What we’d learned on our first foray after Anastasia convinced us she was being held at Upland Keep. That strongpoint had a storied history, but in the years since the Doom, it had been abandoned for a short time. Marshal Constantina had begun to restore it, then it was taken by orcs, who handed it off to the Black Riders who had been plaguing Marshal Roehm.
After the Battle for Yew, as the orcs fled to the east, the Black Riders fell back to Upland Keep. When we’d liberated the slave farm, that cut off the Black Riders from their allies, the orcs.But Anastasia and likely other captives were holes up in the Keep with them.
So our party – Grel, Mazlor, Itsy, Sally, Fergus, Pyrea, Ceresei, Belaldur and I – gathered in Yew and kitted up with winter gear and bought supplies for the road. It would be a long journey – poor roads and worse weather. Willie and Josef, we left in Yew to help with the rebuilding of the town. Golub had left our employ, choosing to use his hunting and tracking skills to help feed the folk of Yew.
We stopped off at Carbaugh’s Keep before we left – wonderful food, and wonderful bedmates! Carbaugh allowed two of his fighters, Wynn and Oldac, to sign on with us for the adventure, giving us a bit more muscle in case we ran into trouble.
We sheltered at the slave farm, but found nothing much going on there. The snow was up to my chest by the time we stopped, but as we littlelings followed behind the party, my pony Gypsy and theirs (Hyssop and Red Perry) were able to pick their way in the path blazed by the big ones. The elves hung back with me, the better to avoid hearing about
Tangadorin, and speaking to Belaldur, I learn we share the same birthday – Winter 16! We make plans to have as grand a celebration in Yew as the circumstances allow.
The towns and farms along the way were looted and burned. Perhaps now that the orcs have been driven out, nature can reclaim some of these lands. As I thought this, though, we rode up on near a dozen Black Riders. We exchanged missile fire, then closed with them. I think all of us were injured in the fight, but we prevailed, slaying all of them save one, who I questioned.
Our prisoner, Inya, had ridden with this party out from Upland Hold, seeking supplies from the few populated villages left around here. She’d a hard-luck story but it boiled down to her seeking her fortune and fetching up with the Black Riders, led by a man named Lon. She was more inclined to look for opportunities than worry about law and chaos, so we got on fine – probably would have without the charm spell! She joined us – not without grieving for her lover and mentor, who’d led the band we’d slain – in exchange for her armor, sword (her grandfather’s, and horse. She led us to a nearby hamlet, Sheffield’s Fields, so we could shelter out of the wind and storm.
Grel may talk a bit much on his god, but he is quite personable. He got us permission to stay in the empty barn with our horses, and when the men of the household come out to greet us, convinced them we are no threat, and was invited back to the house to drink and speak of Tangadorin.
The next day, before we left, I gathered our party’s standard rations together and left them for the folk of the house. Mazlor created some food for them as well. Then it is off to an outpost of the Duchy, the village of Pincurth.
Many of the buildings are damaged, but the stone temple at the center of the village stands strong and proud. We were challenged as we come up by the militia, and Mazlor set off unarmed to talk to their leader, a priest of the Light named Geralt. Ordained in Enonia, Geralt knew Jorann, Mazlor’s superior in the Enonia Temple. References checked, we were all allowed into the village. I caused quite a stir in the village, so I quickly checked to be sure my armor is not revealing anything untoward. But no, it is only that my people and the elves have not been seen in these parts for many years and we are nearly forgotten. Still, they remembered to check their purses as I ride by.
We found a couple of fighters who had been serving in Upland Keep (just a day’s ride away) when it fell to the orcs. They had escaped by following a creek through the caves under the castle, then out a crack in the keep’s foundation. The news that Yew had been liberated brought great cheer to the village, and hearing of our battles with the orcs and Black Riders – and the freeing of the slaves – stiffened their resolve to hold out for the Duke. We returned to Yew, bringing with us the women and children of Sheffield’s Fields, and intelligence to guide us in our rescue of Anastasia.