The 1st Month of the 2nd Year of the Kingdom of Arboria
I write this having momentarily stepped outside the ancient dwarven fortress for some fresh air. Years of combat experience prepares you for the stench of caves inhabited by barbaric halfwits, but that doesn't make it pleasant.
Let me explain. Following the unsuccessful scrying attempt a few days ago, Gelros decided to turn our attention to a more mundane matter: tracking down and eliminating a nuisance band of trolls that has recently been terrorizing the southern borders of the realm. He enlisted my aid in finding them, and with a little searching we tracked them to a stone tower in the far southwest of the land surrounding Arboria.
Despite being a ruin, the position was easily defensible. Nevertheless, after some discussion, the party decided upon a frontal daylight assault. Against a conventional military, this would have been a disaster. Trolls, on the other hand, are not that bright. The lookout had apparently fallen asleep, so, to my amazement, we succeeded in surprising the troll band at the entrance to the tower.
What followed was a long, protracted combat through the tower's lower rooms and the series of crudely dug caves behind them. We slaughtered perhaps fifteen trolls, if memory serves, and maybe a dozen dog-like beasts that shared a surprising number of qualities with their masters. ("Slaughter" really is the best word here, I think. The lady Shella was in some kind of battle trance, and at one chokepoint we piled the trolls five deep. Blood was everywhere. My new boots will never be the same.)
The Lords of Arboria have a chaotic but, somehow, nevertheless effective battle style. It follows no military doctrine that I am aware of. The… slayer, apparently they call him, Kris, his cat, and the lady Shella traded positions on the front lines for the most part. Oddly, Gelros himself and even Narzeth also led the charge at points. Neither wear significant armor. This therefore led to unnecessary and what looked like painful injuries. Despite his armor, Jaric was often catching up rather than standing at the front. This is most likely because his attention was occupied closing wounds that troll claws and teeth had opened in the other party members' flesh, which slowed him down. Meanwhile, I followed military discipline and kept up a sustained fire of arrows from the back ranks. No troll or hound came within 15' of me.
The wanton abandon with which Shella and, to a lesser extent, Kris throw themselves into battle is undoubtedly effective. When a massive, deranged, two-headed beast of a troll appeared, Shella and the others dropped it (on top of herself and Jaric, I might add) before I could loose a single arrow. Later, the party churned through an inner chamber where they slaughtered at least two larger and more powerful troll specimens. I had poor visibility, but I did see flashes of fire. It appears at least one of our opponents was either an alchemist or a trained spellcaster? Speaking of fire, it proved valuable: apparently burning the trolls defeats their unnatural ability to heal quickly. Narzeth and Raven both used fire spells, while Jaric and Shella employed flaming weapons.
Despite our ability to murder anything in our path, the poor battle tactics did ultimately take a toll: Gelros and Raven were hurt badly, while both Kris and his cat both nearly died (on separate occasions no less). I believe only I was unscathed.
One thing I did witness was a particularly disturbing display with the final troll hound. Shella did… something hideous to it and the hound began to spout, no, fountain blood everywhere. Shella then cupped the raining blood in her hands and forced it into the mouth of the unconscious Kris… who immediately sat up and regained some strength. I have never seen the like. In fact, I wish I could unsee it. Combat is one thing, but that type of sorcery sears the memory in a different way. Useful or not, it's repulsive.
I believe we were all somewhat shaken by the fight. It is now several minutes later; we are taking a brief rest to recover before conducting a thorough search. A cursory search has already uncovered a mysterious amulet, a hefty sack of gold and silver pieces, a necklace of shiny orange beads (Narzeth tells me they are enchanted and will explode into fireballs when thrown), and a storeroom filled with now blood-soaked supplies. We should have a more thorough accounting in an hour or two.
P.S. Gelros is a font of knowledge about seemingly everything. And apparently able to keep his wits and sense of humor in the heat of battle: when Shella called out "This troll is covered in rocks," Gelros immediately replied "That's because it's a rock troll!" …as if that explained everything.
- Explored hex (9,1) – forest hex
- Explored hex (9,0) – forest hex with ancient dwarf fortress, previously occupied by trolls
- Gelros recalls that there is a gnome who will pay $$ for knowledge of this fortress