Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Depths of Despair Part 5: Facing Fear

Fland watched as his death approached. Paralyzed with fear, there was no course of action that could save him from his inevitable and gruesome fate. He would have made any bargain, agreed to any devil's deal to be freed from his living nightmare.

As one of the bugbears prepared to deliver the deathblow, flames that bared his escape burst into the room. Materializing out of thin air, as though birthed from the sputtering flames stood a grim elf. Fland's attention was turned to the newcomer along with the goblinkin. With a sharp thrust of both hands, the elf sent the bugbears and their master flying back across the room.

Fland realized now that his fate would be doomed down another path. To many times now he had angered the elf mage. Elarr would not rescue him. Instead he would meet out a dire punishment to insure Fland's slow death. He closed his eyes as Elarr started a spell, preparing for his end...only to have his mind suddenly clear.

It took Fland's mind a moment to adjust. After a heartbeat his mind was able to put together what had happened, and what was now going to happen. As his senses refocused the first thing he noticed was Elarr's voice, “-thrice damned fool! Now do something useful. We have to get the hobgoblin away from that orb.”

Fland did not need any encouragement. The bugbears and their master were already back on their feet. One had both of its meaty hands wrapped around a primitive stone ax while the other held two crude swords. The one with the ax was the first to charge and Fland stepped forward to meet it. He ducked low so that the powerful swing. He came up and bashed both maces into the bugbear's side. On a human or elf he would have felt the satisfying crunch of shattered ribs. Instead, it was the sensation of a dull thud. This was not going to be a fun fight.

Evading a counter attack by the ax wielding bugbear, Fland found himself facing the second one wielding two swords. The blood on his face indicated that this was the bugbear that Fland had smashed in his surprise attack. As it lashed out with one sword it opened its maw to roar at him. The bugbear's lower mandible split down the middle, revealing a line of sharp teeth to tear meat off and pull it down fanged gullet. It was enough to chill Fland to his core and make him wounder if he had fallen back into some kind of nightmare realm.

Fland was throne into a rapid dance of dodging and deflecting attacks. The bugbears were raw power, but their swings were wild and unskilled. Any blow from that ax or a sword would have been his end. He preferred not to contemplate what his fate would be if either of the slavering, flesh rending mouths was able to bite down on him. His maces lacked power, but moved like lighting as they knocked attacks out of the way. He would riposte with a quick strike of his maces to bludgeon arms and legs. Multiple blows were adding up and he could tell that he was wearing down the bugbears' endurance.

Unfortunately, he was not battering down their defenses fast enough. They only needed one good shot to hack him to pieces. Time was not on his side. While they might not be geniuses, the bugbears knew to flank an outnumbered opponent. Fland was pinned in with only seconds to live. Did he want to let the ax cleave the back of his skull or take a sword through the gut?

Time was about to run out and the ax was closing in on his head while he smashed his maces into the other bugbear's abdomen. A bright blue light lanced across the room to strike the ax wielder and send him to the floor in a howl of pain. Fland was going to shout at Elarr to hurry up with the next blast only to watch as a ball of dark energy collided with his partner. Elarr screamed as he dropped to the floor as black energy coursed along his body.

Fland cursed himself for not paying more attention to the spellcaster. Glancing to where hobgoblin stood, Fland saw that the twisted creature had one hand on the dark orb while the other crackled with foul energy. A hand of energy that was now pointed at Fland.

A line of black energy cut the air where only a heartbeat before Fland had stood. The sword wielding bugbear did not seem to care that he had nearly been caught in the dark slash as well and pressed the attack. Fland stepped into the the bugbear's reach as the next line of energy shot towards them, using it as cover. Before blade or fang could close on him, the beam of energy burned into the bugbear's side. The bugbear staggered, giving Fland the opening he needed.


He rained blows down in rapid succession until he had cracked open the bugbear's skull and turned it into a bloody mess. Before the corpse could hit the floor, Fland was sprinting across the floor toward the black hobgoblin. He ducked under one slash of energy then leaped high over another. The tension that had been building deep inside of him since entering the cursed warren had reached its peak. He let out a cry of rage as he slammed his maces down at the spellcaster only to have them stopped by a barrier of black energy.

The fight was in close now. The short, but vicious creature snarled at him as it tried to cut him in half with the slashes of black energy. Fland dodged and whirled his maces to drum against the black barrier. He could not batter his way through the ward, but the hobgoblin could not gather enough energy for an effective attack. They were locked in a stalemate until one could figure out a way to attack the other.

Behind him, Fland heard a comotion. Throwing a quick glance over his shoulder, he saw that he was not the only one hard pressed. The ax wielding bugbear had regained his feet, and one of his fallen partner's swords and was trying to hack Elarr to pieces where he lay on the floor. A glowing circle of runs hovered in the air forming a shield for the prone elf. Fland knew the barrier would eventually collapsed and that maintaining it meant Elarr could not focus to make another attack.

Fland was tired, frustrated, and now desperate. He pounded on the barrier to keep the hobgoblin busy while he racked his brain for a plan. He looked down to the orb where the hobgoblin's hand rested on the orb. Did the barrier extend to the orb? Fland feigned to the left then sidestepped to the right. He raised up both maces then brought them down in a powerful arc towards the evil orb at the center of his troubles.

From across the room where he fought desperately for his life, Elarr saw what was about to happen. He managed to croke out a weak, “No,” but it was to late.