Kestrel, Calendel, Annonciade, and Søren rose early to prepare for the siege. The people in the keep redistributed ammunition, unstintingly supplying the elf with all the longbow arrows, and giving Annonciade a quiver full for her custom bow.
The Strikers led by Cally Griffon, and the hill people led by Serako, kept their distance from each other. Both in the keep and later in the tower and on the wall next to it, they were kept in line by Sir Carnifex’s son Wyatt.
Calendel discovered the tallest tower of the narrow-hipped keep had a massive horn wrapped around a plinth of stone, with “Mister Honk” engraved on its flank. The adventurers also inspected the dozens of “chuckables,” heavy rocks strategically located on the walls to throw down on attackers. Unfortunately the oil reserve for defense had been depleted by keeping the lamps lit, and there wasn’t enough to also use it for defense. The keep only had sufficient food for a week or two; they were not prepared for a siege.
A group of Failcrafters had also arrived, Ganivin and four acolytes. They came to answer the call for adventurers, but they did not socialize much.
A tide of tasloi surged up the naked hill; all bushes and trees nearby had been torn to pieces to supply them with sharp sticks for throwing and stabbing. The defenders poured ammunition into the rush, killing piles of tasloi. Survivors that made it to the wall crouched or knelt, and formed a foundation that others climbed upon to also brace themselves; they made a siege ramp out of their bodies and swarmed up the walls flanking the gate.
They were met by Kestrel on one side and Tarf on the other, both supported by lesser warriors and provided with cover fire from Søren’s magical onslaught, Calendel’s tasloi-kebab longbow arrows, and Annonciade’s trip-hammer archery.
Hails of javelins rattled off the tower, stabbing the archers a bit with the occasional lucky shot, and there was quickly work for the swordsmen to do.
Again and again the tasloi morale faltered and their wavering ramps collapsed, again and again they were driven back from the wall in screaming defeat. The gate was damaged, and Greenfellow the troll was on the other side; at one point he jammed his arm through the gate’s gap up to the shoulder, and snatched at tasloi, crushing them with his mighty paw.
The adventurers slew the weedy tasloi by the handful, sometimes killing a number of them in a quick succession of seconds, blurred frenzies of slaughter. Archers coaxed the most possible mortality from their ammunition, killing multiple close-packed foes with each shaft.
Clerics and medics tended the wounded between waves of assault, the gate was reinforced with the last of the keep’s tables, and the tasloi encircled the whole keep. Several waves attempted to climb walls at the rear of the castle, some tasloi getting high enough to be slain by hill steel or Striker blades. Wyatt successfully suppressed some flaring tempers between the hill people and the Strikers. Only at the end did they face enough of an assault that Kestrel rushed to the flank to drive some of the tasloi off, shifting the balance of the rush towards failure.
Hope in the Dark
Exhausted and drenched in blood, the defenders were grateful for the end of day when the tasloi retreated to rest. Sir Carnifex invited them to his table, as they were key in the survival of the keep. They speculated about what ELSE might be drawn to the keep by the blood trails and/or the masses of tasloi.
Sir Carnifex quietly confided in them that he thought their best chance for success lie in consulting with an elfmaid who was half a day’s walk from the keep, Torrian the Slayer. (He also had a mortal crush on the eldritch creature, which never ends well.) He gave them his secret password, “Coriander” in Elven, and they agreed to go through the tasloi crowds outside to consult with her.
After supper, Calendel took Sir Carnifex aside and gave him the Zomokite Book of Power. Sir Carnifex was not aware of Zomok, so Calendel told him if the situation became desperate, Sir Carnifex could write his name in the book and make a wish, though the cost would be dear. Sir Carnifex thanked him for his eldritch gift.
They got a little rest and some food, and dug deep into their reserves for another push. After a hard day of slaughter, they put in a long night, slipping through the drowsing tasloi nests and walking through the darkness.
Torrian the Slayer
As dawn filtered into the sky, they crossed over a stream into the elvenwood of Torrian the Slayer. They were intercepted by a cougar, and when Calendel said the password, the cougar led them along an oblique path to the breathtaking glade where Torrian the Slayer lived.
Søren was getting a contact high from the concentration of elven magic in the site, and Calendel saw the huge war bear and his howdah for an elven shooter to ride into battle, as well as the magnificent stags and the rocky den for a family of robust cougars. Their guide went into the elven abode, and Torrian joined them, giving them moon honey for their breakfast. (Apparently the Elven term for “coriander” was her nickname for Sir Carnifex; humans live so briefly, learning their names is a bother.)
The elfmaid was one of the High Elves, rare nobility of the elven race, and her horns were ethereal and usually only visible by magic; a glorious rack four feet tall and six feet wide, accompanied by a crown of stars that pulsed and flickered with her mood and power shifts. Clad in elegantly simple leathers and armed with bone weapons, she was at ease with the strangers.
She observed that the natural corrective for the tasloi was the waking of the dragon, who held her here in place because of an oath (or something.) She explained that “Acres of Shadow” was the dragon that slumbered in the peak above, and she offered the services of her cougar companion Bimbabanga, a bright green glorious forest predator. They agreed to check on the dragon, and maybe wake him up. The honey drove weariness and pain from them better than a night’s sleep could, and they were prepared to walk into a dragon’s den.