Part 20: Day 22: Approaching Ridgehorn
We lost a day to that last battle, but our Varl now number over a thousand.
I'm just starting to worry about stretching our supplies short.
We're well on our way to Ridgehorn at this point.
To the south is Denglr's Bay. Named for the God of Fortune, longships laden with silver and furs pass through it in a steady stream. To the west, Shiver Rock, two mountains rising from the sea where dredge are sometimes seem emerging from beneath the earth. Beyond that, the Vast, waters named not for their reach, but for their depth.
Fasolt promotes to rank 2, earning a much-needed point in Exertion and Break.
For 15 Renown, Hakon promotes to the lofty heights of rank 4, earning a point each of Armor and Exertion. Both are maxed now.
Bersi and Mogr both have enough kills to promote, and Hakon has enough kills to promote again, but I'm going to pace myself. Renown isn't free.
And back to the road we go!
I do believe that's Ridgehorn visible in the distance.
We can't afford to be losing good varl to mysterious causes.
Oh god damn it.
This is why I hate humans.
"I've already stopped," he says, "We're too far now for anyone to catch back up to the caravan." His smug demeanor is nearly unbearable.
Your warriors demand a break. You halt the caravan with a sigh, but in all honesty you're starting to feel the altitude and weariness yourself.
Without another word, Mogr starts running towards the birds and tumbles over the cliff. Suddenly, he's gliding through the air, flapping his arms for all they're worth. He swoops toward Ridgehorn before bursting into flames and plummeting into the tower, which crumbles like a log from a smouldering campfire.
You think you've lost your mind. Then you wake up. You don't remember setting up camp, or falling asleep in front of the crackling logs. "What is going on?" you mutter. Mogr approaches you at the campfire. "Hakon. Did you see?" he starts. "Yeah." You both agree to keep it to yourselves.
I already dealt with my important camp business yesterday, so nothing for it but to keep moving.
The remote fortress is coming steadily closer into view.
We have an army of varl a thousand strong. Losing dredge isn't out specialty, but killing them is.
"Okay," says Mogr. "I'll ready the warriors. Careful, Hakon... this isn't the time to start taking risks."
This is about as big as that group we split back on the road to Schlid. Our army is much larger now, so even taking them on all at once we have an advantage in numbers.
Experimenting with a different team this time!
Oh great, this arrangement again.
To the west: two Scourges and three Gunts. To the east: Two Grunts. Seven in total.
My plan is to rush the east side and disable those Grunts first, turning this into a single-front battle.
An enemy Grunt on the west side shuffles around meaninglessly.
Fasolt moves, but doesn't attack. The reason for this shall soon become clear!
The unmurdered slag heads over to bother Hakon instead. He's dangerously close to Yrsa right now.
If Fasolt had attacked, Armor OR Strength, it would have weakened the Grunt enough that Hakon couldn't help but kill it in one blow. Instead, we now have a Grunt at 1 Strength eating up enemy turns.
This one still needs weakening, though.
What follows is a lot of adjusting of positions from both sides. The enemy can't reach me, but we have time to form a solid defensive line of varl with big shields.
The second Grunt has been neutralized. Now, we wait for enemies to break off from that mob.
We have a volunteer! The first Scourge moves into punishment range, and the punishment starts.
Notably, a couple of these are Vicious Grunts - just like normal Grunts, but they have 2 Break and 2 Willpower. They're more dangerous foes, whether it's at high Strength or low Strength.
My defensive line is formed, but Fasolt burned through all his will in the initial setup. He's first priority as soon as I have something in the Horn.
Mogr is doing his job by getting hurt a lot. His Armor is down to 11, but he's dishing back Armor damage with every hit.
Yrsa earns the kill she needs to promote, simultaneously opening the way for Hakon to reach the enemy forces and bringing the Scourge down to 9 Strength.
The Scourge falls back, walking over coals to do so. Griss pushes into the gap, beating down another Grunt.
This is why Vicious Grunts are bad news. Mogr's Armor is falling fast.
So, he does all he can in reducing enemy Strength. He's still sturdy enough to take hits from any of these Grunts.
And now the Scourge can't even hurt Yrsa!
Okay, enough is enough. We need to start killing things before Mogr disintegrates.
The one on Mogr's southwest side MUST remain alive - it's stopping the still-fully-functional Scourge from reaching Mogr on its next turn.
The same for the one Griss didn't kill just now.
Mogr is now down to 0 Armor.
And now we come to the crux of the problem.
Mogr can't attack either of these grunts without killing them. If he kills either of them, the Scourge (which is acting next!) will move in to kill him in one blow. If he leaves the 6-strength Grunt alive, it will beat him half to death on its next turn.
Resigned to the inevitable pain, Mogr runs. I think I can just barely keep him alive this round.
Fasolt can't quite fully block the route to Mogr, but he can narrow it enough that only one of the two Grunts can pass through. That should be just enough.
Painful, but non-lethal. Mogr still has a chance!
This was a tough call, but I don't think I made it incorrectly. This shuts down the Grunt summon, leaving the 14-Strength Scourge at large, but I think I can mitigate that threat.
Yrsa very carefully picks a spot to attack from, dropping it to 12 Strength and leaving it some coals to contend with. It can't reach her to hit back.
Instead, it walks over some coals to punish Fasolt. That's fine, he can take it.
Ludin's low strength saves the day! He isn't quite able to finish off this Grunt, so now it's at 1 Strength, blocking the path to Mogr.
3 Strength left!
Okay, the danger of the last Scourge has been moderated. Now this is strictly a Mogr Rescue Operation.
The last Scourge is trying to summon.
Malice is a multi-purpose tool. I'm not using it to draw attacks, I'm using it to keep that Grunt where it is - if it doesn't move, not only does it not chase Mogr, but it also doesn't open the path for the SECOND grunt to chase him.
Don't want to deal with this.
Fasolt takes 2 damage from this, but it starts the pillage. Can I end this in time?
I really wish I knew what controls whether or not the enemy gets a turn at the start of the pillage. It seems inconsistent.
You take a moment to survey the battlefield. The enemy is being pushed back all the way down the line.
This battle was kind of a hot mess. With Fasolt in bad shape and Mogr down, a second wave could easily mean multiple casualties.