Tess Entry 1 - 14 Quentis, 2530

 Not too much longer now, to finally have a decent night’s rest. Now that I’ve found the old ruins road, Torim’s Rest should be only a few miles out. Traveling along the river from Brockhurst with that fisherman had been tedious, but still safer than traveling the road with the current mess going on. Not that I need any help defending myself, but it’s best not to draw attention when you don’t have to. Being nearly eight feet tall, you do tend to stick out. Besides, carrying a few fish was worth the company.

 Staying in Torim’s Rest tonight, it should only be another day to Rustford and a day after that to my ultimate destination, Pelham. Sir Clydas Ivarson is my best shot at learning more about the damned Order over in Finsdale. I still don’t know likely it is he will help me, considering he’s not one of my Norse kinsman, but he still used to be one of my countryman. It’s always hard to tell with these “cultured” seitsman, considering they tend to act in self-interest more than anything. A small chance is better than nothing, given that heading to Finsdale itself isn’t an option with that mad prince losing his shit. I’ll never understand that about these noblesse, why they let the inept or insane rule their kingdoms and principalities. Back home, you only lead a tribe if you were fit to rule.

 Coming around the bend the forest starts to break and I can see fields and orchards. A tower and then palisade rise on the horizon, confirming that these are the outskirts of Torim’s Rest. I’ve spent too long in this Lakland, as I’m starting to get a taste for these tomatoes they grow and use in their stews. I’m going to certainly have one tonight, the venison in these lands is nothing like in Norden, but that sweet vegetable surely makes up for it. Coming up the open gate now, I prepare myself for the inevitable stares. Surely enough, about 25 yards out I hear “Halt! Lay down your arms!” accompanied by trembling crossbows pointed at me. After assuring them that I mean no harm and slowly approaching with my axe buried in the dirt behind me do the guards realize what they’re seeing. Not an orc or brute like they were expecting, but a good-looking lass by most men’s standards. Except one roughly one and a half times larger that can lift a horse.

 Funny things, these horses. The lowlanders use them as mounts and to increase their speed. I can nearly keep stride with them, but we do not have such creatures at home. Far too skittish, the terrain notwithstanding. Anyways, a guard comes outside and offers an awkward apology, likely because he’s not sure if he should be or not. That, and I get the feeling he’s not used to talking up to a woman. Nonetheless he says the axe is not permitted to be wielded in town and will be returned upon my exit. “Fine, but you’re retrieving it” I quip. They don’t bother me about the unstrung composite bow on my back, despite the fact that it is certainly the deadlier weapon by far. Even unstrung, I don’t doubt that I could knock one of these men unconscious using the limb as a club.

 I bid the fisherman farewell as I head for the inn. The Amber Stone, with a golden sphere painted on the sign for those who can’t read, flanks the town’s bell tower. Which appears to be where my axe will be stored, as I see the guard struggling to hold it by the shoulder. As I head into the inn, ducking the low frame of the door, I enter a fairly rowdy common room. It doesn’t stay that way for long; within the next 5 seconds everyone has turned to look at the new entrant. Numerous looks of unease come across the crowd, along with some trousers shuffling.

 Certainly for most of these smaller folk, this is the first time they’ve seen a true barbarian. Sure, they have what they call barbarians in the not-far-off disputed lands, but they are still roughly the same size as these folk. And they are certainly not cut from the same cloth as my kinsmen, even to us they would be considered savages with no honor. Sure, we raid and pillage much the same, but that is because we choose to, not because we are incapable of anything else. Those Rotlanders deserve it anyway.

 As most go back to their conversations and drinking, I approach the innkeeper. An old man, he still has quite a bit life left in his voice as he exclaims “I’ve neeer saeen such a woman!” Ignoring the all-too-enthusiastic reception from him, I ask what a room and dinner will be. “15 Larks” he responds, keeping the enthusiasm and adding a grin. Not only is that a more ridiculous price than the Trancing Pony in Brockhurst, the finest establishment in that huge city, would charge, but I was hurting in the coin department anyway. Though I could afford it, I wasn’t going to pay this man’s extortion. Without a word, I made an about-face and walked out.

 I’ll worry about lodgings later, it’s time for a warm meal. However, as I stepped outside, five riders came in from the north. Humans on horses, they exchanged words I could not hear with the crossbow wielding-guards. After a few seconds, one of the guards tossed the lead horseman his crossbow and strolled off. The other guard appeared to protest whatever was said, and suddenly set upon by a hidden man. As he was tackled to the ground, a cloth sack was slammed on his head and he was bound within mere moments. He was rolled out of the way and the crossbow liberated by a lanky man in a hood, who rejoined his comrades on horseback. Only then was it apparent that they weren’t alone. As they road into town, another fifty or sixty mounted marauders came over a hill, intent to follow. However, these were not only humans, but Brutes.

 A mix of half-human descendants of orcs, ogres, goblins, and other beasts along with a few actual orcs were among the group. A very rag-tag raiding band, they rode in with almost no coordination. One of the humans that came in first stopped his horse in front of me, roughly in the center of town. He bellowed “Nobody do anything stupid and you’ll all live to see tomorrow.” He then turned to me directly, even on horseback not being at eye level, and said in a much less confident voice, “We have no quarrel with you, leave us to our work and we’ll be on our way.” He might just miss the too-stupid-to-live mark. However, with another platoon’s worth of men behind him, I wasn’t going to preempt their little raid of this town.

 The raiders begin knocking in doors around town and piling valuables up in the street. The man and another dozen or so enter the inn and accost the innkeeper and the patrons. Considering that I’m now an unusually uninteresting sight at this point, I reenter the inn and grab myself a stein from the counter and fill it with stew from the pot on the fire. With the inn getting tossed, I head back outside and find a large ale barrel at the entrance to an adjacent alley. I calmly sit down, sip my stew, and watch the madness unfold. Not all that often you get to be a bystander to such an encounter, and I want my damn, delicious tomato stew.

 The sun is beginning to dip below the palisade as I finish my now-free meal. Time to look for somewhere to sleep for the night, as it won’t be the inn for a multitude of reasons. It’s not an issue to not have a warm bed, I’ve dealt with far worse. The stables are being ignored, though, so it should be easy enough to appropriate some hay and shelter in a clean stall. However, as I begin to make my way over, shouting comes from the north side of town. That is, louder shouting than that already happening all across town as homes and businesses were upended. As I turned that way, the gate was being shut and a rider hurtling in my direction to the south gate screamed “SHUT THE GATE, THE REDTUSKS ARE HERE!”

 The Redtusks, as I would later find out, are an orcish tribe that rivals the current occupying raiders. And they were hot on their heels. As the town went into a full lockdown, a much larger raider strode past, directing “GET THE CROSSBOWS, WE CAN HOLD THEM OFF.” This brute, likely a half-ogre and almost eye-to-eye with myself, looked to be their leader. “RHAGURST, WITH ME,” he continued as he entered the inn. A siege was not in my plans for tonight, and apparently not in theirs either. I head over to the north-eastern part of town and peer through a crack in the battlements. Nearly a company of orcs was marching forward only a half-mile outside the town, war drums beating louder and louder as they approached. Some of the now-crossbowmen scrambled to the top of the watchtower next to the gate and wound their weapons. However, the orcs stopped before entering firing range and began lobbing not projectiles but insults. It’s going to be a long night…

 Sometime later, now fully dark, I hear a whisper behind me. A soft voice asks me “My Lady, can I take up defense of my person with you?” This lanky fellow, apparently some sort of a bard, goes on to explain local reeve was out of town dealing with a raid at a logging camp, but should be returning before morning; in addition he has some powerful warriors at his side. As such, he would like my assistance in cleaning up “unfriendlies” when the reeve arrives. A few of the bard’s… companions… arrive indicating that they should still be able to take back the armory and arm the townsfolk. I begin to ask how exactly this plan would work and help the current situation when another figure approaches.

 A short, almost gnome-height, man in excessively baggy clothing introduces himself as Father Gilbar Fredericks, a priest of Kwyrth. He was one of the group that was traveling with the reeve and was able to sneak into town. Despite asking him how, he did not provide a satisfactory answer, but I assume it must have been some sort of magic. Continuing, he explains that part of his group was able to convince the Redtusk Orcs to not damage the town or harm it’s residents in exchange for getting the gates open. Upon entry, the orcs would slaughter the rival raiding tribe and then leave.

 A cute and seemingly easy plan, except for one part. Orcs. We have them in Norden, and if these ones are anything like ours, and they appear to be, they are heavy-handed beasts. Even if they held up their end of the bargain to leave in peace, it’s very likely they would wipe out half of the structures in town to do it. I suggested that rather than simply let the orcs in, we should handle the situation differently. Arming the townsfolk first off would give us a better shot at negotiating in the future should it come to it, and do something useful should that fail. After completing that, I would have a conversation with the occupation forces leader.

 I would take a shot at convincing him that he should flee the orcs before they start trying to break in, after all, he had horses to escape with. Should that fail, I would relieve him of his command and convince the second in charge to do the same. And should even that fail, we would take the now-armed townsfolk to push the raiders out the front gate at crossbowpoint and let the orcs have their fun in a less collateral damage prone area. Regardless, I wouldn’t have any problem confronting a single brute before his men, given that they’ve ignored me thus far. The Father Gilbar reluctantly agreed to my plan, still believing simply letting the orcs in was easier and better.

 Unfortunately we didn’t get as far as any of that. First we needed to get access to the armory, which was conveniently in the bell tower next to the inn. Gilbar offered to help me in dispatching the guard outside by doing something to one of my arrows and using his dog as a distraction. Hearing barking and assuming an easy meal, the brute walked away from his post towards the alley we were in. He met a swift and silent end at the hands of my bow and was removed from sight. One of the scoundrel-looking companions of the father and his bard friend ran over to the door and started to try to pick it open.

 As we begin to discuss the second half of the plan, a bell starts ringing. The town alarm bell. Apparently this burglar or whoever-he-was never figured that there would be guards on the inside as well. With the plan botched and the whole army flood the streets, I decided it was time to be scarce. The burglar was likely as good as dead already, but he wouldn’t take me down with him. I broke into a sprint for the palisade, intent on leaping out and being rid of this damned hellhole. I did feel shameful for leaving Gilbar and the others back to deal with the consequences. However, as I approached the wall, I heard the sound of great drums and a charge of hundreds of footfalls.

 It would appear that the Orcs took the alarm bell ringing to be a signal to stampede the town. At this point, with the crossbow-wielding raiders up on the battlements having turned to see me as the bell rang, I changed direction. I put my shoulder first and braced myself as I charged headlong into the gate before the guards knew what I was doing. To even my surprise, I busted down the ten-foot doors and reinforcing bar and tumbled across the road. I guess Gilbar would get his original plan done after all, and might stand a chance at surviving a very-soon-to-stop search. I pulled out of the roll with enough time to see the oncoming orcs only a few hundred yards away. I, still being in the open and the sole cause of a lot of trouble for the occupiers, ran for the battlement at full speed to avoid being shot, not to mention moving out of the way of the oncoming charge. I continued around the curve of the palisade until I was certain the crossbows would be obstructed and then crossed a field to a small barn.

 Out of immediate danger and now likely back to being the least important worry on the minds of a few hundred raiders, I watched the carnage unfold at distance. Suddenly, the watchtower full of crossbowmen I had just fled erupted in light as a bolt streaked across the sky. After some blinking, the afterimage indicated it had come from behind the orcs, likely meaning they had a mage or shaman of some kind on their side. Unsurprisingly, the orcs were going to ruin the town. But soon after a few minutes of fierce fighting and more bolts from the blue, everything stopped.

 Instead of yells and screeches of pain, there was chanting. From both the half-human and orcish sides. I chanced venturing back towards the town and peaked in through the palisade. The half-ogre leader I had seen before was fighting a large orc, encircled by the forces of both sides. It looks like the armies were letting their leaders determine the victor of the battle. Throwing caution to the wind, I moved into town, pushing brutes aside as I moved toward the arena. Some grunted but none stopped me, quickly returning watching the brawl. Such stupid creatures.

 I walked right between the two and outreached both of my arms. I grabbed the orc and half-ogre each by the neck and slammed their faces together with all my might. They both slumped to the ground, leaving shocked expressions across the crowd. Both tribes had just lost their leaders in an instant to this enormous female human. A couple in the crowd, I assume, fainted. Others just stood there, seemingly having lost the will to live. I followed the action up by stating simply, “Leave your arms, leave your plunder, and leave with your life.”

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Tess Hartmann

Tess Entry 1 - 14 Quentis, 2530

Shimmering Kingdoms FATE PhoenixMark