With Rorik Steelskull and his crew headed out for the site of the burning village, Dremnin turned back to offer his assistance in defending the Reach in the unlikely event it was to be attack. He first checked on Hannah at the Widow Runa’s, and told her what had happened, He then told her to stay put and follow the widow’s orders, as she was there to protect the children.
With that important task done, Dremnin raced over to the nearby home of Tago, which was his assembly point for the defense of the Reach. As he moved to the fortified home ahead of him, the sound of a large horn was heard… the signal of general alarm in the Reach! He scampered in through the narrow doorway and spied Stilicho marshaling the home’s defenders, with Tago’s presence adding strength and courage to the defenders. The Human scout was quickly followed through the door by his comrades Skram, Urgral and Vridich. Suulin was at Runa’s and Fafnir was already in the Steelskull home, so all of the Unchained were now accounted for.
A look outside the main doorway revealed the threat to the Reach, as a line of formed Theran marines was moving in shield wall formation towards the Steelskull home. Stilicho immediately ordered that the possessions of the Unchained brought down to them so that they might better act on behalf of the clan. Dremnin was fortunate, in that as a scout for the clan, he normally carried his armor and standard weapons with him on walkabout. Poor Skram was in his normal work attire as a swimmer and fisherman, namely his blue skin. Urgral had apparently been out of the Reach in the wilds, as he too was dressed in armor. With the arrival of their gear, no one wasted any time in getting fully outfitted.
As they marines closed on the doorway, Stilicho and Skram stepped quickly to block entry into the house, and Dremnin drew an arrow for his new war bow while standing in the second rank. Using his new talent of True Shot, he took aim at the advancing Therans and tried to hit the exposed leg of one of the marines, but his focus was not complete, causing him to hit the edge of the shield with the arrow. At that point Urgral stepped up to complete the line blocking entry into the house, and the Therans closed to battle.
Suddenly an order barked out and there appeared to be confusion in their ranks, as they all looked up as though something dangerous was overhead. But then they closed with the door and battle commenced in earnest. The Therans still appeared to be unsettled as they laid into the defenders, and this was further exacerbated when Skram taunted one of them and Stilicho Battle Shouted another. As Dremnin continued to fire arrows point blank into the marines, Vridich cast Mind Dart at the attackers and caused grievous wounds among them round after round.
Seeing that the defenders at the door would not yield, the Theran commander ordered his unengaged men to go around the sides of the house to see if there was another way in. However, they had not gotten far on this quest when Honus Steelskull came riding up on his Thundra Beast and leaped into the attackers from their rear flank. With this new threat added to the fight, the Therans who had been dispatched to find another door turned around and came back to take on this new threat to their assault. At the doorway, it was the pivotal moment for the defenders, as Dremnin dropped the marine to his front and the other three in the doorway, who had been knocked to the ground by the Unchained, decided to drop their weapons and called for quarter. In an uncharacteristic move of generosity to a Theran enemy, the surrender was accepted and the defenders leaped out the door to more fully engage the remaining attackers outside.
With Honus pounding on the Therans from the outside and killing their commander, and fresh defenders pouring out through their supposedly unbreachable line, the remaining Therans broke and ran, including those that had already surrendered. Ahead of the Unchained stood the hut of the Widow Runa, and the heroes watched in horror as one of a new line of advancing Therans thrust a lit torch into the thatching of the hut’s roofline.
The newly arrived Theran marines quickly made themselves into a line formation, joined by the two wounded survivors of the assault force on the Steelskull home. They didn’t get to advance a step before the Unchained were upon them, led by Honus, whom Thystonius must have truly enjoyed watching, for he was filled with the thrill of battle, while completely surrounded by enemy marines. Swords, axes and hammers rose and fell, arrows pierced and astral spears tore Theran marines asunder. All was going well for the defenders until they looked up and saw a horrid sight.
Out from the childrens’ hut came two Theran marines, one with a knife to the throat of little Hannah, and the other with a knife to the throat of a troll child. The Therans glared and grinned evilly at the Unchained and made as though to back away toward the safety of their ship. But this was not to be the way of this fight, for before they had moved two steps, both Therans were suddenly no more. A gravely wounded Skram came running around from behind the childrens’ hut with a leveled spear and plunged it into the unsuspecting Theran. The look of surprise and pain mixed on his countenance as the light of life quickly left his eyes, and his numb fingers released the threatening knife from his hand to fall on the ground.
As for the other would-be kidnapper, he was suddenly mashed to pulp as troll sky raider Korack, who landed squarely on him from their ship Wind Viper passing immediately overhead. Hannah simply stepped away from the broken mass that had seconds before been her tormentor and kidnapped and ran to her father. Dremnin was so relieved to see her alive and unharmed, released from the terrible fate that had seemed to await her only seconds before. They hugged each other closely.
With the return of Rorik and his ship, the remaining ship’s crew organized a fire brigade with the survivors on the ground to help douse the fires that the Therans had set all over the Reach. It was some time before the fires were contained and snuffed, and the counting of the losses began. Old Runa had been killed defending the children. Dead as well were scout Jorund Farseer and fisherman Arngrim Brightspear, with his T’skrang newot Fa’ala badly injured from their defense of their homes. In short, approximately 50 individuals were missing, evidently taken as slaves by the retreating Therans, and many more lay dead or wounded. All totaled, the Reach had just experienced a 50 percent casualty rate from dead, wounded and missing.
Stilicho, Dremnin, Vridich and Suulin, who they all soon learned had been the one responsible for the Therans’ strange behavior to the door way, moved off to interrogate the captured Theran commander together with the sole marine survivor. Dremnin and Suulin spoke Theran and served as translators for Stilicho. The threats and rebuffings went back and forth, with bluff and bravado being displayed by all concerned, until… Vridich got the best of the commander with a major bluff. He cut himself and had the others hold the Theran’s mouth open, then allowed his blood to be swallowed. Now, it was said, that if the commander didn’t tell them why the Reach had been attacked, he would serve as Vridich’s undead slave forever. This loosened his tongue and it was soon learned that someone, the commander was not sure who exactly, had paid his captain an enormous amount of money to attack the Reach and specifically the house of Tago Steelskull. Why, he did not know, but he was sure of the fact that a lot of money exchanged hands to conduct this raid. Thereafter, he was allowed to die by the sword.
When all was said and done, Tago gathered the Unchained and spoke with them, telling them that they had earned their freedom and were no longer newots, but instead were honored members of the clan. Their possessions were all returned to them, and Tago told them that a great war was coming, and that time was becoming critical to all non-Therans. He knew that the Unchained had made a commitment to return the Book to Throal, and that they could take a small ship to travel to Throal and make good their blood oath. But it was essential… nay, critical, that the Staff of Aromod Whitewind be found and returned to the Sky Raiders as quickly as possible.
The Unchained decided that they would take a few days to collect themselves and outfit one of the clan’s small air ships, then head for Throal. Dremnin and Skram were in agreement that when in Throal, that Fafnir would use his influence, contacts and skills to conduct research to see if there were any clues as to the current whereabouts of the Staff, which had been lost before the Scourge. With this agreed, the Unchained departed to bury the dead and prepare for the journey to Throal.
Dremnin, Scout Adept