Thursday, 26 January 2023

The Prowling Forest, Part 13

Showdown at Blubberfen: No Mercy!

Skargat growled in frustration.
The Ironforged's encampement was in partial disarray, this time thanks to a nightly visit by a roving rockgut troggoth. And of all possible nights, the dim-witted creature had chosen precisely the one before the final attack on the Swordfyshes.
The Tyrant could not ignore the threat to his encampment. Neither he could now tell the lads they were not going to deal with the Swordfyshes once and for all. But it was for his ability to deal with situations like this that he had earned himself the monicker of Brainglut.
Hrothgur was still eyeing the Ironforged leadership, even if he had laid low for a bit. Skargat had to keep the Crusher away from the real fights in which he could have regained the respect of the Gluttons and Maneaters. Sending him to hunt the troggoth was the perfect way to achieve that without showing the Tyrant was still worried.
"Hrothgur!" Skargat boomed so that all ogors could hear him. "This is a task I can only trust to you! Track the troggoth down. Kill it or tame it, I leave that to you".
"Yes, mighty Tyrant" replied the Crusher, a hint of puzzlement in his voice. "I'll deal with it".
"Good! And remember, Hrothgur, you are my number one lad! Everybody else, with me! We're going to storm Badrok Anchorage!"


***

Skargat and Cargo were the first to approach the outskirts of Badrok Anchorage. They could see the Swordfysh moored to the highest ruin, orruks busy loading it.


As the two considered whether to just let the orruks leave and then claim their territory, they spotted Krashhart, Ol' Mudgob and Docker Goff patroling the outskirts of the ruins.


That was too good an opportunity to let it slip. As one, the Tyrant and the Maneater jumped out of the undergrowth. Anchor and cutlass rung on Krashhart's armour, while Skargat's axe darted for Docker. The Warchanter stood his ground, but the 'ardboy went down like chaff before the scythe.


Krashhart recovered quickly from the surprise attack and his Gristle Grinder made short work of Cargo, giving time to Ol' Mudgob to rush for the ruins and call for reinforcements.


Leeway, Battendown and Lugger responded to the call. But the commotion was the signal the rest of the Ironforged waited for. Barag and Growt barreled forward, hungering for the fight.


They closed the distance quickly and gazed in admiration as their Tyrant went on a rampage. He leapt from a rocky outcrop right in front of Krashhart, brutally cutting him down with few well placed blows and then smashed onto Ol' Mudgob. But the Swordfyshes reinforcements stepped up, allowing the shaman to fall back.


Braggoth arrived on the scene as did Hook and Yardarm.


Ol' Mudgob summoned the Foot of Gork, and though it landed hard on Skargat, the Tyrant still managed to hack down Leeway. At the same time, Barag rubbed his Amethyst Amulet and as an incorporeal mist floated next to Battendown. As soon as he regained form, his flails slammed hard and the 'ardboy fell.


Ol' Mudgob saw the plight his crewmates were in and called for a retreat. The Swordfysh was ready for them and Blubberfen, Badrok Anchorage and the woods in between firmly in the Ironforged's hands.

***

Marg arrived on the battlefield as the Swordfyshes were boarding their ship. All that was left for him to do was rummaging through the goods the orruks had left behind. Most of them were empty, mouldy barrels. But on top of one of them was a surprisingly clean bottle. Inside it was a clear liquid and it didn't took much for the glutton to realise the orruks had forgotten some valuable Aqua Ghyranis.


***

Following the troggoth's track wasn't a hard task, and Hrothgur had time to consider the situation. Clearly the Tyrant had wanted him far from the real fight and at the same time had not humiliated him. That wasn't good for the Crusher, as he had no reason to mount another challenge. But what if the Tyrant accidentally met with a troggoth club? And then, while recovering, what if a few drops of Blight Serpent Venom ended up in his food?
Grinning, Hrothgur spotted the troggoth shambling in a glade. He pulled out a big chunk of meat from his satchel and dangle it in front of him.
"Here, boy! I got something for you... You're going to be a good boy, aren't you?"


***

As soon as the ogors had left the camp, Watcha, by now the undisputed leader among the gnoblars, squealed orders for the others to fix the encampment while he went for a range. He hadn't ventured much far from the encampement when he spotted some crudely carved moon idols, half sunk in the bog. They seemed to mark a path through the bog and as the gnoblar approached its end, he started to smell the overwhelming aroma of Stinkcranny Fungi.


***

The victory feast had lasted three whole days and nights when the food started to run low. As the unchallenged ruler of a vast tract of the Prowling Forest, Skargat wanted the feast to continue. So the gnoblars were sent to fish and trap whatever they could and immediately bring it back to the ogors' table.
For another three days and nights the feast went on, even though the meat was now consumed raw, in some casees still alive.
And then, on the dawn of the seventh day, the gnoblars couldn't keep up with the ogors' voracious appetite. Keeping a safe distance, they signaled to Skargat there was no more food.
"Well! Ironforged, we've emptied our larder and some. You all know what that means, don't you?"
The rolling thunder of several belches mixed with laughter answered the Tyrant's question.
"As I expected, lads! On the Mawpath! We move on, deeper into the Prowling Forest!"

Monday, 26 December 2022

The Prowling Forest, Part 12

Showdown at Blubberfen: Drive Them Back!

Blubberfen was now ripe with fungi and teeming with critters of all sizes.
They'd do for some tasty morsels, thought Skargat as he surveyed the restored bog with pride. Behind him, belches, farts and laughters sounded loud as the Ironforged began the forth day of feasting to celebrate their victory. Even Hrothgur's sullenness had finally gave way, and the Crusher had joined the celebrations, recognising his place in the pecking order.
Then the glint of metal in the distance caught the Tyrant's attention. It moved with purpose and too high over the bog surface to be drifting floatsam. This could only mean one thing.
"Lads!" he shouted "Drop the food and grab your weapons! Them Swordfyshes are at it again, coming into our lands! Barag, Marg and Growt, you track their path and figure out what they've been up to this time. Cargo, Braggoth and Hrothgur, with me! We're going to teach them another lesson!"
With resolute grins on their faces, the ogors stood and marched up to their assigned duties.
A bunch of gnoblars, still swelling with pride for bursting the dam, skreeched in glee and aping the ogors movement joined them.


***

The murky swampland sucked hard at both the ogors' and orruks' feet, slowing them down, when Skargat, Cargo and Hrothgur came upon Krashhart, Ol' Mudgob and Lugger Dag.


Braggoth lagged back, his armour making it more difficult for him to manage the sucking mud.



Hrothgur took the initiative and ordering Cargo with him, closed up on Krashhart. Cutlass, anchor and axes rained on the Warchanter's armour.


Ol' Mudgob bellowed a powerful Waaagh! and he and Lugger splashed noisily away, leaving the Warchanter alone. Skargat immediately sprinted in pursuit.


As he pushed through the mud, the Tyrant shouted few unsubtle threats at Braggoth, making sure that the Maneater moved up, leaving Burna behind.


The Gristle Grinder slammed square on Cargo's chest, and as the Maneater recovered his breath, Krashhart turned tail and followed his shaman.


As Leeway Ruk and Hook tryed to sneak behind the Ironforged, Burna's shout of warning was brutally cut short by Leeway's gore-hacka. Hrothgur rushed back to protect the gnoblar.


Braggoth left the pursuit of Ol' Mudgob and moved to intercept Hook.


With Cargo firing at his back, Krashhart passed close enough to Skargat that the Tyrant could finish the job started by the Maneater and the Crusher, sending the Warchanter to once again grovel in the mud. He them strode forward, in pursuit of Ol' Mudgob.


The Shaman shouted to Lugger Dag, ordering the Brute to move further away.


Ahead of the Brute, Watcha, Basha and Loota forced their way through the mud, trying to reach the orruk and pushing him back.


Hrothgur drew the vial of Blight Serpent Venom from his satchel and smeared it on his axes as he trudged forward to catch up with Leeway. In spite of the sucking mud, the Crusher came upon the brute in an avalance of poisoned blow. Braggoth braced behind his shield and took Hook charge. Soon, both brutes were sent sprawling into the bog.


Ol' Mudgob called the Foot of Gork to descend upon Cargo, all the while hacking at Skargat. At the same time, Docker Goff emerged from the mist, swinging his great axe at the Tyrant. Both the Tyrant and the Maneater, bleeding profusely, reached for their Greater Itxi Grubs and chew on them. Then Cargo opened fire on the Shaman, while Skargat hacked down Docker.


The trio of gnoblar reached Lugger, and though the brute slapped Watcha down and gave a good thumping to Basha, they managed to surround him and push him towards the edge of Blubberfen.


As one, Lugger and Ol' Mudgob realised the only thing they could do was grabbing the wounded and leave Blubberfen.

***

Even if still limping on his mending leg, Barag had led the Gluttons on the Swordfyshes' track. There seemed to be no trace of the orruks trying another underhanded trick to dislodge the Ironforged from Blubberfen. And yet, as the trio advanced through the Prowling Forest, they stumbled upon an old, small cemetery.


There, Barag found an Amethyst Amulet. As soon as he grabbed it, Marg was set upon by deadwalkers, but the glutton emerged from the fight with just some scratches and a bag full of well cured meat.

***

Finga followed Hrothgur's instructions and found the entrance to the hidden cave. Inside, he grabbed a shiny bottle. Surely it was because it was so shiny that the Crusher had sent him to recover it and told not to tell Skargat about it...


***

Even if the other gnoblars had left him behind, Skreecha was happy. As he splashed through Blubberfen he had uncovered a bunch of golden coins. With avaricious eyes, he collected them an returned to camp.

Friday, 9 December 2022

The Prowling Forest, Part 11

The Flood

The stench of putrefying algae hung heavily over the cracking hearth of what had been Blubberfen. The few surviving, skeletal trees creaked in the breeze. Yet, the attention of all the Ironforged and their gnoblars was on the two figures grappled in a bear hug.
As soon as the different parties had met at sunset, it was clear leadership must have been decided once and for all. But with so little provisions left, an eating competition was out of the question. Without a word, the Tyrant and Crusher had charged at each other and started belly wrestling.
After hours of bouncing off each other with neither able to get an advantage, Hrothgur had lowered his head and grabbed Skargat, forcing both Tyrant's arms against his massive chest. The move surprised Skargat, and for a moment he staggered back. Then he planted his rear foot and twisted around, robbing Hrothgur of his advantage and breaking his grip enough to slid his own arms free and grab the Crusher.
Now they were both pushing forward, one arm around the other's shoulder and the other around their waist, their meaty fists clutched over the opponent's back. Neither was advancing.
Then, with a might bellow, Skargat arched his shoulders backward and lifted Hrothgur, all the while tightening his grip. The Tyrant spun around and then released the Crusher who sailed through the air and slammed against a dying tree, uprooting it.
Skargat stared at the Ironforged, panting heavily.
"Anyone's anything to say?" he growled.
In the following silence, the drunken laughters of the Swordfyshes sailed through the night.
"Good! That's the last time I want to hear those orruks laughing. Cargo and Braggoth! At dawn you'll pick the five best gnoblars, leave the other two to tend the wounded. Then we'll burst that dam! My way this time! And that will remind you all why I'm called Brainglut!"

***

At fist light, Krashhart and Ol' Mudgob stood atop their crude dam. Behind them, Lugger Dag and Flotsum awaited in the wailing mangrove copse.


The Ironforged advanced, each ogor shielding the gnoblars with their bulk. The diminutive creatures puffed their chests, for they had been given the most important task.


Krashhart surprised everybody with his quick reaction. He barged past Ol' Mudgod and leapt from the dam, the Gristle Grinder hefted over his head and aimed at that of Skargat.
The Tyrant seemed to ignore him, instead turning to kick Loota. The gnoblar flew through the air squeeling. As the Gristle Grinder glanced Skargat's helm, Loota landed with a heavy tud, rolled forward and then started running towards the most distant struts.


The Warchanter came at Skargat again, but the Tyrant ducked and countered with a low blow, sweeping Krashhart off his feet. The orruk landed on his back. Skargat lifted his foot and slammed it down with all his weight on Krashhart's chest, squeezing all the breath out of him.


Faced with such a display of both cunning and brutality, Ol' Mudgob panicked. Instead of rushing to protect the nearest strut, the shaman poured eldritch blasts on Skargat. But the Gulping God was smiling upon him, and the Waaagh! energy washed off him.


Braggoth seized upon the shaman's mistake and climbed up the riverbank, cutting Ol' Mudgob off from Sneeka and Basha which immediately pressed and lit their blasting charges into the dam.


Burna and Loota followed suit, as they had been instructed, screaming with glee at their own prowess.


Cargo advanced toward yet another strut, Watcha in tow. In front of them, Lugger and Flotsum rushed out of the wailing mangroves to protect it.


But it made no difference. With a mighty thunder, all three charges exploded simulteously, scattering debris in all directions. In a split second, the echoes of the blast were drowned by the rumble of a wall of water coming crushing through.

***

Hrothgur had wondered away, the shame of his defeat too strong for him to rejoin the Gluttons. He ventured deep into the Prowling Forest and came upon an opening on the flank of a rocky hill.
Somehow, he managed to crawl through the narrow passage and emerged into a hidden cave. There, he spotted a chest. As it opened it, it revealed a trove of books and azyrite astrolabes. But what caught the Crusher's attention were the vials marked with a skull and crossbones.


He unstoppered one and the acryd smell of Blight Serpent Venom hit his nostrils. With a grin, he stashed them in his satchel. If he could not win leadership with strength, callousness would do.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022

The Prowling Forest, Part 10

The Dam

"Once again taken down! While I've uncovered the Swordfyshes' plot!" Hrothgur's voice boomed, interspersed with deep laughters.
The Maneaters looked at each other, at the still unconscoius Skargat they were carrying and at Hrothgur flanked by the Gluttons. If they had learnt something over years of mercenary life, it was when to avoid a pointless fight, as long as there was a paymaster to meet their fee. They simply nodded at each other.
"What you want us to do then?" asked Braggoth.
"Nurse the useless fat lump. Me and my lads will sort out the Swordfyshes and their dam".
Hrothgur stomped away, Marg and Growt following after darting mocking grins at the Maneaters. A couple of gnoblars flashed their tongues and rushed behind them.
As the party was safely at a distance, Braggoth turned to the other Maneaters.
"Wake him up..."
"...and tell him what happened..." continued Cargo.
"...always good keeping two paymasters fighting!" finished Barag.
The Maneaters' laughters rolled over Blubberfen, now more a mudflat than a proper bog.

A thick mist had rolled over Blubberfen by the time Hrothgur and the Gluttons had reached the dam. Over it, they could just see Ol' Mudgob and Battendown.


The plan was simple. Marg and Growt would have surprised them, emerging suddenly from the fog. At the same time, Hrothgur would have creapt forward unseen and destroyed the rearmost struts.


What the Crusher could not see in the mist, was that Krashhart and Yardarm Gark were watching over those struts from a nearby clump of wailing mangroves.


Marg and Growt sprung into action, but neither was able to take down their targets quickly as they had planned.


Upon hearing the din of combat, Krashhart bellowed orders and Yardarm rushed forward to intercept Hrothgur as he crept along the riverbank.


Skargat arrived on the scene, the expression on his face enough to terrorise Burna into telling him what Hrothgur's plan was. The Tyrant peered into the mist and as a gust of wind blew it away for a moment, he saw it was not working.


The Tyrant barrelled forward, shouting insults at Hrothgur and ordering Burna to start doing the only thing he was good at.


As the gnoblar ignited a bag of powder and blasted a hole in the central section of the dam, Skargat leapt over the riverbank and smashed down Ol' Mudgob. With a powerful kick, he sent Marg forward. Behind him, Sneeka aped Burna and another section of the dam blew up in smithereens.


Krashhart stomped on the fuse set by Marg, all the while shouting for the rest of the Swordfyshes to hurry up.


A bunch of Brutes responded to the call, coming to Battendown's rescue and forcing Growt away from the weakened section of the dam.


Burna climbed through the breach he had blasted and slowly advanced through the water now starting to flow again. A little ahead, he spotted the one point in the dam still constraining the stream.


But Hook dealt a decisive blow to Growt and advanced, spotting the gnoblar as it waded past him. The Brute called out at his mates and Lugger Dag jumped to catch Burna.


On the riverbank, Skargat squared up to Krashhart, all the while taunting Hrothgur to show some guts and come out of the fog. The Crusher responded by barreling forth and landing a flurry of blows on the Warchanter. But then Marg robbed both of them of the final blow. Krashhart rolled down the riverbank into the mud below.


Suddenly the mist lifted and Battendown, left out of the action, could see the fight was hanging on a knife edge. He shouted to Yardarm and Leeway Ruk, directing them to take Skargat from behind.


Lugger Dag kicked Burna unconscious and was then jumped upon by Hrothgur and Growt. But he stood his ground, giving time for Hook to join in and take Marg down. It was now impossible for Hrothgur to get close to the struts.


Skargat turned around and with a single blow sent Leeway to join Krashhart in the mud. But with Yardarm immediately taking the place of his comrade, the Tyrant too could not smash any of the struts. And with the mist gone, so was the Ionforged advantage. With a bellow of rage, Skargat called for a retreat.


***

As the mist lifted, Cargo left the camp to hunt for some food, leaving Braggoth and Barag to watch over the few belongings left to the Ironforged.
Suddenly, the trees at the edges of Blubberfen shaked, a grovewyrm emerging from them. Now that Blubberfen was dry, the creature was able to bounce forward, clearly intent on preying upon the Ironforged.
Braggoth and Barag braced themselves, and though they managed to fend the wyrm off, the little supplies left and the camp palisade were destroyed in the fight. Even worse, Barag broke his leg. They had no choice but to leave the area, lest the wyrm came back, and meet with the rest of the Ironforged closer to the Swordfyshes' dam.