Beorn's Quest (part two)
Since we had followed Oderic's tracks to the village, we decided to talk to the people he might have returned to to see if he was still hiding somewhere nearby. When we entered Helmgut's hovel and tried to extract any details from him, he was despondent and lost in drink, so we left. Then we asked around where we might find Brunhild, Rathfic's wife, and were directed to the burial mounds outside town where she crouched in silent vigil.



Poppy gained her confidence and the girl admitted that Oderic had visited her a few days ago, and told her of his flight from the orcs. She attested that Oderic had killed Rathfic by accident, and that Rathfic had been the one to draw the knife while the two men argued. Durim argued that by evading Beorn's justice, the man had all but damned himself, but if he could be returned to the Carrock to face justice, he just might be spared.

The brash young man had reportedly left to head west, across the river, and so that is where our trail led next. One of the boats had been stolen; we found it abandoned on the opposite shore, a few miles downstream.

The Hound tracked him relentlessly, until we found ourselves near the Gladden Fields, and woods where wicked men were said to live. At the remains of a camp, we found splinters of a broken shield and the riven haft of a spear. The Hound determined that one man had been set upon by many and a struggle had ensued--apparently, our quarry had been snared by someone else!

It was easier to follow the trail of many men, which had headed directly into the woods. The Hound, followed by the sneaky hobbits, crept into the forest to scout ahead. After a few minutes, Durim followed, noting a wisp of smoke on the horizon that suggested an encampment might be found nearby.

Poppy and Drogo soon outdistanced the Hound, who was being more cautious. The hobbits were trying so hard to remain quiet they forgot to listen, and didn't noticed a group of sentries until they were nearly on top of them! Four men of dangerous countenance were stalking carefully through the wood, one of whom glimpsed the hobbits out of the corner of his eye and quickly looked toward them. Poppy disappeared into the underbrush and Drogo froze, relatively unobscured on a deer-path. Poppy threw a rock, distracting the men enough for Drogo to crawl away, but alerting them that something was amiss.

Drogo retreated far enough to come across the Hound, and explained the situation in a whisper. As they wondered whether to wait it out (gleaning some information by watching them) or try to go around, Poppy recklessly threw a rock at them, capturing their full attention. The Hound stepped up boldly and charged into battle with Canna at his side.

Two men armed with bows aimed for the hobbits while The Hound threatened the others with his steel. Durim came running, having heard the commotion, and immediately hit the dirt as an arrow sailed past him. He stood and faced his attacker, trying to rally his companions, but the battle was almost won already; the Poppy and the Hound had dealt with their men and Drogo fired an arrow through the neck of one of the archers, killing him instantly. The fourth man tried to flee but was run down by Canna and The Hound.

When the three surviving men had been restrained, we considered our options. It could be hours before our prisoners woke to be interrogated, and by then their camp might notice their disappearance. So the Hound decided to scout further, followed again by Poppy (to his chagrin), while Durim and Drogo sat quietly in the wood, awaiting the inevitable sounds of battle.

The Hound made his way to the wicked men's camp, and was surprised to see that it was even larger than the village of Stonyford. The camp consisted of perhaps a hundred people, including women and children, many of whom were clearly slaves. So the men were slavers who had been press-ganging innocent people! That seemed to explain what had happened to Oderic. But as he scanned the encampment from the vantage point of a tall tree at the outskirts of the clearing, the Hound saw a young man who must be Oderic, sword in hand, consulting with the apparent leader of the bandits! Stunned by this revelation, but only just, the woodman made a quick estimate of how many armed men there were in the camp (approximately 40!) and returned to the others to share what he had learned.

Durim supposed Oderic had impressed the slavers with his steel--overlooking that the young man might have been in league with them for months. Regardless, a frontal assault would be suicide, and it was clear that there was no easy way to sneak into the encampment and confront the boy, and no guarantee he would leave peaceably if we were to somehow manage it.

When the captured sentries awoke, we got what we could from them. They knew Oderic but didn't trust him. Their leader, a fearsome man named Valter the Bloody, apparently had been learning what he could about Oderic's home. Our captives didn't know what their next raid target was, but it sounded like they were getting ready to set out the next morning.

It appeared that Stonyford was in danger! We set out quickly, and kept a hurried pace to get to the village as soon as we could. We told them of the danger to the town, and implored them to leave, and come with us to the safety of Beorn's house. Helmgut refused to leave until The Hound, with shadow in his heart, threatened to feed the old man to his dog, piece by piece. By the end of the morning the townsfolk had gathered what they could and had started the slow trek to Beorn's house. And none to soon--on the morning of the second day, a column of smoke rose behind them, portending the destruction of the village. Durim likened it to the plight of the Dwarves of Erebor, and as such, lightened the spirits of many of the villagers; for Beorn would surely rout the bandits, and there would be no dragon awaiting them when they returned home.

After a few more days we arrived at Beorn's house with our refugees in tow. Hearing of the bandit army, Beorn became fierce, and not many hours later a fighting force began to assemble. "We ride out in the morning! To Battle!"
Session: Game Session - Thursday, Jan 31 2013 from 12:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Tags: bandits , Beorn