All thought of stealth and the possibly imminent attack disappeared, as the seven companions took a moment to take in their new surroundings.”What the…”
“Dude you’re tiny…”
“Are you gray? What happened to your hair?”
Everyone talked at once as they poked at the furs they were wrapped in, checked the various weapons they found themselves holding and, for the dwarves and halfling, got used to their sudden change of perspective. Amber pulled at the long braid of hair that tumbled over her shoulder while Tulip inspected the twin daggers now hanging at her waist. Chris felt for Betty, his acoustic, discovering instead a rounded string instrument slung across his back. The clothes they had been wearing had been replaced with leggings and boots, furs and cloaks all in universal earthy tones, here and there silver and golden glints hinted at armoured breastplates or more concealed weapons underneath. Seth lurched rather than walked under the unfamiliar weight of the heavy plate armour he was wearing. In fact, they were so busy that all of them failed to notice the sudden movement in the darkened alleyway opposite. With a sudden flurry of sound something large and furry burst out of the alley and, leaping over all heads, except for Duncan’s, landed with a clump behind them.
“Dude, ow!” Duncan growled.
“…was that?” A low growl came from behind the party as they froze, then slowly turned to face the mystery creature. Duncan staggered slightly grasping his head. “That fucking hurt man.” A thought spoke up, it sounded eerily like Miller’s and it said, “two hit points of damage.” He shook his head again and stepped up alongside his companions, studying the form before him.
“A Christmas elf riding a giant wolf? Yeah, I believe so.”
The wolf stood at least five feet tall, its front legs were splayed and its huge head hung down between them. Its mouth gaped open, shining teeth glinting in the white light and its tongue lolled, red and dripping with saliva. A second low growl emanated from its throat and its nose wrinkled, further exposing its teeth. Yellow eyes glared from shaggy grey fur. Gripping the fur at the nape of the wolf’s neck and balanced just in front of its massive shoulders was a small elf dressed in red and green. On top of the elf’s head sat a pointed green hat, complete with brass bell. The bell jingled lightly as the tip of the hat bobbed. The elf grinned and raised what looked to be a giant candy cane.
“Are you freaking kidding?” Amber asked. “Miller! MILLER! What the hell is this?!” Silence answered her shout.
“Kediranyth, shhh” Matt hissed. Amber glared at him.
“Kediranyth?” Matt frowned, his mouth moved making an A shape.
“Amkediranyth…” He shrugged.
“Seriously. Rurik. Mrr.. Marrr… Shit.” The exchange had momentarily caught the attention of the rest of the party. Amber gestured at herself and the others “Seems like, as we’re somehow in game, we respond in game.” Seth gaped as the others nodded.
“Actually doing this, yeah.”
Rather than attacking, the wolf growled a third time as the elf waved its candy cane threateningly. Rurik studied both wolf and elf, his eyes glinting from above the unruly beard that his face had become, before seeming to come to some sort of conclusion. He nodded to Ollom, silently calling him over. The dwarves, for that was what they now were, conversed in a series of grunts and nods. Still the wolf waited. After several more grunts followed by sounds of assent they turned to face the rest of the group.
“So, as Kediranyth has surmised we are indeed in game. Ollom agrees that the reason we’re not currently being torn asunder is that the wolf will only attack in response to our moves.”
“So we attack first? What order?” The dwarves shrugged. Myla pressed on, “well normally we’d discuss a possible attack, take an initiative roll and then take it in turns depending on success rolls etcetera.” She paused while the rest took her words in. “I guess, without a DM or dice we discuss and attack?”
“Why do we have no DM? MILLER, THIS ISNT EVEN FUNNY, I SWEAR I’LL…” Kediranyth let the threat fall short as an idea occurred to her. “What if it’s not Miller? He wasn’t with us, perhaps he’s…”
“… Somewhere else?” Holg grunted.
“Yeah, which means, he should still be,” Amber gestured, “around.”
“Right, but until then, what do we do about this wolf?” Rurik waved a hand in the direction of the still waiting wolf. Kediranyth shrugged.
Warming to the idea, Oswyn picked up the thread. “Right so I’m gonna wield my great sword and probably use holy sword while I’m at it. However, I think it’s better if I attack in defence, I’m considerably more reluctant to fuck with my deity and stuff if this is for real now.”
“That’s fair, so Oswyn if you move a little to the left to flank the wolf and then make your attack. I’m gonna, um, hmm…”
“Well while you’re thinking, I’ll go, I’d like to stealth and then dagger, dagger.” Myla suggested.
“Um, maybe I’m missing something really important but, how about we just fight the giant wolf? No talking, just fighting?” Holg swung his axe in frustration. “We’ve never had to talk about what we’re going to do.”
“And that’s worked out for you huh?” Ollom grumbled. Holg ignored him, turning instead to the wolf and raising his axe.
“I smash the wolf in its face with my MASSIVE AXE.” He roared.
The axe swung in an arc above Holg’s head, as it reached its zenith, Holg reversed the movement bringing the axe rushing towards the wolf’s face. Completely unperturbed by the shining blade swinging towards its face, the wolf stood its ground and merely snarled at the orc. At the very last moment the Christmas elf tugged on the wolf’s fur and the creature turned its head away, the fur rippling in the slipstream created by the axe’s momentum. The force of the swing drove the head of the axe into the mud. Before either the elf or the wolf had a chance to recover, Lyle stepped forward and, reaching behind him pulled the Mandolin from his back. He stood, eying the wolf as his fingers plucked idly at the strings. The wolf returned the stare, its eyes flashing fiercely, at least, initially. Gradually, as the music reached it, the wolf began to sway, on its back the elf shrieked and kicked fruitlessly.
“I’m not sure how long this’ll hold it so someone should do something a little bashy, maybe?”
Ollom and Rurik rushed forward simultaneously, Ollom wielding a huge mace (at least in comparison to his size) while Rurik held a quarterstaff. Flickers of lightning ran up and down it as it fizzled and crackled. As the dwarves lashed out at the wolf, doing little damage, Myla faded slowly into the background as she stepped away and drew her twin daggers, while Oswyn, who had been moving slowly round the back of the wolf paused, sword held aloft. With a heave and a grunt Holg had managed to free his axe and, with a bloodthirsty scream, came to the aid of his dwarven companions, swinging the axe again towards the face of the wolf. At the same moment two daggers flew out of the darkness one after the other, the first sinking up to its hilt in one yellow eye, the other flying over the wolf’s head, catching the elf’s hat before disappearing in a puff of smoke. Holg’s swing hit home, the axe head sinking deeply into the wolf’s shoulder. With a yelp and a howl the wolf lashed out at the orc, its giant paw knocking him to one side. Before Oswyn could move, the wolf swung its head round and snapped at the cleric. His heavy armor protected him from the worst of it although he still staggered with the force of the attack.
“Guys? Helloo-o, hey, where did you go?” The party stopped mid fight, looking around for the disembodied voice that had spoken to them.
“Amber, where the hell are you?”
“Er, in game, winter wolf, Christmas elf, could do with a little help here?”
“What? Winter wolf, elf… Oh, the attack. Yeah, thought the elf would make it a little more um, seasonal.”
“Yeah dude, maybe not such a great look for realsies.”
“Oh, shame.” Kediranyth rolled her eyes at the rest of the party who were split between with watching her shout at the sky and watching the wolf, hoping Lyle’s enchantment held.
“Yeah, so anyway, we’re in the middle of a fight. Big wolf, currently enchanted, elf looks angry, suggestions? Stats? Anything?”
“Right, erm, well you know about the wolf, Winter Wolf as you said so, good work there. The elf is a modified dark elf.”
“To make it Christmassy.”
“So no fancy powers, nothing unexpected?”
“Does it have a candy cane mace?”
“Then that’s pretty much it. I, well, I guess I’ll maybe go look into how you’re in the game maybe? I’ll keep one ear out, holler if you need me?”
“Wait, you’re not gonna tell us what else to expect, give us a heads up?” Miller chuckled, the sound rumbling from behind the dark snow laden clouds.
“Now what kind of DM would that make me?”
Before the party had time to reflect on the information provided by the booming voice of Miller, the elf, apparently bored of waiting, leapt off the wolf’s back with a high pitched yell and, before anyone could stop it, dashed away towards the light. The wolf looked back and forth as the group closed in on it. Oswyn and Holg had picked themselves up and were swinging their respective weapons while the dwarves and halfling glared threateningly at the wolf’s knees. Before any of the surrounding party could attack, or Myla could throw more daggers from the darkness, Kediranyth spoke up.
“Wait, I have something which might work to our advantage.” She looked at each of her companions in turn, making sure they were listening and not thinking about axing the wolf in it’s head. “It’s a prepared spell and normally would last about nine rounds, depending on rolls. I’m not sure how that translates now exactly but, hopefully long enough to fight off anything else lying in wait for us.”
“Sweet, might as well try.”
“And when it wears off?”
Kediranyth didn’t bother to look up as she answered. “Kill it with fire.”
As she raised her hands, they began to sparkle with arcane energy. Kediranyth closed her eyes, her lips moving as she silently muttered to herself. The energy slowly coalesced into a glowing blue whitish ball, tendrils gently smoking off it, the ball growing ever larger until it reached the size of a decent sized halfling. Slowly the druid pushed the ball so it glided towards the wolf, as it touched the creature the energy dissipated, covering the wolf in a glowing mantle of arcane magic. The one remaining eye which had moments before been glaring balefully at the party now blinked slowly, docilely. With an uff and a slight grunting whine the wolf lay down, placing its huge head between its paws. Kediranyth stepped forwards and tentatively scratched behind the wolf’s ears. Only when it didn’t snap her in half did the rest of the party relax.
Wolf subdued and Miller currently silent, the group took the time to finally check the alley, as they had been intending to before the attack. It was only as they entered one of the houses at the entrance to the alley that Ollom remembered the glint he had seen in the upstairs window. Just as he was about to remind the group of this, there was a wailing scream and another red and green striped elf flung itself at them from the shadows. Before anyone had time to react the wolf, which was still acting under Kediranyth’s power and was therefore currently on their side, leapt forward and snapped the tiny assailant up.
They managed to search the rest of the town without any further ambushes. Miller eventually and reluctantly confirmed that he’d only planned the one ambush to get them in the swing of things and then he was saving the rest for the final big battle. He wouldn’t say any more than that, despite the party’s insistence that it would make things considerably easier – not in the job remit for DM – that it was now officially a real hunt and so he should do what he normally does – not exactly, but good try – because it would help avoid a TPK and seeing as there was no guarantee that what happened in game would stay in game – TPKs are urban myths, won’t happen. With nothing else to do except continue playing the game until they either died or found a way out, the party continued through the town and towards the mysterious source of light.
As they drew nearer they could see a shadow behind the light, it gradually coalesced into the outline of a largish structure.
“As you draw near to the light you can see the form of a building behind it. It seems to be some sort of mead hall and from inside you can hear rumblings.”
“Dude, now you talk to us?” Kediranyth yelled skywards.
“Well, yeah, DM, remember? You continue travelling in the direction of the hall until you are past the light and can see the building clearly. It is a huge wooden structure, the giant double doors are closed and the face of the building is dark save the glimmers of light along the edges of the doorway.”
“Is there any sign of what might be in the hall?”
“Not from where you’re standing, no.”
“If I crept to the door and out my eye to the crack could I see?”
“Yeah, I guess although I’d need a stealth roll.”
Miller chuckled, “ah yeah, sorry, habit.”
Rurik looked around at the party. “Oswyn, you and Ollom stand ready, Holg go see what you can through the crack busy the hinges.”
“Me why?” Holg grumbled.
“Because. Now, go.” Holg opened his mouth to protest, at the same time his feet began moving.
“Hey! The hell?”
Rurik chuckled, a low sound a little like rocks sliding together. “Sorry man, leadership stats. What can I say?” He didn’t look even remotely sorry, not that it was easy to tell, most of his face being unruly beard and all. Unable to stop himself Holg stomped towards the door. He stood there for a few moments before turning to face the party. His face, already the grey skin of an Orc was ashen, a once thought impossibility. Slowly he trudged back. They rest of the party awaited his report.
“Um, well if you were wondering where the people were.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “There’s something in with them, I’d say at least two somethings but I couldn’t get a good enough look. At a guess I’d say something serpentine maybe? It was either a snake or a tail.” The seven stood in a rough circle mulling over Holg’s description.
“All the town people?” Oswyn asked. Holg grunted something which could have been, yeah, dunno or couldn’t tell. He may of course have been speaking in Orc although several other members of the party would have recognised the language and would have understood exactly what he’d said. Oswyn looked at the dwarves.
“Ideas?” Rurik and Ollom conferred while the others looked on, Lyle absentmindedly plucked on his mandolin and Kediranyth petted the wolf which was still under Lyle’s spell.
“I say we kick the door in.”
Myla rolled her eyes. “Idiot Orc, I vote stealth.” Ignoring the suggestions the dwarves continued to discuss.
“Wait.” Kediranyth had stopped stroking the wolf and was looking from it to the hall. “I think we do kick the doors in and then send them Fluffy. Miller, that possible?”
“Technically, although I have no idea how much longer the wolf will follow you.”
“Good enough. Holg, would you do the honours?” Holg grunted and turned back towards the hall. Kediranyth looked at the dwarves. “Gentlemen, you got a better plan? No? Then let’s see what damage our puppy can do eh.” She leant in to the wolf and whispered in its huge furry ear. The rest of the party waited with baited breath as she did, convinced the wolf would respond by ripping her head from her shoulders. All of them breathed a collective sigh of relief when it didn’t and, instead, turned to follow Holg towards the hall.
With a roar, Holg leaned back and, raising one leg, threw his weight at the door. The impact of his huge Orc foot, propelled by his immense Orc, strength sent the doors flying inwards in prices. The wolf shot in through the open doorway snarling. The last the party saw of the wolf was his shaggy shadow leaping into the blazing golden light which shone out of the doorway. Buoyed up by the moment they cheered, a cheer which was cut short as the wolf flew back out of the door landing with a yelp in a snow bank. Horrified the party turned just in time to see the towering form and serpentine neck of a white dragon as it clambered out of the hall and into the snow. It lashed head and tail angrily, in opposite directions, and screeched before belching out a plume of fire into the sky. Behind the dragon a shadow moved, a shadow with a similar long neck and whipping tail, a shadow which suggested a second dragon. Holg stumbled backwards out of the reach of its snapping jaws and talons as the rest of the party stood riveted to the spot with shock. The dragon roared once and then ducked back inside the building. Holg waited a moment until he was sure it was safe and then headed back to the party.
“So, er, plan B anyone?” Myla snorted as both Rurik and Ollom, possibly, frowned in Holg’s direction. “No? Kediranyth?”
Kediranyth stood still gaping at the doorway, her brain hadn’t quite got past the shock and somewhere a tiny voice was still quietly screaming ‘dragon!’ ‘Dra-agon!’ Holg eventually moved to stand in front of her. As soon as her view was blocked she seemed to snap out of it. Slowly her eyes refocused and she looked at Holg. “Huh?”
“Plan B?” She shook her head. “Great.” Holg stomped off his axe swinging lazily at his side.
“Soooo Dragons eh? Should have seen that coming.” Oswyn stood beside Kediranyth the reflected light from the hall shimmered in his armor. “I mean nothing says Christmas like a dragon right?”