Shadows and Steel
(Tales of a Drow)
Vixea’nkitie stood alert in a clearing, her powerful bow still raised, carefully scanning the area for more of the unpredictable pirate bands. She was here in further investigation of the self named TSS and their rampage of murder. The drow had been to Shark Cove only the night before, following the under ground trail of the cunning killers from the Sancrist Inn in Engliton, to Silent Parrot outside Darkmoor. Indeed, her travels of this day had her fighting past the troll clans of the Cliffs, the Slaadi of the Bog, and the powerful water elementals of Pond Path on a return trip to Engliton.
She had only just arrived at the Inn and had yet to even set down her well worn packs when a urchin child burst in with a scrawled note in her grubby hand. Vix quickly scanned the note, sighed heavily, and readjusted the heavy packs upon her slender back. The drow flipped a handful of meal chits to the child as payment and once again left the Sancrist, hoping no more attacks would come in her continued absence.
Following the note’s request, the drow entered the Groggy Gull to find a large meeting of several prominent peoples of the barony and several others who shared a common bond with Vix. Lord Elron, Vizier Arcannus, Miaa Es, Razgril, Tris, and many others. Fai caught Vix’s eye, waved her over, and expressed her thanks for coming. The lanky rogue then told Vix of the massacre at the orphanage, the search for a possible tunnel in the Gull, and the expedition Miaa was forming to search the Silent Parrot in Arcavia.
Vix sighed, spoke with the leaders of the expedition and offered her assistance yet again. The group made their way to Darkmoor, Tris and Vixea’nkitie utilizing disguises to get through the city and to the Silent Parrot. A thorough search both mundane and magical turned up no further clues or tunnels and the band broke up, disheartened, but intent on stopping this reign of terror.
As the group dispersed, several were ambushed by the Aego pirates, including an antagonistic and half drunken dwarf named Crunk, who through the whole investigation had been decrying Razgril’s affliction and promising to end his undead life. Fai and Vix went to his aid, the tall rogue with her spinning twin blades, and the dusky hued innkeep with her bow. Blades flashed, arrows hissed, and cries of pain in the mists rolling in from the water. The furious battle was short and the wounded form of Fai limped out of the swirling fog to Vix’s side.
“Fai, you need to be more careful with these fellows, ” the drow chided affably, glancing at the many minor cuts and scrapes on her friend.
“Nae, ‘tis n’ worry t’ Fai, luv,” the rogue grinned back, “But th’ dwarf dinnae make i’.”
Vix sighed in exasperation at the stubbornness of dwarves and the foolhardiness of inexperience, told Fai to rest and tend her wounds, and stalked into the mists to find the dwarf. Fai waved agreement as she sat down, her wince belying the seriousness of her wounds.
The drow moved swiftly and silently in the gray fog, her keen ears searching for the moans of the wounded dwarf, as both her normal sight and her darkvison were nigh useless. There was no sound except the gentle lapping of the water upon the grassy shore. The drow decided to go as far as the water, and if the dwarf was not located, she was going to leave him. The area was too dangerous, and dwarves too hardheaded, for her to risk more than that. Just as the water came into view through the shifting fog, the generally surefooted drow tripped over something large that moaned.
Vix rolled and came up, bow at the ready in case it was another pirate ambush. Another moanfrom the dark shape was the only sound. Carefully the drow reached out and rolled the shape towards her. It was the damned dwarf, Crunk. His stout body was lacerated and pincushioned by the darts and daggers of the now dead pirates which the flowing mists briefly allowed her to see arranged around them.
Cursing under her breath in Drow, Vix slid an expensive parchment from a tube on her belt and began incanting the words inscribed upon it. She was glad for her brief training by the priestesses of her homeland which allowed her use of such scrolls. With a final word, the parchment glowed blue-white and burst into a puff of smoke, mingling the swirls and eddies of fog surrounding them. A sound of rushing wind, tinkling glass, and clattering bones filled the air as a white glow surrounded the fallen dwarf. A ghost image, translucent and pale, formed over the dwarf and settled into the still form.
A moment passed, then two. Finally the dwarf cracked an eye open and looked at his rescuer.
“Ah, it’s you, dark one,” he said as if he was not quite surprised to see Vix kneeling over him. “That were a right bonny scrap I got meself into. These water rats are tougher’n an ornery owlbear.” Vix only stared at the dwarf, her eyes like twin flames of violet.
“I brought you back, earthchild, and you are beholden to me,” the drow growled down at Crunk. “Upon your word, you will learn the truth of Razgril before uttering another word of him, or rousing others against him, else I will place you back whence you came myself!”
The dwarf’s eyes widened, all semblance of drunkenness gone in them. “Indeed, indeed,” he hastily cried. “So do I swear!”
Vix roughly hoisted the dwarf to his feet and shoved him towards the distant shadow of the Silent Parrot. “Then get back to the tavern quickly before more of these arrive,” she commanded,nodding to the dead pirates.
The drow watched Crunk move past the tavern and towards the entrance, before she turned to check on Fai. The mist was lessening, and Vix located her quickly, motioning for the tall rogue to follow along. Fai padded alongside the drow as they made their way to the Parrot, seeming refreshed from the short rest. She and Vix were speaking in hushed tones about what to do about the arrogant dwarf, when a sharp object slammed into Vix’s back, spinning her around and to the ground.
“Ungh!” the drow grunted as she hit the soft turf. Fai had dropped into an alert crouch, deftly dodging the darts swarming around her, and slipped her blades free. Vix got to her knees and raised her head. Twin orbs of red flared in her eyes as she exploded into a run, her longsword rasping from her sheath, her mouth open in a scream of rage. “I have had ENOUGH of you!”
The drow knocked two darts out of her way with her longsword, and dropped into a rolling tumble to avoid several others, coming up in a battle stance, her blood red shield now strapped to her arm and absorbing several more impacts. She growled in rage, her eyes taking in the situation. Three of the powerful pirates were now only a few short yards away, two of which were even now reaching for their deadly curved cutlasses and advancing on her position.
Vix spun, the shield taking yet another volley of the darts, her silvery longsword whipping out and cutting a bloody line across the chest of the nearest sword wielding pirate, then dropping into a roll to come up on the other side of the second, barely blocking a downward slash on her own blade. But the maneuver left her back sword arm exposed to the dart throwing pirate, and several more of the stinging blades sped in before she could twist away. Her armor took most of the impacts, and she was not cut, but there were surely going to be bruises to tend to after.
Another downward sweep came at the drow, again her sword flicked out and parried, sending a shock down her bruised arm. Vix swept one slender foot across in a roll, knocking the first pirate off his feet. She continued the roll, gaining her feet under her still spinning, and slammed her shield into the face of the second pirate rushing towards her, sword raised.
Yet another volley of the wicked darts peppered the ground at the drow’ feet, as she hastily backpedaled, trying to keep all three of the vicious pirates in view. Vix knew she was outmatched unless she could somehow remove the dart thrower from the battle. But her thoughts were interrupted as both cutlass wielding pirates flanked her, stabbing and slashing, attempting to get through her defenses. Vix threw a wide slash that left a matching gash to the original she placed upon the first pirate, then saw the dart thrower ready to unleash another barrage at her unprotected front.
Suddenly, as if stepping from thin air, Fai was behind the dart thrower. Her twin blades slashed in an X, then back across each other in parallel lines. The dart pirate fell face forward to the ground, dead, his back opened to the ribs, his spine severed below that, a mist of blood spraying into the air. Fai did not wait until the body fell, but leaped forward, using the falling dead man as a launching board and screaming a battle cry.
The first pirate turned in surprise at this new assault only to receive a third slash across his chest from one of the lanky rogue’s short blades. Not to waste an opportunity, Vix dropped to one knee, thrusting her own blade out and up into the pirate’s chest and raising her shield to block a lightning fast series of blows from the second pirate.
Seeing both of his companions dead, the remaining unwounded pirate stepped back, his sword weaving an intricate pattern before him. Fai merely spun at him, her blades flashing, sparks and blood flying as both managed to land blows upon the other in the furious exchange. Vix yanked her longsword from the dead pirate and stepped into the swirling chaos of Fai and the last pirate.
Vix twisted and turned, her blade seeking an opening past the flashing blade of the pirate. His attention focused on the drow’s relentless assault, Fai was able to land several more blows to the pirates leg and arm. Vix lashed out once more, her blade cleaving through the bottom half of the pirates face, as Fai’s blades slid home in-between his ribs.
Vix quickly wiped her sword clean on the pirates corpse and cast an appraising eye on her friend. Fai stood panting heavily, exhaustion from her previous battle and the effects of the older and newer wounds evident in her stance. The sounds of running feet, and the zipping hiss of more darts heralded the arrival of more of the deadly pirates. Vix knew a third battle would be the end for the lanky rogue, and wasn’t so sure she would survive it either. The drow threw her shield up as the darts began swarming in, trying to protect them both from the stinging bites and nudged Fai forward with her own body.
“Quickly, Fai, else we are lost,” Vix hissed. Fai nodded once and they bolted for the safety of the trees, hoping to elude the incoming pirates in the close packed and shadowy forest. More darts flew around them as they dodged tree trunks suddenly sprouting the small blades.
Some long minutes later, the sound of pursuers lost well behind, the two friends crashed into the clearing where the Silent Parrot was situated. A loud shout of greeting welcomed them, and they spied Crunk, sprawled against the tavern’s outside wall, a scattering of empty mugs around him.
“Hic,” the dwarf managed a bleary eyed smile, “Glad ye could make it. Thought ye were goners there, I did.” He raised a half empty mug of grog in salute, sloshing a good portion of it upon the ground. “Now, ken ye be helping a dwarf get back home?”
As one, Fai and Vix turned silent gazes upon one another and sighed deeply, before turning back to the dwarf and motioning him to follow ....
This was before SoU and the Shadowdancer prestige class. Vix was a simple Fighter/Rogue at this time, using a longsword and shield, as well as ranged weapons in most combats. She later rerolled to a Fighter/Rogue/SD and went dual wield rapiers.
The area in game was a deathtrap for low levels, unskilled, and the unwary. The pirates in the area had a fantastically high respawn rate, often respawning while you were fighting another group. They were of moderately high level and came with both heavy hitting melee and ranged attackers who would throw "darts" in rapid succession for as much damage as the melee.
Being able to traverse the area solo was considered a mark of skill and honor at the time of this story.
I honestly forget what the TSS stood for (The Shadow Society, maybe?), but it was a DM plot where a shadowy group was randomly murdering folk, especially children. Vix was involved after an attack upon the Sancrist, which she had recently gained control of. Dozens were killed and it seemed drow were implicated. To clear her name and uphold her duties as a new, yet controversial, citizen of the Empire, as well as to avenge a few folk, she began a personal investigation and gave free information and aid to the governments. The real, deepest reason she became involved was also in part because someone dared to assault her newly hard won position and she was pissed. >_>