Chapter Three

October 30, 2010


            Korvinean, Brianna and I begin sneaking out to our target.  We make it past the first line of guards with no issues.  As we are approaching the second line of guards, after traveling through some hastily dug trenches, we hear hors sounding an alert.  As the guards begin to scramble, we freeze and do our best to blend into the ground.

The North Gate opens, and Iulien’s team storms forth toward the enemy.  The horns increase in number and volume.  The ruckus is magnificent.  They have taken additional horses which have no riders, and all of the horses are strung with bells and metal plates.

The East Gate opens, and Ulric’s team rides forth with as much fury and noise as his brother’s team did.

Korvinean pulls out his bow and looses at an orc standing fifteen feet from our position.  The orc falls grumbling as the arrow buries in his chest.  Brianna closes and attacks, but the orc scrambles away in time to dodge her.  He gets up as I fire, and I miss.  Korvinean lets fly once more, and hits again.  The orc is still standing with Korvinean’s two arrows sticking out of his chest.  Brianna punches again, and flattens his skull.  We leave his body in the trench, and continue on our way.

“Demon spawn, back to Hades with ye!” Ulric screams as he charges the leader of their group of enemies.  The orc turns to look at him, and Ulric charges forth, running him through with his lance in one blow.  Another of his men decapitates another orc with his lance.  One of the orcs throws his javelin at Briggette, but he misses.  Another orc attacks Finn and does some damage.  Finn closes the distance and drives his lance through one of the orcs.  Briggette charges yet another orc and misses.  Ulric turns and attacks the next orc, “You, Coward!  Prepare to meet your maker!”  He stabs the beast, but it does not drop.  It swings its battle axe in response but misses.  Two of Iulien’s cavalry oil the catapult, and keep riding for the nearby ballista.  Yet again, Brigette charges for the orc to no avail, but Ulric runs him through.

“Come, Briggette, glory awaits!”  Ulric screams as they charge forward to their next target.

As we approach the siege tower, we see six goblins leading several slaves working on the tower.  A hobgoblin is standing on a scaffold giving very specific instructions to the workers.  There are several orcs around as guards as well.  Brianna and I move to the southwest side of the tower, while Korvinean moves to the northwest.  I cast Dancing Lights to mimic men moving closer through the woods from the north by northwest.  Korvinean fires at the hobgoblin leader, and hits him square in the back.  Then Korvinean breaks to the south to rejoin us.  The hobgoblin runs down the scaffolding toward the commotion.  The hobgoblin stops to drink a potion, and I see the arrowhead from Korvinean’s attack drop to the ground out of his back.  The slaves look around to see what is happening, and the slave masters whip them back into submission.

Meanwhile, back over by the siege engines, Finn charges an orc who is guarding the ballista.  He hits the head orc from this group, but his lance does not bring the creature down.  The orc steps out and slashes Finn across the gut with his sword.  Finn slumps in the saddle, but does not fall off of his horse.  One of the cavalrymen attacks the same orc and takes him down.  Ulric charges the next orc and kills it.  Briggette charges the orc that wounded Finn, and ends him with a graceful strike of her lance. Two of the men throw oil onto the ballista and move toward the next catapult.

An orc running toward the commotion by the siege tower stops dead in his tracks and turns toward the direction Korvinean is running.  He pulls a long bow and fires.  Korvinean goes down.  I send Brianna to tend to his wounds, and I continue with the oil to douse the tower.  As I approach the tower, I see women in chains behind the men.  They are handing them supplies as they work on the monstrosity.  I must try to get the oil on the tower and free some of these slaves!  Brianna gets to Korvinean and begins to bandage his wounds, when he gurgles, “Behind you!”  She tumbles away.  I sneak up behind the orc slave master and miss, sinking my bolt into the siege tower.  The orc turns and attacks me, cracking his whip in my direction, but misses.

An arrow lands next to Brianna, and she closes with him.  She attempts to grab the bow out of his hands.  He holds onto it, and they start to struggle over the weapon.  Suddenly, Brianna has the bow and tosses it to the side.  The orc looks confused, steps back and pulls out his battle axe and a shield.  She steps back up to him, and punches him right in the face, driving his nose bone right into his brain.  He drops to the ground, instantly dead.  She searches his body and finds a purse in addition to his battle axe, shield, bow and some nice arrows.  Then she takes the money and returns to Korvinean.  “Get the bow,” he tells her.  She complies, and drags him away from the area of combat.

I fire again at the orc, and hit him.  He whips at me again, and hits my neck.  His whip has a short blade at the end.  I fire once more, and deal a bit more damage.  He closes and hits me with a club.  I attempt to strike him with my shortsword, but miss, and take a five foot step out of his range.  He closes and attacks again, but misses me.

Briggette rides skillfully through the slaves up behind the next catapult and levels her lance at one of the orcs.  An orc steps out from behind the catapult, trowing his cloak over his shoulder and revealing that he is in plate mail.  He points at Ulric and yells something as he raises his axe and .  Ulric shouts “Drop your weapons, and I will offer you the count’s justice.”

“Bring it on, boy!” the cur exclaims, and Ulric charges him.  He hits with his lance, but it is a glancing blow.  The orc steps forward and hits Alabaster in the head with his axe.  The horse shudders, but does not go down.  One of the cavalrymen is pulled from his mount, while another ends an orc with his lance.  Briggette pokes at the orc with her lance, but misses.  He strikes back at her and nearly kills her, but she heals herself by way of lay on hands.  Ulric and Alabaster both try to attack again, but both miss, and the orc tries to hit Alabaster once more.

“Drop me!  Leave me here, and go finish the job!” Korvinean screams at Brianna.  She drops Korvinean and charges toward the orc.  He doesn’t see her coming, and she cracks him in the back of the head with her forearm.  He goes down.  I see one of the slaves is a much larger man, so I let him out of his chains.  He picks up a hammer and runs around the other side of the tower.  I give the oil to Brianna, who starts to oil the tower while I free more slaves. 
Briggette slashes at an orc and misses, but Chancellor attacks and kills two of them without a thought.  Ulric once again attacks the leader orc with his lance, and kills him.  They begin to free the slaves from their ropes and chains.  Ulric sees another orc, and he ends him on the end of his lance.  He notices that the siege engine is not yet alight, and begins to charge in that direction.  “Free the slaves and get out of here!” he tells his men.

Finn’s horse finally gets back into town.  He awakes in his saddle to the cleric of St. Cuthbert saying, “I hope the others are doing better than you.”  About this time, four torchmen burst from the gate, carrying a lit torch in each hand.  The cleric heals him and he charges back into the battle.

I begin to climb the tower to free the three slaves chained to the tower.  As I free the first slave, I see the goblins returning to the tower.  One of them has his morningstar at the ready to attack Brianna.  I pick the lock on the second slave.  Brianna attempts to tumble under the orc’s swing, but misses when she tries to strike him.  He, too, misses her with his morningstar.  She attacks again, and he goes down with the force of the hit.  As I come off of the bottom of the scaffolding, Brianna throws the vial of Alchemist’s Fire at the tower to light it.  The large slave jumps from the scaffolding on the other side of the tower and attacks one of the orcs.

Ulric sees the fire growing from the tower, and continues toward the tower.  He sees the goblins and orcs gathering near the bottom of the tower.  He screams, “Spawn of Gruumush, throw down your weapons and retreat!”  One of the orcs runs away at this, but the others held their ground.  One of them finds his death on the end of Ulric’s lance.  Briggette’s lance goes through the face of another goblin, and tears off the top of its skull.  Another goblin has set his longspear against the onslaught, and Finn charges him.

The hobgoblin attacks the large slave, and he drops to the ground.  Brianna charges up behind him and smashes into him, but he does not go down.  Korvinean shoots the elven bow he picked up from the orc earlier.  Finn charges the hobgoblin and pushes his lance through its head.  The horse wants to keep going, and deals a glancing blow to Brianna.

I hear a lot of horses coming toward us.  “Incoming!  Northeast!”

Ulric picks me up and puts me on the back of his horse.  I listen carefully and recognize voices coming from town to be those of the foot soldiers we know. 

They are forming a shield wall to help defend the town as we corral the freed slaves into the city.  Ulric puts me down and makes sure I am safe before he will enter town himself.

We take a moment to regroup as the portcullis slams shut and the gates are closed and barred behind it.

Ulric goes to find his brother.  “I see you got them all.”

“Yes, we did, Brother.”

“And you only lost one man?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

Iulien frowns.  “I don’t know where all those orc cavalry came from.  I mean, you hear about them in the old stories, but no one has seen them in quite some time.”

We spend the night binding wounds and reuniting families by the flickering glow of the burning siege engines.  The ballista and catapults burn out in about two hours, but the tower burns all night long. 

*  *  *

            Seven or eight hours later, as the sun comes up fully, we look out, but we don’t see any orcs anywhere.  The field is strewn with the bodies of the dead, but no one moves.  We receive word from the castle that their besiegers have also disappeared.
Iulien approaches the next day.  “How are you, Brother?”

“I fared rather well.”

“I understand that Alabaster was wounded.”

“Yes, he was injured.  It will take a while to heal.”

“I can’t leave, but I can give you a fast horse.  Can you go to the castle?”

“Yes, I’ll go.”  After some consideration, Ulric decides that Briggette should accompany him to the castle.  As he heads out, he pleads, “Brother, be sure someone tends to my horse.”

Iulien grins at his little brother, “Of course.  She is a fine horse.  I’ll make sure she’s tended.”

Finn volunteers to go with him, as well.  They ride out at a gallop, and continue at a full run until they reach the castle gate.  They enter the courtyard, and the guard on duty bows.  “Sir Ulric!  I’ll get your father!”

Lord Zurwald comes down to speak to his son.  “I don’t know where they’ve all gone.”

“Yes, Father.  And there were two hundred orc cavalry charging toward the town last night.”  The men go on to discuss the battle and how it all worked out.

“You only lost one man?” Lord Zurwald says incredulously.  “We lost thirty here in their last assault.”  He relays information about other baronies coming under attack.

After more discussion, the three are invited to stay for dinner at the castle.  After dinner, the friends return to town, again seeing nothing along the way.  They take the time to search the bodies along their meandering path, and find several items which may prove useful to the family.

*  *  *

            Six weeks pass.  The orcs have withdrawn, and have not been seen again.

Briggette is called in to see a priest she has never met before.  He wears flowing green robes adorned with a star at the chest and on his cowl.  “Sit down, Protector.  I have very little time here.  The Billet of one of the count’s towns has been murdered.  I, however, cannot go, as we have a serious issue to the west.  You—and anybody you choose to take with you—need to find this murderer and bring him to justice.  You have the church’s full blessing to take any action that you deem necessary.”

“Yes, sir.  I will do as you request.”

“I don’t know the circumstances, but I do know that he and his wife were both killed.  We have had a lot of losses in the past three or four months—Milo died, and several were killed during the orc problem.  Don’t get killed.  We don’t have a lot.  We don’t have anyone to send to help you.  The new Billet should be arriving in the next few weeks, but he will be largely inexperienced.  Don’t be afraid to exert your authority.  Remember, the count is one of us.  I need you to go as soon as possible.  Do you have any questions?”

“No, sir.”

“I like you.  You don’t talk nearly as much as most paladins.”

“I find things are less complicated that way.”

“Wise.  That will be good for you.  We usually send the unwise to charge against dragons.”  He smiles.  “Go forth and dispense justice.”

*  *  *