The Dwarfs held their positions among the ruble of the north wall. Around them, nervous militia men waited for the impending onslaught. The sound of orcish drums filtered through the morning mist. Then they heard the wild mutterings of the clerics of Iuz, summoning their dread lord's power. The orcs marched forward at the beat of the drums, their footfalls matching the hollow beats. Closer and closer they came. In spite of the morning chill, the defenders of Algernon Tower felt their clothes dampen with sweat. Three days of continuous combat had reduced their numbers by a third. Only one thing could save them now.
Sir Aymond heard the drums in the distance. The mist would dissipate soon, but with luck he would catch the enemy unawares. His brother, Baynard, rode to his side "Do you think this is going to work?"
"It will, brother. Of course if you have a better idea, now would be the time."
The sound of a distant horn interrupted them "Too late for that."
Aymond wheeled his mount around. "Men of the Shield Lands, Knights in good standing, servants of Good. Our land is in peril, it's need dire. One more time we ride for lord and country and the survival of all free people! CHARGE!"
The Dwarfs poured a relentless stream of bolts into the approaching mass, but while some fell, others took their place. The militia horn blew once more. Even the steady fire of three ranks of elite crossbowmen would not be enough to halt the enemy. At the center of the horde, a dark cleric of Iuz danced wildly, holding a burning bowl of offal while he screamed obscene chants to the Lords of the Abyss.
"Graz'zt, unholy father, gives us your strength. Gives us power to smite your Zion's enemies. For the glory of the Abyss-" The thunder of charging hooves drowned the cleric's insane rant as Aymond's cavalry smashed into the enemies flank. Momentum and determination drove them forward, their spears piercing mail and flesh as they went. Lances gave way to swords as the knights slashed their way to the hear of the orcish mass.
In mid trance, the foul priest did not hear nor see his minions scatter or the black stallion charging toward him. With one downward stroke, Aymond's sword decapitated the priest. A fountain of blood showered his acolytes who fled at the site of their master's death. Dwarfs and men poured from Algernon Tower to finish the fight, leaving none alive.
Aymond shouted to his men "The Day is Ours HUZZAH!" they shouted back, all except Baynard.
He approached his brother and whispered as he pointed behind them "But not without loss." A score of knights had fallen amidst the charge and as Aymond raised his visor he could see that at least one orc had scored a vicious hit on his left calf.
"Order the men to regroup. Tell the garrison to move out as soon as possible. We must move south at once."
At nightfall the group camped for the night. Few tents went up, except for the Commander's tent. Inside, Aymond worked feverishly to finish the last bits of paperwork before he put his plan into action. Inside the tent others waited for their commander's instructions.
Aymond first missive concerned the fighting around Algernon's tower:
Encountered enemy supply trains northeast of the tower. Destroyed seven wagons and scattered the human guards. Took no prisoners. Orcish troops made a frontal attack on the tower. Repelled with the help of dwarven crossbowmen and sorcerer's help inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy. Orcs carried their dead from the field. The reason for this unusual behavior became clear later that night. Undead attacked the battlements, including several shadows. Brother Cristoff of the Order of the Platinum Bolt (Heironeous) assisted in the defense. Losses few, but we lost our war wizard.
Enemy resumed their assault with siege weapons. Managed to breach the North wall of the outer bailey. Led knights in an assault against the siege engines and destroyed several of them. Second assault repulsed as well. Friendly losses where heavy. A score of knights fell and so did fifty of the militia. Again, the enemy resumed nightly assault with undead using war drums to keep us awake.
Enemy continued their assault. Led charge against main body of the enemy scattering them and killing the commander. Could not hold the Tower indefinitely. Valuables have been removed and forces evacuated. Fear that this is just the tip of the spear. The east is wide open to attack. Larger bands of humanoids lead by followers of the Old One raid an pillage at will. If nothing is done, forces will capture Admuntfort and lay siege to Critwall. Forces must be shifted or be trapped in a pocket. The enemy asks and gives no quarter.
Time is off the essence.
Your Loyal Servant
Sir Aymond Marhaus, First Lance of the Order
Aymond sealed the letter with his signet ring and gave it to his fastest rider. As he left he got up to talk to the assemble leadership. He cleared the table, which had a map of the Shield Lands engraved on the tabletop. The table was supposed to be magical, but Aymond did not have the time or the inclination to divine its mysteries.
"Gentlemen, our situation is dire. The enemy commands the field and we do not have the forces at hand to stop them. I fear that even the combined might of all the Knighthood would do nothing but yield to this evil tide. However, the enemy does have one vital flaw, lack of cavalry. My men will ride north and harass the enemy as much as we can, buying you sometime to complete your tasks. Baynard?"
Handing him a sealed letter and a small leader bound book Aymond said "Take this to Chateau Marhaus. Evacuate the family and get them to Critwall, from there sail to Greyhawk and safety. We have a modest home there, one that I hope to use as part of a future business venture, but alas."
"Leave you here! But you need us! We need to regroup and defend our lands against the humanoid scum! We must fight!"
Sergeant Walpole and Leftenant Wilkins nodded, but Duarte, long time family friend (three generations past and counting) knew better "And where lad, do ye think we will hold them? The tower was the last fortification before the walls of Admuntfort. There is nothing but their greed to slow them down, and nothing will stop them."
"Indeed my old friend. And that is why you have to take this." Aymond handed him the a horn's mouthpiece. "This is Algernon's horn, take your stalwarts and march to the coast post haste. Take the horn to a safe place away from these abominations. It must not fall into their hands."
"Aye, that we can do."
"Sergeant, you and your men will accompany Baynard south to Critwall. From there you will take this." He handed him a large pouch and a letter "Do not open it, what is inside is not meant for your eyes. Your men will stay in Critwall with Baynard while you go to the College of Wizards in the city of Greyhawk. Ask for Aspertas of Kent, he will know what to do with it. As for you Leftenant, prepare the men, we ride north as soon as we are able."
All left except Baynard "Brother this is madness. Divide our forces now, in the face of the enemy? There must be another way."
"What forces you speak off? Fifty militia men, about the same number of dwarvern bowmen and our riders. The infantry will slow us down and if we are caught in the open we will perish."
"We will take as many of the bastards with us as we can!"
"And then, who will protect our families? Death will come for all us soon enough. I'll keep the priest with us. We will surely come in handy. Besides unlike you he has more courage than sense. At least I think he does" he said with a sad smile.
"Send another if word if what you need them to have. I will stay with you," Baynard pleaded.
Aymond stood tall looking at down as his brother who was a half head shorter than him, "Baynard, what is the calling of a warrior?"
"To Fight so Others don't Have to, and to Die so Others may Live."
"Then if that is the case, others need of our service, one more time. Rachel and the boys need their uncle now more than ever. At least make sure that they board a reliable ship South. If battle you want, I am sure the enemy will be breathing down your neck soon enough."
"May St. Cuthbert protect you," said Bynard as he hugged his brother goodbye.
"May Pelor's blessing shine upon you brother."
Aymond opened the tent flat and yelled to his charges "We Ride!"