Lucien and Barack talk about the threat of a drake and send Roderic off to gather buckets of water. The young squire complies no questions asked, almost viewing it as a test pulling together a respectable 21 buckets pretty quickly. Barack thanks Abulawe for aid in the fight against Oren and he lets him in loop about the drake. He asks some questions, but at the end of the day adopt a “prepare and hope” approach.
Setting Lucien on first watch; the party beds down for the night.
But inside, things are not so simple as Loremaster Barack interrogates Roderic. Demanding to know who he works for… he makes accusations, his suspicions that Roderic is a spy for one of the administrators. Accuses it of being a setup to get someone “on the inside”of the party. It was awfully convenient how he just showed up with a safehouse when the party were on the lamb after all… Roderic asks what a drake is and asks what’s going on. The interrogation continues, with even the dwarf noticing the utter bewilderment of the young boy. In the end Barack seems mostly satisfied but gets a lot of backstory.
The dwarf lingers after the door is closed. The boy’s talk of knowing a lot of people in the city, his concern about what was occurring and his worry for Serah. He expected him to bolt, but after five minutes the door remained closed. He retreated to his guest room and used his bell to inhabit a bird – whilst Roderic slipped out to the stables unnoticed.
On the perimeter, Lucien notices (with a god damn nat1) That there are three birds circling overhead; Derktrish.
A two legged avian, Derktrish are large flying creatures who roost on the lower branches of Maro trees. Their long hooked beak is used by Planes Orcs for their bows, it’s relative flexibility but impressive durability allows the Derktrish to pierce the Mro tree and feast on it’s sap. During mating periods however, flocks of these birds swoop down at high speeds and pierce the flesh of prey just as easily. Four Derktrish can take down small horses on the hunt. During mating season they are the bane of Ranchers, Farmers and pet keepers.
He merely shrugs and continues his watch alone, sending Syd indoors just in case. When it comes time for Roderic to take his watch; the lad isn’t in his bed. He goes to Barack and finds him in some sort of trance – resolving to search alone. He misses the boy riding off on a Martessian War Horse, in the direction of Forzcety. But Aeyla stirred and asked where Roderic was going;
R: “I’m going to scout the area.”
A: -yawn- “Okay, did you tell everyone where you’re going?”
R: “Of course.”
And she promptly went back to sleep.
So a Derktrish flying low towards the smoke and desolation did see a lone rider riding to the city. Barack marks him as Roderic right away and curses, which makes his Derktrish cry harshly. But he can’t do much besides take wing.
But back on the farm, Lucien has woken everyone up and been told by Aeyla Roderic saddled a horse and left. His mother; rightly distraught is completely on board when Lucien says they need to go after them. Even going so far as to give them mounts to get there quickly. Unfortunately, no normal horse will be able to bear a greenskin – so another option is presented; A Hex. It is kind of small for a Hex, but it should be able to carry him and move at a decent speed. So while Lucien saddles his horse (grumbling about that being the whole point of a squire) Rod’s mother leads Abulawe to an outbuilding.
Now what is a Hex? A Hex is what would happen if a black bear in our world took some steroids and then crossbred with a lion. There fur is black and silver, with a proud silver mane around it’s neck – unfortunately this one gives off a massive aura of boredom. (Greenskins have a racial trait that lets them auto succeed to sense motives of animals and beasts) It’s just bored out of it’s mind; a big powerful predator expected to help with farm work?
So when they start strapping a massive saddle to it’s back – it seems excited and downright cooperative, but can’t resist slightly leaning to the side to knock Abulawe off when he’s mounting up. Then huffing as if it was laughing when he righted himself. But it didn’t take long for the pursuit to be on. But Roderic was already at the Eastern gate…. Or rather what remained of it.
It looked like a giant fist has ran right through it, a single blunt impact sending chunks of wall, gate and the bloodied remains of the guard on watch flying across streets and the splashing across the walls and ceiling of nearby buildings and as he crept further into the city, the horrors only magnified. Bodies were left lying in the streets, peppered with crossbow bolts, arrows, axes embedded in guards, bodies hacked to pieces; the streets ran red with blood. Men, women died fighting, running, cowering, it was a massacre. Roderic gelt passed through what was a thriving tavern, the beams that held up it’s cieling lay on the sticky ground in splinters, barrels were blackened and burnt, crushed, shattered and broken bodies decorated the interior. Some of the faces were familiar, others total strangers – pushing aside the thought that he wished their faces weren’t so painfully intact he moved through the streets.
Where greenskins had been given special attention – many strung up, still holding small green children – despite the quarrels embedded in their small bodies.He tried to move to the dorms, climbing a mountain of soot that used to be the miner’s storeroom. His footfalls mercifully silent and his movements precise. His Derktrish companion wheeled around in the skies as the crossbowmen guarding the doorway to the kitchens and stationed on the roof didn’t even notice him. Too focused on the bodies bundled into the sides of the path – too busy with their patrol of the main avenue. He slunk across the road away from notice and into the centre of town. Stockades had stood here but a day before, now the clearing was host to the aftermath of a pitched battle. Guards and goblins, blades bloodied and armour broken had fallen in number. Three goblins and a man stood, his dark skin identified him as an Osiran. A particularly frail goblin lay dead in his arms, javelins lying scattered around him and forgotten. A quiet and intense rage emanated from him – the three goblins taking up sentry positions. Roderic opted for caution and hunkered down to wait for an opportunity to move on…
To the South, lay another breach to the wall. Favouring the breach to the guarded South gate, Lucien and Abulawe were witness to the aftermath of a lynch mob. Terrific mounds of bodies being gathered, with one man simply chucking corpses from the roofs into a huge mound.
Carrion birds circled over the crumbling city as they rode onwards – they were challenged by one twitchy guard; demanding they state their business. He assumed they were with Ser Meister due to Lucien being a knight in similar attire (he failed an intelligence roll) so he said the old geezer was last seen “by the big hole” and that he was in a bad way.
They continued on, making it down main street with clenched jaws. They witnessed a tremendous pile of soot on their right side and endless death between the storehouses on their left. It looked like they would advance with no issues, both mounted and riding North. But then a patrol demanded their business and decided to take them to “The bosses.”
Namely; Administrator Puth, The Matron and Yugnir. Pretty much they warned Lucien and Abulawe to shove off, since they were technically wanted they were lucky they weren’t swinging from a tree like the rest of the “rebels”. Though the Matron thanked them for their service in ridding them of the former guard captain. Up close Lucien noticed the Matron had strangely ashy skin and tusks… but failed the roll to work out what she was. In the end they were let go and rode towards the centre of town past the patrol, who just assumed they’d been allowed to go about their business.
But our dwarf in a bird body? He went down into the depths, via a giant hole in the middle of the city. And he found our dear departed Drake. A few investigation rolls allowed Barack to get a sense of what happened, some great jaws bit into the Drake’s underbelly and ripped flesh free, there were also several piercing wounds on the sides that were about as big around as a ballista bolt. The creature’s eyes had been slashed out, due to Ser Meister’s bold last stand but oddly enough – something had bodily hefted the Drake and slammed it against the cavern wall and snapped it’s neck.
By now Roderic had simply decided to risk the goblin’s gaze, the trio eyeing him suspiciously but otherwise allowing him to pass. And when he passes to what used to be the dorms… He sees the face of war.
Close quarters combat, men and women with daggers buried in their faces. Faces with eyes gouged, bite marks on the face of warriors, quarrels and spears broken in the bones. This was where the strong came to die, guards bled the same ground as civilian fighters, rebels wore looted helmets and held stolen shields. Improvised weaponry was abundant, a sickle was firmly planted in the eye of Rescil the blacksmiths apprentice and not far from him ay the bartender David Lemea – who boasted spear in the throat.
But pinned against a wall from the impact of over two dozen quarrels was Artisan Hy; the town’s blacksmith was a goliath of a dwarf. Even in death he clenched his prized warhammer tight, and if Roderic had stood close enough – he would have seen a smile on that bearded face.
But in amongst the death, he heard a baby crying. The sound drew him into the centre of the battle where the most horrible of fighting had taken place, the smell of filth and old meat clung to him like a stifling blanket as he beheld the vision amongst the carrion food. Serah stood amongst them. Alone. Alive and fierce.
A spell had detonated upon her side, the armour she wore shattered, sending shrapnel into her hip, which was as open as a barn door in spring. A chunk of flesh about the size of a barrel top was just missing – letting her lifeblood flow freely with that of the fallen. She was a crimson angel amidst a grey backdrop, a babe held in her left hand while a chipped and worn machete stood straight in the other. Another child, a young girl cowered behind the dwarven woman’s thigh. She stared at Roderic unseeing.
He manages to bring her back to reality and a strange mix of shame, embarrassment and anger flitted across her bloodied face in an instant. She begged him to flee, telling her that this isn’t one of his stories and no knight in shining armour existed in fights like this. He refused to leave her, telling Aunt Serah he came to get her and was a squire in his own right. She continued demanding he leave between massive wracks of her body – phlegm and blood… Roderic claimed he wasn’t a child, she said he was acting like one. She gave the baby to him and told him that he shouldn’t be here, shouldn’t have saw this. Even if he was a knight, nobody deserved to see this. When he asked what happened she said simply, “Remember this is a prison Rod. With all the chaos of the past week, the worst criminals. The ones who enjoy hurting and killing managed to get in control. So leave, if not for your sake, for mine, if not mine then get the children free.”
He tried to argue more, but took the children and fled. Despairing his adopted Aunt’s fate. On his way back passed the goblin sentries the man hailed him, asking if he was the stableboy. He hesitantly said yes and when the man realized he had children he gave him directions to a secret passage (not knowing Rod had an escape route) before asking if his Aunt was okay. Roderic glanced back and confessed he didn’t know – but the man sent one of his goblins “Bibby” to go look after her.
Our party reunited at the site of the stockades and after a brief tongue lashing from Ser Lucien to his squire they divvied up the children and fled the city. Only our favourite bird was scouting out those in power – remembering the faces of those who would decorate pikes of the city. Hearing enough of their plans and feeling his control of the Derktrish fading – he grabbed a hand from the nearby pile of corpses and landed on the meeting table of the bosses. A wild swipe of a dagger missing him, he manages to write a simple message in blood before his control fades.