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Bard's diary - Chapter XI - Gnoll fortress

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20th Myrtul 1368

Dear diary,
I hate gnolls. I hate their smell, I hate they voice and I hate their stupid stubbornness.
About two and a half of a day after me and Vanessa dealt with the Amnians, the rest of our group returned. We never told them what happened. They didn’t need to know. And they didn’t give us a chance to tell them anyways. Turned out Haldemar met some fellow ranger when he was on the hunt. He did not have a very high opinion of him, that man was talking to a hamster, if Hald wasn’t joking with us, but when he learned the ranger was looking for a sorceress, kidnapped by some gnolls, he offered him help.

The group was talking about that all the evening and by the time I went to sleep, they already decided we’ll go looking for that woman. I didn’t really care, since we wanted to avoid civilization anyways. And so we head out to west in the morning.

The first day was pretty much uneventful. We hiked through the hills, with a few stops when Haldemar wanted to look around. The second day was pretty much the same, but Hald actually managed to find traces of gnoll presence. And in the morning of the third day we encountered a sole gnoll. He wasn’t aggressive which was kind of surprising, given how bad their reputation is. He grumbled something about fort and an unfair splitting of the loot or something like that. We couldn’t understand him that much, but he was able to confirm we are going in the right way. He spoke about some gnoll occupied fortress further to the west, which sounded exactly like the place where they would hide the sorceress.

Luckily for us, the fortress was hard to miss. We spotted it in the distance by the noon of the third day and spend the rest of the day walking towards it. We soon realized the fort was bigger than we anticipated. There could be hundreds of those hyena-like creatures in there. It was obvious that direct assault could easily become a suicide. Therefore, we found a secluded spot for us to hide through the night, and as soon as sun went down, Haldemar went closer to the fort to scout it.
Turned out our expectations were almost correct, the fort was inhabited by almost a hundred gnolls. Rather large pack, if you ask me. However, their numbers wasn’t the only thing Hald discovered. Those fiends had a stash of supplies and loot hidden in one of the caves below the fort and it was guarded by not more than five gnolls.

It didn’t take us long to come up with a plan. Leodrik and Grask would hit this stash and light in on fire. We hoped that this will lure the majority of gnolls out of the fort and occupy them long enough for the rest of us to go into the fort, find the woman and get her out. And since it was almost a midnight by the time Hald returned, we decided we might as well do it immediately. The less time we’ll be around, the better.

Our two armoured guys did their part perfectly. A large column of smoke and fire burst from the side of the mountain and gnolls were quick to spot it. Fortunately for us, they were as unorganized as fast they were to react. They ran out of the fort and towards the cave in one large pack, leaving their hideout practically unguarded.

When the pack disappeared from our sight, we moved. Vanessa scouted ahead, Hald guarded the rear, Marisa and me in the middle. The fort wasn’t entirely clear of those mongrels, but they were too far from each other to actually notice anything. And when they actually spotted us, they died before they could alarm the rest.

By the time we got near the pits, our luck ran out. A group of the beasts discovered us and they didn’t hesitate a moment. We were swarmed by them before we could react. The only reason we did survive that encounter was Marissa and a few tricks she had up her sleeves. She is very creative when it comes to using her magic.

We found the sorceress soon after we got rid of the gnolls. She wasn’t in her best shape, but she was quite happy to see us. Well, to be honest, I would be genuinely surprised if she wouldn’t. We took care of her worst wounds and quickly moved through the fort. We managed to get out unnoticed, mainly thanks to Ness.

By the time we got to our camp, gnolls already realized their prize escaped. And they gave chase. What followed was a nightmare of a night. We ran through the mountains, stumbling over the rocks because we didn’t dare to light up the torch. And they were near. Their howling and snorting was ever present, reminding us about our hunters. They almost got us twice.

We finally lost them when Marissa burned down a bridge across a ravine. Some of the gnolls were angry enough to try and jump across the gorge and their painful deaths discouraged the rest. We didn’t stop until the morning.  We knew the pack will eventually find a way around the chasm, but we were exhausted. We had to risk it and grab some rest and so when the first light signalled a new day, we camped.

The rest of the group is sleeping now. I couldn’t. It’s strange, but I’m not exhausted that much. Sure, I am tired, but not nearly as much as them. So I took a first watch. I wanted to write this anyway. I just hope we’ll be able to rest without some nasty surpises.
Let's sneak a little, shall we?

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