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Strange Bedfellows
While making my rounds of Britannia I happened upon a long lost childhood acquaintance by the name of Samuel Truefeather, a dear friend that I had lost track of over the years as our separate paths divided along the roads of adulthood. Always a spirited adventurer, my friend Samuel enlisted at an early age into Our Lord’s Guard and, upon showing an affinity for archery and sneaking about (a skill he employed often when liberating pies from the baker’s cooling shelf), soon found himself stationed in the woodlands of Britannia as a deep forest scout entrusted with keeping a sharp eye on the dealings of several humanoid groups in the vast forest surrounding Yew. 

It was after returning from this duty that I chanced to encounter him in the Cat’s Lair Tavern, happily charming a serving girl out of another tankard of ale. Overjoyed at seeing my friend - and equally pleased to see my empty stool next to his - I sat down and began a late night update session as to his whereabouts and activities over the numerous years since we had last parted ways. Eagerly he told me many a tale of his own personal valor (Samuel never was a humble man) in defense of the kingdom and the Virtues, and as the hours progressed and his list of deeds expanded I found myself uncharacteristically dulled at his recitation…normally, the material would have made a grand saga, worthy of a journalistic creation of epic proportions, but for some reason it lacked the substance of anything more than the litany of any guardsman’s actions in the service of Our Lord. 

That is, until his final tale. It was by now late into the night, the candles had burned very low in their sconces and the rest of the patrons of the tavern had long ago left for their cottages…perhaps it was the atmosphere, but I choose to believe that my friend Samuel had indeed saved the proverbial “best for last” in the retelling of an event that had occurred not less than the previous day. Below, in his own words, is his story. 

"Ah Tal…you should have been there friend, you’d have had plenty to write about I’ll wager, more than I can tell thee. Part of my duties as a ranger is to keep tabs on various groups of subhumanoids that, for his own reasons, Our Lord continues to allow to exist. One of these, a clan of orcs, has succeeded in building a fortress near the Dungeon Shame, south of Yew, and from time to time I spy out the area and see what the green-skinned beasts are up to. Normally it’s not much more than killing a few passing travelers or performing some horrendous act of worship to their gods, and I was surprised to see this time that they’d manage to stir up a bit more of a menace than I was expecting. 

At first, when I awoke from my perch high up in a pine tree, I thought for a moment that I had forgotten just where I was…for my ears were telling me that the heavy footfalls were not orcish, and my nose definitely was confirming that the undeniable stench of Ogres was on the wind. Alarmed, I carefully dropped down and scurried up next to the palisade to listen to the activity inside the orc fort. 

What I heard could only be described as alarming! Before my very ears as it were, the orcs and ogres were negotiating an alliance, the purpose of which, from the chuckled hints and plots, was no less than an invasion of the Yew countryside by the joint forces of the two clans. My duty was clear, this had to be stopped at any cost and quickly! 

In times of peril citizens are often drafted into emergency service to the kingdom, and I believed then, as I do still now that these brave men and women fight with the courage of a hundred guardsmen when it is their very homes and kin that are at risk. And so it was that I quickly found myself in the company of Richard Langdow, MarkII, Gorion, Prophet, Merlin IV, Geno, White Magma, Melkor, Mistelios, and Heldon…all brave and stalwart men who, thank the virtues, agreed to accompany me in the hopes of disrupting this alliance long enough for a contingent of guardsmen to arrive and take control of the situation. 

And so this small group of potential heroes and I set out to the site of this nefarious gathering of mismatched clans. Carefully we crept up to the fort and leaped upon the patrolling orcish guard, quickly subduing him with a brutal thrust to his ugly wart-covered throat…unfortunately for us, however, one of our number panicked and let loose a pillar of arcane flame that consumed the corpse, and alerted the occupants of the fort to our presence. Suddenly from every direction orcs appeared from the woods around us, their slobbering jaws screaming war cries and what I can only assume to be the orcish equivalent of profanity. Desperately we began a fight for our lives in a vicious melee with the horde of enraged creatures. 

 Your average orc is hardly a menace to a trained warrior, and the common orc foot soldiers quickly fell to our blades. Unfortunately this left a space for the more elite members of the clan to step forward and our group found itself being pushed backwards into the fort itself by a rather gruesome assemblage of Orc War Chiefs and what we soon nicknamed, “Orc Shamans”- strange garishly painted orcs who seemed more than a match for our party’s spell caster. Back to back we fought our way towards the fort and quickly barred the door to the fiends outside. Two of our number bravely guarded the gateway with fire fields while the rest of us dispatched the fort’s occupants and scrambled about searching for anything of potential use in ending the alliance. 

Unknown to us, while we were scurrying about the Ogre clan had arrived on the scene and, after a brief consultation with their potential allies, had mounted an offense against our western flank. Without warning as I was scrutinizing a recovered map from a chest in the heart of the fort the panicked cries of “OGRE LORD” echoed amidst our numbers…and with horrified, shaking fingers we drew our weapons and leapt to the walls for what we knew would be an all too soon, brutal assault on our temporary island of safety. 

Peeking over the palisade, I spied the huge hulking mass of an Ogre seconds before he pulled a small tree out of the ground and began using it as a makeshift club against the barred gate…desperately I asked one of the spell casters to summon several blade spirits to distract the creature before it managed to batter its way into the compound. Seconds later the whining scream of the blade spirits mirrored the angry yowls of the Ogre Lord as the spectral knives slashed into his corpulent body, spraying the wooden walls with a coat of thick, red blood. 

Moments later, after a combined assault of loosened arrows and arcane magicks we managed to slay the brute and send it to its death. With the loss of their leader, the remaining Ogres quickly fled into the woodlands…and, from there, t’was merely a small matter of picking off the scattered, dishelved orc clan." 

Eagerly I poured Samuel another cup of ale and smiled at him, “You do realize my friend that all of Britannia is going to hear of this?” I said as I grinned wolfishly at him. Chuckling, he nodded and lifted his tankard to me, “Aye, that I expected Talbot…that I expected, never stopped telling yer tales did you, old boy? Well see to it then that you get the details right this time around, t’was fortunate that I was able to gather the brave citizens that I did, or Yew itself may be burning at this very moment…and what a tragic loss that would have been. After all…they do make such excellent wine.” 

Published: August 2000
Please Note: Some dates are estimates as exact dates were unavailable.
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