Terzin's dwarf charged him, screaming, and delivered a slashing wound with his axe. Four more emerged from the woods and closed on the travelers while the others reloaded. Jared took an axe cut. Another bit a chunk out of Robin's shield. Her blade lanced out, a decent hit, and she whacked him with her leaf-covered shield.
Harrick Flame Gouted one of the ones who had shot at him, then moved a few feet through the brush. The spell created a nice, neat hole through the bushes and a good view of a badly singed, very unhappy dwarf, before he fell down and started reloading his crossbow. Terzin nailed him to the ground with an arrow and ducked out of reach of the one facing him.
He then ran across the road to shoot in passing at one of the two attacking his cousin. A dwarf sprouted an arrow through his arm. Harrick used Flame Gout again, guessing where the other dwarf might be, thought he hit something but couldn't be sure, and moved again. Robin switched her attention to the dwarf near her that hadn't been hurt yet, but he caught the blow on the haft of his axe and sent it harmlessly past. She did more or less the same thing to his return blow, took a third crossbow bolt and staggered. On the brink of losing consciousness, she swung the shield at the dwarf, who met it perfectly with his axe. The heavy wood split down the center; only the Leaf Armor held the two pieces together. Dubricus, still in hiding, worked frantically to prepare another spell. The dwarf who had been facing Terzin picked up his dead companion's crossbow and began to load it.
Jared went berserk.
He tossed aside his cudgel and waded in with a roar. Two dwarves sneered their contempt at this display and prepared to finish him off. They stopped laughing when he landed a couple of solid blows on one of them.
Dubricus sprinted back out onto the road. "Hold you sword out!" A bewildered Robin did so. He touched it in passing; the blade caught fire. She drove it into the one who had broken her shield and forced him to retreat a couple of steps. The two of them were giving her a slightly wider berth now.
Terzin drew and loosed again, but the arrow bounced from dwarvish armor. Harrick stuck with his fire-and-move tactics. The wind shifted, revealing a dwarf in the process of reloading, who looked up at just the right moment for eye contact before Harrick removed most of his head.
He moved to one side and right into the path of a crossbow bolt, almost passed out. An axe shuddered off of Robin's armor, then another, and she went down. Jared lashed out twice with his weighted gloves; his hand came back dripping blood from the skull he'd just crushed.
He picked up the first dwarf's body and turned to the other one, who was wearing something of a shocked expressionfor just a moment, before the corpse of his erstwhile comrade knocked him down. The remaining crossbowman fired at the insane human in the road and missed him. One dwarf near Robin kicked the sword out of her hand and raised his axe to deliver the coup de grace. Terzin ran in their direction and shot him. The dwarf abandoned the unconscious human for the one who had just attacked him. The other charged Jared, who ignored the axe now buried in his leg, hit the new dwarf attacking him with the dead one hard enough to put him out.
Harrick looked for the one that had shot him and set off another Flame Gout. A dwarf yelp told him he had aimed well. Dubricus leaped out of hiding, grabbed Robin's swordawkwardly, it was far heavier than the fencing weapons he had been trained withand charged at the same dwarf with a clumsy overhand swing from behind. He actually managed to hit his targetnot hard enough. The dwarf turned around and fired a bolt into his unarmored chest at nearly point-blank range. Dubricus fell back and collapsed. Harrick thew another Flame Gout and this time seared a hole through the dwarf's body.
The dwarf charging Terzin delivered another vicious slash, driving him back. He drew his short sword and lunged desperately, saw his enemy fall.
Terzin grabbed his bow up again and limped back into the woods, where he knew one more dwarf was lurking. Jared picked up a fresh dwarf to augment his now-rather-battered one, and pounded the warrior facing him into paste with them.
Harrick lay still, bled some more, and waited for the remaining one to make a move, give himself away. Terzin listened as well, heard a rustle, sent an arrow in the direction of the noise. He caught the dwarf in the shoulder as he was standing to fire his crossbow. The bolt spanged off Jared's armor just as he was looking around for something new to kill. The fisherman dropped his makeshift weapon and crashed through the brush toward the dwarf at a dead run. The impact carried them both back out into the open road. Harrick's flames roared forth again. Jared picked the dwarf up and broke his neck.
Harrick remained in hiding. Terzin hit the ground and played dead. Jared looked around, saw nothing moving for him to kill; the haze cleared away from his eyes and he toppled gently to the road, bleeding profusely.
For a moment Harrick and Terzin just stood looking at each other, panting and in pain, hardly able to credit their own survival.
"I'm going to see if I can patch up Dubricus, you loot the hell out of these fucking dwarves," Harrick directed. "Then cut some poles, we have to rig a couple of travois, it's the only way we're getting these three, especially that ox, back to the castle." He went and looked at Dubricus, who was obviously dying. Harrick removed the healing stone from Jared and gave it to him, not sure if it would do any good for someone this far gone, and made a crude bandage from his cloak.
Terzin wasted no time in finishing off the wounded dwarvesit would have been nice to question one, but logistics forbade itthen managed to bring Robin around. Jared was going to be out of things for a while, by the looks of it. The two of them stripped dwarven bodies and came up with forty bits, twenty-four pennies, six nice crossbows, assorted dwarven armor, and eight jade squares with the same emblem they had seen before.
"Bastards. Shouldn't have felt bad about them getting eaten by harpies," Harrick muttered.
"I have to say, this whole 'luck' business isn't doing them any good at all," Robin observed.
Terzin wanted to mutilate the bodies, but they didn't have time. They rigged up a set of crude travois, then Harrick took Dubricus and headed for the Keep, his steady lope quickly outdistancing the other two. Robin dragged Jared and Terzin the loot at the best pace they could manage.
Alerted by Harrick's shouts on the path, the Keep gates were open by the time he reached them. He was aware that there was a blood trail behind them extending for a couple of miles; Dubricus didn't look at all good. People scurried madly about. Harrick set down the travois and collapsed.
He woke up to someone splashing water in his face. It was Dubricus. Harrick blinked, rubbed his eyes.
"They told me you dragged me all the way here."
"How long have I been unconscious?" he wondered.
"About five minutes."
"Oh. The vial."
Brother Martin was supporting his head, he discovered. "How are you doing, my tusked friend?"
"I feel like we just got the living daylights beaten out of us by eight sociopathic dwarves."
"Where are the others?"
"They should be behind me, they're just not as fast. Nobody else is wounded as badly as he was."
The others appeared soon thereafter, also shocked to be greeted by Dubricus at the gate. Their wounds were cared for, although there was no need for Martin to use the precious vial again. Legend would later claim that Harrick had borne Dubricus for two days before reaching the Keep, and that Martin had merely laid his hands on the dying man before he rose up, healed.
But that was years later.
End of fight tally:
Eight dwarves: dead
Dubricus: double wound
Jared: two points from death
Robin: unconscious, wounded
Harrick: one point from unconsciousness, wounded
Terzin: two points from unconsciousness, wounded
Brian informed us that this was where the gnolls were supposed to appear after the dwarves had kicked the crap out of us. Halfway through the fight he realized that we actually had a chance of making it through, and changed plans. Though he admitted that he had been sure that Jared took enough damage to kill him when the berserk rage wore off....
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