My friend we have finally returned to Harken, a place that compared to the Seven Pillared Hall feels like home, though never so much as Warbronze did. We were able to guide the ten slaves back from captivity, and though exhausted from the travels the look of joy on their faces at returning to the home they never expected to see again has made the past few adventures even more rewarding.
When we left the Ordinator and the Seven Pillared Hall we gathered the villagers of Harken and began the three day walk south to their home. Exiting the labyrinth of the Seven Pillared Halls into the open air felt like there was a weight removed from my shoulders, and it made me appreciate and long for the dwarven architecture of Warbronze. For while both cities are situated miles under ground Warbronze feels as open and light as a surface town, and the Seven Pillared Hall has the oppressive weight of a mountain pushing down on you and the constant terror of the Underdark sandwiching you from below.
The first half day’s travel was uneventful, Gnask taking point up front for safety and the remaining four of us helping to guard the villagers. Benadrix played with the children, and Celence walked with the women (all of them busying their hands with different tasks like mending torn clothes, or the like). Marrek guided the small party; next to him marching proudly was a young boy, Thidrek, perhaps 12. Thedrek’s face had lit up like the sun when Marrek handed him his javelin with the Lagonn family crest attached to carry.
While the miles passed at a slow pace, Gnask returned to Marrek frantically eying the woods. He warned us that something was amiss; he could sense it though he had not seen or smelled anything yet. Gnask bounded back into the woods determined to get the jump on our ambushers; as he left Marrek singled the party to close ranks. A few moments later the air around us split, like cloth cut by a dagger, and through the holes a band of Orcs stepped through, they were lightly armored and equipped to move through the woods quickly even without the help of the portals. The Orcs surrounded us, and the largest one, who had three packs of half starved dogs on leashes, stepped forward and demanded “Who has it? Give us the amulet and we will let you pass unharmed.”
Never one to be intimidated and fearing for the safety of the villagers Benadrix roared “I have the amulet and you will never possess it.” Moving away from the villagers, Benadrix made for the woods.
With a howl of rage the Beast-master Orc released his dogs and pointed where Benadrix had ran and commanded his small party to chase him. Quickly Celence dropped her wall of light and helped to shield the villagers, while pushing past the terrified men and women I moved to intercept the dogs and orcs as they took chase.
Reacting even faster than myself or Celence, Marrek jumped forward and quickly found himself nearly surrounded by our ambushers. With the dogs nipping in behind his defenses and an orc moved behind him. Bashing through the crowd of foes I cleared a path for Marrek to move into the wall of light. As Marrek cleared the swarm of dogs a raging fireball erupted in the middle of our enemies, engulfing me as well. From the edge of the woods Benadrix roared in defiance again, smoke wisping from his nostrils. The orc in front of him rose from the ground his cloak smoking from the path of Benadrix’s dragon’s breath.
Working together Benadrix and Marrek moved to finish off the orc who had moved passed me and the Beast-master who had closed in on the two, I held the dogs and remaining orcs at bay as Celence blasted them with powerful magic. The fight was brutally quick and soon the Beast-master found himself surrounded by us, blood pouring from his wounds. Benadrix grabbed him in a bone crushing hold and demanded to know who he worked for and why they wanted the amulet.
Spitting in Marrek’s face the Beast-master said “Modune will never rest until he has the trinket. He who finds seeks the amulet and Modune will find it. You have no idea of its value.” The orc twisted in Benadrix’s grasp and as he broke free I smote him down. I do not feel proud of the kill but I would not put the lives of the Harken villagers at risk for my conscious and the life of an orc. Perhaps some of your dwarven sensibilities have rubbed off on me more than I think.
Gathering the villagers we tried to rest a moment and calm their fear when again a handful of holes ripped into existence around us and more orcs stepped through. This time they were more heavily armed than the previous band, and through the woods the distant beat of a war-drum could be heard. With this came one of the largest orcs I have ever seen, his left eye a festering wound and he was armed with an axe big enough to fall the very trees around us.
Two smaller orcs with throwing axes moved forward and demanded the amulet. Again Benadrix spoke words of defiance and tried to separate himself from the villagers. The one eyed brute and two orcs moved off after Benadrix, while the two axe throwers threw their deadly blades at the nearest villagers, laughing at the ease in which they hit their targets.
I moved to protect the villagers, as did Marrek and Celence thinking that Benadrix could better defend himself than the town’s people. The Dragonborn moved into the woods, the trees and brush blocking his fight from view. Knowing that we did not have much time to spare I challenged the throwers, moving between them and the clump of villagers. The other orcs moved to surround us as we heard the one-eyed orc howl in pain. The fight was not pretty, and some of the men from Harken moved in to help protect their families. One orc was completely cut off from the pursuit of Benadrix by the town’s folk. Helping where she could Celence filled the small clearing with powerful blasts that forced our enemies back, and broke their formations.
As we finished the last of the orcs around us we heard Benadrix give a yell in pain that was cut short by a cry of triumph from the One-eyed orc. Raising my shield I charged into the brush, branches whipping across my face and snagging in my armor. Crashing into the brute I bounced off of him with no effect. Behind me Marrek entered the woods shouting to Benadrix to stand and fight. At Marrek’s words Benadrix stood slowly from the ground, his strong legs still shaking. The one-eyed orc raised his axe and as he swung it down on Benadrix I was able to hit him in the back with my shield and knock his blow wide.
Led by Thidrek the villagers had surrounded the last remaining orc and were pressing the beast hard. The orc swung wildly and scored a nasty cut across Thidrek’s shoulder. Seeing this and fearing for her grandson’s life, an elder woman named Gladys attacked the orc furiously striking a blow to its neck and killing the orc. As the villagers took down the last of the orcs my friends and I slew the one-eyed brute.
Gathering our small flock closely we took a moment, more on guard this time, and bandaged the wounded. Benadrix, being fully recovered, saw to the wounds of the villagers, while Marrek saw personally to the shoulder of young Thidrek. After our short rest we began to move south again, but we had nary traveled for a quarter mile when again we were ambushed.
This time an orc clad in heavy plate armor, blackened with smoke and soot appeared and said “I am Modune, he who finds, and I want the amuet.” When we refused portals behind three of the villagers opened and thick arms clad in black leather armor grasp them. “Give me the amulet or none of these people will make it out alive.”
Around Modune many more orcs appeared, some of them strapped with bottles and gords filled with a rainbow of liquids. Seeing little else to do that would save the villagers I rushed Modune. As I was about to reach him, he slipped backward through a portal. Shouting in rage I gave those orcs around me little choice but to engage me. Swinging my sword wildly I sunk my blade deep into the ribs of one of the orcs covered in gourds, and as he fell his body exploded. The second gourd covered orc also blew himself up as I drew blood.
Casting quickly Celence summoned a blade that darted around the field of battle, this blade was able to prevent the orcs who had grasp the villagers from pulling them through the portals. The leather clad orcs who were forced through the portals by the blade were fast and agile, as we focused our attacks on them they dodged behind the startled villagers sometimes so quickly that we could not help but land a blow to the villagers. Even Celence’s magic blade was not always fast enough to not hit the town’s folk.
As I dealt with the mob of orcs blocking our way to the south, my blade swinging so wildly they could not move away from me, my friends tried to corner the two leather clad orcs and move the villagers away. Between their blades and the magic blade Benadrix and Marrek were able to drop those orcs, though not without more than a few cuts to the men and women of Harken.
While this fight was quick many of the villagers were sorely wounded, almost as may by our blades as by the orcs. Behind us to the north we could hear the sounds of the war drums growing louder and we knew that there would be no rest for us until we reached Harken. Before we could catch our breath, a portal ripped open behind Benadrix and two arms, as thick as tree truncks, grabbed him and pulled him backwards into the rift. A flash of light flew into the sealing portal, and Gnask burst from the woods. His scared frame was covered with fresh cuts and wet with blood, but he did not stop running toward the portal. With barely a moment to spare he reached through and grasp Benadrix by the shoulders, his demon ancestory lending him the strength to wrestle the Dragonborn back to our plane before the rift closed.
Stooping to offer his shoulder in support to Gladys, who had received a nasty cut across her leg, Marrek glanced north and said “My friends we do not have time to rest. Those of you who are less hurt, support your friends and families, offer them your arm for support and let us be off. If we travel through the night we may make it to Harken before those drums overtake us. Your home lies but a little way south, and on my honor I pledge to get you all there safely.” Inspired by his confadance, and the mention of home the people of Harken gathered their wounded and quickened their pace home.
While we made it to Harken without another incident we did not rest for the better part of two nights and a day. The villagers were weary and scared, and more than once Gnask’s keen senses guided us around an ambush the Modune had set for us. Upon arrival to Harken the villagers cheered and thanked us, but the celebration was short for everyone was exhausted and the prospects of seeing their families after so long quickly guided people home. My friends and I returned to Aunt Nonnies for some much needed rest.