Montalan 16 Year 888 (New Imperial Calendar)

I clearly wasted my summoning token because the Uthdanians were already well aware that the orcs were on their way (maybe) – exactly as some smart and attractive woman who no one ever listened to no matter how often she’s proven correct said that they would be.  There’s no border to the Uthden Homesteads, on account of it’s a collection of homesteads and not a discreet thing, but someone had decided where they would make their stand against the orcs and they were working feverishly to dig a long trench at that spot anchored on the ends by piles of whatever you call the trees lumber people cut down but then decide they don’t want.  Garbage?  Discards?  Refuse?  I’m not a military anything really but it looked like a pretty poor fortification to me.  For one the orcs could just avoid the entire thing by going through the woods, but even if they didn’t it wasn’t much of a trench – just a hop skip and a jump and you’re over it.  As we were approaching one of the leaders of the digging crew, you know he’s a leader because he was yelling at other people to dig faster while doing no digging himself, shouted out asking how far behind us the orcs were.

“No idea, we just arrived here last night by magical transportation.”

“What?”

“Don’t worry about it, who’s in charge here?”

“In charge of what?”

I sighed “Just point me to someone damn it!”

I got the distinct impression that no one was in charge really but after talking to a couple of different people who clearly thought they were in charge I ended up at a little cluster of tents where a passel of Adariel people were preparing bandages and whatever else healers do on the eve of battle.  Praying I guess since they’re full of religion.  They were dressed in a distinctive style that means they’re part of some particular Adarielite order or other but I was never very good at keeping track of those.  It was one I haven’t seen before I’m pretty sure.  It must be one with a different slant than most Adarielist sects because it was mostly men and the church of Adariel is one of the few places that tends to slant the other way – healing and niceness and happiness being fragile feminine qualities of course.  The master of this bunch was an unimpressive fellow with a robe that looked like it was borrowed second hand, or maybe third hand.  He had badly thinning hair and that weird loose skin around the neck that happens when someone is tremendously obese and then loses much of that weight.

“Greetings your holiness, we come from the seat of the Baron.”

He bobbed his head in a strange bird-like manner that I guess was supposed to be nodding “Excellent, how many soldiers did you bring?”

“None, this is more of an information gathering expedition.”

His face fell “Information?  Information?!  We’re about to be overrun by orcs!  What more is there to learn?”

“That remains to be seen.  Let me ask you your eminence what exactly is the plan here?  Hold the line against the frenzied orc attack?  Fight to the last?  All that?  Blood and glory and honor?”

“Of course, we must protect our homes!”

“Eh, you know what they say, home is where the heart is.  I’m going to level with your father, I think making a valiant stand here against the orc tide is a poor idea.  Discretion is the better part of valor you know?  You want to protect your homes?  You can’t.  A couple hundred orcs coming down this way, assuming they don’t bypass your defenses as they easily could, four score of farmers with spears behind a dirt hole aren’t going to stop them.  You’ll be overrun and slaughtered and then your homes will be wrecked anyway, which won’t matter too much because you’ll all be dead.  Instead of wasting your time and energy digging a pit you should be getting the Hells out of here, pardon my language, head into the woods and ride this out.”

“We have to stop them here!”

“Why?  They’re going to burn all your houses down anyway, nothing can stop that.  Make the choice were you get to live and rebuild.”

“If we don’t stand in their way they’re head straight south to Preen.”

“So what?  Preen is a shithole and the people that live there are mostly shitty people.  That place being wiped off the map by orcs would be fine.  But that notwithstanding they’re fifty-seven times more capable of repelling an orc attack that you lot are.  On account of it’s a city.  They have tons of people there, some of them who fight for a living.  Not to mention which I doubt the orcs will even make it that far.  I have a feel orcs aren’t really strong on logistics, they’ll probably run out of food and get bored and go home before they even make it.  Unless you give them something that makes them not bored – like fighting them.  I heard they love that shit.  What they want is people to kill, get out of their way and what are they going to do?  Stomp around looking for people to kill and then giving up.  It’s like when a boar spots you in the woods.  What do you do?  Stand your ground?  Hells no, you climb a tree.  Because once the boar figures out that it can’t rip your nuts off with its tusks it wanders off.  You see what I’m saying father?  Don’t dangle your nuts into the ripping zone.”

“We have to protect our farms, our crops.”

“You’re not listening, that stuff is already gone.  I’ll burn the fields right now if that helps you make the right decision.  You can’t hold the orcs here.  The only choice here is life or death.  Seems like an easy one to me but I suppose you get to go to some kind of wholesome boring paradise after you die where you and Adariel milk divine cows or something so maybe your perspective is different.”

“But . . .”

“Look father, every second we are talking here is time that could be spent running away from certain death.  I know what I’m talking about, just get on board.  Let the orcs through, live to farm another day.  Rebuilding will be a tough row to hoe, if you’ll pardon the pun, but at least you’ll be alive to do it right?  Last stands are just an excuse to avoid hard work and you don’t look like that kind of lazybones to me good sir.”

He did eventually get on board but it took an intolerable amount of further convincing, I realized that the only reason he was listening to me at all was because of the symbol of Adariel I was wearing – which I often forget about.  And once he was convinced it took even more convincing to get everyone else to put down their stupid shovels and get ready to run away like cowardly rabbits.  I understand why society brainwashes men to be irresponsible and violent because they need them to go fight in their wars, but in situations like this it’s really annoying.  I thought about killing some of the more outspoken fightmongers just to move things along, but I decided it would sense the wrong message.  There’s no one who’s spoiling for a bloody battle more than someone who’s never been in one.  You see these types out in the hinterlands sometimes, some jackass who has a helmet and a leather jack and wants to play at being a warrior.  I despise those sorts, you want to abandon your family and farm to be a soldier of fortune then just do it – don’t mess around with this bullshit.  There’s a shallow grave just waiting for you buddy.

Of course instead of following my advice entirely they decided that rather than  taking to the woods they would head south to Preen, which was annoying but as long as they move out of the way of the rolling boulder coming to crush them I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  The next irritant was that after the decision had been made to flee people were still spending a lot of time gathering their shit, piling it on wagons and so forth, before they were ready to run for their lives.  I’m starting to think that the old man’s advice I mentioned yesterday is spot on – because people can’t be counted on to make smart choices about what they’re going to need so you may was well leave it all behind. It was about to the point where I was seriously thinking about starting a few house-fires to motivate people when someone spotted some orc scouts on the horizon – that really got people enthused about moving their asses instead piling farming implements into an ox-cart. I decided to travel with them for a while before peeling off to skirt the southern edge of the forest and head east.  Out of curiosity I sought out one of the few female Adarielites in the bunch.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but is there a reason there are so many men in you order?  I’ve never seen this before in the Adariel ranks.”

“We’re a very new order, founded just recently based on the miracle at Juost Manor.  I’m sure over time it will even out.”

“A miracle at the manor you say, I’ve not heard of it, I’ve been traveling for a while.”

“One of the Baroness’s ladies in waiting was resurrected, her body had been returned to the castle by one of the Baroness’s loyal retainers to be buried but as she was being prepared for the grave suddenly – like a bolt of lightning – she was returned to us, alive and well.  A true miracle, a display of Adariel’s bountiful mercy here on the mortal plane.  In honor of this glorious event the Order of Saint Hardra the Returned was founded.”

“Hardra?  Wow, so it actually worked?”

“Excuse me?”

“Don’t worry about it.  So Hardra is alive and kicking?  You’ve seen her?”

“Oh no, I’ve not seen her myself, I am not worthy of such an honor, but I know that Prelate Redmau works with her closely.”

Prelate Redmau was the fellow I was talking to earlier who is the closest thing to a leader this rabble has (unless I decide to take the reins).  I approached to him to talk to him about Hardra but I soon realized that he was being strangely evasive in a way I didn’t care for.  He was all too happy to proclaim Hardra’s rebirth to be a miracle and to extol of virtues or his order, but as to where she actually was right that moment and what she was doing he proved to be ambiguous.  I pushed him a little and I could sense that he was starting to lose patience with the endeavor so I dropped it for the time being.  I intended to take the matter up with him again that night after we stopped for the day but his cronies said that he was in prayer and could not be interrupted.  And that he would probably be so for the foreseeable future. 

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Funds: 23,045 platinum, 19,788 gold

XP: 739,911

Inventory: Flask of Endless Sake, Hat of Effortless Style, Ring of Disguise, Badge of Last Resort, Tankard of the Drunken Hero, Censer of Dreams, Enchanted White Pathfinder’s Gear (effects as Iadaran Dress Uniform) Belt of Physical Might +4, Versatile Vest, Expedition Pavilion, +1 Human Bane Endless Ammunition Light Crossbow with Sharpshooter’s Blade, Ring of Urban Grace, Holy Symbol of Adariel (Sanguine Protection) Black Marketers’ Bag (5), white squirrel fur Slippers of Scampering, Tidy Trunk, Whiterock Family Ring (Ring of Binding), Ela’s Better Walking Stick, Meteoric Amulet

Noble’s outfit (5) collegium ring,  pocketed scarf, wrist sheath, signet ring (2) assortment of fake signet rings, silver chain set with moonstones, gold and emerald ring (2), garnets (700), gold necklace with jade pendant, ivory combs, tax collector’s badge, gold bracelet with ivory inlays, silver necklace set with rubies, gold earrings with jade inlays, silver and gold brooch, silver necklace with ruby pendant, disguise kit, covenant ring , tiny diamonds (27), Saryah Phidaner gown, masterwork thieves’ tools, onyx (55) personal signet ring, locked chest (2)

Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane, Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis,  Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee,  Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa