The Stranglehold: A D&D 5e Session Report

“Wait! Wait!” Suthra exclaimed as he ran to keep up with Nim and Alaric. “We must take a moment at least and determine what path to take.” They were on the stoney downward slope of the cliffside. They had nearly reached the deep green pine forest that lay between them and the swamp which could be seen in the far distance.

“We must make it south of the swamp and to the Rabbit Warrens as quickly as possible!” Nim replied in a desperate voice. “Alaric and I at least must make it for our home in as straight a course as we are able. We cannot add days to the trip with any other course.”

“Yes but we do not know how far west the swamp extends” Suthra replied. “The quickest course may be eastward towards Oakhurst.”

“That will take us near to the Sunless Citadel” warned Slighter.

“And your point?” questioned Asuryan. “We have been there before. Anyone with half a wit made it out without serious harm.”

“In either case east might be our quickest path and would allow us to resupply and gather news in Oakhurst” explained Suthra.

“You take that path if you must” Nim replied. “Alaric and I must leave at once in a straight course. We will send news to Oakhurst before you arrive. Look in the forest or on the edge of town. You’ll understand what I mean when the time comes.”

With those closing words she and Alaric burst forward. Upon their third step they were in the shape of wolves and had disappeared into the pine forest before any of them could make a reply.

Suthra paused and looked at the dark clouds that were growing in the east. Their seemed to be a growing darkness in the air as if night was coming early. “Are we agreed that we stop at Oakhurst on the way to the warrens?” he asked.

“We will be staying in Oakhurst” Courana mentioned. “But yes we agree to that path if we have any choice in the matter.”

Asuryan walked down the slope a little distance and fingered a ring in his hand. “Stay close and we will be in more civilized land soon. But we may have to pass through more dangers before we come to Oakhurst.”

With that the others followed him down the last rocky slope and into the pine forest. In the distance on their left Suthra could see the lake that marked the edge of the swamp. It was not long before they were making slow progress navigating their way around bogs and pools of water. Only occasional patches of bent over vine covered trees remained. Keeping his eyes on the horizon Suthra could see dark clouds extending out of the east. The first droplets of rain caused him to blink. Wiping his eyes he looked about himself and his companions and the wetlands that surrounded them. Thunder cracked in the distance and momentarily revealed the ominous heights that the storm clouds reached. The wind suddenly picked up and whipped against his face.

“We must make for higher ground!” He called out as the others had already passed by him and had gone further down a wet path that led between two bogs. “We can go no further until we let this storm pass!”

The wind suddenly picked up as he spoke and carried his voice away from his companions. However they had heard enough to turn around. He pointing to a hilltop on their left. “Make for the high ground!” he yelled out again as he trudged down a small mudy bank towards Asuryan.

“We must continue our progress today if we are going to make it to Oakhurst by the day after tomorrow” Asuryan explained.

“We must weather this storm first. We can go no further until it passes” Suthra warned. He was forced to shield his eyes in the growing wind and rain. Asuryan did not argue long as the wind continued to come in ever stronger gusts.

After an hour or so they had made it to the hill. The thicket of trees provided some cover although their boughs were thin and mostly filled with hanging dead wood or hollow leaning tree trunks. They spent some time hauling branches to make for a shelter but quickly gave it up in order to get out of the storm. The lightning was now crashing all about them at regular intervals.

They were all huddled together beneath the largest of the tree boughs. The minutes passed like hours. After what seemed like an hour had passed Suthra noticed that deer were passing by about them heading westward. This odd behavior caused him to stand up and look out over the swamp.

He now saw a whole herd of deer had nearly passed the base of the hill. He followed their trails until his eyes were strained in an eastern direction on the edge of sight. Again the lighting crashed. Ranks of spear points could be seen trudging through the the swamp. With a jolt he ducked his head and peered through a break in the tree boughs as he stood over his companions. Another lightning strike impacted the ground to his left. Ogres and orcs were streaming through the swamp in columns. Hundreds at the least in a wide front that extended for as far as Suthra could see in either direction. The moments passed fearfully as Suthra’s heart began to race. His hand reached for the handle of his hammer and he pulled it from his back. His companions took no notice in the stormy chaos. The army was now only a hundred yards away at the most.

“Up! Up!” Suthra called. “Ready yourselves for war!”

Asuryan was the first to react. He was up and on his feet straining his eyes through the torrential downpour. Again the lightning came and the army was revealed to him.

“Orcs! And orc army!” he called out in fright.

The others were now up with weapons drawn. Each of them found a gap in the tree thicket to defend. Courana and Geradil fearfully made their way to the center of the open space between the trees. The army now marched close enough to be seen without the lightning. The full force was displayed before them.

“We cannot stand and fight this!” Suthra could barely hear as Slighter called out in the midst the downpour. He looked back across the tree thicket and covered his eyes and mouth to call back. “They will pass right through this dry ground on their way. If we attempt to run now they will surely see us and give chase!” Suthra called back.

Looking back in the direction of the orcs Suthra’s heart stopped to see that they were now close enough to hear his voice. The orcs were swarming into columns. The thicket of trees sat upon a small hill and overlooked an open space in the swamp. To either side of this open area small trees gave the orcs cover in their flanking maneuvers. Dozens and dozens of orcs began moving to surround the hill.
“Ready yourselves!” Suthra called out. He then saw two ogres and a unit of the orcs across the open area waiting for the flank attack before beginning their charge. Asuryan moved to the front of the thicket to defend the gap along side Suthra and had his bow readied.

“Fearful odds” Suthra said.

“Kill what you can but don’t let them through this gap!” Asuryan replied. Pulling back his bow he let an arrow fly. It plunged into trees across from the thicket. An orc scream came in reply along with a rain of arrows. Suthra saw Asuryan disappear as he raised his shield. Arrows thudded into it. Looking from beneath his shield he saw the first wave of the orcs begin their charge across the swamp. To his left he noticed Slighter already engaged with one of the ogres that had joined the flank attack.

Suthra stood alone in the center where the strongest attack was about to commence. The orcs were at the base of the hill and began their upward charge. Then suddenly a blast of lightning shot all about. Like tentacles the lightning leapt about his feat and crawled down into the swamp below. The smell of burnt flesh rose as the lightning ended and the darkness returned. Nim stepped up beside Suthra. The electricity still flickered from her fingertips.

“Your back!” Suthra exclaimed.

“With friends” she replied. As she spoke three tree ents lumbered up behind her. “Time for explanations later” she said as she saw the questions rising.

“Slighter and Asuryan could use you on the left” Suthra explained. “Our right flank stands unguarded.”

Nim spoke to the ents in their own language. They moved towards the right of the thicket just as the other flank attack of the orcs were coming upon the bottom of the hill. Suthra saw Nim leap towards Slighter who stood engaged with the ogre outside of the thicket. Bursts of lightning came from above and below as Nim slaughtered the charging orcs. Presently the second wave of orcs, this time with an ogre, were coming up the hill towards Suthra.

The ogre’s hammer crashed through the brush and boughs of the thicket. The splintered wood came down like a shower all about Suthra as he dodged and ducked the blows. Heavily armored orcs poured through the gap. A spear point glanced off of Suthra’s chest leaving an open wound but he returned their charge with his own. Impacting an orc’s head with his weapon the blood splattered into the stormy sky and covered Suthra adding to the mud and rain that covered his body. This pushed the charging orcs back down the slope for a moment.

Again they charged forward. Suthra let his first hammer fly and it impacted the ogre’s skull as it tumbled backward. Now he revealed his second hammer and caught the knee cap of a charging orc. Another orc grabbed him from behind as two threatened to make it through the gap in the thicket. He fought desperately to block their charge. The orcs claws ripped across Suthra’s back leaving bloody trails. Freed from the orc’s grasp he met the charge of the other two, deflected their spears, and forced them back down the hill. Turning back around the orc that had clawed his back stood alone. Suthra hurled his hammer. It plunged itself into the creatures chest.

Suthra pulled his hammer free and it gave out a sucking sound as blood splashed upward. Looking down he saw the waterlogged and tired orcs trudge their way out of the swampy water and back up the hill with another group of reinforcements. The ogre too was becoming furios. However the half orc Suthra that alone stood before them would not yield an inch.

As they attempted yet another charge through the gap Suthra saw the clouds open and the rain lighten. The moon could be seen shining like silver above. The whole swamp glistened in the moonlight but it seemed powerfully bright upon the swamp to the right of Suthra. Out of another thicket on the right flank charged yet another unit of orcs. They had nearly met the ents that were badly injured but were battling to defend the right flank when the moon brightened. The orcs skin burned to a crisp and they fell lifeless into the water. Suthra could see Alaric and Nim standing behind the ents.

The moon was covered. The darkness returned. Yet another charge came towards Suthra. He hurled his hammer end over end down the hill and it crashed into the orcs breaking the charge. However the ogre continued forward and threw him to his back landing a blow of his massive club against Suthra’s chest. The ogre burst forward through the thicket. Branches and splinters landed all about him. Suthra coughed as he could feel the blood forming in his lungs. Tired and desperate he mustered his strength for one more charge against the ogre. As he did so a torrent of fire descended from the sky above. He heard his companions give out screams of pain in the dark distance but could not see from where the fire had come. Then the black wings of some creature swooped over the battle.

The ogre jumped forward and with a growl grabbing Suthra by the neck. He was lifted off the ground as the air was being squeezed out of him. Suthra wiped the blood from his eyes so he could see his enemy and with both hands latched onto the ogres neck. They both tumbled to the ground and their grips on each other were loosened. Each grabbed desperately for the other but Suthra was the first to find his opponents neck. With two hands upon the creatures throat he saw the last of the orcs charging towards him up the hill. Defenseless against the orcs he chose to maintain his grip on the ogre. At the last moment Slighter and Alaric leapt pass him and met the orc charge head on. Now Nim and Alaric had joined in the fray.

The battle raged on about him as the ogre punched upward time and time again. The bruises formed all about Suthra’s rib cage but he did not loosen his grip. Now the ogre pressed it’s fingers with great strength into the various open wounds on Suthra’s body. The blood flowed from his wounds but Suthra maintained his stranglehold. Finally the ogre’s arms seemed to weaken. At last it’s arms fell lifeless to the muddy earth. The ogre was dead. Lightning exploded out from Nim’s hand as the last of the orcs fell lifeless into the swamp below. The battle was over.

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