We were honestly pretty pooped out by that fight, so while I wanted to head on, the others called for a break and a bit of a snooze, especially for Al and Maul (who needed to boost the spells before we hit anything else). So we split the snoozing, and Mel and I spent a few hours listening to weird creaking noises in the topiary. I wouldn’t have put it past it for some mucking great Jolly Green Giant type to come out, but nothing really happened. Poked Maul and Es, then rolled myself into my blanket and tried to grab some shut-eye. Not a hope. No sooner had my dreams got to the good bit with the gorgeous silk dress when a pile of yelling woke me up to find Es and Maul whacking the hedge and being dragged into it. Even the grass was against us!
Maul managed to haul Es out of it, but those thorns were nasty! I yelled for people to use fire (Es has a rather nifty wand of that type) as I shot into the mass of branches. Said branches grabbed again for Es, but Maul threw herself in front and got caught instead. Al had taken a while to wake up, but was now casting a pile of genuinely helpful spells – Maul started growing faster than a baby orc introduced to solid food, and the critter (some sort of malicious plant) copped a weakening spell that finally helped us take it out. To be honest, Maul looked pretty well done in, and only just managed to cure herself, then the rest of us that needed it (Es in particular looked fairly battered).
And seriously, I was pretty sure that if we copped one more nasty attack, we were going to be a pile of dead things, and much as I admire this lot, I was not going to heroically stand around and get turned into hobbit-burger. There’s only so much a small thing like me can take! The others seemed to feel I was being unreasonable, but there are sayings about dead lions and live dogs, and if given the choice, I’m for the barking.
We settled down for the rest of the night, which luckily passed without further incident. Es plucked some of the vine bits to make a tea with, and then we headed out of the hedge maze into the open fields beyond.
There, we saw a house, a barn, and a pile of places where there used to be trees. Es was very upset by this, and started cursing damned Dryad-killers and filthy types using Science to try and change Nature. In front of the barn was a cart, complete with an ox, and as we walked across the field, we discovered the ox wasn’t the only living being there. A lady gnome came out of the barn, took one look at us, and ran back in. Then, oh great – the sounds of spellcasting going on.
I had no intentions of being front and centre when the fun began, so I ran around the side and hauled out the old trusty crossbow. Maul decided to cover the door with a foggy cloud everywhere, and Al made a pile of weird sounds that sounded just like a horde of ravenous starving strangers were trying to make their way in, (trying to fool the wretched gnome). I saw the door open (just over the top of the cloud), but I couldn’t tell if something was coming out until Mel threw a dagger into the fog, and that little miss came shooting UP AND OUT, firing as she came! Seriously – she was up in the air firing down at us, and some people don’t have a lot in the way of ranged weapons! I shot back – damned well, I should add, but the git had added a shield of some sort to her magical repertoire, and the arrow just bounced off it. Stuff this – I ran around the side of the barn and into the open door. No, I wasn’t entirely stupid – had a good look around inside before reloading the crossbow.
The gnome cast a couple of scorching rays at Mel. One hit her, the other hit the ox which bellowed and started getting away. Poor Mel, trying to get into the fog cloud, stood on a rake and the handle hit her eye. Al also headed into the barn, as did the others, and Mel and Maul guarded the door while we checked around to see if there was anything a) dangerous b) interesting or c) valuable. Then once more we heard that bloody gnome’s voice starting up the spellcasting. Mel and Maul ran out to try and stop her, but we’d misjudged her actions – the barn doors slammed shut and weren’t going to open for anyone for a while!
I dived for cover, figuring there might be something in the barn we missed. I was right – a small back door! Suddenly there was a WOOF from the roof – not Roderick, but some sort of fire spell that caught fairly quickly, and made exiting the barn a fairly high priority. Al threw her acid spell at the door. I decided that the hinges were close enough in make and model to the old Temple’s side door ones, and gave them the old Secret Fast Exit gesture. it worked. The door flew open, I fell out, and rolled aside just as a crossbow bolt hit my lovely new armour. Luckily, the new armour was up to the challenge, and the bolt bounced off.
And it was on for young and old! She fired at me (honestly, just because I hit her) and the shot was more than just a bolt – a pile of green burning fire flared over my chest. I shot back again, and grazed her, then Al tried the blowgun with the centipede poison. Es made a mighty shot which then did hit the side of the barn. The gnome unleashed some sort of spell which got Maul and felled her – but only asleep. I swear that half-orc snores worse than Al! Speaking of the mighty Al, she managed to make her way to me, and I dipped my next bolt in her centipede poison and readied it. The bloody gnome was firing off the magic missiles AND the filthy language, and infuriated Mel so hard that she grabbed one of her rarely-used spears, and with the power of a woman wronged behind it, flung it at the gnome with such power! It hit the gnome hard, then fell back to the ground, while I unleashed the bolt and hit. In fact, we were all suddenly in the groove, firing and hitting brilliantly (although Mel’s next spear throw lacked the accuracy of her first).
I was worried that the gnome would have another nasty spell to cast, so held off firing until she did something. And then, after a few seconds, I realised she wasn’t doing anything – she was hit with acid, sling shots and a spear, but she was just hanging there, in mid-air, bleeding… We’d killed her! Mel’s mighty spear throw had done for the gnome! Hooray! Mel pulled her down
on top of me, and we took stock of our situation.
And there, in the house, was a letter…