Dueg’s hand feebly tried to cover the rumbling sound issuing insistently from his stomach. For the past two days now the three still breathing companions had grown increasingly tense and frustrated as their hunger had become more and more overwhelming. Due to the urgent need to reach the Forsaken Oracle first, they had been forced to abandon hunting for the Warlock and Death Knight who had stolen their supplies and rations and move further into the mountains. Now they found themselves on a mountain pass, the thin air mixed with severe hunger taking it’s toll on all their psyches.
Noxt, however, had seemed to grow in an increasingly enjoyable mood, as though it were simply a jaunt through a decorated garden. Dueg couldn’t grasp how someone who had had their mind pervaded and turned into a puppet could have such an enjoyable time afterwards. He supposed it had to do with the fact that his nerves were deadened to the pain of soar muscles and that his lungs no longer needed the precious oxygen that was slowly filtering out of the atmosphere the higher they got. Either way, thoughts of murder kept flitting through all three of the oxygen starved minds that still needed it.
The four had hardly spoken since they had begun the hard hike, knowing that their destination was drawing near, but unsure of how to accomplish their goal since they had been severely reduced in resources. Reyk still had his sword and a mail shirt, but his plate armor had been stolen while they battled the lich, righteous rage flowing through him even know at the heresy of having his holy armor debased by other’s hands. Dueg on the other hand had his prayer stone and staff stolen. Though the staff was of little concern with only a minor light enchantment upon it, without his prayer stone his meditations had lost their soothing effect upon him. He was becoming increasingly frazzled the further along they went.
Scrat, however, had been hit the hardest. Most of his armor had been stolen by the thieves, but what had hit the hardest was the loss of his intricately carved totems. As a shaman, he tended to carry dozens of them at a time, used in order to summon spirits or command elements. Without them, Scrat had lost an edge of his effectiveness, making him little more than a mace wielding warrior who could occasionally fire off an elemental burst. He had already begun to carve new ones, but at the moment they were crude and hardly indicative of what they represented, meaning they wouldn’t command much power in the elemental world.
And so the three had grown increasingly miserable as they continued on, griping and snapping at each other as their main form of communication. Noxt, on the other hand, had lost almost nothing except a few magical components easily replaced and an enchanted dagger that, though valuable, was hardly irreplaceable for the crafty mage. Mixed with the fact that the journey was taking little to no toll on the mage and that he was actually seeming to enjoy it made him increasingly insufferable to the three who had taken losses.
“Not too far now, my comrades, not too far at all,” intoned Noxt for what must have been the third time in the last few hours. Though they were indeed in the area of their destination, there was certainly nothing to indicate that they might be drawing closer or farther away from the Oracle they sought. Reyk opened his mouth to let Noxt know where he could place his cheery attitude when a small shape suddenly jumped down from an outcropping above them, landing in the middle of the group and yelling out an arcane word of power.
Before any of the companions could react, all four of them were frozen to the ground, held firm by blocks of ice that crawled up their calves. Reyk immediately swung at the shape which was able to swiftly roll under the keen edged blade and then away from the outraged holy warrior. Light, whispered Dueg, bless this area with di- suddenly Dueg’s voice was snatched from him, causing him to lose his command of the spell that would have dispelled these frozen blocks. He looked up to see the small shape stand up next to a taller one, both resolving into the Alliance wretches that had held them prisoner before.
Dueg felt his rage rise as he saw the murderous shadow priest Finegal standing with the tiny mage Ignat as they both began to whisper spells. Before they could finish however, Scrat called upon the spirits to release him from the magical embrace, jumping forwards and swinging his mace at the shadow priest, causing him to go off balance and lose the thread of power he had been gathering. Noxt meanwhile released a fireball, watching with glee as it flew straight for the diminutive magic user who made no move to dodge or step out of the way. A second later, however, the fireball flared and then died against the magical barrier of ice surrounding the mage.
Suddenly they were all free as the spell which had held them slowly dissipated and Reyk shot forward in a blind rage, his sword held high and ready to destroy their enemies. He didn’t get more than a few steps, however, before he collided with a wall of ice which sprung up instantly between him and the two alliance. Scrat, who was grappling with the shadow priest in a fierce hand to hand brawl disappeared from sight as well as Noxt stepped forward, placing his hand upon the barrier as tendrils of freezing air swirled around it. After a moment, his hand began to glow a deep red and the ice slowly began to melt away, the wall gently shrinking.
After a few minutes, the three could see enough over the wall to see that the two Alliance were gone and Scrat lay unmoving upon the dirt path. With a final shove, Reyk pushed what was left of the barrier over as Dueg rushed to Scrat, leaning down and examining him. Reyk and Noxt immediately set up defensive positions, watching along the path that that curved away in case the two decided to make another rush at them as they tended to the troll. Dueg rolled him over to find him breathing shallowly and his three fingers gripped around a wicked dagger that protruded from his side.
“Poison,” said Dueg, recognizing the slick, green liquid that coated the blade, “Fast acting as well, we can’t move him or he’ll die in the process.”
“You can’t cure him?” asked Reyk, keeping his eyes scanning the path.
“Poison is man made, it doesn’t have it’s roots in shadow’s entropic powers as diseases do. I can’t cure him, but I can keep him alive till it passes from his system. He’ll suffer greatly, most likely.” Dueg sighed, “We’ll lose at least a day while he recovers. I’m sure this was their plan from the beginning.”
Dueg reached down, removing the knife and slowly closing the wound with the light’s healing grace as Reyk sheathed his sword, swearing a particularly violent curse on all Alliance scum as he whispered, “Then we may have already lost.”