Fallen Statue

Fallen StatueDuring Theft of a God (Great War 1):

     A mix-matched party of three ran headlong through Wailing Forest with an army of lizard-people on their heels. The barbarian , Retter, broke the path ahead as the human woman, Greta, followed. She held the statue containing the God to her chest, after stealing it from the saurian camp. Her breath frosted around her mouth in the cold. Snow and brown pine needles crunched beneath boots.

     Last came the dwarf. There were few sights more amusing than a fleeing dwarf. Mudbeard tripped in the brush, spun about, and waved his arms in the air to keep balance. It was amazing he could keep on his feet! 

     Retter held his hand out to halt his friends. “Look.” He pointed through the trees.

     Greta and Mudbeard peered around a green overhanging branch, seeing skulls and bones lying in the brush. 

     Hands on knees, Mudbeard caught his breath. “It’s just a bunch of bones.”

     “I don’t think so. The bones are connected. They’re skeletons, likely enchanted ones in this forest.”

     “Reanimated skeletons,” Greta commented, “I’ve heard of those.”

     “They hate the living,” Retter said.

     “Tis only a dozen or three I’d say. We can take them.” Mudbeard brushed his fingers to the hilt of the battle-hammer strapped to his back. 

     A skeleton twisted its skull in their direction. Another rose to its feet. The sound of bone sliding against bone whispered through the woods. 

     Retter signaled his friends to move back a short distance. “True, but then the saurian might catch up. There’re too many of them.”

     “Wait.” Greta leaned in close, whispering. “I have a plan. Let’s sneak around this bunch and leave them for the saurian. We’ll escape to the river. Even if-“

     Retter cut off Greta as he pushed her out of the way and drew his sword. The skeletons closed in. Mudbeard drew his hammer and swung at the walking bones. Greta dodged a swipe from a rusted sword. She dropped the statue between her feet and gripped her mace.  

     The three held their position as bone dust hung in the air. 

     Sweat beaded on Mudbeard’s brow, as he smashed the oncoming enemy. “Behind!” 

     Retter sliced through a skull, and glanced back towards a piercing call. The saurian rushed into the fray.  The party formed a circle, defending on all sides. The metallic tint of lizard blood filled the air as the saurian fell to blade and hammer. Greta bashed the skeleton bodies as they poured through the trees. The skeletons attacked the saurian. The two armies converged with Greta, Retter and Mudbeard in the middle.

     The numbers overwhelmed them. Retter saw a break in the crowd and nudged at Greta while kicking the dwarf. She nodded, and picked up the statue in one hand while keeping the mace in the other. Greta edged her way out of the masses. 

     “Come on,” Retter said. 

     Mudbeard grunted in acknowledgement. He walked backward with ease, guarding their rear. His grace in battle was startling compared to his clumsiness otherwise. They crawled under a tangle of vines, away from the fighting, and headed out of the forest having escaped the conflict, dirty and thorn scratched. 

     “Nice plan.” Mudbeard smiled and winked at Greta.

     She glared at him while gripping the statue tightly, reassuring herself of its presence. Greta sighed, too relieved to stay angry.

     They heard shouts and screams from the south. The sounds of clanging weapons, grunts and thuds drifted in the air. Sunlight glared on patches of snow and ice as they continued into the tundra. 

     “There’s the river.” Retter motioned ahead. “Let’s open the statue here.”

     “Good! I hate all this running, and ain’t too fond of waiting around to smash it,” Mudbeard said. “The sooner the better!”

     “There’s a place.” Greta pointed. “Between that rock outcropping and block of ice.”

     Sheltered from the wind, the three contemplated how to begin. Retter spilled some coins on the ground, enchanting them with an Alarm spell. If anyone approached, the coins would blink like glinting sunlight. 

     Greta pulled the nine inch Statue of the God Dorr from her bag. It had been created by a dark elf. The Brechin Kingdom thought the statue would help them win the war with the barbarians, but it trapped a God instead, sparking a greater war with barbarian allies against saurian and naga enemies. 

     The statue hummed in her hands. The presence of a god cradled in her arms unnerved Greta.

     “Set it down and I’ll smash it with my hammer,” Mudbeard suggested.

     “That won’t work.” Greta frowned. “We have to use the gem.” She pulled out the yellow gem that fell from the sky the day the God Din chose her for this task. “This is the key.” She searched the statue for a crevice to insert the gem. Finding none, she let the others look.

     “Set the gem on the statue and I’ll smash it with my hammer,” Mudbeard said. 

     Greta hesitated. The gem might shatter, and she felt no sign of what to do. 

     “Well, get about it,” the dwarf complained.

     “If the gem breaks, we’ll have no way to free Dorr,” Greta said.

     “We’ll have to trust in Din to see things right,” Mudbeard said.

     “Perhaps we could wait and I can pray,” Greta suggested. 

     Retter shrugged.

     “Good idea, my girl.” Mudbeard, unable to reach her shoulder, patted her hip. “First we try all that we can think of, and then you pray. Let’s not keep Dorr in there anymore than we have ta.” 

     Mudbeard had a point. Delay was risky, but acting now risked the gem.

     “What do you think?” she asked Retter.

     “A stone from a god won’t be weak. You decide.”

     Closing off her mind to the material world, Greta listened for the God within. Sensing nothing, no direction, she searched for the right course. She set the gem on top of the statue on the ground and braced herself. 

     Mudbeard lifted his battle hammer high, swung down with an earth-shattering thud. The jolt threw him backward into the snow. He sprung up and lifted the weapon from its circular imprint in the frozen ground. The statue pressed flat buried into the earth with the gem, neither broken.

     She hoped the impact didn’t bother Dorr. Retter glanced at the coins. 

     Mudbeard peered around the corner of the ice block. All clear. “You try it, my girl.”

     Greta dug the statue free before setting it between gem and stone. She brought down her mace. Sparks flew from the rock, but the statue remained unmarked. Retter sliced at the gem and statue with his long sword. The sword rolled off, cutting into rock. The coins on the ground behind him flashed as Greta pounded on the gem with her bare hand to no avail.

     “What if we attach the gem to your hammer?”

     “Tis worth a try!”

     They tried different combinations of weapon and gem. The coins blinked. Greta held the gem near the blunt head of her mace as she reached for the ribbon of leather to tie it in place. Suddenly she collapsed, dropping the gem in the snow. 

     Retter and Mudbeard crumpled next. Unable to move, it was hard to breathe.  Mudbeard held his weapon, but couldn’t move it. He couldn’t even let it go! Laughter proceeded a figure around the corner.

     “Well, well.” The naga smiled maliciously. The upper human half of his body looked strange with the lower half snake. He wore a dark brown kodiak fur coat and held a golden falcon shaped amulet. The scales of his red skin were striped with patches of black extending from behind. 

     Greta gasped in shock, the sound coming out a choke. 

     Retter glared at the naga in frustration. Realizing too late, he’d forgotten to pay attention to the coins. In the corner of his eye, he saw their flicker. 

     Mudbeard struggled against the magical hold. Nothing moved more than a twitch of his lips.

     “I am pleased you’ve gone about the tedious work of bringing me my prize.” Shankar picked up the statue, his tongue darting out, smelling. “And all this time I thought it’d be such a bother tracking it down after that human, Kavvar, betrayed me.”

     Greta kept her eyes from the gem in the snow. No reason to bring it to his attention. How he missed it, she didn’t know. It lay near where the statue had been. Dipping into her mind, she began a silent meditation on Regeneration. The small spell would keep them warm while lying still, on the ice. Her last thought remained a plea that he’d overlook the gem.

     Shankar pulled a dagger from beneath his coat and pressed the blade on Greta’s throat. The pain of failure bit deep as Greta waited for the slice that would spill her life’s blood. 

     Retter made low sounds in his throat, a spell. 

     Mudbeard gave up his struggle as sweat dripped into the snow. “Why can’t you magic types learn to speed it up! By the time you get anywhere with your word casting, the fighting’s done!” Mudbeard’s words came out garbled and incomprehensible.

     Startled by the change in pressure on her neck, Greta opened her eyes wide. The naga rose, the cut avoided for the moment. His twisted smile faded as he peered at the horizon. Shankar gave the party a final viscous smile and slithered off as Retter mutter a Dispel. 

     His lips moved, and Retter soon gained control over the rest of his body. He cast the spell at Greta and Mudbeard, releasing them. 

     Greta perspired with effort. She moved her arm and curled her fingers around the gem. Grateful, she drew it to her chest and prayed in thanks. Their carelessness cost them the statue, but a chance existed as long as they possessed the gem.

     “Saurian.” Retter peered around the rock outcropping. “They’ve tracked us.”

     “The river.” Greta pointed. “If we cross the ice, we can catch a ride on an ice flow near the center.”

     “The river? No, let’s stay and fight.” Mudbeard rubbed his shaking hands.

     “Too many of them, and we’re still weak from the paralysis magic.” Retter led the way.

     “Don’t worry, we won’t let you fall in.” Greta took Mudbeard’s hand and helped him balance on the loose ice.

     They crossed onto an ice flow together, Mudbeard’s feet slipping into the cold water. Retter pulled him onto the icy raft.

     “Why didn’t he take that?” Mudbeard nodded to the gem clutched in Greta’s hand.

     “He couldn’t see it,” Retter replied. 

     Greta smiled, nodding. 

     He returned her smile. Retter looked like he wanted to say more, perhaps to confess his guilt. 

     She saw it in his slumped shoulders as he fiddled with his coin purse. Greta reached over and touched his face. “None of us…” she began. 

     He took her hand in his, squeezing it. “Thank you,” he said.

     They followed the river.

References: Retter, Greta, Mudbeard, Shankar, Barbarian, Dwarf, Human, Dark Elf, Saurian, Naga, Kodiak, Skeleton

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