They Might Be Giants
The Captured Hag
Octorum 12, 887 Af.
The party had surrounded the hag, and she fell to her knees in front of them. She held her hands up - all hope of escape or victory lost. She had little to bargain with, but she would still make the attempt.
As the group began to talk about how to deal with the hag, Sharlot decided she wanted no part of what she felt was about to happen. They could see the column of smoke that Sif's owl familiar had pointed out to them south of their position, and she wanted to check it out while the others dealt with the prisoner. She told them she was leaving, but the arguing had already started and they did not communicate well. She walked away from the camp, leaving exhausted horses and companions behind her.
The rest of the group discussed what they would do. Sif wanted to learn from her - while at first, this made the others a bit worried about her striking a deal, she made it clear that that was not how she intended to learn. Kasret and Durdeg both believed that she should be killed, although Kasret was more willing to attempt to extract some answers from her before doing so. Hags had long ago been eliminated from Valbarra thanks to no quarter being given, and the two of them saw no real reason to change that. The presence of Carta, however, gave the hag one possible shot.
Knowing that he was devoted to Adalci, she made an appeal to the God's virtues. She asked him to decide what justice, mercy, and goodness had to say about executing an unarmed captive, hammering home the idea that this bore no relation to his God's Truth. Carta knew he was being manipulated, but it didn't matter. She had pointed out what his God would desire, and he had to voice that. He told his friends that he could not support the execution of the hag - he would not fight them to stop it, and he would not cast them out if they decided differently, but he had to be true to his understanding of Truth. He admitted that he did not believe in the government of Corellum's ability to hold the monster, but he wanted to try something.
Sif mentioned that she had no doubt that Venfaren could both deal with the hag, and would ensure that she did not harm anyone else. This was enough that the group decided that holding her was the best move, and tied her up. They strapped her to Kasret's back, and decided to make for the wagon back by the river. They assumed that eventually, they'd run into Sharlot again.
They reached the river without incident, and took the time to bury poor Edrin. With the horses exhausted from the morning gallop, Kasret was forced to haul the wagon. He grudgingly agreed, and they threw the bound and gagged hag in the back.
Sharlot was sure that the others would execute the hag, and was glad that she had a few hours of alone time while they did what they were going to do. She made good time approaching the source of the smoke, and within an hour she could smell it in the air. There was clearly a lot of wood being burned, but something else besides. She smelled burned thatch, oil, and worst of all, charred flesh. She didn't know what had happened, but she knew it involved too much death.
She slowed her approach, and half an hour later, she was creeping to the top of a hill overlooking the source of the smoke. The remnants of a small town greeted her, most of the buildings broken and burned. A large bonfire, the flame reaching a dozen feet in the air, was burning near the center. Two hulking figures were dragging what looked like human bodies towards the flames. They casually tossed them on, then one of them picked up a spear. It dragged out a half burnt corpse. They tear off an arm and devour it, before hauling the rest of the body with them. Sharlot identified them as ogres, and decided that she needed to get back and warn the others.
She crept away from the hilltop, and as soon as she could she put on all the speed she could. She made it back to where she expected the party to be - tracks from the horses, deep boot prints from Carta and Kesret, but no companions. Not even the body of the hag, which made her wonder if they had taken her with them, or if she had somehow escaped and they had to chase her down. With no other leads, she decided the best bet was to head back to where the wagon was located, as hopefully they would not just leave that behind.
Another jog across the hills, this time towards the river, and she found the hag's cave. She saw that someone had taken the time to bury a body, and she assumed that it had to be Eldrin. But the wagon was gone, along with any sign of the others. Clearly they had been back here, but they had left again. With no other real options, she decided to head south, pointing back towards Bandar Philia. She hoped she could catch them, but if nothing else, there were certainly places she would know to look back in the city. She moved as fast as she could while still keeping an eye on the road, hoping that she may be able to make out if the wagon tracks turned off anywhere. She couldn't really tell what, if anything, belonged to her friends, but it was all she had.
She had traveled this road before, on the way here, but it proved to be much more dangerous now. As she made her way down the road, she was lucky to spot a group coming north before they spotted her. She quickly left the road, finding some brush and an overhang on the river bank. She hid there, watching the approach as best she could. As they closed in, she saw that it was a troop of four orogs, trotting along in a military formation. She held her breath as they passed, but they didn't give her little bush a single glance. When they finally passed, she hit the road again. She kept moving slowly, worried about anything else that might be there.
The time to move cautiously ended, however, when a deep warhorn sounded from the west. That was bad enough, but when it was answered three times, closest from the west and north, and farther away from the south, her blood turned cold. Figuring that it almost certainly had something to do with her companions, she started to run.
Fee Fi Fo Fum
Still on foot with the horses tired from chasing the hags, the others set out from the hags cave. They planned to take the road for a while until they could find a road that may go to the column of smoke. The first leg of their trip was uneventful, as they made it to a road leading to the west, close enough to straight towards the source. Sif's owl was keeping a watch for them, and as they started to take the side road, it signaled danger ahead. They had time, as the circling bird was a couple of miles away, which gave them options. The owl came back, and let Sif know that there were four orogs marching quickly in formation towards them. They decided to hide off the side of the road, ready for a fight. The land was just hilly enough to hide the wagon and horses, and they used the sparse tree cover to get closer to the incoming orogs. As the orogs neared, the party tensed, expecting a fight to break out at any moment. But the orogs had focused their attention on traveling quickly, and in moments they passed the group by. They got to the river road and turned to the north, still moving quickly but now away from the party. The party breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that they were still hurting from the earlier battles. They took some time to rest and recover, with Durdeg rebuilding his steel defender, now named V7.
After taking an hour to recover, the group once again set out to the west and the column of smoke. The owl remained on watch, and after a short time, it again gave the signal for danger ahead. It returned to Sif, and reported that there was an ogre approaching, using a chain to keep a group of ogrillons moving. The ogrillons bore barrels on their backs, although the owl had no way of knowing what was in them. The group was feeling a little bit better than before, and intended to take down this group, possibly taking a prisoner to learn more about what was going on. They hid the wagon, and again took up positions behind trees. This time, though, the tree Sif picked out was not quite large enough, and the ogrillons quickly spotted her as they came into view.
They began to charge, and the battle was joined. Sif created a flaming sphere to target as many as she could, Durdeg sent V7 on the attack while following immediately behind to take advantage of V7 flanking the monsters, and Carta and Kasret closed to melee range, Kasret letting off a few shots from his crossbow as they closed. They looked to make quick work of their enemies, until the ogre lifted a horn to his lips.
The sound of the war horn echoed across the hills, and the speed of the battle suddenly became a lot more pressing. One ogrillon was focused on getting to Sif, but she was prepared for it. She channeled energy through her hands into the attacking brute and it staggered, slightly dazed by the damage. She took the opening to pull back, remaining out of the creature's reach, and to direct her flaming sphere at the ogre approaching her companions. Carta took full advantage of this - he was at the top of the hill, with the flaming sphere below and between him and the ogre. Taking a few quick steps, he launched himself into the air. He felt the heat from the sphere below him, and saw the ogre looking at him in surprise as he slammed into the monster's torso, secured a hold and began to tighten his grip. An ogrillon had made its way around the hill and engaged Durdeg and V7, but they put it down quickly and moved to the next. Kasret was there to help them make quick work of that one, then they heard horns in the distance, answering the first call.
The ogre, with Carta still on his back, stumbled towards the others and swept his chain across them. Durdeg and V7 were knocked to the ground, but sprang back up again quickly. With the flaming sphere still burning the ogre, and the other nearby creatures down, the party was able to end the threat of the ogre. Carta leapt from the dying creatures back in time to avoid being crushed, and the three of them (plus V7) turned to check on Sif. She had been able to eliminate her foe, and they all took the time to survey the wreckage as Sif sent the owl back out to see the results of the war horn.
The owl didn't fly far to the west before signaling danger and returning. Marching down the road were two more ogres, followed by a 10 foot tall slovenly humanoid dragging a massive club. Sif recognized the description as a hill giant - one of the smallest of the true giants, but still a threat on its own. Between that and the other horns, they prepared to make a final stand, and began to work out where best to position themselves. After a few moments, Kasret interrupted the planning, and told everyone to follow him. He grabbed the wagon, where the hag was still bound and gagged although it looked like she was laughing at their predicament, and started to move as quickly as he could pull it back towards the river. The others, not knowing what was happening but hoping it would lead to safety, followed.
Before they made it back to the river, they spotted Sharlot coming towards them. She asked what was happening, but they just yelled for her to follow as they kept moving. With everyone back together, they turned south. The owl was back on reconnaissance, and reported that there was a party of ogrillons coming towards them from the south, the orogs that had passed them by earlier were coming from the north, but the giant had stopped at the site of the last battle. The orogs were still north of the road to the west, so there was some hope they wouldn't follow, but the ogrillons ahead were close to unavoidable.
Knowing this, they kept moving forward, planning to hit the ogrillons hard as soon as they were in range. They eventually spotted each other on the road from a few hundred yards away and closed in to battle range. As they set up a skirmish line, one of the ogrillons sounded a war horn, and they heard the responses coming from the north. Not wasting time, the party launched their attack. With cantrips and crossbow bolts unleashed upon the ogrillons, the first couple never came close to reaching melee distance with the party. When the others did, they ran into the wall of the melee fighters, and were quickly crushed. Not wasting any more time, the party pushed on.
They knew that the blast from the war horn had alerted everyone to their presence, and they were likely already coming for them. Durdeg quickly fashioned a rake to hide their tracks, and they pushed south. As the sun was setting, Kasret led them off the main road. He finally told his companions where he was taking them. Back when they were in town, Kasret had spent a week away from the rest of the group. They knew he came in late the day they left for the wizard's tower, but they never knew what happened while he was gone. He kept it short, only revealing that the hunting lodge he was taking them to was owned by the Tiefling woman he had spent that week with. A short distance away from the road, nestled back in the hills and surrounded by trees, they came to the lodge. As they reached relative safety, Sharlot wanted to take the time to discuss the plans for the hag, and to reiterate that they were supposed to wait for her where they were. At this point, the tension of the long day had gotten to them, and Sif couldn't handle it any longer. Muttering something under her breath about never splitting the party, she slapped the bard across the face. The slap was unexpected and impressively swung - Sharlot reeled under the blow. Discussions were done for the evening - maybe once they were sure they weren't going to die.
The first thing they did was stash the wagon and the horses in the barn. Closing it up as tightly as they could, they then tried to enter the house. The door was solid oak, with strong iron bands and a formidable iron lock. A knock went unanswered, and they resorted to Durdeg picking the lock. They closed the door behind them to find it fitted for a bar, which they quickly used. They looked around the room, taking in the hunting trophies, and the portraits on the wall.
Carta was momentarily stunned when he saw a portrait on the wall, and nudged his childhood friend Sif. She stared at it for a moment, and the two of them pulled away from the others. Kasret was telling the group about the place - a kitchen and dining hall to the left of the entrance, bedrooms to the right. The stairs to the roof and to the cellar were in the back, along with a washroom.
They hauled the hag in, and had the owl scout once more. As they secured the hag in a closet, the casters of the group prepared for some desperately needed sleep. War horns sounded again in the dusk, and the owl came back with news. An orog had been where they left the trail, but had turned back to the north. At the crossroad by the river, the giant was leaning against a large boulder and eating something from the fire. Several ogres were with him, as well as a few orogs and orcs. Knowing this, the party settled down for whatever the night may bring.
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