Chapter Fifty-Three

May 26, 2012


4th of Haymonth


                Briggette awakens and questions each of the wounded in turn, with Boian watching over her.  At the same time, Ulric and Korvinean return to our remaining men and horses to bring them into the encampment through another trail.  I take this time to look around the camp and search for anything useful, taking note that a war chest is nowhere to be found amongst the tents.  When Ulric returns to the camp, he joins Briggette in the questioning.  We are able to discover that the assailants are in the employ of one of the merchants from the capital of Nevers. 
                We make camp there that night, and strike out again the next day toward Reghin.  When we arrive, we get our men settled and go to see the Baron von Kapf to announce our presence.  We update the baron on the status of our people and the information we've garnered in our travels.  While there, Sir Reginald comes bustling into the room to welcome us back and join in the conversation.
                Sir Sebastian asks to speak with Ulric, Briggette and I in private.  He opens a box and pulls out a strange device with bells on it.  He sets it in motion, and it begins to clang, and he begins by telling us that there is going to be a problem here.  He explains that nearly 200 of the townspeople have been put out of their homes to make room for troops, and he is suspicious of the Baron's reasons for not wanting us to camp outside the walls.  He doesn't suspect open treachery on the part of the Baron, but he feels that something is wrong with the baron that he can't quite put his finger on.  He does say that he is sure that the baron cares not one whit what happens to the smallfolk of the area, so lang as his own title is preserved.
                After much discussion, I sneak off and into the baron's chambers.  I search through his home for any evidence of wrong-doing which constitutes conscious action rather than simple permissive by-standing.  I go through several rooms, finding nothing of import, and finally reach the baron's chambers, but there are two guards standing by his door.  Using an automated footpad, I draw one of them away, but the other won't leave his post.  I throw a bottle of Alchemist's Fire down the hallway to draw him away, but instead, he goes into the baron's room.  I follow him in and, although I drank a potion of invisibility, the baron spots me immediately.  After a daring escape, I make my way back to the camp.  Most of the men are already drunk and Briggette and Ulric have already gone to bed.
                The next morning, Gustav runs into the tent and tells Ulric and Briggette to get to the gate in a hurry.  "Finn and Sir Connor are going to kill the baron!" 
                They hastily don their armor and head that way.  I hear the commotion and join them there.  Korvinean informs us that about 200 villagers are on their way to the town, and are likely to be intercepted by an incoming army.  The baron's men won't open the gates to the newcomers, and will not draw in their own people already camped outside the walls.  The argument escalated, and the threat of violence is at its peak.  Briggette makes an appeal for the man to bring his people back into town and become the man he should have been all along.
                Not-so-under-his-breath, we hear Sir Conner say, "To hell with this."  He steps up to the Baron.  "You, Sir, are not a noble of Grozney.  Your mother slept with a Neverese merchant, and you are the cuckolded son of your father.  I make this accusation now, here, publicly.  Defend what little honor you think you have."
                Someone hands the baron his sword, and just as the men are about to fight, Briggette steps in front of him.  "You should step aside, Sir Briggette; this is no longer your fight."
                She seems torn on what to do.  She looks at Sir Connor, "and what if you fail?  Then if falls to me."  She looks between Sir Connor and Ulric.
                "This is a matter of personal honor.  You should stand aside," Ulric tells her.  Reluctantly, she does so, and Sir Conner and the baron proceed to duel.  After several blows, the baron falls, and Connor kneels next to him with a blade at his throat.
                "Do you yield?"
                "No," the baron answers with malice.
                Connor whispers in his ear, "That is the most honorable thing I've heard you say all day."  He then proceeds to sever the prone man's carotid artery.
                Ulric assumes command of the area as the highest ranking noble.  He commands the men to open the gates, readmit the banished townfolk and refugees.  Briggette and her men ride off to help the incoming people make it into town safely and repel any threat they face.  Korvinean takes a light horse and rides for Tulcea to inform the Duke of what's been happening here.
                After about a three hour ride, Briggette meets up with the peasants heading for town.  She gives them a rousing speech about leaving anything they cannot carry and making for the safety of town as quickly as possible.  Just as she's wrapping it up, an arrow flies into the crowd, striking a young boy through the chest and killing him instantly.  Briggette rushes the people forward, while Sir Connor charges into the woods to harry the foe.
                Meanwhile, Ulric and the rest of us are prepping the town.  We move all of the people into the keep proper and strip the outer part of the town of supplies.  The baron's wife and family will be given the top floor of the keep.  Interestingly, I note that the baron's wife is the woman I caught in the act with a man who was not the baron when I was sneaking through the keep the previous evening.  Our wardens return from ranging in the area, and they let us know that the approaching force has around 1700 orcs, several hundred goblins, around 100 goblin cavalry on worgs, eleven hobgoblins riding some unknown creature, and a group of ogres.  This is going to be a huge fight...
                As Briggette breaks from the woods into the field surrounding the town, she hears yipping at her back.  She turns to see eight goblins riding worgs and closing in on the group.  She and her men turn to fight as the people break for the town.  Cal turns to face them as well, and one of the worgs tears a chunk out of his horse's flank.  Briggette charges and, combined with Chancellor's attack, takes out the worg and sends the goblin tumbling.  She takes out a few more of them before Ulric rides out to help the refugees get safely within the gates with 100 heavy cavalry at his back.
                Briggette, Finn and Cal continue to fight until several of the worgs break and run back into the woods.  The three give chase, but have some trouble moving through the heavy brush.  Briggette sees that something is moving through the woods up ahead of her, and Cal is able to identify that it is likely Sir Connor.  They keep riding toward him to find out what he's learned of the approaching army.  The group has stopped at the location where the villagers left their belongings, and they have been held up by their lack of discipline and their fascination with all things shiny.
                As the last of the villagers come into the gates and Briggette and her entourage return, Ulric asks the wardens to find all of the Alchemist's Fire they can in town.  He directs them to set traps in the woods to stop or slow the army as they approach.  "The woods are a weapon.  Either we can use them now, or the orcs will use them to build siege engines and the like.  I know it will cause these people a hardship in the future, but it's much less of a hardship than if they're all dead," Ulric says by way of justification.
                The knights quickly plan a strategy on the impending attack.  He wants to attack them as they stike out of the woods rather than giing them a chance to organize.  He directs me to go and find anyone in town with a similar skillset to my own, and gives me an hour to do so.  About that time, Boian walks in with a bandaged arm and leg.  He says that he, Brianna and I could sneak behind their lines to dispose of thier spellcasters.
                Bruggette rides out to rally the troops, firing them up with a charismatic and moving speech about glory and honor.  She makes a large show of kneeling before the billet to recieve Cuthbert's blessing before riding into battle.  As she and Ulric ride out to meet the foe, the militia and remeaining townspeople let out an uproarious cry in support of their mission.  The conquering heroes are going to conquer some more.  The sight of the knights riding out is truly inspiring as their various banners and colors fly above the throng of armored and mounted men.
                As we make our way around the back of the troops, we see a large group of orcs, most with two-handed weapons.  Another group of orcs is marching in a disticnt formation, and each of them carries a large shield and spear.  Other groups of troops are barely more than rabble.  We see one orc come riding in wearing bright colors and mounted on a large strange grey creature which stands about eight feet tall, has a long prehensile nose and two large teeth sticking out on either side of his nose.  Next to him, mounted on a horse, is an orc wearing fetishes all over himself, clearly the target we should seek to destroy first.  Eleven hobgoblins follow riding strange vicious-looking lizard like creatures.  Goblins are fanning out through the woods, while the rest of the ranks remain on the road. 
                Smoke begins to rise from the woods behind where the orcs came from, and Gustav sounds the horn to signal the beginning of the battle.  The forty-five knights in our retinue charge toward the enemy, scattering the ranks and killing several on the first run through. In no time, they've dispatched at least fifty of the advancing orcs, and are ready to charge on the next group.
                Meanwhile, Brianna, Boian and I have snuck around to the back of the group.  We see the large fetished orc we saw earlier standing together with a female orc similarly adorned.  The two of them are giving instructions to three other orcs who each appear to have a guard.  Brianna and Boian both tumble in and punch him, while I fire.  All three of us connect and he goes down in a heap.  Both Boian and Brianna turn to the woman while I charge from the woods and kill one of the lesser orcs.  The female drops, and my friends quickly turn to tow of the other orcs in the area.  We continue to fight our way through them, dropping them like dominoes.
                We continue to skirt through the woods around behind the army and come upon a group of goblins.  An orc comes riding up to the goblin who appears to be in charge.  The goblin is wearing a bandolier of wands, and answers the orc by saying, "Thank you for letting me know that your spellcasters are insufficient."  I immediately fire at him, striking him in the head.  He shoots a small spark in our direction which turns into a giant fireball, but we all survive the searing blast.  We continue to fight the little group, which, other than the haughty leader, includes one goblin on a worg and four on foot.  One of the four footmen perishes in the fireball, but the others close ranks around the leader--to no avial.  Boian tumbles into the center of the cluster and stabs his rapier through the magic user's head.  As the body slides off the end of his sword, we continue to fight the remaining beasts, sending them to meet their makers with ease.
                Back at the front lines, our knights make swift work of another fifty orcs before wheeling around to face the hobgoblins on the strange lizard-like mounts.  Ulric stops and has the knights to come to him and form a line.  The hobgoblins do the same, liningup at their leader's command.
                "For Grozney!" Ulric screams to begin the charge.
                "For Cuthbert!" Briggette yells as she joins him.
                The leader of the hobgoblins smiles in an evil grin and drops his visor.  He and his men are carrying long oval shields with a snake's eyeball emblazoned on them, but his also has a golden crown inscribed above the eye.  As the two groups engage, their leader charges Briggette just as she charges him.  The two meet as if on the lists, each striking the other.  However, Briggette's blow is devastating, piercing all the way through his breast plate and his backplate, impaling him and skewering his body onto her lance all the way up to the handle.  His saddle is ripped from his steed, and she carries his body on down the field for several feet before his remains shatter and fall from her lance.  [Note:  For the purposes of clarification, Briggette rolled a solid crit on this blow while charging and smiting, and after having cast Bull's Strength at the beginning of the battle.  Therefore, when she struck the hobgoblin, she did 171 points of damage!  That was more than 150 more than needed to kill the creature!]
                The knights continue to battle this force, finding that these strange mounts are some sort of intelligent beast with frightening battle acumen.  Almost all of our knights loose their steeds to the ferocious battle, with Chancellor and Alabaster still standing along with Sir Connor's horse and Gustav's horse.  Gustav himself, however, did not fare so well, having been pulled from his horse and flung to the ground.  Ulric takes a stance over his body during the rest of the fight.  One of the foreign knights dies gruesomely as one of these beasts bites his head off, flinging his body across the field of battle in the process.  Sir Sebastian takes a series of hard hits, and collapses on the grass incapacitated.  Briggette makes her way over on foot, having stabilized Gustav only moments before, and now stabilizes Sir Sebastian while Chancellor is left alone to attack as he will.  Briggette swings Helga wide and chops off the head of the final remaining beast.
                Sir Ulric steps up to Sorin, "Kneel!"  Without hesitation, the boy complies.  "By King Delrith, Duke Grozney and St. Cuthbert, I dub thee Sir Sorin, a knight of the realm, with all duties and honors associated therewith."  He backhands the newly dubbed knight and helps the boy to his feet.
                After a moment to gather themselves, the group prepares to face the next wave in the onslaught.