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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.
 

Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Supporter
.:|Nivirea - The (Felane) Sorceress |:.

Seeing the creatures approach yet stop short of her position, Nivirea resolved to stay hidden in the dark. Despite their vigilant demeanor, there was no real reason to believe that they might be on to her. Just in case, she readied herself to fall back if necessary, and kept her eyes and ears open.
 

Kaerri

Dannigan's Lady
Administrator
Supporter
It seemed they were all in agreement. He nodded. "Let's be off, then." He was sure Nivirea would find a way to let them know if she was in trouble, but all the same, he didn't like leaving her alone longer than necessary. There was no telling what else might pop out of the darkness to surprise them.

"Powerpaw, come walk to my right, if you please. Otiorin and Oreleth, behind us, and Bria and Luna, behind them." Though the tunnel was wide enough to hold three of them in their current forms, he wanted the archers and mages to have plenty of room to move and see around the front line. "We can spread out a bit more once we're talking to them, particularly if someone has something they want to say; I'm just being cautious for the moment." With that, he led the way down the tunnel.
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth carries her bow in a easy manner, without an arrow in hand but that can change in an instant. "As you say, Brendoran. And truer words have never been spoken, Lady Luna. Let us be on our way."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
The Wayward Wanderers placed their formation as Brendoran ordered and began their move. Powerpaw drew his fell maul and crouched with a terrible eagerness while Bria kindly walked forward with a light-hearted step. Both were quiet but their approaches seemed so terrifically-different.

Not long after that, below them in the shadows, Nivirea heard faint sounds and felt her feline ears rotate to hear more. She heard the distant chink of armor, the gentle scrape of leather against the stone, and the rustle of gear and weapons. Nivirea knew the Wayward Wanderers were on the move. But looking forward, the Thri-kreen were anything but. For as the moments passed, the sounds drew nearer! The Thri-kreen heard for their antennae raised and their strange heads swiveled toward the sounds. One raised a sword and they all quietly scattered in a manner that seemed prearranged with archers in the rear (some with two bows and arrows ready to launch!). Others skulked around dark corners lying flat in wait while yet others climbed up the walls and onto the very ceilings grabbing onto what handholds only the stones themselves knew!

But the Thri-kreen had not shown any sign of spotting Nivirea. She alone knew both sides of the tale - a tale that would soon bring insectoid and Felane-shaped adventurers to meet. To what end, Nivirea could not say. But she alone held a card that no one else in this deal could pull forth. She alone crouched in the darkness between the unhurried march of her Wayward Wanderers and the ambush of the Thri-kreen who were ready to do what carnivorous hunters had done for centuries.

@Wolf Rawrrr What does Nivirea do?
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Nivirea heard her friends coming before she saw them, but saw them she did (especially in their large Felane forms). Bren and Powerpaw were the first around the bend followed by the others. In moments, you were together again, but it was clear - any loud noise whatsoever (including spellcasting with verbal components) would tip off the Thri-kreen. The dozen insectoids seemed to be waiting to identify any possible prey, and upon identification, they were ready to pounce.

What do the Wayward Wanderers do?
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Knowing that the Thri-kreen are just up ahead, Oreleth places her hand on Brendoran's shoulder and silently points, trying to show that the insect men are in front of them.
 

Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Supporter
.:|Nivirea - The (Felane) Sorceress |:.

Sensing that all of the Wanderers had arrived behind her, Nivirea peeked out of her cover and proceeded to cast her Dancing Lights cantrip, aiming to sustain it.

She placed the first orb in what she deemed to be the middle of the Thri-kreen group, the second one ten feet to the right, the third ten feet to the left, and the fourth ten feet further left and behind; aiming to illuminate as effectively as possible the area in which she believed most of the creatures were lurking.*


* Without a visual aid, that's about as detailed as I know how to make it
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter

Location: Near the Dungeons of Castle Anguish
Time/Date: Unknown. Last you knew it was mid-afternoon, Monday, 22nd September in the year 1118.
Weather: Snowy in a Loviatar-wants-you-to-die-here kind of snowy. Really, just don't go out there. =)

The Wayward Wanderers quietly crept the 400-foot trek to reunite with Nivirea, their sounds echoing gently down the tunnel that curved here and there until they saw their Summerset-born companion. Oreleth pointed toward the cavern where she had last seen the Thri-Kreen and between all of you was Nivirea whom you could see clearly and who could very likely sense the rest of her party. Nivirea peeked her whiskered snout from around the corner and began to cast something on them. A heartbeat later, four floating torchlight-beams of magical fire appeared and gently danced in place.

The Thri-kreen looked up at these lights... and madly-scattered back toward whence they came! They jumped with great alacrity and power, skirting across walls and down corners, skittering as fast as their multiple appendages could take them. In seconds, the room went from holding a dozen of the creatures lying in wait... to a bare cavern where a single stalactite dripped water ever so slowly upon some green glowing lichen.

The Wayward Wanderers were alone once more.


Thri-Kreen with Bow at Funnyjunk-dot-com.jpg
(Image credit: Funnyjunk.com)
GAME DETAILS Location: Pohjola, on a cliff not far from Castle Anguish.
Mode: Exploration
Click Blue Box for Ambiance =)
"D&D Ambiance - Dark, Dank Cave" by Sword Coast Soundscapes

 

Wolf Rawrrr

Wolf-Knight
Supporter
.:|Nivirea - The (Felane) Sorceress |:.

"Ummm..."

The girl looked more than a little stupefied as she awkwardly glanced between the semi-lit and now empty cavern, and her friends. Realizations seemed to dawn on her, little by little. She looked at Bren with an expression of rarely seen (for Nivirea) uncertainty.

"Umm..."
 

Captain Hesperus

On Vacation
Supporter
Otiorin Taletreader

Otiorin, enthused with the need to try out his newer, stealthier body, ghosted along with his friends, padded feet moving soundlessly across the ground. He kept his hands free, but knew that at a moment's notice, bow, knives or Sunfire Blade could be in his grip. He didn't quite know what to expect up ahead, but it was certainly not what happened when Nivirea cast her Dancing Lights. The Three-kreen scattered like cockroaches when a lantern was lit in a room and the cavern was suddenly empty.
"Well, that didn't go according to plan..."
 

Sherwood

Luna's Concubine
Supporter
Luna shrugs. "Look at it this way; we didn't have to take up arms against them. It may be that we will encounter these Thri-kreen later on, and we can try our hand at diplomacy then."
Cantrips - 4
Detect Magic
Mage Hand
Ray of Frost
Shield

Level 1 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Mage Armor
Burning Hands x2
Magic Missile x2
Shocking Grasp
Unseen Servant

Level 2 - 6 +1 Evoker spell
Blur x2
Flaming Sphere x2
Mirror Image
Web x2

Level 3 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Fireball x2
Haste
Lightning Bolt x2

Level 4 - 4 +1 Evoker spell
Fly x2
Fireball x3

Level 5 - 3 +1 Evoker spell
Cone of Cold x4

Level 6 - 2 +1 Evoker spell
Chain Lightning x2
Disintegrate
 

Psychie

Princess Psychie
Oreleth lets out a snort. "Well, that was . . . unexpected. I had thought that they would attack, not run away, and our efforts to try and talk with them would be fruitless. At least none of us are hurt."
 

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