After the events of the Night of Fire, Lana travelled to Specularum to post notices in the windows of bars and taverns, advertising that she was recruiting mercenaries. Now that she had made the decision to settle down and build a home outside the village of Glaston, a sizeable area of the surrounding Dymrak Forest would need to be cleared of hostile inhabitants. The task was long overdue - throughout Lana's childhood memories she recalled countless attacks on the village by goblins, wolves and worse.
After an afternoon of interviewing Lana headed back to Glaston, happy in the knowledge that she had hired no fewer than forty-four armed warriors, mostly humans in addition to ten dwarven footmen and a half-dozen elven archers. Days later the inhabitants of Glaston watched in disbelief as the small army descended on their village. Their relief was enormous upon learning that the mercenaries would attempt to tame the surrounding wilderness. The construction of Lana's tower would take months and could not be interrupted by monsters straying from the forest to pick off workers. Fauna such as bears and boars could be left alone; less peaceable inhabitants would need to be talked into leaving the area or be destroyed.
The force divided in two, with Lana leading one team into the woods north of the village. The other team would head in the opposite direction. It was agreed both units should regroup in four days' time. The first expedition proved uneventful, with only small skirmishes with goblins. On the return trip several nests of giant centipedes were disturbed. Three men were bitten and fell victim to the insects' poison, reduced to vomiting and incapable of fighting. One elf was badly affected and decided to return to Specularum, abandoning his position.
Return to Glaston ... ghouls at large
Back in Glaston, the group which had tackled the southern area reported encountering yellow-skinned creatures which moved silently, bore hideous fangs and claws, and whose touch had frozen one of the party's mules on the spot. Venturing south, Lana led her team of twenty men to track down the group of ghouls and slew two dozen of the creatures. Further investigations revealed that the undead originated from a nearby shore where a pirate vessel had crashed. This was far beyond the area which Lana was required to clear, therefore she paid it scant attention and led her forces back to Glaston.
The northern team had reported increased goblin activity, therefore it came as no surprise when an encounter with the humanoids occurred. Returning to Glaston one night the party found themselves surrounded by dozens of gleaming eyes, lurking in the undergrowth. Lana called out in the Goblin language, disgruntling the dwarves present that they would not to be permitted to annihilate the goblins on sight. Lana scheduled a meeting with the leader of the goblins' tribe - a female calling herself Queen Greckly - in two nights' time. Returning the next day however the party were atttacked by a breakaway group of several dozen goblins, and were forced to defend themselves with lethal force.
Attack of the Wood Imps ("the little b@$tards")
Exploring an area to the north the next day a portion of ground fell away causing six or so party members to tumble into a pit lined with jagged rocks, positioned to point upwards. Dozens of small faces appeared in the trees, chittering and jibbering. Lana was aghast that six of her men had lost their lives in an unprovoked and unwarranted manner. "Those little bastards," she growled, eyeing the tiny figures with contempt. These were miniature humanoids, each no taller than a foot with wild eyes, long unkempt hair and curved teeth. They bore spindly metal swords which were as long as the imps themselves. Many held bows, and a rain of miniature arrows began to pelt Lana and her company. Unwilling to be peppered by the tiny missiles, Lana erected a barrier of vegetation to shield her companions and engulf the attackers - magically controlled brambles and creepers formed a protective arc around her party.
The men took a few moments to settle their nerves, then stepped out from the shelter of the wall of plants. A net woven from woodland materials descended to ensnare them, though five of the six men managed to roll free, leaving a single dwarf caught in the snare. Lana too emerged although her heart skipped a beat when she glimpsed spiders in the branches overhead. Eight were suspended upside down, each the size of a large dog with an imp rider on its back. Acting on instinct Lana summoned an icy blizzard and allowed herself a smile as crystallised spiders fell from the branches to shatter on the ground below. Her relief proved short-lived when dozens of imps, including more spider-riders, poured forth from all sides. The men, dwarves, remaining elf and magic-user were forced to draw weapons and fight for their lives. Eventually a path was cut through the enemy, and all the men save two who had fallen to the spiders' venom escaped back to Glaston. One thing was clear - the imps had exhibited deep-rooted cruelty, and their malignant presence could not be tolerated so close to Glaston.
An unlikely alliance
Returning home that night the party encountered yet more goblins. Queen Greckly was among them. She revealed that her tribe was called "the Shredders" and was composed of wretches who had been cast out from more fearsome tribes due to lack of fighting prowess. The Shredders had no grievance with Lana or the people of Glaston, and wished only to live in peace in the Dymrak and be left alone. The two groups had something in common - they were threatened by the tiny men who Queen Greckly referred to as "the little demons". Lana agreed to wipe out the imps if Greckly's goblins could lead her to their hideout. And so an agreement was reached.
The following day two members of the Shredders guided the twenty-or-so survivors of Lana's band to a clearing four miles to the north of Glaston. Little light filtered through the branches overhead. The air buzzed with flies, and rotting roots and oddly shaped fungi lined the path as the party progressed. At last they reached a clearing where several large, hollow logs could be seen which presumeably housed the imps. Beside these logs lay what appeared to be the imps' prisoners - a human woodcutter, several goblins, two rabbits and a black bear cub - trussed up in thin ropes which looked to have been tied excruciatingly tight. Deciding to create a diversion before her forces rushed in, Lana downed a Potion of Animal Control and willed the party's mules to advance into the clearing. As they did, jibbering cries went up and an ambush broke out at the rear of Lana's party, as imps and spiders burst onto the path from the nearby undergrowth. By now the mules had been hacked to pieces but in their haste to strike down the intruders a large number of imps had converged in one area of the clearing. Lana outstretched her hand and seared the group with an icy blast. Still more imps and spiders were streaming forth from the logs. Lana took a moment to boost her troops with magical Haste, then the two sides clashed.
Drawing near to one of the larger logs, Lana was aghast to see several of what she had thought were green striped rushes were detaching from the log and rising out of the long grass - camouflaged spiders. Levelling her wand, a fiery explosion engulfed as many of the spiders as possible. Several men fell victim to the spiders' poison but the tide of battle was turning in Lana's favour. As she headed toward the largest tree stump a chattering was heard and darkness descended. Vexed, Lana shouted a spell of her own and a flare of amber light caused the darkness to lift. She found herself standing by a small pit at the base of the large tree stump. The depths of the pit were lost in darkness. The five remaining dwarves agreed to accompany her down into the recess.
Beneath the clearing ... the King of the Imps
Into the hollow below the tree the six descended, following an earthen tunnel which was no more than five feet tall, requiring Lana to stoop although the dwarves could stand comfortably. At the end of this tunnel the group emerged into a cave where a larger-than-average imp was seated on an enormous purple mushroom, surrounded by several burly imps. The dwarves' gazes were drawn to a glimmer of red at the base of the mushroom. The king of the imps was using a ruby the size of a man's fist as a footstool. With a charge the dwarves charged to combat the bodyguards. An inhuman shriek filled the air as a spindly imp dressed in tattered robes leapt from behind the toadstool and clutched the nearest dwarf's wrist. Amid a flare of dark magic the dwarf gave a cry and fell dead. Lana was swift to strike the imp shaman with her dagger while the dwarves laid into the king's bodyguards. Once they had all fallen the king drew a long dagger (which served him as a sword) and closed to combat Lana, cutting her thigh with his blade. In pain Lana struck back and felled the king, pocketing the enormous ruby (which had been meticulously cut into the form of a spider) in addition to a golden ring from the hilt of the king's dagger, within which was set a small emerald.
Mission accomplished ... a new addition
Re-emerging into daylight, all hell had broken loose. The remnants of the imp tribe somehow sensed that their king had fallen and lost no time fleeing the camp. As Lana set about untying the human woodcutter and goblins whom the imps had taken prisoner, she felt a glow of satisfaction at having cleared the area of such a hostile presence. The goblin tribe remained but had vowed not to stray from their territory to the north. Lana had made perfectly clear that she would be quick to extract a penalty should any of the goblins renege on Queen Greckly's pledge.
Coming to the last of the prisoners she stooped to release the black bear cub whose paws the imps had tied with twine. Lana released the animal, who sat up and grunted as if to ask what was happening. The poor cub had been taken from his mother, Lana imagined. He seemed alone, forlorn... She would rear the animal, she decided, perhaps train him. The cub gave another grunt as he began rummaging through Lana's pack in search of something to eat. Lana smiled and patted the fur on his back.
The battle had been a success - Lana's men had sustained relatively few wounds and there had been mercifully few casualties. The surrounding forest had been cleared and Glaston would be safe for weeks to come, longer if the surviving patrol members remained in the area to deter any wouldbe intruders. Lana herself would not be able to stay and supervise the construction of her tower, as upon returning to Glaston she received news that she and her companions were needed in Specularum. They had been summoned to the Duke's Palace by Lord Justin Karameikos to undertake a potentially perilous mission, which they had been given no option but to accept.
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