The Reavers – Gilderlo Hippogriffs

This scene took place on the walls of Vigerfast, where the Company helped defend the city against the pashehah, creatures of Elemental Chaos. As with the Chaos Gargoyle this version is edited down from the original campaign journal that describes the event.



David of Kerr took a deep breath and grounded his sword. The extended bout of heavy spell casting intermixed with swordplay had taxed him to his limits. All the bugs near him were slain and he took the opportunity to catch his breath and suck at his water skin, wetting his parched throat.

Looking over the wall he saw thousands of crushed, hacked, and burned bug bodies. The dwarves held the walls, along with their elven and human allies. Casualties were high, but they held. By the skin of their teeth.

“How different things are from thirty minutes ago,” he muttered to the air, thinking back …

Thousands of the bugs had died trying to surmount the tall dwarven walls, but the dwarves and their allies beat back the first two waves. Casualties among the defenders were not high, but every defender who fell made them more vulnerable. Unlike in the epics where the defenders win with ninety percent of their manpower dead, in real life a loss of five percent was tragically significant.

The first wave was beaten back easily, like the bugs were throwing their puniest forces at the walls to determine strengths and weaknesses. After twenty minutes of battle the surviving bugs simply retreated, leaving their dead and wounded. There was no signal; they just all retreated at once.

An hour later another surge hit the wall. This one was more determined and focused, but still didn’t seem serious, at least not in retrospect – at the time it was bloody serious. The attackers were still the smaller bugs, which were certainly large enough to kill a dwarf, elf, human, or even ogre-mage. Their claws could snip a wrist like scissors a flower stem. But this time there were flying bugs, cylindrical bodies with biting mandibles and stingers, supported in hard, iridescent wings. These bit and stung, and a few managed to grab a defender, lift them up, and drop them into the mass below the wall. The lucky ones died from the fall; the unlucky ones were shredded into tiny pieces and eaten.

Again, after twenty minutes the bugs retreated. Some dwarves jeered at them, but David knew something was wrong. The bugs didn’t do things like normal creatures, but even by that standard this seemed wrong.

An hour after that retreat the bugs massed for the third assault. The previous numbers seemed overwhelming, but those assaults looked tiny in comparison. Larger bugs, ones with stingers, were visible for the first time, including three that were larger, slower, and more cumbersome. These three turned around and pointed their backsides toward the wall. Their rigid carapaces seemed to expand more and more, but at the distance beyond bow shot it was hard to be sure.

One rippled like the hard shell was cloth, and a ball of green energy spat from an orifice on its hindquarters. The energy flashed across the distance and hit the wall a hundred feet to David’s right.

The burst of energy struck the wall, carving a seven foot diameter hole through the hard stone like it was soft butter. The burst continued on, hitting the inner wall with identical result. It punched holes through several buildings in the external city and continued on into the mountain and presumably into the internal city. Anything in its path was simply gone. Two buildings clipped by the energy collapsed. Screams echoed through the city.

As he turned his attention back, the other two energy bugs spat their energy blasts, punching two more holes in separate places. Following the discharge the bugs looked deflated, and slowly trundled away, while the masses around them charged. Flying bugs not previously seen filled the air.

The defenders held the outer wall while engineers frantically improvised patches in the breaches in the inner wall. The retreat was painful and expensive, and the battle for the inner wall was going badly for the defenders, individual feats of heroism too numerous to count.

David saw another wave of flying bugs coming at them from out of the sun. “Damnation! We’ve got to hold long enough for the women and children to flee!” He girded himself to sell his life as expensively as possible. He had expended most of his spells and his stamina for a long fight against clawing, stinging bugs was not good.

Blinded by the sun he couldn’t see the new attackers clearly, but he saw the packed wave of javelins that whispered down at the defending forces. “We’re dead!” someone screamed.

The javelins twinkled in front of the wall, the force of the throws coupled with gravity, driving them through the rigid carapaces of the bugs, wounding or slaying hundreds, blunting their attack. A second salvo of javelins slammed through the bugs, driving climbers off the wall. The wounded dragged their compatriots with them, the fall wounding more than the javelins had.

“Hippogriffs!” David wondered aloud.

Wheeling by, the attackers – revealed to be hippogriffs with dwarven riders, slashed their way through the mass of flying bugs – beaks and hooves and spears fouling glistening wings, sending the bugs crashing to their deaths on the backs of their land bound brethren.

The bugs were faster and more maneuverable, but up close the hippogriffs inflicted far worse damage, and their riders were equally skilled with light spears that stabbed the bugs, fouling and destroying their wings before they could close. Some few of the hippogriffs and their riders fell to their deaths, though far fewer than the bugs that crashed down on their own.

The flying bugs killed or driven off, the air cavalry launched several more salvos of javelins into the mass of bugs beneath the walls, while the defenders dropped oil and torches, burning the dead and living alike. The assault broke, the stench of burning bodies a price willingly paid by the defenders in exchange for their lives.

“The Gilderlo Air Corps,” breathed a voice next to David. Turning he saw his companion Gilden, the dwarf’s axe gory with bug guts, his armor coated with it.

“It can’t be – home is worlds away from here.”

“Yet it’s them, there’s nothing else like them.”

Down in the valley thousands of the gods damned things milled around. They were forming up for another assault on the walls.

The mage had heard stories of the Gilderlo Air Corps since he was a child, he’d seen them fly in formation, but he’d not seen them in battle. He watched as the squadrons formed and dove in waves toward the bugs. This was different from their last attack; they were far more spread out. More energy bugs turned their tails up into the air and fired the energy bursts they normally used to tunnel through stone. A hippogriff was hit, one of its wings disintegrated so it plummeted with its rider into the mass, but the wide-spread, fast-moving animals were hard to hit.

Puzzled, the mage watched the first salvo of javelins flashing downward as the hippogriffs pulled out of their dives. The first dozen hit large, widely separated bugs. Each javelin exploded into a fireball, but not like the spell. Each ball of fire was a torus, rolling out from the point of impact in an expanding donut more than man-high, burning everything in a huge circle. All the lesser bugs were burnt husks, but a few of the larger ones survived the magical fire. The next wave of javelins hit different groups of unburned bugs, scorching thousands more.

The third salvo of javelins was different – David watched in amazement and then glee as a javelin hit a depleted energy bug with a crackle of electricity, and a bolt of lightning leaped to a nearby bug, then to another and another, hitting seven in addition to the first struck. The last energy bug had not fired its internal payload – it was still fat with the energy. It exploded in a sphere of green energy, scalloping out a 100′ hemisphere in the ground, disintegrating everything near it.

David howled his appreciation, jumping up and down in circles. The nearby dwarves watched in stunned amazement as the bugs died. After long seconds they joined in the gleeful howling. The fight was long from being over, but the dwarves and their allies had turned the tide.

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