11th Kuthona, “Starday” of the year 4711
The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, evening
Shelyn must have shone serendipity upon this morning, for as I went down to breakfast I was greeted by a “Fulminus of Fellapet”. He is a well-dressed merchant, respectable and blonde-haired, of middle-age and genteel manners. Responding to the criers, who searched for those with knowledge of the crannies, for he had come to tell me that it was he who had been commissioned to build the crannies of the four closest settlements – Lowelock, Fellapet, Isnur, Windfall. I invited him to eat with me as I asked him more questions; his family appears to have been engineers, he has an aura of good about him and claims to support my dream for Roderick’s Cove to become a beacon of goodness and civilisation in this dark expanse of self-serving wilderness.
As we headed to the gate to meet with Zao and Morden (who seemed rather fatigued from his previous night’s mission – I have yet to hear the outcome), the air was crisp and clean, frosty but with no taste of snow. Up in the clouds the birds were flying south, and a wild part of my heart longed to join them. I lived over a decade beneath the ground, without ever seeing the sun – but a few weeks in this town already has me longing to be free.
Crossing the river would have proved too laborious, and so we settled on Isnur as our first port of call. My hope was to continue on to Windfall, although Sojourn would remain outside our jurisdiction. It resists control from both Riddlesport and Roderick’s Cove, and the wealth of the nearby salt mines of Sojourn lake has bolstered this independence. We may wish to welcome it into the fold of Roderick’s Cove one day, but our mission today was for supplies
As the men rode on, I took a brief, ariel view. There is still snow patching the country, and doubtless more on its way. The surrounding area spreads for miles around with farmland and Isnur, from above, is like a little wrinkle in the land, a harbour dotted about with huts. I stopped briefly to speak to the only person I saw out in the countryside, a farmer harvesting what was left of his onion crop. Liri, that was his name, spoke of a few hundred surviving in nearby Isnur – apparently the orcs did not seem interested in taking humans, which I find surprising after their behaviour at the Picklewood Farm. I cannot fathom their actions.
Isnur itself is a small place, smaller even than Abken, and looked rather ramshackle and abandoned. Apart from the harbour, which seems mainly to be used for fishing, there is nothing more than a small municipal building, a shrine to Erastil and a merchant’s store. It is led, or possibly owned, by Lord Olivius Ironbridge, a proud Ulfen, determined to rebuild, regrow and survive. At Morden’s suggestion, I invited his three longboats and his 90-strong ‘wolf pack’ to Roderick’s Cove, to help us in the coming battle. The Orcs have been testing our defences, but there can be no doubt that they are rallying for attack. We will need Ironbridge’s strength in the coming battle, and can offer Isnur our friendship in the long-term, with favourable trade agreements and man power for their empty fishing fleet. More importantly, we can offer Olivius and his wolf pack a chance for honour, spoils and glory, and to prove their worth in battle – Morden tells me these are the things which sway an Ulfen’s heart. I prayed briefly at Erastil’s grove for the preservation of this village – he sent a swarm of fireflies to engulf me, and they lightened the dark corner for a moment, a sign that he had heard.
There was no chance to empty Isnur’s cranny whilst a population still remained there, and so we left for Windfall empty handed. Fields of spoilt grain and uncollected harvests gave way to a village in ruins – blood soaked in to the streets, buildings smoked and corpses littered the ground; the only movement was the flies. Windfall must have been a pleasant place once – a small village by the sea with a pier, a few boats, and a collection of thatched houses crowded merrily round the village green. Now, it stinks of death.
Fulminus, though, was good as his word. He led us on a winding journey to the cranny, which was built into a rock formation beneath a tree. I opened up the hatch and found a staircase down to a two-story cold room, filled with barrels of oil, brandy, olives, salt fish, salt and sacks of grain. It isn’t much, but it is rich food, and staples; it will be enough to keep the most desperate of Roderick’s Cove fed for a few days. I started the laborious task of rounding up and loading carts, and by three hours after noon, we were on the road again.
It was slow going; it took four hours to travel as far as Isnur, for the horses were not used to such weight and needed changing frequently. I desired that we press on through the darkness, rather than waiting until morning at Isnur. Perhaps that was foolish, but I fear that any evening Roderick’s Cove could be attacked – the Orcs will certainly take advantage of their night vision – and I will not leave my city undefended.
That said, it was not long before we were ambushed by a party of orcs on the road. The first I knew of this was when Fulminus fell paralysed from his horse, an arrow in neck. We pulled the carts together to use them as cover, and I ordered the others to stay behind as I tried to gauge the forces of our attackers. I could sense the presence of four evil auras, but could not see them hidden in the nearby swamp. I called on Shelyn’s grace and suddenly a great lance appeared in my hand, burning with righteous fire – I was so surprised I almost dropped it! Two of the villains fled immediately from her holy flame and another ran screaming, engulfed in fire, from a tar pit as I set the area ablaze. I cut them down with this holy weapon of Shelyn, and their evil fell quickly before her justice.
There was yet one more, whom I could sense but could not see. I heard the sound of wing-beats approaching from behind and braced for attack, but it was Nilluvian’s fair shape which landed beside me. There was little time for greeting and he told me at once, when I asked him, that one more orc was hiding behind a tree. I approached but could not see him; I attempted to question him but he took his own life, rather than give up any information. I supposed it to be a kind of honour, but Nilluvian was more cynical, and called it fear. With the danger passed, I embraced him and asked him to accompany us back to the city, where he could tell us of his journeys, and of Princess Loreena’s homecoming. I removed any items of value from the orc party, and threw their bodies into the burning tar-swamp, with a prayer to Shelyn for their peace. There was little of value except for a ring of invisibility, but the weapons will go to the Militia…