ants erupting angrily from every orifice. Trigon guessed that they had somehow sensed a hearty meal of orcs across the water. Either way Trigon was grateful for vanish trick and his race’s vaunted skill at climbing as he made his way up a tree very quickly and quietly. Orcs were scary enough, but orcs and the Famine King’s minions? Too deadly a mix for bravery. Still, he had to deliver his shipment.
Trigon used some of his silk to construct a quick kite. With a solid ki jump, his feather fall ring, and the core belief held by all ninjas that no one looks up, he hoped he would make it across unnoticed. The plan would have failed if not for the crazy owl. There was almost no wind, he would have drifted into angry zombies if not for a helpful talon drag. Trigon wondered for a moment if he had managed to steal an elder’s familiar or something. He tried talking to the beast.
“Hey, owl thanks for the help, fly me over to the southernmost hill would you?” Trigon ventured.
Familiars were supposed to be smart. This one hooted in an almost chastising manner before dropping him off in some cover beyond the mess.
The dying screams of orcs and the hungered grunts of zombies were muted over the hill but Trigon still heard the sounds and felt a pang of sympathy for the orcs. The crazy owl simply flew on.
“Thank you,” he yelled after the creature, hoping that it somehow understood him.
It was near dawn before Trigon reached the designated hill. He had eluded a nightmare horde of creatures to reach the drop spot, and he was barely on time but it was better than late. He dropped the silken ball on the stone dais and contemplated the scene before him. He was unnerved by something more than just the sheer number of undead creatures, it was hard to quantify.
Over a thousand orcs, perhaps closer to two thousand had lined the far side of Noman’s Creek and they had even constructed a small palisade. Though orcs saw well in the dark they had placed torches every five feet in their palisade, beyond they had precise looking tents and racks of weapons. There was no mistaking an invading force.
They would fall like wheat to a scythe. Trigon realized what had unnerved him, it was the humming buzz of millions of insects making a constant steady din. It made him both hungry and fearful.
Should the orcs invade they would die and they would deserve no better for trying to take lands that were not theirs to take. Trigon just would rather not be caught in the middle of said battle. Realizing the darkness was in part flying insects he used a quick jolt in the air to fry a few out of the sky which he caught deftly with mage hand.
After he had his snack he’d head towards a crossing on Deadman’s Creek, make a hammock in some trees he knew grew on the far side and swoop around the orcs in the morning. From his hill he could clearly see both streams and the orcs were not along Deadman’s. Trigon blinked, the spell he used to enhance his vision must have been faulty because there was no water in the creek bed. He looked back over and saw the same was true of Noman’s creek.
The creeping chill of fear swept over the spider as he heard the thundering sound of a stampede of creatures behind and all around him. Trigon was soon no longer alone on the hill as a pack of wolves being ridden by a pair of wild haired gnomes soon joined him on the hill. One of the wolves snarled in his direction but the flame haired gnome calmed it and payed him no mind.
A swarm of wasps formed a face and a voice buzzed out some words for the gnome wearing a translucent crocodile?
Trigon muttered aloud, “must have been a bad butterfly.”
The red haired gnome’s sword flared with fire, his armor reflecting the flames making him look like a dangerous and wild thing. “You can talk creature?”
A few moments later Trigon found himself riding a wolf in the center of a terrifying army going to battle. Flying low in the sky to avoid the harrying insects blotting out the moon and all the stars he spotted the crazy owl again.
With his starstone blade he saluted the bird.