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Chapter Fourteen: Stoking the Fires of Preparation

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth looks at Nivirea with narrowed eyes, wondering if she is nuts, or just crazy like a fox. Finally, she nods, points to herself and then points back towards the way that they came. As silently as a cat can, the archer slips away into the darkness and pads back towards the others to check in with them. I hope I'm not making a huge mistake by leaving Nivirea here by herself.

Assuming that she is able to slip away without being heard, she beings to move more quickly once she is out of earshot.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
A short time later, Oreleth reunited with her fellow Kitty-Face Krusaders Wayward Wanderers. She received an odd look or three when she arrived without a certain Fey-blooded sorceress. Bria rose from her praying and Powerpaw stopped trying to convince Brendoran to play a game of Hammer Smacks with him in the quiet cavern.

"Oreleth! What has happened?" Bria asked.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
The transformed elf quickly comes to the point: "Thri-Kreen. A dozen of them, armed with bows and blades in their four hands. Nivirea wished to stay behind and watch them, so I came back here as fast as I could to inform you about what we saw. Master Oscar? I know some about these insect men, but perhaps you can fill us in on more details? Are we due for a battle? Can these creatures be reasoned with?"
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna frowns, searching her own memory for what she might be able to share about these Thri-Kreen. "I just hope that Nivirea is ok out there. One against a dozen? Not good odds."
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
"But Powerpaw, I don't even have a ham--" Bren interrupted himself with a look of relief as Oreleth came back up to the party. His expression quickly changed to one of concern. "Where's Nivirea?"

He listened to Oreleth's reply, the concern not leaving his face. He didn't like the thought of Nivirea being all alone out there. He looked around for Sparkle, wondering if she'd come back with Oreleth and Oscar or if she had remained to watch over the sorceress. He, too, thought back to what he might know of these four-armed insectoids, though of course he still wanted to hear what the sage might tell. Sometimes knowledge from different sources brought different information.
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
"But Powerpaw, I don't even have a ham--" Bren interrupted himself with a look of relief as Oreleth came back up to the party. His expression quickly changed to one of concern. "Where's Nivirea?"
Powerpaw was in the middle of handing Bren one of his spare throwing hammers while reaching for one of his own when he turned and followed Bren's gaze to Oreleth. "Whu?" After Oreleth answered, Powerpaw returned his hammers to his belt and frowned. "Thri-kreen, huh? What iz dey doin' way out here? Thought dey didn't like da cold."

"What are Thri-kreen?" Bria asked. Otiorin also knew little of the enigmatic race.

Luna remembered reading about them as did Brendoran. Down in the tunnels, Nivirea's own learning came creeping back into her brain, too. As Bren said, each person knew something a little different, but all of those mentioned knew the basics.

(Repeated from above to save you from having to scroll up to it.)
The thri-kreen are a race of carnivorous insectmen who inhabit deserts and dry grasslands. They live in small, lightless burrows and are not social creatures. Thri-kreen warriors hunt many creatures, especially elves. These mantis warriors are strong and agile, able to leap 20 feet upward and 50 feet forward. The thri-kreen often use 2 specialized weapons of their own design. One is a polearm with a blade on each end which can be used to slash like a glaive or be thrown as a spear. The other weapon is a small triangular "throwing wedge" carved from a hard crystalline substance. These wedges will return to the thrower and may be caught to be thrown again if they miss their target.

Thri-kreen are highly adept at dodging missiles. Even unarmed, the insect warriors strike with 4 claw, arm-like appendages and bite with their mandibles. Anyone bitten may become paralyzed for a number of rounds.

In addition, Oreleth remembered now that the Thri-kreen were keen lovers of logic and facts and had little use for creatures without these treasures. They had few spellcasters among their kind, and mostly divine casters at that.

Brendoran's travels brought him the knowledge that the creatures somehow spoke Common and sometimes Sylvan and Elven which sometimes they use in order to trick elves to their doom. They were also incredible listeners and potent scouts.

Luna recalled studies in her time at Boccob's vast and wondrous "Knowledge College" in Summerset. With this came a theoretical reasoning that since the Thri-kreen enjoyed dining on elves, it was believed that other fey creatures were often next on the menu. Including fey-blooded sorceresses. However, since last Luna knew Nivirea still wore the form of the Felane, it was a clear blessing that if the Thri-kreen caught her scent, it would be feline odors, not fey, that would reach their senses.

Oscar rubbed his little nose. "This land of Pohjola is the last place I would expect to find Thri-kreen. What do they have to do with the Finnish Pantheon? They have no love for Ukko, Mielikki, Tapio, Loviatar, or any other from that ancient pantheon. But to answer your query, Oreleth, yes. They can be reasoned with, even bartered with. But they prize knowledge more than gold and often deal in facts." Oscar cautioned you all. "Give them no sign that you have any dealings with elves or their ilk. Nor should you attempt to be their friends, for they are insects and few of them understand the concept and even less of them have any need of it. They may know about the Dungeons of Castle Anguish, and as I have pondered, they might know why the castle itself lies in blasted ruins while the dungeons alone remain."

Bria turned to Powerpaw, meeting him nearly eye to eye instead of having to look up to him as she was used to. "Have you interacted with them before, Fuzzy Goof?"

"Naw," he waved a paw. "The only meetin' I did wif dem was back in de arena. Dere faces wif my maul! I smashed 'em inta bits when dey tried ta stick dose pointy blades in me. Ya gotta be careful wif dese guys - dey is great jumpers, dey haz all kindsa stamina, dey work really good in teams, and dey are darn-near fearless! Ya can't intimidate 'em! At least, I haz never seen it done - an' I tried! How about you guys? Whadda you know about 'em?"

* * *​

Meanwhile below, Nivirea watched as her Felane eyes seemed to make the dim lichen brighter and the movements of the Thri-kreen easier to detect. For no longer was she in the body of a fey-blooded sorceress but a natural predator who could cast Sorcerer magic. Her nose caught the air and the scents about the cavern were atrocious to smell as the blasted, wretched corpses of Ankheg by SkySting's breath and mystical power did the nose no favors.

Nivirea studied them and in doing so learned that the insect-men hardly made any sound at all. Their antennae moved often and they moved in intelligent manners. They seemed to be trying to figure out what had slain the Ankhegs. Little by little, as they brought lightning-scorched pieces of the Ankhegs to one another, their gaze began to point toward the tunnel whence SkySting's exhaled doom had come.

Nivirea got the feeling it was only a matter of time before the Thri-kreen, in their mysterious curiosity, followed the evidence and took the passage that contained her friends.
 
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Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
Bren thought about what he'd read. "Carnivorous desert- and grassland-dwellers, burrowers. They usually use unusual spears and throwing weapons of their own design; from what Oreleth says, they seem to have left the spears somewhere, but I'd not discount the possibility of those 'throwing wedges' of theirs, so be wary. They also tend to be hard to hit with projectiles. Try not to let them bite you -- they've got some kind of paralyzing venom. They speak Common, and sometimes Elven and Sylvan, though as Oscar says, we probably shouldn't try those last two around them, Elves being their favorite hunting targets." He thought a moment more, then added, "They've got excellent hearing, too. We should probably reach a decision and get with Nivirea sooner rather than later, and not risk her being overheard while trying to reach us."

He looked around at the party. "Shall we see if we can convince them to hunt elsewhere? It doesn't sound like they are native here, so it's unlikely they're part of Loviatar's traps."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Sparkle reappeared in mid-flight, her wings spread and her claw open. She landed easily on Luna's shoulder wearing a frown that seemed to detest the very idea of going back. "Whatever you decide, I am with you as long as Pyri is..." Then, her scales ruffled, Sparkle looked up at Luna and nudged her along with eyes that said, "Neck and shoulder scratchies, if you please? I've had a hard hour!"
 
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Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna takes one clawed hand and begins to carefully scratch at the neck ridge that has always been Sparkle's favorite spot, and as she does so, she says, "I am hopeful that we can get through this encounter without having to kill them, but I am uncertain if we can do so. While I am hopeful, lets not delude ourselves over the possibility that we'll have to use full blown lethal force on them. Either way, I am in this for the long haul."

"It may be that these Thri-Kreen are also under the effects of a curse that has brought them here, so far away from their normal territory."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
He looked around at the party. "Shall we see if we can convince them to hunt elsewhere? It doesn't sound like they are native here, so it's unlikely they're part of Loviatar's traps."
Powerpaw thought about it but only briefly. "Uhhh, if you tink you kin talk ta buggy-guys, den sure! Let's parleys! But if it comes ta combat, get ready! Dey is really good at jumpin' around an' usin' all four of dere arms." The furry warrior muttered in annoyance. "Makes 'em kinda hard ta smack."

Bria stepped forward, her hands clasped and her expression full of friendliness. "I think talking to the Thri-kreen is a great idea! Perhaps we might gain allies or share culture! Besides," she waved a hand toward Oreleth, "Oreleth no longer looks like an elf so they probably won't treat her like one!" She too muttered, but not in annoyance. "I really hope talking to them doesn't result in our having to smush them. So many creatures in this land of Pohjola are just so mean!"

Oscar, not being a Wayward Wanderer, kept his thoughts to himself.
 

Captain Hesperus

On Vacation
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

Otiorin frowned as he listened to the other Wayward Warrior's speak. He had never even heard of these 'Three Kreen' creatures, but for all that they sounded ominous, He wasn't immediately averse to a non-violent interaction.
"I say we at least try to be friendly. They might have insight we can use."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
As Nivirea continued to watch the band of Thri-kreen from the shadows, she witnessed one of their number (who at first glance appear much like the others) step forward to one of the Ankheg corpses. Slowly and deliberately, Nivirea watched the Thri-kreen weave one strangely-shaped hand while faint muttering and chomping sounds came from it. It did not reach any of its other three hands into pouches nor did it seem to produce anything that resembled a material component. It stared in stillness and silence at the Ankheg corpse. While Nivirea could not understand its strange reaction, there was a feeling of dread as the creature backed away from the shattered, electrified Ankheg and peered past where Nivirea hid in her Felane form.

The group moved forward toward the tunnel Nivirea occupied, but then as one, they hesitated and turned to one another. There came clicks and strange nasal sounds accompanied by the chomping of what sounded like teeth. One Thri-kreen wielding a bow and a pair of swords. It silently waved the sword at another of its brethren and that one retreated with its head bowed. The bow-wielder approached the magic-user and stood, waiting. The magic-user made strange motions as if quietly describing something very, very big and very, very dangerous.

It was in that moment that all of the Thri-kreen paused and gazed past Nivirea, still as statues.

@Wolf Rawrrr What did Nivirea do?

* * *

@Kaerri What does Brendoran direct the Wayward Wanderers to do? If you approach, please provide a party order. The tunnels are wide and long and can easily hold three of your large-sized companions side-by-side, but not four.

Meanwhile, Sparkle curled into Luna's scratching fingers and happily closed her eyes.
 

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