Rise of the Thrall Lord
Knights of the Couch - Part II - Orc Season - Part 2
“All of the attacks have happened along the west road at around the same point,” Captain Gelpas told the group as they walked through the halls of Restonford castle. “It is just before the caravan makes it out of the Bendenwood forest.”
“So you think the orc bandits have a base camp somewhere in those woods then,” Aksel finished for him.
“That is what we believe,” Gelpas answered. “Now, will you need any weapons or supplies? I have been instructed to give you access to our armory…”
“Wait, wait!” a voice called from behind them. An older gentlemen was following after them from the throne room. He looked to be a half-elf. “My name is Pheldman. Pheldman Talathgondir,” the old half-elf said.
“You were the merchant from the throne room,” Glorfindle observed.
“Yes, that was me,” Pheldman replied. “I wanted to tell you to stop by my shop, Fine Food and Drink before you head out. I will supply you with whatever you need to stop these dreadful bandits. They are ruining my business. Also, some of the other merchants said the same. All except Haltan, that is. He wouldn’t part with a copper piece if his life depended on it. Anyway, don’t forget. Fine Food and Drink.”
With that the old half-elf shook their hands and walked away down the hall towards the castle entrance.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Gelpas continued, “the armory is this way.”
A little while later, the party gathered back at the Dying Minotaur. They decided that they would probably need more manpower on this quest, so once again went looking for hired help. They saw Glendor and Brundon sitting in their usual booth in the common room.
“I think we should hire them again,” Aksel was saying. “Glendor saved us all last time.”
“That was me,” Seth replied in an insulted tone. “I was the one who smashed the golem ring.”
“Yes you did Seth,” Aksel admitted. “But Glendor almost died facing that golem alone.”
“Glendor’s alright,” Seth said shrugging his shoulders. “But that means we have to hire Brundon too.”
“Yeah, well they do come as a set,” Glorfindle said.
“Well do we hire them or not?” Aksel asked the group.
“I think we should,” Glorfindle responded.
“Sure,” Lloyd said.
“Whatever,” Seth replied folding his arms.
Aksel went over and rehired the pair. But it was getting late in the day, and the party had some preparations to make still, so they made arrangements to leave first thing the next morning.
Glorfindle went to study some new spells that Peltar had given him. Aksel headed over to the town temple to research some new spells of his own. Lloyd went to train on some new fighting techniques. And Seth went to both train and study.
At the end of the day, they were all tired, but their preparations were well worth it Aksel thought. This bandit hunt seemed like it should be easier than the excursion to Bone Hill had been. But you could never be too careful. It was with that thought that the little cleric fell fast asleep for the night.
The next day the party gathered once again in front of the Dying Minotaur. Everyone was on horseback once more except for Aksel and Seth who again had riding dogs.
“This is the same dog I had before,” Seth noticed.
“Yes, so is mine,” Aksel observed as well.
“I’m going to name him,” Seth said. “Ok fella, from now on you’re going to be called Scooby.” He scratched the dog behind his ears. Scooby definitely liked that.
“Well, if you’re going to name yours, then I guess I will as well,” Aksel said. “Hmm, what shall I call you,” the gnome mused as he looked his dog in the eyes. “I know, I call you Fenrir.” Fenrir barked his approval.
“Well, now that that’s all settled, can we be off?” Glorfindle asked impatiently.
“Let’s move out,” Aksel told the group.
They followed the west road out of town this time. The west road actually ran northwest, following the Restin river until it branched off into two tributaries, the East Restin and the West Restin. The it continued to follow the West Restin past the Kelman hills to the south and the Dweomer Forest to the north.
It was another beautiful day as they traveled along the road. Brundon was out in front again, followed by Lloyd and Glorfindle. Next came Seth and Aksel and Glendor brought up the rear. Glorfindle’s familiar could be seen flying overhead and occasionally would swoop down and land on the wizard’s arm.
They had crossed the East Restin and were traveling on the north side of the West Restin now. They were just skirting the fringes of the Dweomer Forest. These woods were a stark contrast to the Dead Forest down by Bone Hill. The trees were tall and full. The ground was covered with underbrush. And the birds were flitting from tree to tree singing all the while.
“Now that is what a forest should look like,” Glorfindle sighed heavily. “I did not think I would miss the lush green trees of Ruanaiaith so soon.”
Raven had flown from the wizard’s shoulder once again and was skirting the tree tops, diving and twirling among the trees.
“Raven seems to be enjoying herself,” Aksel observed.
“Yes, she does,” Glorfindle acknowledged. “A town is too stuffy a place for a bird. She needs to be out among nature,” the elf sighed once again.
The party continued to follow the west road as it wound along its path alongside the West Restin. Soon they had past the Dweomer Forest and were back in open country. The Kelman hills could be seen to the south of the river and the Xerbel Mountains rose in the distance to the North.
As the day wore on, the weather stayed clear. The party continued along the road and before they knew it they caught their first glimpse of the Bendenwood forest. Glorfindle, Aksel, and Seth were quite familiar with these woods as they had traveled this way on their trip from Tarrsmorr to Restenford. But Lloyd had never seen a forest like this before. It was huge, reaching out of view south of the river and far north into the mountains.
The warblade had learned to track in the hills and mountains near Penwick. And there were woods that he traveled through in the town of Keltin, not too far from his home. But this forest was vast in comparison.
Glorfindle saw the look on the young man’s face and smiled. “If this impresses you, then you should come with me one day to Cairthrellon. The great forest of Ruanaiaith puts this little wood to shame.”
Lloyd continued to stare in wonder. “That’s hard to believe.”
“Make no mistake, Renesnyn, which means Bear-Heart-Ritual in common, or Bendenwood as you call it, is a lovely forest. But it pales in comparison to my home woods of Ruanaiaith. That forest stretches from Cairthrellon in the west to Kai-Arborous in the east. And it is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in Thac. There are some huge oaks in those woods. And those trees hold both eleven cities above the forest floor. In fact, that is what Ruanaiaith means. It translates to Star-Oak-Home in common.”
“Well enough of the elven language lesson for today,” Aksel said calling a halt. “I think we should start thinking about doing some tracking now that the forest is in sight.”
“Very well,” Glorfindle said. He sent his Raven skyward winging towards the trees in front of them.
“Brundon, Seth, how about both of you fan out north of the road and see if you come across any tracks,” Aksel told them.
“Sure,” Seth replied and turned his dog off the road.
“Will do,” Brundon added, and took off after Seth.
The forest was getting closer now. The trees were reaching up so high that they covered most of the sky in front of them. It was mid afternoon and the sun was already behind the trees at this point. They were still not quite to the forest entrance when Seth and Brundon came back to join them.
“There are some tracks north of the road,” Brundon said. “They could’ve been made by men or orcs. Whoever they are, there’s about seven of them.”
“We followed them to the edge of the forest,” Seth added. “It enters the trees about a quarter mile north of here, where the ground starts to rise a bit. If they climbed up into the trees, they would get a real good look at the road from there.”
“Hmm,” Aksel mused. “Then maybe it’s time we left the road. Let’s go north to where these tracks are. Then we can enter the woods a little farther north. Whoever is watching the road will be looking south so we should be able to sneak up on them unnoticed.”
The party filed off the road and followed Seth and Brundon back to where they had first spied the tracks. Then they continued to follow them to the forest edge. At that point they turned north for a few hundred yards and then entered the woods.
They traveled a little ways into the trees and then stopped. Aksel sent Brundon and Seth on foot back south to search for whoever made those tracks. They were gone for about half an hour when they returned.
“It’s a party of orcs alright,” Brundon said. “They’re camped right where we guessed. They are uphill about a quarter mile north of the road.”
“And there are two of them up in the trees,” Seth added. “But they are definitely facing the road.”
“Well,” Aksel said. “Then we have the advantage of surprise.”
Seth and Brundon mapped out the orc camp for them. The two orcs in the trees were on either end of the camp. In the center were the five other orcs sitting around a small fire. Four of them were carrying swords but the fifth one held a staff.
“He’s probably an orc cleric,” Aksel guessed.
“I can take care of the two in the trees,” Glorfindle said. “If I put them to sleep they should be easy targets.”
“I can easily climb up and take them out then, one at a time,” Seth offered.
“We can handle the warriors,” Lloyd said, clasping Glendor on the shoulder.
“Good plan,” Aksel said. “That just leaves the cleric. Brundon, I want you to stay back hidden in the trees with your bow ready. As soon as we charge in, I want you to start pelting their cleric with arrows. That should keep him busy dodging and stop him from helping his companions.”
“Sounds like my kind of fight,” Brundon said, un-slinging his bow.
They moved in as planned. The orcs had not moved from their original positions. Glorfindle put both orc’s in the trees asleep. Then Seth climbed up the one tree and dispatched the first orc easily. The orcs on the ground still had not noticed them. On signal, Lloyd and Glendor charged in catching them by surprise.
The two fighters had already wounded the first two warriors before the others had time to react. Once again, Lloyd was wielding his dual blades, dancing them across his opponent, deftly parrying the occasional swing of a curved sword. Glendor took great swings with his longsword, blocking counterattacks with his shield. The first two warriors were down before the others could fully engage.
The orc cleric had scrambled up from where he was dozing and grabbed his staff. He began to mutter a spell, pointing at Lloyd, when suddenly an arrow caught him in the arm. The priest screamed and clutched his wounded arm.
Meanwhile, in the trees above, Seth had been jumping from tree to tree till he got to the other sleeping orc. It was over quickly. Then Seth sat down to watch the show down below him.
Lloyd and Glendor were now each facing their second opponent. Glendor was exchanging blows with his adversary, slowly wearing him down. The orc broke through Glendor’s guard once or twice, but his blows easily bounced off the fighter’s full plate armor. The orc facing Lloyd, however, knew he was outclassed. He was wounded in a number of places from the big warblades dancing swords.
The orc priest tried to run up and heal the warrior facing Lloyd, but Brundon’s arrows kept him from getting anywhere near. The orc facing Lloyd suddenly pulled back, and started to run. Then the orc priest turned and did the same thing.
Lloyd got one more swing in on the orc, but then it was out of his reach. However, Seth, who was watching from up above, took action. He launched himself across a couple of trees and catapulted himself onto the orc warrior’s back. When Lloyd caught up with them, the orc was down for good.
Brundon meanwhile, was moving through the trees, trailing the running orc priest. He could not get a clean shot through trees, however, so he just followed along.
Meanwhile, back at the camp, Glendor finished the last orc warrior. When he was done, he turned looking for more orcs to battle. “Is that it?” the fighter asked.
“That’s it,” Aksel said walking up to the big man. “Now sit down and let me cure those wounds of yours. They may be minor, but we need you in top condition.”
Lloyd came walking back into the camp.
“Where’s Seth?” Glorfindle asked.
“He took off after Brundon and that orc priest,” the warblade replied.
“Did you see which way they were headed?” the elf asked.
“North,” Lloyd told him.
The elf wizard closed his eyes and concentrated. When he opened them a minute later he said, “Raven has spotted the orc. It is about a quarter mile north of here and moving through the woods. She briefly caught sight of Brundon in pursuit.”
“What about Seth?” Aksel asked.
“She hasn’t spotted him, but that doesn’t mean anything. I will have her continue to follow the orc.”
They finished healing up and then gathered the horse and the dogs. Then they began to move northward following the path that Glorfindle’s familiar detailed to them. They made good progress and were gaining on the three others, who were all on foot. However, it was almost dusk and starting to get dark in the woods.
They had been traveling for almost an hour when Glorfindle abruptly reported, “They’ve stopped. The orc left the woods and headed up the hillside to a cave in the side of the mountain. Brundon is waiting at the forest’s edge. Seth is still nowhere to be seen.”
“That’s because I’m right here,” the halfling suddenly said, appearing in front of them. “The edge of the forest is about 500 yards ahead of us. Brundon is keeping an eye on the cave. I circled back to stop you from charging on ahead and making a ton of noise.”
“Elves do not make a ton of noise,” Glorfindle replied.
“No, but you can hear Glendor’s armor clanking from a mile away,” the ninja told them. “Ok, maybe not that bad, but we have no idea how many orcs are up in that cave. So we need to be as quiet as possible.”
“Point taken,” Aksel replied.
They got off their horses and walked towards the edge of the forest. They tethered the horses and the dogs about fifty yards back, and then walked forward to the wood’s edge where they found Brundon. They could see a cave up the hill about a hundred yards away and set into the side of a cliff.
The ranger had seen the orc priest enter the cave about fifteen minutes ago. He had not seen any movement since.
“Seth, would you like to do a little scouting,” Aksel asked.
“Sure, why not,” the ninja replied. He wrapped himself in his cloak and disappeared from sight.
There were a few trees on the hillside, so Glorfindle sent his Raven flying over to one close to the cave entrance. Then they waited.
Seth slowly made his way up the hill towards the cave. It was night now and he was invisible, so he was not concerned with being seen. His training and experience also allowed him to move without making any noise, almost. It would take extremely keen hearing to detect his presence that way. But the little ninja did not like to take anything for granted. Therefore, he was extremely careful as he approached the cave entrance.
The little halfling was close to the cave now. Maybe twenty yards away. He could almost see inside from here and thought he could detect a faint glow in back of the cave. Then he heard heavy footsteps. They were coming from inside the cave. In fact, they were getting louder. Whatever was inside the cave was coming out, and it was big.
Seth froze in his tracks. A large shadow loomed now at the cave entrance. It was man shaped, but much larger. Maybe nine foot high, four feet across the shoulders with huge arms at its sides. The silhouette held a long cylindrical object fatter at the bottom, most likely a club. And it smelled bad.
The thing started to grunt and lifted its head and began sniffing the air. Its head turned and looked in Seth’s direction. Then it started to lumber towards him.
Troll Seth thought. And it smells me. The little ninja started to slowly back away as the creature continued towards him.
“Troll!” Glorfindle hissed. “Raven just saw it come out of the cave. It seems to be tracking something.”
“Seth?” Aksel guessed.
“Maybe,” Glorfindle replied. “Either way, we can’t take the chance.”
“Lloyd, Glendor, we need to attack that thing now!” Aksel told them.
Lloyd took off at a dead run un-slinging his blades as he went. Glendor took off right after him, but could not move nearly as fast in his full plate. Glorfindle followed only slightly behind Lloyd.
“I’ll circle up to the right,” Brundon said and took off with his bow in hand.
Aksel began his way up the slope as well, but he could not keep up with the bigger folk.
Seth was inching his way backwards, the troll getting closer now. It was close enough that he could see its red eyes. He didn’t bother drawing his daggers; he knew they would do no good against the troll’s thick hide. Then he heard a clatter coming from behind him. He glanced over his shoulder and saw three figures running up the slope right towards the troll. The lead figure had far outdistanced the other two and was brandishing two large gleaming swords. It was Lloyd! And the other two figures were Glorfindle and Glendor. That explained all the clatter.
The troll heard it too. It turned towards the noise and roared, lifting its arms up in the air and brandishing its club. Suddenly a hot red beam of light shot across the night from down the slope and caught the troll straight in the chest. The troll roared, this time in pain.
That must be Glo’s new scorching ray spell Seth thought.
Then Lloyd had caught up to the troll and began slicing at it with both swords. His blades connected but troll hide was hard to damage. Glendor was still about 30 feet away down the slope.
The troll swung its huge club at the warblade who had attacked it. Lloyd deftly dodged out of the way.
Seth began circling around the troll trying to get behind it. He had no weapon that could harm the big creature, but then an idea came to him. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a torch. He continued to rummage through and found some flint as well.
Meanwhile Lloyd was slicing at the troll again. The troll swung back at the big man who again dodged. But this time the edge of the club caught the warblade as he twisted away. It was a glancing blow, but the force of it was devastating.
Then another red beam of light shot across the night. Seth was closer this time and could actually feel the heat from the ray. It caught the troll once again in its chest and the creature roared again, beating its chest trying to put out some small fires on its torso. It was still smoldering when Glendor made it up the slope and set for battle.
Lloyd and Glendor set themselves for battle and both began to attack the troll from opposite sides, first one then the other. The troll seemed confused and did not know which was to swing its massive club. Lloyd would attack it with his twin blades and the creature would turn towards him and roar. Then Glendor would take a mighty swing with his sword and cause the troll to turn back towards him. The two kept up this dual pronged attack for awhile, slowly whittling down the trolls defenses.
The creature was totally enraged now. It started to flail wildly with its club, this way and that. Lloyd stepped in to attack the troll and took a full hit from the creatures club. He spun around and landed on one knee with his back to the troll. A lesser man would have been knocked unconscious.
The troll saw his attacker down and began to advance on him. Glendor attacked from behind but he could no longer distract the troll who was intent on battering Lloyd once again.
Three purple missiles arced out of the air and caught the troll in the face. There was three mild concussion sounds and the troll was momentarily stunned. That didn’t really do much damage Seth thought, but at least it distracted the creature for the moment.
Seth took advantage of the troll’s momentary halt and darted up behind it. He had lit his torch and was holding it in both hands. He thrust it with all his might up at the creature’s posterior. It caught the troll full in the backside and got wedged there!
The troll screamed in pain and dropped its climb reaching behind with both hands to grab the torch and extract it from its painful perch. Seth had tumbled away and was putting distance between himself and the monster.
Lloyd was now back up on his feet. He and Glendor moved in as the creature finally pulled the torch out from its rear end. The warblade and fighter began a deadly assault hacking away at the troll with rhythmic precision. One, two swings from Lloyd and a third swing from Glendor. They continued over and over again as the troll desperately tried to fight back. But the monster no longer had its club. Finally it went down. The two warriors continued their onslaught until the troll lay in an unmoving heap on the ground.
It was finally over. The troll was dead.
“Now that’s what I call teamwork!” Aksel said walking up to join the others. He sat down next to Lloyd and began to heal the big man’s wounds. He had sustained a lot of damage from the troll’s attacks and needed serious attention.
Seth came over to join them and Brundon appeared from behind a tree to the right.
“Do you think there are any more of those things in there?” the ranger asked.
“If there had been, they would probably be out here by now with all the roaring that thing was doing,” Seth replied.
“Yes,” I think we can safely assume that there are no more trolls nearby,” Glorfindle replied.
“Thanks for the assist guys,” the ninja told them. Then he turned to Lloyd and asked, “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine,” the warblade replied breathing heavily with exhaustion, “thanks to you.”
“Yes, that was an interesting maneuver that you used on that Troll,” Glorfindle added. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before.”
“Yeah, Seth, what do you call that attack?” Lloyd asked.
“Oh it’s just something I made up on the spot,” the halfling replied nonchalantly.
“How about calling it Fire in the Hole?” Aksel said with a straight face.
They whole group burst out laughing.