The Grave Ambush at Tirisvale
Part I of the Terrence Saga
Part I of the Terrence Saga
Chadwick lifted his head from the ground. His ears rang. Dimly he could see Derfin stirring behind nearby cover. The majority of the courtyard was clouded in thick smoke. He mentally probed his connection to NGE. She seemed mostly unharmed, and informed Chad that she had taken the liberty of hiding inside the Alchemists’ Society doorway when the torch fell.
Gavin and Chomsky slowly got up as well. The ringing began to fade, and they could hear again.
”–RIGHT IN THE FACE! Fuck yes! Eat shit, goblins, eat my arrow shit!”
Derfin seemed to have recovered more quickly than the others. Gavin tried to remember. Was Elven Fortitude a thing? Or was that for dwarves? Whatever.
The smoke began to clear. Slowly the courtyard, largely unscathed from the explosion, came back into view. The goblins, however, were extremely scathed. Charred bodies littered the ground. Here and there sat an errant limb; Derfin noted that one goblin’s head had made it all the way up to a nearby roof. Except for the five members of the group, nothing moved. The sounds of combat had dissipated. The goblin attack had been resoundingly defeated.
Chad hopped to his feet, suddenly energized. “Damn, guys. Nice job on that climactic final battle!” He rubbed his hands together. “Any of you know what time it is?”
Chomsky checked his pocketwatch. “It’s, uh, half past–”
“It’s LOOTIN’ time!” exclaimed Chad, bounding toward the nearest corpse. “Man, Derfin, I bet the one you Groucho’d up there had some sweet-ass ring, or maybe that shawl is cursed to make the wearer think it’s fashionable.” He rooted through charred clothes.
Gavin looked at Chomsky and mouthed, “Groucho’d?” Chomsky shrugged, unsheathed his belt knife, and walked to a nearby corpse.
Derfin glanced around the courtyard. “I mean, sure. I guess we can loot all of these bodies if there’s nothing left for us to kill.”
Chad glared at Derfin. “No. There is nothing left to do.”
“STOP! THIEF!” cried a voice. It came from the direction of the main road, back the way the group had come.
“What was that?” said Gavin. “Sounds like something cool over that way!”
“NOPE.” Chadwick struggled with the belt buckle on his corpse. “Nope, nothing, sounds like exactly nothing. We killed all of these goblins, and now we get their stuff, good thing there’s nothing to distract us at all.”
“Someone help!” cried a second voice from the same alleyway. “Anybody! Please, stop any looting you might be doing and assist us!”
Derfin wordlessly ran back to the main road with Gavin close behind. Chad stared after them. “But…” he pleaded. “But dead goblins! Money!”
Chomsky finished cutting the middle finger off of one of the goblins. He pocketed it and followed the others.
Chad looked at the goblins, then the road, then back at the goblins. NGE ran past him, following the group. Chad threw his hands in the air. “God! Fine!” He ripped the belt off of the goblin and ran.
Derfin arrived back at the main road. On the other side of the street, the smaller street continued. He saw no signs of goblin passage.
At the corner of the street was a simple wooden building. The door hung crookedly from one hinge; above it, a neatly-lettered sign proclaimed “MUSEUM: Myrv’s Collection of the Esoteric and Discussable.” A bespectacled dwarven man slumped on the ground before the door, his clothes soaked in blood. A robed woman knelt over him, murmuring; golden light played around her hands.
Derfin noted all of this as he crossed the road at a run. Behind him he could hear his companions catching up. He called to the woman. “What happened? Who did this?”
She didn’t take her eyes off of the wounded dwarf in front of her. “Someone robbed and stabbed this man. Valeros, fool as he is, chased him alone down this road. I cannot leave this man, and our other companions are helping the townspeople.”
“Understood,” said Derfin. Gavin was just catching up, and Derfin could see Chomsky, NGE, and Chad making their way down the road. “Bad guy! Good guy fighting him! This way!” Derfin called to the group, then set off again without waiting for them to catch up.
At the end of the road, a gated iron fence surrounded a field of stone monuments. Above the gate, wrought in iron, were the words “Tirisvale Cemetery.” In the center of the cemetery, two figures were locked in a duel.
“Fiend!” cried one of the figures as he hacked at his opponent. “You may have escaped the museum, but you cannot escape justice!” Derfin reasoned that the speaker was Valeros, mostly because only someone non-ironically calling themselves “Valeros” would speak that way. Valeros wore scaled armor and wielded two swords: a worn shortsword with plain markings and a shining steel longsword with a golden hilt. He had fierce green eyes and a nose crossed with scars; his unkempt dark hair flipped across his face as he turned to parry a blow. Despite his bluster, he wielded both blades with skill.
“Haha holy shit did you just actually say that?” laughed Valeros’ foe. “Man, I actually don’t want to kill you. Just walk away! It’s really, really not hard to do!” He was dressed all in black, because of course he was. He was tall and lanky, with brown hair pulled into a ponytail. He wore a lopsided grin as he danced around Valeros’ attacks, parrying and feinting with skill rivaling his opponent. The blade of his sword caught Derfin’s eyes: no light reflected off of it. A shadowy aura followed the blade as it arced through the air. His free hand was clenched into a fist, and shadows seeped out from between his fingers.
Derfin surveyed the terrain. The fence around the cemetery was sturdy, and climbing it looked difficult. The gate was closed and chained. Derfin tugged at the chains. Locked.
The rattling chains attracted the attention of the combatants. “Hah!” Valeros exclaimed. “Righteous reinforcements! You’re no match for all of us, evildoer!” He dodged the shadowy blade and struck back.
His opponent dodged and laughed again. “Dude, seriously, where did you come up with these lines? Did you read The Short-Lived Fighter’s Big Book of Things to Say Right Before Dying?”
“We’ll be there in a second!” Derfin called to Valeros. The others finally caught up.
“Who?” wheezed Chad, out of breath from the quick pace.
“Just a guess,” said Chomsky, “but is the bad guy the one in all black with the evil sword and the crazy eyes?”
“Valeros needs help,” said Derfin, declining to answer the obvious question. “We need to get through this gate.”
Chad’s forehead symbol blinked, and NGE strode forward and raised her sword. She struck at the chains with all her might.
Nothing happened, except that the sword hitting the chains produced the most awful screech imaginable. That, and Valeros slashed the dark-clothed man across his free arm. The man cursed and stumbled slightly.
NGE smashed the chains again. Nothing.
Valeros kicked his opponent in the stomach. The man dropped to his knees, and Valeros lunged and stepped on the man’s sword, trapping it. He held his own sword to the man’s throat.
“Well damn,” said Chomsky. “Looks like he didn’t need us after all.”
Valeros locked eyes with his foe. “This ends here, monster. Return what you have taken and face justice.”
The man grinned up at Valeros. “Nah, I think I’m good.” He grabbed Valeros’ sword arm with his free hand, freeing the shadows. Valeros screamed and dropped his weapons as darkness rushed up his arm. His eyes turned black.
“Oh,” said Chad. “Shit.”
“Huh!” exclaimed Chomsky. “You know, for half a second I worried that saying that he had won would make him lose, but then I did it anyway just to see what would happen. Cool!”
“FUCKING NOT COOL AT ALL, ACTUALLY,” Gavin explained.
Derfin had no comment, partially because he enjoyed watching humans die, and partially because he had finally realized something: neither of the combatants could possibly have had time to chain and lock the gate. They had to have gotten in a different way. He scanned the dirt near the gate: tracks led around the fence to the left. “This way! We can get in!” he called as he followed the tracks.
“Aw, darn. You figured it out,” said the man in black. He picked up his sword and plunged it into Valeros’ chest. The sword’s aura of shadow expanded and engulfed Valeros. He collapsed to the ground, unmoving.
“OH.” said Chad. “SHIT.”
“It’s cool,” Chomsky assured Chad. “He’s got that cleric friend back there, she can probably heal him up just fine.”
The man in black touched Valeros’ forehead and spoke an incantation. His flesh rippled and writhed.
“Hm,” said Chomsky. “Maybe not.” The group had reached a section of broken fence, and they piled through. The man in black turned to face them. He was smiling with genuine glee, which was really fucking weird. He snapped his fingers.
With a sickening squelch, Valeros’ skeleton wrenched itself out of his flesh. It picked up his longsword and stood to face the group. One eye still hung from its socket, and bits of flesh and sinew clung to the bones.
“Welp,” said Gavin, “That’s genuinely horrifying.”
“Aw, you think so?” asked the man in black in a singsong voice. “Thaaaaaanks! Valeroskeleton, kill them. Or just slow them down, I don’t really care. Peace, losers!” He ran for the stone city wall at the rear of the cemetery.
The Valeroskeleton lurched toward them. “Where does he think he’s going?” laughed Chomsky. “The fence is solid everywhere but here.”
Derfin wasn’t taking chances. He put an arrow to string and fired. The arrow grazed the man’s leg, but he seemed not to care. He pulled a piece of chalk from his pocket and crouched by the wall. In a single brisk movement, he drew a human-sized arc along the wall, ending back at the ground.
Suddenly there was a tunnel in the wall. The man waved, flipped off the group, and ran through the tunnel. It closed behind him.
Chad was furious. “God damn it! This was some bullshit ‘the villain gets away’ fight the whole time!” He took his feelings out on Valeroskeleton and shot it with his crossbow. The bolt pinged off of a rib, inflicting absolutely zero damage. Chad ignored this fact and loaded a second bolt.
The entire group unloaded their considerable might onto Valeroskeleton. NGE hacked with her sword; Derfin fired an arrow; Gavin unleashed a volley of magical projectiles; Chomsky recited portions of Skeletons? Fuck ‘Em: A Theoretical Framework Of Their General Shitness from memory, empowering the team.
The net effect of their efforts was a single chipped bone: NGE’s doing. Fortunately for the group, Valeroskeleton was wildly incompetent with a sword. It swung at NGE, the only target within reach; she dodged with ease.
“Okay, so, like, what?” said Gavin. “We fight this thing forever?”
“Nah,” Derfin said. He pulled several cloth-tipped arrows from his pack. He struck a match and touched it to the arrowheads, which burst into flame.
“Fuck yes,” said Chad. Derfin fired one arrow. It lodged in the skeleton’s ribcage. NGE chopped at the skeleton’s leg. It came loose at the knee, and the skeleton fell to the ground.
Derfin walked closer and fired a second arrow. The arrow stuck in an eye socket. The skeleton’s bones began to pop and crack from the heat.
NGE lined up a shot and swung one last time, cleaving Valeroskeleton’ skull in half. With the skull crushed, the magic animating the skeleton dissipated. The bones lay still on the ground.
The group took a moment to catch their breath, except for Chomsky. He grabbed a skeletal hand and flung it across the cemetery.
Gavin stared at him. “And you are doing…what?”
“Scattering the bones,” replied Chomsky. He looked seriously up at Gavin. “You have to scatter the bones! Or else he’ll get back up.”
Gavin gave Chomsky an incredulous look. “Scatter the bones,” he repeated. “Are you sure that’s a thing?”
“Definitely,” said Chomsky.
“No, not even a little bit,” said God.
Chad chuckled at his compatriots’ antics and clapped Derfin on the shoulder. “Hey, Elf Senses. Hear any more fighting? Anyone else that needs our help?”
Derfin stared at Chad’s hand on his shoulder until Chad removed it.
“Call me ‘Elf Senses’ again and see what happens,” replied Derfin. “And why do you ask?”
Chad knelt by Valeros’ fleshy remains and rubbed his hands together. “Because I am going to loot the shit out of this corpse.”