North Passes, The Day Northpass Burned
as told by Rejard al’Thiar
Gather around, all, so you may hear the lament of a town whose life was cut short. Listen to me and pay your respects to the fallen citizens of Northpass. This is a tale with no true end yet, only a beginning. But beginnings bring hope, yes? And this beginning, while beginning with tragedy, has the hope of having an ending that ends in heroism and justice.
It began like any other day. A day like this, in fact, since today is, indeed, like any other day. My companions and I were sitting around a table in the Westerly Rest, talking, much like we are now. I was telling a story, much like I am now.
The discussion was lively, as all discussions should be between friends: Emeric, who dreams of seas and ships and shores; Rasa, who reads of far off places and long lost lessons; Souri, who scampers with the trees and herbs and flowers; Silas, who uses those same things to boil remedies and ailments alike; and Karim, strongest fist to ever punch…well, probably everyone’s been punched by Karim at least once. And, of course, me. You all know me, so I will not bore you with a description.
Our conversation had turned towards the philosophical when a jarring jolt shook us from our high-minded meanderings. A man had burst into the Westerly Rest—Sammal, I believe was his name—to tell us to “Come outside, quick! You have to see this!”
His voice held fear and despair, not excitement and mirth. So it was that we all stood and ran outside to see. And what we saw filled us, too, with fear and despair. Northpass, long sister village to Westfork, and the northern most village of the Four Forks, was burning. The day was clear, and the horizon held few secrets.
To this day I still wish it would have kept that one to itself…
My friends and I quickly gathered horses from Karim’s farm and rode to Northpass as swiftly as the hooves allowed. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, the fires were dwindling and the buildings were lying down to their final rest.
We explored the village, wanting to find evidence of anything that could have started the fire. At first nothing was apparent, but upon closer inspection we learned that the villagers had been killed before the fire. Sword and dagger wounds marked most. Arrows protruded from a few on the outside of town. It became clear to us that Northpass had been attacked before it had been burned.
Well, perhaps I should say that it became clear to my companions. Because it was at this time that I was rudely knocked unconscious and dumped into a nearby basement.
They eventually found me, of course, and they informed me of what they discovered. Indeed, I came to at just the right time as well, for my brave friends courageously rooted out and surrounded my attacker—a red-clad man named Markham.
Of course, this would have been much more heroic had Markham actually been a villain. But we learned that he was investigating the town as well. Apparently, he was hunting orcs, and it was orcs who had attacked Northpass.
Why did he attack me? Well, my dear listeners, let us just say that he did not appreciate my ‘bardic qualities.’
In other words, I was being loud…
After apologies were passed around, Markham joined us, and we prepared the dead for burial. Night soon fell, and Markham told us of his knowledge of these orcs, about how they were actually from the asylum-city of Tranquility, deep in the heart of Candlehaunt. He told us that Tranquility had hired the nearby orc tribe to keep watch over the most violent of its patients, and the orcs seemed to appreciate a steady set of meals, income, and an outlet for their aggression. He was, certainly, baffled that they would suddenly leave their employ and randomly ransack a wayward village hundreds of miles away.
When our duties within Northpass’s ruins were completed, we rode carefully back to Westfork and prepared for a long journey to Tranquility the next day.
I would like to tell you that I can end the story with us acquiring a room at the Westerly Rest for Markham and retiring to our own beds, but I cannot. For the orcs who had attacked Northpass followed us to Westfork in the darkness. It was by pure luck that Karim had noticed their movements just outside the stables.
We all, save Markham, who had retired for a much needed bath, ran outside to defend our village. Afterall, it was our village, yes? Yes.
The battle was swift and bloody. The orcs were savage and gruesome, screaming at the top of their primal lungs and lunging at us with a mixture of forged and hacked together weaponry. They had no strategy—no goal. They sought only destruction and blood.
They were completely insane. And I use that description as literally as I am able.
We fought hard. Rasa’s magical attacks struck true. Silas’s improvised explosives devastated our foes. Emeric’s finesse confused and dazzled the fiends. And Karim’s brute force put a few to shame. It was an envigorating experience, unlike any festival competition.
But it ended as quickly as it had started, and the orcs who attacked Northpass … were dead.
I would say that this is the end of the story, and it is … of a sorts. But it is not THE end of the story, for this story is just beginning, yes?