With the tablets safely secured I am now able to focus on my training. As usual, my master is right. Focus on the basics and the rest will follow. I worked on some basic foot drills and realized what I was missing in my defense.
I visited Elion at the House of the Ravenqueen and found him working on the statues that cover the walls of the church. He expressed his frustration in how slowly things were progressing. I was able to point out this task is supposed to take a long time. It is an opportunity to engage in an activity pleasing to the Raven Queen while freeing his mind to contemplate the mysteries of the universe. My offer of help was as much to aid in the restoration of the church as it was to aid Elion in his meditations.
We were honored for our efforts in both the harvest and the Bullywugs. I am not accustomed to such attention, and I do not care for it.
While in the River Rat Inn we heard tales about Elion’s younger years. Apparently he was part of an adventuring group that was wiped out by Gnolls. This coupled with the attacks by Gnolls on the farms to the north has influenced our decision to hunt the Gnolls. We will head out to Voltoor’s family farm in the morning.
We were greeted by Mr. And Mrs. Suldash and treated to a wonderful meal and some background on Voltoor’s family. It seems that Voltoor is very uncomfortable talking about his family, perhaps in time he will open up.
We decided to travel to one of Voltoor’s nearby neighbors and see if they too had been recently harassed by the Gnolls. As it turns out the area appears to be at the high point of the cycle; as Gnolls are nomadic they will plague an area for a while and then move on, only to return some five to seven years later. This farm has in fact been victimized several times. The Gnolls appear to be interested in taking tools although they recently took the bodies of the farmer’s parents, digging up their corpses from the family grave. The farmer also reports hearing the Gnolls lurking just outside his front door, but as of yet they have not made an attempt on their lives.
Namib sheds some light of the behavior of the Gnolls suggesting that they are taking bodies to use in some sort of foul ritual to Yenogough, their demonic god. Unfortunately Gnolls are very violent, it seems to be a core belief for them, so it will not be long before they start killing to get the bodies they need.
We take our leave and head to the other neighbouring farmer to see if they are having similar problems. As we arrive my worst fears are confirmed. Th farmer and his family are under attack! As my companions rush to the aid of the farmer, his wife, and his son, I head into the burning field to locate one of the daughters trapped there. She is calling out for help and it does not take me long to locate her. Tragically, she is dead, and the voice I heard was actually a Gnoll who was mimicking her voice in order to lure me into a trap.
I quickly buried my spear into its leg and followed up with a kick to the throat. The Raven Queen’s Shroud turned my mild attack into something quite significant. The Gnoll, however, was hardy and did not appear to be phased. Its attack, while powerful, was not particulary effective and I managed to avoid it. Unfortunately I sidestepped directly into the attack of another Gnoll who had managed to move and flank me while in the cover of the thick smoke. His sword caught me right in the ribs and I nearly staggered from the force of the blow. Sensing I was outmatched I exploded into action hitting both Gnolls with my most devastating attack before calling on the Raven Queen to transport me beside my original foe, out of the direct path of the second. From this vantage I stepped back and then dug deep into my reserves to finish off the foul beast in front of me. Now bleeding from several deep wounds that would have killed at least two lessor creatures, the Gnoll howled with rage, but did not fall.
Rather than engage me directly in melée, both of the creatures sent foul magics my way, further empowered by their demonic heritage. The first blast left me near to unconsciousness and second put me out of the fight. Worse yet, the effects lingered, threatening to take my life if I did not receive any aid.
Once again it was Voltoor who saved my life. Despite our philosophical differences, he time and again comes to my aid with those special poltices of his. This time, however, he did so at some significant risk for when I awoke it was only to find him lying on the ground bleeding badly. Putting to good use the skills the Elion had taught me only a few days before, I managed to tend to enough of his wounds to get him back into the fight.
I shook off the last of the effects of the powerful magic the Gnolls had used on me and prepared myself to engage the Gnolls again. The Gnoll I had been focusing on was gone, but the other one, the one who had surprised me was within my reach. I quickly covered the distance between us and lunged out, my spear finding its mark. Too late I realized this Gnoll was no closer to defeat than I had last left him. He smiled at me and promised horrible pain; he delivered on his promise. My vision dimmed as the now-familiar darkness decended upon me; the last thing I remember was the ground rushing up towards me…
My companions managed to finish what I could not. We then set to the business of what to do with the farmers. We agreed that they would be safest in Fallcrest and that we would pay their way at the Inn until they could safely return to their homes. We also agreed that we must rescue the little Flynn girl from the Gnolls. There was some heated discussion as to the timing of these events. I believed it was necessary to escort the three families back to Fallcrest as they would be easy prey for the Gnolls on their own. My companions felt that the families had some safety in numbers and that the little girl was far more vulnerable; thus requiring their immediate aid. We compromised and I escourted the families while my companions started tracking the Gnolls.
Once the families were safe I turned around and started running, desperate to catch up to my companions. Fro three days I ran, pushing myself beyond all limits. In hindsight I would likely have been better off taking more rests but something drove me forward. I did eventually find my companions at the Zigguart for the Gnoll summit. Overcome with exhaustion and the enormity of the situation I collapsed, and fell face-first into the comfortable embrace of the dirt.
I was awoken to a Gnoll claiming to be Ripfang, the acquaintance Namib had spoken of. He did little to answer my questions and instead painted a red fist on my shoulder and ordered me to follow him. I was led to my group where I had only enough time to participate in the planning of our fight before we were led to the arena itself. We found ourselves facing an equal number of large, angry Gnolls led by the largest Gnoll I have ever laid eyes on. With such a small arena Petronella and I took a protective position at the front with our ranged companions behind us.
I was eager to prove myself in this fight. I need to know if I am up to the task before us and my companions need to know I am not a burden. Thus I hold nothing back when I engage my foes. I managed to hit all five Gnolls in front of me and one of the soldiers twice, just for good measure. What followed was a brutal engagement which brought more than one of my companions close to death. We prevailed, and I managed to keep both my feet and my head, renewing my faith that I am indeed up to what lies before us.
With Ripfang’s victory and dominion over the Gnolls secured, he informs us that we will be rewarded with five slaves, and an additional week before he leads his horde against Fallcrest. It seems we have escaped personal disaster only to live to see the destruction of our home.
Ripfang has convince himself that he is some sort of White Ruin reincarnation, yet he feels he will prevail where his legend failed. Iremind him that history has a way of repeating itself, and should the time come and we are face with violence, I will do my best to play my part in his “play”.