Moon 3, Day 19
That morning, after half a moon’s journey to the south, Rekkar had returned to Stone’s Throw with his caravan. With him he brought some new faces and new wares, including several steeds. The newcomers included a beautiful dancer, a stout scholar, and a cartographer from lands far away. Each were quick to want to get out of the winter air and into the modest comforts of the Last Ale Inn. There was a lot of smoking and some strange new tobacco.
The day was cold and the winds blew hard. Seemingly carried by the winds themselves came another traveler. A curious, veiled half elf raised by Shou came upon Stone’s Throw claiming a vision had brought her to this disparate outpost. Shivering and exhausted, Cedeor offered her both cloak and kindness, showing her to the Last Ale Inn. She appeared injured, with bandages covering her right arm and part of her hand. Once inside, the keen-eyed Myru offered the woman, who later introduced herself as Yuèguāng, some salve. She treated her wounds and was more at ease.
A short while later, yet another traveler came. His name was Archibald and he claimed to be a detective seeking to solve mysteries for both profit and the rights to publish such stories. He appeared quick-witted and generous, even offering to help the veiled half elf, Yuèguāng with a mystery she needed solved.
After much of the commotion regarding the new travelers had died down, the aasimar Apoc proclaimed to the residents of Stone’s Throw that he was to set out to parlay with the orcs to stop despoiling the forests. Apparently, Apoc had turned a new leaf and his god wished for him to repair civilization and he thought this an excellent way to start. This came about after he had divined truth from an artifact he had found in a previous journey. Requesting assistance from fellow adventurers, he conscripted the help of Cedeor the paladin, Myru the druid, and the newly-arrived Yuèguāng. Each had their own reasons for joining Apoc but they felt this to be a noble mission.
To help expedite the journey, Myru conjured several dire wolves for the group to ride. Myru shapeshifted into a direwolf to keep pace as well. Cedeor rode his new Baronian War Bird, a magnificent avian steed whom he named Goldwing.
Moon 3, Day 20
The adventurers rode through the night and in the early morning came upon Mump’s Shack. The large tree with two large scratches across its massive trunk gave away its location. Since they originally set out, it had snowed heavily, caking the land with half a foot of snow.
It was there that they met up Arturia, a horned druid with surprisingly well-groomed hair. The group gathered inside the shack to discuss their plan, as what Apoc had suggested would be no easy feat. Arturia knew a lot about the orcs and shared with them that the outpost of Artoc held about 500 orcs, 300 hobgoblins, and some odd orrags. The members of the group who had dealt with the orcs previously suggested that Lundar would be their best point of contact to suggest peaceful resolution with the orcs.
The group then set out toward Artoc, peaceful resolution but trepidation on their minds. The snow and biting cold was relentless, chilling them to the bone. The trees and dense undergrowth covered in mounds of snow eventually gave way to nothing but flat land. Even the animals dared not venture to this section of land. It seemed to stretch on forever with no noticeable landmarks visible amidst the ever-stretching horizon. This was the area known as The Barrens. It was a wholly new sight to the newcomer Yuèguāng, who had only ever heard of such places.
As this was the last crossroads before meeting with the orcs, the paladin Cedeor could no longer contain his social graces and demanded to know what Yuèguāng was capable of should there be conflict. The foreign half elf did not wish to reveal such information as it was considered quite rude to ask, much less reveal, in her culture. Cedeor was stubborn though and it seemed that they would stay there all evening if she did not budge. It was far too cold for that. Finding a large tree stump covered in thick snow, Yuèguāng extended a long, slender finger in its direction. A crack of thunder was heard and then lightning leaped from her finger to the stump, exploding it into chips of wood and snow. That seemed to lay to rest Cedeor’s concerns and the group continued silently into the barren lands.
That night, Myru crafted the most exquisite igloo. It was a welcome respite from the harsh cold and the depressing landscape. The group had much on their minds but sleep came easy thanks to their expertly crafted accommodations.
Moon 3, Day 21
It was only one more day’s travel to the outpost of Artok. The bitter cold did not ease the minds or bodies of the traveling heroes. Arturia attempted to cheer the group up with small talk, though. She also conjured several large, snowy cats for them to ride.
That evening, they were far less lucky with camp. Resources were bare and the air whistled fiercely as a heavy fog obscured the moon and stars. Between the uncertainty of the coming day and the unrelenting cold, sleep did not welcome any of the party that night.
Moon 3, Day 22
The day of reckoning arrived. The heroes were greeted by harsh western winds. The only boon was that the wind had dissipated the previous night’s fog, allowing for better visibility. Beyond them they could see Leen, the small fort that was the only physical marker on the barren wasteland before Artok.
The two druids, Myru and Arturia discussed the plan again over breakfast. They debated either conjuring a bird to fly over Artok or to turn into a bird themselves to deliver a message to the orc Lundar, requesting to come out alone to speak of peace. That all changed when Arturia perked up suddenly, a cryptic message of death and fear entering her mind.
The horned druid began weeping uncontrollably. The rest of the party tried to comfort her and figure out what was the matter. Through her tears, they could make out that the message had been from Mump, that Alaric’s horse had been killed, and several inhabitants of Stone’s Throw were surrounded in Leen. The situation seemed dire.
After some deliberation, the group decided to change course and head to Leen to rescue their friends. While Yuèguāng was new, she felt it noble to help the rag tag crew who had shown her so much kindness. However, all wondered if this might be suicide as they recalled Arturia’s telling of how heavily fortified Artok was.
Somber but determined, the group rode off on conjured war horses. They knew there was little time to waste if they expected to have any hope of rescuing their compatriots. En route they discussed strategy as they knew they would be heavily outnumbered. Knowing that Leen was a logging camp, it was decided that they would try to set fire to the lumber outside of the fort to make a distraction before sneaking in.
Arturia was more than a little excited to execute this portion of the plan as fire came naturally to her, a manifestation of her tiefling heritage. When they got within range, she turned herself into a horned rabbit and raced to the stacks of wood a few hundred feet from the gates of Leen. The rest of the crew stayed back, hoping to remain unseen.
Several minutes passed, then the saw the smoke rise. Turning their heels into their conjured steeds (and the one chicken), they rode hard towards the gate. In front of them they could hear panicked yells and a horn sounding the alarm that something was amiss. The group counted a couple dozen bodies heading towards the now burning logs.
Calling forth the power of the elements, Yuèguāng made a few gestures from her war horse and then their northern side was obscured by thick clouds. This gave them cover as they entered Leen directly through the north-facing gates.
Once inside Leen, the group took note of their surroundings amidst the chaos. They were quickly noticed as the rest of the barracks quickly formed defensive formations. Orcs and hobgoblins yelled what was assumed to be vile insults. Two giant ogres came barreling out as well, one of which did not have time to grab his club so instead grabbed a large wooden bench. The friends they had hoped to rescue were nowhere in sight but blood heavily caked the ground in front of them. The odds did not look good for the heroes.
Suddenly several bodies fell to the ground with a thud. The group wheeled around expecting to be overrun but they were relieved instead. Falling out from an extradimensional hole appeared Alaric, Athao, Kindle, Mump, Nook, and Talon. They were a sight for sore eyes.
Realizing they were surrounded and outnumbered, the group also formed into their own defensive position. Cedeore began to glow with divine light and charged ahead, hoping to gain the enemies’ attention. Alaric popped a potion and grew to super human height. Apoc sprouted angelic wings. Kindle and Athao quickly made their way to the closest guard tower. Myru called to the clouds above, summoning forth a massive thunderstorm. Mump readied for battle and pulled Talon close. Nook stood behind the towering figure of Alaric, ready to stab anything that got near and then slink back into the shadows. Yuèguāng drew her breath, certain this is where she would die.
A crash was heard at the guard tower where Kindle and Athao had just ran to. It was followed by several roars and commotion. The group knew then than Arturia had joined them in her infamous bear form. The orcs and hobgoblins who were still outside could only see a massive bear butt clawing its way into one of their towers.
On the ground, orcs and hobgoblins marched towards the intruders. After closer inspection, they could tell that they were worse for wear, having already been in a battle prior. Not all the soldiers had their full armor and some looked bloody.
One formation moved towards the glowing Cedeore and his mighty avian steed, Goldwing. He expertly dodged most of their oncoming attacks, eventually drawing the attention of one of the massive ogres. Occasionally a loud crack of thunder was heard overhead as Myru commanded lightning to protect Cedeore and her companions.
The gigantic Alaric also commanded the attention of another formation of soldiers, hacking away at them as he moved. Meanwhile Nook deftly came out from behind him to stab the oncoming enemies, looking like she enjoyed their murder far more than anyone should. Apoc held position with Alaric, attacking any who came too near. Yuèguāng also shot out a few bolts of lightning but she was not as accustomed to this kind of battle as the rest of the seasoned adventurers.
Above them in the tower, the rangers set up their bows and whizzed arrows at their enemies below. Arturia kept the tower hobgoblins’ attention as she bit and swiped at them. She began taking heavy damage from the nasty creatures. Mump, hearing the cries from the bear above jumped up to the tower with massive strength, calling Talon to follow him. He healed Arturia’s wounds and jumped back down, also healing his grounded comrades before eventually turning to close the massive gates.
The soldiers marched closer and the group was threatened to be overtaken by the large number of foes. Myru and Yuèguāng hid beneath the guard tower that their comrades had taken over in the name of Stone’s Throw. The two would occasionally pop out from underneath to shoot of lightning bolts at their enemies, although Myru’s version was far more destructive. Every few seconds, arrows whizzed by overhead.
As Apoc was about to be overtaken by enemies, he flew up into the air with his angelic wings and called forth fel bolts to destroy those that would oppose him. He continued raining down destructive magic at the orcs and hobgoblins below. Once the front cavalry had been decimated, he turned to help Mump close the other door to the gate. The cries of the orcs outside could be heard and they were close.
A group of hobgoblins from the south of the camp made their way forward to take on the two women hiding underneath Stone’s Throw tower. Yuèguāng came out to meet them directly, calling the winds to her side. With elegant motion, she took hold of the wind like a whip. It hardened and lashed out, killing three and gravely wounding a fourth.
Ahead of them, Myru continued to call lightning down around Cedeore while he and his giant fowl bravely fought off their attackers. Arrows persisted to pelt the soldiers on all sides. After only a few of them remained, the enemies threw down their weapons and raised their hands up in defeat. Cedeore along with Goldwing moved to secure them with ropes.
Alaric fought ferociously, keeping the enemies in front of him occupied with his enormity. Nook viciously stabbed every enemy from behind Alaric with her sharp, bloody daggers. This was her element more than any other. Eventually they prevailed and Alaric moved north to help fortify the gates.
Apoc flew high above the gates, surveying the orcs and hobgoblins that were trapped outside. They looked weary and broken in spirit. A few tried to bang at the gate but quickly gave up. Alaric swung his sword from the other side of the gate, slashing any who remained at the entrance. The enemies knew that Leen had fallen and began running towards Artok as swiftly as they could.
Arturia delivered a final blow to the remaining hobgoblin in the tower and looked out from the rather large hole she had made in the side of the building. She growled, shifting back into her humanoid form. Then she conjured several hyenas and ordered them to lay chase to the fleeing enemies and tear them down.
The heroes inside of Leen began hunting for any other survivors. Nook was quite disappointed that the killing had stopped, barking frustrated retorts at Kindle who kept reminding her to stay her daggers and not to kill any of the prisoners.
The day was won but it spent the heroes. They interrogated the prisoners to find out what they could of the orcs and why it was that Kindle’s group had been attacked to begin with. Apoc proudly draped a banner of Erathis across the gates, claiming the fort in the name of his god. The group settled in as darkness overtook the lands, ushering in the night. Each knew that this victory was tenuous at best as no less than several hundred orcs and hobgoblins lay to the north in Artok.