3rd of Desnus, 4715 (still)
On the mushroom bridge, we anchor a rope into the earth, and use it to span the gap from one platform to the other. The party makes their way across, and I go back for their gear and the rope. Once safely on the other side, we proceed out of the Remembrance. Since I can now travel through stone, this whole process is relatively quick.
As we head back into the Initiation chamber, Silverbeard enters via a standing crystal from Trunau. It would seem when one door is opened, all doors open. We spend 8 hours catching up with him while Shamus regains his spells, then record our adventures in full; starting our own vein of memories. Silverbeard promises to pass on our tales to our family and tell them that we’ve made it this far.
We say our goodbyes and, one by one, head back out to the swamp. It’s quite.. brisk. We’ve gotten use to the steamy interior of the Remembrance. Still, even though we emerged into fetid swamp, it kind of nice.
Sif blazes a trail through the swamp and we follow in her wake. She guides us without fail back to Ingrahild’s hut. The campfire (that we put out when we left) is still smouldering. It feels like we’ve only just left but we know that it’s been uncountable days. We follow the cobblestone path as far as we can. When the road ends at a small river, we cut south until we find the boat. It’s a slog through the muck and the wild growth; but we manage.
Begrugingly, the crew lowers the plank, and the party returns to the boat. The crew had been hopeful that we’d be willing to spend the night in the swamp; at least until the crew awoke and were ready to bring down the horses in the morning. When I step on the plank, it bends and groans mightily. Shamus casts fly on me and I get very disoriented. Without contact with the ground, I find myself suffering vertigo and I can’t throw up. It’s not a combination that I recommend ever trying.
Several of the late-night watch come over to try and to figure out what’s wrong with the deck. I lie down to try and redistribute my weight -– effectively becoming a hillock. We settle in and try to dry off. We’re not really tired, so we keep watch instead.
Moonday, the 4th of Desnus, 4715
In the early morning, the Boatswain starts pounding on her little drum. The cockswain turns out the crew for the day. By the time we’re pulling up anchor and we push away from the shoreline, there are some crockadile-shaped outlines heading towards the shore. They were waiting for us to pull out; and they voraciously attack the pile of orc bodies we’ve left behind.
The captain is up and about, but he doesn’t look well. He mans the tiller on the aft-castle. The coxswain calls for us to row. Our next stop is only a few hours away, on Rake Island. We take the southern fork around the island.
Living on Rake island is a Lastwall defender who’s been there for several years: Amelia of Steer, a knight of Ozum, and defender of the ruins of Rake island. She relies on the barge for her resupply. It is a very lonely vigil.
By mid-morning, the ruined pillars of the bridge come into view. The river is dangerous here as the barge has to navigate through the shoals created by the fallen ruins. The span is some 100 feet. Before it was destroyed, the bridge had stood for over 9000 years. The pillars are carved with base-relief carvings of dwarves carrying the weight of the bridge on their shoulders. Standing on the island side is a woman, wearing a gold and white tabbard over her plate armour. She wears a longsword on her hip and gazes into the rising sun to find the barge.
The approach is slow, but the boat’s crew drops anchor so that she is on the bridge above us.
It takes a good dozen baskets full of stuff to be pulled up with goods, emptied, and then the empty basket returned. She warns us of raiders sailing back up-river. We fill her in on the attack of Trunau and that the Wayside Refuge was wiped out.
She tells us that the raiders she saw were carrying the sign of the Black Sun. She asks that the Captain deliver a scroll for her to Vigil.
We depart soon after, leaving her silhouetted against the sun.
As we start to flow out into the open, we are told to go below deck, and take our turn at the oars. In short order, we see orcs along the shorelines. The first group we see are a sorry excuse for orcs; wearing just animal hides, their equipment are basic clubs and stone tipped spears. These are obviously outcasts or the survivors of some kind of clan warfare.
There’s some back and forth in Orcish with the crew members. They throw a few bundles back and forth onto the deck – a bag of flour for a couple of bundles of rough-tanned hides.
The rest of the day follows the same pattern. Half-hazard trading with small groups of Orcs. Whenever we stop, we’re ordered away from the port-holes. But the orcs are never allowed onto the ship.
As the hours wile away, it starts to rain, becoming heavy late afternoon, and returning to drizzle in the evening. As the sun sets downriver, we see, on the horizon, a keep in pretty-bad shape. It seems to have suffered from fire and is now a blackened husk of freestanding walls. It was probably one of the last of the border forts.
Tira believes this is Hellues Folly, home to the Broken Spine tribe. The commanding officer of the fort back in the day was a wizard, who summoned something he couldn’t control – thus the name. The broken spine tribe is known to be crazy. The ship drops anchor on the south shore, and the keep is on the north. They ship will trade with the tribe in the morning, but the captain doesn’t trust them.
About a quarter-mile or so away on the north shore is a temporary encampment of several groups of orcs. The crew stays up for the most of the night, allowing only one or two to sleep at any time. They keep the balista manned at all times.
We sleep in the under-hold. There is some trading over the side, during the night. We move our trade goods into the under-hold with us. It’s cramped, but we manage.
Toilday, the 5th of Desnus, 4715
In the early morning “trade” picks up. There’s a lot of activity as the hold overhead is filled with people and they start maneuvering the 800 pound, 4 armed, albino guerrilla, out of the hold and up onto deck.
Throughout the day, there are a few points where things get alarming. There’s some yelling, then some thumps. Then it gets quiet.
The day eventually passes, and when we reach the fork of the river Esk, the Captain comes to fetch us. It is time for us to disembark. They intend to head south in 2 days. If we want a ride home, we have to be back here during the night of the 2nd day. The problem is the fort is a day’s walk away.
After some negotiations we pay a hefty price of 100 gp worth of gems, another 150 after we return plus first pick of our selling goods. We depart at once, trying to make up distance for time.
We head off along the river, spreading out a little bit. Bauxite moves out to up to a mile away from us, I split the distance and travel mostly submerged to keep noise and silhouette down. The pace we set is a rough compromise between stealth and speed. While orcs are nocturnal and both dwarves and orcs can see in the dark, we can’t choose the time of day we have to travel.
In the mountains, traveling through the earth, I know where the party is. I can feel the tension in the mountains, as tectonic plates shift well below me. I can’t see the party, but I know they’re there. And, for that reason, I know they’re not alone. They’re about to be flanked!
I surge up from the ground, moving across the ground like the crest of a wave moving across the earth.
Tira is the first to notice. Off to her right she heard some rocks shift. She’s in a small drive river-bead with loose gravel on the ground. She spots a humanoid hulking shape of a silohette. He’s holding a falchion, and another shape is coming into the light behind him.
When she calls out, two more are cresting the hill behind them. Tira draws her bow and starts chanting. The members of the lost legionnaires form around us. The orcs charge over the hillock at the party. They lob javelins, and run towards the party. Tova, Tova, Tova, Tira. One misses utterely, one falls short, one is smacked out of the air, and Tira does a little roll to dodge it.
Tova moves towards the enemy and uncurls her ancestor chain. The chain’s hammer catches a screaming orc in the throat. His cry becomes a sputtering cough as he is momentarily staggered. Shamus runs at a diagonal away from the Orcs, drops to a knee, pulls out a wand, and uses it to casts Stonecall. Bits of gravel, pebbles, and loose small stones rain down and around the orcs.
This knocks the lead orc back considerably. There’s a bellowing scream back beyond the first four. The bellowing sound resonates through the area. They see a head crest the top of a hillock, and a meaty arm with greasy hair follows as a giant gets into position. He pulls back with a stone, takes aim and tries to strike Tova. A boulder crashes into her breastplate and shatters! The giant is about 10’ tall, pockmarked with stones and gravel embedded in his hide. He seems pissed.
Sif charges the lead orc and slams it with her new crystaline great sword. Her dwarven legionnaire puts his boot on the lead orc’s fallen head. Tira moves into position, fires her bow and embeds into Orc #2s boiled leather breastplate. Orc #2 ignores the arrow, steps up atop his slain compatriot and cleaves into her with his big sword.
Orc #3 moves up and attacks Sif! Sif turns and brings her crystaline great sword down in an arc to cleave into Orc #4 as he moves closer. Tova does the same with her longsword from the other side. Tira calls down a burst of radience on the giant! He reels back from the light, and he starts muttering in a language I don’t understand. Shamus chuckles and casts glitterdust.
The giant picks up a rock and throws it. It goes wide. He can’t see! Sif reverses the grip on her sword, and cleaves up somewhere into Orc#2 sternum before pulling out. He crumples down and dies. The legionnaire stepped in as Orc#2 lunged forward, and the legionnaire smacks him in the face. He then steps between Sif and Orc#3, and slams him in the face too.
Tira fires her bow at the giant! The remaining orc runs away to hide behind the giant. I finally arrive and follow Tova, running after the retreating orc. Shamus throws several snowball at the last orc, bringing him down in the flurry.
The giant tries to clear his eyes from the glitterdust. He sees Sif clambering up towards him and drops his rock and picks up a small sapling with a big knot of roots worn down to nubs; he steps forward and brings the big knot down on Sif. There’s a resounding sound as stone cracks underfoot.
Tira takes aim with her bow and shoots the giant. Looking at the gravel-scattered terrain before me, I dive down into the earth and come up almost under the giant. Sif scrambles up the hillock at the giant’s feet, and swings upwards, striking him in the chest. Tova and Shamus take aim, but miss.
The giant attacks Sif with his tree. She dodges once, but he hits her on the return and she goes flying.
Tira fires two arrows at the giant, one hits. I pop up from the ground and strikes him with the Lucern hammer, shattering his jaw.
Sif climbs the last few feet and finishes him off.
In the quiet and aftermath, Tova cures Sif. And I drag the dead underground to hide them.