13 Growth 508 (cont’d)
The party continues down the mountain pass toward the warlord’s encampment.
Savaric searches the area for a pass that can be used to circumvent the checkpoint. He finds a high ridge that passes about five feet above the checkpoint. He stealthily checks out the situation: at a bend in the pass are two men on the ground and two others perched in rocks of the mountain wall with bows. He takes in the scene and goes back to the report to the others.
After a lengthy discussion, the party decides to try and use the high pass to ambush the archers first and let Rilka take on the men on the ground until the others are free to help. Savaric will lead the way up the pass while Mõrvar and Surm follow. Rilka will give them a ten-minute lead and then come walking up the path.
The half-orc and the twin sorcerers make their slowly, sneakily, up the ridge and around the bend. Surm diverts down a side-trail toward one of the archers, while the others continue on, hoping to down onto the pass beyond the checkpoint and attack the other archer on the opposite side of the pass. As Savaric makes his way past, and over, the first archer, some stones give way beneath his feet, tumbling off the high ridge. Everyone freezes as the archer looks up and around—but not too broadly; he doesn’t wish to give away his own position. Surm uses his sorcery to call up the sounds of goats passing in the night. This seems to placate the sentry and the half-orc and Mõrvar continue on.
Rilka hears the goats as well—and as Surm has used it as a diversion before, she suspects trouble and picks up her pace.
Mõrvar and Savaric continue along the ridge and Mõrvar eventually climbs down to the pass to take up position near the opposite archer, utilizing the advantage he has of his weapon’s reach. Then, all lie in wait for a few moments, contemplating who is going to begin the ambush.
Finally, Mõrvar acts, attacking his foe with his long spear. The others then fire into their targets: Surm with his crossbow, and Savaric with his bow. Rilka charges into the action as well, once the shouts go up. One of the archers manages to light and throw a Sunrod into the pass, lighting the area. After a brief melee, the sentries are down and the party is victorious.
Rilka manages to take the brunt of the damage from the skirmish, so the Mõrvar uses their Wand of Cure Light Wounds on the injured fighter.
Now the party continues down the past to the fourth and, they hope, final checkpoint.
If the checkpoint lies in the same place as before, the sentries will be gathered in an area where the pass expands to a width of twenty feet before narrowing once again. Again, before they get too close, Savaric scouts to see if he can find a route around the checkpoint. While he manages to get close enough to the gap to scout it out, he finds no alternate route.
Inside the gap are four more sentries. The area is lit by a campfire. Three of the sentries are at points around the fire while the fourth seems to be guarding the other narrowed pass on the other side of the gap.
After a long debate, the party decides to have the archers line up in the pass to fire upon the guards near the fire. Surm will lie down in with his crossbow, Savaric will kneel behind Surm with his longbow, and Mõrvar will line up behind the kneeling half-orc with his weapon. Rilka will charge in, bullying past the three guards at the lead and attack the man at the back before he can run for help. Once the plan is formulated, the party skulks into position.
Rilka charges into the checkpoint, praying to Bruni to give her courage. She takes several attacks from the guards she passes, but arrives and engages with her target. Meanwhile, the others of the party fire upon the guards they can see through the narrow entrance to the gap. Then, Mõrvar follows in Rilka’s wake to engage with the guards with his spear. Soon, all the guards have fallen—the party has taken the checkpoint. Once again, the half-orc fighter is in need of healing and receives it.
Finally, the party sneaks forward along the pass and finds themselves standing before the enemy encampment. Savaric once again finds the pass along the east side of the valley and leads the others along it to the other side of the first palisade. Once at the palisade, Rilka slips on some stones on the ridge, alerting a passing soldier. The party stands in stunned silence—then Surm manages to summon the sounds of goats passing, which seems to alleviate the man’s concerns, allowing the party to continue down the pass to the other side of the wooden wall.
Once the party is on the other side of the palisade, they descend into the slave’s shantytown. They stealthily make their way through toward the hut where they had met Rathic before. As they make their way between shacks, an enormous bald head emerges from one of the huts and looks back and forth, clearly alerted by some noise or another. Satisfied that no one is there, the figure re-enters his hut and the party continues on their way. Finally they make it to Rathic’s hut where Surm raps on the doorframe.
The slave answers the rap at the door and ushers them all inside. “So it’s happening, so soon?” he asks. Surm tells him that it is time and inquires as to whether Rathic has been able to get word to others that they are to take the gate once the commotion starts. Rathic says that he has, and that he has distributed the few weapons that the twins were able to leave during their last visit. He has also been able to speak with Ren, as asked. The young man is willing to help, but will not be able to do much—he is missing half of one of his legs. As to their mother, Rathic has not seen her.
Suddenly, Mõrvar is on alert. He’s heard a noise outside. Surm skulks out of the window and starts heading to the door, sticking to the shadows as he moves. Gazing around the corner to the front of the shack, he sees an enormous bald slave standing at the door. His bald head glistens in the moonlight; it’s the man that heard their approach earlier.
The sorcerer whispers, casting his message on the wind to be heard by those inside. “It’s a large bald man.” Rathic returns the message. " That’s probably Vorthar. He’s alright. " Surm makes his way back inside the hut while Rathic calls out to Vorthar to come inside. The big man enters the tiny, already crowded, hut. Mõrvar manages to keep to the shadows behind the behemoth, his hand on his knife, just in case things go south. Rathic informs Vorthar that the time has come: the attack will be tonight. King Alrick is bringing his army. Vorthar grunts in response.
After a discussion of their various options, the party decides to have Rathic inform the others in the shanty town of the approaching army. They will take up position in a shack near the gate. As fortune would have it, Ren Ulrich’s hut is near the gate. The party decides to there and confront the estranged brother of the twins and, hopefully, launch their attack on the gate from his shack.
As the group winds its way through the shantytown, Rathic knocks in code on some of the shacks and leaves more weapons behind, informing folks that the time has come—King Alrik is on his way. Finally, they make it to Ren’s shack.
Surm raps on the doorframe. Lurching forward into the moonlight is a young man on crutches. His left leg is missing from the knee down. His bright eyes sparkle in the sparse light.
Ren Ulrich looks about in disbelief at the people assembled at his hut. Surm nods.
“Yes, it’s me.
Everyone then followed the sorcerer into the hut behind the injured man.
“What is this?” Ren asked.
“Alrik sent us. We working as a scout group ahead of the army. They’re coming to break you out but we need to take this gate from the inside.”
Mõrvar notes that his brother hasn’t acknowledged his presence.
“Where’s our mother?”
Ren turns to his brother, the man who killed his father, and says, “In the keep.”
The tension in the room is palpable. Surm tries to cut through it with the urgency of their mission.
“We need to come up with a plan to take out those guards on the gate.”
As they approached, the party noted that there were three guards on the ground and one archer on each of the high platforms surrounding the gate.
Strategies are made and discarded, discussed, and digested. Finally, a plan takes shape. Rathic sends word to the slaves that are poised to fight to bring flammable materials to place at the gate. All that remains is to wait for the signs that the Aethyngs have arrived.
Horns are heard approaching the encampment. The Aethyngs have arrived.
Rilka and Surm exit the hut and head towards the gate where a mob of slaves have gathered and have started attacking the guards. Mõrvar and Savaric fire arrows at the guards on the platforms. Savaric hits his man so hard that he falls from the platform. Mõrvar injures his man as well.
As the horns continue to blare and the sounds of battle carry over the palisade, the mob attacks the guards at the gate. Mõrvar fires again at the man on the platform, taking him down. Savaric then takes Ren and heads to a place of safety.
Surm shouts at the collected slaves, asking them to make a path for a warrior to get through. Rilka impatiently awaits for an opening in the mob. Meanwhile, slaves begin to fall in the fight.
Mõrvar makes his way up the ladder to the platform and begins taking pot-shots at the guards below. Finally, an opening occurs and Rilka inserts herself into the fray. Soon the guards are dispatched.
Mõrvar surveys the area beyond the palisade. The melee below is chaotic and undisciplined. Pockets of fighting dot the plain. He also spies movement at the other palisade, though the gates remain closed.
Mõrvar calls out what he sees. The half-orc fighter then takes up the pulley line to open the gates. Surm bolts through the open gate toward the banner of King Alrik. Rilka leads the refugees out of the encampment and onto the battlefield as Savaric carries Ren. Mõrvar stays behind to ensure that the newly formed barricade catches fire and ushers the remaining refugees out of the gate.
As Surm makes his way to the banner, he is stopped by a mercenary warrior who charges him. Calling upon his powers, he summons a snake to drop on the man’s head, distracting him long enough to get out of harm’s way and keep running.
Meanwhile, Mõrvar is gathering canvas and cloth from the nearby shacks to add to the fire formed at the gate, which is growing into a steady blaze. Gazing at the next palisade, he sees its gate open and shut, a single form emerging. It’s too far away to get any details, but soon the screams begin—“Demon!” he hears people cry as the form makes its way forward. Eventually he sees a large figure, with long, goat-like horns and features carrying a halberd making its way through camp, stabbing slow-moving slaves as it goes. Once he sees that the fire is in place, Mõrvar runs after Rilka and the refugees.
Surm makes it past the King’s guards and to the man himself. He informs him of the movement of the refugees, the fires set at the gate, and the need for the army to retreat, according to the plan. Screams of “Demon” start to carry across the field, prompting the King to sound the retreat and order a detachment of soldiers to take up the refugees into the troop movement.
The refugees, lead by Rilka, Mõrvar, and Savaric, are soon surrounded by Aethyngs and slowly escorted into the retreating forces. The movement is slow-going, but steady.
Meanwhile, cries of “Demon!” begin to escalate as it approaches King Alrik and his banner. Surm asks if any cold iron weapons were made and the King tells him that, yes, some weapons were made—they’re being wielded by his personal guards. Those guards form a tight circle around the banner and their King—and now Surm. King Alrick, who is wielding two weapons (a battleaxe and a sword) hands the battleaxe to Surm.
Rilka and the others begin to try and break out of the line of troops to catch up with Surm. But the going is slow as they are moving against the tide of troops and refugees. Both she and Mõrvar attempt to intimidate their way through, but they can’t fight the sheer numbers of slow-moving people.
The ring of warriors around Surm is rocked back as the demon attacks. An unholy stench fills the air. Surm makes his way stealthily out of the ring to take up a position behind the beast. One of the Aethyng warriors fall as he moves, the ring closing to fill the gap. Finally, the sorcerer is in position behind the demon and readies his weapon. Aiming carefully, he strikes the beast hard in the back with the iron battleaxe.
With his impressive strike against the creature, Surm draws the demon’s attention. It wheels on the sorcerer and strikes with the halberd. Surm narrowly dodges the long weapon. The Aethyngs, now behind the demon, plunge their weapons into it, taking the beast down. It’s remains fade away, leaving behind only its stench and its corroded and nasty halberd.
The circle regroups around the King and Surm who start making their way to rejoin the rest of the Aethyng host. Rilka, Savaric, Ren, and Mõrvar Ulrich reunite with their comrade and all retreat back to their camps at Aeth.
Once at Aeth, King Alrik demands the attention of the gathered warriors.
" We have fought hard today and gained a victory. We should celebrate that. You have earned it. But this fight isn’t over. Soon, Magrathar will respond and we will fight again for our homes and families. So we must remain vigilant. This is not over. For this reason, the alehalls will not be open this night.
“But we must also not forget that we owe today’s victory to our former comrades and brothers, Surm and Mõrvar Ulrich and their companions. Without their work, the battle could have turned out much differently.
“It is for this reason, that I, your King, welcome these men back into our clan and allow them to reclaim the blood of the Aethyngs.”
A murmur arises in the gathered host, with some scattered cheers. Surm grins in obvious satisfaction while Mõrvar scowls in discomfort. Some of the Aethyngs approach them and clasp their shoulders in thanks for their efforts and celebrate their re-entry into the clan. Mõrvar goes to find Ren, who is resting on the outskirts of the encampment, checking to make sure he is alright. Ren acknowledges that he is and looks his brother in the eye and says “Thank you.” The taciturn sorcerer murmurs an acknowledgement and walks away.