The Battle Begins!

Winterwulf had broken us into three groups: myself, Chucaro, Silentknife and Creami as the ground group; Tracer, Tregoan, Sylwith and Sophwen as the second group and Winterwulf, Ellenroh and Orthonn making up the final group.  The black clouds moving in released the rain they were holding all at once, it seemed…. but it was a steady rainfall.   The rain would actually be an advantage to us as there would not be near as many torches and the shadows cast could be used to hide in.  I wasn’t sure how long the canopy of leaves and branches would keep the water off of us, but they held up so far, even when the plan was developed.

We all slowly made our way to a foothill where we could see the shadowy keep while we remained crouched down low.   “This is where I want us to go if we run into any trouble,” Winterwulf said, “We don’t want to lead the enemy to our camp and we should be able to see this hill from the walls of the keep.”  When the group nodded, he continued.  “This is also where we split up.  The ground group will enter through the main entrance, hopefully unseen, while groups two and three will provide aerial support and be lookouts, as well.”   There was a slight pause, but he added, “the goal of this mission is to try to bring Wargie back with as little bloodshed as possible.”  He looked directly at me as he spoke.  “I thought we were to kill whatever we came across,” I said.

“We can’t take on a dwarven army… that is a fact.  We are best at hit-and-run, so that is what we will do.  The main forces are still gathering in Esteldin, but we can’t afford to wait any longer… they can take care of the dwarves, but we need to get Wargie out of there.”   Despite my ‘dreams’, I kept my concerns for the group bottled inside and simply nodded… there was no changing the hunter’s mind once it was set.

The groups split up and Chucaro, Silentknife, Creami and I slowly made our way to the front of the keep; in stealth, but staying to the shadows.  The rain had made the ground treacherous, so we didn’t have to worry too much for wandering patrols.  The doorways, however, were heavily defended.  Dwarves I’d never seen before now guarded all the entrances into the keep… and they wore much better armour than the executioner wore.   We waited near the northern entrance until we received the signal from Tracer that the western rampart was secure… the last thing we needed was an alarm sounded and a rain of arrows to deal with.  I hope Winterwulf, Ellenroh and Orthonn are able to make it up from the south without any issue, I thought to myself.

Suddenly, we saw a flash from the west… there it was again.  Good… the first group of hunters have done their part, and no alarm has been raised, yet.  I looked at Silentknife and nodded.  The four of us went as quiet as we could, in stealth, towards the four guards we could see.  We stopped when one of the guards shifted… he was restless, but a glance from what I assume was the commander, settled him down.  I couldn’t hear what he said, but I know he muttered something under his breath.  Whatever these guards did, they were used to movement and battle… not guarding a keep… so we would use that to our advantage.  Before we could move from where we were positioned, we saw the guards move.  Apparently, we had come upon a shift change and waited for the new dwarves to get settled in and the old guard to move out of sight.  I could hear Silentknife curse under his breath.  This was unexpected… but we were too far in it to turn back.  Besides, I said to myself, this is where instinct kicks in.

We waited for what seemed like forever, but I know it was only a little while that the change over took.  “We don’t know how long it will be til the next changeover, but it’s too late for that now.  We need to take these guards out now,”  Silentknife said as we watched the group.  I simply nodded as he and Creami went for the the group to the left while Chucaro and I took out the guards to the right.  The opening was staggered, as were the guards, so we had to time it right to get all of them at once.  The guards didn’t seem to notice Silentknife and Creami come up behind them.  Both covered the guards mouths as their eyes bulged and were kept from sounding the alarm and I swiped the throats of the guards nearest me as Chucaro shredded the tendons of the guards.  In a matter of seconds, it was all over.  “Creami and I will put two of the uniforms on, in case they come back,” Silentknife said.  There was some fussing with the armor, but they were able to somewhat resemble dwarves in the dark and on their knees.  Once I could just hear the sounds of heavy breathing from the group, Silentknife tensed.  “Someone’s coming!” he hissed as he and Creami scrambled to get in somewhat of a guard stance on their knees… if it could be called that.

“Where are the other guards?” the captain asked in a gruff voice. “They know with the heightened security that we switch every 20 minutes.”  Silentknife simply shrugged his shoulders.  “What?  Speak up, man!  I can’t hear a shoulder shrug.”  The guards near him dropped their hands to their sheathed weapon hilts, ready to draw them out.  Silentknife shrugged again.   The captain drew out his hammer.  “Seems I have to beat the answer out of you…” he started.  That was all he got out as Silentknife and Creami both leapt to their feet to silence the captain and the nearest guard.  The two in the rear drew their weapons to charge, and suddenly dropped them, clutching at their throats as Chucaro and I appeared near them, our paws bloody from ripping their throats out.   The minstrel and burglar grabbed the shoulders of two of the guards and started to drag them behind a rock.  “We have less than 20 minutes before the replacements find their bodies and sound the alarm… we have to find Wargie before all hell breaks out!”

I went stealth and slowly worked my way through the winding stone passage, but didn’t come across any guards as I peered into the courtyard.  I could vaguely make out the shadows of the hunters as they were crouched with arrows notched, watching the courtyard.   I could feel the others behind me as they caught up.  “How are we looking?” Silentknife asked as he looked over my shoulder.

“With the rain coming down as hard and fast as it is, I’m rather surprised they have as many torches as they do.   But there shouldn’t be any problem making it to the other side of the courtyard.”

“We’ll go across, one at a time.  This should make it less likely that we will get caught as the others should be able to run to safety.”  Silentknife simply nodded and fell back to tell the others.  He and Creami began peeling off the plate armor they used to impersonate the dwarves.  I waited a few seconds more before starting out.  I wasn’t worried that they could see me in stealth form, but knowing I was heading towards the area where the trap was, both in my dream and reality, unnerved me a little bit.   As I approached the stone wall, I stopped.  I sniffed a few times, but there was nobody near.  Outside of a few camps with bonfires and guards, the weather kept the enemy at bay, as well.   I could still feel a heightened sense of security from what happened this morning.  Though I couldn’t see anything, I knew we had to be careful.

I was still alone, so I made my way past the opening and peered around into the small, round fortification, as well as the small rectangular area to the south.  That’s odd…I thought.  There is a blazing campfire, but no dwarves… a shadow briefly appeared overhead, so I instinctively moved to the shadows.   I saw the shadowy outline of a bow… then another… I now know Winterwulf and his group took out the dwarf guards.

I waited for the others to slowly make their way across the courtyard.  There wasn’t anything to worry about and the others joined where I was.  “There are more dwarves here than this morning, but I was expecting an army.” said the burglar, breaking the silence.  I noticed that, too, but was more worried about Wargie… her sent was stronger here… it grew stronger the farther in we went.

“I don’t like it, but we have to find her fast… everything else is just something we have to deal with.”

“Well, you’ll get your wish soon… they should discover the bodies of the missing dwarves anytime now.”  Silentknife said… without worry, but with hunger and longing.  Not soon after he warned us, I head dwarves shouting in the distance.

“Intruders!  We found dead guards! Intruders!” shouted a group of guards in the distance.  Light enveloped the courtyard as the front doors of the keep swung open, pouring out armed dwarves as well as the light within.

“It’ll take them a bit to realize we are inside already, but when they do…” he smiled an evil smile as daggers appeared in both hands.

I smiled to match his own.  “You did say hell would break loose… welcome to hell.”  I said as I went stealth and lead the group to the back of the keep.

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