We reached the back of the keep without incident. I stopped when I looked around the corner of the wall. There were about twenty guards in a tight formation, weapons drawn and standing at attention. The armor they wore looked flawless… there didn’t appear to be any place for a small blade to slip through. I looked at Silentknife. He simply nodded as he and Creami headed off around to the back of the troop.
As Chucaro and I slowly edged closer, we could make out the form of a rune keeper behind the dwarven troops. Balarbaz? I wondered. Before I could say anything to Chucaro, he spoke.
“Ah, will wonders never cease… Deathwulf and Chucaro… my, my my..” he said with a smile. As almost an after-thought, he added, “Oh, forgive me… this,” he gestured with a sweeping motion, “is my private elite guard. No one can get close to me without getting through them, first. And believe me, many have tried.” he added with a sneer.
We came out of stealth, but remained where we were. “I’ll ask you once, and only once… where is Wargie?” I asked in a menacing tone.
“The Wargie you know is dead… my ‘death-dealer’ is near, but I will not need her… my guards will deal with you and I can then turn my attention to Esteldin. It won’t be long before all of Middle Earth is under my rule!” he said in as maddened a voice as he could get. “But first, a little amusement… guards, deal with the intruders.” he added nonchalantly. Four guards slowly came towards us with weapons drawn. Chucaro and I crouched down and readied to defend our position. As the guards got to about ten paces from us, I saw the glint of steel as Silentknife’s aim was true and a killing blow was dealt to the first of the four… well what should have been a killing blow. The blade went where the helmet and neck meet, but instead of meeting dwarven skin, the blade deflected away without even a dent. The surprised burglar didn’t see the return blow coming in time… the dwarf’s fist came crashing into Silentknife’s chest, forcing the air out of his lungs and sending the burglar hurtling through the air, against the wall. Creami was at his side instantly, tending to what wounds she could.
The guard regarded the dazed burglar for a few seconds before turning his attention back to us. As the guard took another step, an arrow suddenly protruded from the slit of the helmet. All four guards were dropped in a matter of seconds… dead before they hit the ground… arrows protruding from the slits of their helmets, as well.
“So you do have allies,” Balarbaz said, “play time is over…. Guards, kill them.” he said, his tone not changing from boredom, it seemed. The remaining guards quickly divided into groups of four to battle the four groups. Four went to the burglar and minstrel, four to us, four to Winterwulf and his group, and the remaining four to Tracer’s group. Silentknife had recovered from his stupor and mesmerized one of the guard. One of the guards dropped his weapon and ran in the opposite direction, screaming and one appeared to be stunned… he didn’t move. That left those two to handle the one guard left from the group.
Ellenroh was with Winterwulf and used his runes to create a patch of ice that the guards were stuck in. Try as they could to avoid the arrows, the deadly attack ended as soon as it began.. with the guards dead, but upright… the ice causing them to stay standing with arrows protruding out of their slits. I could see Balarbaz getting angrier by the minute… he waved his runes around and the group approaching the ones led by Tracer had an invisible shield over their eye slits to make them immune to the arrows. I could tell this as the deadly arrows aimed at the slits harmlessly deflected away. Sophwen cast a spell, causing another to drop his weapon and flee in terror, screaming and stunned a second one. That left three archers to deal with two guards. With the other groups in control of their respective situations, I turned my attention to our group… they almost had us backed against the wall. Chucaro disappeared, causing the group to pause… they then noticed me, alone… I could almost see the evil smiles behind the helmets.
I saw Chucaro crouch behind a guard, so I leaped at him suddenly. Before the other guards could react, I hit the guard with my full weight, causing his head to snap back and the momentum of the attack sent him backwards over Chucaro… he hit the ground hard and laid still… whether dead or unconscious, I couldn’t tell, nor did I care… that took the group down one. As I turned towards the other guards, Chucaro blazed past me to stop a sword from cleaving me… her jaws locked tight around the wrist of the attacker… I could see the sword start to quiver as her jaws squeezed harder and harder. The dwarf screamed out and dropped the sword, falling to his knees and clutching his wrist. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shield and instinctively moved out of the way… Damn!I thought, but it was too late… the had Chucaro pinned and me out of the way with the fake swing of the shield. Chucaro tried a fake lunge at one guard and tried to use the other as a ramp to jump out of the way… he used his shield to deflect the jump and the other guard knocked Chucaro out with a heavy blow to the head. As Chucaro fell to a heap, unconscious and I could see blood come down the side of her head, something in me snapped… I felt myself howl out of anger and anguish and went into a frenzy. There were now three guards as the one who was unconscious woke up to join the others, but that didn’t matter to me.
I’m not sure what happened, but when I came to, I was panting heavily and I saw pieces or dwarves and armor ripped apart. The dwarves were shredded so bad, it was impossible to not only tell who they were, but how many were laying there. I felt drained as I looked around. Half-dazed, I locked onto Chucaro’s motionless form. As I approached, my vision blurred as tears welled up. It would kill me to know I lost Chucaro and Wargie… I tried to shake the thought from my head as I ran to her still form as fast as I could. I stopped and saw the blood matted to her head… anger immediately started to well up in me again… I closed my eyes and forced myself to look at another part of her. I opened my eyes and looked down at her chest… she was still breathing! I was so relieved that my legs almost gave way… they started shaking from a mixture of emotion… relief, joy, exhaustion… those were a few, but I shook my head to clear the cobwebs… we were still in tremendous danger, and I had to get her out of harm’s way. As I reached down to grab her, a bolt of lightning shot overhead and hit the rock wall, sealing our way out. I looked up and saw Ellenroh, slowly dropping his stones as the glow faded away.
“I heard nearby voices and shouts. I think the other dwarves know we’re here, so this will buy us some time to finish this battle.”
Winterwulf dropped down near the rune keeper. “With the damage the hunter groups did to the tops of the wall, the is really the only entrance to the back of the keep. It’ll take them some time to dig their way through.”
My attention went back to Churaco as Winterwulf, Ellenroh and Orthonn moved on to continue the fight with the dwarven guard. As gently as I could, I drug her to as safe a place as I could find. When I looked up to join the fight, the rest of our group was just finishing off the remaining dwarven guard… as the last one fell, the only ones alive were two in a far corner, trying to beg for their lives in fear and one who was mesmerized in place. Balarbaz was livid… his eyes were glowing bright red as if on fire. “You WORTHLESS dwarves!” he screamed. “And you were considered my elite guard??”
As he finished, lightning seemed to emanate from his fingertips… catching the three remaining dwarves. There was a glow so bright, we had to shield our eyes… when the light died down enough for us to see, all we could find was the base of their boots… everything else was incinerated. Balarbaz’s eyes returned to normal as he briefly surveyed the scene. “Fine, you wanted to see what you call Wargie? You have your wish…” he said in a quiet manner. “This has gone on longer than it should have. Finish them, my pet!”
His hands raised and the stones started to vibrate. As the frequency increased rapidly, I could feel a cold rot in my stomach.. this is not good, I said to myself.