The loss of the mule has made the mulemaster Gulstaff even glummer, if such a thing were possible, this does not help the mood in the party I can tell you. Even with the advantage of elven eyesight the gloom is hard to penetrate and the strain of constantly keeping watch is beginning to strain even Gerran’s optimism. Fryancryn chats easily with those who are nearby and I enjoy his company. He is clearly a man of the road and it is the journey more than the trade he lives for. We exchange tales of travels around the fringes of the Great Wood. It seems he has not met many of the First born and to have three, even if one is only a half blood, for company peaks his interest. I, of course, deflect much of his interest in me and my comings and goings, instead focussing his attention on the Noldo, Talaras and his reasons for wandering so far from the Havens.
Uphead a glimmer across the path catches my attention and I call for a halt. It is clear that there is some kind of silken thread stretched across the South Road. While giant spiders are rare, they are know to live in the depths of the dark heart of the forest and are hunted mercilessly by my fellow wood elves. I advise caution and scan the area for any further sign of the foul beasts but all seems quiet.
My plea for caution and care goes unheeded as Gerran strides manfully towards one of the great silver threads strung across the road. Behind him scuttles Talaras, bow drawn looking far more cautious but none the less too close to use the bow should Gerran be attacked. I pause for a moment, unsure whether to stay with Fryancryn and the mules or to cover the other two guards. I opt to follow at a distance comfortable for the range of my bow.
There is a faint sound of something passing through the air near the pair up front but I do not understand its importance until Talaras yells ambush. He does so as six misbegotten orcs slip from their hiding places in the thick rose thorns that line the path. There are four between Talaras and myself and two more beyond him unseen by Gerran. I let my arrow fly with a cry of warning; darting sideways Talaras looses his bow but both flights miss their mark. The warning is enough though to allow Gerran to turn and defend himself.
Too quick the foe is upon me. I have no time to pay heed to how my companions fare as I am forced to hurriedly defend myself against two orcs. The first lashes a lucky blow beneath the guarded of twirling quarterstaff, my calf is slashed and I am badly bruised by a heavy handed blow from the flat of the blade. I go down on one knee and fear it will be over soon. The sight would be comical if I were not so injured as I watch the other orc drop its blade but I am busy parrying the attack of the first. A second flurry of blows smash the the sweeping guard of my quarterstaff and the world goes black.
I awaken and the pain in my calf sears straight to my vocal chords in a cry of anguish. I bite down hard not wanting to alert any enemies nearby but it seems that they have fled. There is only my companions and I still here but a distinct lack of slain foes to suggest that the others were not any more successful that I. Gerran has an arrow shaft protruding from his leg which Talaras is currently trying to remove and staunch the bleeding. It seems that outnumbered the pair retreated scooping up my fallen body as they passed. Fortunately, a bruise to the lower leg and the concern over Gerrans wound has meant they have not checked me thoroughly and discovered my secret. Of Fryancryn and Gulstaff there is not a sign also, it must be said, of the mule with all the food supplies. However, we do have plenty of grain and weapons on the remaining mules.
We are making plans to dump some of the grain to free up two mules for Gerran and I to ride when we hear some muffled groaning from the depths of the rose thorn thicket. If it wasn’t so pitiful we would be really worried, not to mention in deep trouble given the wounds taken. But is turns out to be Fryancryn dragging Gulstaff through a hidden passage among the bushes. He tells us he and the mule man had pursued the orcs but were overcome and he is little pleased with the realisation that two thirds of his grain will need to be dumped to let his guards make it to Buhr Widufiras.
Then again, as I said, he is more about the travel and adventure than making the largest profit and travellers in peril can’t be choosers. So we limp on towards the Buhr a few days further along the road. I would attempt to forage some herbs and berries to supplement our scant supplies but I cannot limp for long enough to be successful. I am concerned also by the bold presence of orcs on the South Road.
We meet a pair of woodman travelling the road. They appear to be some form of patrol and escort us to the Buhr in safety. By careful questioning, I discover that they are worried for a missing scout called Windlore, who is a bit a totemic hero among the Woodman of Buhr Widufiras. The presence of the orcs on the South Road has also caused some concern, not least since, though they appear inept, they have caused more havoc on the roads than the normal pattern of raids by orcs.
At Buhr Widufiras we take the time to rest. Fryancryn bids us farewell as he plans to move on with a new cargo and, I believe, he is only to happy to be rid of such an inept set of guards. Harsh if you think about the number of foes encountered in the ambush. It would have needed two or three times as many fighters to protect the mules in such a limited space. Still there it is and he does at least pay us a half of the original fee. I spend most of mine hospital fees and a pack of herbs that will aid recovery in any future combat.
There is now the matter of these orcs and who controls them. I look for a way to get the message to my master but there appears to be no fellow traveller to carry a coded message and I cannot afford to travel far from Buhr Widufiras without attracting attention. There will be nothing for it but to return to where the grain has been stashed and explore the tunnels through the rose thorns. I’m sure my companions will be looking to transport the grain back to the buhr but unless they plan to carry it on their backs I doubt they will see coin from Fryancryn’s cargo, even if the woodland creatures have left the sacks undisturbed.