Thirty-second of Bloom
Valon Sarqhardt accompanied the survivors of the attack on the cathedral through the back roads Holdfast to the north gate of Fairbanks, accompanying the rear while Vhetin Cooper led the exodus carrying an unconscious Patrek Bellows on her horse. Philippa Darry, Kirin Masters, and Olive Mollin, carrying Preacher Patrek’s flame spell, split south to create a diversion.
Philippa’s party found Justicar Turomot and his wife at their house, and sent the two north to join Valon’s exodus. At Kirin’s suggestion, the diversion party then set the granary alight. The noise attracted a patrol of Bresliners.
Meanwhile, Valon stopped at the Mollin household to evacuate Reyna Mollin as well as recover the crossbow and apothecarial supplies kept there. Just before Reyna finished packing what she could from the workshop, a Breslin patrol began to search the street. One surprised Valon in the front of the house and, seeing Patrek’s magic sword on his waist, immediately attacked with a spell of his own. To Valon’s utter amazement, the spell caused a snap in the air and a pale pink flash of light directly in front of him, but no harm. He helped push Reyna out a workshop window just as his attacker bellowed for help and cast another spell that caused the workshop to explode. When this too failed to harm him, Valon approached the Breslin man and attempted to calm him. He reacted with horror and loathing, fleeing the house after several seconds of repeated attacks failed to harm Valon.
Hurrying to join the refugees at the gate, Valon was attacked by the entire Breslin patrol. All their magic proved of no avail, and Valon took advantage of their terrified focus on his apparent invulnerability to distract them from the refugees struggling to unbar the north gate. The entire patrol quickly ran to find ‘Micah.’
The ruckus caused by the patrol attracted more Bresliners to the north end of town, armed with yet more magic, yet their concentrated efforts could not penetrate Valon’s strange protection. Another group brought Micah to the battle on a stretcher, who unleashed an unearthly scream that was repeated by the very windows of the houses lining the street and threw open every shutter. Valon responded by walking down the street, praying calmly in a loud voice. Micah redoubled his profane efforts, to the point of reopening his half-healed wounds, but could produce no effect on Valon, who calmly beheaded him with Patrek’s sword even as Breslin magic assailed him from all sides.
In the south of town, Olive struggled to improvise an activation ritual for the flame spell. Though she could not tame its ferocious spirit, she was able to hold off the Breslin patrol long enough to escape to the South Lees. Both Olive and Philippa were struck by magic, though Philippa’s armor appeared to protect her and Olive did not notice until much later. At the south gate, Kirin had gathered what townsfolk she could find and unbarred the gate. Olive set the Lees afire, apparently killing or offending the fire spirit in the process. The three women galloped away from the town, telling Kirin’s helpers to make their way around the town and head north for the jungle.
Valon and Vhetin’s refugees escaped through the north gate, but Valon’s protection seemed to falter at the last moment. He stumbled through the gates, bleeding. Vhetin dismounted to hoist him onto her horse and sent it running for the jungle; Valon, with the last of his willpower, turned the horse around to recover her. When Vhetin pointed out that the horse would not hold three, Valon unceremoniously dumped Preacher Patrek on the ground, and the two of them rode for safety. Bresliners lined the walls and felled many of the refugees as they fled, but did not pursue.
At last, Valon and the refugees reached the relative safety of the Umbran Jungle, where Reyna did what she could to staunch Valon’s wounds. He began to lead the survivors deeper into the jungle. Aware that his wounds were potentially very serious, he asked Justicar Turomot to lead the group in Philippa’s absence. He also commended Deacon Edward for his spiritual leadership of the town in the army’s absence and preservation of the Fragment of St. Veronica’s Sword from the cathedral.
Philippa, Kirin, and Olive arrived at the battlefield to find that the camp had been the site of a great slaughter. Some of the dead had been stripped of their clothing. Others had died strange deaths, burned to blackened husks or with parts of their bodies mangled as if by a meat grinder. Olive gave voice to the dreadful suspicion that the Bresliners had been in the camp as well. Curiously, there were no arms or armor from fleeing soldiers, metal implements of any kind, or fine clothing of either gender left in the camp.
Continuing to the site of the battle itself, the women found that the fallen orks had been stripped, but the human dead buried in a mass grave. Olive discerned tracks from the grave leading southeast, but the women were stopped from following when Olive heard a shout behind them. Her keen eyes descried a human being on the very bluff from which Philippa had observed the battle, and the three went to investigate.
The survivor proved to be none other than Owen Selerius, hiding on the bluff with a gravely wounded Connor Darry. While Olive hurried to do what she could for Connor’s many injuries, Owen described the final stages of the battle. Hubert Darry and Connor fought their way clear of the collapse of the center, and Hubert took command of the right wing of the army. These men held long enough for the orks pressing them to melt away to join the general slaughter. Seeing that the army’s left still held, Hubert decided not to pursue the pursuers but attempt to rescue Optimus Darhel and the Fairbanks levy instead. The maneuver was successful, though Connor seriously injured during the fighting, and Hubert saw Hugh Darry being carried from the field as a prisoner. By the time the army could reorganize to march to the camp’s rescue, it was too late; the slaughter was finished and the orks fled. After burying the army’s dead, Hubert resolved to take what men he had remaining and recover his lord father. There was no sign that any of the camp followers had survived, though Carolina Darren survived her mad dash towards the battle and now rode with her husband.
Philippa resolved to overtake Hubert in the hopes that the news of the Breslin heretics would convince him to turn the army around and return to Fairbanks. Olive, Kirin, and Owen, meanwhile, would take Connor to meet Valon’s group in the jungle.
As they searched the camp for material to use as a stretcher, Kirin spotted a bedraggled Cyrian Dylan running towards the camp. He and Olive shared a tearful reunion. Cyrian said that he had deserted the army to return to her. Denisot Carter and Valentin Wrightman, he was sad to say, had perished in the battle fighting at Sir Optimus’ side. The knight himself had commended their bravery to Cyrian. Bennet Mollin, though alive, had resolved to stay with the army to provide what medical aid he could.
Owen and Cyrian both warned Philippa that there were many more orks north of Skullbreaker than initially thought, roaming the area in small groups. Taking her arms and armor and her prized palfrey Invidia, Philippa set off southeast in search of Hubert’s army. Owen, Kirin, Olive, and Cyrian, bearing Connor’s stretcher between two horses, set off northwest for the jungle.