Early evening over the city of Tanglethorn, the dimming sky was aflame with yellow, red, pink, and smoky orange. Already a deep bluish gloom shrouded the narrow alleys completely and the already long shadows of buildings flowed like widening black rivers on either side of the wide paved boulevards. Along these murky paths, the group moved through the streets like the murderous thieves in the night that they were in pursuit of gangsters. The group of shadows led by Afheesh (played by me), was followed by a zigzagging Wufcor (played by Isis), the pad foot Sikeek (played by Jenn) taking up the rear.
Afheesh had thought that the scrawny Needles (played by Natalie) had not been able to keep up but was proven wrong when the group came to a stop under cover and where they had a superior vantage, behind some rain barrels. Needles had just appeared from seemingly nowhere when Afheesh turned to survey his troops.
The ratlings had been tracking a small group of low-level Roaches (a little history and a little more). The street thugs led them to an old tree growing near the thorn wall to the far east of the city but still adjacent to the East Stacks. However, there the small gang of five thugs had joined a contingent of 10 full-fledged gangsters hanging around the tree where a human, presumably Phenor the Knife, leader of the Roaches conversed with a Mantck with a cutlass at each hip. Undoubtedly, that was Ikeek the Roach lieutenant.
Afheesh: “I guess they’re planning something. Let’s hang abouts and wait until they get on the move.”
Sikeek: “Then what?”
Afheesh: “Then we follow ‘em wait until it’s time to strike and go after the leaders and kill ‘em.”
Wufcor: “Yeah! Let’s kill ‘em all!”
Sikeek: ‘What are you CRAZY? There’s too many, they’ll kill us all!”
Needles: ‘Yeah. Especially me.”
Afheesh (turning to Sikeek initially): “Shut up you. By the way, that’s what the RIGHT TIME means! Now shut up and follow.”
Soon half of the gangsters broke off towards the west end with the Cutlass leading. Thus, the ratlings decided to follow them. Meanwhile, Afheesh kept an eye on Needles as they traveled in silence and recognized the wimp’s superior stealth, even when compared to his own. He became suspicious of the slight ratling.
The Roaches stopped in the plaza of the Pink Rose well to the north of the Pit. Subsequently, they walked to a tree across the street from where the group of ratling adventurers hid in an alley. Three merchants emerged from a nearby doorway and rushed south. Their multicolored silk robes ruffled and their cheap bronze jewelry clinked. Consequently, the gangsters and the ratlings followed them all the way to Mezcor’s Tower where the Roaches relaxed and waited.
Not even the Roaches were going to interfere in the paying of Mezcor’s tribute. The gates slowly creaked open by themselves as the last purple-red flames of dusk faded into night. So the lead merchant tossed a bag of coins onto the white flagstones of the forbidden courtyard and exhaled a sigh of relief. That was when he noticed the gangsters and he and his two cohorts began to move at a more rapid pace south pushing past and through other merchants that were converging on Mezcor’s black tower.
The gangsters kept up and the ratlings kept pace with them. During the moderately paced chase, it seemed to Afheesh and Wufcor that the gangsters knew that they were being followed. However, suddenly both ratlings and Sikeek spotted another group of five thugs with the Roaches leader waiting in an alley just ahead of the merchants. In an instant, the merchants were surrounded and pleading for a cheap exit.
Afheesh: “That’s it! Let’s get ‘em!”
Sikeek: *exasperated sigh*
Needles (drowsily): “Well. Okay.”
A thug charges Afheesh missing by a mile with his dagger. Ignoring this lesser enemy, Afheesh in turn charged the Mantck leader but both of his weapons were easily parried. Wufcor stabbed a thug with his new dirk drawing some blood. Seeing that, Sikeek flanked the same opponent and nailed him with her dagger severely wounding him. Several of the thugs tried to overwhelm Sikeek and Wufcor with a rain of slashing blades but the ratlings avoided their clumsy strikes. Meanwhile, Afheesh and the Mantck fell into a lightning round of simultaneous attacks and counters leaving the Mantck barely scratched by a powerful blow and Afheesh suffering multiple, deep wounds.
The Mantck attacked again, Afheesh tried to anticipate but failing that tried to intervene with a final simultaneous attack but although wounding the Mantck badly he was also barely standing having failed to intercept the paired blows. Consequently, Wufcor rushed in and buried his blade in the Mantck’s back wounding him horribly. A mass of thugs surrounded and attacked the trio of adventurers from all sides while the Mantck was able to withdraw and drink a healing potion. Additionally, the ratlings could see Phenor, the Roach leader, whistle and be joined by five more full-fledged gangsters.
The trio of raltings was overwhelmed as Phenor and his gangsters attacked. In short, from the very first blow, the ratlings were obviously outnumbered. A series of parrying multiple blows and barely defending against the higher level and better-equipped gangsters ensued. However, Phenor attacked and nearly killed Sikeek with a single blow. She dropped to the ground and Afheesh moved in and slashed the gang leader. So, Wufcor ran away. At the edge of utter and thorough defeat, Afheesh roared and redoubled his attacks.
The Quickling managed to avoid the flurry of blows made at him lucking out when a few thugs had to retreat after fumbling their weapons. Vastly outnumbered he fought head-to-head with their leader, wounding him but nearly killed by a glancing blow. Then, suddenly, Phenor caught hold of one of his hook guard daggers with his knife and disarmed the ratling. Fortunately, Afheesh had been fighting with his old weapons and not the new troll-make daggers. It was obvious that the ratling in his current state and under these circumstances was no match for Phenor especially as he was without a single ally and outnumbered.
Because of his utter desperation, the ratling gritted his yellow teeth and dashed for freedom avoiding knife-blow after knife-blow leaving the brief battle behind. As a result of this flight, Phenor strutted after roaring in triumph through his broken teeth, every muscle in his slender frame flexed to bursting. Later, Afheesh flopped onto the floor of the nearest White Star guild. There he also met up with Wufcor. Here also was Needles.
Afheesh (to Needles): “Where the HELL were you!?”
Needles (shrugging): “Hiding. I ran away when I saw Wufcor running.”
Afheesh: “You spent the whole battle HIDING.”
Needles: “It’s what I’m good at.”
Isis (thumbing towards Natalie): “Yup, she’s really good at it; I’ve seen her character sheet.”
Immediately after his restoration, Afheesh dashed back to the scene to retrieve Sikeek who was barely alive. He also noted that his hook-guard dagger was gone, taken probably by a gang member after the fight. Back at the guild house, Wufcor paid for Sikeek’s healing. It later turned out that Wufcor had pickpocketed Sikeek on the way to the fight and used that money for his own and Sikeek’s healing costs.
Jennifer: “Aww man! They looted my body!”
Sikeek (to Wufcor): “Hey! Do you have any money I could borrow to buy new stuff?”
Afterwards, thoroughly beaten down, the four split up and limped off to their respective rented rooms. Needles slipped off to a hollow in the Thorn Ring amongst its thorns, a traditional thorn-runner nest. As a precaution, Afheesh switched establishments that night from the Long Rest Inn to the Yellow Lotus Inn.
The Quickling struggled for sleep although he was more than exhausted. He could not stop yearning for vengeance not just against the Roaches but Ikeek the double-cutlass and Phenor the knife. He would not stop until they were dead. His last try at sleep was ultimately successful. After all, he had guard duty in the morning.
To Be Continued…