Content of the article: "Fiendwolves (Steelshod 436)"
I don’t post these daily anymore, so just in case you’re a newcomer and you’ve never seen a Steelshod post before… click here to start at the beginning
This is the latest chapter out of several hundred, and I don’t think it will make much sense without context. This isn’t an episodic story so much as one long narrative.
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy yourself, and I’ll see you back here in good time. If not, no big deal. But I think if you start here you’re going to be very, very lost.
Table of Contents – includes earlier installments, maps, character sheets, our discord server, and other documents.
First | Previous
Note for Binge-Readers: This is generally live-updated to reflect the current state of the game! Hopefully if you’re binging you can keep better track of who’s going where, because you just recently read about them going there.
The One Forest
They knew it was a trap.
Steelshod went to this meeting fully expecting to be ambushed.
If anything, they were pleasantly surprised that they were able to actually meet with Partholon and Dolan, and with the rest of the Collar of Thorns.
They have gained some valuable information here, and maybe even made some contact with potential allies among the Collar.
But in the end, their expectation was right.
Partholon has sprung his trap, using some mixture of Druidic magic and a Word of Power to cause a dense wall of brambles to spring up around them, trapping them within the central grove.
They are trapped with twenty veteran warriors of the Collar of Thorns, and now all twenty of those men have begun to change
Their flesh rips and splits, blood-soaked furry limbs emerging from their human guise.
When the transformation is complete, standing amidst the ragged strips of flesh and splashes of blood are twenty wolfmen, very much like Afric
They have elongated muzzles full of sharp teeth, long arms ending in clawed hands, digitigrade legs, and they are covered in fur
Their clothes, like their flesh, has fallen away in shreds. Notably, however, there is one thing still adorning their bodies
The thorny vines wrapped around their limbs have not fallen away, if anything they look to be embedded even deeper into their bodies
The vines also remain oversized after Partholon’s chant, and they are bristling with long, sharp thorns.
Partholon called these creatures the Mac Tíre Ocracha, which is my attempt at Gaelic for “Hungry Wolves” or something to that effect.
But the notes Bayard gave me has them labeled as “fiendwolves”—we used that term at the table and I’ll use it here, as well.
So there are twenty Fiendwolves rapidly shifting into their monstrous form, ready to descend upon Steelshod in a flurry of tooth and claw.
The transformation is not instantaneous, however.
The moment Partholon stepped into the shadowed tree trunk and the fiendwolves began shifting, Steelshod snapped into action.
Broadly speaking, there are three groups of Steelshod at play here.
First, the are the ones that are basically noncombatants
Cyril has actually already taken a valuable action, triggering Seize the Initiative to force a reroll and resulting in Steelshod winning initiative at the outset of this fight. Because this resulted in them winning initiative, everyone gets a small bonus during the first round of battle.
His job is mostly done, but since he’s in actual personal danger here, he goes ahead and draws his sword. He also draws a vial of poison from his belt and douses the blade in a thick dark oil.
He has no intention of putting himself out there, but he wants to be ready if he comes under attack.
James’ right arm is tightly bandaged and bound in its sling, rendering him unable to effectively wield his longsword. He draws his steel dagger and holds it up, ready to defend himself if one of the creatures reaches him.
He has nothing else to do, really, so he just stands ready.
Tiny is conscious, but only barely. He was badly battered by his fight with Dolan and is in no shape to fight.
Lioness is pretty beat up as well, so she readies her axe and stands in front of Tiny, ready to protect him if they are attacked.
The final noncombatant is Borthul. He ducks down behind the table and draws his tome out of his bag. He flips to a page and begins reading out a spell in an ancient tongue.
He’s doing something
(Sleep? That’s what the players assume, since that appears to be most of his combat magic repertoire)
But what spell this is exactly is unclear for now.
The middle group are the archers, not quite willing to rush the enemy outright, but they immediately take shots with their bows on the transforming warriors.
Felix puts an arrow in one of them, catching the transforming wolf in the collarbone. The creature snarls, but does not go down.
Levin hops up onto the long table to get a better vantage, and he takes a couple shots at the transforming foes. He doesn’t drop them, but he does manage to land an arrow deep into one of their haunches.
Evan Lafferty, like Felix, just stands up and takes a single carefully aimed shot.
He connects, damaging another fiendwolf.
Prudence takes aim with her crossbow and looses a bolt laced with alchemical poison. It embeds itself in her target, causing a wound that bleeds copiously.
This little mini volley was certainly not pleasant for their foes, but at the same time… there are twenty of the fiendwolves.
When you discount the members of Steelshod standing back as effective noncombatants there are basically just nine members of Steelshod truly fighting this battle.
A bunch of arrows chipping down the enemy is certainly valuable, but… knowing how hard Afric hit James, this is honestly a worrisome start to the engagement.
But then we get to the most aggressive members.
Zelde engages in a bit of metagame strategizing here, popping her Sheparding ability—this is the one that lets her designate some allies, and attack anyone that attacks those allies. She can move a single time during the enemy turn to facilitate these attacks, as well.
She designates a mix of the noncombatants and combatants: James, Borthul, Cyril, and Snorri.
This last one so that if nobody breaks through and attacks the defenseless ones, she can instead charge to Snorri’s side and help him against what will no doubt be multiple foes.
Shepherding is a reactive ability, though—she activates it, picks her allies, and then gets to jump in if the enemy takes actions to trigger it.
In the mean time, she can also take her own action on her turn. She activates another ability, Giant Swing, to charge the nearest crowd of fiendwolves.
Giant Swing is Zelde’s most comical ability by far. She charges in, picks up one of the fiendwolves in the middle of its transformation, and begins swinging him in an arc
She is pierced by several of the long thorns, but she doesn’t let that stop her. She swings him wide, smashing him into four more enemies and bowling them all over before finally letting go and sending the one she picked up sailing through the air.
This was brutally effective, in particular because she is able to twist one of Partholon’s core buffing abilities against him.
The Thorny collars these creatures wear are magically sharp, and they inflict a small amount of automatic damage upon anyone striking them in melee—as well as enhancing the melee damage that the fiendwolves themselves inflict.
In this case, while Zelde takes this damage—and that hurts, she takes it five times in total.
I rule that the fiendwolf she’s swinging takes the damage as well… and the fiendwolves she’s hitting with him also take it once each.
It’s a pretty fantastic moment… it turns out that Partholon’s Collar of Thorns makes someone into an ideal weapon for Zelde to swing.
When she lets the fiendwolf go, he hits the ground with a crunch.
The half-finished transformation seems to revert, leaving a twisted motionless human form crumpled in the dirt.
Zelde has killed this one outright, and both injured and staggered four more foes.
Quite the showing.
And she’s not the only member of Steelshod that rushes headfirst into battle.
Bear leads a charge of his own, closing with several fiendwolves and laying into them with his huge axe.
Snorri is ostensibly assigned to protect Borthul
But he decides that the best way to defend the old wizard is to charge the enemy and kill as many of them as he can.
He charges alongside Bear (which is nice, because Bear’s one “leadership” ability is the buff he gives when allies charge alongside him)
Bear lays into several of the fiendwolves, hacking bloody gashes across several of their hides. Against one of them in particular, he delivers a lucky blow to the head (a critical hit) that decapitates the fiendwolve entirely.
But even as he drops that one, one of the others lunges into him, rending him with its claws and supernatural strength.
Snorri picks just one target, and he brings his huge, steel-hafted staff mace in a brutal, crushing blow.
He reduces a fiendwolf’s head to a mushy pulp, and the creature crumples to the ground.
The last charging Steelshod member is technically an archer, but I put her in this group for what should be obvious reasons.
Cara leaps onto the table and runs across it in the opposite direction from Levin.
She rushes towards Zelde’s side, sprinting across the table and leaping off to land near her friend.
As she runs and jumps she is also shooting arrows into the fiendwolves Zelde knocked down around her.
One of them, in the middle of thrashing its way back to its feet, goes still when she hits it.
There’s one more member of Steelshod I haven’t mentioned yet.
In theory, Gulbryn could have been grouped with the archers… but he does not ready his bow.
He could be grouped with the charging warriors… but he does not ready his spear.
Instead, he stands tall, stares down the transforming beasts, and he howls
It may be worth reminding, here, that Gulbryn was one of the members of Steelshod that joined Aleksandr’s expedition to the Thaumati Gate
Moreover, he was one of those that went through the Gate.
Gulbryn’s tier after those experiences was called Looked Beyond the Gate, and its main ability is that his Howls can cause fear even in tiered enemies and monsters, rather than the normal ulfskennar howl that can only scare animals and lesser men.
On top of this, his most recent tier is called Wolf Whistle, and it grants him greatly enhanced control over wild wolves when communicating with them via his Howl.
This was picked up because they had a vague idea of Partholon sending forest creatures against them.
But it suddenly occurs to me, looking at these two abilities together, that Gulbryn actually might be able to mesh them together in an unexpected way.
So he howls.
His howl reverberates eerily through the grove, and the Collar that have already transformed recoil or whine in discomfort at the sound
Gulbryn seems to pick out one of the fiendwolves, and he approaches this one, still howling and keening, locking eyes with his target.
This one in particular cowers, unable to look away from Gulbryn but clearly uncomfortable doing so.
The wolves finish their transformations, and they begin striking back at Steelshod
Those that have fallen remain unmoving on the ground, obviously dead or unconscious. But for all of those that still stand, their wounds begin to visibly heal
Wide gashes start to knit closed with rapid speed
And the fiendwolves strike with similarly unnatural speed.
For the moment, the fiendwolves’ attacks are not as ferocious as they could be… some of them are still completing their transformations, and many of them are hesitant because of Gulbryn’s unsettling howls.
But even so these creatures hit really fucking hard, as we saw when Afric took James out so quickly.
Bear, surprisingly, keeps his enemies at bay with his huge axe.
But Snorri takes a beating from several of the fiendwolves rending him with their claws… of course, Snorri has a lot of meat to beat.
(Okay, that maybe didn’t come out right)
Because Snorri has taken hits, Zelde’s Sheparding is triggered, and she decides to use her movement to charge to his defense
This involves shoving her way past the fiendwolves all around her that have just barely regained their footing, and several of them claw her as she rushes past them
Zelde is nothing if not reckless, however, and she shrugs off the hits and charges to Snorri’s aid.
She crashes into one of the wolves, and cleaves him from stem to stern with her axe.
He drops, shifting back to human form as he dies.
The fight continues, and takes a further turn for the worse as the fiendwolves seize the initiative
Their transformations are completed now. Many of them are still unsettled by Gulbryn’s howling, which gives Steelshod a substantial help here by making many of the enemies roll their attacks with disadvantage.
Furthermore, the fiendwolf that Gulbryn locked eyes with suddenly whimpers, turns, and throws itself at one of its allies
This unexpected betrayal catches the wolf by surprise, and the two of them go down in a flurry of blood and fur and claw
Even with Gulbryn unnerving them so much, the rest of the fiendwolves still surge towards Steelshod’s fighters in small packs.
Snorri, Bear, and Zelde begin getting mobbed by several of the monsters, but they stand fast.
Though battered and bloodied they’re not out of the fight yet… and their size and ferocity has drawn a lot of attention.
Between the three of them they have soaked up well over a hundred points of damage, but they keep fighting.
Snorri in particular takes a huge beating, but he stays up in the single digits. He knocks one of them down with a classic Bersark reactive body slam.
And since Zelde has Snorri as one of her Sheparding targets, she goes absolutely apeshit on the fiendwolves mobbing him.
She hacks into several of them, dropping one of them entirely.
She’s also getting huge returns on Schadenfreude this fight—whenever she drops an enemy she heals 1 point, or 1d4 if they had tiers. It can’t heal her above half HP, but she’s nowhere near half HP.
She’s teetering just above zero, and the extra d4s she’s gotten from taking out several fiendwolves has kept her on her feet.
Several more of them surge towards the archers
One of them tackles Cara scant seconds after she landed near Zelde (or, where Zelde was, since she’s already bolted off to help Snorri and Bear)
He rakes deep gouges across her with his claws, leaving a bleeding wound in one of her legs.
Another one surges towards Evan, but he just barely manages to dodge out of its reach
One of the creatures leaps at Levin, but he coolly sidesteps the fiendwolf entirely
Unfortunately, a second one was also going for him, and it suddenly crashes into him from the side.
It swipes its claws across Levin’s upper body, dropping him with a single brutal blow that shreds his face to ribbons.
Levin collapses without a sound, and the fiendwolf drops down, preparing to start eating him immediately.
He narrowly avoided a “mortal” injury here, but he’s in the negatives, critically injured, and likely to be killed momentarily since there are two fiendwolves around him itching for a tasty meal.
And even if he survives this, his face is never going to be the same.
The fiendwolf that Prudence poisoned earlier bounds across the field, going straight for Cyril and the other noncombatants.
But Zelde triggers another reactive ability, Fools Rush In, to take another charge during the enemy turn.
(I have to say, Zelde isn’t nearly as versatile as Yorrin overall, but she does have a similarly high number of reactive abilities and ways to interrupt the enemy turn)
When Zelde reaches it, it was in the middle of leaping over the table towards Cyril, and she bats it out of midair and sends it sprawling back onto the ground on the far side of the table.
Two more of them go for Felix.
Prudence slips over to intervene, interrupting one of them by tripping it up mid-attack
But the other one scrabbles forward on all fours and slams into Felix low and fast, its claws shredding one of his boots and gouging deep into his foot.
He stumbles back, not out of the fight, but in a lot of pain and about to be pounced.
Another one goes for Lioness and Tiny. Lioness stands her ground against it, keeping it off her friend.
All in all, things are looking not so great.
This is a classic case of the double-turn in our initiative system, where Steelshod won the first round but lost the second, leading to the fiendwolves effectively going twice in a row.
Their first turn had low momentum because they take time to transform, but even so as we circle around to Steelshod’s turn things are pretty rough.
But now is their chance to turn the tide.
First to resolve is Borthul.
He has been chanting out some strange spell from his book, and he suddenly stands up from where he was hunched down by the table
His voice rises in volume, the tones taking on an eerie timbre
His eyes darken. His shadow grows unnaturally long, and dances along the ground as if by unseen lights.
The grass around him begins to darken as well. First turning brown, then black, in an increasing circle around his feet.
The grass around him for a good ten feet in all directions is withered black. Dead.
And the collars of thorns worn by the fiendwolves begin to darken as well.
They wither and turn brown. They tighten as their moisture is sucked away, digging into the fiendwolves’ flesh, and then the brambles flake and slough away as the vines all die in unison.
The wall of living vines around the grove begins to twist and writhe as well, as they, too, begin to wither
Though they don’t fall away as fully or as immediately as the Collars of Thorns.
Borthul rolled his spell against Partholon’s druidic thaumaturgy, and luck was with the decrepit old man.
As if signaling the turn of the tide, as the withering spell is completed Steelshod snaps into action.
Gulbryn’s keening has continued, though at this point the sounds he makes are completely inaudible to normal human ears.
He rolls another Howl and blasts through the fiendwolves’ Will save.
He stands, mouth wide open, exhaling in a silent howl, and the fiendwolves continue to shy away from him.
Gulbryn sets his sights on one in particular: the wolf Zelde batted out of the air. The ulfsekannar moves to loom over his target, and directs the full fury of his howl upon him
Cyril initiates the Strategic maneuver of Onslaught, calling out an order to the team to press the attack.
Granting everyone an extra attack this round at a penalty to hit.
And attack they do.
Zelde rushes out again, charging to Levin’s aid.
She brings her axe down on the one that is in the midst of biting off a chunk of Levin, cleaving it nearly in two.
Then she turns to the other one that was patiently waiting for its turn to munch down on Levin, and hacks into it as well. This one survives the blow, but it is staggered by Zelde’s rampage.
For the moment, Levin survives.
Cara heard Felix’s cry of pain, and her Mother Bear instincts kick in. A member of her family is in danger.
She’s got an enemy on top of her, but its nerves are shot by Gulryn, so that doesn’t stop her. She scrambles away from it, still lying flat on her back.
She scoots backwards with her feet, kicking away from it, and shoots between her legs at the wolf. She catches it in the face with two arrows, and it stops pursuing.
Then she stumbles to her feet, trying to spot Felix in the melee.
She sees him—foot pinned by a fiendwolf’s claw, with another one nearby.
But the fiendwolves ferocity has waned from Gulbryn’s howl, and they have grown hesitant.
James rushes to Felix’s side, stabbing at one of the beasts with his dagger. Prudence shoots the other, but doesn’t drop it.
So Felix shoots both of the nearest fiendwolves at point blank range, eschewing some of his normal slow precision for speed.
One of them he hits in a ridiculously gruesome fashion, the arrow entering its outstretched claw at the palm and embedding the entire length of the shaft down the fiendwolf’s forearm, the tip just barely emerging from his elbow. It completely obliterates the arm’s function, and the wolf drops screaming to the ground.
He shoots the other in the leg, injuring it in much less dramatic fashion.
Lioness cuts down her fiendwolf with a couple of powerful blows—the extra oomph from Cyril’s maneuver is the edge she needed to finish him off.
Evan struggles against his wolf, switching to his blade and trying to bring it down, to little success. Still, he’s uninjured, so he can probably survive for a few more moments.
Snorri and Bear go back-to-back against a crowd of fiendwolves. Each man is a warrior with the spirit of a bear, in his own way.
Their enemies no doubt assumed that by surrounding them, they would make for easy prey
They failed to realize that by surrounding them they really just enabled the two men to attack in every direction.
They sweep their huge weapons in wide, vicious arcs.
Several of the fiendwolves drop, reverting to human corpses.
Around this point, we have to roll initiative again
And once again we end up with a shift in momentum, as Steelshod wins this time and gets a double-turn of their own.
And that’s really all they needed. Nail in the coffin.
The most intact fiendwolves are the ones Gulbryn is dominating.
Steelshod has the rest of them on the backfoot quite badly, dishing out way more damage than they can regenerate.
So it’s basically just mop up at this point.
James and Prudence finish off the leg-shot fiendwolf trying to take out Felix. Zelde finishes off the staggered fiendwolf that wanted a bite of shredded Levin. Snorri and Bear finish off their crowd. Cara goes to Evan’s aid, since Felix is okay.
Cara and Prudence (and Levin, though he is a bit busy being horrifically injured right now) have basic medical skills from Agrippa’s Study Your Agrippa tier, and they move to the most injured people to try to stabilize them. Particularly Levin.
James and Lioness move to Gulbryn’s side, where he has the two dominated fiendwolves locked down.
He is still howling silently at them to keep them in line.
Lioness decapitates one of them, and James slits the other’s throat.
The moment they fall, Gulbryn immediately drops to his knees, gasping for breath and clearly badly drained by what he has just done.
As soon as the fight seemed to end, Cyril scurried across the battlefield
He climbs up the narrow ladder that leads to the platform on the blackened tree, where Partholon was standing before
He goes out to stand on the platform in much the same place Partholon stood before.
Borthul’s finished his spell, and he slams his book shut with an unnaturally loud thud.
The grass throughout much of the grove is dead. Many of the trees look desiccated and unhealthy.
And the wall of brambles and vines falls away entirely.
Some of the Collar of Thorns seem to have left, but most of them have remained in the surrounding groves.
They are all staring into the central grove with shocked looks on their faces.
Zelde looks around at the twenty dead fiendwolves and loudly declares “Now zey are going to need more ant money!”
(A line which absolutely slays me, as I imagine that Zelde sincerely assumes Partholon is paying ants to create fiendwolves for him)
For a long moment, nobody but Zelde says a word.
“My friends of the Collar!” Cyril finally calls out from the platform.
He tells them that they can see the evidence of the treachery their druid has engaged in, sending forth his monsters to attack visitors that came under the protection of guest right.
“It was not treachery,” Partholon says quietly.
He’s standing directly behind Cyril, having stepped out of the shadowed hollow of the tree.
A shadowy hollow that Cyril just climbed through to get out onto the platform, so he knows Partholon was not there a moment ago.
Nevertheless, Cyril takes this in stride. He turns to give the Druid an Fáinne a contemptuous look.
On the contrary, Cyril says. Partholon has violated hospitality indeed. He points to Osion.
“That fellow there, speaking for you, swore that no harm would come to any member of Steelshod—at this party, in the forest, or back at our camp—until we returned to our camp.
“There was no mention of the harm coming specifically at the hands of the Collar. Only mention of harm visited upon us,” Cyril says.
He’s really getting warmed up now, and his voice raises in volume as he declares his next words.
“This word has been broken! Your druid is a liar, a cheat, and has every intention of sending you all to your deaths against a very competent foe. As you can see before you.”
Cyril gestures to the twenty dead.
James is just finishing up slitting the throat of the last fiendwolf. He raises his bloody dagger high, letting the firelight gleam off the blade. He looks at Partholon.
“Looks like we’re both oathbreakers now, Partholon,” he calls out.
Cyril says he does not know what consequences are normal within the Collar of Thorns for such treachery, but he will leave that for them to decide.
But he expects that they will at least honor the agreement for the remainder of the night, and allow them to return home.
Cyril used Razor Tongue here, that lets him get double advantage on a social check (roll thrice, take the best), but in exchange the person he is using this against can be assumed to hate him going forward, and gets to roll anything with advantage against Cyril at any point of their choosing in the future.
For now, though, Cyril’s best of three rolls is a natural 20, and his rant has had its desired impact.
Partholon just gives him an acid look and quietly says “Get off my tree.”
“With pleasure!” Cyril says. He picks up the fine bottle of wine that he brought for Dolan when they first arrived as he leaves.
On the way out he notes Dolan glaring at him, unmoved by the speech.
Though when they get closer to Osion, he at least has the decency to look uncomfortable. He gives Partholon a look of some mixture of embarrassment and awkwardness.
At this point, Cara and Prudence have done the best they can. Cara’s leg and Felix’s foot are bandaged, as is Levin’s face.
Cara gives Osion a glare and tells him to fetch Steelshod’s horses.
She then snaps orders at several other Collar warriors, telling them to hop to it getting the horses and helping Steelshod with their wounded.
Her tone is so commanding, and the mood is so deflated, that the Collars actually hurry to comply with her orders almost without even thinking about it.
Nobody tries to stop them.
Osion’s men gather their horses quickly.
As they do, Osion leans over to Cara, apologizing. He says that Partholon told him to give assurances that the Collar would not attack Steelshod—if he misspoke, or misrepresented the Druid’s words, he’s genuinely sorry.
Cara just gives him a withering look.
She asks if she looks like she gives two shits about a technicality
“Those wolves tried to eat my men,” she snarls.
Osion just looks further embarrassed. Cara tells him he must know this is not going to go well for the Collar.
Osion stands a bit straighter, says he doesn’t know any such thing.
“Going to war with Victoria is stupid enough—they outnumber you hundreds to one,” she says.
“Their fighters are—”
“I’m not talking about their fighters, you fuckin’ idiot,” Cara snaps.
“ The more you push ‘em, the more you slaughter their people, burn their farms, turn their people into trees, it won’t matter how many fighters they have.
“Sooner or later, if you really want to take out Victoria, you’ll be facing the whole city, fool. Close to a hundred thousand people in battle.
“It won’t matter if most of them don’t know more’n which end of the spear to stick you with. You can’t face that many people. It’s not possible.
“Not unless you’ve got damn better magic than Partholon’s shown so far. Wolves aren’t gonna cut it. Branches an’ thorns aren’t gonna cut it. You’ll need more than that.”
Cara frowns. “You’ll need a weapon much worse than any of that. Somethin’ like we used at Lemoncross, maybe.”
Cyril leans over to verify Cara’s claim. He says he was on the other side of that, and saw the weapon himself.
Saw that when Steelshod gets really angry they can deploy a weapon that melts the flesh of men off their bones and into a puddle on the ground.
No exaggeration. Ten thousand soldiers slain at Lemoncoss, and many thousands more grievously crippled for life.
Cara nods soberly. “Unless you’ve got a weapon like that,” she says. “You’ll never take Victoria.
“And if you do have a weapon like that…” she adds. “We’ll come for you.”
“Not this group,” she clarifies. “Not a little force of diplomats and scouts, tryin’ to settle things.”
Cara’s voice is low, but it carries past Osion’s ears as she speaks.
“Steelshod proper will come for you,” she says.
“Our commander… the man made of steel, that cannot be killed, will come for you. His right hand, made of fire and smoke, that cannot be stopped, will fucking come for you. Along with fifty thousand trained soldiers from a dozen different kingdoms.”
Osion looks pale, but he frowns stubbornly. “Why aren’t they here now, then?” he asks.
“Because they don’t give a shit about you, Osion,” she snarls. “You haven’t earned their notice. You’ve got Victoria’s notice, so they dispatched us. A small group, to solve this problem—you—so that Victoria gets on board with their plan.”
“Because Victoria’s hundred thousand people, and ten thousand soldiers, make up a small—but important—part of what they’re workin’ on.”
Cara seems to be getting progressively more annoyed as she speaks.
“Why the fuck do you think we were seriously considering surrendering this whole affair in exchange for some information on our true enemy? Because he’s that much more important than you, Osion.”
She glances back towards Partholon. “And if your idiot druid knew how to negotiate, it might’ve worked. That information… well, we’d kill for it. No question. But we won’t sacrifice a hundred thousand people for it.”
She shakes her head at Osion. “Get your head our of your arse, man. And convince your people to do the same. Or none of this is gonna end well for any of you.”
With that, Cara storms over to her horse.
Osion and the other men in earshot look uncomfortable. Sobered.
But soon enough they are all mounted up and begin making their way out of the grove.
Osion and his men lead them through the dark forest in uncomfortable silence.
They’re a few horus out, maybe halfway to the edge of the forest, when Osion and his men suddenly go on alert, as if they heard something.
They fan out, looking through the dark forest.
And suddenly Osion and several of his closest men all sight and raise their hands up in a gesture of surrender.
Drengi and the rest of the ulfskennar emerge from the shadows behind them, spears pointed at Osion and his men.
He asks Steelshod if everything is okay.
Cyril grins, says that in some ways it went far better than he could have hoped.
Drengi asks if Gulbryn is alright… Gulbryn raises his hand to get Drengi’s attention, but his throat is too sore to speak.
“We heard a lot of howling,” Drengi says.
Felix says they’ll explain back at the Basin.
Drengi prods the captured Collars, and asks what Cara wants done with them. Did they betray the promise?
Osion gets indignant, says they’re not going to kill them in their own woods.
Drengi arches an eyebrow at this.
“We won’t what?” he says, incredulous. “We kill everybody in their own woods! Is best place to kill people!
“When they are home, comfortable. Lazy. When they ride too far apart and don’t watch close enough, and we ambush them. How stupid are you?”
“Fairly,” Cyril answers the question for Osion.
“How’d you get this far into our forest anyway?” Osion asks, annoyed.
Drengi grins. “Because you were all at party,” he says. “We scout these woods. We know them, now. They’re our woods now.”
Osion frowns. Drengi lifts his spear from where it was pressed close, and nods towards the darkness. “Go,” he says.
Osion and his laochra quickly ride away the moment the ulfskennar let them.
Once they’re out of the forest, Drengi quietly lets Steelshod know that his boasts to Osion were mostly bullshit.
They’ve scouted the North Forest pretty well, and they feel they have a rough lay of the land—they’re confident they can find their way through the forest now, at least
Find major landmarks, find those groves.
But these forests are huge
It would take months to learn all their secrets.
Still, it was satisfying to scare the shit out of Osion and his men.
That done, they continue riding back to the Basin.
They get back an hour or two before dawn, and hurriedly get Agrippa woken up to see to their wounds.
“Oh, so it was a trap then? What a surprise!” Agrippa declares sarcastically.
He begins seeing to the wounded, especially Levin.
In the end, Levin’s wounds are not mortal. But they are awful.
His face is shredded. His lips, nose, cheeks, and chin all torn through with huge slashes.
Talking is impossible during his recovery, and may be impaired long term.
… Couldn’t have happened to a better guy, honestly.
I give him the permanent injury of Shredded Face: disadvantage to positive social checks and advantage to negative social checks, because of his gruesome appearance.
And for now at least, he’s got a critical injury to heal as well. But the permanent aspect will remain regardless.
Agrippa does what he can to mitigate it and some of the other injuries scattered through the team
His ability to treat them is hampered by it having been so long since they were injured, but he rolls a natural 20 on his Miracle Worker check so I go ahead and let him downgrade a few injuries in their severity, including Levin.
Once again, I’m happy that I long ago decided Miracle Worker does not negate permanent injury consequences, it just accelerates recovery of the active injury.
So Levin’s shredded face is what it is.
They fill each other in on what’s happened.
Drengi is impressed with what Gulbryn managed to do, though he can’t ask about it yet, since Gulbryn’s throat is hoarse and badly worn out.
Prudence tells Cyril that she dumped a bunch of the poison he gave her into the drinks at Dolan’s table—unlikely to kill anyone at those doses, but it could lead to Dolan and his closest warriors feeling like hammered shit for the next few days.
When she hears about this, Cara hopes that perhaps some of them will think they are cursed for breaking hospitality.
Though she doubts anything will sway Dolan or Partholon.
If there’s one thing they’ve realized by now, it’s that there is absolutely no way this conflict ends until Partholon dies for good.
This was a ridiculously intense fight sequence. It’s been a long time since I bothered injecting so many mechanics into a fight scene, but so much of the flow of this fight was entirely dictated by those mechanics. Hopefully it was enjoyable.
And with that, we’re basically caught up again. Hopefully we will meet next weekend and another post can follow a bit after that.
I have gone ahead and uploaded two MVPs from this battle, by the way. I now present Gulbryn and Snorri! These two alone did a huge amount to turn the tide. They both ended up with injuries for their troubles, but nothing they can’t handle.
Also, I wanted to mention that the fiendwolves are not all exactly equal. Afric was a slightly higher tier version compared to the twenty they faced here. Not a lot better, but a little. There are like six different versions of them, each slightly more dangerous than the last.
As Steelshod fights them more, the fiendwolves strengths and weaknesses become more apparent. They generally lack protection, though they have a lot of hit points and they regenerate each round. They also hit insanely hard. They work good as skirmishers, getting in and then dipping out to heal up… so honestly Partholon hasn’t really deployed them in the most optimal way yet. Maybe he underestimated Steelshod. If so, I feel like he’s got to figure out pretty soon that this is a bad move.
Alright, that’ll do for now. Until next time, stay safe and healthy out there folks.
© Post "Fiendwolves (Steelshod 436)" for game Dungeons & Dragons Online.
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