Last Stand of the Dorinthians

Deuce Traveler

Memorial Day Weekend Update

Silas and Caramip

With a grim and determined look, the remaining militia took up their weapons once more. There was a job to do, and the abjurer's words motivated them to finish this part of the battle. These few were not left to fight alone, and old men, lads in their early teens, and women whose husbands were fighting for their lives in the center of town all picked up some of the weapons left over by fallen orcs and men. Silas was reminded that these were Dorinthians, their entire history one of almost continuous war with either an external enemy or each other.

Following the lead of the abjurer and gnome, the mass of militia and civilians roared as one as they scrambled over the battlements and into the mass of confused orcs below. Since the front orc ranks were being reinforced with the rear ranks, there was some resistance, although brief and violent as the invaders lost the momentum from the surprise attack. Caramip could see that the force she had been engaged with was mostly comprised of young orcs, and their will to continue the struggle snapped under the onslaught. The force fled from the attack, scattering and running back from whence it came. During this, a small group of ten horsed Dorinthian archers finished off the stragglers and came to join Caramip and Silas. It was led by a smiling Dartis, who looked relieved that they were safe.



Dartis’ troops continued their harassment of the orcs, crying out 'Dul-Keyar' while doing little overall harm, but sowing great confusion and fear. That's when Dartis saw a sight that lightened his heart. The civilians and militia members that were pinned by the orcs suddenly rose over the barricades and came crashing down upon the confused invaders. This was enough to finally break the orcs, which began to flee back from whence they came. Dartis’ men rode down stragglers as they united with the southern defenses, and Dartis could see the worn but smiling Silas and Caramip in the lead.


Silas, Dartis, and Caramip

The trio meet in front of the southern defenses, while a victory cry rose from both the small group of horse archers under Dartis and the thousands of saved civilians under Silas. Most of Silas' militia had been wounded or killed, but a number of women, young teenagers, and old men had taken up weapons to strengthen his ranks.

As the heroes congratulated each other, however, they saw that the main Dorinthian military force was falling back from its outer defenses and into the last ring of interior barricades.

Silas smiled broadly when he saw Dartis and his small force of horsemen. "Lord Kalnian, the Dorinthian Irregulars are under your command!" The relief that accompanied that statement flooded through Silas though he knew the battle wasn't over yet...

Greetings!” Beamed Caramip as Silas and her made their way towards Dartis and his mounted warriors. “Hope everyone is enjoying this rousing game of Hide’n Go Seek!” She said in witty banter.

She looked between the civilian force and the mounted cavalry with an excited smile. Shifting her gaze, she turned to the two leaders of the pack and asked, “So, Generals, what’s the plan?

Dartis grinned back, noticing the blood-stained staff Silas held in his hand
"If you continue to insist on participating in combat my friend, you must let me teach you the sword" said Dartis with a broader grin as he reached down to clasp the Caernite's hand.

"Likely I would just cut my own fool head off. Much harder to do with a stick," he said as he returned Dartis' firm hand clasp. Quietly he said, "We would have been overrun if not for Caramip's quick thinking and action..." Now if anything happens, thought Silas, and I don't survive this, she'll at least get some recognition for her actions today.

"My thanks to both of you for your valiant leadership and valor in saving these people. But come, much remains to be done and our brothers are solely pressed."

Addressing the mass of people around them Dartis drew his sword and called out, "Dorinthians! I know you are tired and wounded. I know that you are scared and weary. I know another enemy has arrived on our doorstep. But just as we fought the Tallione, so shall we fight against any who dares march on Dorinthia! You stalwart citizens have already driven off a large horde of maurading orcs. Your bravery and courage is an inspiration and a fitting tribute to our great ancestors. But the time for rest is not yet. We must get you to safety. And yes we must still fight! Our brothers hold the city square, but are falling back. We must go and save them, we must go save our brothers, and mothers and children! As you have fought here, go and fight one more time. Follow the leadership of Silas Eyrstan and Caramip Ashhearth who have lead you to victory here. Follow them to the city square and join our kinsmen and let no orc stand between you!" Cried Dartis brandishing sword and activating his magical shield.

To Silas and Caramip he added, "Take them to the square, break through orc lines into the square if you can otherwise take to the buildings and harass the horde with the archers. But get these people off the street. My men and I will ride vedette and make sure there are no surprises and hold off any incursions against you as you move. But you must lead them hence."

Silas listened with admiration and not a little trepidation as Dartis addresses the gathered Dorinthians and nearly groaned when the nobleman tossed leadership back into his lap. Taking a deep breath he again buried his dismay and presented a collected front. "Not far now. So ready yourselves. We have work to do!"

With a smile Caramip looked up the mounted warrior and said, “General!” There is a slight pause so as to be sure that she had Davik’s attention continuing. “I am wondering if remember Commander Naissirlac’s little maneuver at the Battle of Tanaab?” She flashed Silas a wink before continuing her story.


Ventus, Nikolos, and Danica

Cal had been anxious to take the fight to the enemy, and at Nikolos' prodding he rode up to take command of the front ranks from Ventus and ordered a general counter-attack. With a yell the men surged over the barricades, surprising the demoralized orcs and stopping their encircling movement. The Dorinthian forces caught the orcs by surprise, and the immediate gains by the Dorinthians were impressive. Still, they were too heavily outnumbered, and the counter-attack ground to a halt thirty yards past the outer barricades. The orcs used their numbers to push back, and out in the open the Dorinthians began to take heavier casualties. Radnal realized that the line could not hold and caught up to Cal. After a brief discussion they agreed to pull back to the interior defenses where they could consolidate their forces better.

Ventus took some men and acted as a rear guard, buying enough time once back over the barricades and behind the outer defenses to get almost all the men to safety. Danica took control of the archers and led a walking, yet firing retreat. The orcs didn't pursue the retreating Dorinthians as hard as they could, most likely because of the shock of the counter-attack. Nikolos helped the wounded where he could to get back up and to the safety of the interior defenses, but in his doing so nearly became separated from the rest of the Dorinthians. The cleric knew what would happen to stragglers once the orcs reached them, yet the rough hands of Kyle Radnal grabbed him by the arms, "Leave them, priest! We need your skills for those that may survive!" As Radnal pulled him away, Nikolos looks into the man's stern face and knew that he found the situation as wretched as Nikolos felt it was. Pulling the priest over the interior defenses, Radnal told him, "It was a good plan, priest. We may not have won that little skirmish, but it did bloody their nose and buy us time enough to retreat to our stronger defenses. Now we got to bleed them out some more before trying it again."

Two sights gave heart to the worn defenders. First, it appeared that the southern attack on the civilians on the inlet had been broken. Second, Baron Dorin appeared in armor and a bow in hand despite the protests of his concerned son, Cal. "I'm not here to command, I just want to help," the balding noble said in an almost embarrassed manner.



Barok traveled through dark streets and by burning houses, making his way up north and into the hills where it seemed that orcs were moving back and forth from. Occasionally he saw what he thought might be a messenger heading towards or away from the main force besieging the center of the town. Barok’s blade ensured that some of those messengers never reached their destination. On one of the closer, tall hills he could see a campfire, and what looked to be a series of banners and tents. Following the trees and shrubs, he got close enough to see the center of the camp and several large, older orcs watching the battle in silence. They didn't seem happy with the way it was going, and from his hidden area Barok could see that the southern defenses with the civilians on the inlet had routed the orc forces. On the other hand, the central defenses had fallen back to their interior lines after a failed counter-attack of their own.

Suddenly, Barok heard movement from the brush near him as something stealthily moved in his direction. Thinking that a scout may have discovered his location, Barok readied his blade. The sneak stopped near him, but not close enough to get in the path of his strike and whispered, "Your name is Barok, isn't it? I must say, I barely saw you sneak up this way. You're pretty good. What are you thinking you can accomplish up here, anyway? There is no way you can assassinate that chieftain from here if that's what's on your mind." In the darkness Barok could barely make out the speaker’s form, but from its shape and the voice he could tell it was Rix, the kobold adventurer that was badly injured and brought back safely.

"The party was getting dull down there, and I thought the orcs might have better booze. They like the strong stuff, don't they, the kind that burns..." he smiled at the kobold. "You've been up here longer than I have, do you know the weak points of their camp? Where they keep their food, drink and draft animals, their wounded, their women and children? If we can cause a distraction there we could throw this camp, and that army down there, into a panic and buy our people victory."

Rix moved closer so that the two could observe the encampment while being able to speak in quieter voices. He tugged at his dark goggles absentmindedly. "Actually, I haven't been here long. I thought I had seen large forces of movement coming towards the town before they struck and decided that you humans were done for. Ummm... speaking of which, I hope Danica is alright. I... umm... I figured I'd escape to the local kobold tribe, which had been trading with the Dorinthians ever since we came to this place. And guess what I found... the idiot leader of theirs was negotiating with the orcs to help pillage the place in exchange for giving aid during the attack. Luckily for us, the orcs figured him for a weakling and killed him and his second right then and there. I ran into a small tribe both angry and leaderless... and I'm kind of in charge of them right now. I'm not sure if this is such a good thing, since I got to consider them a pack of fools. Can you imagine, siding with orcs for quick profit when they had a good thing going with open trade and a settled life? The humans welcomed them, damn it all!" Rix spit in confused frustration and Barok wondered how much his time with humans had changed this humanoid's outlook. He might not have belonged to the human community, but he definitely was no true kobold.

"Anyway, just on the other side of this hill I have a few dozen very angry fellow kobolds with a score to settle. Some wanted to try hit and run tactics, while others were for trying the ridiculous and near-futile, like rolling large rocks at the orcs as if I had some boulders in a back pocket. They are desperate for revenge, but I told them to wait and let me check this out in order to find a weak spot and a decent plan. And now you come with the simple idea of setting the camp on fire... brilliant. And my kin have the supplies to do it, the rage to help, and the craftiness to get close to that series of supply wagons and tents ringing this camp. So let's do this, Barok. We all have our personal reasons to wreck hell this day."

"Hey, we're all fools, or else we wouldn't be here. Now, let's show those savages what a pack of brave fools can do.

"Let's divide your kobolds into two groups, those who have skills in stealth and those who don't. Divide the stealthy group into several groups of three, arm them with the gear they need to set their fires and have them spread out in a ring in the woods around the camp. When they hear the war-cry 'Dul Keyar' from the side of the camp facing the town they should then advance and set fire to the wagons and tents in the rear and to the sides. Then they should retreat and hide. If they then hear the war cry 'Eroll' they should advance again, evade any groups of orcs that may have been sent out to hunt them down, and attack the rear of the camp with hit and run tactics, advancing stealthily and setting new fires until they face serious opposition. Tell them to run if they face bad odds, but to exploit any weakness and confusion to cause maximum damage. If they find any women and children they should use them as hostages, but if that's not possible it's better to kill them than to leave them behind."

"The second group should be held in reserve at this position. If the orcs weaken their defenses to the front in reaction to the threat to their rear this group, under your leadership and with my aid, will then launch a fullscale attack on this sector. If our attack is successful we will press it, and call in the first group to attack again. If our attack encounters impossible odds we will retreat, setting fire to the camp as we go, and scatter into the woods."

"It's risky, but even the success of the first part of the plan may be enough to demoralise our enemies and weaken their attack on the town. A complete success will get us both glory and riches (it damn well better), and perhaps some noble titles as well. Either way, your people and mine will have bound their futures together, and the trade will flow as thick as the orcish blood on our blades."

"Are you with me?"

Barok took two groups of kobolds and placed them on different parts of the hill, both with a dozen humanoids. Rix headed the other group and split them into three packs of four firestarters while Barok led the other dozen into a spread out group of crossbowmen. When the scout yelled "Dul-Keyar" he was rewarded with the yipping of angry kobolds and the surprised looks on the orc leaders' faces as the wagons and tents behind them began to catch on flame. The orcs yelled at each other in the orcish language, and en masse they all drew weapons and raced towards the small humanoids, murder in their eyes. That's when Barok and his irregular formation sprang forth with his kobolds firing into the backs of several orc leaders before racing back into the woods.

Chaos erupted in the camp, and as the orc leaders were trying to figure out which threat to worry about more, Barok yelled "Eroll" as he retreated, causing the braver kobolds to burst forth again for another go. A couple were cut down by random orc camp followers, but a handful got through and lit up a few more supplies before fleeing for good into the forest.

The orc chieftain and a four of his right hand men charged towards the direction of Barok's voice and the rogue decided it was time to go. Yelling to his kobolds to scatter, the scout found that the enraged group of barbarians were quickly gaining on him. The thief heard the crash of a large orc and the whistle of a blade behind him and tumbled forward in time to avoid being cut into two. Instead, the side of the tree near his head exploded from the barbarian's sword swing, throwing wood chips into the night air.

As the rogue retreated down the hill and back towards the town, with five barbaric orcs on his heels, he suddenly realized that he was in trouble...

"Ah, bloody hell" Barok cursed as he rolls out of the way of another swing. This wasn't going quite the way he'd planned. "Rix, buddy, a little help here..." Looking around he found he was on his own and therefore turned deeper into the forest in an attempt to shake off his pursuers and hide, hoping to use the terrain, his smaller bulk and greater dexterity to his advantage.


Dartis, Silas, and Caramip

The trio watched as the central defenses almost became overrun and realized that their force might be able to harrass them, but not break through. Caramip suggested going after the leadership and chopping off the enemy army at the head in order to bring this battle to a quicker end. The three heroes agreed to lead a small contingent of a couple hundred young lads, militia, and old men to seek out and destroy the camp. The archers were all taken, but fifty women were given spears in the hope that they could deter any force from taking the inlet and civilians within. It was a gamble, but one that the party was adament about trying. Besides, Dartis had a general idea about where the enemy camp was after listening to Nikolos' report.

The group did not travel unimpeded, and several skirmishes were won over small bands of orcs that were occupied with looting and setting fire to several houses. Despite the street to street fighting, the group finally made it through the majority of the town, only to suddenly see several fires springing up in the area that the enemy camp was believed to be located. Like a beacon, it drew their attention and, from the shouts on that fiery hill, the three could tell that chaos had just broken loose in the orc camp.

The three heroes thought that they saw a man being chased down the large hill by five others, but they could not tell who they were. It was evident, though, that they intended to kill him as he tumbled away from one of their blades. He was about two hundred feet away, at the base of the hill.


Nikolos, Ventus, and Danica

"Here they come again!" Radnal yelled out a warning as the orcs came at the interior barricades with strong force and better organization. It's as if they were being led by barbarians with better experience than the last group, and the heroes noticed that older, more experienced orcs were now appearing in greater frequency. A few dozen broke through where some of the milita are unable to hold them back.

It was Cal who rushed forward with some of Radnal's town guard under his command and plugged the hole, but the orcs that made it through either snuck into the administrative building where Alexander and Syra were or took the time to attack behind Dorinthian lines. Cal engaged these also with the help of Ventus and a handful of men. The Imperial and noble Dorinthian fought hard, but were eventually separated by the brutality of their conflict. Ventus was able to hold back two orcs at once with his shield, but Cal went down to a large and scarred barbarian. As the muscular orc was about to drive his axe into the fallen noble, his father, Baron Dorin rushed forward and swung his longbow like a club, splintering it against the barbarian's face and throwing off its aim. With a roar, the orc attacked once more, mortally wounding the baron with a blow to the chest. Cal screamed in shock and drove his longsword upwards with two hands as he rose back up, impaling the large orc in the heart with such force that he actually lifted the dying enemy inches off the ground.

With the threat halted for the time being, Nikolos and Cal rushed to the dying baron's side in a futile attempt to save his life.

"Ah, son. I see why you enjoyed riding so much with the men. This... this made me feel alive... Still... I would ... would have preferred to... have seen my old garden... than war..." With that, the mild-mannered baron closed his eyes and died.

A pitiful wail burst forth from Cal's lungs, and the dryad's necklace began to glow around his neck. The wail was taken up by others, as they noticed their baron had fallen. Instead of falling to despair, however, rage burned in the eyes of the Dorinthians. It was all Radnal could do to hold them back from a tactical mistake in the midst of the battle. As the heroes watched Cal, however, they saw his skin become like bark at the same time that the necklace began to dim. With his new protective hardened skin the noble picked up his blade and looked as if he is ready to go over the barricades by himself. It was Ventus who first gained the courage to grab Cal before he did something foolish, magic protection or not.

That's when Nikolos suddenly spotted the fires that now erupted all over the suspected location of the orc camp on a hill to the north. Absolute chaos had broken out in the enemy encampment and the attackers began to slow down as all wonder what it means.



Dartis, Barok, Silas and Caramip

Dartis left the militia to continue their march as he took five of the cavalry (leaving five with the militia) and rode quickly to investigate the commotion at the hill.

Looks like someone got themselves into a loosing game of ‘Kill-the-Carrier’...” Mentioned Caramip to both Silas and Dartis as she spotted the small man running for his life. “You think you might be able to help even up the odds while Silas and I get everyone in position?” Asked the Gnome to Dartis.

As Barok continued to flee down the hill, tumbling and dodging blades along the way, he used the vegetation and rough terrain to keep just ahead of his pursuers. Unfortunately, the vegetation began to disappear and the ground became flatter as he reached the base of the hill. Then he heard the sound of hooves thundering upon the ground. Coming quickly at Barok was Dartis and five Dorinthian horse archers. They had bows drawn. Right behind them were more riders, and some armed militia under the command of Silas and Caramip. The cavalry had arrived.

As one, Dartis and his five men commenced fire, slaying two of the orcs outright and injuring several others, including the massive older chieftain in the lead. With a panicked look, the orcs quickly turned and ran, but the cavalry was able to run down two more before a severely wounded chieftain and a lieutenant fled up the hill. The chieftain blew several notes on a war horn, and the heroes saw the mass of orcs attacking the center of the town begin to withdraw.

The withdrawal became an outright panic as everyone in the town could see the cavalry and militia swarming over the remnants of the camp. Dartis and his men rode through the fleeing orcs, using up most of their arrows to rain death down. The yell of Dul-Keyar delivered more chaos. Barok, Caramip and Silas led an assault that swept the remnants of the camp off the hill, while Rix and a few dozen kobolds leapt upon the injured fallen and murdered helpless orcs with such brutality that even the most stout Dorinthian turned away. Once the hill was cleared, the Dorinthians rallied together to hit retreating orcs left over in the town, while the kobolds looted the orc camp. But Barok, Silas, Caramip, and Dartis found in the town center changed everything...

Ventus, Nikolos, and Danica

Nikolos looked around, seeing the dead noble, and shaking his head. Then he looked at the somewhat faltering orc attack, and a frown crossed his normally cheerful face. "Well, nothing like witnessing events from the middle." Then he moved towards the orc that seemed to be giving the most orders, grabbing as many loose Dorinthians as he could manage, trying to get close to the leader chosen.

Danica turned, and it was like her eyes suddenly came into focus for the first time throughout this whole enterprise -- her silent demeanor and blank face are replaced with a small smile, curving up at the corner of her lips, as she began to engage with the chaos that surrounded her.

She was ready to fight, and she was looking for a target amidst the many lights in the darkness. For Dorninthia.

A scream from the administrative building reminded everyone that not all the orcs that got through were killed. Ventus and Cal enter the administrative building that some of the orcs were able to enter in order to protect Syra and the severely injured Alexander. They were able to slay three of them that stopped to loot the lower floors and found the bodies of several more, fallen near the bodies of butchered men and women who were able to put up somewhat of a weak resistance. Cursing, the Imperial tightened his grip on his blade as he reached the top floor and saw Alexander standing weakly before five orcs, a couple fresh wounds newly scarring his body. Amazingly, the half-orc was still standing with blade in hand, and protected a frightened knife-wielding Syra. The orcs taunted their kin and leered at the noblewoman with sadistic intentions.

Ventus and Cal drew the attention from their prey when Ventus slammed into the closest orc and buried his short blade into the creature's ribs. Another quick strike to the throat finished the badly wounded orc barbarian off, but not before Ventus got a deep cut in his thigh. The Imperial was used to such pain, however, and grimly stuck down a second, younger orc warrior. Cal handled two others, his barskinned flesh deflecting several blows while he hacked up the enemy in rage. Alexander took advantage of the final orc having turned to face Ventus, and grabbed the creature by the arm and throat. With a twist, the incredibly strong Alexander tossed the screaming orc through the nearby window, where he landed with a crunch by the feet of Danica. The sorceress looked surprised, but quickly recovered and moved her weapon to the stunned orc's face and released a bolt, finishing him. Looking up, she saw Alexander waving from above, a crying Syra holding him tightly. The half-orc turned to give Ventus a silent nod of thanks, and Cal sighed in satisfaction, glad to see that if his sister found a man to admire it at least be one who would fight to the death for her.

Suddenly, the orcs attacked in one more wave and all able-bodied men moved to solidy the defenses. Nikolos even saw his servants Redd, Shirte, and Gnaden near him close to the fighting. The scribe held a spear and yelled to him, in embarrassment, [color]"Sorry, master! Your books are safe in the basement of the building if it's any consolation."[/color] Then added with a slight touch of surprising humor, "How goes your research thus far?"

The assault was weaker than the last one, and the Dorinthians were both better prepared and angrier. The orcs saw that their attacks were failing when a war horn blew once more from the hill to the north. All turned to see the sight there, and that most of the orc camp was now on fire and that Dorinthian cavalry and militia were swarming over it. The orcs panicked and fell back, while Radnal found that he could not control the enraged men any longer and Kyle Radnal was unable to hold back the men. He gave command to Cal who came forth from the administrative building and turned the flight to a rout. The orcs were still numerically superior, and often stronger, but their disorganized withdrawal allowed packs of Dorinthians to butcher them mercilessly.

The Dorinthians that raided the orc camp came down from the hill, and joined the slaughter.


The attack had been stopped, and the swarms of orcs began to flee in all directions. The seven heroes met up in the center of the town, but the happiness that should come in victory was nowhere to be found. A couple of hundred Dorinthians were believed to have been killed in the fighting, nearly five percent of the refugee population. The numbers would have been much higher if not for the efforts of the party. What is more, Baron Dorin had fallen in battle, giving his life to save his son. Confusion reigned as the angry Dorinthians questioned who would lead them now? Cal, Syra, and Dartis were all candidates, but none of them were yet willing to make a declaration and all three seemed to want the position. Kyle Radnal stayed out of it, and began to create work details to bury the dead, put out fires, and rebuild. His militia and some of the people spoke aloud that he should lead the Dorinthians, and rumors swelled that he himself was of noble blood. Cal and Dartis also looked to see what remnants of cavalry could be put together to run down the surviving orcs, but the men were exhausted and the prospects questionable.

The biggest question, however, was why this happened. Why had the orcs come back? And why did it seem that they expected to find elves, not Dorinthians? And if this was an attack on the elven nation, how fared Saleentra and the Silver Forest? For a moment, Alexander, Rix, Silas, Danica, and Dartis recalled the prophetic words of the Mad Gnome:
Saleentra will burn.

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Deuce Traveler

I am a bad man for failing to update until now:

Barok leaned back against a wall, wiping sooty sweat from his eyes, leaving his face a black-smeared mess. He laughed, a sharp harsh sound, his eyes shining with adrenaline and exhaustion, "Ha! And I thought orcs were tough, damn useless cowardly rabble. If only all our enemies were that soft we'd build an empire in no time. I guess this settles the elven issue, though. Those long eared limp-wristed sissies hate the piggies with a passion. They wouldn't dare turn against us now."

He looked at the faces around him, sensing their mood. "Oh, yeah. Due respect to the dead and the grieving, but man, we showed those bastards what it means to be Dorinthians, and Kobolds, and southeners, I guess. "Rix, brother, and you too my liege," he bowed his head to Dartis, "I owe you both a drink."

Later Barok took Dartis aside, "I believe the succession issue can be resolved tonight. There may still be a few orcs left, hiding in town just waiting for an opportunity. They would like nothing better than to strike against selected parts of our Dorinthian leadership..."

"I too owe you a drink for your ingenuity and resoursefulness. Indeed my friend, I would like to put your crafty mind to use as the Spy Master of Dorinthia. Well should I have any say over the matter that is." added Dartis with a grin. "But as to your other concern. Well keep your eyes peeled for any threats to any Dorinthian. There are too few of us as it is. Of course, I'd be most appreciative of any threats you stop my way in particular." Dartis added with another wink.

"It would be an honour, sir, and I will keep a look out for any threats coming our way. Both from the outside and our own ranks. The Dorins may not be as chivalrous as you. Take care around them, or take care of them, my offer still stands."

Ventus remained standing as he met with his traveling companions in the center of town. He swayed a little, and the wound on his leg troubled him, but he yet had the energy to remain on his feet. His sword had been cleaned and returned to its sheath, spotless, but the rest of him was covered in grime and blood. He turned to look at Barok, but hadn't the strength left to be irritated by the man's impudence.

"That may be it for one band of orcs, but it certainly makes clear that this refuge is not as safe as one might hope. It seems a wall is in order, if we expect to hold the town against any further attacks."

Silas was relieved that the orc attack was broken. But when he took command of the camp-site militia he lost track of his father, wife, and son and desperately looked for their faces amongst the survivors in the town square. And then, to hear that Baron Dorin lied dead... It was almost more than he could bear. Looking around he saw that many felt the same but was relieved to see that Kyle Radnal had taken that task in hand and was organizing work parties.

Despite Silas' grief, distraction, and weariness, Ventus' mentioning of a wall snared his attention. "A wall," he murmured. Interest piqued, he immediately turned his eye to mentally mapping out the town's layout. "Now. How would I..."

A nearby argument concerning who should assume rulership of the Dorinthians snapped him from his musings. Quietly, he said, "I should have spoken to Baron Dorin before on Lord Kalnian's behalf." He sighed, weariness once again weighing him down. Now, unless this is resolved quickly, things may fall into chaos. Unless...

Silas casually made known to Dartis that he would like to speak with him privately. When they got a chance, he said, "Lord Kalnian, the time may seem inopportune but we are in danger of our people splitting into four factions. I feel you are most suited to rule but you must press your suit now. Seek Syra Dorin's hand in marriage; persuade her with co-rulership. Court the support of Kyle Radnal; I think he'll support you as you've proven yourself a sound commander. It is true that Cal has some support amongst the cavalry but he has always been ruled by his tempers and has become more erratic of late. You are the only choice in which Dorinthia survives, unified."

"Silas my old friend, I have always appreciated your advice. I have always sought it out in times of doubt. And I agree with you. But there are more important things to be done right now. What good does it do to unite Dorinthia under one leader to have it decimated? But I will have a discussion with my peers and see what civility we can bring to this process, but I will keep to your advice as best I can. In the meantime we have work to do to tip the scales in our favor. Notably to show the elves that we are allies worth having!"

Silas, afraid his tactless presentation of his worries may have offended Lord Kalnian, was much relieved when Dartis assured him that he is working for Dorinthia's best interest. "Thank you, Dartis. As for the elves," Silas began, "I shall think on it."[/sblock]

Dartis next found a quiet moment with the former legionairre. "Ventus, thank you for your stout defense. I hope you can placate some of your demons with your valourous deeds here. In any case, you have my thanks."

Ventus silently considered Dartis's words for a moment. He shrugged slightly and looks to the Dorinthian.

"In the end, I am still a soldier, as always. When battle presents itself, I fight. Today I fight for your people. I do not require them to forgive me my past, merely to accept that today I fight beside them. I think that they have learned that lesson."

Dartis found Kyle and pulled him aside for a quiet word. "Kyle, the deeds of our fathers mean very little here, in a new land, a new city, a new Dorinthia. What matters here are our deeds here and now. And you have done a great service for our people Kyle. No one can question that. And I want to thank you for it. Without your leadership, the square would have fallen, many of our people would have died. We have many many trials yet to overcome to ensure that Dorinthia survives. And I am glad to know that our people are still served by men of honor, distinction and bravery such as yourself.

I also want to thank you personally for the use of Swift. He had been a loyal and brave companion to me. And I would ask that I keep him a while longer. My work is not yet done.

Lastly Kyle, I know that there is a great deal of confusion right now as to the leadership of Dorinthia. I cannot ask you to make a choice as to who to support. I only ask that you support whoever comes to power for the good of our country and our people. I do not hide the fact that I wish to the throne. I do, but only as I seek the best for our people Kyle. And I can only tell you that I do appreciate people for what they have done, not their ancestors. And I know that you have proven yourself more than capable of a leadership position. Every city needs a Captain of the Guards after all. But this may be premature, first we must ensure that our fledgeling city lives! I may be off again Kyle, shepard our people well"

Kyle looked at Dartis in surprise. "So now we get to decide who the new baron is? I shouldn't be stunned that this has come up, since we do need to know who will be making the decisions, but it's still not something I desire to deal with right now. Still, that's a poor response on my part, so I will tell you honestly how I feel. First, I have no interest in being a lord, so I am out of the running. On the other hand, I have faithfully served the old baron, Dren, and I feel that it is my duty to continue to do service for either Syra or Cal should they seek the position. If they do not, then I will happily continue my work in your name."

Dartis next went to Baron Dorins old quarters and sent off couriers to find Syra and Cal. As they arrived Dartis addressed them both. "My friends, my peers, my fellow nobles. Our people look to us for leadership. My heart aches for you both for the loss of your father. He was dear to me as well. Still though we grieve, we must move on. We shall bury Baron Dorin as best we can. In the meantime we must present a united front. We can either throw our small nation into civil war as we fight amonst ourselves, and I am not even sure which of you has inherited his title. Or we can unite. We are still beset by enemies, orcs, the Tallione, perhaps the elves. We need to show our people we care about them, so they do not despair! Let us set aside issues of succession for one week, ruling as a triumverate. Out of respect for your father at least."

As Cal left, Dartis called Syra to meet with him privately to talk. The conversation with Syra didn't go well at all. First, she had ignored Dartis summons and asked that he speak to her in Baron Dorin's old office. "Syra, the fact does not escape me, that you are the last lady of noble blood, and I the last gentleman of noble blood not related to you. There are worse things I could think of than to be married to woman as beautiful as you. Please consider a future for us, when you consider the future of our people. A royal wedding would cheer the spirits of our people and ensure the continuity of the throne of Dorinthia. A queen rules with more authority with a king beside her." said Dartis taking Syra’s hand and staring into her eyes.

She smirked grimly at Dartis’ words. "It is a nice offer, Baron Kalnian." Just by her choice of words, the noble knew this could be going better, although the elder Lady Huffring looked upon Dartis with approval as she stood by her side. "But I already have an offer for my hand, and it is with a gentleman I very much approve. Of course, he is asking me to give up my current occupation and live with him in some forest, but I assure you I will convince him that a courtly life is a better life. And if he isn't willing to surrender these fancies for his lady, then... perhaps I will give greater thought to your proposal." Syra escorted Dartis to the door, although Lady Huffring gave him a half-smile that told Dartis where her own preference for Syra lay.

Dartis decided to go see Cal before turning to preparations. After such, he gathered his fellow heroes together over some food and drink cobbled together. "My friends. I know you are tired, I know you are sore and injured. We have all given much to defend out town. But to know we were not the target gives me fear that our neighbours are in trouble. My plan is to ride forth, we few, for I will not detract from the city's defenses. But for us to ride to the elves and offer what aid we can. It may be symbolic, but I wish to show the elves that Dorinthia is a neigbour and an ally worth having. Additonally I feel it may be the best way to help ensure that the orcs are defeated or driven away from our city. But I have known some of you for longer than others, but I still value all of your efforts, and thus all of your opinions. Is this a wise course? Even if the elves survive the orcs, will they not betray us to the Tallione, unless we show them there are more advanages to keeping us? Please, my friends, let me know your thoughts."

Rix walked up to Barok and interrupted his focus on Dartis’ speech. "I just wanted to tell you good-bye, one sneak to another. After spending some more time with my fellow kobolds, and also listening to some of their stranger ideas about this town and looting, I've decided it's time to go. I'm taking the tribe with me since they see me as their new leader. Maybe I can teach them a few things out there so that they can live next to humans one day. It's just not going to happen right now, and it's better to go before there is a misunderstanding... or even an understanding. I'm off to say bye to Alexander. If you see Danica, tell her good-bye, too. I just have trouble trying to explain myself to her. Oh, and I doubt you'll see Kel, but if you do let him know I thought he was alright, for an elf anyway."

Barok smirked, "All hail the Kobold King. Heh, sometimes I admire the ways of your people. At times it just hurts my teeth being around all this chivalrous sweetness. I love Dorinthians, but they're often too damn Good for their own good. Guess that's why they need people like us, huh.

"Good luck and all that. Maybe I'll be heading your way one of these days if things don't work out here."

Rix laughed at his comments regarding him as a kobold king, but grew serious as Barok offered to visit. He seemed to see into Barok, and yet accepted what he sensed, "You, more than almost all others, will be a welcome guest should you journey to us." With that, he turned and left.

Barok shook his head, smiling as Rix walked away. He's in love with the Sorceress, with a bloody mammal. Not that I mind her mammary parts, but for him that's just perverse. How the hell did that happen? And how the hell would they get together anyway? Do the parts even fit?

Barok thought once more on the kobold, surprised by his sincerity. Then he shrugged, smiling a little, and went to loot the battlefield on the hill.

When he searched the bodies he found that the kobolds had also swept through much of the town overnight. All Barok could find were several copper earrings (and noserings) that he pawned off for 34gp, and a collection of coins: 293cp, 12sp, 3ep, 4gp, and 1pp.

Barok laughed quietly to himself. Bloody Kobolds, heh, at least they've got their priorities straight. What the hell had he been thinking, just leaving the field of battle to talk politics, as if anyone cared about his opinions? The little buggers had earned their share, but left him with nothing but scraps.

He grabbed the stinking corpse he's been searching and heaves the orc over to its back, expertly rummaging about on the bloody mess for anything of value. He kept that up for quite some time, moving from corpse to corpse, slitting a throat or two that he found still alive.

Barok picked his teeth with a piece of bone, leaning back in his chair casually, yet growing more empassioned the longer he spoke. "And if we go to rescue the elves will they then aid us? Will they take their depleted numbers and throw them against the Empire in our defense? Will they be of use, or will they continue to be a liability? Seems to me we'd be better off if we let them wipe out each others. Then we could finally settle these forests and use their rich soils to rebuild our people, to make new farmlands that could feed our refugees. Then we would have a solid base for retaking our land at a time of our own choosing, when the Empire is weakened or distracted. And then this would be the New Dorinthia that Baron Dorin died defending."

"The Elves... they will always consider this land theirs. They will always resist our settlement of these forests, as they always have in the past. They are as much a threat as the orcs, and if they had their way the forests would once again grow to smother the heart of Dorinthia. I say, let them die, and then deal with the orcs.”

"Or why not use the orcs to make war against the Empire? They fear us. They should, after this defeat. And they fight for loot and glory. The Empire is rich, decadent, and a far better target for them than our poor nation of warriors. And then, when the orcs are weakened and burdened by loot. Then, let us stab them in the back and make a deal with the Empire, with our blades at their throats, for peace and the return of our country."

Ventus shook his head slowly at Barok's words.

"Do not mistake corruption for decadance, the Empire is mighty. Recall the most recent war your people held with Tallione. W. . . They won, your nation was wiped from the map. I do not know why the invasion of Dorinthia was one of destruction and not conquest as in the past. However, there must have been SOME purpose. New Dorinthia exists either because the Empire is unaware of its existence, or because they no longer see it as a threat, or because they have no desire to move to outright war with the Elves. If it is either of the first two reasons, presenting yourself and trying to bargain with the Empire could lead to disaster. If it is the third . . . then the securing of an elven allegiance is of paramount importance."

As they sat over the meal and discussed, Nikolos poured himself a small glass of Craecian wine, and sat back, wincing a bit. He was a scholar after all, not a soldier, and the day's battle and exertions had taken their toll. "I will go with you, of course. With your permission, however, I will leave my staff here in the town. This doesn't seem like a mission for a scholarly entourage, and they may be able to do some good here. As for what the elves will do, even if they are victorious, it will still be a matter of what is more important to them. Do they value your allegiance more or less then they fear the legions of the Empire? That said, if you remain here, and simply defend this small corner of land, and your people, you will be far less valuable to the elves then if you offered direct and effective assistance to them."

Silas listened, eating almost absent-mindedly, as the others spoke. When Barok finished Silas dropped the bone he just cleaned of meat onto his plate with a clink. He glanced at Nikolos, "You speak of our 'value' to the elves." Silas nodded consideringly but then turned his attention to Barok with a scowl. "And you speak of the elves usefulness to us, the possibility of future conflict, and treacherous acts." He shook his head and looked like he was making a great effort not to say something else to Barok. Finally, he continued, "The elves were our allies once, and may be again. Whatever decision they make in the future is for the future. Now, now we can stand with them against those who would take from them what has been taken from us. Does 'value' and 'usefulness' matter? For practical considerations, it does. But aiding them is the right thing to do, and for that reason alone, for me, it is enough." Finished speaking, Silas sat there looking around at the others then grabbed up his mug and took a drink.

"It's not that the Empire is not powerful, but that's not the reason you beat us. Dorinthia fell because of the idiot madman on the throne. With better leadership we'll get better results. And I'm not suggesting we treat with the Empire now. Even if they must know where we are and they must, (There are spells for that stuff right Silas?) there would be no point to negotiate until they are weakened.

No, what I'm saying is that the Orcs will be more useful to us than the Elves when it comes to fighting the Empire. Because even if the orcs wouldn't mind slaughtering us all they would rather attack a richer foe, if only to fight a war of raids. The elves are too few. And the littles sissies don't like breeding enough to risk the few fighters they have in a war they have no reason fighting, especially after just having fought the orcs."

"Damn it man! We're talking about the survival of our people. That's the only morality we need. The 'right thing to do' isn't the right thing to do unless it serves that purpose. Did the elves save us from the Empire? No. So why should we save them? Haven't we already done enough, already far more to help them than they have done for us? Haven't our people already died enough fighting the enemies of the Elves?"

Recognizing that there was a fundamental difference of philosophy between his way of thinking and Barok's that will likely never be reconciled, Silas only quietly said, "Yes, enough of our people have died."

The discussion ended, and as each headed his own way, the clerical scribe pondered the heady night he had enjoyed so far. Over the last short while, Nikolos had come to like the Dorinthians. They lived in a way, even in the current dark days, which made the Empire, and Craece even more so, seem rather stultified and dead. A part of him wondered what that meant to his objectivity as a Witness of Adeiros, but it really didn't matter.

Later that night, in the privacy of his tent, he sat over a sheet of paper, with the pen in his own hand. That was a rare thing, most often he dictated to Gnaden, but tonight was different. The pen scratched over the paper, as he wrote:

To the Chief Witness, Antonicus Scipianus

As always, I remain a humble and devoted servant of Blessed Adeiros, and of the Order. However, things that I have witnessed, here in these northern lands, have brought me to a difficult decision, regarding my mission of Witness. As you know, Brothers Wilmur and Karros chose to remain with the Legions of the Empire, and I trust that their missions go well. Now, though, I must respectfully submit my Journal of Mission, and ask that it be placed into review by the Library Commitee. This missive will be included, with my notes and observations, along with the Journal.

Which brings me to the decision I mentioned. At this time, I formally sever myself from my Mission of Witness. My actions henceforth are my own, and bear no Seal of Mission from the Holy Church, nor are they condoned or authorized by any save my own conscience. Any blame or repercussions from my actions are mine alone.

Well, that certainly sounds ominous, doesn't it your Grace? In any case, I pray that your family does well, and that your grand-daughter's wedding was a great success. Remember me to our friends at the Great Library.

Yours in Service to the Seeking Eye,

Nikolos Viridikos
Journeyman Priest of the Order of Witnesses

Finishing the short letter, he dated and sealed it, and called in Gnaden. "Place this with the journals, please. We'll send the whole lot south when opportunity presents itself. While I am gone, you will write all of our various notes into the Journal of Mission, and do try to make the narrative flow, if you can."

Silas and Ventus had mentioned to Cal and Kyle that building a wall around the town might be a good idea. The morning after Dartis’ speech, Cal volunteered the two to lead the project since the militia were still helping to clear the debris and bodies while the cavalry patrolled the area and killed straggling orcs. With five men Silas and Ventus surveyed the land and realized that wooden pallisades were the best route to go for now. The five town guards Kyle sent with them were a rough sort, but among his better educated since it was obvious they could do simple math and read. With parchment and ink to write with, they awaited instructions on the kind of defenses to be want built. The town stretched for about a mile diameter in all directions. Because it was set to grow from the swelling amount of refugees, the town would probably be expanded to double its current diameter. There were hills to the north and west covered with woods and shrubbery, while to the east there was light forest, and to the south a difficult to cross winding creek. Farmland would have to be tilled outside the walls as there would not be enough wood for the defenses to encircle the harvests. There would probably be a couple hundred men available to help build the defenses, at most. Other men were trying to build new structures and continue farming for the town.

Ventus stood himself on a hilltop, looking down over the town, trying to best visualize the defenses that he thought would be needed. More refugees, more buildings, more to protect, and more to lose. His own expertise was far more in dirt and temporary field fortifications, but he had seiged and stood atop enough walls to have some idea of what was needed. A simple soldier at heart, he had no qualms seeking the advice of the men sent with him, bouncing ideas of them and getting their opionions on the defensive capabilities of the Dorinthians.

"Without more information regarding this attack, I fear we must act as if the town is at war with unknown agressors. Larger scale fortifications will be a long term goal, but for now, a defensible position is the most pressing need. Even as it is, the town is too disperse to be encompassed quickly, and another attack could come long before a larger wall could be completed. I recommend a small scale inner wall around the center of the town, containing most of the vital functions. In the event of another attack, civilians will retreat within the walls. Once the inner pallisade is complete, a second, more extensive wall can be planned."

Scratching a quick schematic into the dirt at his feet, Ventus attempted to plan a wall for construction, well within the current town borders. It contained as much of the town operations as possible, central command, water sources, and food storage. He attempted to incorporate heavy stone construction buildings as part of the wall. He pointed out that the walls themselves should be simple vertical wooden poles, with archery platforms to capitalize on the strengths of the Dorinthian defenders.

In his report to Cal he also recommends a sentry position hidden in the hills to the northwest, to attempt warning in the event of more attacks.

Ventus left open to debate the size of the second phase walls. The town may grow and require larger construction, but he was not sure if sufficient troops currently existed to defend such a large scale fortification.

Cal happily accepts Ventus’ proposal, and was astonished by his grasp of the situation and realistic goals he had set forth. He promised to get men started right away.

Silas lent Ventus what knowledge he had about fortifications. It was mostly academic, learned at the feet of his father and his mentor among the Caernite scholars, but some of it was learned first hand facing the Tallione forces. "Ventus, I will aid you in whatever ways you require. Just say the word. And, I know it will be some time in the future before we are ready to build with stone, but my father is a master stonemason. I am sure that his expertise could be put to good use."

Hector the Incredible found Silas after his final notes were completed on the proposed defenses. Hector looked nervous and ashamed as he said, "Hello, Silas. I know I haven't been the most supportive of your work in the town, since it wasn't easy having another wizard around. Still, I'm having a hard time dealing with the fact that I was holed up in my home while you were using your magic to really make a difference. A lot of people are actually talking about it, and I've lost the confidence that I once had with my apprentices. I can't live like this competition, and it's not like you are going away never to come back. I was hoping that with your experience, maybe you could teach me some things. Maybe a few spells you might know or maybe some moves in case it comes to a fight. I need to do something to get my confidence back," the wizard said, his eyes downcast.

Grasping the dejected man by the arms Silas said, "Hector, my friend. Look at me. There is no need for us to ever compete. The people of Dorinthia have need of us both. And in truth, you have talents of magic that I can never match. Speaking of which, I have come across a gnomish book of magic with many spells in it that I have been unable master. I have no doubt, however, that you will easily learn them. Come, let's go take a look at the book." Silas took Hector and showed him Astraughlay's spell book, full of illusionist spells nearly useless to Silas, and let him copy from it. Leaving him there at work, Silas headed off to Cal's meeting.

Hector seemed surprised by Silas’ generosity, and carefully held the spellbook with appreciative and shaky hands. The amount of knowledge inside was impressive and valuable. "Thank you," he said as Silas departed.

Kyle Radnal eventually found Danica and gave a broad smile, "Danica, look at you. It hasn't been that long since you last left and you came back with the confidence of a woman." He said the last part with a hint of sadness, and the sorceress realized that Kyle looked at her as a daughter he never had time to have. "Cal wanted me to find you for a meeting he wishes to have, but let's chat awhile. How has your time been? I've seen that you've become very handy with a crossbow. What do you think of this Dartis character? Do you know he approached me earlier asking me if I would support him being our ruler?"

Danica blushed when she met with Radnal once again. His men had taught her so much, but she bit her lip when he mentioned the crossbow, and she smiled.

"There's something I've been meaning to tell you. This crossbow--I'm proud of it, and I'm proud of what you taught me, you and your men. But I'm a different person now. A better person. Someone who I thought I should have been, but never was. Here. Watch."

She placed her crossbow on the ground, and she sat up straight -- the arch of her spine extending, and adding inches to her height. She flipped her hair back, and it fell down over the mended blue blouse she had bought, and she whispered, "Ka-pow..."

Sparks flew from the fingers of her left hand, rising up like fireworks, and dancing in rainbow shapes, which she sculpted into dancing marionettes of light with her right hand -- pulling an arm, then a leg, so that it looked like a ballerina twirling.

"That's just one of the things I can do. There are others, sir. I'm good with the crossbow, yeah... but there are some things that I feel I'm becomeing Great at. things I didn't tell you about, but that I now know I shouldn't have hid. So I hope you'll forgive me. I owe you so much, and it's you who made me who I am..."

Her voice trailed off a bit. But then she picks up at the questions about Dartis.

"Lord Dartis has helped me a great deal. In many ways, he has carried on with what you started for me. He is kind, and a great leader, I guess... He wants to help Dornithia. And I've been helping him with that, in whatever way I can. To tell you the truth, your opinion of him matters as much to me, as mine does to you. I hadn;t kown he approached you, but my sense is that he is not working for himself. He is serving his country. Or, at least, the memory of it."

She looked him straight in the eye, and then her face exploded with a laugh... "Ka-Pow!" And then she giggled, and gave Radnall the hug that she thought he had been waiting for since he first saw her again.

Danica was somewhat surprised to see that Kyle doesn't seem shocked at her revelation, instead he hugged her back before taking another good look at her. "I know a thing or two about secrets, and I guessed yours a long while back. Some of the boys might have been fooled, but I've seen too much. I'm glad you finally felt comfortable enough to tell me, and I want you to know that I'm always here for you, sorcery or not."

Caramip was playing with some children, when she heard another small voice behind her, with a sardonic, adult tone. "So this is what a gnome from the east is like, eh?"

She turned to see Phly Loughphray behind her, a gnomish noble and ambassador to the Dorinthians. Caramip heard that he was away from the main defenses during the fighting and saved himself, some other gnomish delegates, and a number of Dorinthians by using the illusions that he was known to be an expert with.

He continued. "Cal wanted to have you see him when you get the first opportunity, but I thought I would come by and have a chat first. Tell me, what is it like to work so close with humans as you do? I heard your lands were taken over by the Imperials, but now you seem to have a working relationship with them. If I tread on soft tunnel earth, please let me know."

She gave the elder a warm smile as she pulled herself away from the children and sent them off to play another game. She watched the children run off safely through the streets of the besieged town before returning her attention to elder. With a pleasing tone and still with a smile she said, “More or less.

”Gnomes were not the only ones to call a lot of those villages home.” She said as she politely waved off the elder’s tender footing. “In those villages,” she continued. “Many of us shared neighbors not only with our race but with Humans, Half-Elves, Halflings and dwarves.” As the conversation grew she finished collecting her things and then began to walk.“ Or should I say we used too.” She said before going silent. As eyes drifted down a nearby alley way her smile slowly faded away. Quickly she turned her attention away from the alley way is if it some horrible beast hiding in it and looked back towards the Elder. Instantly her smile returned and she continued her tale. “My family where town-historians and during the times before the invasion it was I, the oldest in my family, who inherited the family business.” She gave a small laugh as her mind continued to drift back in time to that of her family. “Back then, my younger brothers and sisters always did seem to have easier than I.

Heron Silvertongue, the main priest of the Dorinthians pulled Nikolos to the side when he could finally get him alone. "I meant to speak with you earlier, Nikolos, one priest to another. I wasn't sure what to think about your arrival, but now that I hear that you saved a number of my fellow countrymen I want to help you. I have heard that you have several men that need a room and board until your return. I can help you with that, except I need a favor in return. Our healing magics are not enough for the amount of wounded that we have, and I was hoping that you can lend a hand. A lot of what we are dealing with at this point are the mortally wounded, and all we can do for them at this point is ease their suffering before their final moments. I know I'm pressuring you, and I apologize since I don't know you too well. Still, we can truly use the help. Cal is hoping you can go see him right now, but if you are willing to render aid please stop by the temple later."

Nikolos looked a little surprised, since he'd been healing to the best of his abilities since the first moment he'd actually met the Dorinthians. Still, he smiled and nodded. "Your assistance with housing my staff is most appreciated. Please don't hesitate to put them to work, in my absence. Gnaden is a gifted scribe, and is also versed in the mundane arts of healing. Liza, his wife, is a good cook. Redd and Shirte are good in a fight, should another arise, and they also have strong backs for labor, should it be needed. As for the assistance with healing, I'll be right over, as soon as I've seen Cal Dorin."

The members of the party eventually went to see Cal in a building he had set-up for his cavalry units. As the rest of the party trickled in he offered seats at a large table and some adequate wine. Once everyone was ready, he skipped formalities and headed straight to the point.

"I started my day trying to prepare for your proposed trip into the elven lands to render support, when suddenly rumors of Baron Dartis Kalnian reached my ears. Supposedly, my cousin here has aspirations to rule here. The way I see it, most people want me to take over for my father, or at least expect this to happen. I myself care little for the title right now. Two weeks ago I would have taken the title of ruler without hesitation, and would have been willing to fight Lord Kalnian to a duel for it. But these last few weeks have given me much to think about. Kyle Radnal doesn't want the position as he renounced his royal title a long time ago, but still he and I have grown to understand each other more of late and I feel he might support me. Syra, though, has been ruling in all but name for some time now, and it will not be easy to make her relinguish her claim. She also has Alexander's support and love, and is trying to convince the poor man to court her and marry into nobility. Lord Kalnian may not be as established in this town, but he has shown his worth to enough people and I also sense that he has the influential support of six other heroes who happen to be sitting at this table," Cal said pointedly while searching faces.

Barok listened, keeping his snide remarks to himself.

At the cavalry barn, as Cal Dorin had his say, Nikolos simply listened, sipping his wine. So far as he was concerned, this was a matter for Dorinthians, not a Craecian priest far from home. He liked Dartis, and thought he'd make a good ruler, but there seemed much else for him to be doing, just at this time. Finally, though, he did speak. "I will support Dartis in whatever course he chooses to take. I know him to be a good leader. As are you, Cal Dorin. So far as who should rule your people, if things cannot be decided, perhaps a ruling council might be a way to pool your diverse talents, for the betterment of your remaining kingdom."

With the arrival of Cal, Ventus sat back to listen to the discussion. He remained silent on the subject of leadership. His own views might not be accorded much weight. . . or indeed they could be viewed as a mark against a leader. After all, Ventus’ last move in Dorinthian politics was the toppling of a king. Regardless he had no position to espouse in any event. Dartis seemed capable enough, but he had no measure by which to base an opinion of Syra. Perhaps though, Dartis' greatest flaw was his penchant for adventure. To ride off to the rescue of the elves. Noble, heroic, important. It could be all those things, qualities of a great leader, but not of a civic planner. The town needed heroes, but it would also need someone to shape it and hold it together. Who would do that with Dartis gone?

Arriving somewhat late to Cal's meeting, Silas shuffled in and got seated just in time to hear the nobleman's pronouncements. Suprised that matters had come to a head so quickly he hesitated, wine glass held almost to his lips, before he took a fortifying sip and set the glass down. Oh, it's my fault! Wanting to speak, still he hesitated, afraid of making matters worse.

Dartis looked at Cal for a moment, then erupted, "By the Rider Cal! You're baron, not Syra. Alexander is my commrade and friend. If he is happy I wish him the best. But I know he cannot be happy within the bounds of a city. And I have reservations about whether his presence as a ruler would split our people."

Dartis walked up and takes Cal by the shoulders "Cal, we are family, bound by the blood of Berl Dorin. I would never fight you for the throne. I know that we both have the best interests of our people at heart. We both see support among the people for each of us. We have both worked hard to rally our remaining people. And damnit yes I believe I could rule as well as you. But would not a cagy politician seek to stay here and consolidate his power? And what do I seek Cal? I seek more aid for our people, more security by leaving. By seeing aid outside the city.

Not for one moment did I regret seeing you released from the grasp of the dryad Cal. Even though it meant another rival, another challenger, all that was in my heart was gladness to have found another Dorinthian, and all the better my cousin.I could have left you in her clutches Cal. But would I have been worthy then? Could I have called myself a Dorinthian?

Cal, too much needs to be done to worry about succession. We must build better defenses. We must build a wall, we must secure allies outside of this city. We must put our people first. I say we form a council of nobles and rule as a group. But if not, and I doubt Syra will agree, then I must still do what I can for our people Cal. I cannot stay here and play politics with a girl still dreaming of a fairy tale.

There is still too much to be done, you know this in your heart. What matter who is king if they rule over a graveyard? I will do what I need to for our people, just as I know you will. And I will not see our people divided, by anything or anyone.

I am going, alone if needed, to Saleentra. Do what you will here, I would listen to Ventus and build a wall. But remember Cal you are Baron, do not let anyone take from you what your father gave you.

Long live Dorinthia, Long live Berl Dorin and long live the Rider, may he return in these dark days again."

Dartis embraced his cousin and sat again with his companions.

Barok choked on something and coughed violently for a few moments. Damn it, there goes my future fief, my wealth, my title, my power and respect. Damn it man, damn your bloody honour.

Cal chuckled, but looked tired for a moment as he looked away from Dartis. "Yes, you're right. Right and wrong, but more right. You've been a good man, and I know you have no wish to duel or fight with myself or my sister. However, we are still Dorinthians and we still burn with want and fight for our dreams. Deny it as you like, Dartis, but should you truly not want such a responsibility... should your blood not boil with passion for what may be yours, then you are no son of Dorin. You are right that Alexander does not desire to sit as a lord, and yet my sister wants both him and a title. She will have to choose. For now, let us forget politics. It is a tasteless affair, and I much prefer war. In politics, unlike in combat, you never have allies. Just tools to be manipulated.

I think that I understand Kyle Radnal now and why he turned away from his title and land. It was the political machinations that drove him to renounce his claim once the king demanded he disown his traitorous father. Instead, he broke the sword he was to swear on oath upon and walked away, something I never understood until losing my own father. The man was lucky not to have been condemned and put to death."

Cal took another bottle of wine, poured himself another glass, then passed it around to the rest of the party. He sipped his drink and stared into his glass before continuing. "Let us turn to more pleasant things and leave the domestic policies to my sister. Such as taking revenge upon the orcs. Using Ventus' plans and some of Silas' suggestions, I'm content in using my men and that of Radnal's to fortify the area and try to make repairs. You've discussed a mission to the elven lands in order to render support, and both Syra and I believe this to be an important piece of our defense. We do not need a hostile elven nation to our northern border. If you wish to go, I will be able to provide supplies for you."


Silas sighed. Cal...Baron Dorin...shirking responsibility, Syra indulging herself in foolishness, and our hope for true leadership driven away. Speaking up, Silas said, "I would accompany Lord Kalnian on his mission to the elves."

Cal nodded at the decision to go to the elven lands and passed a list of items that he would provide to the group free of charge:

2 Gauntlets
28 Daggers
12 Punch Daggers
9 Light Maces
3 Sickles
35 Clubs
3 Heavy Maces
2 Morningstar
121 Shortspears
138 Longspears
14 Quarterstaffs
104 Spears
250 Crossbow Bolts
6 Light Crossbows
36 Darts
53 Javelins
8 Slings
140 Sling Bullets
22 Throwing Axes
3 Light Hammers
4 Handaxes
3 Light Picks
4 Saps
142 Short Swords
3 Battleaxes
2 Flails
24 Longswords
2 Heavy Picks
4 Rapiers
12 Scimitars
1 Trident
5 Warhammers
4 Glaives
11 Greatclubs
32 Halberds
1 Scythe
145 Longbows
103 Shortbows
1,400 Arrows
1 Bastard Sword
1 Hand Crossbow
113 Sets Padded Armor
245 Sets Leather Armor
15 Set Leather Armor (Small)
32 Sets Studded Leather
15 Set Studded Leather (Small)
3 Sets of Hide Armor
6 Chain Shirts
32 Small Wooden Shields
23 Large Wooden Shields
47 Bucklers
17 Backpacks
232 Bedrolls
23 Coils of Rope (100 ft)
4 Grapples
423 Trail Rations
65 Hard Biscuits
66 Water Flasks
112 Torches
26 Lanterns
12 Tinderboxes
87 Flasks of Oil
6 Tanglefoot Bags
110 Large Sacks
55 Small Sacks
6 Mirrors
23 Bottle of Ink
78 Pieces of Vellum (paper)
2 Sets of Thieves' Kits

Further, the halfling merchants were selling many items for their pre-war costs.

True to his word, Nikolos excused himself once the decision seems substantively made, and returned to helping heal the victims of the fighting. He kept magic for the truly serious cases, mainly relying on his mundane healing talents, and those of Gnaden.

Silas accepted little from the stores that Cal offered: only a few bolts to replace those he used and some travel rations. Then he went to prepare for departure so that he would be ready to go whenever the time came and (again) say good-bye to his family.

Silas also went to see Hector before he left. "Hector, my friend, I am again being sent out to lend aid to our allies. I would much rather stay here with my family, but..." He shrugged. "Anyway, I would leave the gnomish spellbook with you for safekeeping and so that you can study it. And I have been thinking. If you wish to repair your reputation you might offer your services to the Baron. A man in his position needs the support of men such as us." Clasping Hector's hand firmly, Silas ended with, "Farewell."

Later Barok returned to town, washing off some of the stink in the brook and grabbed himself some equipment from the town supplies before appearing, a bit grimly, when the heroes were about to depart. He grabbed the following:

1 Rapier
1 Shortbow
40 Arrows
1 Backpack
1 Coils of Rope (100 ft)
10 Trail Rations
1 Water Flasks
2 Torches
1 Lanterns
1 Tinderboxes
20 Flasks of Oil
6 Tanglefoot Bags
and some Healing potions.

He also bought three potions of Invisibility from Hector at 300 gps a piece and two oils of Magic Weapon for 50gps a piece. Barok left his light crossbow and bolts in the town warehouse.

Ventus wandered the town for a few moments, mentally saying a goodbye to the place that had actually become his home for a short while there. He touched base with the wall builders, leaving them with as much advice as he could, but trusting them to oversee the construction while he traveled with Dartis.

He looked over the equipment available with the eye of one used to traveling as lightly as possible. So much stuff, but not useful for anything but weighing down a man in a fight. He gathered up some of the rations to sustain himself on his travels, but left the rest for the townfolk.

The seven heroes left New Dorinth and headed north on riding horses. All brought enough food and water for the trip, although Barok's saddlebags practically bulged with supplies while Nikolos carried along several books on elves and a couple of blank journals where he could record his findings.

The group was only two days out when they meet the first elven patrol. The patrol did not take the intrusion into their lands kindly, even when Dartis claimed that the group had come to help. Tensions were high until Kel was mentioned, and the elves begrudgingly allowed the party to continue, though under guard.

As they spent the next days travelling through the elven lands, the party could see reasons for the anger towards outsiders. Most of the outer elven settlements had been almost completely destroyed, and ravens were a common sight among burnt out wooded homes. It seemed that the elven dead were put to rest, although bloated orc bodies still baked in the sun. As the party got closer to Saleentra the damage seemed to be lighter, indicating that the orcs found stronger resistance as they grew closer to the capitol.

Barok started the journey with a hangover, and his mood became even fouler when faced with the elven hostility. Reading the signs the war had left behind, his mind turned towards casualty figures and elven birth-rates, and he grumbled to himself about the follies of joining the losing side.

The elven escorts ran into some of Saleentra's guards, and there was a lengthy discussion on whether or not to allow the heroes to see the elven capitol or to make them wait outside. Orders came from Councilman Kel to let you through... it looks like the old friend had gone far in a short amount of time.

And that's when the party saw it...Saleentra, the center of the Silver Forest. Despite scorch marks on some of the structures and armed elves constantly on the move, the city was still splendid. Towers made of white marble and boasting intricate designs inlaid with silver-painted metal rose up through the canopy of trees. In the center of the town lay several great oaks that dwarfed all others that they had seen, and it was in these that many elves had built small cottages and bridges made of rope and wood.

Barok's eyes widened at the sight of all that wealth, and a grin split his face both in greed and admiration of the beautiful scenery. "Those little buggers sure know how to make things look pretty." he said to no one in particular.

Danica had been quiet for much of the journey. She had taken a case of crossbow bolts from the supplies that had been offered, and was reaching for a pair of the tanglefoot bags when Barok had taken the lot. She was still learning about her new companions--no doubt she appeared aloof, or perhaps reserved, but that was fine. They seemed more than capable, if somewhat rough at the edges. The thought made her giggle: compared to the nobles the group had seen, and compared to the elves they were about to visit, no doubt she too would appear rough. Shouldn't judge.

But her visit with Radnall had been satisfying -- it was clear she could never go back to the relationship tey had once enjoyed, but that too is part of growing up. He was proud of her. Now she could become worthy of that pride.

And so as they travelled, Danica listened to the stories around the campfire, and laughed and drank alongside them, but did not socialize much during the day, preferring simply to walk, and to listen to the forest and enjoy the journey. In the evenings, her straight back and long neck holding her head high, she remained slightly removed from the others, sitting on an old stump, and learning about her companions through observation.

The sight of Saleentra, of course, made her gasp audibly. Its beauty and the surprise of seeing it emerge through the confiers they had been passing brought a smile to Danica's face that lasted most of the afternoon.

Saleentra had indeed been an eye-opener. Nikolos, in his travels, had seen some of the grandest sights human civilization had to offer. The great cities of Craece, and the Empire, and the ancient cities of the south. Saleentra wasn't as large as some of them, but it had a beauty all it's own.

Dartis didn't have time to be distracted by the sights of Saleera. While it was good to see Kel again, he was here on business, and the Dorinthians couldn't afford for him to be agog at the sights.

The party was made guests of the elves, although from the sharp looks that they received they were unwelcome guests. Kel appeared with a large smile, but a face lined with stress and strain. He allowed the heroes to stay at his councilman's quarters, an elegant cottage but one that was cramped with the adventurers and their gear. Still, it was likely safer with Kel, given the mood of the city.

Kel told the party that the orcs attacked on all fronts at about the same time that New Dorinth was assaulted. The elves suffered badly, completely losing most of the settlements on their western borders and taking extensive damage elsewhere. There were four factions in the council now: the religious party that was pro-Dorinthian or at least willing to help the Dorinthians during their plight, a neutrality party that Kel was once a part, a pro-Imperial party that sided with the Empire's demands for surrendering the Dorinthian refugees, and the militants that were led by influential wizards and sorcerers and demanded that the elven nation's power be used to enforce their will on their neighbors before their nation was destroyed by external forces. Currently, Kel had joined the pro-Dorinthian party called the “Sol Party” in Common lingua, despite the fact that he worshipped a different god. He was made a council member due to his past experience working with humans and his recent reputation for heroism. Silas Generwine had also left the neutrality party and had joined The Warhawks. He was far from alone. The Sol and neutrality parties had lost much of their influence and the elven council was now made up of mostly pro-Imperials under House Dran and The Warhawks.

The heroes were invited to be witnesses under the next Elven Council meeting, and were provided elven clothing to make themselves fit in. The council was set up inside a white, marble building at the top of the Great Tree of Life. The chairs formed a circle around a purple crystal that pulsed as if alive. Seated underneath the crystal, was an elf who delegated whose turn it was to talk, and this moderator was known as the Voice.

The heroes were unsure of why they were asked to attend, however. Kel translated much of the proceedings, and Caramip did the same when Kel went up to speak. There was a lot of finger-pointing in the party’s direction, and the council discussed whether or not to seek an alliance with the Imperials by turning over the Dorinthians or instead to ready the elven nation for war on all fronts. Curiously, though the Warhawks had no love for the Dorinthians, their stance was that New Dorinth should be left alone, as well as the dwarven and gnomish kingdoms, since they don't pose the threat that the Imperials and orcs do. The party wondered what their fate would be if the Warhawks were able to eliminate the others and have more time to concentrate on New Dorinth.

Barok barely choked his laughter, As if the elves were in any position to attack anyone right now, or within the next four hundred years or so until they have replenished their losses in this war... Deluded fools.

Barok paid little attention to the debate as his eyes wander between some of the more attractive females in the assembly. As some of them notice and return his gaze with their haughty stares he soon loses interest and grows bored. Occasionally overhearing the discussion he still can't help but to think that it would be best for Dorinthia if the orcs and the elves were allowed to kill each others off. Though it would be a waste of some of that pretty flesh.

For a brief shining moment, Nikolos had thought that the fabled elves might be somehow above the usual concerns of the mundane. Then they'd gone to the council meeting, and he'd realized differently. He'd watched and listened with growing amusement, as the meeting had gone on. They sounded just like every council and senate he'd ever encountered.

Kel gave a well-spoken speech on the importance of allies and the aid that other nations, such as the remnants of Dorinthia could give to the Silver Forest during this time of crisis. His speech was met with unsurprising shouts of hostility, but the heroes noted a smattering of applause. Kel had his supporters, and it was perhaps wise of the Sol Party to make him a councilman.

The council was a bit disappointing, but also informative. The shifting alliances within the elven kingdom presented an opportunity for Dorinthia's survival. Some good may yet come from the orc attack.

No questions were asked of the party, and the heroes felt even more isolated as the debate wore out the day. Finally, it was over and Kel sent an assistant to bring the party back to his quarters while he went to a private meeting. After an hour, he returned, this time with one of the heads of the Warhawks! This was the very mage who spoke while seated at the central crystal.

"Gentlemen and lady, this is Councilman Varel, the new Council Voice," Kel said as a way of introduction.

"Evening. You have journeyed long I have heard, so I will not waste your time," the councilman stated. He lacked the natural haughtiness of many other elves the heroes had met. In fact, the elf seemed positively indifferent. There was a coldness in his voice that spoke of a man who trusted only in knowledge and logic. In a way, it was more unsettling. "Kel has convinced me that it would be better to have allies at this juncture, in order to put the fight out of the orc nation. They are currently led by a new orc chieftain named Zugash in their capitol by Ice Mountain. We lack the forces to invade their land, so I propose making two strikes. A group of elves led by Silas Generwine will sail along the coast, then come in through the few still unfrozen rivers leading into the orcish lands. There, they will conduct raids upon their food stores and leadership. Their operation may last a few months. Your mission would be quicker. We need to cripple the orcish ability to respond to the threats on their interior, so I am looking for a group to strike at either the orc chieftain or his capitol. If you decide to go after the chieftain, I am sure you know the risks you are taking since you would be entering a hostile land, and then try to enter a hostile orcish city, get through the guards, and eliminate the target. On the other hand, I have what may be a simpler solution. I have in my possession a certain book that talks about the Mountain Lord, a being of great destruction that sleeps inside Ice Mountain. His sleep is guarded by a lost temple and several guardians that reside there. Finally, there is a great seal that must be opened at the final portion of this ancient temple. And I have found that key. Take it, if you will, and awaken this Lord of the Mountain. Should you do so, the orc tribes will have to deal with chaos inside their own land and my strike force should have a greater chance of success. If we succeed, both your new home and the Silver Forest will be able to crush the orcish threat for another human generation."

Barok answered first. "Ah, and then we'd just sing a little lullaby and make the big bad monster go back to sleep? Or maybe it only likes orcish meat? Maybe it will even be grateful to us for freeing it and make all our wishes come true? Or, is there a possibility that we'd be unleashing something that was imprisoned for a very good reason? And if we let it loose we'll have far worse things to worry about than a few cowardly little orcs?"

"No, I like the first plan better. Of course, decapitating the orcish nation is dangerous work. Our Lord would probably dislike me asking for some compensation for our troubles, but maybe you could send along some of those fabled elven archmages to make our work a little easier?"

Danica’s pupils were wide. She was no tactician, but it was clear even to her that The Voice might not be either. The choice of missions he offered seemed unexpected, and she was surprised when Barok gave voice to the sentiments she had instantly felt on hearing the offer. Barok had chosen different words, of course, but it was clear to Danica that Barok's perspective on the matter echoed her own. "Hmmm." The noise was really only to herself, and she had not meant to attract Varel's attention with it. But nevertheless, there he was, looking at her.

"I'm no strategist..." she began apologetically, "but I suspect Barok is correct -- a direct approach on the orc chief offers us fewer variables. But perhaps youcuold explain the key to us in any case... Do you know what the Lord of the Mountain even is?" She hadn't ment the last question to sound indignant. If they knew what the creature was, even what sort of creature it was, and if they knew the nature of the key that guards it... well, thatknowledge too could prove useful.

The meeting after with Varel didn't make Nikolos any more impressed. Assassinating an orc leader, or unleashing some dread monster on the orcs. Neither sounded very promising to him. He listened to Barok, and Danica, then said, quietly, "It seems to me that unleashing this monster might have some benefits. It may take the orcs longer to rid themselves of the monster then for a new leader to take control. However, that is only true if there is some means to return the beast to its sleep once it has fulfilled its purpose, assuming the orcs haven't dealt with it."

Dartis listened to the offer from Varel impassively but intently, as he did to his friends replies. A pensive look clouded his face as he looked at Ventus, Caramip and most intently at Silas, awaiting any input they may have as he awaited for some clarrification from Varel on the Mountain Lord

"I understand your concerns. Which is why I'm willing to give you a wand that will allow you use on one another to fly away. Nothing in the small pieces of lore in our libraries have indicated that this Lord of the Mountain can fly, although we are not fully aware what he or it might be. We do know that there was once an ancient and great people that used to dominate this land in a time now forgotten. These people bound this Lord to the center of a mountain and sealed him away underneath a great temple, but supposedly not before it destroyed much of their surroundings. There are also indications that this person or creature can only expend so much energy before slumbering once again for decades or even centuries. Either way, it is likely that a tribal group as large as the orcs can either destroy or exhaust it, if it even still exists. What is important is that it will provide a distraction if it was as destructive as legends suggest. I understand there are risks with either course. If you have a better suggestion for a distraction, I am open to listening. However, I would suggest a quick and significant strike that would get the attention of the orc tribes, but give you an opportunity to escape."

Silas was content to absorb the sights of Saleentra and later listened and took in all the information he could from observing the elves and their councils. But this mission to Ice Mountain... A fool's errand, he thought. He frowned, unable to fully mask his unease. Feeling the weight of Dartis' gaze, he quirked one brow questioningly and shrugged slightly to indicate his uncertainty. Finally he cleared his throat quietly and said, "This is a weighty thing you ask. And the likelihood of success... I presume you have ancient lore or maps that can lead us to this temple and guide us to this Lord of the Mountain?"

Varel nodded at Silas and says, "Yes, I can provide maps. They are ancient, although I believe little has changed in the frozen north and the limited scrying that we have done says that some structure is there in the mountainous location indicated."

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Caramip thought to herself as she listened to the Elven’s plans. As everyone offered their opinion on what was to be done, she patiently waited for a lull in the conversation before sharing her thoughts on the matter.
I am no tactician nor wish to be, however my concerns are for the ones not in this room but for those defending their families and for those yet to be born.” She paused, just for a second as she let her words sink in to those who were listening. “It is plain to see,” She continued, “That both nations, Elven and Dorinthian, will benefit from the success of your plan Senator. Though the real question still remains. If successful, what will become of the relationship between these two nations? Will an alliance of old be reborn such as it was generations ago or is this simply another tale like that of the Great Tearht Downfall?” She paused for a second time before continuing. “Alliances and more importantly friendships are hard work and often require sacrifice on both sides. If both nations are willing to spill blood together should they not be able to live peacefully amongst each other?

When Caramip asked her questions the elf turned to her, with a slight look of pleasure. It seemed he has been waiting for this inquiry. "I am willing to use my considerable political resources so that the Council of the Silver Forest will formally recognize the people of Dorinthia as a sovereign neighbor to the south. Borders can be negotiated, but because much of this territory on the southern tip of the Silver Forest is currently unoccupied it should not be too difficult to secede a part of the land. We will maintain neutrality in any conflict between you and the Empire, however. You will have no reason to fear an invasion from us, but we will not assist you against them. Trading rights will continue to flow to both groups. Still, you will be in a perfect location to establish trade with us, the gnomes, and the dwarves. You will have yourselves a new country... if you can hold it."

Nikolos listened to the elf speak, intently. When the promise was made, he smiled at Caramip. Her ability to get to the heart of a matter was a constant joy to him. Then he looked at the elf, and spoke again. Senator Varel. Your promise to the Dorinthian people is most generous. My question to you is this: Given what the Empire did to the Dorinthians for simply allowing a halfling rabble to make raids from within their territories into Imperial lands, what reaction do you think the Empire will have to your providing lands, even empty ones, to their most hated foes? And if that reaction is as extreme as I fear it may be, do you have the influence to keep the elves neutral in the face of Tallione ultimatums?"

Dartis had remained silent through the discussions, taking in the various opinions. But Caramip had indeed solicited the key issue here.

Dartis answered Nikolos' question though as he addressed Varel. "It is enough for them to secede the land to us for now Nikolos. A country of our own again is nothing to look twice at, especially in the presence of the giver. Remember that Counselman Varel may indeed have witnessed the founding of Dorinthia by Berl Dorin with his own eyes. We are but a neophyte state to Saleera. A nation that they wish to ensure can survive on its own without their aid. Obviously we did not. Yet Dorinthia remains so long as her people do. For now we are a convienent barrier against the orcs, and a ready market for their goods.

Saleera would wait a thousand years, before deciding that we have matured enough to becomes allies. And yet there remains behind all these discussions the Tallione Empire as Nikolos has raised. Thus far Saleera has maintained neutrality, though not with unanimity nor solidarity.

Should the Tallione arrive at their doorstep, I have no question that Saleera would be able to resist their advances. The Tallione will press them of course, and even threaten them as they can. But even the Warhawks will see that the Tallione are a plague upon the land and that the Tallione would not be satiated with the paltry remains of Dorinthia. Indeed imagine the Imperial Legions marching upon New Dorinth, burning and destroying. Would their Commanders not cast a greedy eye upon the wonders of Saleera that now lies at their feet? Would the Tallione Commanders be able to resist the treasures of Saleera, even if the Elves of the Silver Wood gave up Dorinthia? I doubt it.

In time, I know that Saleera will come to see the Tallione as they are. And as we shall now unite to fight the common threat of the orcs of the north, it will be inevitable that we must united to face the Imperial threat from the south. The Hart of Saleera could indeed throw the Dorinthian Hare in the path of the hungry Tallione Bear, but the Great Bear of the south has an inexhaustable appetite.

So Councilman Varel, if you can assure me that your considerable political weight, combinded with our dear friend Kel here, can secure the rights to the southern lands, and that Saleera will not betray the Dorinthia people, lands, or interests to the Tallione empire or their agents, then I believe that we can work to ensure the safety and security of both of our peoples.

Now I think we should seek to free the Lord of the Mountain. Not the least becasue if we fail to assasinate the orc leader, we shall bring the whole of the orcish nation down upon both our nations, and neither of us can afford that. Should we fail in releasing the Lord of the Mountain, the orcs may be none the wiser. With the counsel that the Lord of the Mountian falls asleep again and will not come to destroy our homes, I think this is our best course. It would be too easy for a sub-chief to rise up out of the chaos and reassert control, even partial, and still remain a threat to us.

Additionally, we have had some good luck with ancient seals haven't we Danica"
as he gave the young lady a sly wink.

The negotiations became friendlier, or at least as friendly as the stiff mage could possibly be despite Dartis mispronouncing his nation's name of Saleentra. Nikolos was able to smooth feathers. It was a common mistake among foreigners, and easily forgotten. The journey would take weeks through hostile terrain, so Varel made another promise that Kel and he would be able to have the Council move for Dorinthian recognition before leaving to gather necessary supplies for the band, along with maps.

When he left, Kel was all smiles from a successful negotiation. "See, my friends? Thanks to our efforts, your country will live again!"

As she thought about it, something itched in Caramip’s bardic tales about the Lord of the Mountain. It was supposed to be a being capable of great destruction and able to ruin entire settlements. It was made to slumber long ago by fantastic magic.

Nikolos couldn't tell about what, but the elven spellcaster wasn't completely truthful about something. The cleric felt he was honest about Dorinthian recognition, elven neutrality, and the requested mission. Also, he seemed to dismiss the Tallione Empire as a lack of a threat, however, and Nikolos wondered if the Councilman knew what he is getting into.

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