A raven had been received hours after our mission in June calling for help from the Guild of the Black Sky. Seeing as how the next step for the Grove was to research and negotiate with this mercenary group I spoke with Gwion about going to their aid. The Black Arrow, Korrin, and Riastrad 'Fireforge' had been tremendously helpful in my arrival to Osterra and equally supportive in my departure to join the Grove. Since they needed help fighting a war party of Orcs I thought it the best use of my skills to assist them.
Fonti’s ingenuity had given us something sort of like a small firework- it was great for startling horses and starting small fires but required a delicate hand to activate it properly. I took two of these mixtures and two packs of healing herbs. I sent my Raven to Black Sky, gathered some provisions, checked my gear and made for the rendezvous. The trip was long but uneventful. Very quiet given the last few days. I focused on my tasks at hand, keeping what needed to be dry dry and staying sharp as I traveled alone. Orcs and bandits had been seen much these last few months according to the other factions but the fates were kind to me as I made it by mid July to our meeting point.
The plan was laid out before approximately 20 of us gathered there. The rogues would scout out the area the orcs were last seen, basic stealth reconnaissance. Seeing as they were Shagaresh followers from the last encounter the Guild had with them there was no room for negotiations. We were going to drive them out one way or another. Korrin, Zenric and I were the only rogues and headed out while the others worked out groups, formations, and heavy artillery movements.
It was sunrise when we went out- about a mile in we saw our first orc by a stream bed with a fishnet. We slowly followed him as he turned to go back to his camp. As he went up a hill Zeneric noticed something odd about the skyline- towers. We went left towards a brush covered hollow and heard camp sounds not too far from the top of the hollow we were in.
Korrin signaled for me to help him left Zeneric over the top to check the coast- it was extremely difficult as both men outweighed and out muscled myself. Why we were lifting him first and not me was beyond me but this wasn’t my mission and this isn’t the time to openly point it out. I gave Korrin a questioning look while we waited quietly for the coast to be clear. He noticed and registered what I meant but we both kept silent on the matter once the coast was clear. Zeneric pulled us up one at a time. I caught my breath at the top but not because of the 10 foot tall wooden palisades that were the mark of an entrenched camp of Shagerash followers.
DRAGON BONES. I remember the alchemists and mages back in the Reverse willing to pay fortunes for a single scale of a dragon or a tooth because of the magical potential. Flying hedgehogs I cannot imagine what actual bones would be worth.
I could see two skeletons on this side of the palisade, the main gate looked to be at the top of the hill of the orc we first saw, and to our left at the other end-
A watchtower was within earshot of my slip up. Korrin and Zeneric didn't hesitate and broke off in different directions back down the hill. A horn was blown and arrows started to fly in our direction. The camp was up and ready for us. There was only one thing to do now. I stopped just before the drop back down to the hollow, dashed past one of the dragon skeletons up a small incline and readied one of the flashbangs. An arrow got me in my throwing arm and I dropped it at my feet, setting it off. Good thing I'm used to things blowing up close range from brewing my herbs and mixtures back home.
It was with my bad arm, it was about 20 feet from where I was standing, but by the will of fate my last flashbang hit the side of the wooden palisade just right that a small fire started. I felt the wind get knocked out of me and my legs crumpled beneath me. Two more arrows had hit me, pounding feet were within earshot and then it went dark.
I woke up with pain in my right leg and arm, which told me I had not died yet. I remembered the orc camp and throwing one flashbang at the wall in hopes of distracting the camp from Korrin and Zeneric. I felt a brief wave of panic and looked around the room.
My hands and feet were bound, I was on a table with a pungent smelling poultice, something with yarrow and burdock for sure, and were those LEECHES?! Argh, amateurs. There was at least one guard. A cursory check of my body told me I would be better off not fighting anyone directly at the moment and I should be grateful that I have this opportunity to gather information.
A group of three orcs entered the tent. One looked old and had a shaman’s staff, one was in armor and clearly a warrior, and one was white, mangy and downtrodden. The other two were speaking in gutteral sounds and words to the white one who spoke in what I know as Common.
“Who are you? How many of you are there?”
“I’m a traveling herbalist. I’m writing a book about the plants here in Osterra and stumbled upon your camp with my bodyguard. Is he here?” The white orc spoke in guttural to his comrades. The warrior roared. He knew I was lying, I knew I was lying, but there was no way I was going to give up information on my allies. I endured 20 years of torture with no hope of being saved in the Reverse- sooner rather than later the others would be coming for the attack or at least send a rescue party. I just need to stall for time, something I excelled at.
“Is something wrong?”
“We know you lie. How many of you are there? We will hurt you for the information we need,” the white orc translated from the warrior. I gave them my best innocent deer eyes- very convincing when covered in blood, smelly healing poltices and for all intents and purposes, stealthy attire and face paint. Vaguely the sound of running footsteps and gutteral calls outside registered through the open tent flap. A strange roaring sound too that was oddly familiar- was the fire spreading? Had they not put it out yet??
The guard walked up beside me and began to twist my foot. It was my unhurt side though and I realized they were not aware of their incompetency. I fake screamed to convince them they were effective- there’s a time and place for patronizing but this wasn’t one of them. The older looking orc with the staff gestured for the other to stop and they began to heatedly argue in their native tongue. Shouts from outside drew their attention away. They all rushed outside and I had the answer to my previous questions. The fire was still on the palisade.
I am definitely going to ask for a title involving fire. I’m sure that will go over lovely with the other Grove members.
The back of the tent had my weapons and I cut myself free. My medicine herbs were nowhere to be found but there wasn’t time to look for them. The other weapons in the area were all good but none of them were poisoned as I had hoped they would be. Daggers in hand, I stalk out and around the tent to the nearest wall and shadows. I can see across the grounds orcs trying to put out the TEN FOOT BLAZE THAT HAS DESTROYED A SECTION OF THE PALISADE to no avail.
It is with great effort that I did not gawk out loud at the failure of these warriors to maintain a small fire from a meager flashbang. It’s good news for me, great for the warriors that are hopefully en route, but just in case…..
Glancing around the rest of the camp from my shadowy space I see well lit tents along the walls, barrack like, the medicine and other officer tents and in the middle another trench. The hole is lined with pikes and skulls and a terrifying structure that is too obscured from my location. It was definitely suspicious and oozed mystery and being important.
I made a direct beeline for a tent in the opposite direction of it. As a rogue I had made a vow of taking on as little responsibility as possible when it came to facing danger and being heroic. I was already injured, in the middle of the enemy camp alone at the moment, and while they were increasingly displaying more incompetency in terms of tactical operations like interrogation and PUTTING OUT A FREAKING FIRE FOR FOX SAKE I was in no way going to underestimate their fighting prowess. Better to remain hidden and look for a way out or small information tid bits than get myself killed by walking into the dragon's lair. I check my surroundings and slip into the second largest tent on this side of the camp. It could fit about nine or ten people, was well lit and had documents and papers spread out everywhere.
I started on the lamps and prepared to burn the place down as means of another troublesome spot for the orcs. If they had problems with an accidental fire this long after the fact I anticipate actually preparing an oil base starting point in a wooden structure to light up would be horrible for them. My ears were perked for sounds outside, making sure no one was coming in directly to see what I was up too. I was so intent on the task at hand it was several minutes before I realized what the papers in the tent were.
Maps. Plans. Tactical information for a larger plan at play.
Cursed Donkeys. There wasn’t enough time to go back through and comb the documents for anything specific or pertinent. The camp was becoming more and more lively and anyone could walk in any second. An orc could realize their captive was missing and free because fox dung I left the bindings back in the first tent. No time for regrets, what’s my next move?
There was a bag hanging from the tent frame lightly packed- a quick look around the room and I just started packing papers inside it. A good amount of information was still inside the tent but there wasn’t time to grab more. If I worried and wasted time I could be caught, and if I get too greedy now I could be slowed down even more. The loss of blood and my sneaking around had opened my leg wound but I ignored it. As much as I would love to stab and kill off some of these orcs I know securing the documents was more important. There was a lamp next to the exit.
Bag on my back, dagger in my left hand, I threw the lamp onto the oil slick ground and stepped outside of the tent as it went up like a tinderbox. The gaping hole in the palisade was clearly visible, maybe 30 feet away and all the orcs around it had their backs to me. I sneaked over to the shadows of the wall as the new fire roared to life in the dying embers of the palisade fire- a horn went off near the gate entrance, about 100 feet or so east of where I was. A deafening boom and lights erupted on the other side of the palisade, maybe just below the watch tower that had spotted me in the beginning. Sounded like a fireball trap, which was odd because Korrin had that and he should have been long gone by now.
Orcs began to gather at the gate with more horn calls. The attack was starting.
Flying hedgehogs, how am I getting out of this?
The orcs were preoccupied with the palisade blaze- my tent fire wasn’t really catching fire very well. The tents closest to the palisade however were catching fire no problem now. Gwion forgive me, it was never my intention to burn down an orc encampment but apparently it was meant to be my greatest acheivement here in Osterra. I backed away to the other side of the tent with my bag of info and checked my surroundings for another way out.
The middle trench was definitely creeping me out and if i wasn’t running on adrenaline I would have checked it out. There will be time after we take the camp-
That would be the ballistae. Warrior cries and orc gutteral shouts followed suit. The attack was officially on. They would most likely go for the watchtowers first to clear the way for the fighters. I peek around the side where the watchtower that shot me down was. I could see it over the palisade, at the intersection of two walls and well enough away from the blaze to be safe at the moment. I thought I saw arrows flying up into it but that wouldn’t make sense unless the luck of fate was on the side of our archers.
Don’t get distracted, Jay! I need to focus.
Another ballistae shot made a connection with something. A column of smoke at the other end of the camp, by the entrance, made it known they were taking out the watchtower down there. That left the other front watchtower as the only big obstacle for the Black Sky forces.
The blaze on the palisade grew- SHOCKER- and in the receding shadows there was a lean too. Quiet as a mouse I approached it. Fish, plants, and other provisions were sheltering beneath it. I was more interested in the lean-to itself. It was placed right against the wall, had enough crates and boxes to help me climb up and with a little effort and internal screaming I was over the wall and landing graceful as a goat on the other side.
Next up was to see how I could help in the attack if at all. Sneak up to the other side of the tower and draw their attention away from the fighters? Sounds stupid but hey, I’m useless otherwise so I may as well. There was a holly bush a pace into the woods in front of me and I stashed the bag of information underneath it. Foregoing all stealth I start to run towards the tower.
I can hear fighting in the distance, see the light growing beyond the wall where the blaze was still raging and probably catching more tents on fire judging by the amount of smoke billowing upwards. I came up short around the corner prepared to shout at the tower when Riastrad and Zeneric almost ran into me.
“What the fox?”
“The tower was captured, we shot the archers down and killed the others at the base of it. We are heading to the one in the backside of camp while Sir Sigfried is in single combat with their chieftain,” Riastrad explains.
He and Zeneric have their bows on their backs, swords at the ready, Riastrad with his shield and sword ready and they looked overall unharmed.
“Oh, well in that case I’ll come help you guys.” I’m given concerned looks but none were raised. We were all warriors and knew the risks. As we started backwards I mentioned there was a bag of war documents in the bushes and almost ran into Riastrad as he came to a direct halt.
“What do you mean documents?”
“There was a tent of documents and information and war plans so I grabbed what I could and set the tent on fire.”
“Why? We could use those!” He wasn’t wrong.
“That’s nice, I wasn’t sure when the attack would happen or what time it was so I played it safe and tried to make sure it wasn’t helpful to the enemy,” I replied.
“Change of plans, we’re going for the intel,” He turned like he was about to take off. “We can jump the palisade here- there’s a lean-to on the other side and the tent is just a few paces away,” I blurted before he got too far away. Zeneric made for the wall, Riastrad following and shield boosted him up over the wall. He motioned for me to do the same, then the two of us pulled him up and over. I was impressed with the fact the small structure held all of our weight.
The tent had a small fire going but it was just towards the top of the structure. As we approached it a cheer went up- human sounding so our side. Siegfried must have won the single combat. Good for us, let's just hope they don’t come running back inside to get anything.
We desperately started putting papers together and bringing them outside the tent but soon it started filling up with smoke. Cursed donkeys and my propensity for having a knack with fires! Not too long after we started a runner came in, one of the mercenaries Black Sky hired for the battle, and informed us that War Lord Siegfried has requested the aid of the orcs and goblins to put out the fires in their camp with the force of warriors that Black Sky had brought along.
My jaw dropped and I didn't care. I had no energy to contain my confusion or disbelief. At this point I was exhausted and my adrenaline high had long vanished once I climbed back into the camp. I don’t even know what to think of it all but thankfully we got the fires out- was it mid-day?- and the others began to work out the nuances of how to run the camp given the drastic turn of events that followed the single combat.
I found a shady tree by the stream and passed out. I was still covered in dried blood, healing poultice, thank Horses no more leeches, and had been in fight or flight mode for over 12 hours since this whole attack started. It was nap time, and oh hedgehogs did I deserve one.
*please let me know if I misspell any names in this entry.