With Kithus incapacitated, the Companions opted to rest until the following morning, their wounds still fresh from the battle with the Vampire. By sunrise Kithus still had not recovered and before them lay the hard choice to continue on without him. Fresh horses and the sun in their face, the Companions one less, galloped towards Penhaligon and a rendezvous with the Eye of Traladara.
Hours of riding found the Companions nearing the banks of the River Shutturgal. An uneasyness washed over the group as they eyed the river crossing. Liam indicated the next good fording point was better than 10 miles south near High Forge and several hours off their path. No sooner did he make the gestures to make towards High Forge, than a volley of arrows was loosed from the far shore. Another warband of Orcs were covering the escape of the Eye of Traladara, no doubt to delay the Companions from gaining anymore ground.
Quickly battle lines were drawn as Alastair and Helteg split wide left and right. Wargaath and Si’lex formed the cortex of the main line and closed the gap. In a cometary collision, both Wargaath and Si’lex, charged into the front line of orcs, immediately felling one a piece. Liam’s bow strummed with the sweet song of death as his arrow found it’s mark. Lonovan, still recovering from the fighting the previous eve, launched caustic, scathing insults intent on demoralizing the Orcs while peppering them with his crossbow. Moments after the initial impact, Alastair galloped down the river bank and collided with the right flank of the Orcish warband, his lance peeling an unfortunate Orc from its armor. Helteg, split seconds later collided with the Orcish left flank, his caber finding home smashing another Orc to meet its maker. In mere moments the 12 strong Orcish warband was reduced by six.
Ineffectual blows from Orcish weapons rained down upon armor and shield. Companion attacks responded in great thew and soon the Orc warband was reduced to naught but an after thought. The Companions remained, with little more than scratches, their inexorable pursuit of the Eye of Traladara slowed for but a moment. Upon the trail, the Companions rode hard to Penhaligon in the hopes of making up time, fearing that the Eye had already left the Grand Duchy.
Penhaligon came into view as night was falling over the wold. Quickly the Companions found an establishment in which to rest. Liam indicated he intended to track the party of escorts over the pass and into Darokin. With tense words and a short embrace Alastair bade him safe journey and a quick return, understanding that Liam’s skills were far better used alone. Lonovan plied his trade gathering additional information from the town.
Both Lonovan and Helteg managed to retrieve information, which in collusion put together a whole story. Bargle and his Company were three days ahead of the Companions, which put them well across the pass. Even worse, a ghost from Helteg’s seems to have appeared. His brother Herleg, a Barbarian Tribal Chieftain, warrior of some renown, and traitor to his people, was in league with Bargle. A vengeful fire raged inside of Helteg so fierce the Companions struggled to calm him. Complicating matters was the coming winter. Ambyrmont was only beginning and the pass to Selenica was already under heavy snow. The night wore on as the Companions discussed battle plans and personal business and the party learned a great many things of one another, however, many secrets were still maintained. Before retiring for the evening, Alastair scrawled some notes upon his parchment, a similar parchment he had used on prior days. He went to bed clearly disturbed.
At first light the party set off to the pass over the Black Peak Mountains. Alastair kept his eyes alert for signs of Liam’s passing and instructed Lonovan, Helteg and Si’lex to do the same. Hours of travel through thinning woods and the Companions spied a strange marking. Alastair identified it as a Traladaran sigil that he and Liam had used for similar purpose as children. Rolled and concealed in a hollow knot of a tree was a hastily scrawled parchment indicating that Bargle and five others were heading into the pass. Initial information about distances was incorrect and the Companions were closer than they originally thought. This development gave hope and spurred them ahead with renewed vigor.
Hours later the Companions were several miles into the pass, merchants and travelers congesting the passage and causing delays. With Helteg and Si’lex ahead of the party as main scouts, Lonovan, Wargaath and Alastair kept a watch about for ambush. A Darokinan man passing south seemed to recognize Lonovan. He warned Lonovan that the information he had stolen would come back to haunt him and that he would alert the guards in Penhaligon to the theif’s presence within the Grand Duchy. He also said that no matter where Lonovan went in Darokin he would be a hunted man. The passing individual bade him a nonchalant goodbye and disappeared into the throng of southbound merchants. The engagement shook Lonovan, who immediately began taking measures to change his outward appearance.
No more than an hour later, Si’lex and Helteg returned with grave news. They had found another of Liam’s marks, no message, signs of a fight and drag marks. Alastair, now fully alarmed at the prospect of losing his friend and charge, spurred his mount ahead into the pass to investigate.