The Lumber Camp
While Torngrin stands in the falling snow with the horses, Alma and Lornaal cross the grounds of the camp to the largest of the buildings. A rickety mandoor with a woodpile next to it opens onto a cavernous room that stinks of unwashed men, smoke and horses. Ducking beneath the lintel they enter to the sound of men laughing, swearing and chatting amiably.
Alma, as your eyes adjust to the dimness, you see at least a dozen large bearded men crowded around a rough timber table next to a roaring fire. Their voices trail off as necks crane to look at you.
A middle-aged man with hulking shoulders and a full salt-and-pepper beard squints at you through the smokey air and calls in a heavy voice accented with Grewhainian:
’N who might you be?
You and Lornaal exchange a quick look before you respond:
My name is Alma Ellantre. A horde of undead sacked Port Parlone and is moving this way fast. My companions and I passed their tracks just outside Viniset and they were headed this way. I beseech you sir rouse your camp and make haste to Veniset where even now my companions are preparing and fortifying the town for a defense. To face these beasts here is to surely perish!
There is a silence in the room until the large man bursts in to a hearty laugh that is quickly echoed by the others.
Well, Alma Ellantre, please come have a seat. I am Ulof Garthson, master of this camp. I would hear more of this fairytale!
The members of the company left in Veniset continue directing the feverish work on the barricades. Six men begin hammering together planks and timbers in the howling wind and driving snow, erecting a rude pair of bridges between the church and the buildings flanking it. Their work is completed by torchlight as the heavy clouds and terrible weather obscure the setting sun, sending the world into a premature darkness.
The drifts gathering in the square pile up against the barricades until they stand nearly as deep as the defensive works. Beyond the square the village is very still as most of the inhabitants are holed up behind the stone walls and sturdy doors of the church.
Women, children and the elderly along with what provisions could be quickly gathered huddle in the church. A half dozen men from the watch armed with short swords have been left in the church to defend it should the undead gain entry. Otherwise, most of the able bodies men are now crouching on the roofs with bows or milling about the square with swords, spears or axes, preparing to defend their home against the threat.
There are forty three men in total. A sizeable number, but few of them are trained beyond the most meagre of martial skills. Even so, the men of the north are hearty and brave by necessity and each of them looks ready.
Matrim, three things weigh heavily on your mind as you check the defences and look to the coming night. First, the declining weather is already taking its toll. The snow obscures the vision and the howling wind could make communication difficult. Secondly, the continued absence of Alma and Lornaal means that your best fighters are away. When Alma suggested leaving, it had never occurred to you that Lornaal might follow him. As darkness closes in, you feel vulnerable without them. The third, and most troubling, is how little you know of your enemy’s numbers or location.
At least you have managed to chose the battlefield. With the majority of the village safe in the church, the wights will be compelled to storm the barricades. Your companions are hard at work, setting up trip lines and grease traps to slow down assailants and give you a greater chance. A great bonfire is lit in the centre of the square. Those not peering over the barricades, or wrapped in furs on the roof tops stand about it, warming their hands.
There is little to do now, but wait and see that the supplies drug out of the church by Terrence and Talton are put to the best use.
It was when Terrence emerged from the cellars of the church, struggling to carry a decrepit looking chest up the steep stone steps with Talton, that you were able to make your presence known. Talton was backing up the stairs and as Terrence appeared, his face red and puffing from the exertion, you waved your arms at him and placed a finger over your mouth to signal for silence.
The young man’s eyes briefly widened but he responded with just a slight nod before you melted back into
the shadows. Behind him, the vicar appeared on the steps, carrying a sheaf of arrows.
As they gently set the stained and beaten chest next to the alter, Talton wiped a sheen of sweat from his forehead and straightened his back.
I’ll head back down to drag up some more useful bits if you would like to let Matrim and the others know what we have found.
Terrence nodded his agreement, but as Talton and the vicar returned through the door into the undercroft, he turned towards the far side of the chapel, peering into the darkness for where you are hidden.