By-Tor Brigade Legacy
Book 4 – Part 2 – Battle at Vokhund
- Contents (1)
- Chapter 6: Second Wave
- Chapter 7: The Chase
See also: Adventure Log > Session 16, 2016-01-29
Chapter 7: Second Wave
As the attack continued, Dodge, Magna and Yriadel were on the roof of the tower. Vokhund militiamen Karl Ricunson and Godafrid were on the second floor. The whereabouts of their leader, Forwost Steigler, was still unknown. The main force of about fifteen outlaws were converging on the bridge, while a newly arrived secondary troop of ten were marching from the west. To the east, nearby within the trees, lurked Kyran, Glen and Lee. Aiden was almost three furlongs east, near the recently deceased Lord Austalf, and had just deduced that Lady Leka had been captured and carried away.
Aiden did not know the exact whereabouts of his companions and bravely decided to pursue Lady Leka’s captors on his own. His instincts told him that a swift reaction by one lone warrior was more important than a delayed action by the whole team. The tracks were easy enough for him to follow, so he mounted Shadowmist and began to follow the tracks heading towards the river.
Soon Aiden arrived at the bank of River Nodens. He dismounted and looked around for better signs. He quickly discerned that the party he was pursuing had recently swam or floated to the opposite bank. Shadowmist was reluctant to enter the river, so rather than waste time trying to coax the great beast, Aiden dove into the river alone and swam across in pursuit. When he reached the opposite bank, he climbed up the muddy incline. It didn’t take him long to find the tracks again and he followed them westward. Eventually, he spotted a small wooded area up ahead and the tracks seemed to continue in that direction. He decided to move more cautiously now: if his quarry was looking back they would see him in the open ground.
While Aiden was attempting to find and rescue Lady Leka, the others, unaware of the fates of Lord Austalf or Lady Leka, were busy contending with the outlaw attack, now from two fronts: across the bridge to the south and from the trees to the west.
Yriadel’s next action was to remove Tultambë from her pouch: her copper dragon whistle. She blew into the magical device and its shrill sound began its magic to summon a Copper Dragon. While Dodge continued to fire arrows at their adversaries, Magna grabbed his magic Wand of Entangle and aimed it at the group of outlaws across the bridge. Magna cast the spell at the targets and suddenly tall grass, weeds and other plants wrapped around the hapless henchmen, entangling them all.
Within the nearby trees, Kyran waved his fingers at the group of outlaws near the bridge and uttered the mystic words “Kavvála Pétra Klísi.” Miraculously, a rain of dirt, gravel and pebbles rained down upon the area, bludgeoning the entire troop and covering them all with debris.
Shortly thereafter, Yriadel’s Copper Dragon magically appeared near the tower. It was not a very large creature, only about two feet tall at the shoulders, but it had long wings and was a magnificent sight to behold. Bright, shining copper scales ran from its horn-crowned head to its ridged tail. The dragon sensed the enemy near the bridge and immediately flew towards the adversaries. As it approached its target, it picked out a line of entangled warriors and exhaled acid upon five of them. Three of the victims fell in pain from the acid. Satisfied with the effectiveness of her summoned dragon, Yriadel picked up her borrowed crossbow and began firing at the outlaws again.
The bulk of the outlaws near the bridge were severly beaten up and entangled. They struggled to escape their situation, but only a few succeeded. Those that were able, returned fire at the tower’s defenders, and Dodge and Yriadel received minor wounds from grazing hits. Dodge continued to return fire and he nailed an Angarian warrior who fell dead into a pool of his own blood.
Kyran pointed his finger at Warlord Grahmr and cast another spell, speaking “Kavvála Vlimaton.” Two missiles of black energy darted from his fingertip, rifled through the air, and struck his enemy.
Magna, confident that the progress of the outlaws at the bridge had been stalled, now turned his wand towards the group approaching from the west and he cast the Entangle spell at them. Just like the first group, tall grass, weeds, and other plants wrapped around them, entangling nearly all of them and stalling their march toward the keep.
Magna pondered at the odd mixture of the approaching group: Angarians, Orcs and Swarts. Angarians were no surprise, for their kind ruled the eastern half of Prettonia, and the brave and desperate were not unknown to range far into other Prettonian lands. (His friends Dodge, Glen, Kyran and Yriadel were all Angarian.) But Swarts, with their deep brown skin, black hair and wide mouths, were rarely seen this far north. They were known as Haradrim in Magna’s native language, or mockingly as Blackamoors by the Angarians. He suspected these were from a seafaring tribe, perhaps corsairs, for they favored colorful, exotic clothing such as vests and baggy pants. They were armed with zagayas (spears) and wooden shields. Yet even more suprising than the Swarts, were the Orcs, with their jutting jaws, yellowed tusks, and brutally muscular frames. Orcs had not been sighted in Prettonia for decades, which was a good thing for the local people, for orcs were feared for their penchant for destruction and mindless violence. Magna knew their kind well, and was trained in diverse ways to hunt and kill them. These particular orcs, however, were from a tribe Magna had not personally encountered before. They wielded falchions and throwing axes, but no shields, so there were no markings to read; and their skin had a reddish hue, instead of the typical grayish-green. With a tinge of unease, Magna recalled the words spoken by Hen Gethin back at the Bierkeller in Glawchester: that the warband of Warlord Grahmr was a collection of fugitives from many tribes and that “he welcomes whatever outlaw comes into the region, and the more murderous they are, the better.” This information confirmed what Magna now beheld with his own eyes.
Now the majority of both groups of outlaws were entangled, and they struggled to free themselves so they could continue their march towards the keep. Some were able to continue shooting arrows at the tower, though none hit any targets. The Copper Dragon swerved in its flight and exhaled more acid breath at its trapped enemies. The painful acid landed on Warlord Grahmr and two others, seering their exposed flesh. Yriadel noticed that the warlord was struggling, so she aimed her crossbow specifically at him. The bolt hit him square in the torso, piercing his armor and splattering blood. Kyran, Magna and Dodge followed her cue, and began shooting arrows mainly at Warlord Grahmr.
The unpredictable dragon, in a whimsical mood, ended its flight, landing just outside the entangling weeds near the bridge, and taunted the enemy outlaws. Warlord Grahmr finally succeeded in his struggle to escape the entanglement and he angrily approached the dragon. As soon as he was within reach, the warlord swung his sword and wounded the dragon. This angered the dragon which fought back immediately, ferociously biting and clawing at Warlord Grahmr until his victim finally staggered in weakness from the wounds. The warlord withdrew from the battle, heading towards the cover of the trees. The dragon cast a magic spell toward the escaping warlord and caused the ground around the fleeing outlaw to become covered with a layer of slippery grease. Warlord Grahmr fell to the ground. The dragon laughed out loud at Warlord Grahmr as he slipped and slided on the greasy terrain.
The dragon took to the air again and flew toward Warlord Grahmr. As it flew by it breathed acid on the prone warrior. The warlord floundered in the slippery grease while he suffered more burns from the acid. The Copper Dragon looked back at its victim with glee, then disappeared back to its magical plane of existence as the summoning spell expired.
During the time that the dragon and the warlord faced each other, Dodge, Magna and Yriadel redirected their aim toward the other outlaws, downing a few and injuring many. The group from the west were pinned down in the open field. As each became disentangled, they headed south towards the cover of the river bank.
Meanwhile, Glen and Lee, like Kyran, were caught outside the tower when the attack began, and they decided to remain in the cover of the trees. Since they did not have such renowned missile skills as Kyran (the Mayday Champion of Ullester), they chose different tactics. Lee used his considerable skills of stealth and moved about the trees undetected, trying to maneuver into a position where he could deal the most damage when the outlaws crossed the bridge.
Glen chose a similar strategy, but with less reliance on stealth and more emphasis on selecting the best location for a last stand. It was a good day to go to Valhalla, Glen thought to himself, and he silently pledged that no enemy would reach Kyran or Lee without going through him first. But promptly Glen lost track of Kyran and Lee, and he concluded that the outlaws were not going to make it across the bridge any time soon, so he darted for the keep, desiring to check on his besieged friends.
Just seconds before Glen sped off, Lee also realized that the outlaws were not going to be coming across the bridge in the near future, so he decided to employ covert maneuvers. Careful to remain as hidden as possible, Lee slipped into the river and quietly swam across.
With the western group of attackers mostly hidden from view beyond the river bank, and more reinforcements approaching the bridge, Dodge, Magna and Yriadel concentrated their missiles upon the main force. Kyran moved into closer range to also target the bridge force. Glen entered the keep, grabbed a crossbow and bolts, then ascended the stairs to the roof.
Warlord Grahmr continued to flounder in the slippery grease for several tense seconds, then finally gained his footing and began to move away.
By now, Lee had made his way across the river, then carefully and silently ascended the opposite bank. He stealthily approached the cover of the nearby trees, then aimed his bow at one of the Prettons near Warlord Grahmr. Unfortunately, both his attempts missed and yielded only negative consequences. The Pretton, alerted by the arrows that narrowly missed him, returned fire at Lee. Though the Pretton archer also missed Lee, it drove Lee deeper into the woods to escape further attacks.
Warlord Grahmr calculated the situation and reluctantly decided to withdraw from the field of battle. When the defenders realized this development, they redoubled their efforts to target him. Yriadel, Kyran, Glen and Dodge all missed, but Magna hit him dead square in the back. The warlord fell face down, unconscious.
Sensing victory, Dodge, Glen, Magna and Yriadel descended the tower steps, and gathered outside, preparing to defend the bridge against the western group, whom they suspected were moving along the river, as yet hidden from view. Kyran arrived from the trees to join them. While they were moving into position, some of the outlaws carried their warlord away into the safety of the woods. While four guarded the bridge, Magna checked the river. He found no outlaws hiding there, and assumed they had escaped back to the west.
During this time, Lee was moving like a shadow among the trees, attempting to gain a strategic position to attack the outlaws. He spotted a corsair who appeared to be standing guard. Lee stealthily circled around the guard, then saw what he assumed was the camp of the outlaws. Suddenly, much to his suprise, Lee saw Aiden approaching the same destination! Silently, Lee flagged down Aiden and together they stepped further away to quietly compare notes. After they both became apprised of the situation, Lee volunteered to continue Aiden’s search for Lady Leka (the tracks that Aiden was following continued toward the camp that Lee had discovered), while Aiden returned to the tower to inform the others. Aiden moved quietly through the woods, avoiding the notice of any guards, then he ran towards the bridge to get to the tower. Some of the outlaws saw him, but their arrows fell impotently in the soft ground as Aiden dodged them while he ran by.
Using stealth and camouflage, Lee was able to sneak close enough to the camp to see many of the outlaws, including a handful he had not seen during the earlier attack (probably the ones Aiden had been tracking, he surmised). Lee also saw Lady Leka, bound and gagged.
It was hard to keep count, for men entered and left the camp frequently, seemingly in confusion, but Lee tried his best to assess the strength of the surviving force. From his hiding place, he counted six ferocious Angarians, wielding longswords and seax daggers, armored in leather and wooden shields. There were five Prettons, with their famous longbows of yew. Lee even spotted two Kricts, the same ethnic group as his friend Aiden, replete with their traditional painted skin. There were five Orcs, wielding falchions and throwing axes, their skin with a strange, reddish hue.
There was another group that clustered together as if they were a separate contingent: six Swarts and a handful of Angarians. Their exotic, colorful style of clothing marked them all as sea-faring veterans; perhaps pirates or reavers. What were they doing this far inland, Lee wondered. The brown skinned Swart corsairs favored zagayas and large, rectangular shields of wood. The Angarian reavers sported their traditional seax knives, plus longswords and round wooden shields.
Soon, some of the Bloodshields entered the camp, bearing Warlord Grahmr. Another was leading the warlord’s mount, a gaunt black horse hung with a black saddle cloth. They eased their warlord to the ground and tended to his wounds as he gradually revived. When he stood, they handed him his great black spear and his shield. He was dressed in black leather armor beneath his cloak and wore no helmet. His shield looked flaky with rust and Lee supposed the flakes had to be the layers of dried blood, just as its leather covering had to be the flayed skin of a slave girl.
Warlord Grahmr surveyed his remaining troops, and Lee was astonished that he was such a good-looking man. He had expected a hook-nosed ghoul, a thing from nightmare, but Warlord Grahmr was in early middle age and had a broad forehead, a wide mouth and a short clipped black beard that accentuated his strong jawline. There was nothing mad about his appearance, but he did have one red eye and that was enough to make him fearsome.
Lee continued to count their numbers. He tried to assess their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully to overhear any plans, but their conversations were not clear enough for him to distinguish any clues. Then, when an argument heated up between Warlord Grahmr and another, Lee was able to overhear their words. The other, apparently the leader of the Reavers, was a tall, thin Angarian with wisps of hair on his head and chin. He was acne scarred, beady eyed, and thin lipped. His clothing was simple, fairly dirty and unkempt, but functional. He spoke with a lisp and gesticulated more and more wildly as the argument escalated.
“We will ranthom [ransom] her to the Vikna family in Kantor and bring your thare [share] of the gold back to you,” the tall one insisted.
“No, Klaus,” Warlord Grahmr stated commandingly. “Your plot has no substance. I require assurance that I will get my gold. You will not be taking this girl.”
Their dialog was interrupted by a shout and a death scream. Everyone’s attention turned to one of the Reavers who suddenly fell face down next to Lady Leka as he bled out from a fatal wound in his back. Another Reaver stood above him, his battleaxe dripping blood.
“Tindle! What jutht [just] happened?” Klaus shouted in surprise.
Tindle, the axe wielding Angarian Reaver, was a fairly handsome man with a stubble of growth covering his face. His eyes were a piercing blue and his voice was firm and powerful. “Markus was about to kill the girl,” Tindle answered, pointing to the dagger in the dead Reaver’s hand. “I knew there was some reason I never liked this newcomer. Why did Ubert hire him?” He turned and glowered at two other Reavers who hastily shrugged and shook their heads to illustrate they knew nothing of this ‘Markus’ fellow.
“And so we see,” Warlord Grahmr said admonishingly, “even within the ranks of Ubert’s Reavers, there are some that cannot be trusted. We will take the girl to Juyntia and determine her fate there. The matter is settled. Let’s move out.”
Chapter 8: The Chase
Aiden ran across the bridge and joined his friends. He hastily explained the situation, stressing that Lee was alone in the woods across the river. They checked their weapons and marched cautiously across the bridge, betwixt the dead outlaws that had been left behind, then up the incline towards the woods.
As they reached the summit where Erminsway disappeared beneath the dark bows of Ericon Forest, a grizzly precursor of the battle sat in the middle of the road. Two heads placed atop small poles rested awkwardly in the middle of the road. Forwost Steigler’s eyes stared blankly at the tower and an unfamiliar dwarf’s head echoed his gaze. On the forehead of the dwarf there were a series of seven tattooed dots of varying age.
Presently, Lee emerged from the woods and joined the group in the road. He informed them that the outlaws had moved out with haste and that they took Lady Leka with them. Then Lee noticed the dots inked on the forehead of the dwarf. He recognized them as the mark of the Duerg Firvold, a group of dwarves from the Peaks, also known as the Dwarven Authority or the Peak Authority. They were sworn to slay the March Outlaws, Lee explained, and the dots indicated the number of outlaws he had slain. Each dot represented five outlaws, so dots were usually added over time. Therefore this fallen warrior had killed at least 35 outlaws during his career.
The group followed Lee into the woods to the outlaw campsite. There they found the dying embers of a large fire and the discarded scraps of a day’s meal. Several pieces of Lady Leka’s cloak, as if it had been ripped into shredded strips, lay near the embers of the fire. Several yards beyond the smoldering fire, in a pile of brush, lay the body of Markus. Lee searched the corpse and found no valuables, but he did notice a tattoo on the back of his neck of two quartermoons facing each other.
The Outlaws left obvious tracks on the road leading northwest.
To be continued…
1. Adapted from: Davis Chenault, Into the Unknown: Vakhund, (Little Rock: Troll Lord Games, 2007).