Read Part 1 here: Departing March Crossing Part 1
The inhabitants of the tavern bolted in all directions, many climbing through windows.
“It can’t be,” Kael said, “there hasn’t been an orc raid in these parts for generations.”
“That was before Elenor fell, elf,” the barkeep sounded, drawing a mace from under the table.
Pemnaq, with a desire for a muse for one of his war epics, exited the tavern. Guards were holding back the wooden gate of the stockade. Axes, piercing through the inadequate wood, knocked and clanked upon their helmets, bearing the now dead symbol of Ankor – a lighthouse.
“Rally to the gates!” the Captain shouted, blowing a trumpet to rally more troops. “We must give the villagers time to escape. Hold the line!”
In the cacophony of noise and desperation, Pemnaq was lucky to still have his wits about him. For a goblin, smaller cousin of the orc, had perched itself upon the gate and was staring right at him. It shouted a curse and leapt.
In an instant, Pemnaq withdrew a piece of fleece from his front pocket and threw it, as he backed away.
“Let there be a me, to be me, so I can continue being me.”
With the elaborate spell, Pemnaq constructed an illusion over the fleece. It looked exactly like him, staring wide-eyed at the goblin. The illusion dissipated as the goblin attacked it, but this gave Pemnaq plenty of time to escape, backing away just to bump into some rushing town guards.
Just as the goblin glanced at the real bard, anger crossing its gruesome green face, Meowzer barrelled out of The Manticore, knocking the goblin onto the ground with his shield. He skewered it with his rapier. A squeak and silence.
Just then, the gate burst open. Orcs and goblins poured through, hitting upon the hastily formed shield wall. The morass of greenskins was too thick to see accurate numbers on the other side. In the meanwhile, at the back of the inn, Kenshin had clambered on top of some boxes, peering over the stockade wall. The sight was from a horror story.
A veritable sea of orcs and goblins were amassed around the small stockade coastal village. Those not fighting at the front were shouting and blowing horns. Despite his honour, he knew that his fight was hopeless.
“Retreat! We can’t hold them all back,” he shouted.
His cry didn’t travel, as war cries and horns muffled it. He watched as spear and shield bearing guards rushed to stop a break in one of the other gates, large orcs bashing through.
Meanwhile, Meowzer was standing tall, defending both Pemnaq and the wizard Kael from goblin skirmishers that made it over the guard formation. Those who weren’t frozen or shot down by Kael were intercepted by Meowzer, who cut them down. Pemnaq, however, sensed that it was hopeless. He shouted into the large catfolk’s ear, “We can’t hold like this forever. We need to get to the boat.”
Meowzer grunted in reply, hamstringing a passing goblin. Guards heard him, some looking shaken. The officer noted this and commanded, “Pull back in formation! We need to let everyone escape.”
As a formation, they began backing away, the guards blocking the main road. As this happened, a crude arrow flew into a wall by Kael’s head. Goblins were pouring out of one of the hostels. They had climbed through the windows on the other side. A banner wielding goblin charged in to attack the wizard, but was met by the hulking paladin. As he tried to bring his banner-axe down, however, the flag got caught on the sign of a shop. Desperately, the goblin tried to wrest it free, to no avail. Meowzer poked him in the chest with his rapier, letting him collapse.
More orcs and goblins had broken through he main gate. A large, scarred orc noticed the party to the side and with a roar, charged. Kael didn’t hesitate and sent out a ray of frost, slowing the beast and causing frostbite. With the distraction, Pemnaq clambered over a fence into an old fish-strewn alley way. Greenskins were pressing on the cat paladin, but he held firm, allowing Kael to navigate his way over the fence. The wizard put his staff over to help the paladin.
From his exertions, Meowzer was barely able to make his way over the fence, even with the wizard’s help.
“Thought cats were good at climbing,” Kael remarked. Meowzer gave a broken growl in response. They broke into a run, meeting up with Pemnaq in the next street over. There was less fighting here. The greenskins were still concerned with a few regiments of guards, but were taking ground.
Kenshin was ahead of them. Taking a running jump, he attempted to bypass another fence. Unfortunately, he missed his footing and somersaulted over the fence, landing on his rump. Two refugees, previously distraught, couldn’t help but laugh as the serious Ronin’s face went bright red. Pemnaq, who was to hear about this later, promised to immortalise the event – giving Kenshin the title of Red-Face for all times.
The rest of the group made their way to Kenshin’s position, bypassing the main street. At the harbour, they found themselves faced with a sea of desperation. The only boat left was the Guild of Explorer’s ship, guarded by some mercenaries who kept back the anxious crowd. Many had given up on trying to secure passage, and instead decided to try their luck in the Desolation. They would no doubt drown, or be pulled apart in the rapids.
The melee at the quay was reaching a fever pitch. People were going to die by each other’s hands, even before the greenskins reached them. Pemnaq, to avert this dire conclusion, took out his panflute, and began to play.
Much like the rabid mutant rats of Hamgeier, the flute calmed the mob. It lulled them into a feeling of harsh solemnity. Some cried. Other sat down, their face in their hands. Nobody raised a hand at the guards.
The party made their way to the boat, the mob no longer being a barrier. They were resigned to their fate. At the corner of his eye, Kenshin spotted the first greenskins to enter the harbour. The large orc levelled his falchion in the direction of the harbour and let out a roar. Kenshin drew his longbow and fired, unfortunately missing. Kael shoved in front of him.
“Now watch what real power is.”
First, he summoned three bolts of light, allowing them to hover above his head like a halo. Then, with a flourish, he let them loose. Each bolt flew into the head of a greenskin, one decapitating its victim. The party members hurried past, Meowzer only staying behind to guard the wizard as he released a wave of fire upon the horde.
With the spell waning, the mob started to erupt once again. Mothers held their babies towards the boat, attempting to throw them in. Kenshin, unable to contain himself any longer, ordered the guard to let in the mothers and elderly. His glare, like daggers, convinced the mercenary to allow it.
Kael, his spell book depleted, allowed Meowzer to cover him as he entered the boat. After a few chosen refugees were allowed on, Meowzer leapt on board and they departed.
Pemnaq gazed onto the quay as the rest of the villagers were slaughtered. He stared on stone-faced, but tormented. He was never going to forget this, no matter how hard he tried.