The Bard’s Tale [Sessions 19-21]
This is the story of good Dellmon kin,
Of bravery, mourning and love that has been.
There in the plains of Dessarin Vale,
There is the ranch of this mournful tale.
Kerbin the valiant was greatly renowned
For kindness to people and for wisdom sound;
That’s why, when danger approached the Vale
Dozens of people sought here shield from gale.
Marka the good took everyone in,
comforting friends and strangers like kin;
Perd the judicious, first son of the two,
Prepared the defenses as best as he knew.
Dreena the wise, who took druids’ vow,
Was hoping that elves would be coming by now.
But Fyndrick the Brave, the youngest of all,
Thought he could slaughter them with his own maul.
When finally Orcs were charging their walls,
The only defense from that evil that crawls,
Great was the courage of all five of them
Fighting up front, the first wave they stem.
Dreena the wise, with mastery of spell,
Entangled them all, and face down they fell,
So that Perd and Kerbin, with mastery of blow,
Swiftly reduced them to fine Orog dough.
Fyndrick and Marka were striking with bow,
But young Fyndrick’s heart was in battle below.
All peasants along were fighting with forks,
But strong, ancient evil was guiding the Orcs.
As brave as they might be, too powerful spell
hit with all his power, and Kerbin did fell.
The heart of good Fyndrick, gashed with pain,
Filled only with vengeance as he cried in vain.
Dropping his bow, unsheathing his sword,
The boy ran after the fleeing foe horde.
Helpless his mother watched him wound his foe,
Until Fyndrick fell, among enemies and woe.
Another horde came, this time stealthily,
And Perd wasn’t ready as he fell helplessly.
Marka, heartbroken, her sons on the floor,
Fell under Orc’s sword just in front of her door.
But great was the damage they did to the Horde:
Together with peasants and six men from abroad,
The Druid repelled what was left of their foes.
Silence, heartbreak, quiet crying. Time froze.
Elves finally arrived and the ranch is now free.
To what cost though? Was it worth it? Was it better to flee?
Nay, friends, not the Dellmons: their courage was great,
Don’t yield to your fear, even in darkest of fate.
This is the story of good Dellmon kin,
Of bravery, mourning and love that has been.
None it is dead when eternally sung:
This is my lesson for old and for young.
The homestead down in the valley is on fire, and screams can be heard from afar; but no sign of orcs from uphill. They approach the burning house, leave the horses some 30 meters away and enter the house, Nogara and Ophelia from the window, Mephelon and Alexander from the door. Nogara finds a half-elf, with a gash on the forehead, coughing on the floor. Alexander brings him out, crying for his wife Maygan. Unfortunately, the whole house is burnt to the floor within 30 seconds. Maygan was apparently taken by the orcs. Nogara unsuccessfully looks for orc prints. Maul knows that the Iceshield Orcs come from the High Forest, but we are far from that now. The half-elf, Selwen, begs them to find his wife. It seems like his cart is missing, so maybe they took it. Fresh cart tracks lead east. Selwen, healed by Alexander, is thirsty for blood, but Ophelia manages to calm him down. He is still following them, but he promises to keep safe.
After following the tracks for a while, they hear in the distance the noise of four orcs celebrating in their language. Unfortunately for them, Maul understands their language, and their talk about feasting on the prisoners only makes him more angry. Maul is ready to charge, but Alexander urges him to use caution. They try to approach stealthily until they are at reach. Maul attempts to intimating them into to surrendering, but they attack. Ophelia casts her faerie fire spell on three of them, and then they all attack. Alexander and Maul run forward; Maul dodges two javelins in a row, and Alexander sheds mayhem on them. Nogara shoots arrows from the rear. Maul asks the orcs who is their chief, but he refuses to say and threatens him; so Maul takes him down with a slash of his maul and with the next rapid blow takes down another one. They easily defeat them all, but they save one for interrogation; they free the prisoners, who are exhausted but not in life danger. Maul starts to interrogate him. The prisoner tells them the name of their chief; Maul knows about orc titles, and it seems strange to him that the name of this orc does not imply a very high status. Maybe a lower level guy that broke off from the main group might have been able to take about 50 people. But why so far north from the High Forest? “Grumsh has spoken. The shamans said that the weather was the sign.” Maul considers freeing him to tell his clan of his name, but Ophelia knocks back some sense into him, arguing that their strongest point is the element of surprise, so they kill the orc. They escort the freed prisoners to a ranch nearby, owned by the Dellmon family. The ranch has been there for generations; while smaller farms have been evacuated at the sign of orcs, these guys mean to put up a stand by uniting all the people that fled. When they get in sight of the ranch, they see a small crowd of people standing on the barn. Our heroes are brought into the house and interrogated, and soon they become the talk of the camp. The ranch has been arranged for some defense, with wooden fences and ammunitions strategically placed. Kerbin is the chief of the ranch, he decided to stay and fight with his son Perd, who is not as sure about this decision. His wife Marka is somewhat skilled with a bow. The distress signal to the Emerald Enclave was issued by Dreena, younger sister of Perd and a druid. The third brother, Fyndrick, is eager to fight; in camp there is also a halfling, a couple of dwarves and about ten fighting peasants, 4 guards, a couple of hunters and some 16 others that can’t really fight. Erned Stoutblade, a knight from the Order of the Gauntlet, just arrived; he’s bringing news of about 40 orcs that will be there soon. They don’t have much time to set the defense. They spread the defense at the best of their possibility, and soon the orcs are on them. What with the effect of surprise – the orcs weren’t expecting skilled adventurers – and the power of their spells, they are able to repel the first wave of orcs with no casualties, but this is just the beginning – more are due to come soon.
A second wave of attacks is repelled, but at great cost. Although one of the fearsome shamans of the orcs is taken down, Kerbin falls bravely defending his home. Fyndrick, his youngest son, blind with rage, pursues the retreating orcs and falls under their strikes. Many peasants die too. The front of the house had suffered a lot of damage and Dreena’s entagle spells are almost out.
Before having the time to rest, a crushing heatwave hits the land. A short time after, smoke rises from the east, and under cover of smoke, orcs attack. Once more, after a few seconds, their advantage is absorbed by Ophelia’s faerie fire spell. But their enthusiasm is short lived: they didn’t notice another group of orcs, with powerful warriors and two shamans, attacking from the west.
Man after man, the farmers die, along with them a dwarf. Marka and Dreena watch helplessly as Perd, Kerbin’s oldest son, falls bravely at Maul’s side. The situation looks dire until Dreena’s entangle spell finally hits. But some orcs are not restrained by it and climb the fence, charging Mephelon, and savagely slaying Marka. Of the Dellmon family, only Dreena survives, barely, on the roof of a barn, with Ophelia. Of the mighty warriors fighting alongside Maul O’War, only Sir Stoutblade still stands. Alexander watches as the Orog slays Marka, and he understands that that might be it for the farm’s family. Doom in his eyes, he rushes to protect Mephelon, who is just in front of the Orog. With an unexpected powerful blow, shining with the light of Lathander, the Orog’s heart is impaled on Alexander’s glaive. The awesome scene draws everybody’s eye, including Maul, who can swear he saw that scene before… But his attention is drawn back to his Orog, of which he makes soon pulp.
Bree-Yark finally drops his javelins and joins the melee, bringing death from above. Ophelia and the archers drop their bows and join the fight. The last shaman and Orog corner Mephelon in the house, and they take him down. All the others enter to mob the two foes. Maul takes down the shaman by smashing his jaw, just after he tried unsuccessfully to charm Alexander. Bree-Yark finally takes down the last Orog, as they hear the sound of approaching horses. The elves are finally here! But too late for the farmers. Only Dreena survives, along with a fistful of farmers, and Sir Stoutblade. Dreena is devastated with grief, and Ophelia tends to her. While listening to her remembering the family, she composes a mourning ode for them. Maul goes to Alexander to question him about the shining light he emitted before, but the cleric does not seem to understand or having noticed. Maul confesses him that when he was a child and orcs attacked and killed his mother, his fleeing was protected by a figure emitting the same light. One of the bystander asks where this happened, and Alexander remembers – it was him that saved Maul, many years ago. He tries to hide his surprise, but fails. Maul hugs him, sobbing in gratitude, for having saved him. Bree-Yark, with enthusiasm, takes one of his feathers and seals in Maul’s blood the bond between the two.
Dreena presents Alexander with a ornamented mug of ale, as a token for her gratitude. She gives to Bree-Yark a golden cage, with the hope that it might always stay empty that it might represent a token of friendship among her and his people. Bree-Yark appraises her and breathes on her: the greatest lesson he can give the druid is that as they all breathe the same air, such is the bond that will bind the aarakockra and her. Dreena leaves a potion of healing for Mephelon, and gives Ophelia her family’s Bag of Holding. Moved, the bard promises her to sing about her family as the heroes that they were.
Sir Stoutblade goes to Maul and tells him that he owes his life to him. As a token of gratitude, he gives Maul his magical Boots of Striding and Springing.
They spend the night resting, with Ophelia’s mourning song echoing and easing their pain.
In the morning, one of the laborers that survived steps up and finds the courage to tell them why he was here. Nettlebee Ranch, where he is coming from, is under threat of a similar attack, and he came here to look for help before getting trapped here. So he is asking now to them to come and save his farm too. They have no other choice than to answer they call: they pack their stuff, get back the horses and ride towards Nettlebee Ranch.