The rhythmic thump of the great log against the thick door echoed through the great hall. A chant used by the men bashing the vast log on wheels into the iron bound doors rang through the air. Hisses from the great reptiles they used as warbeasts made a chilling counterpoint to the twang of archer’s bows. The gnomes defending what looked like a huge pile of rubble were nearly silent, only a few crying out in pain when a lucky arrow found its mark. A young gnomish lad wearing poorly fitted chain mail scampered up one of the twisting paths in the wall leading from the floor of the great hall up to one of the numerous hidden windows that opened above the doorway under assault. He would run up a few steps and then anxiously skitter back down, always watching the doddering elder making his way gingerly up the narrow track.
“Master, we must make haste! The men are nearly through the portal!” the boy shrieked over the crackle of the ram and squeak of its poorly greased wheels. He pulled out his greatest treasure, a focus wand, and eldritch light sparkled from its tip.
“I will get there in time, or they will come to me. Either way we’ll do no better if I fall off this ridiculous goat path before I’m needed.” The old man’s quavering voice had a peevish tone as he carefully placed his walking stick on the narrow walkway before taking another painful step. The boy practically danced in anticipation, “Go then if you must. Defend the crannog from the raiders. I’ll be there directly.” Given his release, the boy ran up to the window and opened it. The raucous noise of battle cascaded in the opening.
“Sir Banda, may I cast against them?” the boy pleaded with a dried bit of flower in one hand, his fingers quivering in anticipation.
“Do what you like, just stop bothering me while I climb!” came the cross response from down below.
The boy pushed his thin blond hair out of his eyes slowly stroking the silly chin beard of which he was so proud and peered out of the window. Some forty feet below him, two dozen huge humans wearing metal and leather surcoats were attacking the crannog, the gnomes’ communal hall which they had camouflaged with rocks and brush. They had felled a large tree to use as a battering ram and were steadily bashing in/down the doorway. Warbeasts hissed and snapped as their handlers pulled their leashes and arches continued to loose while dodging return fire.
He pushed back the loose sleeves of his too large robe and crushed the dried flower between his hands, scattering it towards the humans as he chanted and twisted his fingers into unnatural shapes. For just a moment, the clear sky over some of the archers and one of the lizards darkened and freezing water sluiced out of the air. The torrent stopped as quickly as it began, but the two men who were under it had been coated in ice and were cursing and slipping in the sloppy remnants of the spell. The scaled creature shivered and shook like a dog.
“I made two of them stop shooting!” he squealed in glee before realizing that was hardly appropriate for one in training as a mage. He straightened and tried to act dignified as the ancient gnome slowly stumped up to the window.
Sir Banda, senior mage of the crannog, peered out from under his unruly eyebrows. “So you did boy, so you did. Well cast.” He patted the apprentice on the back with something like grandfatherly affection.
“That was my only spell! You must teach me more battle magic and quickly!” To the apprentice’s horror, his voice broke during the declaration, and he turned a brilliant scarlet.
“Ha, more magic? Learn to use what you have, lad. Rime is one of the most useful spells in a caster’s book. Observe.” The older mage crushed more of the dried lily between his hands and repeated the same chant. His quavering voice seemed to gain more power through the act of casting, and the strange syllables flowed out smoothly to touch the ears of those listening but never imprinting on their memory. The pathway from the lake surrounding the gnome’s island was steep and kept most raiders away. These were more persistent than the rest though and had hiked up the hill under a steady rain of arrows from the crannog’s defenders. Water again sluiced from the sky and covered the pathway down to the water but did not touch any of the humans.
“Master, you missed!” the young gnome, who looked much like an unwrinkled version of the elder, hopped around with nervous energy.
“I missed nothing. Watch.” The old mage crushed another flower, chanted, and again the sky tore open with icy water. This time the rime coated the men on the log and several lost their grips on it. Those left strained to keep it rolling but another human lost fell, and the great trunk thudded down, crushing two beneath it. One of the armored men fell to the ground and slipped while rising. The log began to roll down the hill and the others left holding on slipped along with it. The log and three men slid all the way down the slope and into the water. Two of the humans were dragged down by their armor to lie beneath the waves. The attackers broke apart in confusion, some trying to recover the log bobbing in the water and others dodging arrows sent to them by the crannog’s defenders.
The doors to the gnomish home burst open and heavily armored warriors emerged. Where the humans slipped and slid, the gnomes kept their feet. Instead of attacking directly with weapons, they rushed behind their shields against their much larger foes, knocking most of them to the ground. The spiked picks favored by the diminutive warriors rose and fell, dripping with scarlet.
One great bull of a man bounced the warrior that shield rushed him and crushed the fallen gnome with an axe. He roared to his men that they should fall back, but only a few were still on their feet. Two archers began to step backwards while loosing arrows at the crannog’s defenders. Their steps were off the ice, and they did not fall. The massive human grabbed two of his fallen comrades and slid them down the ice patch towards their boat. He singlehandedly held off the gnomes as his fellows boarded. Finally, the commander of the guard managed to trip the man, and the gathered gnomes fell upon him, picks raised above their heads. Still loosing arrows, the surviving humans rowed away, shaking their fists and vowing vengeance.
The old caster wheezed in laughter and clapped as he watched his people rout their foes. He poked the younger caster in the back and leaned forward on his staff. “What did you learn boy?”
“Uhh, don’t just strike directly with magic?” The youth shrugged as he tried to watch the ending of the battle.
“That’s part of it. Our victory was assured because we coordinated with the warriors. They put crampons on their boots because I told the captain we would be using ice magic. Our men were prepared for it, and the enemy was not. Even though the humans were larger and stronger they could get them to the ground. Prepare the others in your group and plan on all aspects of your spells. When you cast, the archers dropped their bows. That was very good, but you didn’t account for the slipping effect of Rime. I moved the battlefield by sending part of the human raiding force down the hill towards the lake. Two of them even drowned in the water, though that wasn’t planned.” At the end of each sentence, the old gnome banged his staff on the ground for emphasis.
“Now lad, let’s go down the path and congratulate the warriors. We shared a victory today.” The ancient magi slowly began to move down the path. The young apprentice looked again at the battlefield where the ice had begun to vanish. He nodded and moved to help his master.
Rime is a first level conjuration spell which was the only one cast in this story. Its effects are to make things slippery, which can cause the targets to drop things and/or to fall.. If the situation dictates a directional fall, then a target can quickly move out of its relatively small area of effect. In this case, the old mage cast a few of them side by side to create a slide towards the lake. He then disarmed the humans using the ram by causing the log to slip out of their hands and sent some of them sliding.
The gnomish warriors were using the Crampon type of equipment, which are spikes that can be fitted to the bottom of boots. They prevent slippage on ice. The gnomes also used the bull rush tactic with their shields against the human warriors. Normally, bull rushing a larger target is a bad plan, but with the Rime spell in effect and wearing crampons, the humans were prone to slipping and the gnomes were not. This allowed the gnomes to knock the humans to the ground and gain the +4 attack bonus against a prone foe.