Dawn of the Unflankables

Chapter 34: Witching Hour

Worn out from their arduous test with Gord, the Unflankables feast on a meal of pork and more potatoes. There is also corn, which Ryndir avoids like the plague. Ulfgar eats his corn with gusto and a wayward kernel finds it’s way into Ryndir’s hair. The shaken elf holds it together and excuses himself to the restroom. Darksex bellows that they should all go explore the Bonewood. His companions give him little response and Ryndir soon returns, a little red around the eyes.

In the wagon, Pineroot finds himself in severe pain. He makes his way to the first floor and asks Gale to help with the pain and queasiness. Gale gives him a root to chew on while he works on a pain reliever. Soon, the rest of the heroes return to the wagon to find their gnomish pal curled up in horrible pain. Darksex runs back to Gord to see if he has any cures for the horrible symptoms, but he’s only good at tending to wounds. Upon Darksex’s return, Pineroot begins to vomit a ridiculous amount of blood. To the heroes’ horror, the blood begins to bubble and expand until it’s formed into the shape of a hunched old woman.

The old blood woman greets them and everyone but Pineroot knows it’s the hag from the Sinking Forest. The freaked out heroes demand she get right to the point, so she tells them that they need to bring Gord’s daughter to the Sinking Forest or Pineroot will die. The jig is up and the Unflankables are forced to explain to Pineroot that he is bonded by blood with the old witch. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Pineroot vomits some more, this time just the contents of his stomach. The hag gives them three days to bring the girl to her hut in the woods. The bloody form of the old woman shrinks and soon she is just a puddle of Pineroot’s blood on the floor. Pineroot breathes a sigh of relief that she didn’t force the blood back into his body.

The heroes look around at each other. They have found themselves in a serious moral quandary. Kidnapping an innocent young girl is a terrible thing to be a part of. But Pineroot is a pretty great guy and it would be a shame to see him die. The heroes debate for quite awhile on what to do. How would one distract Gord? How quickly could the hag kill Pineroot with the curse? Would disguising themselves as ghosts take the blame off of them for the kidnapping? Would the witch fall for a an illusion of the girl? After much discussion, Pineroot decides that he will not kidnap an innocent girl, even if that means he should forfeit his life.

The heroes agree to support Pineroot and they decide to ask Gord for any pointers when killing hags. While Azaghal and Darksex throw goblin bones at trees, Ulfgar, Ryndir, and Pineroot gather round Gord’s fireplace. Gord tells them that Pineroot could survive a bloodbond if they were to kill the hag fast enough. Hags are notoriously resistant to magic, but a good stab to the heart should do the trick. Gord wishes them luck and the heroes bid him thanks and farewell. Their next destination is clear. It’s time to rally the troops at Ravenswood.

After most of a day of traveling, the heroes reach Ravenswood and spot Fyvo Puleesman on the street. They all yell at him to ‘Hop aboard!’ and the bewildered guard does so. Darksex gives Puleesman a rousing speech and guard heartily agrees to help them slay the hag. Their next stop is Jack’s Institute. Darksex unleashes his speech on Jibly, the half-orc security guard, and they add another to their crew. The heroes tell Jack about Pineroot’s situation and the threat to Gord’s daughter. Jack readily lends his services to their cause and agrees to bring along his trustworthy lycanthrope subjects to help. Azaghal stops in at a tavern and rouses some drunks and bar wenches to join their cause, while Darksex preaches about the end of the world to gain the help of the town zealots.

The heroes make a loud and pointless stop to the office of Barnabas, and then pick up Popo O’Fisser. Jack hops aboard with Cobb, Erlen, and Elsy and it’s time to take on the horrible hag. The Unflankable wagon plows on to the Sinking Forest and soon enough, the team is making their way through the murky woods. They reach the edge of the mud pit that surrounds the hag’s hut and a plan is hatched. The Unflankables slog through the mud to the front of the hag’s hut while the rest of the team lines the sides of the hut out of sight. The drunks and zealots have difficulty moving through the mud and are essentially ignored.

Pineroot decides to forego the illusion of Thane and instead just knocks loudly on the hag’s door. The witch opens it, shaking her head with a knowing look on her face. Pineroot doesn’t give her the chance to give them a villainous speech and tries to stab her. She has surprisingly quick reflexes for an old woman and dodges his slash. However, Darksex does not miss and blasts the witch to the other side of her hut. Ryndir doesn’t miss either, but his arrow hits Pineroot instead of the witch.

Puleesman begins to hack his way through the pelts of the hut walls, while Erlen climbs onto the roof. The hag’s eyes begin to glow and her fingernails suddenly become claws. She vanishes and a hole appears in the back of her hut. She reappears, now on one of the stones dotting the murky swamp mud. She speaks an incantation and three mud mephits arise from the swamp. Azaghal dashes in and lands a quick punch before the witch begins to predict his movements, dodging the other jabs.

Pineroot pulls two bottles from his pack and pops the tops off of them. He quickly downs his potion of growth and his buff salve, and moments later he is enormous and bulging with muscle. Towering over the hut, he tears the structure apart using his now massive hands. Erlen goes flying to the ground. While the drunks and zealots continue struggling in the swamp muck, Ulfgar helps Erlen to his feet and the tiger man rips into the witch viciously. Pineroot realizes that his clothes have been destroyed in his transformation and casts an illusion of a loincloth around his nethers.

The enormous gnome snatches a mephit out of the air and clobbers the hag with it. Flanked by Unflankables, the old witch teleports away again, this time summoning a massive swarm of spiders around her. She also casts a beam of sickness upon Erlen and the weretiger stumbles with queasiness. Azaghal, ever thirsty for blood, wades quickly through the mud to attack the witch. She uses mystic magical methods to dodge his blows and he receives only a swath of spider bites for his trouble. Pineroot the Gargantuan tosses the mephit aside and lumbers over to the old witch. Ignoring the brand new spider bites on his feet, the gnomish behemoth snatches the hag from her rock and hurls her back to the remains of her hut.

With a wave of his hand, Ulfgar cures Erlen’s sickness. Darksex blasts one of the mephits, which explodes into a torrent of sludge. The sludge coats Erlen and Darksex who find themselves unable to move. Cobb, still in human form, steps up to the fallen witch and pummels her while she’s down. As she rises, Darksex uses a newly mastered telekinesis to hurl another mephit into her face. She brushes it aside to fire another ray of sickness at Smugs. Behind her, however, approaches the gigantic Pineroot. One of his great fists plummets from above and the evil old hag is suddenly smashed into oblivion.

Upon the witch’s death, the remaining mephits burst into sludge and all the spiders die and sink into the mud. The mud itself begins to clear and soon the heroes find themselves surrounded by an almost pleasant pond. The heroes and their friends feel truly victorious, but Pineroot feels the most triumphant of all. The blood bond has dissipated, and though his gigantism and extra-buffed muscles won’t wear off for another hour or so, the gnome feels better than ever.

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