“War does not determine who is right - only who is left.” - Bertrand Russell
28 Elient, The Orc Slavers’ Camp and Halv
Having overcome the Orcs and their Githyanki associate the ‘Stoners secure the unconscious and badly injured white dragon wyrmling on the remaining slaver carriage. They also bind their captive Orc to the back of this carriage, intending to take her to Halv and answer for her crimes, and those of her now deceased companions.
Anahita’s uses her magic and her empathy to calm the Dire Wolf and convince it that not only do they mean her no harm, but that they intend to set her free if she can just help them get back to Halv.
The freed Halvonians and the few humans who had been snatched by the Orcs are retrieved from the woods and the party sets off, back to Halv. On the way, Harrid Hanner-Gwaeth, the Half Orc poet, tells a sorry tale …
“Circlestone has fallen to a might horde. It was fast, brutal and I’m still not entirely clear on what happened. Let me tell you what I can recall and then I’ll try my best to answer any questions, although I fear I lack the words to truly convey the horror of the situation.
It was some seven days ago, I guess, the night of the 20th Elient, just before midnight, when the town’s alarm was sounded, the bells ringing out. People started to come from their homes and we could see fires burning around the edge of the town. Suddenly there was a roaring, terrifying screams and shouts, and from all directions we saw silhouettes charging. We didn’t realise it in that moment, but this was the Orcs and they were deliberately driving us all in one direction, up, towards The Clutch, the Moot Hall and the Grain Store.
Of course, some of us took up arms and tried to stand against the attack, but by 3am, it was over, many had fallen, more than a hundred Circlestoners at my estimate. I know for certain that Deny Woodlehouse and Ferun Halfmoon were lost, I saw their bodies myself, but exactly who else was taken, I can’t say.
Anyway, as I say, by 3am it was over and the whole populace was gathered at the top of Nooxypiath Hill. There we were divided into four groups, able-bodied males, able-bodied females, Dragonborn and the weak. I counted some 40 or 50 Orc warriors and they had at least three huge Chieftain Orcs amongst them, but also these robed figures, I would say about a dozen of them. One of these was dressed in slightly different robes, a darker grey that the rest of them, and with a heavy hood that fell low over it’s face. This individual seemed to be in charge, and seemed to instill fear and respect in the Orcs. This creature seemed almost exclusively interested in the Dragonborn, inspecting them like a slaver inspects their captives. Then came the most terrible thing I saw that night, they counted off every tenth person, from each of the groups, excluding the Dragonborn, and just executed them, right there, in cold blood. It ripped out the heart of the people.
It was at this point that I managed to slip into the shadows behind the store. I’m not proud of this, but I am glad I did so, for it was this action that allowed me the opportunity to find Ko’Beula and for us to agree that I should travel south in search of aid, and in search if you folk, specifically. Ko’Beula was determined to stay and monitor what happened, and look for his wife, J’Wi’s mother, Pai’Seon, who he had lost in the confusion of the attack. He said he would find somewhere safe to hide.
All else I can tell you is that after the execution on the Hill, I saw the weak, the old and the young being marched away, back down towards the Gay Gorgon while those the Orcs had determined as offering an immediate threat were locked up, men in the Moot Hall and women in the grain store. The Dragonborn were taken back into The Clutch.
About an hour later, the bodies of the executed had been removed by some of our men, under the supervision of Orcs and the Grey Ones (this is my name for them, I do not know what else to call them). That was when I saw the leader of the Grey Ones, I started calling them the Dark One, come out of The Clutch, with four Dragonborn, heavily chained and looking as though they had been badly beaten, perhaps tortured. Along with a guard of both Orc and Grey Ones, it marched these four, Xyxith'xylix Nooxypiath, his mate, Yrrlivies, her brother D’yzzixit and the healer Gorx, down to the Circle. I followed, keeping to the shadows and moving with as must stealth as i could muster. I do not know what happened inside the Circle, but the sounds I hear, the screams, the chants, the unholy voices … Well, it could only have been something horrific.
That was when I decided to scout around and see if I could gather any useful intelligence, or find anyone else. Eventually, some hours later, after a lot if hiding and some close calls with the patrols the Orcs had already established, I found myself in the fields of Old Banner’s farm, you know the ones, just east of the river. That was wear I met Ko’Beula. It was there that we saw the flames begin up on the Hill. They burned The Clutch. At first we feared taht the remaining Nooxypiath and their clan had been burned alive in the building, but we saw several covered wagons leaving Circlestone on the road north, into the foothills, so we are hopeful that they may have been spared, for the time being at least. Then I left.
To tell you this is hard, I am haunted by that night, but I am determined to do something. My mothers are there, my friends, those who are still alive, our families. We must do something.”
After telling his tale Harrid confirms that he had seen Anahita’s family alive on the Hill, and that as far as he could tell they were bring led to the Inn, the Gay Gorgon, along with the other “weak, elderly and young”. This included Roger Naqi, Anahita’s brother, whose war wounds seemed to convince the Orcs that he was of no real threat.
Harrid had no direct knowledge of any other persons.
On reaching Halv the party found a hero’s welcome waiting for them. The little village went into full Halfling hospitality mode, a feast being prepared and the village green being decorated. Music was played and everyone was in the mood for a party. Their loved ones were back unharmed and the Halvonians wanted to show their thanks.
The ‘Stoners were not really in the mood though and decided that their captive, the female Orc, might have information that could help them better understand what had happened in Circlestone. J’Wi and Anahita volunteered to interrogate the Orc.
They took her to Quinnchick’s surgery and there, using a combination of magic and good old fashioned intimidation, they found the following:
The Orc’s name is Heggifa.
The Orc tribes have been brought together by a mysterious figure, which the Orc called The One.
The One has promised the Orcs a new era in which they will rule and all other races will either submit to slavery or be destroyed.
The One is followed by The Greys, they all have magical abilities, possibly mind control, possibly teleportation and possibly the ability to move to other planes of existence, it was not entirely clear from her communication.
The One, and his followers, The Greys, seem to have a base of some sorts in the Spine of the World mountain range. Heggifa called this the Grey Caverns.
This base might well be in the ancient, almost legendary Eye of the All-Father - the famous temple of the Giants, built many generations ago, and thought by most to be completely lost.
There is a location somewhere in the mountains that Heggifa called the Meeting Place, where the Orc tribes have gathered and where they deliver resources to The Greys. Those resources are primarily slaves who seem to be necessary for “the excavation”. Those slaves are taken away, in Heggifa’s opinion, to the Grey Caverns.
The Orc tribes have been active across the Savage Frontier, other places may have fallen, not just Circlestone.
Heggifa witnessed an Elven captive, who she described as a “fighter” and “brave” being “broken” by a member of The Greys, then being sent away to do some task for the them.
The interrogation complete, J’Wi created a concoction that would subdue Heggifa, but the mixture was not balanced and it nearly killed her, inducing heart failure. Luckily J’Wi, with Remy’s help, managed to force the Orc to vomit the mixture up and she survived.
Whilst this was happening, Jonathon, Connor, Remy and Maena stayed with Quinnchick, and decided that it was worth her while trying to heal the Wyrmling. They also tried their best to take part in the celebrations, to not dampen the joy of their Halfling hosts, but they all found this a little difficult.
Maena was very concerned at the potential magic Heggifa was describing, and wondered how best the group might be able to best serve Circlestone.
Remy wondered if his own Temple, also high in the mountains of the north, might have been troubled by the Orcs, and Connor recalled stories he had heard as a child, about warriors from his clan who claimed to have been the the Eye of the All-Father, many, many years earlier.