From where I was finally able to see him we found that we were almost directly beneath a platform in a tree with some competent looking guards. Brought back memories of when we dealt with goblins in trees and rescued the girl. Seemed like a bit of cosmic symmetry. So we backed up as quietly as we could and made our camp a short distance from where Shojin was being held in some weeds and brush that were taller than me, not that that says much. Then we waited. At first light I’d scout the camp from above and from there we would make our rescue plans. Fayne and Z were going to take watches, and coupled with my babies that should have been sufficient for all of us to get a decent night’s rest.
And I think she came to me again in the night. I had a weird dream of darkness and caves but it’s all hazy and I don’t remember much, but when I awoke I knew just how to make use of the pile of stuff we’d picked up in the orc village. It also suddenly occurred to me that we never got anyone’s names from that awful place. I hoped that they were doing alright and had made it home.
Also, Z was back looking like she was brimming over with nothing but darkness. So back to normal I guess. Her hammer looked different but in the best most terrible ways. Now at some point in the night I’d taken her stuff out my pack and I guess I pee’d on her holy symbol. I couldn’t remember why so I didn’t say anything. Just welcomed her back and gave her these gauntlets we’d gotten. I couldn’t rightly say what they did, but I worked my way around the group and had a couple items for everyone. It was always the same. Hand over one or two or in Gnoman’s case three things with some quick instructions. I also took one of the scrolls and asked her what color she wanted the flames, she looked as confused by my asking as I did in the asking. She said what she liked, I used the magics in the scroll and the head of her wicked hammer, that I was a little afraid of took on a sickly glow as they flames, flames I knew didn’t actually burn anything, surround the head and the light played off the big red gemstone that now adorned its top. It almost looked wet, which was weird.
Gnoman was given a sword, a potion and a scroll, but to the best of my knowledge he couldn’t use scrolls. The only thing I could say to him was you’ll know when to use it. For the lute-like thing I gave to Ezrella the instruction was simply play it and it does stuff. I also gave her a pile of gems because I’d heard somewhere that holy types needed those for bringing folks back from the lady’s door.
We’d also found a pack of what looked like playing cards, but I knew they were something much more interesting. At least I hoped they were. I kept those back for Shojin, because I just knew deep inside that maybe they’d work best for him.
I did a quick once over from the air of the camp and relayed everything I saw back to my companions. It was a large clearing with a not quite river cutting the camp almost in half. There were about six buildings but I dared not get closer and compromise our position in the woods. As I was coming back into towards our camp was when I fully caught sight of all the guard towers that surrounded the camp. Well damn, that added a wrinkle to all of this.
Once I was back Ezrella was still just strumming on the thing and with a smile said she had an idea and so she and I headed off closer to the camp to get a closer look at things. I took Shojins want and the tusk he kept tied in his hair along with the cards. I had no idea what if anything I could get to him but I knew I wanted to be prepared. As we moved like liquid shadows closer and closer towards the clearing ahead, it seemed like we narrowly missed a patrol, but try as we might we couldn’t figure out how we missed them. As we were still in the high weeds right at the edge of the clearing and near enough to see that Shojin was being made to chop down trees.
Ezrella strummed on her instrument and let out an audible gasp. Apparently she’d made me invisible. She is about the best thing that has happened to our group. She said she’d meet me back in camp and slipped off through the weeds. Seemed like she was at home amongst the high weeds and trees. I envied her that. I haven’t had a place like that in a really long time. The closest I’ve come in recent memory had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with the people. And then that got broken.
So if I was invisible I was going to make the most effective use of it. I made my way across the clearing, past guards, over, under and around obstacles, until finally I was near enough that I could reach out to touch him. At this point I saw that he was tethered to someone. They were working on the same project and the little guy was fetching stuff that Shojin needed for the next task.
I said something quietly that I hoped would not alert the nearby guards. He chuckled and that did get the guards attention, so he faked a coughing fit. Ok then, it was to be yes or no questions. Through a series of questions I’d learned that they kept him in one of the buildings across the camp. I’d also gotten him set for a jailbreak of sorts to take place in the evening. I also tucked the packet of cards into his waist and that was when the instructions came. Shuffle these as you can and just throw one when you find yourself out of options. He didn’t have any pockets so I couldn’t give him his wand, but I was able toss the tusk up into his open, billowy rags that comprised his shirt.
I made my way back to the group to let them know what I’d found out and we started making our way to the end of the camp with the buildings that would house prisoners. As we were moving through the brush quietly Z’s hammer caught on a dead log and pulled it down into the weeds next to us, which would not have been a problem were it not for the guards in the tree almost on top of us. They made some bird calls that were answered by another of the raised platforms and a group in the camp which proceeded to start heading our way.
As they got closer the guards in the tree shouted down what they heard and I knew I only had a moment to act. I made the invisible hand I’ve used to cause trouble from time to time and put it ground level with the fingers spread out. I moved it in a direction away from us in the hopes that the guards would think it a small animal, when I’d moved it to the edge of its range I just let the magic dissipate. The guards seemed sufficiently satisfied. I smiled. It felt like I was finally figuring myself out.
Time came for the workers in the camp to have dinner or go back to their cells, not sure which. Yes or no questions was maybe not the best idea. It really limited my options for understanding of what was going on. But no matter, as soon as Shojin was across the bridge he saw something that caused him to change the plan we’d worked out. He shrank before my eyes, dropped the bracer things he was wearing and as soon as they were gone, was back to normal size. He threw one of the cards from the pack I’d given him and it was on.
This 2 headed nasty looking ogre just sort of popped into being where the card landed. Clever boy. And that was when everything started popping off. As we hustled to make it to where Shojin was we had a decent distance to cover and he was under fire almost immediately. And then we saw ANOTHER FREAKING GNOMAN. Oh damn, I knew what it was like to have him on our side, but didn’t really want to deal with that. So many questions that I wanted answered, plus questions I didn’t even know how to ask. I’d revisit it later if I remembered.
Our Gnoman was suddenly wreathed in flames, quaffed the potion and stalked off to meet the guy he recognized. So it was to be Gnoman on Gnoman violence. This was going to be interesting, but there were so many people that we needed to deal with I wouldn’t be able to sit back and just enjoy the show.
Shojin was just path a bridge that was a couple hundred yards ahead of us. So we worked out way into the battle as only we can. Fayne was picking off people almost as fast as she could pull the string back on her bow. Ezrella brought out a unicorn to wreak some havoc. Not a real one mind you, but it was the form her spirit weapon took this time. I liked how she was changing it up but kept it on theme with every use.
I took potshots with my little hand crossbow as I closed the distance and had the birds help whoever looked to need it. And then I had an idea. The new trick that let me change my appearance, also changed the appearance of my clothes. I used that to make a pattern like the little bridge and hugged up against it as a bunch of guards came running through. Apparently I missed it when our Gnoman dispatched the other because he came running up covered in blood and fire with death burning in his eyes into the mass of guards. This right here was in line with the story we’d first heard of Gnoman. And by the gods it was the most beautiful and terrible thing that I had ever seen.
Apparently we’d made enough noise to attract attention from what had to be the officers barracks within this camp and a sound rang out that I recognized. A sharp whistled on the cooling air. Oh hell no. Through the doorway of the officers barracks stepped the familiar form from our time in Dillard. Whistle around his neck and clipboard in hand. We locked eyes from across the camp and I yelled out to him that I hoped he remembered my promise. He smiled and started throwing fireballs.
All throughout this there was an old man, the man that caught Shojin’s eye on his way back I would later find out. He was throwing around magick like it was nothing and with each spell he cast there was a golden spectral blade that appeared in his hand for a moment. Fireballs blasting into the various buildings. It was absolute chaos and things seemed to be turning in our favor. I hate it when it feels like we’re winning.
That was when the Dwarf in armor covered in spikes burst through the wall of building the whistle bitch had come out of and he was making for a beaten and bloodied Shojin. Before he got there, for good measure whistle bitch threw a fireball of his own right on top of Shojin, who went down. Ezrella brought him back. This back and forth with Shojin’s life went on for what felt like minutes as Gnoman charged across the open area to get his newest victim. But before he could get there the Dwarf dropped onto an already prone Shojin and proceeded to use the spikes on his armor to just start shredding the flesh of Shojin. I was too far away to do anything useful. I’d come all this way and this was how the rescue would end. With Shojin dead. As the dwarf was standing back up, he was met with Gnoman charging him and pushing him back.
Ezrella had directed some bit of the connection to her god into the Whistle Bitch’s face and he just crumpled to the ground in a heap. Small victory I guess. Felt hollow. But, there was the old man, who didn’t carry himself like an old man striding over to Shojin. From the distance I was I couldn’t hear what he said, but I saw him stick out his hand and Shojin rose back up from his position on the ground healed. I just smiled and cried a little. But that would have to wait as there were more guards coming. And so the battle raged on. Gnoman eventually dispatched the dwarf and set to on the guards while we were just doing what we could not die anymore. We’d had enough death amongst our ranks today. We were together again and this was not how our tale ended. As the dust settled and we saw all the dead all over the camp and the state of ourselves one thing was clear. We won. We saved him. It started to lightly rain, which was a good thing because some of the buildings were still on fire. Where in the hells was Fayne’s bear?