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> Chronicles > Book 4 – Part 3

Book 4 – Part 3 – The Chase

  • Contents (1)
    • Chapter 8: Forest Ericon
    • Chapter 9: Juyntia

See also: Adventure Log > Session 17, 2016-04-29


Chapter 8: Forest Ericon

While Magna began to track the outlaws, Aiden hurried back across the bridge to retrieve Shadowmist. When Aiden returned about an hour later, he explained that after he had found the warhorse near the river bank (right where he left him) he rode back to the keep to check on Godafrid and Karl Ricunson. The two militiamen were relieved to hear that the outlaws had ceased their attack on Vokhund and had departed into the Kambrian Kingdoms. They were stunned and horrified when Aiden told them that Forwost Steigler had been killed by the outlaws. When he explained that the outlaws had also killed Lord Austalf and kidnapped Lady Leka, and that he was going to pursue the outlaws, the militiamen urged Aiden to pack up as many supplies and gear as he needed for the dangerous journey into the lawless frontier territory. Aiden wisely accepted and together the three packed numerous rations and supplies into saddlebags and loaded them onto the noble Shadowmist. They exchanged quick farewells, then Aiden headed out across the bridge to catch up to his friends.

Magna scouted ahead as the group followed the tracks of the outlaws along Erminsway, which stretched into the dreary southwest. Its muddy trails and byways were traveled by few other than merchants, local Kambrians, and those of ill intent. There was no law here to protect the honest, so it was with much haste that wise travelers made their way between Vokhund and Kerventa.

During the first day of travel, they encountered nothing more than a single, hungry wolf. It had been watching them, hoping to find easy prey, but it ran away once it was spotted.

Early the next day, Magna heard sounds of movement in the woods near the road. He signaled from the distance to approach silently. As his friends came closer, they realized there was a small heard of deer moving through the area. They debated quietly, then decided they had no time for hunting or preparing deer meet, so they continued on their way.

Wagon Wreckage

Midway through the second day, rounding a bend in the road, they were greeted by a long stretch of Erminsway hemmed in tightly by massive green firs dusted with snow. Down the road were the burnt husks of three wagons. Peaceful and still, the charred remains were the sole marker of those they traveled with days ago. The crates, boxes, sacks, and barrels were spilled, broken and scattered up and down the road, and the steers, tack and harnesses were gone. Magna waited briefly as the main group caught up, then the seven approached the wreckage together.

A search of the area revealed few useful items as the convoy had been thoroughly ransacked for anything of value. Conspicuously, only one corpse could be located: the headless body of a dwarf. Searching him revealed nothing other than a tough body, scarred from many years of horrible fighting. They presumed the body belonged to the head found in the road near the campsite: that of the Duerg Firvold, the outlaw hunter. His unfortunate presence within this whole scenario remained a mystery.

The tracks were still easy to follow, but here they left Erminsway and led northwest into the Ericon Forest.

Reavers on the Ericon Trails

They left Erminsway and followed an animal trail through the Ericon Forest. Magna always took point at a slight distance from the main group. He mentioned that the tracks were relatively easy to follow as the outlaws were apparently making no effort to hide their passing. At one point during the afternoon, Magna spotted a small herd of common woodland elk, which ran as soon as they were disturbed by the group.

Forest Ericon was a dark and silent place. The massive green bows of the firs smothered most noise and cast dark shadows even in the brightest of afternoons. A light snow filtered from the sky, whipped by a spiteful wind that, for once, brought more than chill and bitter cold. The wind carried a noise, the muffled grumbling of voices not far in the distance.

Magna, far in advance of the main group, had obviously detected the voices before others. He had moved into a hiding place behind a large deadwood not far off the trail. Having realized that the two groups would converge upon each other in moments, he sent silent warning via hand signs. Dodge and Glenlivet saw the signal first and split everyone off quickly and quietly to opposite sides of the trail. Yriadel took the reins from Aiden and led Shadowmist as far away as possible while trying to avoid making any noise.

Promptly, from around the trees, stomped three fierce Swart corsairs hefting long, thin zagaya (known as spears in Angaria) and hauling small packs and wooden shields upon their backs. Their dress was the usual winter fare seen in the bays and ports of Kantor. They wore padded armor of bright colors and hats of colorful hue. With them was a lone Angarian, attired in a similar fashion but carrying a great longbow. Behind the lot was a very tall Swart corsair growling at the others and carrying a zagaya in one hand and a large shield in the other. The front three swarts were barking at each other in their angry tongue while the Angarian limped quietly behind. None of the approaching corsairs seemed attentive to their surroundings, more concerned about their particular argument than any dangers that might be on the trail. They marched right past Magna without even a glance in his direction.

Tense seconds went by as the seven waited near the edge of the trail in the misty forest. The corsairs were marching right into their ambush. As they drew closer, some noticed that the lead corsair had a limp, and the Angarian had a bloody bandage dangling out from under his hat. They had obviously been in a recent battle, very likely the attack upon Vokhund that had been repelled.

Suddenly one of the front corsairs stopped and shouted an alarm. Perhaps he had spotted Shadowmist or maybe he just got lucky and sensed the trap. The seven recognized the change in awareness of the corsairs and immediately attacked them. Arrows flew from the bows of Magna and Lee. Aiden, Dodge, Glen and Kyran charged at the corsairs with awesome speed. The front three corsairs all took deep wounds from Kyran, Glenlivet and Aiden. “Mercy!” they pleaded, and threw down their weapons in surrender. Behind them, the Angarian and their leader, the tall Swart in the rearguard, reluctantly followed suit.

Magna returned swiftly down the path to the scene, and Yriadel led Shadowmist back to the trail to rejoin them. The six men shouted orders at the five captives to line up and kneel down, showing their frustration upon recognizing former adversaries. “Don’t kill us,” the corsairs begged. “You can have our money, just let us go. We work for Ubert.”

“We are not thieves,” Glen replied angrily. “We are looking for a captive – a young girl that was taken away from us near Vokhund. You were at that battle, I believe, so you had better talk now. Tell us where the girl is.”

Yriadel detected subtle disappointment in the faces of the captives that their mention of the name of Ubert, a well-known pirate who plied the waters around Kantor, caused no fear in her group’s brave hearts. One of the Swarts meekly began to speak but he was stared down menacingly by their leader. Kyran took his sword Red-Death, which was still wet with blood from the injured Swart he stood above, gripped it with both hands and stabbed the man in the back. It was a brutally painful stroke, and though it did not kill the man, the prisoners knew he would be dead in minutes without medical attention. Lee leaned towards a different Swart and whispered calmly and threateningly, “You’re next.”

The Angarian and the two injured Swarts immediately opened up to interrogation. The Angarian’s name was Krisse, he said, and he was just a bandit who worked for Klaus. Yes, he confessed, they were survivors from the attack on Vokhund. He and the four swarts had split from the others after reaching Juyntia and were heading back to Erminsway and thence back to Kantor. Their intention was to bring word of their actions to Ubert.

Krisse went on to explain that Klaus was Ubert’s right-hand man in Kantor and was leading several of Ubert’s pirates on this venture, along with his friend Tindle and a few thugs they recently hired. They were sent to track down Lord Austalf Vikna and get money from him, but he had no idea why the girl was taken prisoner. The last he heard, the girl was being held captive in Juyntia, but he did not know exactly where.

Nnamdi, the Swart leader, was a veteran warrior. One might gather he had survived many years as a corsair on the open seas while serving Ubert. Despite his fierce loyalty, he understood his situation and confirmed that the words of Krisse were true, but insisted he knew nothing more. Paki, the Swart whom Lee had threatened so effectively, was worried about his friend Oluchi, who lay bleeding beneath Red-Death and the merciless eye of Kyran. Paki begged to be released and said he just wanted to return to the open seas, as the land was not his friend. Rutendo was the other wounded Swart. Juyntia was no longer a Pretton settlement, he cautioned, it had been taken over by orks. There was a temple complex that the orks had converted to worship their god Gruumsh and a powerful ork shaman and several Gruumachs, his religious zealots, managed the temple.

Once they were satisfied that they had gained the information needed, they tied up the prisoners and took what few coins they possessed. Honorably, they left the corsairs’ weapons nearby so that after they escaped their bonds in a few hours, they would not be defenseless during their journey back to Erminsway.

Trellek Stones

Traveling north on the trail, they passed by the body of a recently killed woodsman. The wounds were punctures, but obviously not from animals. A large chopping axe and a small knapsack with some crusts of bread and dried meat in it lay nearby.

Hours later, Magna encountered a small black bear. He decided that its mother might be nearby, so he led the group in a wide circle around it in avoidance.

The trail rose and fell with the hills in the region. Upon one such rise all the trees had been cleared and the debris common to the forest floor removed. To the side of the trail lay three massive standing stones forming a row. They stood there, as if keeping watch over the trail and all those who pass.

The main group caught up to Magna and approached the stones reverently to get a closer look. There were numerous small stones on the ground, most used as weights for small colorful ribbons of silk and cloth.

“These are called the Trellek Stones,” Lee explained, “or Tryleg Maenhir in the local tongue. The legend I have heard is that a giant named Siôn ap Kentyg flung the three stones from Ysgyryd Fawr (Skyrrid Mountain), fourteen miles distant, while playing a game with another giant. All passing Prettons must stop to pay their respects, and these little slivers of cloth all contain prayers for preventing more stones from being thrown and landing on travelers.”

At the bottom of the hill the trail crossed a crude road that meandered north-south. The tracks of the outlaws remained on the trail northwest, toward Juyntia, so Magna led them in that direction, deeper into the Kambrian Kingdoms.

Pretton Raid

The group camped for the night. While Glenlivet and Lee Alfsaw were on watch duty in the dark of the night, they sensed an approaching sneak attack. Just as they were about to alert their friends, thirteen marauding Prettons revealed their presence. They were raiders from the Kambrian Kingdoms and they had completely surrounded the camp. They all carried longbows and were about to unleash them in full force.

Preemptively, Glen charged at the nearest Pretton and sliced him with his scimitar, while Lee shot at another with his bow. Dodge and the others awoke due to the noise and immediately prepared for counter attack.

The Prettons all began unleashing their arrows, most at Glen and Lee, some at Yriadel and the others as they emerged from their tents and bedrolls. Lee was hit twice by the archers and reeled with pain. The Pretton whom Glen had wounded at the onset, released his arrow at point blank range. Glen narrowly avoided what could have been a fatal blow, receiving only a minor wound instead. He retaliated for the injury with a second swing from his fabled DragonBane scimitar, killing the unfortunate Pretton.

Glen charged at the next nearest raider, and this time struck with a blow so powerful it knocked the Pretton clear off his feet, almost killing him with a single cut. Nearby, despite his wounds, Lee shot an arrow and hit one of the Prettons, while Aiden, Kyran and Dodge all erupted into the battle: striking, slashing and smashing. Magna, having decided this would be a good time to try out his bear form in battle, had transformed as he arose from his sleeping position. Now in his bear form, he charged at a Pretton, slashing with his formidable claws.

The Pretton raiders who were now engaged in melee dropped their bows and brandished their daggers. The others continued to fire their awesome longbows: two of them delivered more wounds to the unfortunate Lee. One of them took aim at Yriadel. “TilbiÐja ,” she said as she batted her lovely eyes at him. His heart became flooded with adoration for her and he harmlessly lowered his bow.

While the others were still just getting up to speed, Glen had already dropped two adversaries and was stepping around them to attack a third. However, the first Pretton, though wounded and flat on his back, was not quite out of the battle yet. He managed to loose an arrow from his prone position and hit Glen at close range. A fourth was nearby and he also shot his bow: it sunk sharply into Glen’s leg. Glen’s anger increased and he decided he had taken enough from that second Pretton. He turned and landed a killing stroke upon him where he lay. Then he returned his attention to the third Pretton and delivered a knockout blow from DragonBane. Next, Glen charged at the fourth Pretton and delivered a swift knockout strike.

Lee was bleeding profusely and enduring severe pain. He realized he needed better cover from the archers so he limped away as quickly as he could. He would attempt to gain concealment and hopefully outflank some of the Prettons before he fell unconscious from his wounds. Lee quickly found concealment and then began using stealth to maneuver into position.

Aiden, Dodge, Kyran and Magna continued to battle the Prettons, who scrambled about and repeatedly let loose their arrows. Aiden, Kyran and Magna each felled one foe, while Dodge killed two. One Pretton was so frightened by the awesome claws and teeth of Magna the Bear that he fled in fear. The number of Prettons who remained standing had dwindled, yet they continued to press their desperate attack. Aiden, Dodge and Magna each knocked another opponent out of the fight. Finally, there were two raiders left and they tried to flee, but Glen and Magna each ran them down and killed them bloodily.

After the last attacker was down, the group surveyed the area to ensure there was no more danger, while Yriadel channeled her healing power amongst her friends, concentrating the most upon Lee.

Chapter 9: Juyntia

Impalement

Li-Al Saar, known by his Angarian friends as Lee Alfsaw, slept fitfully that night. He had suffered multiple wounds during the attack from the Pretton raiders. If the battle had not ended as soon as it did, and he then received magical healing from Yriadel, he might not have survived. The memory of those sharp wounds still lingered in his mind, and he floated on the edge between sleeping and waking. Maybe this is what allowed an unidentified force to enter his dreaming mind. One of the gods, perhaps? Near dawn, he woke up screaming from a vivid nightmare. In the dream world, he was witness to a horrible scene. Lee could not tell if what he witnessed had actually happened and been experienced through the eyes of another, or was foretold to happen in the future and to be personally witnessed by him. But in either case, it felt undeniably real, and not very far away.

On a crisp day with a grey sky and only a blinding white smear to show where the sun lurked, the ork executioners cut a good pine pole slightly taller than the height of a man, thin at one end, thick at the other.

The thin end they sharpened and greased, then they took the legs of the face-down girl and roped them by the ankles, pulling them wide apart. An ork executioner took a saddle-cloth, placed it on her back then sat on it to keep her still, while another bound each of her wrists with leather thongs, then tied them to two stakes, also wide apart. She screamed blood on to her teeth.

“On this day, in the fourth moon of the command of Ghor, Joh of Tuq Ash’lur in Daheghah Mol,” intoned the shaman, “this human girl is sacrificed in torturous death to the great god Gruumsh.”

“Gods take her swiftly,” Lee muttered, soft enough so only his fellow prisoners heard it, “carry her soul to the Otherworld on a gentle breeze.”

There would be no more gentle breezes for her. The stake was driven up into her while the executioners ignored her shrieks but made sure her white buttocks were decently covered as they hammered and pushed, to preserve her dignity from the droolers in the crowd. The white shift she wore was soon clinging provocatively to her all the same, soaked with her blood.

Impalement is not simple savagery; there is art to it and Ghor’s executioners knew their work.

The sharpened stake was pushed, slowly and with skill up the woman’s body. It was, in a Loki joke, a healer’s art they used, for they knew how to avoid all the serious soft organs, the lungs and the heart and liver, despite her jerks and screams. There were frequent stops for adjustment, brief panting instructions and advice, one expert to another, as obscenely intimate as if they were all lovers. They stopped only once, to scatter wood shavings on the bloody snow and prevent them slipping in the slush of it.

One slash with a knife helped the point of the stake out through the skin of the upper back on the right side of the spine, proving that the stake had missed her heart; the crowd of orks roared and the dignified, well-dressed shamans of Gruumsh nodded their flabby necks in approval as the girl was skewered like an ox on a spit. Still alive, as was proper.

They unroped her, then re-tied her legs together to the foot of the stake to avoid slippage when they raised it – gently, so as not to jolt the body – into a hole, which they packed with earth. It began to feather with new snow as the pole was then strutted with supports – and that was that, everything done according to the canon of the shamans of Gruumsh.

Her bound feet offered no support and slowly, agonizingly, her own body-weight dragged her down the pole. It would take three days for the moaning, bleeding woman to die, while the snow turned crimson at her feet.

There was skill there and much to be admired in it as a statement of torture that made even the hardest balk at opposing the orks of Tuq Ash’lur – Tribe One-Eye.

All the same, it was difficult for Lee to appreciate the full merit of this justice, since he was next in the queue – but he wondered if it was possible to find an escape point that would keep that stake from his own puckering hole. (3)

When Lee described the dream to his friends, they absorbed the horror of it and openly wandered if it was a sign from one of their gods regarding the fate of Lady Leka. Lee could not tell specifically if the girl in the dream was Lady Leka, but it certainly resembled her. Did Warlord Grahmr sell her to the orks of Tuq Ash’lur for their religious ceremony, or was she taken from him by the orks for that purpose? Magna confirmed that the shamans of Gruumsh performed a sacrifice at every new moon, at the minimum, which had just passed a couple weeks prior, and would thus reoccur in another two weeks. Was Lee and his friends already too late to rescue Lady Leka or was this an omen for what was about to occur? These questions could not be answered by guessing and even Yriadel could offer no advice, despite her closeness to her goddess Freyja. They all felt the urgency to push forward and track down the kidnappers with all due haste.

Juyntia Arrival

Two days later they approached Juyntia {joo-IN-tia}. The trail ended at an open glade of muddy grass of brown and green. In the center of the glade was a large, round, earthen embankment, roughly six feet in height. It was covered in thick, flowing grass. Atop the mound’s center was a massive red column capped by an oblong slab of black slate – like a saucer on an upturned cup. Steps rose up the side of the embankment. There were four orks patrolling the site, either on the platform, the mound, or nearby.

On the far side of the glade was a wagon with no wheels, set amidst a bewildering array of stakes and poles roped together. Clearly discernible from the distance were five occupants with their arms held aloft by chains. On the opposite side of the glade, a massive octagonal-shaped building sat in a trampled clearing. It was a broad low building with no windows. It had split-log sides and a thatched roof. From a hole in the center of the roof a ghastly smoke lingered and spilled liquidly into the sky. Beyond the glade, there were more mounds and a few scattered, ramshackle structures.

Aiden recalled that this former Pretton settlement was once host to a holy site known as Dwyntia {doo-IN-tia}, whose name originated from Druantia, the Queen of the Druids. They were likely one and the same. In either case, the place had clearly been recently overrun by orks and taken over for their own disgusting purposes. The ancient druidic site had now been converted into a holy site to Gruumsh. The complex of buildings surrounding it, though also very old, was not quite so ancient.

While observing the village, Magna’s sharp vision could see a mixture of orks and humans milling about. Most of the orks were warriors or shamans. He spotted an occasional human warrior, but could not declare with any confidence if they were among the March Outlaws. There were Pretton commoners, but they were clearly destitute and probably enslaved.

The seven discussed a plan and decided that they should dare to enter the village to see if Lady Leka and her kidnappers were there. However, Magna and Glenlivet would have to stay out. Discretion was required for this task, and no elf-blood would ever be allowed to walk peacefully within a town controled by orks. They also insisted that Yriadel remain behind with the two half-elves.

Juyntia Entrance

Aiden, Dodge, Lee and Kyran followed the trail which led into the village. They walked with an air of measured confidence, desiring to appear as nefarious as the other occupants in order to seem inconspicuous. The trail took them right past the holy site. The ork guards eyed the visitors warily, but registered no reaction and practically ignored them. Just another group of warriors passing through the village, apparently. Kyran noted that there were four guards on duty on the temple platform. Like the orks that were part of the attack on Vokhund, these had a reddish hue to their skin and they all carried a falchion and throwing axes. One carried a horn – probably for sounding an alarm if an attack were to occur.

As the four walked by the holy site they noticed that the embankment appeared to be recently constructed, despite being covered by thick grass. The steps rising up the mound’s side were made of roughly hewn, ebony stones. To their amazement, the column was in motion. It seemed to be made of an otherworldly material, best described as red marble with white veins. The white veins wriggled like small worms and the column grew and shrank up to two feet within short periods of time.

North of the temple a wooden wagon sat upon the ground. Its wheels, harness and tacking had all been removed. An array of stakes and poles had been roped together, as if constructed into a cage. There were five occupants with their arms held aloft by chains. As they walked closer, they recognized two members of the Maejard Teamsters: Mordo and Digby. In addition, there was a dwarf and two elderly humans: one male, one female.

Mordo, normally youthful and handsome, was now severely haggard. His ordinarily smooth brown hair was distressingly tousled. His blue cloak was ripped and muddy, the collar bore only a remnant of the azure-winged magpie tail feathers he used to keep so clean. Mordo had a wounded arm, and blood had soaked through a makeshift bandage. He looked at the four passersby with pleading eyes, but spoke no words. Digby, the persistently spunky and jubilant Halfling, was clearly despondent: his gaze never rose from the muddy ground. His grey cloak was tattered and muddy. The hood, lined with the fur of a badger, was ripped and dirty. His spikey brown hair was caked with blood from a head wound.

There was an elderly man, who appeared to be grievously injured, and an older woman with graying auburn hair and a face etched with the wrinkles of a hard life. And lastly there was a dwarf, a grim looking warrior. He still wore his studded leather armor, since his size would be useless to orks. There were three dots tattooed on his forehead.

Kyran and the others slowed their pace, wandering what to do about this situation, but they noticed the guards at the temple were watching them, so they continued on.

On the opposite side of the glade, a massive octagonal-shaped building sat in a trampled clearing; the ground was beaten and churned. It was a broad low building with no windows. Its split-log sides and thatched roof seemed hastily constructed. A large wooden door faced the temple. The foul stench of decay and rot pervaded the air around it. The ground in the front of the building was muddied with bits and pieces of bone and flesh scattered haphazardly while the mud displayed a crimson hue.

Deghwi’s Pub

The four followed the trail into the village proper and straight to a large trampled clearing in which stood an expansive, ramshackle structure. Its thatched roof, split-log-and-bark siding, and single mud chimney rested upon each other as if each was constructed independent of the rest and were simply dumped here for convenience. In front of the building was a broad porch with a stone fire ring built in its center. Several chairs and tables were scattered upon the porch, with mugs, plates and the rubbish of a recent dinner upon them. The bitter rumbling and choked laughter of a mixed group of orks and humans echoed from within.

In the mud next to the porch lay a single ork. His fat vicious head rested upon his arms and his bloodshot eyes looked skyward. “Uhhhhhhhg… ghuy’cha’” he said, and continued to peer upwards. Though not fluent in orkish, even Lee recognized “ghuy’cha’” as a common curse or exclamation. Kind of like “fuck off”, “fuck it” and “what the fuck?” all rolled into one.

Lee tried half-heartedly to converse with the drunken ork, but neither spoke a common language. So the four decided to step around him to enter the building. Inside, beyond the loose-hung doors, was a large room with a dirt floor. Darts of light shot through many cracks in the ceiling, and a blue haze of pipe smoke lingered thickly in the air. Sitting at a low table, perilously close to the door, were three Prettons playing dice. In the center of the room was a stone lined fire pit. Beside the fire pit was a long thin table piled high with dried meats, mugs and other refuse of drinking and mealtime eating. Seated around the table was a gathering of four hulking orks and two haggard looking Angarians. Two shields leaning against a wall marked the two Angarians as Bloodshields. A tapped keg sat near the table, slowly dripping its contents into a puddle on the floor.

As they walked into the tavern, the room silenced immediately, and one of the four orks stood. The plop, plop of the dripping tap was the only sound to be heard. Dodge, Kyran, Lee and Aiden stood confident, ready for any challenge, as they surveyed the room. The ork walked towards them in a threatening manner. Though aggressive, he brandished no weapon. He seemed to size up the new group, then finally spoke. “Westrian?”, he grunted, apparently asking if they spoke the common tongue. Dodge nodded yes. “Drink?” the ork asked, pointing toward the slowly dripping keg. Dodge nodded agreement again. “Coin!” the ork half-asked and half-demanded.

“Aye, we’ve plenty of coin,” Lee answered, stepping in front of Dodge and jingling a pouch. The tension in the room seemed to dissipate, and the three Prettons, realizing there was no danger, returned to their game, ignoring the newcomers.

The ork held out his grimy hand and Lee dropped in four gold coins with a satisfying clink. “Chong!” the ork stated in approval, yet failing to reveal a grin. He gestured toward the meal table. “I am Deghwi’. This my pub. Eat. drink.” Then he returned to his seat, his grumpiness dissuaded only slightly by the coinage.

Lee and Dodge grabbed some mugs from the table and filled them from the keg, while Aiden and Kyran stabbed some grub onto a platter. They sat themselves on some rickety chairs by a vacant table. It didn’t take more than a few sips to notice that the ale was the same as that from the convoy: Hwychwood Bogmyrtle Ale. Certainly no coincidence! Obviously the spoils from the convoy had ended up here in Juyntia.

The three Prettons playing dice paid little attention to anyone else in the room, continuously gambling and drinking. The tone of their conversation was muted and dull, but both Aiden and Kyran heard enough to tell their talk concerned the recent attack on Vokhund tower.

Dodge had to suppress a sudden urge to smash in their faces. Any of these pub occupants – Prettons, Angarians or Orks – might have been at that attack at Vokhund. In fact it was likely, but it was too hard to definitively recognize any of them. Likewise, they showed no sign of recognizing Dodge or his companions.

Though the pub was a one-room structure, one corner section looked to be a haphazard addition used for storage. There were piles of boxes, crates, sacks and racks of drying meat. Lee sauntered into the area and spied that several of the newer crates had the stamp of Baeldur upon them. They had labels such as: apples, potatoes, metal ingots, crossbow bolts and silk. These could either be stolen or legitimately purchased from Pretton merchants. Who could tell? Sadly, goods from the Maejard Teamsters convoy were there as well: 2 barrels of salted carp; 4 large burlap bags of pepper; 2 kegs of Hwychwood Bogmyrtle Ale; 2 kegs of Hwychwood Dandelion Ale; 3 crates of bottled Nutmeg Mead.

Degwi’ had been watching Lee and finally lost patience, so he strode over menacingly. “What you look at, cur?”

“You have quite a stash here. I was just admiring your success, from one trader to another,” Lee explained, trying to defuse the ork’s suspicions with flattery. Now that he had the ork separated from the Angarians, he slyly displayed a gold coin and continued in a hushed voice. “Actually, what I’m looking for is a young girl,” Lee stated conspiratorially.

“Ha! Not we all,” Degwi’ grunted sarcastically as he snatched the coin, “but there only skinny old bitches here.”

“Well, I heard the March Outlaws stole a young girl from Vokhund a few days back. They’re in the area, yes?”

“Where you hear…” Degwi’ started to raise his voice in challenge until Lee flashed another gold coin. “Hmm, now you mention it: large band of outlaws come through yesterday. I no see girl, but hear lots of talk about her. She worth a lot. A noble from Kantor. Worth too much to sell to Gruumachs for sacrifice. They was go take her to Dolnogg. Hold her there until they get big ransom.”

“And where would I find this place called Dolnogg?”

“Deep in south Paugys. Climb Shatten Escarpment, then through Groes Bryniau. Only fool try that over girl.” Degwi’ spat with disgust as he spoke that last word.

“Yes. I’m sure you must be right,” Lee cleverly agreed, though falsely. “Guess I will just have to head back to Glawchester to find a girl.”

Departure

Aiden, Dodge, Lee and Kyran left the pub and wandered the muddy tracks of the run-down village. They even let themselves into a couple dilapidated huts, but they found no other parties of interest to interrogate. Eventually, they gave up and returned to the main path to continue northwards.

From their vantage point upon a hill, Glenlivet, Magna and Yriadel observed the passage of the other four and rushed to catch up to them. They circled around the village and eventually the seven joined together north of the village.

Nearby, the tangy smell of burning pine wisped through the thick firs ahead. A well-beaten path twisted amongst the trees and led to a small clearing with a large fire raging in its center. Several crimson colored Gruumach orks stood near the fire, their massive hands outstretched to the flames and their great guffaws of laughter breaking the silence. Surrounding the clearing were black canvas bedrolls tucked neatly between and underneath the trees. A large grinding stone sat near the fire and a stack of spears and assorted falchions rested nearby. Three oxen were tethered up nearby. Magna successfully led his group quietly around the camp, avoiding any unnecessary confrontation. Then they began to follow the trail north towards the Shatten Escarpment, on the heels of the March Outlaws and Lady Leka.

They left behind their friends Mordo and Rigby, doomed to die of starvation or exposure, or worse, to be tortured and sacrificed to Gruumsh. Yriadel would have objected, had she been there earlier to witness the sad state of those two and the pleading eyes of Mordo.

To be continued…


Footnotes:
1. Adapted from: Davis Chenault, Into the Unknown: Vakhund, (Little Rock: Troll Lord Games, 2007).
3. Adapted from: Robert Low, The White Raven, (London: HarperCollins, 2009), 1.


B04P03

By-Tor Brigade Legacy VykingValor