Present: Oidche, Oren, Rory, Una
19 Ice 90
Our heroes are now looking at the witches’ cave plugged with boulders, trying to figure out what to do. Oren travels around quickly, and finds no more entrances, just some subtle smoke-holes. Una and Rory gather brush, with the thought that perhaps they can start a fire in the entrance. Oidche listens, and hears people grumling in the cave, and some others having a quiet conversation way in the back of the cave. Rory lifts him up to look in the cracks between the boulders while Oren and Una have a discussion on tactics. Oidche senses that there are a bit more than half a dozen very large creatures in the cave. The fire’s been put out, and so it lets him see a lot farther, into the back cave. On a large natural shelf in the back, he can see a strangely colored glow that might be a fire. The shadows show that the Ettin is there, as well as three other large creatures. As Oidche looks, Rory and Una oil the boulders, with the aim of setting them on fire at the right moment. Eventually the Etin comes back, and asks, “What humans want?” Rory replies “Dead Giants”, and Oidche shoots the Ettin, as Una uses Ray of Frost on him, and the Ettin swears loudly, and retreats to talk to the witches. There is a lot of discussion about what to do, but ultimately nothing gets done, as no one has any good ideas, and everyone seems a little wary about fighting more giants in a cave.
Oren camouflages himself with some mud, and he sees a tiny little man, smaller than a halfling, standing on the hill, peering at everyone. Oren waves, which startles him. He points at the dead giants, and then at the group, and Oren nods. The gnome gives a thumbs up sign, and comes down to talk to him. The gnome, named Keelan, has a discussion with Oren, and divulges that the giants have only one other entrance, which is in Cyclops Vale. They’ve come to an agreement with the creature there, paying it tribute in order to have hassle-free passage back and forth. Just as the gnome is leaving, Rory shoots through the holes between the boulders, and kills the Ettin. Clouds gather, and there is a crack of thunder. Oidche hides behind a rock, and Una hides under the biggest tree she can find, while Rory and Oren are under another. A lightning bolt hits the tree they are under, and they get badly hurt. Una realizes that this could be ‘Call Lightning’, in which case, they are druids, or perhaps they are storm giants (Their name is Cailleachan; the “storm witches”, after all). In any case, she knows that they have to see what they are doing to be so precise with their bolts, and so they are using some kind of divination to do this.
Oidche wiggles part way into the boulders to find out what’s going on, and sees the witches in a circle, chanting as one, casting. Oren runs away from Rory’s location, and Una casts invisiblity. Rory gets hit with another lightning bolt, being very seriously hurt. Una realizes that they have to be scrying on the cave front, and not Rory specifically, so after retrieving Oidche from his hidey-hole, the party travels as fast as they can for a half hour, going north into the elf wood. After a rest for an hour, there is some argument about the situation. The decision is to go back home through the elf wood, and possibly kill the cyclops.. or at least look at the cyclops.
About an hour into the walk, the party comes across a great trampling of tracks in the forest. Oren determines that they are the tracks of about 400 orcs, heading south, towards comfort knoll. In fact, the tracks are a few days old, certainly corresponding to the orc raid on the town. The party decides to head to Sheer Hollow to spread the word, since Talulla can send many messages at once.
The party heads along Whisper Creek (named so for the whisperings of the many dryads and trees speaking to each other along the banks). Eventually Una hears the whispering, and Oren sees a dryad across the bank, and instantly falls for her. Una takes over the dialog, and after a few false starts, soon gets her attention when she tells the dryad that they are looking to stop the hoard of orcs. She tells Una that they are led by a female named “The Ghost”, a half orc, much smarter and stronger of will than the other orcs. She has patience, and is able to plan. She manages to intimidate the other orcs, and swears vengeance against any of them that desert. Una tells her that they are going to Sheer Hollow for help (Oren suddenly thinks that this is the greatest idea ever), and asks if she and the forest can help to speed their progress. The dryad agrees, and they are on their way. Along the trip, Oren keeps talking about the dryad, getting more and more graphic about what he’d like to do with her as time goes on. The trip itself is suddenly much easier, as they find their way unimpeded by plants and roots. When night falls, will o’ the wisps light their path, unnerving everyone, as the usual wisdom says not to follow them. Eventually they get to Rowanbrook. Oidche and Fritz stay there, as Fritz is completely tired at this point. Una, Rory, and Oren get to Sheer Hollow at last, and ask a bleary apprentice if they can see Talulla. They are shown up to the library.
They explain the situation to her, and she already knows of it. The knights from Riverbend Castle, including Lord Niall, tracked the orcs from Comfort Knoll, and were ambushed. Most of the knights were killed, including Lord Niall. Talulla says that The Ghost made sure to target him specifically. They are now encamped between Little Sister and Big Sister, quite nearby. In the discussion, she tells them more information.
The Ghost was left in the wood to die as an infant, which is the standard for such births. Her age, and her blue eyes, put her birth as an almost certain outcome of the orc ambush that killed Lord Niall’s parents. His sister survived the raid, and is almost certainly the mother of The Ghost. Una sends off all but one of Talulla’s birds. Several go to many of the outlying villages, warning them to evacuate, and one goes to Lord Morgan, telling him of the situation, and asking for orders. While they wait for the bird to return, they are shown into a suite of rooms. Una makes a big deal about needing Oidche there, and Talulla snaps her fingers, teleporting a very surprised Oidche into the room. Once she’s left, Una tells Rory and Oidche (Oren does not care at this point, and passes out in the corner) that when Lord Niall was 16 during the Goblin War, which is when he “met” Oidche’s mother, a camp follower. Given what Vala Gisila said, he is the only Lord that fits the description, and Una, tired and filled with hyper energy, insists that they need to keep an eye on Oidche. For his part, Oidche refuses to believe any of it, including that Gisila is at all able to tell the future. No matter how hard Una presses, he flat out refuses it. Eventually the subject is dropped. The bird returns, saying in Lord Morgan’s voice, that we are to go defend the castle, he is coming. Una sends another bird, explaining that The Ghost seems to be targeting Lord Niall’s family. Everyone decides that sleeping through the night simply won’t do in this case, so they prepare to leave. Talulla offers horses. Rory asks in surprise if they really ride horses, as she imagined elves to flit about on the wind. This brings about some hilarity, and Talulla observes pleasantly that they are mocking her, and is pleased over it, saying it is a new experience. They go outside, and she creates horses out of moonlight for them, with the spirit of horses within them. Everyone rides like the wind on these magnificent horses, that never stumble on terrain, and never need to be lead. The party bursts forth from the treeline, headed towards the castle, and there is a sudden terror-filled realization that perhaps under these circumstances, that they probably shouldn’t have done it quite that abruptly.
20th of Ice (Midnight)
Riverbend Castle is lit up and manned with soldiers. The village surrounding it is entirely empty, as the villagers are within. The party is greeted by Blaire, Sir Aidan’s sister (whom Una has not yet met). Una gets nominated by everyone to talk to Lady Gillian, Lord Niall’s wife, to give an update on the situation. After the intense and emotional update, they go to see Sir Alistair, Lord Niall’s brother, who is gravely wounded, and Oren heals him completely with a mighty spell; the image of the white stag lingering in the air above the knight for a moment afterwards. Rory notices that both Gavin and Bryce (Sir Alistair and Lord Niall’s squires), are holding themselves stiffly, and insists on treating them, and ends up saving Bryce’s life. Bryce, in deep sadness over losing his knight, was ignoring the massive wound, and slowly bleeding to death.
Sir Alistair’s appearance on the wall causes a boost in morale, and the party soon gets to speak with him about defenses, and plans, Oidche making very sure that the secret back door to the building is secured and guarded. Everyone gets a little sleep. Just before dawn, Lord Morgan arrives with seven knights on horseback, 100 levied troops, and Tam. Sir Aidan dismounts his horse and hugs his sister. Una comes up and politely asks to speak to him, to much hooting from her comrades. Sir Aidan and Una go into the armory, and Una tells him about “The Ghost”, and her relationship to Lord Niall. Sir Aidan is thrown by the news, but says that Lord Morgan needs to know this, and that he’ll be the one to break it to him, which was Una’s hope, as she certainly did not want to do it. They talk a bit about meeting Blair, and Una suddenly realizes that she is a total mess, with wind snarled hair, mud and blood all over her. The realization that she’s talked to every important person in the castle like this suddenly comes over her, and she tries to clean herself up using the shields around as mirrors.
Later, Lord Morgan briefs the party, saying that they are going at dawn, and Una warns that it is a trap. Lord Morgan does not care, and that they are going, regardless. Oren tells him all the information the party has on orcs, and Tam gets a very big smile on his face when he learns that they are superstitious about magic. At the end of this, Sir Aidan and Tam pull the party aside, and Sir Aidan tells them that he has a very large clay pot filled with an extremely large amount of Alchemists fire. He would like them to climb Little Sister, and then fling this pot in the middle of the assembled orc troops, hopefully dividing them in half, and starting the battle.
Soon, Dawn arrives.