11th Kuthona, “Starday” of the year 4711 – continued
The Hoist, Roderick’s Cove, evening
The rest of our journey was uneventful, and we arrived back at Roderick’s Cove shortly thereafter. I confess myself relieved to see the walls standing, quiet and watchful in the night. At our approach, the guards and Derek were visibly relieved, and immediately began to unpack the supplies we had obtained. I had a quiet word with Fulminus before he left for The Hoist, about discretion regarding the destruction we had seen at Windfall – the people of Roderick’s Cove do not now need to hear tales of destruction beyond the walls, not after I have spent so much time raising their morale for the coming battle. Fulminus does not believe that they are all dead, but that many are in hiding, and will need rescuing in the coming days. My heart breaks for those who are outside the city, hiding from orcs and the elements, and struggling to survive; but until the siege is broken, my place is at the walls, ready to spearhead the attack.
I walked with Nilluvian to his stable, and was eager to hear his news. Princess Loreena was safe and sound in Augustana. Her father was grateful and moved by our situation, and has shown honour in helping the less fortunate. He sends the message that the Lords of Andoria recognise my authority, and have sent a baggage train stocked with food, building materials and exports to help get Roderick’s Cove back on its feet; this caravan is escorted by a legion, which shall be in my command.
Then Nilluvian bestowed upon me the greatest honour I have received since taking the mantle of Shelyn, for he knelt before me and swore allegiance, fealty, friendship towards me. I felt my heart filling up with love, and a strange harmony fell between us, as if we could sense one another for the first time. I believe that we are bonded now, as once he was bonded to his master, Lord Erovian Tilernos, Champion of Ayomidae. These bonds are chosen only with the good and the worthy. I hardly knew what to say, but I hugged him close and wept for joy. Finally, I left him to his rest, wiped away my tears, and walked to the Hoist. I believe the townspeople find my presence reassuring, and I want to be considered accessible. So many people have put their faith in me, but I must appear calm, relaxed, up to the challenge.
I spoke with Morden for a while, over a glass of wine, and he told me quietly what he had seen at the Orc Encampment when he was scouting last night. In addition to six or seven thousand foot soldiers, there are a thousand mounted on horses and worgs, and six ogres in siege bounds. The camp is organised into four posts, one significantly bigger than the others, with a lot more carts. There is also apparently a great deal of movement in and out of the mine, which has been opened up. The whole camp is patrolled in a suspiciously organised fashion; six-ten troops, tightly formational, with precise schedules which cover the whole location. They have no lack of supplies and food, and also a significant number of magical items – probably their supply train is running from Belckzen, Morden says.
Morden suggests that our best chance of defeating them in combat is to destroy their morale. They may be organised by Orc standards, but they are Orc-kin still – uncivilised, and innately uncooperative. Morden already managed to poison the water supply for the animals, and the streamlet he poisoned was also used for the troops to drink from. That should, in addition to decreasing their spirits, quell significant numbers, though how much, we cannot know. As soon as the water is known to be poisoned, they will be able to find another source. All we can do is hope that our plans will be enough.
12th Kuthona, “Sunday” of the year 4711
The Battlements, Roderick’s Cove, evening
Surely it must be a gift from Torag, and from Shelyn. I can not believe that our paths could cross without their interference. But I am starting at the end of the tale – holding the axe by the crosspiece, as Balin used to say – and that is no way to recount a story.
I was awoken in the early afternoon by a knock at my door; Morden had returned with me to the Thickwood Estate and we had not slept until the small hours. A militia runner had brought news of a ship coming into harbour. Morden seemed unfazed, and merely rolled over beneath the sheets, but I pulled on my armour and went to investigate. It could have been a trading ship, or trouble; both would require my attention.
As the ship bore into the harbour, I could see a motley crew of elves, dwarves, humans and some creatures I could not recognise. I flew over the water to greet them, and was hailed in the name of Torag by a fat dwarf bearing the Divine Builder’s symbol upon his chest. A group of four, more confident-looking than the others, introduced themselves as ‘Torag’s Fist’, some kind of adventuring party, ostensibly, but they also had goods to sell – lumber and food. As they came ashore I greeted them properly and led them to The Hoist, whilst surreptitiously scanning the group for any evil or malicious intentions. Morden joined us and led the talking, and I was able to observe them. There was a large, dark-haired warrior woman named Chavali – a native of Varisia, probably with Shoanti blood, from the look of her. She didn’t say much, but listened with grim determination to all which was said, her jaw set and her lips drawn thin.
Krotos, that was the dwarf, did most of the talking. He is a typical lower-class dwarf, more interested in drinking than thinking, but a good, stout soul and with a real dedication to Torag. If all he told me of the exploits of “Torag’s Fist” is true, then he is favoured indeed by the Divine Builder, and they are all warriors of prowess. Krotos is also a Stonecrusher like Dereck, and also of Janderhof – presumably a distant cousin for the family is very large.
The strangest of the party is a girl barely my age, I would tentatively guess, but of very odd and sinister appearance. She has somewhat elfish features and long, dark hair of human texture, which lie at odds with the black-feathered wings which sprout from her back. She spoke eloquently during trade negotiations, during which I was able to purchase for the city 44.8 tonnes of wheat (3.5cp/lb each) and 5 tonnes of lumber (8cp/lb each). There is something dark and unreadable in her expression, though I could detect no evil, and she introduced herself as ‘Shadow’ – a pseudonym if ever I heard one. I wonder what in her past she runs from, for she seemed eager to be on her way.
The last member of the group may be the most useful to me, for he is a magic user – an elf of unusually dark hair and ugly, scarred visage, by the name of Variel. His manner is genteel, his speech delicate and well-formed. The comradery between the group is strong and I do not believe that I could persuade him to stay, but perhaps whilst he remains he may be prevailed upon to help the city, and may even be able to suggest a candidate for court Mage.
After divulging the tale of my Earthbreaker to the curious (and slightly indignant) Krotos, who believed that no image should depict Torag beneath any other deity, I was at last able to hear their story, told with great relish by a – by now – slightly drunken dwarf. They were bade by Torag on a holy mission to end this unnatural winter, and journey to the Land of the Linnorn Kings where they may rout out the source. I told them of the predicament I was in, of the Orc siege laying waste to the prospects of Roderick’s Cove, and they seemed more or less willing to help. I warned them of the risks – after all it is possible that the Orcs may attack any evening, and they could be in grave danger. I told them that I believe that Torag and Shelyn had led them to me for a reason, and the one called Shadow nodded gravely, which I had not expected, whilst Krotos raised his mug and called for more ale. It was not yet four hours past noon, and I must trust that Torag is fully wise and knowing, imbuing such power into a drunkard of so little intelligence.
I had just left “Torag’s Fist” to Thorin’s hospitality when another cry went up of approaching ships, and the fine, scarlet-striped sails of Lord Ironbridge came into view. The warships cut quickly through the waves, and they were mooring a few minutes later. I stood on the pier to welcome them, spreading my wings and holding my Earthbreaker aloft – the Ulfen seem, after all, a people to be impressed with physical prowess, and Sir Elessar taught me how to put on a show of strength. They were ninety in all – men and women both tall and broad, all armoured in hide, fur and scale. Olivius came ashore first, flanked by his two sons, Krieger and Ostog and his wife Lara, a shield-maiden.
Olivius swore fealty to me once again, and greeted me as a friend. It is a good sign. I told them that they should speak to Derek Stonecrusher regarding anything during their stay, and that Princess Arietta would liaise with them directly about battle tactics. I left them to the hospitality of the city, and went to warn Arietta that ninety wolves had just arrived.
Arietta was running drills with the men, but as I approached she sent them back to their duties. I asked her about her plans for the Ulfen – she intends to create a kill-box inside the gates of the city, with archer support from above, in case they become breached. Hopefully the fire and the militia should keep the walls free, and the Ulfen should mop up any who manage to sneak through.
I have grabbed a quick cup of hot tea on the walls whilst I write up my journal – the tavern is full of adventurers, and I daren’t go back to the Thickwood Estate yet, in case I am needed. I suppose in a few minutes, I will have to go and rally some morale, display my Duchess-ly powers, and…
Wait. I hear shouts on the walls. Something is happening…