As Grundoon had expected, none of the orcs chose to give chase to the motley group making its way down the mountain towards Trelderian Hall. The adventurers caught up to the freed captives quickly, and found them to be nervous and anxious. They tried to stay close to the dwarves, and Grundoon advised his comrades to stay back and give them space. These people had been taken prisoner months ago, and not only were they unaware of the war that their country had lost, but now they were being liberated from orcish captivity by yet another group of orcs. This had to be a lot to try and digest.
The captives spoke freely with Sir Gelbrand and his men-at-arms, taking turns to share their tales of survival. They spoke exclusively in Romillian, of course, so the Governor-General had no idea what they were saying, nor did anyone in his entourage. He muttered at Jandle, “Ok, now would be a good time for Trangdor to have been here.” And everyone had a good laugh. They listened to the talking, pausing now and again to look back and see if there was any sign of orcs following them.
During one of the short breaks, Grundoon had Jandle fish out the communication crystal that he kept buried in his backpack. “Relay this message to General von Unster-Kol. Have him dispatch as many of his men as he can to Trelderian Hall. Tell him that the orcs have been given an ultimatum, and we need to be ready for whatever they decide to do. We’ll use Trelderian Hall as our base to keep an eye on them at ground level.” The Governor-General wasn’t sure what else to add, so he waved at Jandle to go ahead. The kobold did exactly that, and when he was done, he replaced the orb back in his pack and the party continued their trek down the mountain.
The sun came up about the time the party and their rescued civilians were halfway to Sir Gelbrand’s estate. The warmth of the morning sun didn’t kick in until they actually arrived at the castle, but the freed slaves broke into songs of celebration at the mere rays of light that poked through the peaks of the mountains. The nearly two-dozen people could now be more closely scrutinized in the brightness of the morning sun. Their clothing was ragged, and they all had visible sores and wounds from being left in filth, and being physically mistreated by the orcs. Grundoon pointed to one of the young women, and said to Hilde “Those lacerations will make any restoration difficult. As long as people can see the scars, they will be slow to forgive those that created them.”
“How will these people and their families ever accept those savage orcs if they decide to assimilate?” his daughter asked.
Grundoon was quiet for a while, and then replied “I don’t know that they can. I couldn’t easily accept as neighbors the same raiders that killed Felinda. I suppose it would be easier if they settled in someplace further away from where they had made themselves so vilified.”
That would probably have to be the answer to what to do with the orcs if they chose to come down the mountain on their own. Resettlement. All Grundoon had to do was find someplace that wanted three-hundred or so barbaric goblinoids, that up until very recently had posed a serious threat to life and livelihood. That should be a breeze.
Sir Gelbrand’s little castle looked like the most inviting place in the world to Grundoon as the ragged group of freed civilians and their rescuers reached Trelderian Hall. The servants quickly brought food and fresh water for them, and the relieved survivors made themselves comfortable in the main hall of the keep, collapsing in joyful surrender with laughter and song. The dwarven knight made sure that they were given blankets and whatever pillows could be found, and then had a servant show Grundoon and his party upstairs to a room they could rest in. The weary party climbed the stairs, and threw their belongings inside. Trangdor tried to find out what had happened, but they were just too tired. Like the people downstairs that they had saved, the warriors collapsed, and soon they were asleep.
Jandle was the first to awaken, and he discovered it was night out. He set about to straighten things up in the room, and one by one the others began to wake up as well. It was never a good idea to fall asleep while wearing armor, and there were a lot of stiff muscles and achy groans from the party, as their awakening began to remind them that while they hadn’t suffered injury during the previous night’s battle, they were nonetheless hurting tonight.
There was a clamor in the courtyard, and Grundoon peered out of a window to see what was going on. A large detachment of Red Guards had just arrived at Trelderian Hall, and they were being greeted with enthusiasm by Sir Gelbrand. Grundoon quickly got out of his armor, straightened up his uniform, and headed downstairs. Hilde and Jandle were right behind him.
Trangdor was already in the courtyard, and was acting as though he had lived here his entire life. The officer in charge of the Red Guards was happily chatting with Gelbrand, and the soldiers were tending to their horses and lounging about the courtyard. They had brought a fair number of cavalry, but most of the troops were infantry. And there were more than enough to handle the orcs on the mountain, no matter what they decided to do.
The major saluted sharply, and introduced himself to Grundoon as Shr Portimer Glozz. He was a half-drow elf, and carried himself as regally as any elf Gelbrand or Grundoon had ever met. With him was a number of mounted infantry, members of the halberdiers that had retaken Summit Village, destroyed Stormburg, and blown up the great dwarven dam of Hukermansch, the devastating act that brought the war to grinding halt. These were not ordinary men and women, but exceptional soldiers who had been given seemingly impossible tasks and carried them off with ease.
Grundoon also met one of the lieutenants in this group, a human named Shr Liam Helfdane. He had heard tales of this man’s exploits, and Grundoon had to admit he was impressed by the fellow’s reputation. The Governor-General wasn’t going to micro-manage events, but he told Glozz and Helfdane what they might expect from the orcs on the mountain. He advised them to keep the cavalry down here, but ready to move if the orcs came down in force. The bulk of the force should keep an eye on the settlement on the peak, and if the orcs were going to surrender, then escort them down the mountain. If they wanted to fight, then obviously they would know what to do. Grundoon laid out the options that the orcs had, and the Red Guard was going to take care of following up whichever way the orcs decided.
Most of the rescued people who had been held captive by the orcs were still here in Gelbrand’s little castle. The ones that had homes nearby had left earlier in the day to return to their families, but those that lived further away wanted to travel with an escort. Grundoon promised them, through Trangdor’s translating, that they would make the trip with them in the morning. An outside observer would have thought that having an orc protect you from orcs would have given these people pause, but they knew that Grundoon and his party represented a very different kind of goblinoid than the ones they had been tormented by. Some of these survivors had seen firsthand how Grundoon, clearly a man of advanced years, had vaulted over the rock wall of the orcish settlement, his axe swinging, and his eyes burning like red flames. They may not have chosen him as their hero, but as far as heroes went, he was an excellent choice.
That evening was spent with the Red Guards getting to know their host, Sir Gelbrand, and discussing the orcs that were still up on the mountainside. Lieutenant Helfdane took a squad up to take a closer look, and in the morning the rest of the soldiers would begin to take up positions to closely monitor the goblinoids should they decide to descend with their decision. Everyone was well pleased with how the encounter had played out thus far, and there was plenty of optimism among everyone at Trelderian Hall that things would end well for the good people of Romilmark, no matter what happened next.
Grundoon took advantage of Gelbrand’s hospitality, and went ahead and took a long, hot bath after dinner. It was wonderful. He rarely bathed, but then hardly anyone did. Bathing was considered a luxury, something for the elite and wealthy. He had never even owned a bathtub. Gelbrand, however, had a massive copper tub, and had generously offered the Governor-General a chance to soak away his aches and pains from the previous night’s hike and battle. There was also a tremendous amount of dust and grime to wash away, and the tub was filled with a putrid mix that bordered on being toxic, after the old orc had finished.
After all of that, it was quite late, but Grundoon found that the dwarven knight was still wide awake in the great room downstairs. He was chatting with Trangdor and Jandle, and Grundoon, who had no option other than to put his dirty field uniform back on, joined their discussion. They were talking about the difference between “sir” and “shr” as titles for knights. Gelbrand had, during the course of the conversation, decided to take on the Slothjemian version of “shr,” and Grundoon assured him that was perfectly acceptable. They then began to talk about the various knighthoods bestowed by Romillia and Slothjemia, and how they were alike or different. In Romillia, knighthoods always were accompanied with a small land grant. But in Slothjemia, very few carried such a reward. Those that did had different responsibilities than Romillian knights, because the entire structure of society was different. Knights in Romillia served as military officers in times of war, in charge of their own soldiers that were conscripted peasants from their estates, hired mercenaries, or loyal men-at-arms such as Gelbrand had. But Slothjemia had a professional military, and being a knight didn’t guarantee status as an officer, nor did officers lead only people loyal to them due to family or noble right.
Shr Gelbrand, as he was now known, was fascinated by Slothjemian society. Having lived among Slothjemians, and accepting of their rule over Romilmark, he wanted to know what his role would be in the new world in which he found himself. That led to an entirely different discussion. He could turn his attention to peaceful activities, turn the estate from a bulwark defense to a working ranch, or perhaps harvest lumber. The options were almost limitless. Or he could sign up for the army, and put his knowledge of the region to work defending it from enemy attack. A man of his skills could do great things in the army, and he already knew the language so that was a huge bonus. Shr Gelbrand was a man with a wide array of possibilities in his life, he just had to settle on a course of action.
Even though they had not been awake very long, Grundoon and his entourage decided to turn in for the night. Tomorrow they would take the remaining former hostages to their homes. Finally, a chance to enjoy spreading some good news for the Governor-General.