Last Stand of the Dorinthians

Deuce Traveler

As the party traveled, they seemed to have the feeling that they were being watched. Occasionally, there was a flutter in the trees or in the brush and instead of moving away, the animals sounded like they were following the path of the party. Danica believed that she saw the glint of eyes watching her from the vegetation, while Barok noted that the mountain lion was following them from a distance. It was if the entire forest kept a close eye on their activities.

As the party reached the base of Morduk's hill, they noticed a couple of large animal skeletons. As they climbed, the skeletons and mostly-decayed carcasses grew more frequent, as if there was once a great battle on this hill and nature had lost. All the animal bodies had signs of violent death from arrows, burn marks from arcane spells, and what seemed to be gashes from a huge sword. The animals stopped following at this point.

The party got within 200 feet of the hill's summit, and could make out a tall granite building. The face of it was plain, with two pillars holding an arched roof. Two granite statues of grotesque winged creatures had been carved where the pillars met the roof. The stone double doors that led into the building were open, though shadows hid the details of the interior.

"Damn," Barok cursed quietly to himself (but loud enough to be heard by the others) "I'd hate to have to face the one who did this in fair combat, but maybe we can kill him in his sleep. The fairies have obviously been spying on him for some time, maybe they know more about his habits, or any guards he might have?"

Silas seemed preoccupied every since setting out from the Dwarven stronghold. Now, staring up at the ancient temple he finally started to regain some of his old animation. "Ah! If you discount those hideous statues this temple is clearly in the classical style of the third..." He coughed with a bit of embarrassment as he cut himself off saying, "It's fairly old."

He looked over at Barok, hoping that he hadn't offended the man with his interruption. "The fey may know more about this Morduk but getting them to speak in anything other than circles may be difficult. '...her heart will be familiar to you...'?" He shook his head then absent-mindedly reached back to readjust the Python rod that he had wedged behind his pack.

"For Dornithia..." Danica offered, as the party stopped. She began to walk forward, crossbow in hand, ready for anything.

"For Dorinthia!" affirmed Dartis giving Danica a grin in either acknowledgement or agreement. His eyes focused on Danica a little longer. Dartis still marveled at the transformation she had undergone. More and more she was truly a Daughter of Dorinthia. Dartis brought his attention back to the temple.

"Silas, we make it through this, and I'll listen to what ever lecture you want. Barok, do you want point or shall I? Whoever doesn't can pair up with Ventus in the second row. So far your tale is true Ventus, I can release you now, your oath fulfilled, if you do not wish to venture into the temple" offered Dartis as he pulled out his bow and nocked an arrow.

"Oh, what the hell... I'll go first." Bloody heroes setting a bad example... he smiled as if to some inward joke. "You stay thirty feet behind me." He passed Danica, giving her an admiring glance, What a woman, and walked quietly towards the gate, passing from shadow to shadow.
Silas smiled his thanks at Dartis. "For Dorinthia!" he echoed, a moment too late and perhaps a tad too loud, as Danica, then Barok moved forward. He quickly cast his Extended Mage Armor spell, then with an awkward tug pulled the recently adjusted staff out to hold in his right hand.

As the party approached the temple, they heard a gutteral growl emanate from the darkness of the open portals. Four hairy and horned bow-wielding humanoids walked out, each with the lower body of a goat. They each nocked an arrow and watched the heroes’ approach with unease as a voice bellowed from behind them. "I smell... humans..."

Heavy footsteps were heard approaching the temple doors. "First she sends her pets, then she curses me so that I may not use the greatest of my magics, and now she sends human assassins." The gutteral growl was heard again, angrier.

"I will slay her assassins, and I will wear their bones as jewelry." Footprints appeared in the grime of the temple steps, although the walker was not visible to the eye. "Then, I will go to her glade, and take her other daughters like I have taken away her eldest then give them to my servants to do as they wish. I will burn down her ancient oak and spread its ashes across the rivers of this place and make this wood my own."

The four minions of the creature snickered, becoming more confident in their master's invisible presence. "I will do this with ease, for I am Morduk, third son of Krill the Binder, slayer of Ghul Dat, and enslaver of the dryad Trieste. Turn away, mortals, else look upon your death." So saying this, Morduk released his invisibility and appeared in the middle of his four archers. It was an ogre, but one wielding a greatsword and with a surprising amount of intelligence shining behind his eyes.

As Barok passed from brush to brush, getting closer to the temple along the way, he saw that the five humanoids hadn't seemed to notice his presence and were fixated upon the rest of the party. Barok easily made it to their flank, and was about 30 feet from the closest of the archers. Fee, fye, foe, fum, we're screwed up the... Barok thought to himself as he tried to maneuver himself behind the ogre.

Ventus paused for a moment as the others marched forth with their battle cry. Dartis' offer of freedom gave him pause for a moment, but although his duty to his captors may be lifted, he still wished to free the man who released him from Trieste's song. He pulled forth his shield from his back and drew his blade. His own battle cry caught in his throat as old habits died hard. He followed the others silently for a moment before whispering it to himself.

"For justice."
He pushed himself past Danica, Silas and Dartis, shaking his head to himself. "Mages, archers and skirmishers, what kind of front line is that? Stand behind me." At the appearance of the ogre, Ventus began to regret his decision to accompany the Dorinthians, and more so to stand at the forefront. But he still had a duty to discharge. The taunting words of Morduk stirred his ire, and he gazed into the eyes of his foe. Free of his obligations, he was his own man to act as he saw fit. He took a single step forward, eyeing the humanoids warily. "Your nose does you justice, Morduk, son of Krill. Humans we are indeed, but I am no assassin to skulk in the night for money. However, we have come to demand that you release the heart of the dryad to us."

Silas halted when the archers make an appearance. His hand, deft with practice, slipped inside the bulky pouch at his belt and he fingered the broken fragment of tortoise shell. He gave his companions a quick glance to determine who might be best protected by his spell but then guiltily prepared to cast the spell, Protection from Arrows, upon himself.
The ogre chuckled at Ventus' request. "No, I do not think so little human. She refused to love me, so I took her heart instead and remade her so that she would appreciate me more. With this act, I've hurt the dryad mother more than any piercing of my sword would have managed. Begone humans. Are your lives so cheap that you would throw them away?" As the party got closer (40' from lead archers, 45' from Morduk, 50' from rear archers) they realized that they saw fear in Morduk's eyes and those of his companions. Morduk looks prepared to fight, but he looked less than healthy. The heroes wondered if it was the result of the dryad mother's curse that he had mentioned.

Barok moved from brush to rocks that had fallen from the structure, slipping behind one of the rear archers. Would we toss our lives away? Apparently so, Barok smiled to himself as he silently moved forwards and stabbed his rapier at the back of the Ogre, hoping (but not really caring) that it was not the last thing he would ever do.

Rough Map, not to scale:
a= archers
M= Morduk
B= Barok
S= Silas
D= Dartis
Da = Danica
V= Ventus


The party saw Barok move behind the ogre-mage, and before the two archers that he passed could react, he surprised everyone by silencing Morduk in the middle of his chuckling with a rapier deep into his back. Morduk turned and waves his greatsword, but at that moment a growl was heard and a familiar-looking mountain lion appeared from the opposite side of the temple and also attacked. The large cat sliced a gash into Morduk's forearm.

The forest came alive, the sounds of animals coming from all around the base of the hill. Flocks of birds flew around in a swirl of chaotic frenzy. Morduk concentrated for a second and became gaseous, but it only lasted for a moment before he rematerialized. It was as if this part of his magic had failed him, and the fear in his eyes grew.

Rough Map, not to scale:
a = archers
M = Morduk
B = Barok
S = Silas
D = Dartis
Da = Danica
V = Ventus
c = Mountain Lion


Barok laughed at the expression in the Ogre Mages’ eyes, moved to flank him and attacked with both his weapons. "Come on you bastards! Charge!" He cried out cheerfully to his companions.

Silas flinched from the chaos of the birds and the screeching, baying, howling of the surrounding beasts as the battle began. He felt the barest amount of pity for Morduk but it didn't prevent him from casting the python rod to the ground and commanding its magics. "Kerastes! Come forth and coil about mine enemies!"
Silas moved next and took a few steps forwards before placing his staff onto the ground. As he spoke his command, the staff became a deadly python and raced towards one of the satyr archers. The creature grappled onto its victim, and coiled around him with enough pressure to cause him to yelp in pain and drop his bow for a dagger.

As Marduk resolidified, Danica stood puzzled at the inherent paradox of this creature. As she watched, she realized that she had not cast her Mage Armor recently, and that she was going to have to remember to do that, to keep it up. Be that as it may, her other magics were needed elsewhere. She felt liberated from not hiding her spellcasting, and as she raised her crossbow to her eye, she announced, "Marduk, you are weaker than you think", thereby casting Ray of Enfeeblement on the Greatsword-wielding Ogre. Then she fell forward to the ground, prone, and leveled her crossbow at the nearest archer. As she lied on the ground, pointing her crossbow at an ogre, Danica replayed Ventus' words in her head. That was actually quite nice of him.

Ventus looked to where Morduk and Barok were locked in combat. "It seems that you leave us no choice." His boots churned the ground under his feet as he pushed himself forward into combat with the ogre and his minions.

Dartis smiled at Barok; now this one has potential. Hell of a way to signal an attack.
Dartis loosed a quick pair of arrows at the orge as he spurred Swift on towards the closest archer. One arrow missed, but the other not only hit, but caught Morduk in his lung.

Danica’s spell contacted Morduk, but he resisted her magic's affect. At the same time, the mountain lion struck at the ogre, but also missed. One of the satyrs close to Barok leveled his bow and shot the rogue, grazing him. Ventus rushed forward and attacks the closest archer that was unengaged, but missed.

Morduk swung his huge sword, connecting with the dryad's mountain lion and cleaving it in two. The creature never even had a chance to scream. The second archer that was close to Barok also fired his bow, and left another gash across the rogue's body. Barok was unfazed and somehow managed to duck underneath the ogre-mages arm and drive his rapier upwards into Morduk's lowered throat. The ogre let out a gargled howl of pain before stumbling backwards and onto his back, seemingly dead.

The satyr that Ventus attacked lowered its head and butt at the fighter, but the ex-soldier easily knocked his horns away with a quick move of his shield. The constricted satyr attempted to stab at the python with a dagger, but only managed to hit himself, though the blade did it no harm.

The heroes heard a screeching from above, as the two grotesque statues came to life from off the pillars and dived towards the party. One swooped down and attacked Dartis, but missed before launching itself back up into the sky. The second one dived down at Silas, and managed to scratch the abjurer with a deep gash despite his protective magics, before flying back up into the air.

Seeing the ogre fall, Ventus pressed his confrontation with the Satyr archer. He kept one eye on the skies and the other on his foe as he stabbed once more. At the appearance of the stone gargoyles, Danica shifted her attention from the satyr archer to them. Barok cast one last glance at the dying ogre, something sadistic gleaming in his eyes for a moment, before moving around the crumbled body to flank the archer fighting Ventus. Silas stumbled back from the slashing attacks of the diving statue. How can such beasts of stone fly!, he silently wondered. With a bit of worry, and a feeling that his protections weren't quite enough, he cast Shield. At the same time Dartis ducked out of the way of the gargoyles claws and thought, "Great, flying rocks, Silas will want to spend a few days studying at the pebbles before we leave".

Silas finished casting his spell, and felt the magical shield protect him. Next to him, Dartis moved Swift forward a few feet before shooting two arrows at the satyr that engaged Ventus. The first missed, but the second bounced off the creature's shoulder blade. It was as if the satyr had a resistance to normal weapons.

Danica fired at the same target, and caught the satyr in the thigh. The sorceress almost jumped up in fear when she heard a horrible shriek of pain, and she saw that the other nearby archer was finally crushed to death by Silas' python. One of the satyrs near Barok attacked the rogue, but he nimbly spun out of the way. Ventus attacked the satyr that was beginning to look like a pin cushion because of Dartis and Danica. He used his shield to get in close to his opponent, then flicked the wrist of his sword arm upwards, gutting the creature badly, although it still stood.

The other satyr near Barok tried to butt the rogue, but he nimbly dodged away and moved towards Ventus' opponent. As Barok tried to slip away, one of the satyrs caught him with a dagger. Barok was able to flank Ventus' critically wounded opponent and stab it with his rapier. Unfortunately, the satyr's skin deflected the blow.

The two gargoyles attacked once more. This time Danica was a target, and she cried out in surprise as a claw raked her shoulder, slashing both skin and the blouse she paid 2 gold pieces for (-3 hps to Danica and she'll never get that stain out). Ventus was the target of the second gargoyle, which did get through his armor.

Ventus winced as the gargoyle's claws raked his back, but Danica's cry caught his attention. He could not defend the others against the gargoyles while he was embroiled in a battle, separated from the group. He shrugged off the wounds and continued his focus on the archers. He stabbed out once more hoping to quickly drop the satyrs, allowing him to focus on the airborne threat.

Danica rolled on her back to reload the crossbow. The pain in her shoulder hurt, but it did not distract her from her task at hand. From her position, she saw one of the gargoyles circling above her, and she sent a bolt coursing through the air towards it. Then she reloaded, conscious of the moisture seeping from the dirt surrounding the castle through her back.

Barok began to feel the pain of his wounds and suddenly realized the dangerous situation he was in. No longer so keen on continuing the battle he sneered at the satyrs. "Why are you still fighting, fools, can't you see your master is dead?", and once again he tried to impale the same satyr on his weapons.
Hearing Barok's words, Danica too called out, "Somebody should keep an eye on the ogre's corpse. You never know what will happen with a wizard."
Silas looked from the archers to the flying creatures and back again. He was not certain which was the greater threat but his companions seemed to be doing some damage against the archers while the other creatures were fairly uncontested. Let's see if I can bring one down within reach of our warriors... Arcane words and phrases rumbled from him as he raised one hand and pointed his palm at one of the flying creatures as it swooped within 30 feet of him. A bolt of scorching light shot from his palm and towards one of the creatures.

Dartis' two arrows impacted the satyr, but the first bounced off its tough skin, while the second only drew a trickle of blood. He moved Swift towards Morduk in order to stomp the corpse, but could not get there immediately due to the melee happening in front of him.

Danica fired straight up at the gargoyle that last harmed her. The creature grinned at her and froze for a moment at the sight of the small woman trying to harm it with a mortal weapon. This was no normal weapon, however, and no normal girl. The magic of the crossbow charged her projectile, and she fired the best shot of her life, hitting the monster through the left eye. It shrieked as it to plummeted to the ground, where a waiting Silas let loose with his own magic and cooked the gargoyle into a twisted mound of hard flesh.

Silas' python uncoiled from the archer it killed and moved towards its head to begin its feast. One of the satyrs fighting Barok stabbed the rogue in the side, which caused the former scout to sway from blood loss. Ventus attacked the satyr in front of him, catching the beastman in the ribs with his short sword, driving the point four inches deep before twisting and yanking outwards. The archer gave a long moan, and fell while trying unsuccessfully to keep his guts inside.

The second satyr attacking Barok flanked the rogue, but failed to hit him. Barok returned the favor, but only barely managed to get through the satyr's tough skin. Before he could even take a moment to look up, the gargoyle got by Ventus' armor and slashed the Imperial with a deep gash to his neck before soaring back skyward.

As Barok and Dartis watched in horror, the body of Morduk disappeared.


Current HPs (current/max):

Danica 15/18
Silas 14/19
Dartis 29/29
Ventus 21/32
Barok 10/21

Dartis uttered an oath upon seeing the body of Morduk disappear. "Sorcery! The Rider take him and his minions." Dartis saw the plight of Barok, and spurred Swift onward, attempting to run down one of the satyrs.
At Dartis' cry, Danica whirled around -- her fear over the ogre's corpse had been realized, and she cursed herself for getting distracted by the gargoyles. I'm not a real fighter... she thought to herself, as she raised her crossbow to the square where Marduk had been.

Barok sneered in irritation at his useless weapons and instead tried to trip the least wounded of the Satyres flanking him, when he noticed the ogre’s body disappear. "Bloody Hell..."

"Ha ha!" crowed a gloating Silas at the downed flying creature. He looks around to see if anyone witnessed his (and Danica's) victory over the creature. Seeing that everyone else was involved in battles of their own he looked to see where he might be most useful and, seeing that the python was about to eat the downed archer instead of moving to attack another one, he yelled out a command, "Attack the archer!" Drawing the wand of magic missiles from where he had it stashed in his sleeve, Silas fired a missile at one of the remaining archers.

Silas' snake stopped in mid-preparation, snapped its jaw back into form, and crawled towards another archer. Silas himself fired at the closest archer, but his miss was a critical one and he instead shot Barok in the shoulder!

As the arrow hits him in the shoulder Barok cursed in surprise, and smiled crookedly at Silas "Hey! Thanks Mate. I owe you one."

Dartis charged into the mix and had Swift attack the archer to its left. It was a hard hit, but the hooves barely made a dent in the creature's tough hide. The python moved to bind the other archer, but it also missed its strike. Danica fires at where she thought the ogre-mage last was, but struck nothing, confirming her worry that he was no longer there or standing at the same location.

One of the archers butt Barok with his horns, but the rogue manages to stay standing despite the force of the impact. Ventus attacked the archer that the python missed, but also missed with his own strike. The second archer hit Barok once more with a dagger, driving it deeply in the bleeding rogue's body. Silas yelled as the second gargoyle took revenge on him, slashing him from behind. Barok attacked next, and successfully tripped the archer next to Ventus for the Imperial to easily strike down. In that same moment, however, Morduk reappeared next to Dartis.

The party heard a triumphant roar as the ogre-mage appeared next to the horsed noble. The whistling of his mighty sword caused the air to shriek as the blade tore through space and impacted against the noble's armor with a sickening sound of metal ripping through metal. Links from Dartis' chain shirt were torn apart, with many of them landing as far as Danica. Luckily, it was not a fatal wound as the armor took the brunt of the punishment. Still, Dartis' body flew from Swift, and the noble fell onto the ground and onto his back. The heroes heard him gasping for air as the wind was forced from his lungs upon impact with the ground. The ogre-mage then ducked down, using Swift as both cover and an obstacle to attacking him.

Danica 15/18
Silas 10/19
Dartis 13/29
Ventus 21/32
Barok 3/21

Barok coughed out a lungful of blood and looked around, searching for a way out but not finding it. There were too many enemies and too many knives about even without inviting them to stab his back. Besides, he'd always known he would end like this; killed in a fight of his own making. Barok, covered in the blood of half a dozen wounds, kept fighting.
Silas yelped in surprise as his magical missile flew wide and again as pain lanced through his back. He immediately turned his attention to the gargoyle. Trusting his companions to deal with the remaining archers he tracked the gargoyle's flight and prepared to cast another spell. "Fire worked before," he mumbled as he prepares Burning Hands.

The ogre's roar drew Silas' attention and he gaped in shock as Dartis was flung from Swift. Everything seemed to be spiraling quickly out of control and Silas wondered, Perhaps we've bitten off just a bit more than we can chew... Hardening his resolve he turned back to the gargoyle and waited until it began to dive for another attack.

Metal shrapnel flew around the teenage girl as Danica reloaded her crossbow and re-aimed at the now-visible ogre. Pfft.

Dartis stood slowly but deliberately, bringing his shield and sword up. "Nice hit" he muttered to Morduk. " I thought you would have fled, being the coward that you are, third son of Krill the Kraven. This just proves that you are as stupid as you are ugly. No wonder Trieste rejected you," taunted Dartis. "Go on order your goats to shoot me, I dare you! For I know you are too cowardly to face me!" Then, quick as a flash the well trained cavalry man spang into action, leaping back into the saddle and slashing at Morduk even as he spurred Swift to attack the orge.

Barok noticed the smoking flesh of the satyr in front of him and realized that it wasn't a crossbow bolt from Silas that hit him from behind, but was instead a magic missile from the wand in the abjurer's hand. The magic of this place had twisted the arcane bolt, causing it to follow a straight path through the rogue and into the satyr in front of him. The damage wasn't from physical injury, but was caused mentally by the shock of the magic passing through him. Once he realized this, the rogue shook the damage off and pinned his fallen satyr opponent to the ground with his blade, although the metal failed to pass through its skin.

While Silas waited to attack, his python took advantage of Barok's work and wrapped itself tightly around the satyr, causing it to scream in fear as it was completely immobilized. Danica fired a shot at Morduk, but Dartis and Swift blocked her vision and her bolt stuck inside the horse's saddle, but luckily did no physical harm.

Ventus moved to attack the satyr that was still fighting, and was able to use his shield to push in between the bloodied Barok and the creature, therefore protecting the rogue. His ancestral short sword was put to good use, driving itself deep into the archer's shoulder. It still stood, although it did not look long for this world. In desperation, it flailed wildly with its own blade, cutting Ventus' bicep.

Morduk sneered at Dartis and disappeared before the noble, causing the party to worry about who he would strike next.

The gargoyle dove downwards to strike once more, slashing Danica across the shoulder as she moved to reload. It laughed as it began to take off, but then it heard the casting of magic behind it and turned to catch a furnace of billowing flame from Silas. Although hurt, the creature was definitely not out, and with a shriek it took off into the air once more.

But this was when something strange happens. A cloud of crows spiraled around it, and began to peck at the blistered flesh that Silas' magic had created. The hundreds of birds each made the best of their moment, flying past the gargoyle's clawed strikes and piercing the weakened portions of its skin. The gargoyle grew desperate and attempted to fly away, but the formation easily followed it until the murder of crows disappeared with the gargoyle into the sky and the gargoyle's cries grew pitifully weaker and then finally ceased altogether.

Barok went last, and took the opportunity to circle around Ventus and flank the Imperial's weakened opponent. His strikes both hit, but unfortunately weren't able to puncture through the satyr's tough skin.

Danica 10/18
Silas 10/19
Dartis 13/29
Ventus 17/32
Barok 5/21

Silas watched in amazement as the gargoyle flew off and was quickly surrounded and brought down by the murder of crows. Shaking his head he turned back to survey the battle his friends and companions were involved in. Just in time to see Morduk vanish a second time, as Silas cursed loudly. "#%$@!!!" This is the second time I've been caught unprepared to deal with invisibility! I really must spend some time studying Astraulay's spellbook.

Rifling through his options, again Silas finds that he doesn't have much to penetrate invisibility beyond (hopefully) detecting the magical emanations. Sighing, he begins chanting and moving his fingers in intricate patterns. As his magical sight began to clear, he gazed towards the party in search of Morduk...

Danica winced as the gargoyle removed part of her shoulder, but she knew she was right to focus on Marduk and not the flying creature, whatever the damage. But she was not well, she knew. She stood, exposing herself to attack, but knowing she would at least not be a sitting duck. She reached into her pouch and grabbed the leather thong she should have used before they were even at the base of the hill.

She rubbed it over her forehead, saying "I need a barrier." She felt the eldritch power coruscating through her body, as magical armor surrounded her.
"Agreed, Barok move to Danica and Silas, leave the last goat to Ventus. We need to be ready to attack with everything should this sniveling coward dare to show his face again." Said Dartis as he sheathed his sword and drew his bow while urging Swift over to the last archer to aid Ventus, if he needed it.

The Fate of Ventus
Dartis urged Swift on and flanked the satyr engaged with Ventus and Barok. The light warhorse reared up and kicks outward, missing the creature's head. The archer smiled since he was still alive, but then Dartis' blade came downward with enough force to leave a thin trail of blood across its face.

Danica cast a spell of protection around herself, the mage armor comfortably forming tightly against her. At the same time the python began squeezing the life force from the struggling satyr in its bonds.

Ventus attacked next, his blade piercing through the satyr's ribs like a hot knife through butter. The creature wailed and fell dead. For a moment, the Imperial wondered why his blade was so effective while his companions' weapons were not. Barok searched where Dartis stood for the sole standing opponent, but did not notice where Morduk has moved to next.

Danica was breathing heavily. Bleeding from her shoulder, her blouse torn and muddied, her eyes wide in exhilaration and excitement and terror. Her crossbow was up, and with sudden jerky movements she was twisting at her waist, pointing at the air there, no there, now there. Her pulse is pounding, and she felt sweat -- or was it blood? -- rolling down her temple. Her magic had failed her again, her attention slipped, she was wounded. But perhaps she could kill this Morduk.

But that's when Silas cast his spell and received a helpful, yet unexpected result... Silas knew instantly that the magic of this place had twisted and enhanced his spell. The temple before him then glew with a strange green aura, the results of his detect magic spell. However, what really drew his attention was a large cloud of blue haze that hovered near where Swift was, but then moved quickly to reach Ventus' exposed back. From the size and the speed, Silas guessed that this haze was the invisible Morduk. And he was standing behind a murdering Imperial soldier who had killed Dorinthians on the field of battle and perhaps in their own towns and villages. Ventus was bleeding badly, and the ogre-mage seemed to be taking his time, probably winding up for a strike that would silence the warrior forever. Silas knew he could track Morduk now, but this was an opportunity to have an Imperial quickly slain. And all he had to do was be silent.

Barok chuckles harshly, "Hell, that was too damn close. But you did well, all of you. Seems I've misjudged you, Imperial." he said to Ventus, "You had your chance to betray us, but fought by our side. That probably saved at least my life. Thanks." "Now, let's track down that cowardly goat:):):):)er and kill him a second time."

Ventus smiled at his blade for a moment as the last Satyr fell. His ancestors truly were looking out for him. He nodded briefly to Barok, but remained silent as he looked for the missing ogre and tried to listen for the heavy footsteps.

With his vision twisted it took Silas a moment to realize what was about to happen. In battle, perhaps, but not like this. "Behind you, Ventus!" he called and he again reached for his wand of magic missiles.

Ventus spun at Silas's warning, staring into empty space behind him. His eyes searched for any sign of the invisible ogre. With nothing to see, he closed his eyes and trusted in the memory of his father and grandfather as he stabbed blindly into space. "Guide my sword."

The air crackled as Silas' magic missile flew past Ventus and slammed into an invisible, and very surprised ogre-mage, his sword raised over his head in a two-handed grip that was about to be brought down on Ventus' head. The force magic cascaded over his form, showing the ogre-mage for a few vital seconds. Danica was the next to react, firing her crossbow and driving a bolt deep into the creature's shoulder. Two arrows flew from Dartis' bow, the first one reaching its mark and burying itself in Morduk's leg. Ventus brought his short sword up, but missed as he also scrambles away in desperation. It was Barok who finished it, with each of his blades successfully aiming for a different kidney.

Morduk groaned and fell onto his back, his invisibility gone. Even as he lay there, the heroes could see his wounds quickly beginning to heal once more.
Barok spit at the Ogre's face, crouched down and started sawing off Mardok's head with his dagger. "Maybe this will keep you dead, you ugly bastard," he smiled at the decapitated head. "I think the Dryad will appreciate the trophy."

Ventus watched Barok saw for a moment while he cleaned his blade and sheathed it at his side. Reaching behind himself, he pulled free the axe he borrowed from the dwarves earlier. The ogre may not be a tree, but it seemed like threatening plants would not be as important at the moment. "This may be more effective."
Together, Barok and Ventus did their bloody work and Morduk was finally no more. On his body, in a blood-covered pouch, was a heart the size of a fist and made from fossilized sap, also known as amber. The Heart of Trieste.

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Deuce Traveler

Danica was dizzy with the aftereffects of combat, staggering slightly as she moved from place to place, feeling the corruption of the hilltop seeping into the soles of her feet, like dampness through cheap boots. She straightened her blouse, and shifted her pack to the other side, in an attempt to cover the hole, but the pain from her wound proved too much and she moved it back.

A small rat emerged from her pack and walked up to the corpses of Marduk and the satyrs, sniffing them, before scampering back and up Danica's leg. Then she remembered to breathe, and inhaled large gulps of the tepid air, but was nourished anyway."There could be more dangers--I don't think the heart alone is enough. We should ensure that there are no more threats on this hilltop, or hidden among the walls of this keep. WHo will come with me?"

She looked to Dartis and the others, and, having confirmed that there were no more visible threats, wandered into the temple to seek new ones. She hoped she would not be left alone.

Ventus kneeled down next to the dead Morduk, weighing the amber heart in his hand. "She said we would know it when we saw it. . ."
He leaned heavily on the gore splattered axe as he tried to catch his breath despite the pain from his various wounds. His eyes fell on the ogre's blade lying on the ground nearby and he paused to consider the effect such a weapon would have had on him. He turned his head to face Silas for a moment, and gazed into his eyes. "My thanks."

Dartis made as if to speak, but stopped himself. He gazed at Danica for a moment. Then as if an internal question was resolved, he whirled Swift and headed into the structure.
Silas nodded and looked as if he was about to say something when Danica made her proclamation and headed into the ancient temple. Sighing with exasperation, Silas hurriedly snatched up the python rod and followed. "Danica. Wait. We've wounded..." Of course, by this time it was already too late and Silas had become entranced by the carvings and construction of the temple.

Ventus groaned slightly as he rose to his feet once more. For a second he watched Dartis, Silas and Danica as they moved to investigate inside the ogre's temple. He returned the axe to his pack and drew his sword as he hustled forward, pushing past to be at the front once again. If he was going to spend any more time with these people, he was really going to have to teach them some basic military concepts. . . like formations. "I hope we're up for whatever's in here. . ." He looked around with disgust at the dominant insect theme. "Nice place though."

Barok followed Ventus, keeping an eye out for traps and ambushes while avoiding the most exposed position. He groaned a bit under his breath as his wounds chafed against his armor and clothing, but otherwise kept his composure.

'Someone must like locusts', the heroes realized as they entered through the fifteen foot high double doors of the temple. It was dark, but Silas was able to remove a torch and light it to reveal ancient brass walls covered in crawling insects...

At least that was his first impression until he took a closer look. The walls and ceiling were decorated with tiny, sculpted locusts crawling over one another. The flickering torchlight gave them the illusion of movement. The shape of the building was rectangular, and the walls were 50 feet away in one direction, while 30 feet in the other. The 35 foot tall ceiling was in the shape of a pyramid, with a large circular keystone in the center. From the rubble and chipped condition, this roof looked as if it had been greatly weakened by the ravages of time. Several bedrolls laid on the ground, and some small sacks leaned against a bronze, stained altar. On the top of this 10 ft by 3 ft altar was a giant, brass locust, perhaps an object of worship for the ancient people that used to come here.

Silas ran his fingers lightly over the wall carvings. "The detail is exquisite..." Silas took a moment to study the ceiling for structural soundness. Responding to Ventus' "Nice place though," he turned and said, "I've never seen its like." It was quite obvious that Silas, however, didn't mean it it the same sense that Ventus did.

Danica didn't hear Silas' words, the after effects of the battle still ringing in her own ears. She was careful as she walked, but was impressed with the intricacy of the carving--she was not at all phased by the insects it would appear.

"Is there any way to tell if these carvings were done by hand, or if they were made magically?" she asked, not knowing the answer herself.
She played with her everburning torch, dazzled by the appearance of movement. The sight of the bronze altar attracted her, and she carefully advanced towards it.

Barok poked around at the small sacks, but didn't find any traps on them although he did see that they were full of coin. Since nothing else in the room stood out as a likely location for a trap, Barok did a close inspection of the altar, looking more for traps or secrets rather than admiring its architecture. Danica did a similar inspection, although she was careful not to touch the altar until the rogue made sure it posed no threat. Barok found no traps.

Barok and Danica noticed that the giant locust was somehow connected to the top of the altar without having been welded, almost as if it was carved out from a large piece of the metal. There was a noticeable strip of fragile stone that ran around the entire perimeter of the altar and divided the top with the bottom half. The stone was some kind of clay or concrete.

Ventus contented himself with standing guard while the others investigate the chamber. He occasionally looked over his shoulder to the outside, but mostly watched his companions, waiting warily for anything that might endanger them. He tried to calm his breathing after the exertion outside, but the blood dripping from his wounds was quite distracting. "Well, is there anything that requires our attention?"

"How do we feel about desecrating ancient altars to locust gods?" asked Danica with half a smile. She was slightly dizzy, but knew others were more wounded than she was. She could wait.

"I think we should let the ancients keep thier secrets. Let us take Morduk's ill gotten gains" said Dartis pointing to the sacks of coin "for we shall be in need of it to clothe and feed the refugees. But if Morduk dwelt here, it may be an evil place. Even if not, the last time we disturbed the ancient past, we barely escaped. But come let us return Triete's heart to her, and free our people. We can ask the dryad about this temple. Perhaps she will remember who built it, or if there is any thing to fear from it." advised Dartis.

Silas realized that from the way this temple was decorated, he could tell that it was once a place of worship. But to what kind of god was unknown, and probably the religion had been lost in the annals of time. Still, maybe someone knew some of the oral history. The structure was sound, but the architecture was quite alien and very, very old from the look of the crumbling ceiling. The rectangular shape of the perimeter was a standard kind of design, but Silas had never heard of anyone that the Dorinthians had ever come into contact with to use a pyramid for a roof. In fact, the only obscure mention he ever encountered of pyramid architecture had been of some far away people once subjugated by the Tallione Empire. And they supposedly built large buildings that were pyramids in their entirety. The locusts were so life-like in appearance that they almost appeared as though live insects were turned into metal. With a frightening realization, Silas withdrew your hand. The walls still glew a dull green from the result of his detect magic spell, and Silas suddenly noticed that the glow came from significant transmutation magic.
Silas shrank back from the walls where previously he was quite bold in fingering the carvings. He moved to stand in the center of the hall and nods agreement with Dartis. "I agree. And these aren't carvings. I think they are real, held by some magic. I fear if we toy with the altar then we might somehow animate them." He shivered.

With that the party decided that discretion was the better part of valor. They left the ancient temple, coin in hand. They speak with the spirits that were kin to those that had built that temple, but we have not yet reached the time of that tale.

Deuce Traveler

The heroes traveled towards Trieste's valley once more, and once again it seemed as if the entire valley was watching them although this time the heroes knew they could erase a flock of crows and a mountain lion from the list of pursuers.

When the party reached the summit of the tall hills surrounding the dryad's grove, they began to hear the lure of the dryad's song pulling at them. They were worried of pushing further, where the affects would be even stronger. The grove of trees and tall grass was about 200 feet in diameter, with a shining pond that surrounded a small isle. On the tiny isle stood a great oak, but its leaves and branches looked twisted and wrong in a way that they couldn't quite understand. The heroes believed they saw a figure or two underneath the tree, but the night lowered visibility to the point that it was hard to be sure.

"We need to return the heart to the dark hole left in Trieste's tree. The question is how to do so with out being ensnared. I think this is best done either through speed, by me on Swift, force of will to resist by perhaps Silas. Or our best option may be a woman" said Dartis looking knowingly at Danica.

"Danica, how strongly do you feel the pull of the dryad? Even now I feel her song tug at me. How I wish we had Kel with us, or Alexander who knew so much of the natural world. But we move with who we have. I suppose the last option is to simply call out to Trieste. But she seems to not be herself and would not respond well to attempts to contact her. So, how do we best proceed? Do we have other options?"

Danica also felt the pull of the song, but it was different from what the men were describing. It was a strong pull, but it was more of something that she wanted to hear more of and made Danica feel lazy and tired versus something that made her take actions she would not take otherwise.

Danica was caught by Dartis' question. Her face went blank, "Er." Her voice caught immediately. Clearly she didn't know how to explain the pull. But she courtseyed as she bit her lip and and tried again. "Lord Dartis, I don't know what effect the Dryad's song will have on me, but since it does not resonate with me as it aparently does with you, I will try. The song makes me tired, and at rest. The worst it will do -- or so I imagine -- is make me want to rest. If that is the case, then perhaps someone else could take the heart from my hands, and continue.

"I am not afraid,"
she said, visibly terrified, "But I shall do what I can. I believe the heart too might offer protection. The dryad must want it back. It is part of her." She paused, and a smile slowly grew over her face as a spark shined from the corner of her eye. "Besides, if something happened to me, I have all you men to come rescue me." She giggled.

Ventus considered the island, nearly losing himself in the song for a brief moment. He shook his head to clear it and faced Dartis. "It all comes down to whether she wants her heart back or not. If she wants it, then simply approaching with it in hand might be enough. If her nature has twisted enough where she will resist it, then it may require all of our strengths. If the lure is too much for any one of us, then we could each be lured in one by one as we attempt to rescue those already lost to the song. Perhaps if we had enough rope, one could go in and be pulled out it they failed to hold strong."

"Perhaps it will not be so bad even if we fail," Barok looked down at the island smiling. "I'll go. From what the other tree-fairies said I don't think she kills her victims right away and I wouldn't mind a bit of 'rest' for a while. If it turns bad I'll have you guys to bail me out. And I am the only one of us with a chance to enter unnoticed."

Before Dartis could prepare a plan of action, Barok snatched the heart and began running down the hill. He gave a half-pause as the strength of the song intensified, and for a moment the rest of the party thought a collective, "Oh hell..."

But the rogue recovered and shook off the music while leaping over the occasional mound. The grass came alive and reached out for him, but the dextrous Barok was able to move too quick for the blades of grass to hold him down. He made it a third of the way before anyone could think to follow.

Barok stopped briefly before charging ahead and stuffed his ears with moss and tied a piece of cloth around his head to help block out the increasingly inviting sound. He had second thoughts, realizing that maybe the singing made him a bit overeager.

Danica stared in wonder as Barok made a run for the tree. Again, her words had gone almost unnoticed. But she watched him as he went, and shouted out encouragement: "Be careful!"

Dartis swore at Barok's rashness and spurred on Swift. He cried out after Barok and led Swift into a gallop. He didn't make it more than 30 feet when the song took ahold of the nobleman, causing him to stop in amazement at the most beautiful music he had ever heard. And even though he could not see her face, Dartis knew that the woman by the pond was all the beauty he could imagine wrapped up in one stunning face. Swift begin to panic, as blades of grass wrapped up and around his hooves and immobilize the horse.

Barok continued his own run, and he continuesd to shake off the dryad's song. He was now 40 feet away, and could see her now. Despite her panic-filled face that gazed upon his defiant countenance, he noticed that she truly was a beautiful creature. A man stood up next to her, wearing the clothes of a Dorinthian noble attached to the cavalry forces. Barok's examination didn't slow down his nimbleness and once more he dodged the grasping blades of grass.

Danica dodged the grasping plants around her, but stumbled after making it only 15 feet. The music was like a beautiful lullaby, and the sorceress felt as if she should rest.

Silas moved quickly and surprisingly even more nimbly than Barok. He made it 30 feet with seeming ease, his mind concentrated upon his wife, a vision that the dryad's song had difficulty piercing.

Ventus was also able to dodge the plants, like Danica was, but only made it 15 feet before succumbing to the song... It was so beautiful, he realized.

S= Silas
D= Dartis
Da= Danica
V= Ventus
B= Barok
W= Dryad
N= Dorinthian Noble
T= Tree

The song continued, and for a moment Barok froze from the beauty of the dryad's voice. Everything was in that promise. Possession, desire, lust. Everything that a rogue could possibly want, although strangely there was no promise of love. The former scout muses that he normally made similar proposals whenever he had the opportunity. His dark humor helped him break the bonds of the enchantment, and once again he was on the move. He avoided the grasping plants and lands calf-deep in the pond by the great oak tree. As he moved onto the tiny isle, the Dorinthian cavalryman intercepted him, drawing his sword in warning. Barok could see by looking into the man's eyes that his will was not his own. The rogue could just make out a large hole in the tree behind him.

Dartis was still held by her song and Swift stopped struggling, more so because of its inability to move than from true desire. The plants wrapped steadily upwards and now touched the nobleman's legs and the horse's midsection...

Silas continued to dodge the plants and ignored the song by thinking of his family, making it another 30 feet and close enough to see that Barok was about to be engaged by a man wearing the cloak and armor of a Dorinthian cavalryman. The sight before him was almost enough to give him pause. The nobleman was Cal Dorin, the baron's lost son! And these mounds were his men, swallowed up by the twisted dryad's grove. They were not just Dorinthians. They were people of Fair Creek.

The sight of Dartis' horse ceasing its struggle pulled at the pity freely given by Danica's heart. She overcame the dryad's song and bolted next to Dartis in an attempt to free the nobleman. Before she could act, however, blades of grass rose up and snared her around her right thigh.

Ventus felt the pull of the dryad's song and took a few more steps forward so that he might better gaze upon the woman's beauty. Strangely, he was able to stumble past the ensnaring grass without getting himself caught.

S= Silas
D= Dartis
Da= Danica
V= Ventus
B= Barok
W= Dryad
N= Dorinthian Noble
T= Tree


As Danica struggled with the growing tendrils and vines wrapping around her leg, she spied the sword-wielding Dorinthian about to attack Barok. She reacted quickly, forgetting herself for a moment:

"Your strength spills into the earth" she proclaimed in a loud voice, as a shimmering beam leapt forth from her outstretched hand. She reached for her crossbow.

Barok shouted out to the two lovers by the tree while continuing to move forwards, "Morduk is dead. I killed the ugly bastard, twise, and I've got his head right here to prove it," he held up the head by the hair. "The Heart is yours once again if you will but let me pass. Get that noble fop out of the way and let me show you what a real man can do." he winked at her.

He continued to advance and struck out with lightning speed, throwing Morduk's gory head right at the knights face while hooking his foot behind the man's knee and pushing him out of the way to try for a trip. "Did you really think he could stand in my way? I'll save you wether you want it or not."

Though events had again spiralled out of his control, Silas followed as Barok ran headlong into the grove. Seeing Cal Dorin face Barok and knowing the surrounding mounds were likely his men as described by Ventus, Silas continued to plow forward to aid the man and free the others, somehow. His mind, however, was full of the image of his wife as he last saw her: holding their child, standing next to his aged father, as the town came to see them all off. As they marched faint strains of Dorinthia's battle-hymn floated after...

Suddenly Silas burst out in song. "Dor-IN-thi-AH! Dor-IN-thi-AH!..." Loud and out of tune, it was still recognizable as Dorinthia's anthem and he put all his emotion into it, hoping to rouse the sleepers.

Dartis took no notice of the malicious monocots creeping up his leg. Once more he had become far too entranced by the most wonderful song.

Ventus merely brushed the grass away from his leg as he easily pulled free to continue towards the source of his enchantment. He stumbled forward, his mind in a daze.

For a moment of surprise, the dryad and Cal Dorin watch as Barok showed the heart in his hand. Then the wood creature stopped singing for a brief second, and stared in anger, speaking the command, "Kill him."

Cal moved to comply, but before Barok could attempt to trip him, a bolt of magic flew over his shoulder and hit the nobleman. Danica's spell of weakness seemed to affect him, but then he visibly shook off the spell. Silas' shouting was heard behind Barok: "Dor-IN-thi-AH! Dor-IN-thi-AH!...". From the mounds around Barok, the cry was taken up by hoarse and weak voices, "Dor-IN-thi-AH! Dor-IN-thi-AH!..."

Perhaps it was the chanting that did it, or the recognition of heroic friends. Perhaps it was the brave and bloodied Barok's stubborn stand, or the distraction of Danica's spell. Whatever the cause, Cal lowered his blade and the rogue skirted by and drove the heart deep into the oak's hole behind him. The singing stopped, freeing Ventus and Dartis from its enchantment.

The hole sealed itself and the dryad had a change come over her. Her enraged face grew soft and pleasant for a moment, before she collapsed in tears, wailing. "Gods! He killed them. He killed my so many of my friends," she said as she collapsed with her face in her hands. Cal took a few steps towards her, as if intending to hold and comfort her. He stared down at the pitiful creature, and changed his mind while clenching and unclenching his hands.

"Thank you," Cal said to Barok with a cold expression. But come, we must now free our friends."

Barok turned and smiled expectantly at the dryad, his smile growing stale when noticing her reaction. Gods! I should have known, no "Oh my brave Hero! Look at those noble wounds, please let me kiss them and make it better..." No, instead I get a weeper.

"There, there, don't worry about that," he tried halfheartedly to console her. "Everything ends. It's the way of, uh, nature or something. At least you got your vengeance. It's all right, you'll get new friends, you've got a new one right here," he said, touching her shoulder gently.

He smiled distractedly at the knight, "That's all right sir. Thanks for getting out of the way." "...That really doesn't sound like such a bad idea, now when she's not an insane monster anymore."

Barok watched quietly as Cal took his blade in hand once more and moved towards the nearest mound, but it was not needed. Like a coccoon, the grass opened to reveal dozens of Fair Creek cavalrymen. All but two were still alive, although greatly weakened. Even Alexander's sister, the half-orc paladin Alexis, was found and gave Silas and Danica a small smile of thanks and recognition.

As the group set up camp, Dartis again found time to have private words with the various members of the group. To Danica he said, "Again you have proven your worth and valor Daughter of Dorinthia. You and your abilities, all of them, benefit the people of Dorinthia, our people." said Dartis clasping her on the shoulders. "On behalf of them I thank you."

Danica yelped as Dartis grabbed her shoulders--even as the wound began to heal, they were still sensitive, and the skin of her upper arm was exposed through the tear in the cloth. But she smiled, and courtsied, and said, "Thank you, my Lord. For Dorinthia."

Ventus stoof at the edge of the grove, a rather severe expression on his face, tight lipped and stock still. It was as much of his inner feelings as he would let show on the exterior; he did not allow his anger to cloud his face. He was angry at Barok for rushing off into the trap, he was angry at the others for following, and he was angry at himself for not having the willpower to resist the dryad's song.

The dryads sent help in the form of berries that burst from bushes that spontaneously erupted up from the ground and the heroes found that the nearby pond had fresh water to help the starved men. Somehow the grass preserved them at the same time it sapped their bodies of nutrients. The heroes spent the day burying the two soldiers that had died while the men and surviving horses recover. Cal took the two deaths the hardest. "My fault. We had to ride and try to warn my father, but the Imperials intercepted us and we rode into the hills to lose them when I heard her voice. I wasn't strong enough to resist that... thing. And my soldiers died for my weakness. In my mind I saw her as a Dorinthian noblewoman. Someone to continue a kingdom's noble lineage with. Gods..." he hissed in disgust. Perhaps the dryad heard him from her distant tree, for she looked at him in a hurt expression before disappearing into her oak once more. Some rigid pride had broken in Cal, and the heroes were not sure whether it was for the better. Although his men still looked at him with respect as he passed, he would never forget the tragedy that he was partly responsible for.

Dartis approached the stoic legionairre, Ventus, as he stoood to the side of the camp. "Well Tallione, you have proven yourself truthful and more than competent in battle. I thank you for your aid in defeating the ogre. We could not have won with out you. I again say to you that I hold your vow upheld. By your own admission, the men who saved you are now free. Though you are free to pursue your own path, I sense you would not return to Tallione. I would ask you then Ventusm would you not journey with us a while. We could use a stout man who knows about standing and fighting. I know there may be some distrust that may exist for a bit, but I at the least offer my hand in friendship." said Dartis extending his right hand, while pulling out a knife with his left in offer to cut the remaining and symbolic bonds on the legionairres wrists.

Ventus nodded solemnly and ran his wrist slightly for a moment, relieving the sensation that has stayed with him for many days now. He looked Dartis in the eyes, trying to read the man, then clasped hands with him firmly.

"You are correct in assuming that I can no more return to my home than your people can to theirs. I find myself in need of a new home, or a new purpose. Perhaps I will find my way along side you and your comrades."

Ventus saw that the situation had resolved itself, but that would bring about its own worries, for now the neccesary reprimand for Barok's impetuous behavior would never come. He stood watch stoicly over the recovering Dorinthians, glad at least that he was able to repay his debt and aid in some small way their release. His eyes gazed out over the men, seeking out the one whose words saved him from sharing their fate on his first journey to this glade, fearing that he may have been to late for him.

Dartis found Barok at some point. "I wish to thank you for your efforts Barok. Both against the ogre and to replace the heart. However I would also caution you to not be so rash. There is far too much at stake here. The future of our people hangs upon every action we take and we must not fail. I am overjoyed that you succeeded, but, had you not......."

"This is not a reprimand, nor a formal action. Though I am captain of the army, I ask you as a companion and a friend, to please exercise some due caution. There are so many back there. The same that followed you to the mountian, that desperately need us to succeed. I cannot afford to lose you, nor can I afford to have any failures. Our people's morale hangs by a thread, it is our duty to maintian that. I know you are not used to leading and thinking of the people you lead. But look at Cal and how he grieves over the men he lost. Imagine the people you lead to the mountian. They still look to you. I still need you to help lead our people to safety Barok. Dorinthia needs you Barok, will you be there for Her?"

"You really believe you're going to restore Dorinthia again? That you can put everything back together, bring us victory and peace and then give yourself a crown? With this?" he gestures to the encampment. "No, Dorinthia is lost. Her people murdered or in chains, her towns and fields in ashes inhabited only by beasts and ghosts. All we can do now is seek our vengeance and our deaths like men."

"You don't think I grieve only because I do not wallow in it? I have lost as much as any of you, but this is not the time for tears. These,"
he touches one of his wounds and the crusted blood surrounding it, "are the only tears I'm going to cry. And if I seek some pleasure on my way to death, can you blame me?"

Dartis listened to Baroks words and was silent a moment. "Then why are you here? Why not run after the Imperial column and die 'like a man'? Why not go and through your life away if you have lost so much and are seeking death?
And truly then why did you lead the refugees back to the hills? Dorinthia is lost only when we allow Her to be. You are right that this is not the time for tears, but neither of wtaer nor of blood. Nor is it time for vengance. That time will come. But if you truley have lost hope, then leave us, seek your death as you wish and find vengance as you can.
But I think there is more to you Barok. Some compassion must still dwell within you. Some pride of being Dorinthian. Why else would you lead those people to safety if 'her people are murdered or in chains, her towns and fields are ashes inhabited only by beasts and ghosts' ?

So long as I draw breath I will seek to protect Dorinthia and her people, no matter where the live. If you cannot understand that I pity you. And I will not have you compromising the future of Dorinthia. A fool I may be, but that hope is all those refugees have, and I will not fail them.

Your choice is your own. I will release you from any obilgation the Dorinthian army holds you to. But can you ever free yourself from the obligations you owe it the army and to Dorinthia?"

And Dartis turned and walked away to leave Barok to his thoughts.

Dartis found Cal at some point through the evening and pulled him aside for a private counsel. "Cal, you must recover here. You have lost no luster in your men's eyes. There is no shame here. This is not war or battle. This is sorcery. I myself was smitten by the song. I was held captive by the grasses. There is no shame in that, it does not diminsih your value as a warrior. We faced a gnome some time back who cast his sorcerous magic. Oh it was beautiful. He showed me here I could find our people, where we could live safe. But it was a lie. But Cal, these lies only have power because in our hearts we want what is promised so much. In our hearts lies the hope of Dorinthia. To desire the success of of people is nothing to be ashamed of. And if that hope makes us more vulnerable to evil sorcery, then so be it. For with out that hope in our hearts Cal, Dorthinia will die."

Dartis turned to face Cal, and grabbed him by the shoulders and stared into his face "Cal, my brother, my kinsmen, listen to me. You must shake this black mood off. Our men, our people need us. Did we weep after Kalden? Of course, but we did not cower from the next battle. Tonight we will honor those who have fallen. But we must move on Cal. Hope is finally rising, we must show that to our people."

Dartis then proceeded to tell Cal the tale of their rescue mission to find them, how they found the Imperials and how they were turned back, and finally the tale of Morduk. He also informed Cal that his father grieved terribly for him and will desire news of him soon.

Cal nodded at Dartis, though did not meet his eyes, "Thank you, Baron Kalnian, but leading men to die by the sword is one thing. Watching them helplessly as their lives are sucked out of their bodies is quite another. Still, I will carry on, for my men so that they may better serve our people if nothing else."

The party spent the night guarding the sleeping troops. Cal slept furthest from the oak tree, and the dryads did not reappear though the food continued to grow when needed. In the morning, on the crest of the hill, a small band of men could be seen observing the poor camp.

Ventus saw that they were wearing the clothing of Craeceans, a diverse and educated people in love with science and philosophy that were eventually taken over by the Tallione Empire.

The two new visitors, Nikolos and Caramip (two new PCs!), had traveled far to find the camp of Commander Sassarius, but it looked like his army had left. Which was unfortunate, since they needed to restock on supplies for their research into Dorinthian culture. Dorinthians had the most interesting, but primitive architecture, although they were hoping to move on and examine the plains that supported the nomadic lifestyle Dorinthians practiced before founding a kingdom.

Nikolos and Caramip had followed a horse trail, thinking maybe it would lead to Sassarius' cavalry, but ran into this surprise. Instead of finding a Tallione camp, here lied what looked to be some tattered remnants of Dorinthian cavalry. How marvelous! And Nikolos thought Dorinthia was completely defeated. Hmmm... the duo thought that maybe they should go before the Dorinthians noticed them as they might not appreciate being discovered... oops... too late...

At the dawning of the new morning, Ventus stood watching the newcomers, sizing them up to determine their purpose. Their clothing was familiar enough. He stepped forward to call out. "Hail to you, Craeceans. What business brings you here?"

In the morning Ventus' call alerted Dartis who went to join Ventus at the edge of the camp. "Ventus, what do you know of these Craeceans?" Dartus called back, "A scholarly expedition you say. Then by all means come and join us Witness Nikolos!" as Dartis waved Silas on up. It was best to have another scholar to join the parlay, if inded these men were scholars. As an afterthought Dartis gave Barok a small signal to indicate that the crafty man should circle around to provide some cover and ensure that this group was alone.

Ventus shrugged in response to Dartis' query. He leaned in to answer quietly. "A peaceful enough people, scholars and educators. . . but subjects of the Tallione Empire." He relaxed somewhat, taking his hand away from the hilt of his sword, but he continued to watch the new arrivals in case they were more than they claimed to be.

Nikolos glanced at his entourage, then looked at Caramip. "Well, this should be fascinating." Leaning on his longspear, which made a passable walking staff, he called back, "We are a scholarly expedition, seeking knowledge in the blessed name of Adeiros the Seeker. I am the Witness Nikolos. Whom am I addressing?" It was obviously rather silly to try to fight, and Nikolos rather doubted that his party, leading pack mules loaded with supplies and all the impedimentia of scholarly field work, were going to long out-run Dorinthian horse archers.

Nikolos smiled a little. It wasn't lost on him that the Dorinthians hadn't actually identified themselves. Still, there was little help for it now. "Well, let's go see what we can learn down below. Best behavior, hmmm?" This last was directed at his Caramip.

With an innocent smile, Caramip nods her head and follows in step behind her large friend. Her innocent smile quickly turns mischievous as she reached into her pack and produced two empty coconut halves. As if on cue, she quickly rapped the two coconut halves together as she walked behind her friend. The beat and sound of the empty coconuts mimic that of a large house trotting a long a cobble stone road. At the same time she hummed a load an obvious out of tune hymn similar to that of trumpets blaring for some Lord.

Despite protests from her large friend she continued with the gross buffoonery. Only to stop with hysterical laughter once they came face to face with the weary travelers.

Nikolos finished walking down the hill, smiling in anticipation of learning new and interesting things. Of course, the first thing he learned was that these Dorinthians looked as if they'd been battered around a good bit. Many thanks for your kind welcome. I can't help but see that you've had some trouble. May I be of assistance? I'm not the greatest healer,but the Seeker is beneficient with his power."

"Gladly would we accept your help as well Nikolos. The Seeker's gifts are welcome here. But if I may ask, what brings a small group so far from Tallione, Craecean?" asked Dartis.

Ventus stood a little behind Dartis and off to one side, watching the approaching travelers carefully. He nodded his own greetings as they approached, but waited to hear their response to the question posed. However, part of him hoped that they were no more than they appeared to be. The ogre and his allies had left far more injuries than a single night's rest could mend.

Nikolos nodded politely to the obvious soldiers, Ventus and Dartis, then gave Caramip a truly arched look. "Allow me to introduce Mistress Caramip. She is a font of tales and information...though at times..." He left that statement unfinished, and opened his healing kit. "With your permission?"

Oh boo!” She responded. “I worked real hard on that. Any idea how hard it was for me to hide a hollow coconut from you?” She humps with her hands on her hips. “Gods forbid that you show a bit of humor.

She turned to face their newfound friends and offered them a bright smile with a small wave. “Greetings! Seems like you all had a bit of fun here.”, she said as she took a better look at the disheveled camp site. As Nikolos began to administer his care, she pulled out her trusty mandolin and began to play a soothing hymn.
Nikolos spent much of his magic and healing abilities on the five wounded heroes while Caramip lifted spirits with her music. The man was quite talented, and in no time at all the party was in a much better condition. He then saw to some of the worst off of the soldiers, and the heroes began to become confident that they could get the group of them back on the way to the dwarven kingdom by the next morning. After that, it would be another couple of days of preparation before they were all on the way back to their new home.

Silas guffawed indecorously at the bard's shenanigans. Seeing that the Seeker or Witness or whatever his title was, tolerated the bard's antics put him a little more at ease to finally approach and give a greeting. "Welcome, Witness Nikolos, Mistress Caramip. I am Silas Eyrstan, a Caernite scholar and a Dorinthian." He hesitated to say more without an indication from Dartis that it was ok, especially knowing that he had a tendency to carry on a bit more than might be wise.

As Witness Nikolos tended the other soldiers, Silas asked, "Your aid is appreciated, Witness Nikolos. Seeker...Adeiros, is it? I don't recognize the name. Perhaps you could tell me more..."

Nikolos replied as he worksed over the wounded, having used the power of Adeiros to heal the worst off. "Adeiros is the Seeker of knowledge. His worship extends to all lands, though I suppose he's much more prominent in Craece then elsewhere. The Great Library of Adeiros there is an amazing place. An entire city dedicated to the pursuit and compilation of knowledge. I hope that my history of the Dorinthian War will someday reside on the shelves there."

He finished bandaging a wound, grateful for Caramip's playing. He was not a complete stranger to fighting and bloodshed, but he has seen things done to the Dorinthians, in the name of the Empire, that turned the stomach. "Of course, I doubt that my writings will be completely acceptable in my own lifetime. But many of the greatest scholars' works have only come to light after they've gone to the glory of Adeiros, so I'll be in good company."

Ventus Tessan bowed to the new arrivals in thanks for their efforts on behalf of the group. He rubbed idly at his ribs, testing the newly healed wounds and considered the Seeker and his. . . ally. "My thanks for your aid, your arrival is fortuitously timed. My name is Tessan Ventus, and I offer you my gratitude."

The Seeker's further comments about his work produce a raised eyebrow as he looked over the man. "You are writing a history of the Dorinthian War? An interesting choice of topic. I trust your research is going well?"

Nikolos returned Tessan's bow, at least so much as he could while working. At the man's question, he shrugged slightly. "It is going reasonably well. Wars are always difficult to fully understand, are they not? So much blood and suffering over what seems in afterthought to be small matters. As you might imagine, a lot of what I have, aside from my own observations, comes from various Imperial officers and functionaries, extolling their victories and courage in the face of the wicked and barbaric Dorinthians."

The nearby Silas unaccountably choked and coughed loudly. He briefly looks over at Ventus but turned back to the Witness. Rolling his eyes a little he said, "And, of course, the Craeceans were vile degenerates until the Tallione showed them the proper way of life. Perhaps you should speak to some Dorinthians though I doubt you'll find we feel these are 'small matters'." Somewhat prickly, Silas stood, intent on bustling around the camp to prepare a meal for the collected company and guests.

Nikolos smiled at Silas' comment and said before he could walk away. "Well, I'm afraid you'll find no shortage of vile and degenerate Craeceans. By all accounts, my ancestors were rather at a loss once it became apparent the Talliones weren't going to be stopped by scathing philosophical rhetoric or well-turned satiric verse. So far as talking to some Dorinthians, it would seem I've come to the right place, wouldn't you agree?"

Silas let Nikolos' indominitable good nature siphon off his flush of irritation. "Forgive me, Witness. Emotions concerning this subject are, as you might understand, still somewhat raw. I would agree, it would seem that your Seeker has indeed led you to the proper place and time to hear the Dorinthian viewpoint." As he begins ladling out servings of a thick stew and crusty bread he says, "It isn't much but you are more than welcome to a share."

After recognizing Nikolos' healing abilities, and his interest in Dorinthia's side of the story, the party invited the priest to join them and see the Dorinthian people for himself. The offer was too exciting to pass up.

Upon thinking on Dartis' words, Cal asked for an extra moment alone to talk to the dryad. She hadn't come from her tree for quite some time (not even for Barok), although as the group left and allowed Cal a moment alone, they saw her come forth once more to speak quietly with the man. What words were exchanged, the heroes did not know, although Cal seemed to have gained a necklace made of twined and somehow threaded leaves.

The party arrived as heroes once more in the dwarven kingdom, although even the dwarves seemed to be slowing down on the alcohol and more appreciative of simple pleasures, such as drinking sips of water to alleviate morning headaches... soon after the party, its ragtag army, and the rest of the refugees were supplied and on the way north.

Silas found a moment when he could talk to Dartis alone. "Lord Kalnian, before we left the kingdom of King Bermax of the Dwarves you asked me to consider several things. Finding Cal Dorin with members of his cavalry is a great thing for our people. Though the flower of Dorinthian nobility has been greatly depleted, killed or taken by the Tallione, a noble wedding would do much to restore our people's hopes for the future." Silas coughed, seeming somewhat embarrassed but continuing nonetheless. "Baron Dorin has a daughter of marriagable age and you yourself are unwed... Perhaps you should speak to the Baron when we return. We will be returning home now, won't we?"


Closing Chapter 3, the Imperials. Next, Chapter 4...
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Deuce Traveler

The party traveled in front of more than a thousand refugees, members of the Dorinthian cavalry, and militia men. It was a long journey north back to the town originally named Meristra, and renamed Fair Creek, where the remnants of Dorinthian civilization had begun to rebuild their home. The trip was uneventful, although several times scouts reported seeing humanoids such as goblins and even the occasional gnoll, although all such creatures were intelligent enough to avoid such a large force. The going was slow at first, as there were a number of sick and aged people in the heroes' sizeable band, but as they came closer to their destination the party found the general excitement caused an increase in the body's daily speed.

Barok stayed oddly quiet on the way back, grumbling to himself occasionally about "Lying ungrateful bloody women."

Nikolos spent his time moving among the Dorinthians, using his healing skills, and when necessary the holy power of the Seeker, to deal with injuries, illness, and such other difficulties as he could help with. While doing so, and quite openly, he asked questions, and listened to the stories people were willing to tell. Each night of their travels, he spent hours with Gnaden, his scribe, dictating more of the account of the Dorinthian war.

Caramip, like Nikolos, too filled her time with the refugees. Though instead of gathering tales from the elderly she found herself immersed in countless blissful games with the children. She quite literally spent almost every waking hour running around with any number of the children partaking in countless of their games. Then just when the sun would set, she would go to every parent of every child she gamed with and tell them how much fun they had.

On the ride, Dartis found time to ride with and speak with Nikolos. "So tell me historian. Why is it that the Tallione subjugated Craece and the halfling territories, but seek to completely erradicte Dorinthia, man, woman and child?"

Nikolos didn't answer immediately, as he marshalled his thoughts. After a time, he said, "In truth, I don't know. I can hazard a guess, and that would be two-fold. In the case of Craece, our culture had largely lost its first vigor, and we were divided into many factions, split by old disagreements, and far more interested in debates of philosophy then maintaining our mutual defense. In short, the Talliones very likely didn't see us as a threat to their very existence. We never crushed Tallione legions, as your people have done. The halflings too were a fairly easy target, and no true threat to the Empire. Your folk, on the other hand...your rather unfortunate excuse for a king aside, Dorinthia was the only force in the known lands that could truly threaten to defeat the Empire, in the long term. Dorinthia is a strong nation of warriors. Tallione is in many ways absorbing Craecian culture all too well. Your king weakened your nation, and simultaneously allowed the halflings to stage against the Empire, providing an excuse for war. As for the slaughter...I can only say that the Empire of this age is corrupt, sick at its core in many ways...and a threat, however distant, to the Empire can expect no mercy in these dark days."

Finally, the small army of refugees and soldiers entered the outskirts to the Silver Forest and the thin, overgrown trail to the Dorinthian town. The party led the group, but pulled back into a halt when they saw four elves approach on horses, their appearances grim. The leader called out, "Halt Dorinthians! We are here to speak to the misguided one, Kelnian As'Tayal. I have here a scroll for his eyes only." So saying, he took a scroll from his hands and extended it outwards towards the sole elf in the heroes' company.

The elven priest, Kel, raised a curious eyebrow and stepped forward to take the parchement into his hands. While being haughtily examined by his fellows, he broke the seal on the document and began to read. After a few minutes of taking in the scroll's contents, Kel's shoulders sagged as if a great weight were put upon them. He walked back towards the party and explained, "The Tallione Empire is now aware that the remnants of the Dorinthian kingdom have been rescued by the elves of Silver Forest and are now threatening reprisals unless the refugees are given up. The Elven Council has reported to my people that their defensive forces are barely adequate to withstand an attack. This has caused a backlash againt the Sol'vi Elustru faction in the council, which had been your main supporters. This alone wouldn't have been enough to throw the political situation into chaos, but it seems that your own Baron Dorin has proclaimed that Meristra is going to be renamed New Dorinth in a ceremony next week, and has said words to the effect of starting a reborn kingdom here in the western edge of Silver Forest. The implications of this has completely reshaped the way most elves now see the refugees, and most opinions have turned greatly negative."

"The political attacks have been so heated that a change has taken place. Sol'vi Elustru has been greatly diminished in power, but so has my own pro-neutrality political faction, House Rela. House Dran, a group that wants to better ties with the Empire (or at least to placate them) and speaks of removing the refugees from the Silver Forest, has gained many seats. Strangely, so has the Magi, a group of wizards on the council that believes in ceasing all relations with non-elves and increasing efforts in defense. All diplomatic ties to the Dorinthians have been halted for the time being and the ambassadors recalled. Silas Generwine* and I have been asked by House Rela to come and speak in the council in your defense. I doubt Silas* will have anything good to say. I, on the other hand, seem to be your defending attorney."
Kel said this with a worried smirk before reaching for the hands of his companions in order to clasp them one last time. He gave a comforting squeeze to Rix's shoulder, though the kobold simply looked at the other elves bitterly and said nothing.

Dartis held Kel's hand a moment and pulled him close, "Remember the winged elves my friend. May the Rider bless your journey." In a fit of emotion, Alexander gave the elf a strong hug, then they both said short prays to the Rider before Kel mounted a horse, joined his fellow elves, and rode to the east.

*Silas Generwine is the elven co-ambassador to the Dorinthians, not to be confused with Silas Eyrstan the Caernite (PC).

"The harder the road for the Rider, the more joyous the homecoming," intoned Dartis as they disappeared from sight, invoking an ancient saying of Dorinthia. "Well there is nothing more we can do but wait for the counsel to make it's decree. They did not say our permission to travel through the forest was revoked. In the mean time, we have families who are seperated. Let us join all of Dorinthia, even if we must then move again." said Dartis sadly.

Ventus offered only a slight tilt of his head in farewell to the departing elf, having not gotten to know the cleric as much as his other companions. He watched the elves ride off, with a rather grim expression following Kel's explanation. So much for the hopes of finding a new home, not that he could expect much welcome among the Dorinthian's regardless. Still, the politics had gotten ugly, and it seemed that the elves were quick to pass judgement. He shook his head and spoke quietly to himself, "'Misguided one' indeed. It is good to see they keep open minds." He waited for the others to resume their journey and fell in beside them.

"Let us ride to rejoin our people!" cried Dartis and signaled for the group to continue. Dartis rode up to Silas: "We must move cautiously through the political minefield that is laid before us Advisor. Hindsight says we should have left a more skilled politician behind, but what is done is done. I fear that this declaration was not done solely to boost morale. And worse it was done prematurely. We must let Kel do what he can, and see what the situation is in 'New Dorinth' before we can plan." Silas nodded, but he was obviously troubled and deep in thought.

As the heroes entered the outskirts of the newly named town of New Dorinth, many of the locals rushed up to greet the party enthusiastically. Wisely, Cal sent some of his men to ride ahead and warn his father of the more than a thousand refugees that were about to flood the area. It was Syra Dorin and Kyle Radnal that respond, however, organizing the local priests to care for those who were sick and having some of the men from town set-up rows of tents as temporary housing on the southern edge of the town. Not everything ran smoothly, but there was at least some semblance of order.

The beautiful Syra went to greet the party directly when things calmed down, and gasped in shock when she saw Alexander and Rix being helped along and using crutches. She ordered them to be helped to the administrative building where Baron Dorin had made his living quarters to save housing space. She ignored Alexander's protests, and gave him a quick smile and a squeeze on his arm before heading back to direct the efforts in taking care of the refugees.

Silas, along with the town mage Hector and his apprentice Fineas, went from place to place casting magic to mend ropes and torn canvas. Now that her secret was out, Danica openly used her magic to help with the organization of supplies as a personal assistant to Kyle Radnal. Dartis and Cal helped with organizing the regular soldiers to help, and to help diffuse their stepping over the town guard efforts, since those men were performing their own tasks as directed by Radnal. Ventus kept close to those two men, but felt unsurprisingly isolated as the refugees were not excited over accepting his aid. At the advice of Cal, he changed temporarily into the civilian clothes of a Dorinthian farmer and found his aid more welcome. Barok was also helpful, although the man suspiciously seemed to find a way to help almost every available young woman. Nikolos was thought to be an oddity, although his healing powers diffused xenophobia on the part of the needy population and allowed him a chance to continue his research. Most of the people, especially the local Laughphray gnome ambassadors, weren't sure what to make of the prankster, Caramip. Yet that foreign gnome seemed to have a way of calming the children through this trying time. Within four days a piece of normality descended upon the Dorinthians. By the sixth day, Kyle Radnal, with Barok's help, had organized the men from the new group of refugees into work details mostly dealing with clearing new land of trees with donated gnomish and dwarven axes, building new and temporary homes that would take weeks to construct, finding land suitable for farming for the coming season, and hunting and gathering for food in order to offset the depleting supplies. The gnomes and dwarves were still sending some food, but the withdrawal of aid from the elven lands had caused concern. That night, Baron Dorin declared that the next day there would be a social in celebration of the finding of more Dorinthians and the hope that others would be brought home. Although quite pleased with the recovery of more of his fellow people and the return of his son, the strain of authority was beginning to show in the slower walk of the Baron. In Fair Creek, the town practically ran itself and the previously shy lord spent most of his time walking his gardens and drinking socially with the local minor nobility. Although he had done a passing job, he was not meant to lead during the more trying times. That he had continued to do the best for his people, despite the wearing down of his health, had made them love him much more than they respected him. It was Syra and Kyle who they respected and looked to leadership, however; the daughter of the baron was surprisingly coming into her own.

The social commenced the next day. The call for a feast was resisted, due to the concern over supplies. Still, there was enough alcohol to go around. Baron Dorin took the time to mingle with the population, while his son stood slightly behind and to his right while his daughter stood at his left. Alexander and Rix (usually seated because of their wounds), Silas, Dartis, and Danica were the guests of honor although Kel was greatly missed. Barok was allowed to join them at the head table, while Nikolos and Caramip mingled and told the amazed crowd that followed them tales about lands far away. After a week even Ventus was somewhat accepted, but only among the older soldiers who wanted to swap stories of fighting his fellows on the battlefield. Wisely, Ventus made sure of commenting on Dorinthian bravery that he had noticed while fighting their kin and avoided the more inflammatory events. If he was not at first liked, he was at least understood and respected as a fellow warrior.

Somewhere during the night, Dartis, Danica, Silas, Ventus, Barok, Caramip, and Nikolos all found themselves with a drink in hand and in conversation with one another. The party members all wore their equipment to show off as was requested by the baron. He insisted that the people should see their heroes in such gear as to make them more impressive and raise morale. It seemed to have worked, and it felt nice to be able to get away from the questioning crowd and relax with fellow adventurers. As the other six listened to Caramip tell a joke that was falling flat, Danica felt a pull on her sleeve. Rix somehow managed to use his crutches to come alongside of her and say, "I went upstairs inside the administration building to get some privacy when I saw some movement in the forest to the north of the town. Let's flee this place, Danica. Your people might feel as if the worst is over for them, but if you've been paying attention to all the local rumors and politics you would know that everything outside of this sleepy town is chaos. Something has gone very wrong."

Before Danica could reply, the heroes all heard a woman's scream to the north, which caused the crowd in the center of the town to grow quiet and listen with fear. Somewhere from the forest outside the town, a war horn was blown.

Barok, despite the bleak mood he had found himself in recently, began gradually to enjoy town-life again as life began to take on a semblance of normalcy. There were always some women who were impressed by a few scars, and being considered a "hero" didn't hurt. The food was not bad, and the wine was plentiful. Life was good, if you didn't look to closely.

Hearing the scream, Barok was not the first to rise (for that he is a bit too drunk) but instead said drily "If that's a Dryad I'm not lifting a finger."

One of the nearby men, a gray-haired member of Radnal's militia coughed out his ale in surprise upon hearing the horn and said, "By the Rider! I haven't heard an orc warhorn for twenty years." So saying, he and many of the other militia and cavalry members began to rush for the barracks for their arms and armor. It would take them some time to be ready. Alexander pulled himself up by a crutch and somehow managed to push Syra and her father into the administration building. After Danica's refused to leave, Rix disappeared into the darkness of a nearby alley.

Nikolos listened to the horns, and stood, taking his longspear from where it leaned against the wall. "Master Gnader, take the lads and see to the safety of the writings." Master Gnader tipped his head towards his master, Nikolos, in respect, then scurried to obey his wishes. Having sent his scribe scurrying off with the journal, he headed towards the sounds of the horn. As he did, he looked around for Ventus, moving close to the man, his symbol of the Seeker's Eye in hand, the longspear resting on his shoulder. He placed an Extended Shield of Faith on himself, followed by Bull's Strength on Ventus.

Dartis jumped at the sound of the horn. After hearing the proclamation by the veteran, Dartis swore, a habit life had forced upon him of late. Dartis rushed to Swift, who had also been enjoying the festivities, enjoying apples and carrots from the children. Mounting Swift, Dartis rallied his friends and Cal and the rest of the cavalry. "Come we must by enought time for the guards to mount a defense. Let us remind the orcs why they fear Dorinthian horsemen! For the Rider!" cried Dartis charging off to the northern gates.

Barok finished his drink, grabbed a hold of Dartis' stirrup and swung up behind the man. "You don't mind giving a fellow a lift, I hope?"

"Not as long as you're coming to fight" replied Dartis.

Dartis and Barok were the first to leap into action, riding Swift north, towards where they believed to be the direction of the commotion. Nikolos, Danica, and Ventus followed on foot, or at least they did for a short while. The five adventurers ran headlong into a fleeing mob. The people parted for Swift, but the three heroes on foot were swept away by the crowd. On the other side of the social, Silas gathered together his family. Silas' father found forgotten strength and broke off the leg of a chair, holding it like a club. There were a lot of women and children being made to go south, away from the violence, by the men. Silas led a group of mothers and children, while Caramip quickly formed a band of children who couldn't find their parents and did her best to console them while walking by the abjurer's side.

Dartis and Barok broke free from the mob, only to see a small band of orcs 50 feet in front of them. They were carrying axes and wearing hide armor. After their easy sport, they also looked shocked that anyone would come to confront them. There were four orcs, standing in a loose square-pattern.

Nikolos, Danica, and Ventus finally separated themselves from the crowd, but it was due more to the fact that another loud commotion sounded off from the flank of the mob. The trio headed towards the sounds of glass breaking and wood shattering, while the rest of New Dorinth's people ran by. The heroes saw one of the larger manor houses used for multiple families in these trying times. Some of the family members must have thought to barricade their home, because five orcs were struggling to enter the building. A sixth orc lit a torch and ran as if to throw it into the second floor of the house. Above the second floor was a sloping roof, and the three saw a hatch open and several Dorinthians streaming out while screaming for help. The orcs wore hide armor, and were wielding axes, the nearest orc being 50 feet away. The farthest was 80 feet away, while the torch bearer was in the middle, about 60 feet from the group.

Silas and Caramip gathered the children, when three straggling orcs rushed down a northwestern street towards them. They were 70 feet away and closing fast. Each orc wore hide armor and wielded a battle-axe. A little girl that was holding Caramip's hand screamed at the sight.


Thanks for the props from folks like RedTonic. I'm going to have a bit of a challenge sorting through the rest, because this was a three part battle with each team of heroes divided from the others and fighting to hold back the raiding orcs...

Deuce Traveler

Dartis and Barok

"This should be fun." Barok grinned, drawing his weapons.
When Dartis had engaged into the fight, Barok prepared to leap off the horse and get into a flanking position.

Dartis let Barok slide off Swift. "Stay close until they close, Barok. Can't lose you now," said Dartis with a grin as he brought up his bow and rapidly fired a pair of arrows at the front orc. His shooting had become deadlier over practice in battle.

Barok slipped off from Swift and readied himself for oncoming orcs. Dartis broke the silence by letting two arrows fly at the largest and meanest of the group: an orc with an old scar that had blinded the warrior in the left eye. Dartis' first shot buried itself deep into the orc's right arm, but the second shot was a critically great one, going through the humanoid's right eye and taking out parts of brain while it continued its path and exited via the back of the skull. As the large orc's body fell, the remaining orcs stood dumbfounded and shaken. Dartis heard them murmur a word amongst one another: "Dul-keyar". Finally, one gathered his courage and charged, followed by the others, but because of the delay they only made it 30 feet towards the horseman. (now within 20 feet of you) Barok decided to charge the group and attacked the lead orc, but missed with his rapier.

Three more orcs appeared from down a side street, about 60 feet to the duo's right. Two looked like young warriors, but the third was smaller and wore beads while carrying a totem staff.


Barok suddenly noticed the odds arrayed against him and cursed. Breaking off combat he tumbled to avoid the crude orcen weapons and tried to get within the cover of a building. Then he moved stealthily to try to make surprise attacks against alone and isolated orcs, looking leaders and spellcasters. Dartis would do well enough on his own if he used his superior range and mobility, but Barok knew he could never survive alone on the front line against those odds.

Dartis gave a cry of "Dorinthia! The Riders Return!" after the lead orc went down.

Seeing the new orcs, Dartis made a quick change and fired a pair of arrows at the new smaller orc with the totem staff. Dartis had devolped a healthy respect, fear and hatred of those who could cast spells after dealing with Morduk, Nefius, and Astraughley.

Dartis moved Swift forward while firing two arrows at the orc down the road. The first hit the orc adept's leg, although the second barely missed. The creature barked an order to his comrades and they ducked into a close alley and disappeared. Dartis brought the horse forward to flank the orc Barok was escaping from and Swift struck out next, driving a hoof into the orc's back.

The creature turned around and swung at Dartis, but missed both rider and horse badly with his axe. His companions charged, one missing, but the other leaving a bloody trail along the noble's leg with his weapon.

Barok, who was holding his action once more, attacked next, using a flanking attack and catching the wounded orc in the neck, killing him.


Barok moved first to flank an orc focused on Dartis, and hit him from behind with a critically successful slash, separating the creature's meaty head from his body. Dartis put away his bow and switched to a sword and shield as he urged Swift to attack the remaining orc, but the hoof missed. The orc responded with another savage strike at Dartis, but the noble was able to block with his newly-held shield.

A few feet behind Barok, in an alley, was heard someone casting a spell.

..................<===(alley entrance)

Barok turned towards the sound and smiling hid himself in the shadows of the corner outside the alleymouth before rounding the corner, crouching low with his weapons at the ready.

As Barok waited, Dartis brought his blade downwards, wounding but not killing the orc in front of him. Swift also reared up, but missed. The orc got under Dartis' defenses but the noble was able to deflect the axe strike away in the last moment with the bottom of his shield.

Down the street, three orcs came forth from out of an alley. The magic-user among them cast a spell on the axe-wielding orcs as the charged forth. None of them noticed the hidden Barok off to the side.

..................<===(alley entrance)


Ventus, Nikolos and Danica

Ventus pushed through the crowd, casting around for a glimpse of their missing companions. However, the sight of the orcs attacking the manor refocused him. He quickly took in the civilians, orcs and torch, doing quick tactical calculations in his head. He'd never make it in time. Even as his mind reached this conclusion he was drawing his blade and moving forward. He pointed the sword at the torch bearing orc, calling out to Danica and Nikolos, "Stop him!"

He rushed forward as fast as his legs would take him, his shield raised in front of him and his sword held high in defiance. He shouted a wordless battlecry as he attempted to draw the orcs' attentions.

Nikolos considered the situation, then decided that a single thrown torch was the least of their worries, at this point. There wwre ample people in that house to deal with such a matter, so long as the heroes could deal with the orcs at hand.

He said nothing though, instead simply advancing in Ventus' wake, and calling on the Seeker's power and casting Bull's Strength at his ally.

On Ventus' command, Danica found herself the first to act. She raised her crossbow and fired, an incredible shot that greatly injured the torch-bearing orc with a bolt deep into the back. It dropped the torch and screamed in pain while trying to drag itself back into a side street. The other orcs moved next, advancing, but not reaching the trio. They all roared and brought themselves into a barbaric bloodlust.

Nikolos had cast shield of faith before, and now that the orcs were visible, he reached over and touched Ventus, who felt much stronger. Bull's strength was placed on Ventus.

Ventus moved forward and struck, the wound that he ended up dealing the orc would have been enough to normally injure the humanoid, but the extra strength given from Nikolos' spell drove his blade an inch deeper, slaying the creature outright as his short sword touched its heart.


Nikolos frowned slightly, wishing he was back with his journals. This was no place for a simple scholar to find himself. Again calling upon the aid of the Seeker, he cast Protection from Evil on Ventus, careful to keep an eye for any threatening orcs. Then he readied his longspear, intending to stab past the soldier when the opportunity arose.

Ventus allowed his eyes to drift from his foe for a second as the orc slumped before him. He nodded his head tersely over his shoulder. "Good work, Danica."

He considered the orcs now arrayed against him with a dispassionate eye, standing firm with his shield raised. Outnumbered for now, he took a cautious stance and engaged the nearest orc.

Danica fired at the nearest orc, hitting once with a hard shot once more, but not felling the creature. The orcs then moved to take on Ventus, with two hitting and both bloodying the man's shoulders. The soldier countered with an enhanced strike of his own, finishing the barbarian that Danica injured. Nikolos cast his spell, and Ventus feels as if he was protected against the remaining opponents.


Ventus winced as he felt the orcish weapons bite into his flesh, but smiled with satisfaction as another orc fell. As he was slowly surrounded by the orcs, he focused more of his efforts on staying alive. He kept his shield between himself and his foes and chose his moment to strike.

Nikolos muttered something in Craecean, seeing the injuries to Ventus, before calling upon the Seeker again, feeling the prayer for Endure Elements fading, replaced by a small portion of the deity's power, casting a Cure Light Wounds on the soldier.

Another bolt was fired by Danica at the far orc, who she had a clear shot at, but it went wide. The orcs close in on Ventus, the three of them surrounding him to get a better chance at striking at him. Amazingly, they all missed, though the Imperial felt as if a holy presence turned two of the evil creatures' blades at the last minute. His return strike barely hit, and although it wounded the enraged orc badly, it did not drop him. Ventus felt Nikolos touch his shoulder after a brief prayer and sensed his wounds mending themselves somewhat .

The orc that Danica injured before disappeared into a side street.

Ventus was grateful for the aid of Nikolos, but could not spare the time to thank the man as he found himself pressed by three orcs. His mind noted the path of the wounded orc, and he scowled as he was unable to pursue it. He could only hope that it meant to flee and not attempt to do more harm.

He continued his assault against the orcs, still wary of his enemies. He fought on with silent intensity, watching his opponents' eyes, trying to predict their attacts.

Danica fired another bolt, but missed. The young girl cursed out loud, a bad habit from the time she spent with soldiers. Although Ventus was surrounded, he was able to avoid each strike except for one slice along his thigh. His return strike dropped the injured orc, however, leaving only two. Nikolos cast another spell, and the Imperial felt his protection increased.


Nikolos, for his part, stabbed forward past the soldier, using the length of the spear to keep the orc on Ventus' left off-balance. "Well, Master Ventus, it cannot be said that you and your friends lead retired lives of philosophical debate."


Silas and Caramip

Silas quickly thrusted his son into the arms of his wife and turned to his father. "Keep them safe, Father, and don't fight unless you must. Keep the children together. I'll deal with this." He turned to look at Carmip. "Join me in an orcish waltz?" He grinned with false bravado, winked at his wife (who likely saw through his charade), and turned to meet the onrushing orcs.

In a loud voice he called, "Kerastes! Defend the children, destroy orcs!" and threw the ornate python rod onto the ground summoning forth its magics.

Shhh… its O.K. my dear. They are not going to hurt you.” Caramip said soothingly to the child as she let Silas’ wife take the child away from danger. “Me dance?” She answered Sila in a tone mirroring his, “Why I did even bring the proper attire.

Turning to face the oncoming horde she offered the orcs a grin of absolute excitement. With pure glee in her voice she said, “No, no, no. You have this all wrong. If we are going to play Red-Rover-Red-Rover, first you have to freeze before you can come over." as she cast hold person.

Caramip's magic spell halted the lead orc in place. The other two ran by him and were continuing towards the group in a barbaric rage when Silas' staff transformed and headed straight for them. The snake practically leapt from the ground, wrapping itself in a critically successful embrace of the lead orc, which screamed in surprise. The orc's ally yelled and attacked the snake, greatly harming but not killing it.
In the distance, the duo could see three more orcs appear. Two carried totem staffs, while another was a warrior type with a battle-axe.

Silas' snake squeezed the orc in its coils, causing it to scream loudly. Caramip cast another spell at the orc, and suddenly it looked at the bard as if she was his best friend. However, when the bard tried to get him to kill his ally, the orc broke out of the enchantment, picked up his axe once more, and charged the gnome. He didn't get far. Silas' ray stopped him, and the children screamed as the scorched orc took two more steps before falling into a charred heap.

Another orc ran forward and chopped at the snake constricting his friend, injuring it further.


See that is what happens when you don’t follow the rules. No one likes a cheater,” Caramip scolded the smoldering Orc. “I believe that calls for a five minute silence penalty to the contesting team.

Sshhh. There is no need to scream little one.” She said soothingly to the little girl as she cast Silence (20’ radius) on the left orc shaman.

Silas inwardly cursed as the orcs hacked at the python. How much damage can that thing take? he wondered. And he worried about the three orcs advancing towards them. Nevertheless, he cast Extended Mage Armor, dashed forward unslinging his crossbow as he went, and dropped a bolt onto the guides, cranking back the string. "Catch me if you can!" he called out to the orcs.

Kerastes squeezed once more, killing the orc in its coils. Caramip finished casting her spell at the shamans. Both the shamans looked confused, as if something had just gone wrong for them. The other orc still moved forward to strike, one injuring the constrictor snake, while the second one hits with such savagery that the snake's head was caved in. In that next second, the snake transformed back into Silas' rod.

The orc's look of satisfaction soon turned into worry as he looked down the top of Silas' drawn crossbow...


Silas cursed yet again. "If you can't play with my toys without breaking them, then you should just go home!" Mother, aid me in the defense of these children, he inwardly prayed. Aiming the crossbow at the orc he squeezed the trigger...

Glasseye's comment :( They broke my pet snake!

Aim for that Shaman.” Shouted Catamip to the young mage. “The spell will not last for long. Plus I have something in store for this one.” She finished as she eyed the frightened Orc greedily.

Completely out of the blue and with an evil grin the Gnome began one of her tell-tale signs of a really bad joke“You know, this one time at band camp… ” She let loose with Tasaha's Hideous Laughter.

Silas, knowing that the odds against them would be overwhelming without the python, Kerastes, turned his attention to the orc following close behind the lead two orcs. "Ah, Caramip, you should have told me that we were playing children's games. Here I am, a tad overdressed. Ah, well. Did I tell you that one of my favorite games is Tag!?" With that he fired at the orc. "You're 'It', my orc friend," he murmured.

Caramip's spell was cast without interruption, as Silas raised his crossbow and fires. The orc was injured, but not dropped. It rushed the abjurer and attacked, slashing into Silas' robes. The second orc, an adept, moved to strike the abjurer with his totem staff, but missed badly. The second adept stepped forward, but was unable to get into striking distance.

As the round ends, the last orc was no longer held, but instead fell onto the ground laughing uncontrollably.



Writer's note: I'll be on the road for the next few days as I return to the States from Qatar. But I will try to update soon after.

Deuce Traveler

Barok and Dartis

Barok stepped behind the magic-wielding orc...

Dartis and Swift struck at the orc next to them to bring him down, then turned to face the next wave. The nobleman watched as the orc adept came forth from the alley and began to weave a spell. But the orc was quickly silenced by Barok, whose rapier buried itself a few inches into the spellcaster's kidney while the knife slit cleanly across its throat with enough force to almost sever it. The head rolled backwards and with a tear, separated from the body with a gushing of blood that spattered the rogue's clothes.

Dartis also attacked, but missed with his blade, although Swift killed the injured orc with a hoof to the head. The next wave of orcs attacked, but the first couldn't break through Dartis' defenses. The second one got luckier, however with a small cut to the nobleman's sword arm.

..................<===(alley entrance)

Barok stepped forwards, the limp corpse of the spellcaster sliding off his weapons just before they were thrust once more at the back of another orc. "Kudos to you nobles," he said to Dartis. "You sure know how to throw a party."

"Hey, I thought they were your friends." retorted Dartis as he and Swift struck at the orcs in front of them.

Dartis' blade sung through the air once more, slashing a gash in the orc directly in front of him, while Swift's hooves finished it off. Barok took advantage of the situation and flanked the last orc, but missed. The creature attempted to attack Dartis once more, but also missed. Not retreating was the last mistake the orc ever made, as the noble and scout quickly dispatched it the next round.

As Dartis was cleaning his blade, a large number of quickly armed militia under Radnal's direction made it into his intersection with wagons, carts, and barrels that they began to quickly tip over and stack into barricades. "Hurry up!" The man yelled to his men, his face calm but determined. "They'll be coming back and more organized."

Barok and Dartis looked around and noticed that they weren't so far away from the town square, after all. That fleeing mob must have slowed them down, and the duo turned away the chaotically charging orc elements and gave them something to think about. Radnal and the militia and guards that were following his direction had made two circular defenses. One outer one that Dartis and Barok were at, and an inner fall back position around the town square.

Suddenly, Cal Dorin rode up to Radnal's' position with a squad of cavalry. "Damn it, Radnal, open a path!"

Kyle Radnal looked stunned at this request, "Are you mad? This isn't open field combat! Those orcs will cut you and your men down in those streets."

Impatient and angry, Cal looked down upon the man, his sword on his pommel. "I know who your family was, Kyle. Your father was a traitor. Would you add to your tainted family crest?" His men began to dismount to clear a path for their horses.

Radnal reached for his own sword, when all parties were stopped by the sound of blaring war horns. The orcs were returning.

Barok moved to support Cal Dorin, facing Kyle Radnal and Dartis. "We can't just stand here waiting for them. This will be a massacre if we do, and it will be our people who'll get slaughtered. We have to get out there and kill their leader. If we do they'll have no choice but to run, because any subchief who gets his warriors slaughtered will have no chance to gain the leadership of the tribe, no matter how bravely the ugly bastards fight."

As the horns had sounded, and Barok had his say, Dartis looked down from Swift at both Kyle and Cal. "If any man here draws a sword on his fellow Dorinthian, they will answer to me and the gibbet. There is no time for discussions of history or family, if we do not act as one people, our people will not exist to remember whose family was noble and whose ignoble.

Now Radnal and Dorin you will both put your weapons down. I am the Captain of the Dorinthian forces, so you will both put aside your egos and pride and listen to orders.

Now there are some merits to both a stand and a charge. Barok's suggestion may work, but if we cannot find the chief, they may over run our defenses while some of our forces are off searching willy-nilly.

Additionally I do share Kyle's concern that in the streets our cavalry may be too easily picked off by snipers and shamans. Cal, I cannot bear the though of losing more of our cavalry. We shal lneed them to drive the orcs back out.

So here is what we shall do. We will man the barricades until we can determine where the greatest surge of orcs is coming from. Then we will send the calavry out after them to meet their charge where it will do the most good. In this way we can maintain the defens eof the square, which is vital, but can be best assured of finding the leader of the orcs and driving the remainder away.

Now, gentlemen am I understood?"

Afterwards Dartis addressed Barok "Handy work back there. My thanks again. Now, you are less a soldier than a scout, if you feel you can best be used here, then man the barricades. However, perhaps you would be more at home of the roof tops, scouting locations of orc movements and I have every confidence in your ability to quietly take out their scouts. It is your chioice though."

"You're the Captain of the army? What army? And by the Rider, sir, who made you king?" Cal sputtered, his attention drawn to a new target.

"What a predicament. I suppose I'll now have to keep two nobles from telling my boys what to do." Radnal's comment broke the ice between the two men, and the other Dorinthians visibly relaxed. That's when they heard the commotion by a nearby upturned cart and other tall debris set against one another. A way was opened up, and Ventus, Nikolos, and Danica came through with a couple dozen refugees…


Ventus, Danica and Nikolos

Down to two orcs now, Ventus spared himself a moment to point to the corner around which the first orc dissapeared. "Danica! Catch that orc, we'll handle these two!" Then he resumed his attack against the orcs, stabbing sharply at his foe.

Nikolos looked a bit rueful as Ventus was wounded again, and again called upon the power of the Seeker...feeling the prayer of blessing fade, replaced by a small portion of the Seeker's healing power. Then he chuckled, as he took the heavy mace from his belt. "And now, Master Ventus, try not to laugh at my ineptness. Weapons drill was never my finest hour at the Great Library." Moving to stand beside the soldier, he hefted the mace, and prepared to face the orc opposite him.

"Ok," Danica yelled and began to run past the combatants, crossbow at the ready. She took a shot at an orc as she went by, but missed.

The two orcs attacked once more, but one missed Ventus while the other hits with a nasty cut to his side. Ventus made up for it with a hit that dropped the orc that had injured him. Nikolos cast another spell of healing before moving up and preparing to engage in melee.

The last visible orc was beginning to have second thoughts about his situation...


"These creatures do seem rather persistent." Nikolos' voice was quite cheerful, as he maneuvered to attack the orc. He took a step forward, in hopes that Ventus would do the same on the other side of the orc and catch the raider between them. Then he swung his mace.

The last orc attempted to run, but Ventus cut him down. Danica came back from the side street, with her crossbow empty and a look of grim satisfaction.

With great relief, the families on the roof climbed back down from the open upper windows of the manor. Suddenly, one of the last little children gasped and yells, "Oh no, my dolly!"

Her mother yelled, "Karen, stop!"

Before anyone could stop her, the little girl ran up the inside stairs. Danica sighed and rolled her eyes impatiently before chasing the girl. There would be no escorting the families with one of the children missing.

Ventus and Nikolos followed Danica in her chase. They noticed that there were sleeping bags throughout most of the house, the result of too many Dorinthians and not enough room to house them all. Pushing such thoughts out, they focused on finding the youth.

The girl grabbed a doll in one of the rooms on the upper floors near the windows. As the group reached her to bring her outside, they realized that the house allowed an excellent vantage point of the surrounding area. To the southern edge of town, they saw several lights and what looked to be Dorinthian civilians and militia crouched near each other for protection by a small creek and some houses. In the center of the town it looked like barricades were being set up by more militia, guards, and cavalry.

To the north, and on a hill they saw a series of torch lights and what looked to be two large groups of men moving out from underneath the illumination. One group headed for the center of town, while another looked as if it was flanking around.

From those torches, they heard once more the sound of war horns.

Nikolos watched, his scholar's instinct being to simply observe what happened, and record it. He wondered where Caramip was, and if she was alright, then decided that the gnome was quite capable of seeing to her own safety.

Ventus shook his head.

"The attack was too sudden, there will be no scouts to warn of enemy movements. If I had an army at my back, we could try to outflank them. But the three of us are just not enough. We must make our way to the barricade and warn the others, try and take up a position to defend all sides. We must hurry."

He scooped up the girl in his arms and hurried down to return to her family. Ushering the group to as much shelter as there was as he hurried himself towards the barricade.
The first group of humanoids that were headed for the barricades was much larger than the flanking group, which was visibly heading towards the southern mass of Dorinthian civilians and ragtag militia. Nikolos swore he saw a tall, robed human with a staff followed by a shorter figure. He took these to be Silas and Caramip.

"This doesn't look good. Even if the barricades in the middle of town hold the first force, the second one will be able to either strike them in the rear, or hit the people at the creek. And if they deal with the men at the barricades first, then both groups can attack the creek. Do you think the Dorinthian leaders know what's going on?"
Nikolos paused in the midst of taking a book from his pack...and shook his head, following after Ventus. "Right then, off to another bloodletting we go." The book got put back in the pack, and he helped shivvy the family to such shelter as was available before following Ventus.

The trio quickly move down towards the central barricades, with the sounds of gathering orcs filling the various streets to the north. It seemed as if they were readying for a massed strike and their targets were the soldiers, knights, and militia in the center of the town. There was no longer any sign of the smaller flanking force, but they seemed to have been moving towards the packed and separated refugees to the south.

The three adventurers led the way to the main Dorinthian defenses and were let through the barricades by some of Radnal's town guard, and soon they saw Dartis, Barok, Cal, and Kyle Radnal leading the defenses. From the looks on their faces, the trio of heroes seemed to have interrupted some kind of argument, most likely about their defenses.


Silas and Caramip

Silas, quickly assessing the situation and not liking the result, took a step back. Quickly he chanted the words of power to cast Burning Hands and spread his hands before him, trying to position the spell so that he caught all three of the orcs in front of him.

Silas unloaded with a fan of flame that issued forth from his hand, killing the two adepts outright, while Caramip moved forward and finished off the third orc. The amazed silence of the crowd behind them was only interrupted by the bizarre laughter of the orc ahead of them.


Caramip was a bit taken back by Silas’ display of power and gave him a pleasing surprised look. “Well… That was easy.” She said as she drew her short sword and quickly made her way towards the remaining orc. “We must hurry if we are taking prisoners.” Raising the flat of her blade she struck at the last orc on the back of the skull. “Quickly, we will need some rope.

Silas quickly took a few steps forward and snatched up the python rod. Seeing Caramip move forward to deal with the incapacitated orc, he returned to his family and the group of children. "Go to that building over there and see if you can get inside. It should be safer off the streets." He looked over to where Caramip whacked at the held orc. "We'll deal with this orc and see if there are any others. I won't be gone long." He gave his father a brief nod of respect, quickly kissed his wife, and then rushed over to help Caramip.

As he crossed the distance between Caramip and the group of children and his family, Silas examined the python rod. It looks ok... Once he was at Caramip's side he said, "I'm not carrying any rope. Didn't think I would need it at a celebration." He grinned. "Didn't think I'd need my crossbow either but my father insisted I be decked out in full 'defender' regalia." He scowled at the orc. "What do we do with him?"

As the two heroes were contemplating their next action in regards to the newly unconscious orc, they once more heard war horns in the distance. A wail grew from the crowd behind the duo, and the large number of militia men among the people gripped their weapons tightly. There wasn't anywhere else for a large crowd to go, since a deep and wide creek blocked movement to the south. It might have been possible to march back into the center of the town, but stragglers might easily become separated and Caramip and Silas were beginning to hear the gutteral language of enraged orcs coming near. At best guess, the heroes had over one hundred armed men to defend nearly two thousand civilians huddled in a few hastily built refugee shacks and in an open field filled with tents. Luckily, the creek gave some defense to the flanks and rear, but it would also bottle them up for the slaughter.

To flee with the crowd would mean that some would be caught and killed. Many would be slaughtered. But how could these militia spearmen give an adequate defense? Most of them weren't true soldiers. They were a pack of leaderless boys and old men.

"We must run. We can flee into the woods!"

"Have the children hide in the bushes. Maybe they won't be found."

"It's going to be every man for himself, I say."

"By the Rider, what are we to do?"

Panic seemed to have gripped the crowd around Silas and Caramip.

Silas looked around and saw the crowd quickly descending into chaos. With little choice left to him, he jumped up on a log and waved his arms. "Peoples of Dorinthia, hear me! We have withstood the trials of war. And we will do the same today! Stand firm! Your neighbor is there beside you, together we will prevail!" Then he began giving out orders for everyone to move to the edge of the camp and for a barricade to be hastily constructed using whatever happened to be on hand and using the creek as one side of their defenses. Luckily Silas was a master of architecture and engineering. He supervised the work, striding amongst the people, encouraging them and positioning the militia about the edge of their camp.

Caramip sighed. “The People don’t like to see their Leaders hurt.” Said the small gnome as she handed the mage a small curative from her bag. “Take it.” She insisted.

The horns continued to blast and she could obviously tell that the villagers only chance of survival was about to end. Adjusting her gear, she quickly grabbed her favorite and only drum and set it in front of her. Speaking softly with her eyes drifting on the shaken men, she leaned towards Silas and muttered, “Silas, you remember the tale of when 300 Dorthians stood against an army of thousands?

Without waiting for a response she turned back to her drum. Letting her mind drift, she quickly recalled an old song taught to her by a retired Dorthian Knight. Using the mystical energies taught to her by her family before her, she began to pound on her drum in a rhythmic Dorthian War Chant. The bard's only hope was that it was enough to help turn the tide... if only for a little bit.

Perhaps it was that Silas was a known hero and veteran, or perhaps it was because he was the only Dorinthian to show calmness in the face of danger at this critical moment. The spirited talents of Caramip were definitely a factor. Whatever the reasons, the Dorinthians circled around him and listened to his orders, courage igniting in their eyes as Silas' speech was rythmically added to by Caramip's drums.

Buildings were stripped of their furniture, tents were torn and piled on top of one another, and soon the 300 foot wide inlet was defended by one hundred newly determined militia men and a roughly constructed barricade. Behind this stood two thousand civilians awaiting their fate with stoic resolve.

As Silas surveyed his thin line, Caramip continued to play and did a quick dash around the inventory that the civilians threw into piles. The militia men were wearing leather armor, but the gnome also counted about 60 spears, 20 halbers, 110 bows, countless arrows, 20 longswords, 50 short swords, and a couple hundred knives.

The two new commanders of the Dorinthian militia had just enough time to have their men outfit themselves with what they thought was best before the howling horde of orcs appeared from a narrow street. There were hundreds of them, but they came with thoughts of an easy kill as they used no kind of formation the two could discern.

Dartis, Barok, Ventus, Danica, and Nikolos

Ventus and Nikolos reached their comrades while Danica got the families to the safety of the interior defensive ring. They reported on seeing what appeared to be the enemy camp on a tall hill to the north of town. A large force of humanoids, perhaps numbering as many as a couple thousand appeared to be driving directly towards the barricades. Cal's face was expressionless while he listened, but from his passivity it was clear he was glad he did not ride forth.

The men also said that a smaller flanking group seemed to be headed towards the majority of the Dorinthian civilians and some pockets of ragtag militia. The civilians had attempted to flee the incoming invaders, but found themselves at the bank of a deep creek. The creek formed a 'U' and unless the crowd dispersed in all directions, they would be trapped.

"We need to send our reinforcements to help," Radnal declared, his face breaking into worry.

Cal shook his head. "It might be too late. I have a total of fifty horsed archers, and you have about five hundred guardsmen and militia. We'll need every bit of those and our defensive positions against two thousand orcs. And if we get overrun there's no one to save those people anyway."

"We can't just leave them defenseless. I have forty men in reserve. Add ten of your archers and we can stiffen their ability to fight."

"They aren't defenseless," Danica said as she returned to the group and checked her crossbow for the coming battle. "Nikolos saw Silas and Caramip there."

"This is a hard decision, so I think we can leave it to our self-declared captain," Cal said, though there was little mockery in his tone or his nod to Radnal as the orc war horns became louder and closer to their positions. "Silas may have an elven name, but he is a battle-seasoned Dorinthian veteran, although I know little of him. Can he hold or should I send vital reinforcements we may need to plug breaks in our line? What kind of man is this Silas?"

Deuce Traveler

Ventus, Barok, Danica, Nikolos, and Dartis

Nikolos spoke quietly, as if musing to himself. "Were I the orcs, just now, I'd use some of my numbers to simply surround this force, which I outnumber four to one, barricaded or not, and then throw five hundred or so at the creek, slaughtering everybody there. Then I could deal with the more dangerous force at my leisure. Which would make the flanking movement more of an attempt to keep the refugees pinned in place.." He cleared his throat, and took a drink from his wineskin. "But then, I know nothing of military matters."

Barok considered his options. Going out on his own against a force like this, without even the most basic potions, to harass them on the flanks and pick off their scouts (as if they'd even need scouts at this stage) would be suicide. So would staying and fighting on the barricades. No, his best option would be to get the hell out of here, and he'd probably have a decent chance of making it... But then what? Not much point in living to fight another day when there's nothing left to fight for. "No, I'll stay right here. Fighting to the last like the rest of you bloody heroes."

"We don't even have the time to set a proper trap for them. If we had the houses along the front rigged with oil we could roast the first wave of attackers and let the rest of them choke on the smoke, giving us cover from their arrows. As it is I can perhaps arrange for a few diversions, or close a part of the front to allow us to concentrate our defenses.

If we set enough fires on this side of the town it might buy us enough time to retreat from this position and take out the flanking force before the main army can take us in the back, that is if the Lords are willing to burn the town to save the people."

Ventus stood by, uncomfortable as he watched the debate between Cal and Randal. His hand rested uneasily on his sword as he looked in the direction of the flanking force. His first instinct was to await orders. His time as a soldier taught him to follow instructions from those in a position to better judge the larger picture. But it was clear here that nobody knew the ultimate goals, tactics or disposition of the orcs.

He turned to face Dartis. "In times when there is no correct choice, the only mistake is to not choose."

Dartis listened to the cousel of Kyle and Cal and was silent a moment as the horns echoed in the square.

"And to choose how to die. What kind of a man is Silas? He is a damnfool of a scholar that wades into combat more often than is good for him, when he should have his nose in a book. And he is as dear to me as a brother and I would not see him dead by a barbaric orc if I can help it. But neither shall I sacrifice those that are here.

The square is our best hope of defense and where the main attack lies. This shall be our stronghold. Kyle, keep your reserves here there are needed here. Cal, keep ten archers here, take thirty to the flank facing the refugees and harass that flank of the main column. Once they close with the barricades I want you back here to keep the square from being overrun.

Kyle, this is Ventus. I trust him completely and this is his kind of fight. Put some men under him and let him run the front lines while you manage the remaining lines.

Danica, keep that deadly aim of yours employed here and well as other gifts of yours. Nikolos, I know your healing will be much appreciated here, and I am thankful to have you and your skills among us.

Cal, I will take ten of your fastest archers to try to intercept the flanking orcs. If I can I mean to buy the refugees some time to get here, otherwise I will stay there to defended the rest of our people.

Barok, I could sure use an experianced hand to help me guide those refugees back here, and there's room on Swift."

Barok nodded in agreement and joined Dartis. "As you say sir."

"Well, it's a plan at least," Radnal said in approval and began to direct his men to follow Dartis' idea. He left Ventus in the center of where the incoming orcs could be now seen coming while giving last minute orders to the rest of the men on the flanks.

The men began to grumble, however, as Ventus took command of the front line. He was an Imperial after all. Cal observed with a calculated gaze for a moment before he said aloud, "So, you haven't run away and have decided to stand and die with us after all, Imperial. I'd venture that your more than earning your place with us." He then rode away to pick ten horsemen to accompany Dartis, but left a much relaxed unit ready now to take Ventus' commands. Cal delivered the ten riders consisting of five paladins, three fighters, and two rangers; all experts with bows.

Nikolos and Danica took their place next to Cal, who was busy making Kyle Radnal's one hundred archers into two small companies of bowmen. He then drew his sword and stood up on the stirrups of his horse. "Cavalry! .... Dis-mount!" The remaining riding paladins, rangers, and fighters... all minor nobles and former estate owners, dismounted from their horses and sent them into the center of the town square with young squires. "Cavalry! ... Ready ... bows! Cavalry! ... hold fire...!"

Kyle Radnal was equally loud, as he moved back and forth amoung his flanks. He had roughly 150 men on each flank, while Ventus had another 150 in the center. Forty more foot soldiers stood at the ready to the southern part of the outer circular defense and could also act as reserves since that sector so far had seen no sign of the enemy. The militia was mixed with the town guard and wore leather armor compared to the guard's chain shirts. All carried either spears or halberds and short swords. "Protect the archers! Hold them back and let the bowmen do their work!"

As the orcs began to climb the northern barricades to get at the Dorinthian positions, ten horsemen led by Dartis and Barok burst forth from the southern defenses in an attempt to stop an army of orcs from slaying thousands of their kin. From where they came forth they could already see that Silas' defenses were beset by a couple of hundred orcs. Three hundred more orcs were trickling towards their position and forming a long column via one of the main streets. None of the orcs noticed Dartis' band so far.

Nikolos, Ventus, and Danica had their own problems to worry about, however. The mass of orcs were coming right down the center and Ventus' line was beginning to bow backwards from the weight of the assault.

"Cavalry, aim at the orcs in the center! Archers, aim over the barricades! Fire!" The foot archers shot over the barricades with the hope of decimating the orcs' ranks behind the first. The elite and horseless cavalry had an aim that was unerring, helping to slow the assault.

"Push them back! For the Rider! For your families! For New Dorinthia!"

Ventus stood firmly, shoulder to shoulder with the Dorinthians as the orcs pressed their attack. He tried to assemble the men into some semblance of a shield wall, wishing that he had a good old Imperial Legion at his back like he used to. He shook off his idle wishes as unimportant. He was no longer a legionaire; all he had was himself and the men beside him to hold off this attack. He braced for the first impact of the orcs.


And then the orcs were upon them. His sword darted out from behind his shield as he struck wherever he found the opportunity. He did his best to aid those beside him, pushing himself harder than he dared ask of the townsfolk. When the line began to falter under the orc attack he called for one of the reserves to take his place in line.

"Cal was wrong. I have no intention of dying today!"
Gathering around half of the remaining reserve force he moved to reinforce the line where it had been pushed back, hoping the renewed assault of the fresh troops and his own aid would be enough to get the line back into shape.


Silas and Caramip

The wind blew from southwest to northeast.

The duo had 100 militia men and 2000 old men (ages 50+), women (all ages), and children (ages 0-15) civilians. They had have the following weapons:
60 spears, 20 halbers, 110 bows, countless arrows, 20 longswords, 50 short swords, and a couple hundred knives.

The milita men had leather armor while the civilians had nothing. The militia men were ready to grab spears and halberds like the heroes requested. That left 20 more free, and they could either take the longswords, become archers, or use the short swords or knives for fighting a little closer and more personal.

Silas gave Caramip a grateful smile before turning back to the task at hand. I wish Lord Kalnian were here; he's much better at this sort of thing... As the state of their arms became more clear Silas realized that he was woefully lacking able-bodied men. Picking out a militiaman that he recognized, he began barking orders, "Janse, get those militia men swords and position them just behind the barricade. Give the others halberds. Armored militia in front. You there!" He pointed at a group of older men. "Grab a spear. Spread out and line up behind. You!" He pointed at another group of older men. "Grab bows and ready yourself to fire. Arrows over our forces to rain down on orcs. Hurry, get ready..." At that moment he saw the howling orcs descending upon them like a cloud of locusts. I need more time! Shoving doubt and fear down he tried to present a collected face to his fellow Dorinthians. "Bowmen! Fire!"

Silas then grabbed a nearby woman. "Get women to help you but get those children into the creek and out of sight. Make your way to the town square. Grab a knife; you may need to defend yourself."

Lacking more time, he cast Shield upon himself, inwardly seething that the magics remaining to him were of little use in battle. "Stand firm!" he yelled. Hefting his staff he rushed forward to support their meager line of swordsmen and to meet the oncoming orcs. He did what he could to yell more orders to those that could act: Armored militia with swords and halberds in the front, old guys/women with spears and halberds interspersed but a step behind, and old guys/women with bows just behind them.

Caramip did what she could where she could and prayed that everything else would take care of itself. In her mind, she had a hard time ignoring the connection of what had happened to her so long ago and how this battle was turning out. She prayed that she had the courage to prevent history from repeating itself. Despite how she felt, she did her best to keep her emotions buried and away from the surface, especially around the children.

As the horde came into view she hastily made her way towards Silas and took her place on their make shift barricade. Fires had spread across some parts of the town, and she could make out the blood thirsty eyes of the horde. Wish you where here Nik… She thought to herself as her eyes drifted to the novice militia For your healing will be in much need.

Her drums increased in rhythm and sound. Ahead of them were hundreds of crimson drinking killers. Behind them, lying in wait with fear and prayer, were a thousand more innocent women and children. In between, rested a small militia with nothing but hope, determination and iron. “This is what legends are made of.” She stated with a small look towards Silas.

Silas blinked, wide-eyed with surprise at Caramip's last comment. Finding his tongue he quietly said, "I would much rather have a quiet life." He glanced back to where he last saw his wife then clenched his jaw and turned back towards the upcoming battle.

The orcs came over the barricades, and the newly-made archers took the opportunity to fire at will, injuring or killing a couple dozen of the initial attackers. The next volley went over the barricades to impact against unseen orcs. Men with halberds and spears took care of many of the others. The orcs that fell and were not outright killed were slaughtered by old men with spears.

The abjurer and the gnome did their part while motivating the troops, with staff crushing skulls and short sword stabbing downwards. In the midst of this violent encounter, a young woman ran up to the two heroes.

"Orcs! Orcs are trying to swim at us from the creek!" All Silas' defenses were concentrated on barely holding the line, and he had nothing but huddled civilians by the creek.

To save a few, I've lost them all. Silas pushed despair away and grabbed an archer, shoving him towards the creek. "Archers! To the creek! Pick them off as they swim across." He looked around for Caramip. Spotting the small woman amidst a swirl of chaos he made his way to her.

With a smile, she greeted the Magi as he made his way towards her through chaos of battle. “Having fun yet?” She prodded as he approaches within shouting distance.

"Caramip, I need you to give the men at the creek guidance. Orcs are coming across." He flashed her a grin. "And once you've taken care of that find a way for the citizens to retreat towards the town square. We'll hold here to buy you time."

She looked back towards the river as she listened intently to recent developments. “I’ll need your rod of Darkness.” She stated reaching. Taking the rod, she shoved it into her vest pocket and the offered a simple nod to the Magi before running off towards the river.

Once reaching the river Caramip tactfully surveyed the situation and took command over the archers. With the wand in hand she quickly began to cover her side of the river bank in darkness. At the same time she ordered the archers to open fire on the on coming Orcs. Her only hope was that the cover of darkness would be able to give the edge they so desperately needed.

Knowing that he had given the woman an impossible task to match his own, Silas began to turn away when an orc lauched himself from the top of their hastily-constructed defensive wall and crashed into Silas. The two tumbled to the ground and the sudden impact slammed Silas' jaw closed on his tongue. Salty blood filled his mouth. An aged spearman thrust his spear into the orc's throat. Blood spattered across Silas' face. Silas struggled to his feet wiping sweat from his forehead and smearing blood across his face in broad swaths. Amidst a dozen other cuts and bruises his throbbing tongue struck him as the most ludicrous. Hefting his staff in both hands he turned back to meet the next oncoming orc and began to laugh...


Nikolos, Danica, and Ventus

The Imperial way of fighting involved getting in close with a wall of shields, and then using the short sword for quick and controlled thrusts into the body. The Dorinthians played by different rules, preferring to use their spears to hold an enemy at bay while the archers do their work.

Ventus adjusted to the new tactics, and signaled a small reserve of men from the southern end of the exterior defenses to rush forward and meet the orcs where they were beginning to break through. His family sword was buried deep into the ribcage of an orc that he pushed against a barricade with his shield. With bloody blade held high, Ventus rallied spare soldiers into pushing the orcs back over the barricades.

All the while, Danica, Cal, and a hundred archers plied their own deadly trade. Every time the groups of archers let loose another volley over the barricades the sound of injured orcs rang out. The attack began to peter out, and the orcs could be heard regrouping on the other side of the barricades.

Nikolos followed Ventus close, keeping the Tallione man from harm more than once, and helping to pull the injured out of the way so that they might recover and fight in this battle once more. He saw one particularly older and larger orc on top of the barricades and cast a detect thoughts spell. The priest found fear and some confusion in the creature's thoughts and the Nikolos reported to Ventus what he detected. The battle was not going as easily as the orcs had thought. Also, it seemed as if they were expecting elves and half-elves, and not battle-hardened humans this far north. The orc was looking for a place to breech the human defenses and was focusing hard at their sparsely defended southern flank. The orc considered reporting the weakness to the chieftain.


Dartis and Barok

The heroes' hearts grew cold in fear and worry as Silas' defenders ceased firing arrows over the barricades at the incoming orcs. Had the archers run out of ammo or were they somehow wiped out? It looked as if Dorinthian spear and halberd tips still peeked out in defense of the barricades, though. The halt in firing gave the orcs a better opportunity to form up for an attack, and they pushed harder.

Though still at the maximum arrow range, Dartis ordered a couple of volleys to be fired. It did prove a minor distraction, as Barok could see some of the closest orcs peering in his general direction in confusion.



The abjurer's laughter increased when one of the orcs came from over the barricades and slashed at him, but instead connected with his shield effect, causing sparks to fly. Silas' return swing crushed the warrior's windpipe and the battle mage coolly stepped over his corpse.

On examination, it was plain to see that the loss of his archers had quickly turned the battle against the mage and his army. His defenses were beginning to bow inwards, and Silas realized that if he couldn't find a way to turn the tide again, either he would need Caramip to disobey his last order and return with the archers, or a miracle from the heavens would have to descend.



The gnome arrived at the creek's bank just in time to take control of the situation. A few dozen orcs were coming at her from the creek by swimming across the deep body of water. "Diraak", Caramip uttered the command word and waved her newly grabbed wand at the deepest part of the creek. She used it repeatedly to coat a larger area.

Although it was not impossible to see inside or outside the magically created darkness, it did make the sighting of the enemy much harder. The swimming orcs had the hardest time, though, as Caramip's archers fired either at the noise of their surprised shrieks or the slightest hint of orc in the dimness. Soon the orcs had either drowned unable to find dry land or been made into pincushions. None reached the Dorinthian side alive.
The gnome smiled, but then looked back to where Silas last stood. The mage was still there, fighting with his staff, although his line was beginning to buckle. There didn't seem to be an easy way to get the people across the creek. On the other hand, it was evident that Silas' defenses would soon fall unless aided.

Deuce Traveler

Nikolos, Ventus and Danica

"Ventus, that orc needs to die. Right now." Such words perhaps sound strange, coming from the cheerful priest of the Seeker, who was by definition a god of quiet study and scholarship. The slightly pudgy man pointed his longspear at the big orc he meant. "Two more things. One, look to the south. He has spotted our weakness there, and others may have also. Second, they are afraid, and confused, apparently the Dorinthians being here is a surprise. If any counterattack is possible at all, now might be a good time for it."

That said, he called on his dwindling store of the Seeker's power, in order to cast a Hold Person spell at the big orc. Then grimacing a bit, he started for the big orc himself, muttering. "Nikolos Viridikos, the next time the Archprior of the Office of the Holy Witnesses offers you an assignment to go observe a say NO!"

Despite Nikolos' shout, the orc disappeared back behind the attackers' side of the barricades before Ventus or Danica could react, and before Nikolos could get off his spell.

Ventus and his men pushed back the orcs, but it was quickly becoming apparent that there were not enough armed people to hold the entire outer ring of defenses. Radnal moved more and more men to form a half-crescent against the invaders, but Nikolos was detecting increasing thoughts of the demoralized orcs that indicated they planned to try to circle around and find a weak spot in the defenses. Danica suggested a general pull-back to the inner ring.

Nikolos shook his head as the orc vanished, and then thumped Ventus on the shoulder. "I'm off to see Cal Dorin. Be safe." With that, he made his way to the prince, after casting Longstrider on himself to get a bit more speed out of his pudgy person.

"Your highness...I urge you to get as many of your archers mounted and together as possible. The orcs are going to start trying to probe for weak points, and given how few footmen there are, only your horsemen can move fast enough to crush the probes before they become dangerous. I I beg you, to get your men together, as many as you can, and be ready to strike at the probes, or counterattack.


Dartis and Barok

What the hell is going on? Barok frowned in powerless frustration, unable to contribute to the battle. Damn it, I should have been out there, scouting the countryside. Perhaps then we would have been better prepared...

"Continue firing Dorinthians!" shouted Dartis to the cavalry.

He turned his head to speak to Barok, shouting over the din of hooves. "I am going to ride up next to the barricades to let you off, find Silas and Caramip, and organize a fighting retreat back to the square. Most of the refugees know you and will follow you. Then we'll give you as much chance as we can. But move quickly."

Dartis turned the galloping Swift towards the barricades, urging the horse to a breakneck speed. The Shield of Kings gleamed on his arm as Dartis raises his sword shouting at the orcs


Dartis and Barok found that the rows of attacking orcs were too thick, and that they were not likely to traverse both the attackers and barricades safely enough to bring all their men through. Another surprise also occurred to show that getting too close to the orc lines was not the best option... the Dorinthian archers were firing once again, and a cloud of arrows erupted from Silas' forces and into the mass of orcs behind the barricade. What was more, orbs of darkness began to cover the front ranks of attackers, spreading confusion among the barbaric warriors. This was sowed further by Dartis' attack. His riders drove close to the orc ranks, firing arrows into the globes of darkness before riding into side streets and attacking once more. Dartis’ forces were able to make three passes this way while avoiding increasing patrols of orcs that were beginning to be sent to impede their progress. As Dartis yelled ‘Dul-Keyar’, his cry is echoed among the orcs being shot up inside the magical darkness.

"Dul-Keyar, Dul-Keyar!" A ripple of fear erupted among the invaders. Partially blinded, while being shot by arrows from either side, the orc attack began to falter against Silas' defenses.

While resting a moment at a side street one of the fighters asked Dartis, "Why were you yelling 'The Rider' in orcish tongue?" When Dartis explained where he heard that word the man chuckled. "So you made a one in a million shot, and the orcs thought you were The Hunter come to save the Dorinthians. They always have had a fear of our god."

One of the learned paladins nodded. "It is said that the orcs almost defeated our people when we were still men of the plains and steppes, before the coming of the first king Dorin. Then came The Rider to save our people, like he had done in many dark times before and since." The paladin's expression and tone changed, as if he were reciting from scripture: "Know that long ago our people saw doom on the fields of northern ice. Many proud tribesmen and fey allies fell that day to stop the orcish invaders at their source. Among mounds of the slain, The Great Chief looked to the heavens and cried out for the fate of his people. Suddenly, there came the sound of mighty hooves thundering across the tundra. The Rider came that day, as he had before in dark times, and became known to orc and elf. He rode his great charger, cloaked, dark, and terrible and where fell his gaze fell death."

"Well, General," Barok jumped off the horse, "Good work and all that, but I'm about as useful to the cause as a piece of luggage right now. And since we can't get through the orc lines, and it doesn't look like we can get the people out, I think we're all better off if I go slit some throats. I'd rather die if my death could make some difference. That is, if you don't mind."
He turned and walked stealthily about the alleyways looking for enemy spellcasters or officers to kill, hoping to cause a distraction for the army.

"Not at all Barok, contribute as you can. Our ways of war are differnt but no less values to our people." replied Dartis wishing the protection of the Rider upon Barok as he slipped off into the shadows.

Turning to his horsemen. "Well enough rest, let's get back out there while those beasts are still confused. Seeing the confusion it sowed, let us all cry 'Dul-Keyar', and truly reap death among the orcs. For Dorinthia!"


Silas and Caramip

Well that puts an end to that.” Caramip said with enthusiasm as she watched the lifeless bodies of the orc horde flow harmlessly down the river. Still in command, she regrouped the archers and headed back towards the barricade. However, her enthusiasm drained from her like a gushing wound as she witnessed Silas and his defenders begin to falter under the horde’s attack. Without hesitation she tactfully deployed the achers and with her newly entrusted wand in hand, repeated her ‘River of Darkness’ strategy on the orc’s main force, but only on a much large scale.

Once the field of battle was efficiently covered, she grabbed her drum and once again played her Dorthain battle chant. Only this time the beats came much quicker. With strict orders she directed the archers to fire in unison and on beat.

Silas fought and fought and fought. Staff swinging, shoulder to shoulder amongst his fellow Dorinthians, Silas fought. How long can this last? he wondered wearily.

The orcs broke through and filled the top of the barricades while howling shouts of bloodlust. Silas found men falling all around him, he himself facing two orcs with victory in their eyes. It was at that moment that a small cloud of arrows rained towards him, and the abjurer for a moment feared that the orcs had their own bowmen. Instead, the arrows fell onto the orcs on the other side of the barricade. They were Dorinthian arrows! The invaders looked around in confusion at first, then terror as Caramip appeared. She disobeyed Silas' order to flee and instead ordered the archers to line up and fire, her drumbeats delivering a rhythm that was followed by volley after volley.

The orcs on the barricades died by arrows fired from either side, and their attack was halted as the gnome drove the wand of darkness through spaces in the barricades, causing the invaders to have to fight partially blind. Silas only had 60 men left on his front line that were able to put up any kind of fight, but the orcs stopped their assault and a cry of fear was heard among them: "Dul-Keyar, Dul-Keyar!". Whatever that meant...

Silas slumped as the orcish assault was broken. Exhausted physically and mentally, he slicked back hair damp with sweat and blood and began moving among the men he was fighting with. He said a low word to one, clapped another on the arm in camaraderie gained from fighting together in battle, knelt to close the eyes of one young Dorinthian staring lifelessly at the sky. Standing again, he saw Caramip, caught her eye, and bowed to the gnomish woman in an inadequate expression of his gratitude. "Thank you." Unable to say anything more he stared at the fallen that surround him.

It’s no fuss hun! I love a good game of ‘Marco-Polo’.” Smiled the energetic Gnome. However, deep down, she knew that she was no different than some of the scared men that were giving thier lives for their loved ones. She longed for this to be over so she could walk over to some dark corner and break down into tears. Recording large battles, that was what she loved to do, not fighting in them. Maintaining her calm and cheerful façade, for her sake and the men, she looked towards the orc horde and then back to Silas. With a smile she said, “Just like the battle of Rock Springs.” Ignoring the confused looks she began to elaborate, “The Darkness is confusing but it won’t hold them forever. During the war, a Dorithian force used the cover of the night to conceal their numbers from a much large Imperial force. Their tactic was simple. They used the night’s darkness and their bows to cause confusion within the Imperial ranks. And you know what? It worked. It worked so well that they were able to mount a counter offensive and drive the Imperial force away. Saving thousands of innocents.” She paused and let the mood of her story sink in to whom ever was listening. “You must lead such a counter attack.” She whispered to Silas.

The surprise was clear for all to see as it crosses Silas' face. He looked around at the devastation surrounding him and began to speak, "I don't..." Breaking off he just looked at the little gnome, Caramip, the woman whose joking words masked a wisdom he likely would never have guessed existed if this day hadn't happened. He nodded abruptly and took a deep breath. Whispering in kind, he said, "I don't know what I'm doing, but I trust you already know that." He grinned at Caramip, though he felt anything but happy at the moment.

Taking another deep breath, standing a little taller, Silas began to speak to the Dorinthians around him, "Dorinthians..." He looked at the men who were weary and injured yet still standing, locking eyes with some, "Simeon... Karril... I know you are hurt and tired. I am, too. But I can't rest until my family is safe. Safe to live here in the town we've built with our own hands. Safe to live free from the threats of others. Time is running out. We need to break this threat now. To keep our families safe."

Silas hardly dared to breath as he waited for the reaction of the people around him...

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