I stood under a small copse of cotton wood contemplating the intense rain that blanketed the region. I kept one eye closed as lightning flashed around us, hoping to keep a bit of night vision. Malevolent creatures hunted near us, blind in the storm. They appeared in my mind’s eye as diseased shadows moving against a background of glowing green. Kithri was propped in the crook of a sprawling elm, a stranger in this stand cottonwood. It stood on the driest part of this small island, a bit of dry land lost in the miasma of churned mud and rotted vegetation. The rain had drawn leeches up from the depths, a boiling mass of writhing predators searching for their next victim, not unlike those who wandered the road, searching.
I was resting from carrying Kithri. Twice I used my newly discovered spell that allowed me to see the burning glow of the living; to show me the contours of the ground before me, allowing me to avoid becoming sucked into quicksand or other sucking boggy death traps, and avoiding the hunters of all ilk. A side benefit of the new found nature sense, was the ability to make myself invisible to the natural predators. When I had first waded into the deeper water to the east of the first island, the leeches and gorge-wings ignored us, as long as I was concentrating. The one time I stumbled, nearly spilling Kithri into the stagnant water, several gorge-wings altered their sweeping search for food and veered toward us. Luckily once I had gotten Kithri settled on my shoulder once more, I was able to focus on the spell and they spun away, confused.
I had decided to go back for my friends once the rain had started. I knew it would provide a certain level of concealment, including dramatically reducing any scent we had been leaving behind. I also left the armor that I had so loved in the lean-to where Kithri had lain for the previous day. I hoped to return to retrieve it, but the magic I channeled from Semaunzilla (may her intentions be clearer in the future) was stronger and more easy to control without it.
And despite the magic reducing its weight when worn, when carried the armor retained its full weight, making it complicated to carry along with Kithri; especially on a raid. I had contemplated for the briefest of moments leaving her hidden where I hid the armor, but my gut instinct was that she’d be found and somehow destroyed. As long as she was within my general proximity, I could protect her. At least that’s what I told myself
As the rain came down in sheets, I toyed with the green magic. It seemed to be totally ignored by the creatures that hunted the night. To test my theory, I attempted to channel the divine as I knew it from Kithri. The thread was there, but pulling it was even more difficult than it had been the last time I tried. If we survived this, I would want to channel it with the armor back on, to see if that somehow gave me a small boost. I managed a flicker, nothing more. I didn’t want to do anything particular, just enough to light up the proverbial warp and the weft of the world. One of the hunters had been close, two or three dozen strides to the west as the gorge-wing flies, but out of my vision. The instant I pulled the divine from Kithri, this creature moved in a bee line directly for me.
I dropped it immediately, but it had the scent. I had suspected as much. They could smell the magic. I braced myself and waited. The creature crested the berm in front of me, snarling and yipping, confirming my fear that it was a gnoll. It took no notice of the terrain around us, but drove straight into the murky water. I tried something new, pushing with the green magic, directing it at the boiling mass of leeches that pulsed just north. Like a school of zipplets, those fist-sized fish that could strip a man of his flesh in minutes, the leeches surged to meet the gnoll.
The affect was interesting, but not what I expected. The demonic creature flailed about before it made it to shore, first falling to its knees, then plunging under the surface of the water altogether. I was relieved for the matter of a few heart beats. I could see the taint of it flickering as the leeches attacked it, spilling black blood into the water as they gorged.
Then the taint in my green sight stabilized and the gnoll thrashed up, shedding leeches as it crawled to shore. I didn’t give it a chance to recover, instead I smashed its skull in with my mace.
It was then that I realized that every single leech that had latched onto the gnoll had fallen away, dead.
I moved back from the edge of the water, scanning the area around me for more gnolls. There were a dozen or more between me and the dwarven tunnel under Far
Spire. I did not see Liz, nor Blargle in the range of my vision which told me they were either dead already, or had somehow got back into the tunnel. As clever as they both were, I opted for the second option. In my mind’s eye, Blargle had reached the tunnel and gotten inside, only to find her way out blocked by the gnolls. When Liz arrived, she managed to kill a few of the gnolls and made it into the tunnel with Blargle before more gnolls arrived.
As I couldn’t see if there were dead gnolls in the area, all that was speculation, but I did not see Liz being ambushed by a handful of these devil dogs. I could not accept that they could be dead, so my mind was made up. I just needed to kill a dozen gnolls before more arrived, and without losing Kithri, or getting killed myself.
Now, at least, I knew I could draw them to me. But I had no more leeches in proximity in which to slow the next gnoll down. I would have to consider my options.