The morning of the 17th of Trivor, 1329:
Sammeth and Warvold, as soon as Warvold recovered his strength, set out at a brisk pace for Takanal. Having just survived a battle with orcs -- and one that got away -- they made as much haste as possible for the town. Warvold, exhausted from his battle, could manage little more than a brisk walk, but gave it all his sturdy dwarven legs could give.
In the far distance, when the wind was right and the elbows of the mountain funnelled the sound, they could hear ogran war drums.
Warvold had never seen an orc before killing almost half a dozen of them, but his racial anger was apparently justified as Sammeth tried to learn his dwarven and teach him the common tongue as they moved down off the mountain.
Sammeth used Silverwing as a scout, until her fears confirmed roc-hawkes far above the canopy -- after which time she refused to sail above the canopy of spruce and pine and maple.
At one point, they cleared a jutted rock and could see down into Takanal itself -- where smoke poured from too many buildings. Sammeth feared the orcs were already in the town, and bid Warvold hurry even faster.
As they got closer and closer to Takanal, evidence of battle grew, though there were no signs of an ogran invasion. As they swept into the outskirts of the town, Sammeth began to wonder who the enemy was. The signs of battle were there, but the sounds of battle were gone.
* * *
Baron Cardovar Thespulae was the feudal lord of Takanal. He was a well-built man of a somewhat short stature, with a balding head of gray hair and somewhat pinched expression. When Sammeth and Warvold arrived in the great square of Takanal, the baron was dispensing the King's Justice to the surviving invaders.
A row of headless corpses lay in a line, with still-living men in a line, bound with their hands behind their backs, held in place by loyal knights of the baron's, or by the town's militia. The throngs murmured among themselves, but quietly, straining to hear the baron and Father Thomalis beside him, as they interviewed each of the men.
The invaders were men, and wore a considerable amount of steel; their armor was made of overlapping bands of steel, and had to be swelteringly hot in the summer's heat. Sammeth saw that they had spurs, as well.
It took three strikes with his longsword, but he managed to take off the next man in line's head. The baron was apparently tired, and all the town looked ragged from their battle.
It was from Ethos that Sammeth learned the invaders were Nabrolians. Nabrol was the God of Slaughter, and sometimes called the Mad God. He ruled a theocracy through his priests in a far and distant land. Like Sammeth, everyone wondered at the timing of the Nabrolian invasion, and the Ogran invasion.
The Nabrolians had fought viciously, and caught Takanal completely by surprise. Takanal, like all Rakore, had a number of surprises of its own. The three-hundred dwarves in Takanal were all battle-hardened Warkore Clan dwarves, there to help quarry stone and slate. There were also nearly three-hundred Amaran settlers in Takanal -- all veterans of the Amaran Savanna and skirmishes with the Vridaran Empire and goblins. Each family of ebon-skinned Amarans had their own elephant.
The town's militia was nearly a third of its population -- many of them veterans of the War of the Undead, and countless orc invasions before that. Every able-bodied man and woman in Takanal owned a weapon, and at least a studded-leather suit of armor. When the call had gone out, every member of the militia had hastily thrown on his armor and tabbard, and all thought the ogran invasion had finally begun in Takanal.
Sammeth was told the Nabrolians had attacked with almost three-hundred mounted knights, three times as many footmen, and a dozen brutishly-ugly giants, each with a Nabrolian priest upon a wicker seat over the giants' left shoulders. The priests had hurled lightning and the fury of Nabrol at the town, while their armies rushed through the town's streets, killing anyone that got in their way.
That had been at dawn. In less than half a day, an army very nearly the population of Takanal had been destroyed.
As the town was quickly organized to evacuate up into the ruins of Tymarell, Sammeth found out how.
The Temple of the Trees was made entirely of whole, living red oaks, their interwoven crowns forming the roof of the building, and younger oaks making up the back rooms where Father Thomalis, Mother Tia, and their acolytes lived. Mother Tia took up an object of power, and used it to awaken the trees of the temple itself.
The giant maple out in the orchard shook itself awake, as well. Unlike the oaks of the temple, it was continually alive -- the living body guard for Mother Tia and Father Thomalis, and the temple itself.
Baron Thespulae ordered Sammeth to take control of the trappers and furriers and out-rangers, and use them to scout the advance of the town. The war drums of the ograns could be heard even in Takanal, and only Sammeth and some of the out-rangers knew where Cason's Cut was, and could lead the town there.
Within a mark, the entire town was mobilized and moving up the side of the mountain.
Their progress was watched by their enemies. Two roc-hawkes hovered in the noon-time thermals, monitoring the status of the town. Sammeth knew it was only a matter of time until they were all attacked, but fleeing towards the ruins of Tymarell presented them with a chance, if they could make it there in time.
Near dusk, the lead was struck by an ambush.
Sammeth had had the dwarves in a ragged line behind him, so that if push came to shove, they could muscle in a line along their way to let the townsmen pass them, or punch through an ogran line. That foresight saved their lives.
Orc archers let fly from a nearby rise, and from the underbrushed crashed over a hundred orcs armed with massive scimitars and wearing breast plates of some strange, dun-colored metal armor.
The dwarves formed up a defensive line quickly, even as Sammeth let fly crossbow bolt after crossbow bolt, trying to figure out the extent of the orc numbers. The orcs often traveled with kobolds mounted on coyotes for scouts, and sometimes had ogres as shock troops, if not as mages and leaders.
The dwarves and the orcs fought toe-to-toe, as the orc reserve came out of the woods under cover of archers.
Sammeth's eyes went wide. The reserve as an ogre covered from head to toe in the strange dun-colored metal. The ogre bore a bastard sword nearly eight feet tall -- almost as tall as the ogre itself, whose fists were larger than a man's head. The ogre charged in yelling, the sound of it intimidating the dwarves as they tried to hold their line.
Warvold whirled around the edge of the dwarven line, with Sammeth not far behind. Neither were mounted after the first few furious moments of the attack, and though blood spilled and steel struck steel, the battle was a foot-battle.
Sammeth had hurled glassy vials of alchemists' fire and thunderstones into the orc line, and it has kept the weak spots of the dwarven line from crumbling.
Barl Maeglin, a dwarf with a fiery-orange beard, led the Wirebeard and Grimhammer dwarves of Takanal. Maeglin, a bastard born, had chosen his own surname -- but had proven himself in combat many times before. As the ogre slowly lumbered towards the battle, Maeglin peeled the Wirebeards off of the fight, and sent them up into the rise and the woods to take out the archers. Maeglin had hoped to use the smaller Wirebeard clan to flank the orcs, but the orcs had not given him a chance. With the Wirebeards leaving the battle, the orcs threatened to take the Grimhammer front from the flanks -- and the ogre would not help matters.
Warvold hit the ogre first, coming in under its line of sight with its full-metal helm. The Deepsmith's axe hit the ogre's knee, trapping it between mithril axe and mithril shield. The ogre struck back, knocking Warvold nearly senseless.
As Sammeth did his best to hit the ogre up under his shield, in between powerfully strong swings, Warvold got back to his feet, and attacked again, going after the ogre's knee once again.
Within moment's, with Sammeth's Ghost blade attacking quickly and distractingly, Warvold had taken off the ogre's leg at the knee, and it went toppling over with a cry of inarticulated pain.
The orcs, who had been buoyed a moment before by the ogre's war cries, lost heart when they heard the ogre fall behind them. The Grimhammer's pressed hard, and with Warvold and Sammeth's help, began to break the orcish line from the side, flanking them even as the orcs flanked the dwarves.
The Wirebeards, after taking initial heavy casualties, rushed the remaining orc archers, and found no further reserves.
By then, Baron Thespulae's knights, mounted on fierce chargers and supported by Father Thomalis' accolytes, bore through the remains of the orcish line. The baron's knights made short work of the remaining orcs, ensuring none survived.
Barl Maeglin took an assessment of his dwarves, and noted that nearly two-dozen dwarves were dead, and another dozen would not be able to stay on their feet.
The sun was just setting, and Sammeth figured they still had at least four more marks of travel, if not six, before they reached the ruins of Tymarell and the relative safety of Dagonneth -- assuming the ograns didn't kill them before then, the roc-hawkes didn't ambush them from above, and the 'zapzes' of the Daggoneth undead did not kill them in the end.
In a ragged line behind them stretched the town of Takanal. In the middle was the living tree Krish, and with him Father Thomalis and Mother Tia, and all the children of Takanal. The knights and Baron Thespulae stayed there, when not needed elsewhere. At the rear of the column marched the living oaks of the Temple of the Trees. And in between them all lay fifteen-hundred men and women who were leaving their homes behind.
In the remains of the town square, the bodies of those that had fallen during the Nabrolian attack continued to burn. The fires were tended by those Nabrolians that had not fallen to Baron Thespulae's justice. The lord and ruler had given those Nabrolians remaining their lives, in exchange for their service to 'the twins'.
They had given Sammeth shudders -- twin dark elves with dark hair, dark clothes, and silvery eyes that assessed a man's vulnerabilities with silent and cold computation. The twins were trusted entirely by the baron, and he had commanded them to remain in Takanal until the bodies were burned -- and then use the Nabrolian survivors to harass and attack the Ogran lines in guerilla attacks.
Takanal had won every battle, yet the people had lost their home.
So ends the evening of the 17th of Trivor, 1329.
Several tactical considerations: roc-hawkes are used as scouts by the ograns. At the beginning of the war, the massive hawkes (large enough to pick up an elephant) were used as weapons, but the ograns only had a hundred of the glorious birds. The loss of nearly a fifth of those rocs to the Stonehelm Clan, and the loss of another fifth to various other actions, has made the ograns carefully guard their remaining roc-hawkes.
The great mass of the Ogran 14th and 55th Divisions poured through the Grand Maul Pass several days earlier, and never intended to take Takanal.
The invasion by the Nabrolians had been carefully timed with the Ograns, and the Turan River -- and Takanal -- were to have been taken by the Nabrolians. Likely the 14th Division would have been sent to take Takanal once word of the Nabrolians' defeat reached their commanders, or the Nabrolians would have perhaps sent in more of their giants and priests to take the city.
The orcs that Sammeth and Warvold encountered upon coming out of the ruins of Tymarell were likely scouts from whomever commanded the Grand Maul Pass, seeing as how a kobold overlooking Cason's Cut had returned with news of Sammeth entering the previously unknown sewers. With Sammeth tipping the ograns off to a secret set of ruins, the scouts had been dispatched to investigate -- and one got away.