14 Growth 508
After the pronouncement of King Alrik, the party settles into their camp within the ruins of the village of Aeth. Though they are located within what is left of the walls, no other groups camp near them. It seems that many of the Aethyngs still do not wholly accept their strangeness—the sorcery of the twins and the two half-orcs with whom they travel.
As the group settles in to rest, Surm and Mõrvar discuss their newly restored status in the clan. Surm is pleased, but Mõrvar is still troubled and resentful. He wonders if the clan would accept their uncle back into the fold after all these years. Surm doesn’t think so, as he has done nothing to re-endear him to the King as as they have done. He also believes that Thormax is not interested in being restored to the clan after all these years. This seems to reinforce Mõrvar’s bitterness toward the clan, much to Surm’s consternation.
The following morning, there is much activity in the village. Scouts are running from the village and up the pass in order to give advance warning of an invasion by Magrathar’s troops. Groups of men are working on the broken palisade that surrounds the village. Weapons are being sharpened and ready for the battle that all anticipate will come soon. Savaric and Rilka volunteer to help with the palisade. Their aid is accepted, though it is clear that many of the workers are suspicious of the two half-orcs. Surm and Mõrvar decide to walk about the village and check-in with various family members and acquaintances.
First, the twins go and meet with their brother Lothar. The older Ulrich is cold, but answers the questions put to him about how the Ulrich family fared during the twins’ long absence. He left the family soon after their father’s death, fighting and raiding with various other clans. Ren had stayed behind to help their mother and Sonja manage the home. As the twins leave him, he does manage to tell them “May the gods favor you.”
Next, the two Ulrich brothers go to meet their brother Ren, who is camping with many of the other wounded refugees from the warlord’s encampment. He’s not sure how he is going to carry on without his leg—in Northron society, the old, frail, and maimed are often discarded. He was an apprentice blacksmith before the raiders came—perhaps he can go back to that.
Feeling nostalgic, Surm and Mõrvar decide to visit their childhood home. It has experienced extensive fire damage, but still stands.
Finally, the two brothers decide to visit with Rathic and Vorthar in the refugee camps. From the former bard they learn that many of the refugees have committed themselves to standing and fighting with their rescuers and have petitioned the King to become part of the Aethyngs.
Runners are dispatched throughout the village—the King wants all camp leaders to gather in the central longhouse. Surm and Mõrvar reunite with Savaric and Rilka and discuss who they will send to the longhouse. It is finally decided that the twins will go—once Surm exacts a promise from Mõrvar that he will be quiet during the meeting.
Alrik begins the meeting by announcing that he has decided to bring the battle to Magrathar. He has called all of the camp leaders together to discuss strategies to do just that. But first, he calls upon the Ulrich twins to give insights into what the witch in the warlord’s entourage is capable of.
Surm comes forward and orates to the gathered leaders. He tells them that the demon was most likely summoned forth by a ritual spell or an artifact. Though the demon was “destroyed” in this realm, over time it could reform on its home plane and be re-summoned. This could take up to twenty-four hours—which means that if the Aethyngs are going to attack before the witch brings forth another demon, they need to move sooner rather than later. Further, he suggests not attacking but laying in ambush against the oncoming horde. It would be easier to set such ambushes along the pass leading back to Aeth.
The sorcerer’s pronouncements cause a lot of consternation in the crowd. Some shout in agreement while others think the plan to be “cowardly” or lacking in honor. Finally, Alrik calls for order. He will go with the sorcerer’s plan. He calls for camp leaders to volunteer to set up ambushes, while others will work on forging iron weapons and preparing defenses for the village.
While the camp leaders sort themselves out—some staying to discuss the ambushes with the King while others leaving to begin defense preparations, Surm and Mõrvar approach Alrik with some private concerns. First, they warn Alrik that witches are also known to have familiars that take the form of animals—birds, insects, etc. They could be being spied upon as they speak. They warn him to be careful and to pass word to the camp leaders to take down suspicious animals and such over the course of their work. Further, they wanted to pass on to him, out of general earshot, their plan of moving forward and ambushing the keep from behind the line of troops. They will take a mountain pass that their scout (Savaric) had found and make their way behind the palisades and wait for the troops to move. Then they will strike. The King approves of their plan. Finally, the two ask that iron weapons be sent to their group to aid them in the fight against the demon, should the need arise. The King assures them that he will make those arrangements.
The twins return to their half-orc companions and explain the new plan and what transpired in the longhouse. They also make a point of telling Ren what happened and encourage him to help at the forges. Once they receive a cache a of iron weapons from one of the King’s aides, they begin to make their way up the pass toward Magrathar’s keep.
Along the way, they encounter a pair of mercenary scouts posted on the walls of the pass. They stealthily make their way toward one, hoping to take the man out quietly. Unfortunately, they are detected and the man fires an arrow at Savaric. From across the pass, the other scout begins firing as well. After a heated exchange of blows and shots fired by both the twins (with their magic) and Savaric (with his bow), the scouts are dispatched.
Eventually, as the sun begins to descend, the party makes it to the valley where the warlord’s keep lies. They follow the ridge that Savaric had found previously. They move extremely slowly and cautiously along the ridge, hoping to not draw attention to themselves as they move. They can see and smell the carrion remains of the previous night’s battle below them. They follow the ridge beyond the first palisade and make it about halfway to the next before discovering that the ridge ends. They can see movement on the gates and catwalk of the next palisade. The group backs up along the ridge and the ranger scouts for another route. He finds one—but they will have to climb up higher to get to it. Mõrvar uses his sorcery to place a grapple into the higher ridge so that the party can climb his knotted rope to the next level. Savaric climbs up to the new ridge and scouts ahead to see if this ridge will take them all the way to their destination. He follows it to the last palisade and can see that it continues beyond it. He also spots five guards on the gates of the palisade and the rest of Magrathar’s army encamped on the other side, around the keep. He carefully returns to his friends.
As the sun continues to set, the party waits on the ridge until darkness falls. Then, they carefully and slowly make their way along the ridge, creeping along the rocky wall until they emerge beyond the palisade. From here, they can see the warlord’s keep. It is comprised of a single-story square building with a three-story tower on one side. The ridge extends along the mountain wall beyond the palisade to end about parallel with the side-tower of the keep. They follow the ridge to its end and then gently lower the rope down and descend to the floor of the valley. Keeping ot the shadows cast by the various campfires, the group makes their way to the rear of the keep, gathering in the shadowy corner where the tower meets the main hall. . .