We later learned that one hundred and seventy three orcs fell in the battle of the dryad grove. Clarisse counted, which was cool of her. But I get ahead of myself.
I bowled through the orcs at giant boy’s left flank and was able to connect with him, which he acknowledged with a nod and a very thankful look. Of course, the rest of the orcs began to surround us. There were so many in the glade by that point, they had to take turns to attack us. Oh, sure, there were a few thrown spears, but I managed to deflect them with my shield. Big Boy was not so lucky and took one in his off arm. I was so not going to heal him again if he couldn’t do better than that.
“So we die together,” he said at last, his first words to me since the parley.
I didn’t look his way, but killed an orc instead. “Sorry if I was a jerk during that,” I said before swinging my shield in a flat arc, bashing into two different orcs, giving myself a few second reprieve as the next group of idiots were deciding whose turn it was to advance on us. “I was poisoned at the time.”
He only grunted, smashing three orcs with his sword, heads and limbs flying in a spray of blood and tissue. Battle is not pretty and when you get that kind of stuff in your hair, it’s a real mess to get out. I won’t relive the smell here, nor the overwhelming din of dying orcs. Let’s just say it’s terrifying in its cacophony.
I had a moment to glance up and see that more orcs were joining those around us, and some of them had bows. Things were looking bad for us.
“Why are there so many attacking us?” I asked, not really expecting an answer.
“We have fled the field,” the giant shouted, swinging like a wild thing. “I am the last.”
That was not exactly the type of news I wanted to hear. But face it, it’s not like I was surprised. This is how things went around me. I never ask what’s the worst that can happen because the world always tries to one-up itself.
“Not good,” I shouted in an attempt to be heard over the din.
“It’s a good day to die,” he returned.
I blocked an orc stroke, and turned to wack him on the elbow (off hand). “No dying,” I shouted. “I worked too hard to keep you alive.”
He looked at me, shocked for a moment, but my tap had barely gotten his attention. He was one tough cookie. His look of bewilderment fell away to mirth and he began laughing, great tree-shaking guffaws that brought accumulated snow from the trees and sent the orcs skittering back a few steps.
“I like you,” he roared and ran into the midst of the orcs. Those near me looked on in shock for a moment. I killed three of them, which settled the game. They turned to me with blades raised, and uvulas flailing.
I cricked my neck to the left, relieving the stress of holding up that shield, and waved the nearest orcs to me with my shield. Maybe it was a good day to die after all.
Which, if I had done, you would not be reading this journal, so there you have it.
I killed two more and took a couple of painful blows on my legs just below my shield range when the two orcs to my exposed right fell back, clutching crossbow bolts in their throats. I want to say they were more shocked than I was, with the wood and steel shoved through their tender parts, but I bet it was a close contest. Just Jacob and the other brigands came screaming into the battle and the tide was turned.
Afterward, when I had depleted my ability to heal anyone, we looted the orcs for anything and everything we could carry and made our way back to the far side of the valley. The orcs had been mostly defeated, with the Gouged Eye clan retreating before the battle was finished. Just Jacob speculated they were just as happy to see a much reduced Blood Stump tribe in the region and went home to reposition themselves in the swampland to the north.
The main body of the Bloody Stump’s pursued the giants southward into the acid bogs and fens which was just fine with all of us. If they returned, and if the gods were as fickle as I anticipated, they would. If they returned, we’d deal with them at that time. As it was, the brigands wanted to recover whatever they could from their previous camp, if anything remained, and move shop to the east side of the valley, between the protection of the wooded glade and the caves the dragon preferred.
No one questioned the giant being with me. Turns out his name is Alfred and he was the first nephew of Baithor the drowned. Alfred did not make any move to return to his people, and we did not push. The brigands were used to secret histories and privacy. People shared their stories when they worked up enough courage. Besides, now that I had a moment to collect my thoughts and really study young Alfred, I realized that his beard had been shorn from him. There were likely those who were angered by his parley with us and had cast him out, but I would not assume anything aloud. I was content that the others had returned in the nick of time.
Speaking of time. Remember how I was lost in that Celestial rift in the Stronghold of Kithri’s Fist. Yeah, dryad glades had a similar affect on time. The brigands had spent three days mourning and burying young Thomas, then another two just recovering from their wounds before returning to this world to assist me.
The funny thing was, I was in there not even an hour before the dryad kicked me to the curb, and two weeks had elapsed in this world in that time. Anyone who travelled between planes on purpose would have no way to keep up. It was all so chaotic. But it did explain why the battlefield was in the state it was.