Freeport, No More
By Rob De Graaff
Rob De Graaff is a history enthusiast and amateur writer from New Jersey.
Captain Reylan Ceidwyd was thinking about griffins.
He had seen them only fleetingly on a handful of occasions: small forms that soared and dove through the sky, the knights on their backs urging them on to more spectacular maneuvers. He had only seen one up close once, a creature the size of a horse, ill-tempered, but still possessing a noble bearing. He would never ride one himself, of course. He wasn’t that foolish.
Yet if we had one of them, we would know what’s happening in Freeport by now, he mused.
He stood and lit a candle to illuminate his path. A part of him recoiled at the idea of lighting a fire in enemy territory, but this deep within the cave system, in the foothills north of the port city, exceptions could be made. For want of anything better to do, Reylan strode towards the entrance of the cave, ostensibly to inspect the state of his men, but more to alleviate boredom that was a soldier’s constant companion. As he passed, most of his own men nodded or gave a simple greeting, while the Yeni among them either glowered as he passed or were in a stupor from the events they had witnessed.
About two months earlier, the Krygons had invaded, their great armada appearing out of the mists and landing to the south of the merchant city of Freeport. The army disembarked and marched, unopposed, overland for a handful of leagues to lay siege to the city, while the rest of their fleet blockaded Freeport’s harbor. The native Yeni put up a valiant resistance in the city itself, but soon Freeport was overwhelmed by the raw numbers of the southerners. When word of the siege reached Tarith, Queen Caitlin and her High Court wasted no time, and soon Reylan and his company of rangers were aboard a ship taking them south. They disembarked under the cover of night and hid in the foothills of the Tarithian Mountains north of Freeport, gathering up a handful of the siege’s survivors along the way. The Yeni they found had been hiding there for nearly a month, squatting in one of the caves carved out by the ever-shifting Dehitero River.
Reylan reached the entrance of the cave and blew out the candle before crossing the threshold. The two guards stationed there, Valos and Belowhent, both greeted him quietly, before turning their gaze outwards. Reylan had several more men further out as pickets, ready to report back any enemy movements, but so far there was no sign of the enemy.
“Any sign of Harlak?” he asked.
“None, sir,” Valos said. He was an wuyon’mar, and his actual name was something that Reylan had given up trying to pronounce years ago. “I’ll spot him long before you, sir.”
Reylan looked out to the south. He and his company were in the foothills to the northeast of Freeport, the first break in the near-endless grasslands that stretched to the south. To his right, he could make out a haze in the air: the tell-tale sign of a large city-state, caused by countless cookfires and not, Reylan hoped, conflagrations still raging from Krygon’s battle-magi. The greater smudge on the horizon, near the ocean, was the city itself.
“Let me know the moment you see something,” he told Valos.
Just then, he heard a commotion behind him, deeper into the cave complex. It was not loud, but certainly louder than he wanted. The voice was speaking in Tarithian, but it had a thick accent, and Reylan’s shoulders sagged when he heard it.
“Not this again,” he mumbled to no one in particular, but he caught a glimpse of Valos and Belowhent grinning.
“Where is he? I must speak with him!” shouted the voice, coming closer. “I cannot stand this any more!”
“Have fun with that, sir,” the wuyon’mar ranger said.
Reylan turned and almost ran headlong into Sansomer Grellando, a Yeni merchant or commander of the city watch of Freeport, or… something. He had been rather vague as to his true occupation, but Reylan figured that was typical of Yeniden and did not want to press the matter further.
“There you are, Old Man,” said the Yeni. Reylan was known as “the Old Man”, more due to the streaks of iron-gray in his otherwise jet-black hair, rather than his twenty-seven years. “This is too long! Too long indeed!” The man’s voice was increasing in volume as he spoke.
“Our lives will get much shorter if you don’t keep your voice down,” Reylan said, trying his best to mollify the man.
Sansomer quieted himself, but the intensity of his displeasure remained. “It is been over a month,” he said angrily. “One month! we have sat in these caves, and done nothing except go on some fruitless patrols. My city, my people are under occupation by Krygon, and yet we sit here idle. Instead of an army, Tarith sends this.” He gestured around him. “Forty men. And even you do nothing!”
Reylan turned and headed back into the cave, gesturing for Sansomer to follow. He knew the Yeni to be quite passionate, and he did not wish to risk his men’s position being compromised due to the noisy tirade. Picking up his candle again, he led the man deeper into the cave, hearing muttered expressions in Rukh, a language Reylan thankfully did not know, but was sure he was being treated to the finest selection of the language’s profanity. They arrived in a small alcove, a place Reylan had designated as his headquarters. Once they arrived there, Sansomer launched once again into his complaints.
“I want to know when you are going to do something,” he demanded. “One month we have waited here, and yet nothing has happened. Did your queen send you here to waste time, or are you merely exiles, banished from your own lands and playing at soldiering?”
“We will do something when there is something to be done,” Reylan answered. “There are fifty-eight of us altogether, and though I am sure there are other exiles around Freeport, and even some fighters within the city itself, there is still not much we can do. The Krygons have thousands, with more arriving in ships every day. Our task is to monitor what is happening, only engaging them in the most opportune of circumstances. Currently, the situation is not opportune, so we wait.”
“How long will you do this for?” the Yeni asked. “What is an opportune moment?”
“I will know it when it comes,” Reylan said in reply. “You and your men are more than welcome to leave and die in a death-and-glory attack against them, but kindly leave my men out of it.” His mission was clear to him right from the beginning, and he had no illusions about the tenuous situation he and his men were in. He had no intentions of dying foolishly.
Sansomer let out a sigh of disappointment and set himself down on a rock. “I apologize, Captain,” he said. “It is no easy thing to see your land and people spoiled by the enemy and be powerless to do anything about it.” Both men sat in silence for a moment. “Why Freeport?” Sansomer went on. “Why attack here? The Krygon war is with Tarith, not us. Why not strike directly at Griffinrock? Why bother with Mother Yeniden at all? It makes no sense to me.”
“It makes perfect sense,” Reylan said. He pulled a map from a nearby leather case and spread it out on the floor. It was a map of all of Talmenor, with major strongholds and landmarks clearly noted. He placed stones on the corners and gestured Sansomer to look.
“The Mogul is not at war with Tarith. He is at war with the entire continent. Tarith is simply the strongest faction to oppose him and the most united, so he is making that a priority.”
“Then why attack Freeport and Yeniden?” Sansomer asked. “Why not use all of his strength against Tarith and knock you out quickly?”
“Yeniden is more vulnerable. You are a fractious lot; there is no denying that,” Reyan said, and Sansomer was forced to agree. “There are rumors that many lords and strongholds either have or will pledge their allegiance to the Mogul emperor. Divide and conquer.”
“An effective strategy, no doubt, and yes, many lords will bend their knees to the invader.” Sansomer looked downcast as he spoke. “But why Freeport?” He gestured at the map. “Haven seems a more likely location. It controls the only mountain pass between the Tarithian Mountains and the Hoary Spine. Control Haven, and you could control access north and south of the continent.””
“Haven looks good on paper, but not in reality,” Reylan said. “Everything south of that is a desert, and it’s a long overland journey to get there. Supplying an army overland by that route is a nightmare for logistics. And even if they do manage to capture the city, controlling it is something else entirely. It’s more a den of vipers than an actual city, full of bandits and Tarithian malcontents. No, my friend, Freeport is a much better option.
“Look.” Reylan pointed at the locations on the map. “The Mogul is arrogant, and he is powerful, but he is not stupid. If he launches a fleet around the east of Talmenor, he will antagonize the Nulst Empire, and right now, his focus is on the north of the continent, not the south. If they strike directly at Griffinrock, they will be stretched out over a long sea journey and picked apart by our navy and gryphons. There could be a shipborne invasion, possibly in the river delta between Griffinrock and Stormvale, but with Freeport captured, that becomes easier. They can mass their forces here and concentrate on whatever landing site they wish, much more easily than a trip from all the way south. They could also push westward along the Dehitero River, capture Rivermeet, then strike northwards through passes in the Tarithian Mountains, angling at Griffinrock from the south, overland.
“I doubt they will go for a dagger strike directly on Griffinrock however,” he mused. “If I was in command, I strike across the mountains, then turn east towards Timberfalls instead. The Little Folk that live there won’t be able to put up much resistance. Then I would follow the Brightwater River, cutting Tarith in half. I could then pick off her strongholds one by one: the Krygons have the numbers. They could grind us down from any number of directions.
“No matter what they choose to do, Freeport is the center of it all. Consolidate here and conquer the rest of Yeniden, then bring up supplies and reinforcements for a water invasion of Griffinrock or anywhere else on the Tarithian coast, or support an overland route through the mountains, or maybe all of those at once. Freeport is a deep-water port, and supplies and replacements can be brought up and unloaded easily here. You see, my friend, warfare is about options, and Freeport gives them just that.”
Sansomer looked down the map, his features unreadable. After a few moments of silence he finally spoke. “What then will your people do?” he asked.
“I don’t know; that’s far beyond me,” Reylan said. “Our main mission here is to see what the Krygons are doing and send word back. Intercept their forces wherever possible, but overall we are the eyes of the nation, not the sword arm.”
“Are there other groups?” the Yeni asked. “Other sets of eyes in these hills, or elsewhere?”
Reylan only smiled and rolled up the map, sliding it back into its leather case.
Just then, Valos rushed in, with a small, bald man trailing behind him.
“Harlak!” Reylan exclaimed. “Good to have you back. You weren’t followed, I hope. You were late, and I assumed the worst happened.”
“That’s why I’m late, sir,” the man said, handing him a small stack of folded papers. “I thought I might have been followed, and I took a nice scenic detour. Beautiful country, in a barren, desolate sort of way.”
Reylan scanned the papers before addressing the spy. “Fantastic work, Harlak. Go get yourself something to eat, and I’ll debrief you more later.” Harlak left the room, and Reylan continued to scan the papers, tapping his foot.
“Something interesting?” Sansomer asked.
“Very,” Reylan replied. “He’s been in Freeport for the past two weeks, gathering as much information as he can.” He looked at one of the papers, an official document judging by the smudged seal near the bottom, written in Sailor’s Speech. Reylan could read it easily enough. He said, “The Krygons must have a Yeni tribe working for them. This isn’t in the Gontian language or even the Mogul’s Common. Take a look.”
He handed the paper over to Sansomer, who started to read it. A few moments later the Yeni looked up, grinning.
“You wanted to do something,” Reylan said. “This may be that something.”
Two hundred humans and akor’mari of the Krygon’s great army, the Division, marched their way northeast out of Freeport, their destination the hamlet of Gazelle’s Hill. They were to bring tidings of the Mogul’s arrival and to receive the joyous submission of the local population, to root out any troublemakers who would dare despoil the Great One’s plans for the region. Most of the force was armed with pikes, which they held aloft as they marched, creating a small, moving forest with a glistening, steel-tipped canopy and bronze undergrowth. Their scaled armor, made of a bronze alloy, was nothing like the blackiron given to the Division’s most elite soldiers, but it was more than most of the hardscrabble people of Yeniden could match.
The commander of the force, riding a large bay mare, glanced from side to side, his chin pointed upwards in a display of haughty pride. The land here was hilly and uneven, terrible country for an open battle, but the people here were beaten. They knew the might of Krygon, and the contingent’s role was merely to ensure that all were truly submitted to the Mogul. There was little chance that there would be any resistance, outside of a few farmers with pitchforks: nothing that could not be handled.
About four leagues outside of Gazelle Hill, the road bent its way around the left side of a large hill. The commander knew from scout reports that this road was less direct than another path winding its way directly over the hill’s crown, but going around hills was always easier than going over them, and so the column snaked its way past, with the high ground to their right, a flat open plain extending out to their left.
The men were weary from marching, but the commander kept them going at a steady pace, hoping to reach the hamlet before nightfall. The land was silent, except for the trilling call of a Sheyn warbler, and the sustained keen of a flint-winged shrike. An astute observer would know that the former lived hundreds of miles to the north, and the latter had already migrated south by this time of year. An even more astute observer would make note of the shrubbery that dotted the hillside swaying in the breeze despite of the lack of any wind.
One need not be an astute observer however, to notice the two arrows sticking out of the chest of the Krygon commander. He looked down with a mixture of shock and disbelief, before sliding from the saddle and hitting the ground with a thud.
There was a moment of stillness, then chaos. Arrows flew from the hillside, striking their targets: sometimes harmlessly against bronze armor or wooden shields, sometimes piercing through exposed faces or legs. Some of the Krygons tried to rush forward along the road towards their destination, only to be cut off as more arrows took them from the front. Some of the junior commanders tried to bring a sense of order to the situation, only to be feathered as they cried out commands.
“Aim for the officers!” Reylan shouted, drawing his bow and letting the shaft fly at his victim down the hill. It embedded itself in the shield of his target.
“Which ones are officers?” Valos shouted back, a vicious grin across his face.
“The bigger the hat, the more important they are!” the captain responded. “Also the ones pointing a lot!” He didn’t know if this was true, but that seemed to be a universal trait of nearly every army.
He shrugged a woven-reed mat from his shoulders and stood to his full height. The mat had concealed him from enemy eyes, but it threw off his shooting arm. He outstretched his left arm and brought up a long yew bow, selected a target — a Krygon archer that was preparing a shaft — aimed, drew, and let fly in a single motion. His goose-feathered arrow plunged down the hill, embedding itself in the neck of his intended target.
By this point, the Krygon officers managed to form their confused men into a serviceable shield wall, their round shields overlapping. It wasn’t as impressive as the great shield walls of the formal Division infantry with their tower shields reinforced by blackiron, but it still provided significant protection against Reylan’s men. The archers behind them were sending shafts up the hill slope, and though many were overshooting, it was only a matter of time before they found their range.
“Fall back!” Reylan shouted. “Fall back!” Theormyr, an ilph’mar at his side, blew a whistle, and the high, keening sound pierced over the confusion and shouts. The rangers retreated up the hillside and over its crest, even as the Krygon shield wall advanced after them, leaving behind a dozen dead or wounded Tarithians. Their blood was up, and Reylan knew they would want vengeance. While in such a tightly packed formation, there was little he and his men could do against them.
The Krygon shield wall climbed the hillside, some of its men stumbling on the uneven slope as small stones shifted under their feet. Though the formation still held, gaps appeared as the men slipped and lurched, in some cases using their spears like walking sticks to steady themselves. By the time they reached the top of the hill, significant holes had opened in the formation.
“Now!” cried Reylan, his rangers hidden just behind the reverse slope. “Sansomer, now!”
Though experts with the bow and arrow, each of the rangers was equipped with either a mail hauberk or a padded coat, as well as a steel helm, painted dark gray to reduce glare. They carried steel bucklers and an assortment of swords, axes, maces. Against an unbroken line of serried Krygon pikes, there was little such armaments could do, but the Krygon line was broken, and that was all the rangers needed.
Also at Reylan’s side was Sansomer and his eighteen men, a motley collection of rogues, cutthroats, and sailors. Some had little more than daggers and makeshift clubs, while others carried brigandine cuirasses and finely wrought swords, taken from only the gods knew who. Sansomer led them, armored in tightly-woven mail over a padded gambeson, carrying a long curved sword and round shield, and sporting a gleaming, conical helm Reylan thought more likely to come from far-off La’al Sha’ahr than some city watch armory in Freeport.
These men and the rangers slammed into the Krygons before they could reform themselves. Reylan was at the forefront, using his buckler to bat aside a spear, before stepping in and burying his axe into the shoulder of a foe. Tearing the weapon free, he pivoted and slammed his buckler into the jaw of another. The akor’mar stumbled and fell, only to be finished by a ranger’s sword piercing his guts as he tried to regain his footing. Up and down the line, Krygon, Tarithian, and Yeni fought, struggled, and died. A ranger cracked his opponent’s skull before being pierced by a spear under the ribs. A Freeport exile had his arm severed by a Krygon blade, only to be avenged with a ranger’s warhammer. Sansomer slashed and thrust, cutting into the hated invaders of his country, shouting and cursing as he urged his men on. Reylan ducked under a poorly-placed spear thrust and then swung forward, simultaneously swinging his axe into his opponent’s side and slamming his face with his buckler. His target went down, and a final blow from Reylan’s weapon ended his struggling.
Reylan caught sight one of his rangers, a skinny ilph’mar locked in a clench with a Krygon soldier in gleaming bronze armor. Taking a bounding leap, he ducked low and drove his shoulder into the man’s hip, pulling the man’s leg out from underneath him. Both went down in a heap, and Reylan rolled out of the way just as another ranger’s sword took his opponent in the throat. Regaining his feet, Reylan saw an archer readying his bow, selecting a target somewhere past Reylan, drawing the string back to his cheek. On pure instinct, Reylan twisted and threw his axe. The weapon tumbled through the air and struck the archer square on the side. It was not a balanced throwing axe however, and it hit shaft0first, but this caused enough distraction for another of Reylan’s men and a Yeni to drag the archer down between them.
All around him, the Krygons were falling, being overwhelmed by the sudden violence of the rangers’ assault, despite their small numbers. A call rang out, a piercing note from a trumpet that cut through the clamor, and the Krygons started to make their way down the hill in a fighting retreat. They fell back, still pursued by the rangers and Yeni, and even as they did so, they were coalescing into a shield wall, moving back into formation down the slope.
Say what you will about them, they are disciplined, Reylan thought to himself.
“Reform!” he shouted to his men. “Reform on me! Theormyr! Theormyr, sound the recall; do not pursue! Stand here!” He knew the Krygons had been given a bloody nose, but he did not want to press his luck any further. He was still outnumbered, and the element of surprise was gone.
When the shrill whine sounded from Theormyr’s whistle, the rangers stopped their pursuit of the Krygons and retreated back to the crest of the hilltop; in a few cases, they had to drag their Yeni companions away as the sailors cried out for vengeance. Some of the rangers sent a few final arrows down the hill while others hurled rocks at the retreating enemy.
“Why did you withdraw?” Sansomer burst through the lines, shouting at Reylan. “We have them at our mercy! Kill them all!”
“They are reforming, and we can’t overwhelm them without losing more of our men,” Reylan said, tucking his axe back into his belt. “We did enough for today. Let them go. We will have more battles to fight, and we need all of the strength we can.”
Sansomer gripped the hilt of his blood-stained sword tightly, glaring at the Krygons with a clenched jaw. “Fine,” he said finally. “So be it.” With that, he lifted his blade and bellowed, “This is the first blood of our liberation! This is the first blow struck at the invaders! More will be spilled until you are all cleansed from our land. I swear it by Seri-Jon!” He pointed his sword at the haze that covered Freeport in the distance. “That is our city; that is our home! We will stand there again, and the serpent’s banner will burn!”
While the Yeni made his proclamations, Reylan was organizing his men as quickly as he could. “Get the wounded out now; police up the dead and strip them of anything useful. We need the arrows!” He was cut off from any regular supply, and he did not know when he would receive more of the precious shafts. “Sound the withdrawal,” he said to Theormyr, who nodded and gave three short notes on his whistle, followed by a long one. The men sprang into action, gathering up whatever they could from the dead, carrying the wounded away, and moving off in different directions to confuse pursuit. They would consolidate back at the cave then, in all likelihood, would move off to another location in case they were followed.
Scanning over the hillside, Reylan estimated that around two score of the Krygons lay dead, with many others wounded among the formation withdrawing towards Freeport. His own men seemed to be well-off, but he saw more than a few rangers and Yeni lying motionless in the tall grass of the hillside. He said a quick prayer to Carro for them, before turning back to the survivors
“Get some of those spears,” he said to one of his men. “The Freeport resistance could use them. No, just leave that, we need to–” His words were suddenly cut off by a blinding flash and the wet thunk of something hitting the ground.
Turning, he saw one of his rangers falling to the ground in two separate pieces. Another flash, and a Yeni stood stunned before collapsing with a fist-sized hole in his chest.
“Mage!” one of the men yelled, and chaos erupted.
“Get back, get back now!” Reylan called out. One of the best ways to fight a mage is with one of your own, but the nearest Tarithian mage was hundreds of miles to the north. He wondered why such a valuable asset would be here, on what amounted to garrison duty. Could the Krygons really afford to send one on such a menial task? If so, it did not bode well for their war effort…
Reylan began exhorting his men to seek shelter on the reverse slope of the hill: anything to get away from the threat. Another two of his men dropped as a burst of kinetic energy took them, but most made it to relative safety. Reylan was last up, and he turned quickly and dropped down to scan the base of the hill.
It didn’t take him long to find the mage, a shrouded figure with two shield-bearing bodyguards. Its face was raised, its staff pointing towards the rangers. There was a crackling of energy about the feathered shaft of wood, and a bolt of unnatural lightning struck directly above Reylan’s position.
A quick check showed no more of his men were hurt by the mage, but they could not press their luck too far. A part of Reylan wanted to escape, but then another thought came to his mind.
“Bows!” he called. Several of the rangers resurfaced, taking up their weapons, notching an arrow, and waiting. “Shoot!” Reyland called again, and several shafts flew down the hill. Mere feet in front of the mage, they stopped as if striking a wall and fell harmlessly to the ground.
“Ready, notch, draw, loose!” Reylan cried out again in quick succession, and as the bows twanged behind him he, leapt from his place and bounded down the hill. He knew that arrows would do little against a prepared mage, and he himself had little chance against one, but killing it would be worth the risk.
The second flight of arrows clattered to the ground, the mage’s attention focused almost totally on them as Reylan reached the bottom of the hill. Taking a bounding step, he shouldered aside one of the bodyguards and buried his axe in the chest of the other. Dropping the axe, drawing his knife, he jumped, bringing the blade down towards the neck of the mage. Before the strike could land, however, he abruptly felt himself become weightless.
He hung suspended in the air as an unbearable tightness gripped him. It was as if a gigantic hand had picked him up and was squeezing him hard. Looking down, he saw the hooded mage looking up at him with its staff raised and its free, gloved hand gripped in a claw. The hood blew back, revealing a striped green and black face of a tokagi. Reylan could not help but drop his jaw in astonishment, even suspended in midair as he was.
Tokagi don’t use magic. This is impossible! The thought came to him unbidden. Looking past the snarling lizard-like face, he saw a chain draped about the neck of the creature. It held a silver disk embossed with runes and with a single, purple gem mounted in the middle. The gem seemed to pulsate with a faint, unearthly glow, somehow bending the light around it to make the rest of the world look darker in comparison.
Grinding his teeth, Reylan strained every muscle trying to drive his dagger home. Regardless of why, the creature was an enemy mage and had to die. The tokagi flexed its fingers and Reylan’s limbs were bent backwards, and his spine began to fold. The tokagi suddenly grinned, like a wolf spying a vulnerable lamb, and Reylan knew that he would not be killed. He had heard rumors of Krygon prisoners being used as subjects for vile experiments, and he hoped to die than suffer that fate. The surviving bodyguard grabbed him by the arm, no doubt to bind him, when a shout drew everyone’s attention.
Sansomer’s sword swung in an arc at the mage’s head, the steel a bright blur. With impossible speed, the mage whipped about and knocked the weapon aside with its staff. That moment’s distraction, however, caused him to loosen his grip on Reylan. Without hesitation, the ranger captain’s knife plunged and became embedded at the base of the mage’s neck, just as Sansomer reoriented himself from the parry and cut low, just below the tokagi’s ribs. The mage flinched and collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Its bodyguard lifted his own weapon, but a vicious gesture from Sansomer made him turn and flee. Sansomer scoffed after it, before turning and grasping Reylan’s wrist to help back up to his feet.
“Sending a mage on a task like this speaks much of the Krygon,” Sansomer said. “No doubt he would be used to cow the local population. If it can control you, imagine the fate of a group of peasants! The Krygons will stop at nothing, even use mind magic against my people.” Sansomer paused as he flipped the mage’s corpse over with his boot. “Wait… A tokagi? That’s impossible! They don’t use magic. Not that I ever heard of!”
“They do now,” said Reylan wearily. “Something about that gem.” He pulled his kerchief from about his neck and used it to slip the chain from the mage’s neck, avoiding touching the jewel. The bauble seemed unusually cold through the cloth.
“Shadow magic,” Sansomer said. “Be careful of that. It might be some new devilry of the Krygons.”
“It might.” Reylan wrapped the amulet thoroughly and placed it in his pouch. It weighed heavily there, another mystery for later.
“That is enough for today I think, Reylan Mage-Killer.” Sansomer spoke again.
“I agree. This isn’t a simple invasion. Something big is about to happen. We must be ready for it.”
“Bigger than the invasion of my home?” said Sansomer.
“Big enough to make the retaking of it a monumental task,” Reylan replied. “We must be ready,” he repeated.
Sansomer said nothing, and the two made their way off: the Krygons back to Freeport, the rangers and Yeni back to their hideout. As Reylan turned to take a last glimpse of the beleaguered city, he thought, Not bad for first blood. He winced as he rubbed his ribs, still bruised from the mage’s spell. This would still be easier with gryphons, though.