[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault part 48

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Wed Oct 24 23:34:02 CDT 2001

  WA is huge! No doubting that. And it has a large cast of characters (well 
over 30 at last count). So to help people who might be getting lost I'm 
putting together a cast of characters to help!



   The two had been ignored after George had left their cell. Food had been 
brought them but the mole had entered and left without speaking a word. It 
gave them plenty of time to think and talk.

   Their seclusion was suddenly broken when the door opened and Misha and a 
wolverine morph entered. The fox had a hard look to him, cold and angry but 
the wolverine looked frightened. "This is Jenn," the fox said in a nasty 
tone. "She has a few questions to ask, and you will answer them."

   "You came in through the South Gate?" Jenn asked in a quiet, female voice. 

   Ferwig realized that under that robe and thick fur was a woman. "Yes we 

   "Did you see any sign of my husband?" she asked. "He's a wolverine like 
me. Andre is the Captain of the South Gate."

   "I saw no wolverines among the dead, my lady," Teria answered. "But we did 
not take the gate, another group did."

   "Could he have been taken prisoner?" Misha asked.

   "He could have, " Ferwig responded. "We didn't linger in the gate but 
moved on to our target."

   "You mean my friend George," the fox commented.

   "George is your friend?" Ferwig asked.

   "Yes he is and so is Andre."

   "Are you sure you didn't see him or hear someone mention him?" Jenn asked 

   "No, I know nothing of him."

   The wolverine burst out in tears and ran from the room. Misha started 
after her but paused at the door. "You'd better hope he's still alive or I'll 
take it out of your hides. Slowly and painfully." With that he turned and 
left the cell. The door slammed shut with an ominous thud.

   Neither doubted that the vulpine was dead serious about his threat.

Jono's mind is also working quickly, though he's not grinning triumphantly as 
a result. The expression on his face is one of stone-cold determination. "Jo! 
Perry! Take the tents down; try to keep them in one piece! We're going to 
need them for the trip over!" he yells as he helps another one of the kids 
up. "Go over to Dana and the others!" he says to the child, not having the 
time to even see who it is.

Jono has a Plan. If visibility through the snow wasn't so dismal, one would 
be able to see it in his eyes. He's certain that not all the kids would be 
able to keep up in an all-out dash to the tower; the Lutins would catch them. 
And there's far too many kids to carry. So he's going to have to improvise 
with what was left behind. "At least I'd already told them that story before 
this mess happened in the first place; it won't be an entirely new concept to 

It's the scream of terror from one of the two kids still down there with Kirk 
that rips Jono's attention away from the tents.

Kirk, having heard the battlecry, has whirled around to face whatever threat 
is coming even before the girl has screamed. When she does, he's already 
assessing the situation. The upcoming combat, he can see, will consist of 
himself against roughly fifteen or so very active Lutins, one of whom is 
swinging a Very nasty-looking sword. His axe is useless in these tunnels; 
there's not nearly enough room to swing it. Worse from a combat perspective, 
he still has the last two children in his arms, which is certainly going to 
slow him down. Will likely have to resort to kicks, but they won't be all 
that powerful since he can't balance with the kids in his arms. Perhaps he 
could drop them, get in front of them so none of the Lutins ca-


He looks up to see Jono on his belly before the doorway, reaching down 
inside. Before his mind even registers what Jono's trying to do Kirk has 
already given each child a quick *heave* upwards, sending them momentarily 
flying through the air until Jono catches them both. By the time he does, 
though, Kirk has already turned his attention to the Lutins.

Jono hasn't even gotten the chance to pull the kids all the way out of the 
tunnel before Kirk engages the Lutins, kicking out once towards some Lutin 
that looks to be carrying a scimitar; he misses, but ends up hitting someone 
directly in front of his target and knocking both back. Another kick 
delivered to the other side manages to send another Lutin crashing into what 
looks like two or three more.

Then Kirk starts to crouch down, and so Jono quickly pulls the kids back, 
managing to get them away from the trapdoor just before Kirk reappears, 
bellowing loudly and leaping up Incredibly high for one so big, landing 
halfway in and out of the trapdoor. It takes a half second before Kirk has 
pulled himself fully out of the doorway, and another second for him to grab 
the trapdoor and slam it down shut with a final grunt.

A few seconds just pass then, as Kirk lays there almost panting from the 
effort put into the jump, and Jono tries to keep both the kids and his friend 
all in view at the same moment. Then the little boy Jono is still holding 
gets an enthusiastic look of wonder on his face. "WOW! Can we do that again?"

* * *

"Twenty yards! They're almost on top of us!" comes Jahnsen's voice, bringing 
Kevin's attention back to the outside world. "Whatever you're going to do, 
Kevin, better do it now!"

"Coming!" he yells back, getting his robes back on over the amulet, making a 
brief check to insure that the lines are still attached.

Kevin is not primarily a combat mage. Strictly scholarly mages tend to be 
limited in what they can do, and Kevin is no exception; he only recently 
learned the Fireball spells after the death of the Patriarch and the scare of 
potential war that had come up in light of that event. He's not a combat mage 
by any stretch of the imagination - he's a historian. And it's highly 
doubtful that a detachment of Lutins will be intimidated or otherwise 
repelled from the field of battle by historical findings, no matter how 

But there's another tool he uses for his historical works that, if one is 
clever enough, can be very versatile.

He rushes out of the tent even as he notes Jo and Perry running towards it. 
Out of the corner of his eye he can see that the other tent has been 
apparently reshaped somehow; must have been that plan the bard was talking 
about. Near it is the collected future of Metamor, guarded by Dana. He waves 
to them as he runs over to Jahnsen; he *knows* they're going to love this.

"What're you waiting for?" the bat asks, yelling to be heard over the wind as 
Kevin makes it up to him.

"What direction are they coming in from? How's their front line oriented?"

"What?" the bat asks, momentarily puzzled. Then he shakes his head as if to 
dismiss that thought, and holds out his hand in their direction, turning it 
flat vertically so it's parallel with the Lutin front line. "Like that!"

Kevin looks out in that direction. The kids are well out of the picture; the 
tent contraption show up a little to the left, but it's not interfering. Jono 
and Kirk are off to the other side, but they're just close enough to him such 
that he still has room. "Perfect." he says almost under his breath.

"Excuse me, sir?"

Kevin turns to Jahnsen briefly. "Stand back a couple yards! Otherwise you 
could ruin the effect!"

Jahnsen knows better than to argue with a wizard on a point like that. He 
immediately runs towards the kids, looking back and watching.

And Kevin starts chanting.

* * *

Kesk Morgrim likes to keep things small and swift, based on the simplest 
lessons learned from the legendary Markesh Blackhand. Move in with small 
units run by trusted warriors, take by surprise and be prepared for the use 
of strength when surprise is lost. Only the most basic of tactics, he knows, 
but most northern humans don't know that, let alone most northern Lutins. 
That includes the human mages (damn them to the nine hells!) that have been 
running the remainder of the Blackhand tribe while Tharag goes off playing 
scout - they hear that Tharag's party has been attacked, and they insist on a 
show of force! Sure, it'll accomplish the job, but it'll also cause more 
Lutin casualties; the small detached units Markesh favored would do far 
better there...

Kesk spits in disgust. Takes eight score poison arrows launched into a forest 
and blind luck for that damn mage to throw away the greatest Lutin warrior 
that ever lived, but only shouted words from a lowly follower of same to 
throw away the remainder of that warrior's army. The Blackhand Tribe still 
knows how to Fight, damn it, and yet they're being thrown out here to cut off 
retreat and reinforcement. A living-wall force! One of the things Markesh 
would never have done. He spits again. It could be worse; he could find 
himself dead along with the rest of Markesh's general staff. Only a few of 
the lieutenants and one or two of the generals (*including* himself, he 
thinks in disgust) managed to survive the purges Nasoj ordered after 
Markesh's death.

Not that all of them would really have been threats. Most of Markesh's 
supporters, though thought of up North as military geniuses, would probably 
be considered equivalent to run of the mill officers here at the Keep. Kesk 
has a large amount of respect for his foes - another lesson of Markesh's. 
When you respect a worthy and strong foe, you're better prepared to defeat 
said foe when the time arrives. "All the more reason to fight them with 
brains throughout and not this damn sneak-up-then-smash foolishness." But 
there's no way Tharag would ever listen to him.

He nods to Neska, one of the other ex-supporters who'd had to lay low and 
play dumb when Nasoj showed his wrath. If real tactics were being thought of 
she'd be just behind him, ready to use a few spells so as to narrow the odds 
against these Keepers. But Nasoj doesn't trust the Lutin shamans, so none of 
them can cast spells; only his incompetent humans can. And he, an experienced 
warrior who's run more campaigns than those babes have even dreamed of, has 
to take ORDERS from them!

Neska waves a hand to him, jolting him away from that line of thought. There 
is a task to do, however distasteful it might be. The Keepers that attacked 
Tharag's camp would be about oh, twenty yards ahead. "Would that we could 
have Fortune smile on us by insuring that runt's death in the assault," he 
thinks to himself before he starts forward once more, his ragtag 'command' 
(he hesitates to dignify it with such a phrase) behind him.

And then he halts as the campsite comes into view.

* * *

   A war raged in the hallowed and ancient halls of Metamor Keep. A war that 
would effect the course of millions in the next thousand years was being 
fought  by a mere handful of people. It was being fought in a thousand little 
skirmishes, ambushes, attacks and desperate last stands that were taking 
place in nameless corridors and rooms. Halls that had seen only calm and 
happiness, that had echoed to the sounds of parties and celebrations now rang 
with the sounds of combat. It heard the clash of steel on steel, the 
crackling of flames and the screams of the dieing.

   In one corridor which seemed much like any of a hundred others a score of 
Lutins had battered down a door using a makeshift battering ram. In the rooms 
beyond a family of seven huddled in one corner while their father bravely 
tried to hold off the monsters attacking them. It was a hopeless fight and 
they all knew it, especially the Lutins. First they would have some fun with 
the man, then the rest of the family - especially the wife and daughters. 
Four of the green creatures were taking their time in killing the man, taking 
turns attacking him while the others cheered and egged them on. They were so 
busy with the entertainment that they didn't see the group of Keepers 
approaching until a javelin imbedded into the back of one of Lutins. He 
managed one scream before he died. The rest followed him seconds later.


   The ten panic stricken keepers were running for their life. Three men, 
four women and three children of various species were moving a fast as 
possible to escape but they weren't moving fast enough. Death was snapping at 
their heels and they knew it.

   Behind them, a dozen Lutins screaming and howling raced towards the 
Keepers. They were all trying to out race each other, eager to score the 
first kill. Their quarry was barely forty feet ahead of the lead lutin when 
they reached an intersection. They paused for a moment as if deciding what to 
do then continued on. But they were still moving far too slow. The lead lutin 
was a small male carrying a spear as long as he was tall. It's long steel 
point was covered with blood. A raging blood lust filled his eye.  The rest 
of his band was mere footsteps behind. He reached the intersection without 
slowing down. There was a brief flicker of a shadow and the Lutins head went 
flying from his shoulder to land at the feet of the rest of the war band. 
They had barely a moment to surprise before a shower of arrows, javelins and 
spears ripped through them. It was over in moments.

   Misha casually wiped the blood from Whispers blade as Finbar moved among 
the lutin bodies slitting their throats to be sure the dead weren't faking. 
"That went well," the fox said.

   "Well for you," one of the 'panic stricken keepers' said as the group 
walked back up the corridor they had just run down. They seemed none the 
worse for having been chased by such a bloody group. The speaker was a middle 
aged man with dark brown hair. "You weren't the ones being chased."

   Standing next to the man was blonde haired women still holding her baby by 
one leg. "Here," she said handing the doll to the man. "You get to hold 
junior this time."

   "I'm surprised they keep falling for such an obvious trick," Caroline said 
as she stood, bow in hand and an arrow nocked in case more lutins appeared.

   "How many times are we going to do this trick" Danielle asked.

   "Once more," fox answered. "Four times is our limit. After that we're 
stretching our luck."

   "Then what?" The woman asked.

   "We start over again but we'll use another trick this time," Misha 
explained. "It's a good one. Lutins used it against me four years ago and 
almost killed me."   

   The hall was thirty feet wide and forty feet long, small by the standards 
of The Keep. It was laid out for a feast. Tables chairs and benches were 
everywhere many scattered or knocked over evidence of the hurried retreat of 
the Keepers. On the walls hung fine tapestries richly decorated with all 
manner scenes done in silk, silver and gold thread. Equally beautiful carpets 
lay under foot. 

   The Lutins moved warily through the hall fearful of an ambush. They looked 
in awe greed and hunger at tables laden with food and drink held in fine 
silver and pewter goblets and plates. These people were from the Mountain 
Storms a tribe who eked out a precarious living in the Dragon mountains. In 
that terrible place merely surviving was a major victory.

   Nearly a year ago the man had arrived warmly dressed in expensive furs. He 
came with a dozen soldiers and a tall troll all dressed like him. Between 
them had more furs and clothing then half the tribe combined. The man brought 
with him a dozen ponies laden with gifts -food, furs, clothing even gold and 
silver in amounts none in the tribe had seen before.

   This man spoke of a great and powerful leader called Nasoj who was going 
to conquer all of the Midlands. He spoke of great victories and of the 
immense wealth - loot and slaves for all. They only had to take one castle 
and all the wealth of the Midlands would be theirs.

   Despite living high in the mountains and wearing skins these Lutins were 
hardly gullible fools. They knew about Metamor Keep and Nasoj and how he had 
failed to take it. But they also knew of the legends of the wealth of that 
legendary place and besides it was something more to do in the deep of winter 
then huddle in their shelters and try and keep warm.

   The long walk through the storm had been easy enough for a people who 
lived in a land where summer was a scant two weeks long and even then the 
snow never melted. They did see how many other Lutins had died on the trip to 
the keep and most of all they saw how Nasoj had stayed behind warm and safe 
in his citadel.

   The fighting to get in had been surprisingly easy, few of the Keepers were 
out and about in the storm. But those few they had come upon had fought hard 
and with great courage and skill, true warriors. The tribe would sing of 
their bravery forever.

   So now a year later sixty members of the tribe were in a place that had 
only been a fairly tale till now. Standing in a hall full of more treasure 
and wealth then any of them could imagine. Like small children they started 
to grab everything of worth within reach - gold, silver, pewter even iron and 
wood. Tapestries were pulled down and carpets rolled up and carefully piled 
in the center of the room. Roast meats, bread still warm from the oven, 
myriad cakes and all manner of vegetables were greedily snatched up and 
devoured. Washed down with fine wines, hardy ales and warm cool water.

   One lutin was carefully collecting the iron tongs and poker from the fire 
place. When he picked up the wooden bucket that was next to them he saw the 
contents. Surprised he stood there for a moment then tenderly touched the 
riches that lay withint. The bucket was resting on the floor in front of a 
small door that was barely two feet high. Far too small for even a lutin to 
use. In a flash of inspiration he pulled open the door and was rewarded with 
a sight of treasure far beyond his wildest dreams. His squeal of delight 
brought his comrades running and soon all the other treasures lay forgotten. 
The lure of the greatest treasure having driven thoughts of all else out of 
their minds. 

   An ancient Lutin her faced tattoos marking her as a shaman carefully 
reached into the small room and tenderly picked up one of the pieces of 
treasure. She sniffed it and then breaking off a tiny portion tasted it. All 
others waited in silence hoping that this wasn't some foul trick but real. 
She smiled showing teeth stained a deep burgundy color and held up the piece 
for all to see. The room erupted in cheers and shouts of joy. This was a 
treasure trove they would remember and sing tales of for centuries to come.

   What food and drink that wasn't consumed was carefully packed away for the 
trip home. There was enough there to feed the hungry mouths of the tribe for 
months. The worthless gold and silver was also packed safely. It would later 
be traded to the low land tribes for more valuable things like weapons to 
protect the tribe and tools of steel like axes and shovels to cut wood and 
move the frozen earth. The carpets and tapestries were carefully folded and 
rolled. Soon they would decorated the rooms and temple of the tribe. They 
would be cherished heirlooms passed down from generation to generation. Their 
thickness would help to trap in the warmth while their bright pictures would 
stir the imagination and lead to many happy nights spent singing songs of how 
they were brought back from the mystical Keep.

   These were all great treasures but none compared to the greatest treasure 
-that which had been found behind that small door. THAT treasure was packed 
and handled most carefully of all so that not one lump was lost. The 
treasure? Coal. Long burning, easy to carry coal. So much coal would last the 
tribe all winter. It meant that no one need go out to find and cut wood to 
burn. It mean that no longer would the tribe be forced to burn dung when the 
heavy storms came and no one could go foraging for wood. All could sit by the 
warm, coal fueled fires and eat the food taken from this feast all winter. No 
need to leave their warm homes at all!

   Without a second thought the tribe left the hall through the door they had 
entered and to their delight found themselves outside! The wind howled and 
the snow swirled so strong as to blot out all vision beyond a hands span. It 
was weather that would kill most folk but to these Lutins it was like being 
embraced by their mothers. Behind them they left a hall empty of all treasure 
save two. In the center of the room they left two entire handfuls of the life 
preserving coal and the largest portion of venison from the feast. These were 
left as gifts to the spirit of the great keep for the wonderful gifts she had 
given them. For Nasoj they left what he deserved - nothing.


End part 48
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