Iron Kingdoms

Bandits - from the journal of Phadian Gess

… is never safe in the Three Crossroads. Three weeks ago it was Cryixian thralls bubbling out of the muck of the bog. Two weeks ago it was a swamp troll. This week it was bandits, well mostly bandits.
We had just left the Crone of the Swamp and were headed to a ruined tower as part of the payment to the Crone for healing Isadora. Mack was leading the way (he had caught up to us at the Green Heron Mines), followed by Kinik and Isadora, then Mob and myself and Harsifa brought up the rear.
Honestly, I am getting sick of things rising out of the swamp. Five bandits, who had obviously done this several times before, popped out of their hiding places in the bog and ambushed us. All five took shots at Kinik, trying to down the most imposing member of our group, but only one dart hit.
Isadora moved next, drawing her longsword and charging through the sludge at the highwayman closest to her. Mob then fired off a shot at the other bandit on the north side of the road, catching him in the shoulder. Harsifa started a wonderfully rousing song that seemed to lift all of our spirits and ran off toward one of the bandits to the south. Mack, rifle ready, took a shot at another bandit and put a bullet through his skull, right between the eyes, dropping the bandit instantly. I took a shot at the bandit that Harsifa was charging and the bullet grazed off of his thigh. Kinik stumbled a little and fell to one knee, something was not as it seemed.
The bandits reloaded their crossbows exceptionally quickly (at this point I knew we were no longer facing amateurs but men that made a living preying off of travelers), and took aim again. The highwayman faced off with Isadora shot her in the arm. The other highwayman on the north side of the road took a shot at Mob and missed. One of the bandits to the south took another shot at Kinik, hoping to keep her down, and hit her with another dart. Evidently the bandit I shot didn’t really care for me and shot me with a bolt from his crossbow.
Now I know why Kinik stumbled, these darts are poisoned. A wave of dizziness crashed against the inside of my skull. I have never felt so tired.
Isadora muttered a prayer to Menoth and the Lawgiver must have heard because she shook off the poison and continued through the swamp slashing at the bandit she closed with. Mob took a step back, performed some of his intricate hand movements, and brought forth spinning ethereal gears that seamed to circle around him. Harsifa reached the bandit I had shot and brought forth her her hammer. She swung the hammer over her head and her song hit a cresendo as she smashed the bandits skull to pieces. Mob performed a few more of his hand movements and shot out his own ice beam at the bandit he had hit earlier. Freezing part of the swamp and part of the bandit. Mack turned an took a shot at the bandit fighting Isadora and hit him with a glancing blow. I was able to clear my head enough to try out a new spell and shot a red steel-gaunleted magical fist from my pistol that unerringly smashed into the last uninjured bandit. Kinik shook off the daze and started plodding through the swamp.
The highwaymen counterattacked, the bandit that Mob had partially frozen stumbled in the icy muck and fell over backwards trying to get a shot off. Metal clashed and sparks flew as Isadora and the bandit faced off sword against sword. The bandit caught Isadora with a slash across the shoulder, drawing blood. The bandit that I shot with my magic missle shot back, and stuck me in the gut with another poison tipped bolt.
Harsifa moved to her right and took a mightly swing that would have shattered the bandit’s ribs to dust, if she hadn’t missed. Kinik stumbled in the mud, clearly feeling the effects of the poison. I shook off the poison, but was still in a haze when I shot my ray of frost off into the swamp completely missing my target. Mob was moving to get a better shot at the bandit that had fallen in the muck while he reloaded his pistol. Mack dropped his rifle and drew his bow, taking another shot at the bandit Isadora was fighting, and just missed his mark.
If things couldn’t get worse…I watched as an insubstantial green mist swirled around the two bandits we had downed. The flesh of the bandits melted off and the green mist filled in the empty gaps in the armor bringing two new terrors into the fight.
The next few moments were hazy and almost dreamlike as I fought an internal struggle to stay conscious. I felt myself stumble and fall to my knees. I saw Harsifa smash the last bandit into the mud and engage the mist-filled undead bandit. There was a glimpse of Mob getting shot with a dart that was intercepted at the last moment by one of the magical spinning gears rotating around him, catching the dart and grinding it to dust to fall harmlessly to the ground. The sounds of Isadora and the highwayman exchanging blows filtered in through the haze. I could hear Kinik cursing and swearing as she staggered toward the other mist zombie, fighting the poison. I saw the bandit that had fallen in the mud shoot again and hit Mob, only to be skewered in the chest by one of Mack’s arrows.
I was able to shake off the poison for a moment and shoot the zombie Harsifa was fighting with the undead melting spell I learned from watching Mob. I then started to slip back into that fuzzy dreamy feeling. I heard Harsifa’s song change to a mournful bellow as she took a wicked blow from the zombie’s short sword that should have killed her. Kinik finally was able to stand long enough to take a swing, but missed. Mob started trudging through the bog to help Isadora while Mack fired arrows that only just missed their mark.
The next few moments were frightening. Harsifa was dead on her feat, but continued to smash at the mist zombie, crushing into it with a mightly blow, screaming at it to stay dead this time. Only it did not fall. Isadora and Mob both fell into the swamp, finally subcumbing to the poisoned swords and arrows. Kinik took a swing at her enemy and disrupted the mist enough to give the appearance of it loosing an arm. Mack was able to down the bandit, shooting an arrow over the top of Isadora’s head, finally finishing off that threat. The two zombies attempted to finish off Kinik and Harsifa, but landed ineffectual blows. Mack moved down the road and finished off the mist zombie that Harsifa was fighting with an arrow shot that caught the shoulder of the armor and ripped it to pieces, scattering the mist back into the swamp. I was just able to shake off the sleeping poison and hit the last zombie infront of Kinik, disrupting the mist and causing it to flee back into the bog.
We decided to make camp right there. Broken and battered we were not going to move. At least Mack was able to prepare quite a feast. Which makes me think, if Harsifa makes love like she eats, then no wonder that miner got scared off.
~ Phadian Gess

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