________________Act 1: Scene 1________________
Continent of Mgorongoro: Commonwealth of Athenea
Year 3500 - Mid Spring < We are using DMS 11 on rolz.org... >
From a low vantage point within a copse of fever trees Shelladda Jianjo surveys remains of a horrible slaughter. Carcasses and corpses of men and bison spread out across a half-mile of meadow covered in clouds of flies and wakes of vultures. Her jaw clenches in rage, her eyes wet with tears. Already scavengers had come... jackals, hyenas, lions... eager to feast and redden their muzzles; but this was not her concern. Nature had its way and everything had to eat.
What bothered her was the awful manner of the killing. Seeing it for the first time almost made her vomit. ~Such a waste!~ Shelladda thought as she swallowed back her bile. Of course it had to be Gnolls, the most ancient and hated enemies of the native Mgorongoron tribes.
Her people were the first to herd wild cattle through these grazing lands over three thousand years ago, profiting off their meat and hides by domestication. These shepherds and warriors put up a valiant fight, but the odds were decidedly not in their favor as not a single fallen Gnoll lay among them.
Shelladda recognized the style of garments, piercings and colorful beads on some of the nearer corpses. These men belonged to the Omoro tribe, one of the largest and most prosperous in the Commonwealth. She estimated perhaps two to three dozen bodies, and likely five times that number in bison.
Custom dictated she undertake the responsibility to report this atrocity to the nearest Omoro village. Many wives, sons and daughters would weep at this news, but due diligence required her to take a closer look first. Slowly, Shelladda moved out of the shadows of the low trees and stood to her full height. Shelladda was a large woman, six feet tall, well fed and thickly proportioned. Stronger than most men who attempted to lay hands on her.
Thankfully that happened less and less nowadays. Shelladda was never beautiful to begin with, but now in her forties she was too old to be at all attractive. She was a druid besides, animals and other natural living things were her focus in all their many forms, and she often preferred their company to other humans.
Closeby, her personal animal companion and mount, a mighty wild bison named Ruddah, bellowed his discomfort sensing she was about to go nearer to danger. ~Calm yourself old friend, we will avenge them all I swear!~ She said soothingly via mental telepathy.
Steeling herself, Shelladda made her way around the outskirts of the killing zone, avoiding the hyenas and big cats. Not because they were likely to attack her, but out of respect. Her eyes scanned through the bloody grasses, counting Gnoll paw-prints, deconstructing the battle with how they lay. A stream of mental pictures came through her mind, a vision of the attack as it unfolded.
This was not like any ambush she had seen before. These Gnolls were not lying in wait for this herd, they seemingly appeared directly within their midst! Signs of stampede were evident in all directions. These animals bolted every which way to avoid the awful fangs and claws of their attackers. Some of their shepherds and the warriors were trampled by their own herd. She knew at least a dozen Gnolls were necessary to chase down so many panic-stricken men and beasts in such a broad area. More impressively, From the look of these tracks, all this killing was accomplished within ten minutes or less...
Shelladda quickly recognized signs... strange impressions in the earth, the odd-scattered spear and crude axe, the brutal rending tears of claws and teeth on flesh. Different species of Gnolls behaved differently and Shelladda already surmised this slaughter was not the work of the militant Warmonger Gnolls. If this had been their doing the killing would be cleaner, more efficient.
Warmonger Gnolls always peppered their foes with arrows and ranged weapons, hoping to provoke a panic before they surrounded them, closing in with heavy shields and bristling polearms in disciplined ranks until victory was assured. Only then would they charge to savor battle in closer quarters.
Tribal villages, Athenean towns and army patrols faced down Gnoll war parties at least once a month as dozens of Athenean soldiers died on the border wall attempting to keep them at bay every day. Attacks within the walls were usually tracked back to a weakness in the border defenses. A tunnel dug out by goblin slaves, ladders and ropes brought over the wall, holes breached through the wall itself by giants, etc.
Typically it was common Gnolls, or perhaps Flind Gnolls (The Elite Hunters) who infiltrated in groups small enough to evade patrols. Strangely, their tactics were usually smarter than this, often relying on ambush in favorable terrain to ensure none survived. This was different. The terrain was completely unfavorable to contain their prey. Stranger still... these Gnolls didn't move on again after their killing was done. As far as she could tell their tracks disappeared, as if the beasts vanished mid-step, likely with meat still hanging from their jaws?!
Shellada shook her head. How could so many Gnolls make it this far inland without being spotted? Especially ones so ferocious and fearless as these? Her mind itched as she remembered sites of other killings, similar in ferocity but not in scale, over two decades. An unlikely and eerie explanation resurfaced in her thoughts, the seed of a theory she’d never fully proven or fully discounted.
Shelladda realized only the most savage and bloodthirsty of Gnoll species... the so-called Rabid Gnolls could accomplish this carnage. She had only glimpsed one small pack in all her years of ranging across the frontier. Her memory of those hulking, bestial, canine humanoids covered in dull orange fur with the head and shoulders of hyenas striped in red or yellow patterns stretched down to large, powerfully clawed hands kept her up at night. The look of their bloodthirsty bloodshot eyes and the hauntingly snarling tone of their blood lust, foaming jaws, and oversize fangs was the stuff of nightmares!
Not much for armor or weapons, Rabid Gnolls preferred crude garments of coarse fabric, hides, or none at all. Stealth, self-restraint and patience were not in their nature either which meant some sort of dark magic was at work here! How else could they appear and vanish without a trace?!
[Shelladda: Please make Spot & Listen checks..It is late afternoon, hot but not mercilessly so in mid spring. Please describe any active spells, abilities or spell like effects you may be using. Feel free to attempt any other skill or knowledge checks you wish. You do not need to make rolls for your animal companion at this time.]