Echoes of Invasion: Caravan Shenanigans | Scene 12

Heppa rushes forward, closing some distance with the ferry. She has never magically healed someone from so far away, but Henrick will not be able to take many more hits like the ones Zlek just dealt, so she has to make the attempt. As she enters the reeds, the mud clings at her boots, slowing her movement forward. She reaches out a hand, trying to use fae energy to encourage Henrick’s own natural healing abilities, but it does not seem to work. Perhaps she is a little too distracted with worries that more nagas might spring up around her now that she is knee-deep in muck.

Now that combat has officially come to the raft, the ferriers make their allegiance clear. They unclip their carabiners from the southern guyline, leaving the current free to float the raft downstream. Seeing this, Tric points at the raft and calls to the magpie circling above. “My bird, my bird,” he shouts, words that Mate associates with knot-tying from time spent with Nasir. The magpie dives, and Tric returns his attention to Henrick’s situation. With no need to remain hidden any longer, he takes a few steps forward to line up a shot on Zlek. A glob of mud slams into his chest, spoiling his aim, and the arrow goes wide. “There were rocks in that!” Tric complains to the mound of wet dirt at his feet. It has the vague suggestion of features and an appendage is winding up to fling part of itself at him again. Tric pulls the next arrow from his quiver, shaking it threateningly at the nest of mudcrawlers he just accidentally stepped in. “I’ll show you a stick in the mud!” he growls, but he gives them space.

By the time Tric returns his attention to the river, Mate has grabbed one of the discarded ropes from the raft. Rather than tie an actual knot, the clever bird flies up with it held tightly in his talons and slams it into the northern guyline so that its carabiner clips in. The raft is carried only a little ways farther downstream before rocking to halt. Then the weak current and the new guyline combine forces to inch it slowly back toward the eastern bank. Mate himself takes a perch on the guyline and gives his opinion of those on the raft: stupid, stupid.

At the sound of conflict on the raft, back-up emerges from the wagon. Henrick needs all the help he can get, since his recruits are mostly focused on keeping the draft horse under control. The Beard and Knots stay back to back, bringing their weapons to bear against the ferriers. Tomos descends from the wagon and looks about for how he might be of use. It is a tricky environment to fight in, staying balanced around the edges of the raft.

Zlek’s human accomplices are dealing with the defenders, leaving the naga free to address what he perceives to be the biggest threat. Mages are wildcards. There is no way to know the scale of their powers. Given the caliber of the warriors also hidden in the cart, Zlek decides he must treat this mage as dangerous. Clearly the target was prepared for an assault, but Zlek is not willing to abandon the operation just yet. The prisoners he was hired to liberate may still be within the wagon. Zlek dives below the water and bursts up on the opposite side of the raft. Before the mage has a chance to react, the naga’s swords slice through his thin robes and send him stumbling back against the wagon with a cry.

Knots and the Beard both catch the movement on their periphery. Knots is the quicker to react, spinning around and bringing his own pair of swords down against the naga. Though the Beard’s axe is occupied with a human ruffian, he slams his shield down and back, blocking a strike coming in at Knots and sending that sword flying.

From her wider-angle view on the edge of the river, Heppa sees Tomos take a grievous wound. The blood soaking his robes is far more life-threatening than the injuries Henrick has taken. Heppa shifts her focus, continuing to direct fae energy toward the raft. Tomos’s body responds to the elvish magic, and the blood around his wounds begins to coagulate, slowing the spreading stains. He will probably still need additional treatment after the fight, but at least he will stay on his feet longer. This is definitely an experience, Heppa reflects. Combat is giving her a chance to learn a lot about the current limits of her magical abilities.

“Moss below, he can just dive back down and come up again anywhere,” her cousin grumbles about Zlek. “Choppy water wouldn’t even help; that would be worse for our side.”

If they were in the forest, Heppa would rustle up some brambles to try to hold the naga in place. Since he is out in the water, though, she decides to see what she can do with the rune. The ring seems inclined toward speed, much as the first rune she found was toward ice. Concentrating on the engraved ruby, Heppa uses its power to speed up the water around Zlek. She starts a small whirlpool which buffets the naga, causing him injury but also trapping him in his current position half in and half out of the water. His hands are busy exchanging blows with Knots, but his long tail whips up and hooks onto the raft to prevent himself from floating away. Heppa’s localized whirlpool is centered on the naga and does not flow downstream without him. 

Seeing the advantage Heppa has provided, Tric shouts, “Go for the scalp!” to Mate, hoping the bird can startle the naga enough to dislodge him.

The magpie launches from the guyline and flies toward the tangle of combatants. “Not today!” the Beard cries, moving his shield into a defensive position around his thick red facial hair. Mate flies on past him though, targeting the naga. Ignoring Tric’s advice, the bird goes for what looks like a tasty snack: the thin end of the naga’s tail. Zlek instinctively twitches it away from the sharp talons and loses his grip on the edge of the raft. Still trapped in Heppa’s watery vortex, he starts floating downstream. Mate returns to his comfortable perch, satisfied with the swoop even though he did not get a meal out of it. He proudly proclaims his martial greatness with a pixie dragon call.

The current carries Zlek out of reach of all the melee fighters on the raft. From his position collapsed against the cart, Tomos rallies enough to point his wand at the naga, sending a volley of fire missiles at him. The small globes of light roll across their target. Scorched, Zlek collapses. The vortex carries him a bit farther down the river before Heppa’s spell dissipates, and then the naga is gone. The raft itself is secure, as the South Tower forces—aided by the Beard—have subdued the criminals there and locked them up inside the wagon. Knots and the Beard grab the guyline and begin hauling the raft toward the western bank, even though that means fighting the current. The far bank is deserted, the third ferrier having long since run off.