Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Celtris Tales: Small Packages Chapter 9 Walkabout

Small Packages: Walkabout

Tullia was eight days into her walk-about though technically she was flying-about in the form of an owl. Alone in the wilds was both exhilarating and incredibly isolating. Once a druid could reliably wildshape, it was a customary rite of passage they they spend a fortnight alone beyond the Green Gates of Grandmother’s Wall, without any companion. Tullia was also a bard and found the lack of companionship quite difficult.

Grandmother herself would interview Tullia on her return. How well the adept orcling druid expressed what she had seen and learned would be crucial to her next assignment. Tullia wanted desperately to either be assigned an adventure or to help tend the more hostile plants in Grandmother’s great rose garden, which was the most sacred grove to all druids.

Tullia didn’t expect to find orcs. She had never seen a young orc or for that matter an orc that had not been maimed and admittedly she was surprised to find an attraction. Despite her divided heritage all she was ever taught of Orcs were lectures on their squandered potential and the evils of the Empire.

Tullia was a part of an emerging generation of orclings, born of both Orc and Halfling blood. Most of the orcs in her village had been in some way handicapped in the first or second hospitality war and dismissed from military service as their empire deemed them broken and unworthy to carry a weapon. Many of them had chosen to mutilate themselves out of disgust for the slaughter and carnage wrought of Orum’s Well fifty years ago. The newly wounded and repentant Orcs were welcomed in Halfling lands and nature eventually took course. It is said that the Emperor still tortures the Field Marshal that allowed what the Empire has privately deemed a mass desertion.

Tullia found a convenient tree to perch in as she spied on the four orcs she found below. Three of them were male and one female. They did not wear the Imperial red of legionaries, but favored more natural colors and stalked like rangers or scouts. They were very clearly using the available cover provided by a small copse of trees along Noman’s Creek which bordered the Famine King’s Hills.

An undead sheepdog infested with scarab beetles judging by the undulating skin, was capering about with its half rotted tongue wagging out of its undead sneer across the water. The orcs, one of whom Tullia found very attractive (despite herself) were very intent on the log and a small crossing.

The sight would be comical if not for a rush of realization that startled Tullia enough that she let out a raucous hoot before she could stop herself. The dog was a distraction! One of the startled rangers turned toward her bow drawn and ready to loose in reflex when he was swiftly and violently tackled by what appeared to be an elven child.

Tulla fluttered down to the ground as she rapidly changed into her natural form. Orclings were nearly as short as their halfling parents but had some of the sheer physical power of their orc parents. The effect was somewhat like the barrel build of a dwarf but with undersized orcish tusks and foot tufts like a halfling. Somehow on Tullia the package was very feminine despite her well formed muscles. She wore a simple tunic with a darkwood studded cuirass and she carried an iron wood sickle and an ironwood gladius both of which were decorated with painted flowers. She also had a darkwood spear across her back, and while she was indeed small she wielded weapons sized for orcs without difficulty making them appear somewhat oversized in her hands.

Trillia screamed, “watch your flank” before utilizing a splinter bolt spell stored in a magic ring to waylay the vampire spawn. The orcs would not have been told the story of the angry elven noblewoman who led her people into theses cursed lands and through circumstance became a master vampire. The running water was supposed to keep them all trapped. The vampire bride of the Famine King and her minions were no trifle to face in combat.

The rangers, to their credit, reacted appropriately. With their comrade cleared of the vampire spawn they rapidly loosed several arrows into the creature which felled it. Unfortunately a dozen spawn cleared the brush and started circling the small group.

These were Imperial orcs, enemies to her homeland, but they were up against vampires which Tullia somehow found more offensive. The orcs repositioned themselves in a loose compass like position to ensure they could not be flanked as a group. Tullia was aware of legion training regarding transitioning weapons and was not concerned the archers would be vulnerable to melee.

The spawn moved as fast as grass lions, and the twisted look of hatred in their faces marred what would have been otherwise attractive elven features. Hate was personified in elvish form, and it stalked the orcs perimeter like a predator looking for the weak link in a chain. They surged forward moving in unison, charging forward in a crisscrossing pattern to confuse ranged fire. Tullia was ready.

The grasses suddenly and rapidly grew and grasped down everything within forty feet of Tullia. The vampires were agile and avoided the grasping plants at first, but in their hate fueled determination to move forward the plants eventually won out in anchoring them down. In this case the spell was a trap and hatred was the bait.

The spawn had every advantage in melee. They had sharp claws and teeth, deadly speed, impossible strength and in this case the numbers. Anchored to the ground and vulnerable to wood and without ranged weapons on hand they were easy targets for the trained archers. Tullia followed up with a rolling ball of fire to finish the beasts.

With the elven spawn dead an awkward moment of silence hung between Tullia and the orc rangers. Rather than allow things to become an even more awkward parley Tullia simply blew the cute ranger a kiss before changing back to owl form and flying off. Let him report that back to his commander!

Tullia heard the rangers sound their trouble horn from a bit of a distance. She figured the orcs gave her a head start and for some reason that made her feel a little more elated. She did not hear the soldier’s screams a few moments later as a second party of vampires arrived and tore into them, then tossed their bloodless bodies over the banks to be reanimated. Nor did she hear the chopping sound of axes felling the trees which would be tossed into the creek waters to create a damming effect.

Tullia did however encounter a grass spider the size of a dog, jumping impossibly high over a mass of zombies.

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