"The Aftermath" - May 19th, 2001


The cold winter wind whipped at their clothes...buffeting them with snow picked up from the icy ground. The view of the mountains to the south was extraordinary. Tall pointed white mountains...dark with trees at their base, speckled here and there farther up, and topped with treeless white edges that blended with the cloudy sky. In places the blue rock native to this area shown through and gave the landscape a magical look.

Wimble Doomnoodle clutched his greenish-gray robes close around his small frame. "This is unbearable. Why must we wait here on this exposed ridge? I'd have had been warmer if I'd stayed with the goblin women and children!"

Kerbach reached down and patted Wimble's head, pushing his hood down over his face. "A gnoll could gobble you up in one bite little one. You're better off here and cold, than warm and eaten!"

Collin was scanning the landscape to the South, a sour look on his cold rosy face. "When I topped the pass that led into the Valley of Ash...to the South I saw a huge mass of warriors...a black army. I hurried to the Sunless Citadel as fast as I could to rendezvous with the rest of the party."

"Luckily, after we escorted the goblins to a safe place, we decided to return to the Sunless Citadel to see if you had returned there to look for us. Otherwise we would have missed you and returned to Greenmark without you...."

The rest of the party was now peering hard to the South, trying to see any hint of the army Collin had seen earlier in the day. Collin suddenly pointed, "There! There...do you see the movement at the top of that frozen river valley?!? Against the white of the snow...the dark shapes moving?

Zeek ran to a tree and stepped up through the branches until he was about 10 feet off the ground. "The songster's right...there is an army coming this way. See how the darkness expands...a black army is spilling into that valley...headed this way."

Gremage dabbed at his white running nose with a handkerchief. "I've spent some time up in the mountains...observed the activities of men from a distance before...that army is moving very quickly. It seems they are on some style of forced march."

Oren squinted into the distance. "I still can't see them...oh! I see what you're talking about. They are in formation...looks like an orkish wedge. Why would an ork army be on a forced march from the South?"

Kerbach spun around to Oren. "What would you know about orks, 'human?' Your height, your face, your beard, your build...and now even your knowledge of things...they all make it clear you are a damnable DWARF!"

Oren spun to face Kerbach. "I have warned you, Barbarian. I am a human and the son of a nobleman...let me be or I will cleave off your unkempt smelly head!"

Kit stepped between Oren and Kerbach, still looking to the South. "Boys, quit fighting. If Oren's right...if those are orks...then there will be scouts. Lots of scouts! We've got to get...."

Kit's words trailed off, and her head snapped to the left. Her eyes squinted and she pointed and fired her hand-cross-bow in a single motion. A large black raven in a tree sqawked as the bolt pierced its black breast, and it fell from the tree into the snow on the ground.

Kerbach smirked. "Really Kit, this is a bad time for one of your stinky stews...."

Kit ignored his comment, and ran to the fallen bird. "This is no ordinary raven." Kit lifted and dead bird and shook the snow from it. "It wears a silver ring on its leg...this is someone's familiar. Someone connected to that army of orks, I'd imagine. Someone was spying on us."

Zeek jumped down from his tree, landing with very little noise. "Orks in furs and black leather...approaching the west face of this rock formation...do we fight or should we try to slip away?"

Kerbach grabbed the handle of his bastard sword and began walking to the west. "Do you need to even ask...we will fight...."

Gremage laid a hand on Kerbach sword arm...pushing the partially drawn blade back into its sheath. "NO! We will slip away. There is no need to fight an entire army this day."

Doomnoodle ran at full speed, occasionally grabbing hold of Kerbach's cloak and allowing himself to be dragged along through the drifts of snow.

"How long have we been running?" thought Oren. Then he spoke out loud, "Are you coming along there O.K. Vax? Do you need me to carry any of that gear for you?"

"Crazy bastard," Kerbach whispered to Zeek.

The party had been running for about a half hour, weaving in and out of valleys and ravines, attempting to avoid orkish scouts. Collin was in front when a rather small little ork seemed to step out of nowhere, and appeared more shocked than anyone in the party. In one swift motion, Collin drew a dagger and thrust it into the ork's throat. Without a sound the ork crumpled to the ground...gouting blood from him silent mouth. No one had said a word. Kit patted Collin on the back and gave him a grim smile...and then the party resumed their run through the trees.

Occasionally Kerbach would fall back from the party and climb quickly up into a tree. He would then sprint very quickly to catch up with the party and let them know what he had seen. The party had been running for an hour with only a few short breaks, and it was Kerbach's fourth time to drop back and gather intelligence. He had just caught up. "Two large parties of scouts appear to be trying to get ahead of us and cut us off. Portions of the main army have gained on us...while the main body of the army is keeping pace with us...we can't cut back through their ranks without fighting them all. There appears to be some flatlands...perhaps a very wide valley...ahead of us. We must keep running, and hope to slip through the trap they are setting."

Collin whispered a harsh command, "RUN!...for our very lives depend on it!"

Huffing and puffing from their effort, the party burst from the trees and into the brush-covered low lands of the wide valley Kerbach had scouted from the top of a tree. It was valley covered a huge expanse, and its distant hilly boundaries were shrouded in grey mist.

"We beat those pig-faced orks to the valley, thank the fates." Wimble Doomnoodle was standing on the back of Kerbach's cloak, his hands tightly clutching its material.

"If your eyes were positioned a bit farther from the ground, you would see the orks weaving through the trees on the edges of the valley." Kerbach delivered this bad news with a smirk. "Perhaps it is time to fight. I would rather die atop a bloody pile of dead orks than die with a black arrow in my back as I flee!"

Kit pointed deep into the valley. "You may well get your wish, Grasslander...but not yet...not yet."

"A walled town!" Collin began running through the brush. "Let's go...we may escape these orks yet!"

The party was about 100 Empire yards from the gates of the town when the arrows began to rain down upon them. Just a few at first...but then more and more. Human faces peered from over the tops of the wall on either side of the wooden gates ahead of them. Gremage began to call out, "Open you gates...may kindness rule your actions...OPEN YOUR GATES!"

The rest of the party took Gremage's cue, and all of them began to yell to the guards. "Open the gates!"

A smile crossed Collins lips, and he uttered a loud "Yes!" as the gates creaked open enough for a man to slip through.

Once the whole party was inside the small walled community, and the gates were closed and barred, everyone in the party collapsed to the ground. They were completely drained of every bit of energy. Zeek was the first to speak. "What...what is this...place."

The guards had brought water, and were watchful of the skies...for occasionally a black arrow would fall from outside of the walls. "You have come to Widow's Grove."

Another guard stormed forward. "They have not simply 'come here,' they have BROUGHT DEATH WITH THEM!"

Collin sat up from the ground. "We did not choose to have an army on our heels. We are sorry for whatever tragedy we may have brought with us." Men and women came forth from the buildings in the town, crowding around the party. Collin put his head in his hands. "We did not mean to bring an army on our heals."

Kerbach spoke up, "Who leads you men? We need to speak with the warrior among you that leads this village...and we need to speak with him now! Preparations need be made...a siege is at hand!"

A guard stepped forward. "We are farmers, and sons of farmers. The warrior who founded our town died last year...and lies buried in the cemetery to the north of our walls. I speak for no one but myself, and my wife, when I say that I will follow your advice...your direction. You appear to be a group of warriors, travelers, and adventurers. I WILL FOLLOW YOU, AND IF ANY THAT STAND WITHIN THE SOUND OF MY VOICE WISH TO LIVE, YOU ALSO WILL MAKE THESE RUFFIANS YOUR GENERALS!" And then in a quite voice, "So speaks Milton Fedge."

A few seconds passed, and then the crowd of people began to yell. Cheers of "GENERALS!" and "KILL THE ORKS!" and "GIVE 'EM BLOODY HELL" could be heard coming from the angry mass of people.

Collin turned to Kerbach. "I hope you actually have a plan."

Kerbach smiled, and slapped Collin on the shoulder. "No plan really, but we've got a better chance of livin' than we did 15 minutes ago! Eh, singer?"

Doomnoodle let go of Kerbach's cloak and rolled up in a ball, rocking lightly side to side, "We're dead....dead...dead...dead...dead...."

(PLAYERS: I then sent you a separate e-mail detailing the walled town of Widow's Grove and the resources that are available to you there...including the number of men, women, and children...and their areas of expertise. You were asked to use this information to make plans for the up-coming game. I also asked you to read the "Skirmish" rules on the "New Rules" page.  Then we played the game!)


It was time to get to work.  Hundreds of deadly ork warriors would soon surround the walls of Widow's Grove.  There were preparations that must be completed.  The party members began asking questions of the townspeople, making a list of the provisions and supplies that were available, and making plans as to what they could do to defend the walled town. 

Everyone in the group had noticed that there was a man in the crowd that had yellow skin, yellow eyes, yellow hair, and was wearing a red sash around his waist.  While the others got to work, Collin took this yellow man aside to learn more about him.  The man's name was MuRa, and he was a contemplative monk from the nation of Lornki.  He had decided to travel the world in order to learn more about the nature of existance.  MuRa's long-term goal was to reach a nation called Respite, where all the most wanted criminals and horrible people go to hide from the powers that be.  He hoped to learn quite a lot there.  Collin found out that MuRa had arrived a Widow's Grove the night before.

The party took stock of the town's resources and manpower, and got to work.  They put the blacksmith Borden to work with the help of some of the townspeople repairing weapons.  Work was begun on a ditch on the inside of the front gate, to slow any would be gate crashers that made it through the gates.  The carpenter Jeref with the assitance of some townspeople was asked to construct movable wooden parapets for the tops of the walls.  The half-elven brothers Lenderal and Silverine began work on fixing bows and creating new arrows, with the help of townspeople and Gremage.  Doomnoodle began to build a bolt and nail launcher that could be fired at anyone that made it through the gate.  Kit kept her eye on MuRa, for she could sense there was something dark and evil about him. 

A fourteen-year-old boy was put on the fastest horse, and told to ride to Greenmark for help for Widow's Grove.  A carrier pidgeon was sent to both Rosehill and Dumit, with a note attached asking for assistance  in facing down the ork army.

The black dwarf Minko, an expert mason, had travelled the Azure Kingdom fairly extensively in his younger days looking for quality sources for flawless blue stone.  Minko said he recognized the heraldry of the ork arm, as the Ork of the Red Spear.  They were a very disciplined mercenary force of orks, known for the organization and professional approach to warfare.  Minko appeared worried about the towns chances against these warrior orks.

Collin, Kit, and Zeek, with MuRa accomanying them, slipped outside the gates flying a white flag.  They hoped to negotiate with the force that had surrounded the town.  An orkish voice called out for them to go back inside the walled town.  When the party continued to try to initiate conversation, a volley of arrows rained down on them.  MuRa was struck in the shoulder with an arrow, and immediately pulled it free from his flesh.  The negotiating party re-entered Widow's Grove.  The orkish voice had called out that just prior to dawn, a negotiator would approach the town with terms and an explanation of the siege.


During a conversation over weapon-repair activities, Milton Fedge expressed regrets that the town's last Protector, Loren Mays was dead and buried...and unable to save the town.  Borden the blacksmith said that the weapons they were repairing were far inferior to the sword that Leader Mays had carried.  Kerbach's interest peaked.  He asked a few questions, and was told that Mays carried a bastard sword and was buried in a tomb in the cemetary just outside the walls of Widow's Grove.  The story was told of the Widow Mays carrying her dead husband to the tomb, and laying him to rest...as is the tradition of the Protectors, the Mays.  Borden must have seen a glitter in Kerbach's eye, for he warned him, "Do not defile the dead, my friend.  Let the dead rest."

Once away from the townspeople, the party discussed whether to try to enter the Mays tomb and retrieve the special bastard sword.  Kerbach took Borden's warning to heart, and was reluctant to "bother" with the dead.  Zeek communed with the spirits, and got the distinct impression that Loren Mays was smiling down upon the party...and seemed to almost be urging them to retrieve the sword.  Kerbach decided that this was permission enough, and committed to the quest.

The party instructed the townspeople to stop working and get some sleep at about 1:00 in the morning.  Doomnoodle and Collin stayed behind to serve as guards in the watchtowers, while the rest of the party slipped over the walls and sought out the tomb.

The tomb had two doors of wood and iron, locked with a large padlock.  After a quick search for traps, Kit picked the padlock, and the doors to the tomb openned.  Stairs decended about 25 feet underground, and cobwebs and spiderwebs drooped in large dusty curtains all the way down the stairs. The party made its way down the stairs, brushing the webs aside.  At the bottom was a large rounded off room with an unlit brazier in the center.  Stone benches ran the circumferance of the room. A hallway exited the room opposite where the party entered.  Piles of stick and grass has accumulated here and there.

Kerbach recognized a nest when he saw one.  He rushed forward and chopped at one of the piles of sticks and grass...and a poisonous snake came forth.  Minutes later, three snakes were dead...and no one in the party had been injured.  A number of snake eggs were recovered unbroken from the nests.

The hallway that led deeper into the tomb, was floored with hundreds of lettered tiles, each tile about one foot by one foot.  On the door at the other end of this 20 foot long hallway was the following message:  "Days for Entering.  Do not enter without considering carefully this important information!  The 3rd of Sedonex, the 1st of Iron, the 1st of Primex...."

The message continued, and listed ten different apparent dates using standard Empire months.  Immediately someone commented that the Month of Iron was not listed...so perhaps there would be no way to enter the tomb.  Kerbach was immediately suspicious.  "Why is the highest date of any month the 6th?  Why is there no 25th of Primex...or someother high date?  Perhaps the numbers refer to which letter of the name of the month is key to the tiled floors."

After some examination and thinking, the party used Kerbach's ideas to plot a course across the tiled floor with letters on it.  D then I, then P...small step to O, step over to C then N, but then there were two "I's" to choose from.  Kit was the first one across the floor, carefully choosing her steps.  When she came to the choice between the two "I's," the party members told her to step on the right one, because it more directly followed the general direction of the path, and involved taking smaller steps.  Meanwhile, Gremage had taken a few careful steps out onto the letters.  Kit chose the "I" on the left.  CLICK....hhhhhhhHHHHHMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

A low humming rose from silence, and seemed to be coming from the walls themselves.  Gremage quickly stepped off the tiles and back into the room with the brazier.  Kit was unsure what to do, and decided to see what was going to happen.  Blue and white arcs of electricity shot from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall, as the entire area of the hallway was engulfed in electrical energy.  Kit's body tensed and jerked as it lifted up off the ground and slammed to the floor, spasming.  The electricity subsided, but the humming continued. 

Kerbach braved the trap and stepped on the proper letters to make her was over to Kit's body.  He jerked her up from the ground, preventing her body from triggering any of the incorrect tiles.  He teetered for a moment, regained his balance, and made his way back to the rest of the party.  Kit was treated for her burns, and Zeek decided to make his way across the letters. When Zeek came to the two "I's," he took the right one, and was able to continue...O...Q...A, and make it to the end of the hallway.  Zeek openned the door inwards and saw that the actual tomb...with all the bodies lay just inside the door.

Everyone in the party, except Kit made their way across the hallway and into the tomb.  14 bodies lay within, on stone biers.  All the bodies were wearing armor, but only the chain mail and scale mail on Loren and Dack Mays were in wearable condition.  In Loren's hands were a beautiful bastard sword and a shield with the symbol of hieroneous on it.  The bastard sword had magical ruins on it that spelled out, "Death to Goblins."

A leather scroll with letters burned into it was pinned to Loren Mays chest.  It was written by Widow Mays, and said: "Here lies my husband, a good man, and the last Warrior Mays, Protectors of Widow's Grove.  A curse upon those that would defile him...a blessing upon those that would protect the weak.  Lucinda Mays."  After a bit of discusion, Kerbach grabbed up the sword, Oren took the shield, and it was decided to not take any of the armor.  Kerbach took the note from Widow Mays that was written on leather, and gave it to Oren.  "This shield you are taking is much more recognizable that the sword, you may need this note to prove you good intentions."


The party made its way out of the tomb, and back over the walls of Widow's Grove.  As they discussed their plans on top of the gate tower, they noticed that torches were approaching from the south.  The light from the torches lit a white flag flying over a flag they had never seen before.  It was white with a blue triangle in the center of it.  Oren whispered under his breath, "That blue triangle looks like a blue mountain...maybe the Azure Keep."

Collin, Kit, and Zeek went out to meet the negotiators, also flying a white flag.  In front was a ork commander with a unit of 5 orks.  Behind them was a man wrapped entirely in what appeared to be white cotton strips of cloth.  Surrounding this many in wrappings were 6 robed figures, all dressed in crimson red.  Though the features of these 6 figures were not visible, it was clear they were only about 5'5" to 5'6" and of slight build.

The ork commander introduced himself at Gru Flathead and stated that the Marked Ones were to turn themselves over to the orks of the red spear.  Collin asked under what authority these orks had sieged the town, and under what authority they demanded the surrender of anyone.  Gru stated that he had a legal warrant for the Marked Ones capture, and held up a piece of paper with writing on it.  When Collin asked to examine the document, Gru wadded it up and threw it onto the ground at Collin s feet.  Once the party unwadded the paper and took a look at it, they were shocked that it was a warrant for their arrest, signed by Javair of the Lost, Galen Green, and Lord Dumit. 

Collin brought up the town, and what intentions the ork army had towards the citizens of Widow s Grove.  Gru expressed that if the Marked Ones were given up by the town, no harm would come to the citizens, but the orks would demand...as is their tradition...a tribute from the town to pay for the additional effort of laying siege to it.  The man wrapped in white strips of cotton introduced himself as Wraps at some point in the short conversation, and stated that he was an agent for Jack Skull, and was overseeing the negotiations.  When the party attempted to direct their comments to Wraps, he advised them to negotiate with Gru Flathead, the ork negotiator.  The party did not speak for very long with Gru, and retreated back into the walled town. 

Once the party was safely back inside the walls, they began to discuss what they should do.  There was a scream from the courtyard.  A disfigured body had been found shoved in a tight alley between two buildings.  While the body was clearly male and human, all other distinguishing features had been gouged and cut beyond recognition.  After a lengthy examination it was determined it was a male between 25 and 35 with sandy blond hair.  A quick census of the town revealed to the party that no one was missing!  The issue was raised...whose body was this, and how did he get into the town...only to be murdered and disfigured?  Kerbach mentioned that perhaps this man was one of the townspeople...and someone had killed him, taken his visage, and replaced him.

A town meeting was held to let the townspeople know what was going on regarding the siege, and to allow them to voice their opinion about whether the Marked Ones should surrender.  A secondary purpose for the meeting was to interview all sandy haired men between the age of 25 and 30 to see if they were who they were supposed to be.  Everyone was aware that Gorin the Necromancer had threatened to send an assassin after the party...an assassin with a talent for perfect mockery.   The townspeople were told that the Mays sword had been recovered, and Zeek invoked the spirit of the last Protector of the town (much to Zeek s surprise, also!)  The townspeople showed a great hatred for the orks, and said they were willing to fight it out with them. 

After the meeting, Milton Fedge interviewed all of the man matching the description of the murder victim.  He asked them personal questions about their family and the town, in the hopes of ferreting out the shapechanging murderer.  All five subjects were interviewed, and all five subjects answered their questions correctly.  But Kerbach was suspicious.  He noticed that the third man interviewed had been asked a question to which the answer might have been previously researched by a clever assassin.  After all, the names of his children could easily be learned simply by showing up at home and talking with the murdered man s wife and kids.  Kerbach resolved to follow this man.

The rest of the party headed to the walls, and the negotiating party exited the walled town to meet again with the orks.  In the meanwhile, Kerbach called to Gremage and asked him to assist him in following the sandy haired man who had answered the easy question.  This man had unexplainably gone into a warehouse building, during a time when everyone else was on the walls or gathered together awaiting news of the negotiations.  Kerbach and Gremage made their way into the warehouse in time to see the sandy haired man weave his way between boxes to the back of the warehouse.  Kerbach drew his new bastard sword and made his way to confront the sandy haired man.  Gremage walked closely at Kerbach s back.

Kerbach came around a stack of boxes in time to see the end of the assassin s transformation.  Standing before Kerbach now was a dark haired man, with short cropped hair and a tidy mustache and goatee.  As the man strode forward to attack Kerbach, he had a cruel look on his face.  The two exchanged blows, while Gremage readied a spell to help Kerbach.  Suddenly from behind him, Gremage felt a series of blows to his back...then a spreading numbness, and Gremage fell to the floor unconscious.  Kerbach was too busy in combat with the man he now suspected to be FEDDEN, to notice his friend fall behind him.  Only too late did Kerbach realize he was fighting two men.  A series of violent blows from both Fedden and the yellow monk, Mu-Ra took Kerbach to his knees.

Meanwhile, Collin, Zeek, Oren, and Kit spoke with Gru Flathead and Wraps under the safety of a white flag.  Collin told the ork negotiator that the Marked Ones would surrender only to the human forces of Galen Green or Lord Dumit, and that the town of Widow s Grove must pay absolutely no tribute to the orks.  If these terms were met, the Marked Ones would surrender.  Oren walked away, and back towards the gates of the town muttering, I will never surrender!   Gru told Collin that the Marked Ones must surrender to the ork army, and that the legal paperwork the orks had brought must NOT be ignored.  Kit began to explain to Gru why a tribute being paid by Widow s Groves to the orks was in conflict with the fact that Javair was paying them, but Collin interrupted and told Kit to stop talking.  The party withdrew from negotiations and went back inside the walls of the town without an agreement with the ork negotiator.

Oren saw a woman screaming outside a warehouse once he got back inside the town.  She told him that a heavy-set man had come from the warehouse and knocked her down.  She stated he had never seen the man before.  Oren went inside the warehouse and found Kerbach and Gremage unconscious.  Two large scoops of flesh had been removed from both their upper arms, as if with some sort of sharpened metal scoop!  Oren woke them both, and then ran to capture the man who had done this.  Oren searched the building the woman said the heavy-set man had gone into...but he only found three children hiding under a table.  The children told him they had not seen a heavy-set man, and Oren went to tell the others what had happened. 

While the party was deciding what to do, there was a scream from the northern tower.  The party responded to it, and they were told that two men, one heavy-set and one the yellow monk Mu-Ra had jumped from the walls and run across the fields towards the forest.  The two men had been targeted by the ork archers, but appeared to have made it into the woods.  What their fate had been after that was a mystery to all.  The assassin and his helper had escaped!  The focus of the town and the party turned back to defending the walls of Widow s Grove, and they continued their preparations. 

From the sky fell a large stone at least three feet across.  It impacted in the courtyard of the town, smashed a wooden cart, and slammed into the face of a building in the northern portion of the town, cracking stone and shattering windows.  The siege had just turned for the worst, and the party rushed to the gate tower to see what would follow this large catapult stone.

The winter sky had clouded up, and a storm was moving in.  Rare winter lightning and thunder was cutting the clouds with ribbons of white light.  From the southern road what appeared to be a human voice rose up and could be heard above the whipping of the wind.  MARKED ONES...YOU MUST SURRENDER NOW, OR YOU ARE DOOMED TO DIE...AND TO CAUSE MANY TOWNSPEOPLE TO DIE WITH YOU!   A lone figure could be seen on the southern road.  He wore blue robes over armor, and appeared to be carrying a large axe.  MARKED ONES...DO YOU HEAR ME!?!  SURRENDER OR DIE!!!   The lone figure strode forward on the road, entering the fields of Widow s Grove.  A large force of orks were gathering on the road behind him.  As the figure got closer to the walls, more details of his outfit became apparent.  He wore blue, but the entire jerkin was trimmed in golden-yellow cloth, cut and sewn in the shape of lightning bolts.  COME FORTH FROM THE GATES OF THIS TOWN, MARKED ONES, OR MANY WILL DIE!!!

Kerbach was heavily injured from his battle with Fedden and Mu-Ra, but still he was chomping at the bit to fight this strangely dressed figure.  Kerbach begged the other party members to heal him as much as they could, and let him ride forth from the gates on a horse to face this loud warring priest.  The party members told Kerbach to save his anger and blood for the defense of the walls, but Kerbach was itching to fight.  The priest bedecked in lightning bolts held his arms out and prayers danced from his lips.  A lightning bolt cut brightly from the sky, and shattered the southern tower of Widow s Grove.  Party members scrambled to avoid being burned or smashed by the impact.  The battle had clearly begun. 

The priest called out orders and a battering ram outfitted with a roof and shields came marching up the southern road...at least thirty orks carrying its bulk.  Kit s use of a wand of entanglement froze the battering ram in its tracks...and fire was deployed in an attempt to destroy the ram or its bearers.  Kerbach and men that were following him moved to stampede the cattle out through the front gate, in case the gate were to fail.  The entanglement wore off, and the ram moved forward, only to be entangled again by the wand s use.  The evil druid Belak had bought the party some time.  Lightning and catapult stones continued to rain down, and the gate and adjacent walls were slowly broken down.  Four units of orks riding huge brown bears moved forward as a lightning bolt shattered the gate of Widow s Grove.

Instead of stampeding the cattle, a wooden cart filled with straw had been pushed up to block the gates.  An entanglement spell from the wand dragged two of the units of bears and orks to the ground, while the other two moved forward to enter the gates.  A torch was readied by townspeople in order to set the wagon of straw on fire as the bears entered.  It was then that the party noticed that advancing with the bear units was a skeletal figure, carrying a large sword.  The bears charged through the broken gate and up and over the straw filled cart.  One unit of bears was stuck getting over the cart.  The skeletal figure climbed the cart and up into the ruined southern tower to face the party members and troops positioned there.

Meanwhile, Collin and some archers rained down arrows on the lightning priest, while Gremage used spells to damage him.  Volley after volley of arrows rained down on the priest, while he directed the movements of the troops, and waited to give the signal for a final charge by the orks still in the woods. 

Kerbach and Oren both ran to face the bears that had entered Widow s Grove.  The untrained troops were cut down almost immediately by the claws and teeth of the huge brown bears.  The troops responsible for setting the straw in the cart on fire, froze in shock from the ferocity of the attack, and did not set the straw on fire.  This allowed the second unit of orks riding bears to enter the courtyard unscathed.

The men on the southern gate tower struck at the skeletal figure with their spears, but it appeared to have little effect on him.  Kit whispered under her breath, It s the pirate, Jack Skull.   And then she screamed much louder, Its Jack Skull...strike him down...knock him from the tower!   Zeek moved in to attack Jack Skull, as Kit readied a feather she pulled from her belt pouch.

Kerbach chopped and cut at the bears, but paid the ultimate price as two of the bears tore into him with their teeth and claws, rending him and slicing his skin through his armor.  Kerbach called out his final battle-cry, the Mays bastard sword still clutched in his hands, as he fell to the ground below the crushing attach by the bears.  Oren cringed, for he had seen men die before...and he knew that he was watching Kerbach die.  Oren charged into a unit of bears hacking viciously with his axe, bear blood and fur flying left and right.  But the bears recovered from his charge, and reversed Oren s momentum.  The bears fell back slightly after their attach, and Oren swayed on his feet, blood running from a dozen wounds.

Still Collin, the archers, and Gremage rained down death on the lightning priest...who appeared to be signaling to troops stationed in the woods. 

Zeek struck at Jack Skull s face with his bare hands, and realized all too late how hard the skeleton s flesh was.  Zeek s hands went numb with pain.  Zeek drew his magical morning-star forth, striking Jack Skull across his face with it.  The thin flesh covering his skull actually tore, and dark blood dripped from his jaw bone.  Jack Skull ran at Zeek, wrapped his arms around with him, and they both plummeted off the ruined tower s roof and fell to the roof of a lower building below.  Zeek was able to roll away from Jack Skull when the impacted, and they both jumped to their feet.  A grin (if you could call it that) stretched across Jack Skull s face, and he said, Give it up...you ve lost.  You will only get more people killed by continuing to resist.  

Oren was bleeding, facing the angry bears.  VAX, SAVE ME!   Oren ran from the bears towards the blacksmith s shop.  The bears attempted to follow, but appeared knocked backwards and stopped in their tracks by some invisible force.  Oren ran into the shop, and barred the doors from the inside.  (For what happened next, read Oren s Interlude).

Outside, Kit dropped her feather, and a large oak tree sprung up where the gates once stood.  The magical token had partially blocked the gaping hole in the town s defenses.  Zeek looked Jack Skull in the face and shook his head.  I will not surrender this day....   Zeek flipped up onto the wall, and ran along its edge towards the north.  Jack Skull did not pursue him.

The lightning priest standing outside the walls was bloodied and burned by the arrows and magic that Collin, the archers, and Gremage had been throwing his way.  The priest would take no more of this abuse.  He put his arms out before him, his palms outstretched...prayers were said, and the sky let loose a bolt of lightning that sped down upon the priest s attackers.  BOOOOOOM!  The ground shook with the impact, and the tower was no more.  The bodies of those that stood against the lightning priest littered the courtyard of Widow s Grove. 

The signal was given, and the woods surrounding Widow s Grove issued forth a screaming hoard of orks, carrying spears, grappling hooks, and crudely built ladders.  Zeek jumped down from the walls, and ran for the Mays tomb.  A few orks followed him in, but he quickly killed them all and hid within the burial chamber of the Protectors of Widow s Grove.  (For what happened next, read Zeek s Interlude).  A skeletal figure squeezed past the oak tree in the gateway of the town, and strode across the battlefield.  As the orks ran past the figure the other way, the skeletal figure waved them on to victory.  But this was not Jack Skull!  It was Kit using a spell to make her escape from certain disaster.  (For what happened next, read Kit s Interlude).

And the Orks of the Red Spear took Widow s Grove.  (For more details about the party members that died in this battle, read the Interlude of the Dead.)

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M. Ludwig Stinson, P.O. Box 28204, Gladstone, MO 64188