Wizard awoke from his injuries with the help of Paladin’s faith. The first thing he heard were sounds of war drums, and an army marching off into a distance. He send his familiar up to see though its eyes, and seen an army of Orcs marching but few miles off into a distance.
Quickly he got up and told his companions of what he had seen, and after a very quick discussion the party run towards Hisred to warn the captain.
Day and a half later, as night fell, the exhausted heroes reached the stronghold. They ignored the protestations of guards that the Captain is sleeping, barging into his bed chamber.
“There are 10 thousand orcs coming!”, the Halfling exclaimed.
“10 thousand, you say? Well that is a bit unusual, we usually don’t get Orcs this far West, but no matter we can hold against 10 thousand.”, the Captain said.
“Well there might have been more then 10 thousand”, Halfling said.
“OK well tell me all that you’ve seen”, Captain responded gently.
“We run into patrol of Orcs, who killed the Lumberjacks, and fought them off, there was also this black clad Archery, and”
“Wait! What! Describe the Archer!”, the Captain interrupted.
“Ahm, well we didn’t seen him well, he was covered in black robes, and had this weird bow that looked as if it was grown and not made. When we killed him he turn into a shadow and floated away”, The Hafling said.
The Captain run into his study and came back with a small painting of an archer that looked just like the one that Hafling described.
“Is this what it looked like?”
“Yeah, that’s it”
“That was a shade of a tree! People think that The Tree only takes live creatures, turning them into the abominations that is an Avatar of the Tree.. but that is not so. Whenever something intelligent, be it Human or whatever, dies within certain radius of the Tree, the Tree resurrects it. The thing isn’t really dead, nor undead, it is more of a construct under full control of the Tree.
They are dangerous, but have no free will and they typically are only around when The Avatar is loose. However occasionally, for whatever reason, they are seen by themselves. We NEED to know what we are dealing with!”, Captain said.
He turned towards the Ranger.
“Are you a real, honest to goodness Ranger? Not one of those weekend warriors who occasionally go into a forest for a day or so, and calls himself a ranger? A member of a real Ranger order?”
The Ranger somewhat surprised replied:
“Well I am of no order, but I am a real Ranger”
“Good! These woods are dense, and really only Rangers can reliably traverse them without getting lost. I think I may know where the Orcs are, as there is really only one place large enough for them to gather. As you well know, Orcs are incapable of order. It will take few days for them to gather in any kind of force for an attack. If Orcs are being Orcs, whomever commands them will be towards the middle of the horde, relatively easy to spot”
“Here I will give you some help. Here are potions of healing, along with potions of invisibility. I honestly do not know how long these will last… but you should have minutes without being spotted”, Captain said.
“So how long will they last?”, the Hafling asked
“I do not know, minutes, maybe longer”, Captain responded patiently.
With this the party gathered their tired selves and set out into danger.
For two days the party traveled through a dense, primeval forest with only Ranger being able to sense where they were going. The rest of the party trusted his senses, but one tree looked pretty much same as another. They moved cautiously trying to avoid any dangers.
Early on the their third day they luck run out as they stumbled onto an Orc war party. 10 of the evil creatures charged the party, expecting an easy win (and meal).
With a quick sleep spell, Paladin faith, Monks fist, and Ranger arrows, the Orcs fell without doing too much harm to the heroes. Not even Hafling got hurt, somehow.
As the last Orc fell, the decision was made to quickly retreat deeper into the woods to avoid encounters. Fortunately no further Orcs were discovered at this time.
Therefore Party send the Ranger to scout. After following the trail of orcs for couples hours, he stumbled on a group of 3, and tried to hide. Unfortunately the Orcs seen him, and charged. Brief battle ensued which ended with some very dead Orcs.
Not wanting to take further chances, the Ranger came back to the group.
Meanwhile a female Dragonkin appeared right in the middle of the party. The Paladin was instantly smitten, just about ready to confess his everlasting love. He approached her and started to have a conversation, ready to move in with her. After few words, he noticed something odd about the creature. As the wind blew he could almost see through her, and she wasn’t making any noise. Suspicious he touched her, only for his hand to pass through. At this time the Wizard couldn’t contain himself anymore, and burst out laughing. The rouse was over, and the Dragonkin knew that it was an Illusion cast by the Hafling that has smitten him.
Ready to attack the Dragonkin roared , but settled instead of just punching the Hafling and walking away to grumble in private.
Towards the evening party heard sounds of an Orc party approaching. Knowing that the fight had to be over quickly they set a trap, in a form of a bear trap and some caltrops, and hid. Ranger supervised to ensure that everybody is hidden well. Dragonkin decided, for whatever reason, to simply stand in front of a tree motionless. Given that the tree was light, and the Dragonkin black making him especially noticeable, it was surprising that the Ranger didn’t notice him. Therefore as soon as the Orcs came close they notice the party and charged. One of the Orc managed to get stuck in the trap, but the rest attacked unimpaired.
Ranger cast a new spell, which entangled the Orc he hit in a thick and painful growth of vines. The rest of the Orcs succumbed quickly to the onslaught. Only the Orc stuck in the Bear trap and one which was slowly killed by vines were left.
Deciding to interrogate the creatures, Hafling talked (while Ranger interpreted) and Dragonkin looked menacing. At first Orcs resisted, but after quick persuasion, which involved killing the Orc in a Bear tramp. The party learned the location of the major Orc encampment. The Orc expected to be set free, but instead the Ranger simply did not released him from the vines which quickly put the end to the evil beast screams.
The party went to sleep, well covered , with Paladin taking the first watch. Unfortunately past few days of constant vigilance was too much for him, and he promptly fell asleep, only to be woken up by an Orcish axe coming straight towards him. Embarrassed and hurt the Paladin roared waking up the rest of the party, and after a brief fight, the party prevailed. During this fight, the Monk showed to the rest of the party how strong his martial arts is. For within a spawn of few seconds, 3 Orcs laid at his feet dead.
It was too late to get a good sleep, and Wizard grumbled about missing his spells, but the rest of the party shrugged and continued on their journey.
Few hours, later party stumbled unto a small hill beneath of which an ancient road spread, right in the area that the Orc said it would be. Everywhere there were Orcs, hordes of them. While exact number was impossible to tell, it was certain that there many of many thousands. They, being Orcs, were spread chaotically, without any thought or design. However the Ranger, who understand and hates Orcs, could tell where the leaders were. For Orcs were more alert, more vigilant and more packed where those they feared were.
After brief conversation it was decided that Ranger should sneak towards the main encampment, while the Wizard casts and maintains an invisibility spell. The rest of the party hid, under the supervision of the Ranger, who ensured that everybody is as well hidden as possible (this time double checking on the Dragonkin)
Slowly the Ranger made his way through the throng of Orcs, towards little grove of trees where obviously the leaders were standing. The Orcs stood in attention, and were vigilant, a sure sign that something powerful was close. As the Ranger came closer he came upon a small camp where few Orcs were gathering listening to the ex-Mayor the Saekell himself. This time he wasn’t wearing gentleman garbs, he was dressed in a full red robes of the High Priest of the Red Bitch. The wavy symbol of his goddess prominently displayed on his chest. The cloak, which is also a holy symbol, was covering his back.
Hoping to hear something of the conversation taking place, Ranger remained in place for a minute, when a nightmare approached. A white, almost marble creature approached. Its skin resembling stone, its body devoid of any hair, its mouth sealed shut, under its skin vines were withering coming closer and fading away from vision. There were no doubts now who the enemy was, for this was the Avatar of the Tree, one of the most powerful and feared creatures of all. It approached the campfire, and obviously saying something, even though no noise came from its sealed mouth, as the rest of the creatures cowered but listened. After a second or two, it reared its head, and its white, iris-less eyes, looked straight at the Ranger. Again it must have said something, somehow, for every creature reacted in an instant, and rushed the invisible hero.
Ranger, took no time, he got up and started to run, barely in time to avoid withering vines which sprang from the ground where he was, inches from capturing him. High Priest cast a spell, but since he couldn’t see the Ranger it went awry. The Orcs must have been given some kind of direction for they kept running after Ranger on mass.
Barely being able to avoid the Orcs the Ranger run towards the party, and once there quickly appraised the rest of the party of the situation.
After very brief conversation whereby many ideas, including splitting a party, were voiced. The decision was made to drink invisible potion, and run away together.
Ranger took the point, and with incredible skill managed to lead the party out of the danger. Orc party after Orc party was heard, but each time Ranger managed to assess their location, and veer off away from the enemies. It was a small miracle, especially given that the invisibility potions only lasted about 10 minutes, but the party managed to run away.
This time no caution, and no time was taken. Directly did the party run towards Hisred, not sparing themselves and not resting.
Exhausted the party reached Hisred, and this time they were not questioned but were instead directly taken to see the Captain.
“It is Avatar of the Tree!”, the Monk exclaimed.
“Are you sure? Describe it to me!”, Captain Fainly asked.
After the description no doubt was left, and resignation captain explained.
“We must hold here, we must slow them down so that the realm can prepare for the onslaught”, Fainly said.
It was a death sentence, and everybody knew it.
“You must all run as quickly as you can to the King. I will provide all the supplies you need, and in the morning you go. I think we have good day of safety at least, so we should have plenty of time to do this properly”, Captain said.
“Come with us! Let’s all go it be safer together!”, Hafling pleaded.
“No, if we go then Orcs can invade the rest of the Realm without warning, and that would mean almost certain destruction of the realm. We must hold them here, for as long as we can. We are well provisioned here so the siege will not be easy on the bastards”. Captain said.
“OK so you have four ways you can go to the king”, he continued
“The Southern road, which is going to be quickest, but also most dangerous. It is almost certain that Orcs will be present with force upon it. However you can get to the capital in 2.5 weeks, maybe even sooner if you push your horses to death”
“Cross country , which I know you can make it with the Ranger as a guide. It won’t be as fast, probably 3 weeks, but should be much safer”
“The Norther Kingsroad. This will be slowest, but likely the safest. The road has not been repaired since the Civil War, and with the many small towns and villages, it is crowded. I would say it will take you 4 weeks of travel, but you almost certainly will get there safety”
“Finally you can go straight north towards the Eagletown, which is only 4 days away. Once there you can alert the Duke of the Invasion, and take a boat down river to the Capital. This should prove to be second faster way, maybe 2.5 weeks if you hurry and if you get a fast boat, maybe even sooner”.
The choice was clear, and it was the northern way was chosen.
“Kagan please come in”, Captain asked his guards.
A man of average height and build showed up, his easy smile and friendly manner put everybody at ease.
“This is Kagan, he is a priest of god Uruan, and he will go with you as my representative” , Captain said.
Uruan is the god of War/Cities/Peace/and Soil (farming); and his priest tend to vary between serious and warlike, to easygoing and peaceful, it was obvious that Kagan was one of the latter.
The party stumbled into beds, while Captain Fainly took care of the rest.
Unfortunately it was not going to be a good rest, for the party was awoken just before dawn.
“The Orcs are marching and are close, you must go!” Captain Fainly said.
There was nothing much to be said. After quick goodbyes the party got on their horses and rode out of Hisred, taking the Northern route as quickly as they could.
A day into their travel, they noticed the dreaded undead harpies flying overhead. Cautiously they moved forward and noticed a priest of the Necromancer king standing along with a pair of mail clad Zombies, and a pair of dogs that have been turned, via vile magic to the famous Ghast Dog, guardians of the foul priests.
Not wasting any words the Priest ordered his dogs to attack.
The Harpies swooped down at the party, the Dogs charged, the Zombies stumbled and the priest cast silence on the Hafling.
Dragonkin charge the Dogs, while Kagan follow. Monk went after the Zombies initially, since that was quickest way to the Priest, and Hafling used his staff to attack the Harpies.
The fight started horribly for the heroes, for the Dragonkin was paralyzed by the Ghast dogs, the Ranger was held by the Priest spell, and the Hafling was helpless without being able to make any sound.
Kagan tried to dispel the Ghasts magic, but to no avail. The Harpy picked up Ranger and took him to the skies, dropping him from a long distance. This almost proved fatal, and the Ranger slipped into unconsciousness. The Dogs ripped into the Dragonkin, almost putting him under; while the Monk proved once again that his training made him deadly as he easily took down a zombie.
Another Harpy picked up poor Hafling, but only managed to fly him few feet before he managed to pry himself free and landed with little damage, but it did reinforced his fear and hate for the foul creatures.
Situation looked bleak, with half the party either unable to move or unconscious, but the end was not near, for Kagan prayed and a healing energy restored the Ranger, the Monk, and the Dragonkin.
After this the momentum shifted. The Monk’s fists and feet flew in rapid succession killing one of the dogs, while Dragonkins faith induced power made short work of the second dog. The Ranger killed the harpy, and the Hafling brandishing his staff managed to kill the other harpy. This made everybody stop for a second, as the scene of a Hafling wizard brandishing a stick and smashing it across a harpy that flew almost 10 feet up from the ground, was a sight to see.
It was then that the Hafling realize that, wait a minute, silence spell is not targeted, it is area affect! All he has to do was move out of it! Feeling rather sheepish he quickly run past the area of affect, regaining the use of his spells.
Priest cast the spell which raised the dogs once again, which once again turned the battle against the party. However he didn’t count on the Monk’s fury, in but few seconds the dogs were put down once again, this time permanently.
Dragonkin, the Monk, the Ranger charged the Priest, while the Wizard cast spells.
The fight was brutal but short, and the priest fell to the combined fury of the heroes.
A minute after the battle a noise reached the parties ears: shuffling, moaning, groaning noises of hordes upon hordes of zombies.
The invasion was from multiple sides…