Library of Howling

13.Last Man Standing

The story picks up with Moon and Ox leading the barbarian troop to the rope bridge across the river mouth. Crossing there, the troop forms up across the river and moves north towards the dog-men’s camp. Along the way, Thin Boots catches up to the troop having decided that perhaps Moon and Ox might want a little help or at least someone friendly watching their back. It doesn’t take long before the troop reaches the outside of the ruins.

The approaching troop gains the attention of a few of the dog men who come out to investigate and are quickly cut down by a hail of incoming arrows. The barbarians manage to get the first group of kills and soon dog men bodies litter the ground of the ruined docks.

Spreading out into two main packs, the barbarians begin a push into the ruins trying to kill anything that moves. Ox forms up with the far right side group while Moon moves in with the central group of barbarians. Thin Boots, bow in hand, remains stationary in the back middle waiting for more important targets to present themselves while the leader of the barbarian troop takes the left flank all on his own. Soon a small horde of dog-men emerge from the ruins and manage to quickly charge into the ranks of the barbarians turning the attack from a ranged rout to a hand-to-hand blood fest.

While the barbarian groups manage to pick off a few more dog-men with bows before the dog-men all enter hand-to-hand range, the barbarian leader uses a different tactic. Throwing some dust from a small pouch into the nearby river, he summons a large spout of water which begins attacking nearby dog men by pulling them inside the funnel of water and drowning them or just knocking them flat onto the ground. Thin Boots moves behind the barbarians leader to support the left flank, but finds himself firing over near Moon’s position to try and prevent the central group from being surrounded.

Moon meanwhile is hacking and slashing his way through the dog-men with glee, while Ox takes turns bear-hugging nearby dog men until their spines crack under the pressure. The dog-men easily pass through the barbarian lines, flipping dexterously over them and surrounding them with the numbers they have left.

As the fight degenerates into mindless hacking, a new group emerges from the rear of the dog-men compound. First a few robed dog-men emerge, casting spells into the barbarian masses that squeeze and attack the men. But there soon emerges a larger threat. Surrounded by robed men, a female dog-man enters the fray. The other robed figures surround her, and pump power into her, and soon she unleashes a deadly attack on the central barbarian group killing most of the remaining group outright. The barbarian mage sees this new threat and moves the water elemental in to attack. The elemental is able to grab both the female and another robed dog-man and drown them inside its center. The barbarian mage pushes up towards the robed dog-men, leaving his back exposed to a longbow-wielding Thin Boots.

On the other side of the battle, Ox has managed to down multiple of the dog men before they decide to use another tactic and start stabbing him repeatedly with spears. It doesn’t take long before this takes a toll, and Ox is left standing but staggered under the weight of the wounds. Moon has also pushed himself beyond normal limits and is nearing exhaustion from both wounds and fatigue. Both men are fighting hard as Marble suddenly bursts from the underbrush, his bow firing and picking off dog-men around Moon.

Back on the left side of the battle, Thin Boots decides to finish what Moon had initially wanted to do all along. He carefully strings an arrow and puts it dead center into the back of the barbarian mage. Unfortunately, the shot fails to pierce the magical armor of the man, and after a failed attempt at acting like it was an accident, Thin Boots decides survival is more important than glory and takes flight south along the river at the fastest speed he can muster. The mage, declining to give chase, instead summons what appears to be a whirlwind around himself and flies up and over the large building just to the north of most of the fighting.

Emerging from the eastern woods, two new barbarians run into the fray. One of them declares himself to be the true leader of the barbarians (Shark) and lays accusation on the barbarian mage of being in league with the party who vacated this man and his sailors from the tower to the southeast. In retort, the barbarian mage summons a large fiery lizard which begins attacking the remaining barbarians who have quickly switched allegiance to the newcomer barbarians.

The water elemental joins the fray by grabbing Shark but is quickly defeated by a few swings of Shark’s mace.

The fire lizard takes the arm of one of the lesser barbarians captains and manages to incapacitate Ox with an attack. It begins to lay waste to the remaining men as the new barbarian captain enters battle with it. In the south rear of the battle, Thin Boots has regrouped with Marble, and both men take careful aim at the floating barbarian mage before unleashing arrows towards him. Both initial arrows are swatted aside by the whirlwind, though the arrow from Thin Boots managed to do a small wound to the mage in the process. They take aim again and fire quickly, but both miss once again. Finally on a third try, Thin Boots takes careful aim and lets fly a final arrow which catches the mage squarely in the face. The mage drops instantly, crashing into the building he was over.

Back at the fire lizard, Shark has managed to weaken the beast with blows, and Moon has joined in the attack on the lizard slowly draining its fiery power away with his magics. All of the remaining dog-men have taken flight, and only the two new barbarians, the now one-handed barbarian officer, and the party remain on the field with the fiery lizard. Finally, Shark destroys the fiery lizard, and a quick chase begins from west to east with a nearly incapacitated Moon trying to escape the fury of the barbarian captain.

Thin Boots fires another well-aimed arrow and takes the captain in the face, and comes over to finish the near-dead captain with his sword. Surveying the field, no one but the party can be seen alive, and Thin Boots and Marble begin sweeping the area for loot and survivors as Moon uses a nearby fire to heal himself and Ox enough for Ox to recover his wits.

Inside the building the mage seemed to have dropped into, Thin Boots and Marble find the body of one of Shark’s henchmen cut with hundreds of tiny gashes. The mage’s body is nowhere to be found, though signs of animal tracks and struggle are noted. They also find a dark shrine in another building with silver writing inlaid on a large rock there. Marble senses darkness in the stone, and they leave it be.

Loot taken from the bodies includes many armor pieces and barbarian weapons, a light breastplate from the captain, a vambrace of poisons and blowgun from the henchmen, a mighty hammer with dark resonance from the captain, and various other odds and ends.