An Orc for All Seasons; Chapter 14

Slothjemia does not have a lot of trade partners, and the trade it does have almost always revolves around weapons and armor that is manufactured in the realm. The bulk of trade takes place between Slothjemia and the realms of the Underdark, wherein dwell dark elves, duergar dwarves, svirfneblin (deep gnomes), and illithids, just to name a few. These people are keen to buy all manner of goods from surface folk, including raw materials and food. This has made Slothjemia some very powerful friends below the surface of the world.

Chapter 14

The column made its’ way past a smaller forested valley before the advance scouts began to report back something more interesting than just “nothing to report.” There was a small group of civilians huddled near some rocks up ahead. They were the inhabitants of the tiny junction hamlet of Garvin’s Gap, and they had told the scouts that the Romillians were in fact just up the road. The Slothjemian 1st Army had begun setting up defenses in and around the junction, when the Romillians had arrived and the fighting started. Both sides were somewhat surprised to see the other, and the civilians had fled the area before anyone had taken action. Now they were huddled alongside the road, with no idea what was happening to their settlement.

Garvin’s Gap wasn’t much of a settlement. There was an inn and tavern, a way station for three different coach lines, a blacksmith, a grain storage facility, several small farmhouses and a rural constabulary outpost. Most of the people that lived there were human, drow elven, or a mix of the two. The drow were sundered and had moved to the surface decades ago. Up in the mountains to the northwest was an old mine that deep down had a connection to the underdark, and although it was not as large a thoroughfare as was the tunnel to the underdark near Jaggerholmschloss, it was still a workable trade route to the people living deep below the surface world. The de facto leader of Garvin’s Gap was the woman that ran the Black Elf Inn, a drow named Warleeza LeProttcik. She was doing most of the talking. The other prominent leader of the settlement was the chief of the rural constabulary for the district. His name was of no importance at this time as he had been killed in the battle earlier in the day.

By the time Grundoon and his column had made it to where the refugees were, they had even more company. The detachment of Red Guard cavalry was coming down the roadGarvin's Gap0 at a very good clip. The elite horsemen had obviously been in combat. All were injured, and their weapons still ran with blood. They were visibly shocked to see so many soldiers, and thrilled that they were on the same side. Their corporal did his best to tell Grundoon what had happened during the day, but the man had a thick accent and was impatient to report back to his own general. The gist of what the corporal was trying to say was that the battle was not going entirely well for Slothjemia. More Romillians had shown up for the party than had been expected. The 1st Army was in trouble up in Garvin’s Gap.

Grundoon sent word out to his executive officers to fall into battle formations. The patrol would make the rest of the trip today ready for battle at any moment. Meanwhile, he tried to get more information from those that had been in Garvin’s Gap earlier today. The Red Guard corporal was the most helpful, but he had to get that information back to his own commander down at the Summit Village junction as soon as possible. But he did tell Grundoon everything he had seen, and how the settlement looked when he left just a little while ago.

“The buildings are all in shambles,” said the corporal, “and the road east is mostly destroyed by artillery fire.” He hardly paused in between sentences. “The rains throughout the last week have turned the farmland into a muddy morass. The settlement was the focus of the battle today, and bodies are scattered all over the place.” The corporal did pause before saying, “I do not think the 1st Army will be able to hold the line and prevent the Romillians from heading south.”

Grundoon listened carefully and only had one question for the Red Guardsman. “How many of us are left holding the line?”

The corporal shrugged. “I’d guess fewer than a thousand.” He looked at the general. “That’s just a guess, sir.”

Grundoon saluted the corporal. “Go quickly, then. Let them know we are up against a determined foe. We’ll do our best to knock the wind out of them, though.” The corporal returned the salute, laughed, and led his squad at a fast gallop down the road towards the Red Guard encampment at the Summit Village junction.

Turning his attention back to his own men, Grundoon and Jandle made their way to the front of the column. By now the column had expanded to fill the entire road. Nobody would be getting past them on the road now. Crossbows had been loaded, shields were hefted, and senses were heightened. The patrol had been widened since leaving the Red Guard camp, but now the men were more tightly formed. The civilians were told that if they came along they were to stay back with the baggage train and keep out of the way should any fighting break out. On the way to the front of the troops, however, Grundoon didn’t give much thought to the civilians. He was far more interested in the soldiers of the 1st Army. He prayed they would hold strong. He and his troops were still a good hour away.

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