The Citadel of the Iron Star had stood for a long time between civilized lands and the wild. The Company of mercenary heroes who made it their home and protected its secrets had become legendary in the Kingdom for their extraordinary ability to survive any obstacle placed against them. All the more surprise when the seven newest recruits to the Order of the Iron Star, returning home from a three day patrol in the wild, found the Citadel utterly destroyed.
They were bringing word of troubling signs in the forest, signs of orcs and their kin on the move. But it would have taken an army of beastmen to breach the defences of the Citadel, and no traces left by such a force were to be found. Only a few walls were left standing, and these were blackened by intense fires. No survivors or even bodies of their fallen comrades were found either, just charred bones. None of the treasures and lore of the Order remained, unless it was buried beneath tons of crumbled stone.
These new recruits had been warned of the destruction they would find by the pillar of black smoke rising into the sky from the smouldering ruin. But so too were scavengers from the wild made aware, and they moved to pick at the bones of the fortress. Thus, in the time of their grief, the last remaining members of the Order of the Iron Star were forced to fight for their lives.
As the last light of the sunset filtered through the smoky air and broken walls of the Citadel, our heroes were set upon by a band of wilder orcs and their starved wolf slaves. The battle was fierce, but the company showed it’s mettle. Renuk and Whot were a bulwark against the enemies advance, slaying multiple foes each, though gaining new battle scars themselves. Tyr fought hard while channeling healing energies through the earth to keep the warriors standing. Filbert Quickfoot, stood atop a pile or rubble, taking shot after deadly shot with his crossbow. And Tristem Tsara, the bard, all the while played strident battle-music on his viol, bringing courage to his fellows and despair to his enemies.
But then as night fell, the chief of the orc band, a huge beastman wielding a terrifying spiked maul, came forth to challenge the wounded company. He drove straight for Renuk and the two mighty combatants, slipping in the entrails of slain orcs, fell upon one another in a fury. Both raged and bellowed as they tried to gain the upper hand on their foe. As fate would have it, Renuk took a vicious blow to the head and was brought down. Whot, too, was felled almost simultaneously, and it looked as if the tide of battle was turning. In desperation, Tyr brought his greatsword to bear on the mighty beastman and opened the foe’s belly, bringing forth a howl of pain and rage from the enemy. This was not enough however, and Tyr was brought low as well in the next instant.
Tristem and Filbert had been busy with their own enemies during this, but now realized that the time of glory or defeat was nigh. Tristam, still playing the viol, began to taunt the wounded chief. Leaping about and hurling insults, he led the great beast away from Filbert and on a desperate chase around the ruins. This was all the sign Filbert needed. He disengaged from the wolf he was fighting just long enough to put a crossbow bolt through the back of the distracted monster’s skull and into it’s brain, dropping it like a stone. The last wolf, seeing it’s masters defeated, fled like a shot though the broken walls and into the night.
Miraculously, Renuk, Whot, and Tyr were found to be still alive but barely. They were tended to by Tristem and kept from slipping into death. Tristem and Filbert knew that they would have to hold the ruins until the wounded could be moved, and so were overjoyed at the return of Misrani Karaquazian and the Lady Jenaga, the final members of their company, who had been scouting on their own and only just arrived to find for themselves the horrors of the fallen Citadel. Joining together, the four held the ruins against other scavengers, using magic, guile, and orc heads on stakes to create the illusion of more than four guardians. All the while, Filbert tried to coax the last wolf, still lingering nearby, into friendship with gifts of orc-flesh.
Two days later, Tyr became conscious and after thanking his allies and his gods for his life, set to work healing the two other wounded, instilling in them lifeforce from the old powers of the earth. They soon were all healthy and very hungry, and seeing as they were out of supplies, decided with heavy hearts to abandon the ruin and head for civilization. There they could eat, drink, and find out if they were truly the last alive to swear the Oath to the Order of the Iron Star.