At this point the PC group has split into three: In the northwest, holding the border where Hanist, Menkgu, and Venrike meet, Trahaern (with Greex and Attivi) has massed the field army to prepare for the invasion of Venrike. In the northeast, the Direct Action Team of Sven, Zarathras, Ariana, Nesta, Nayla, and Hloomawl is holding the Zerniless border at Lubasser as the orcs mass on the other side of the mountains. And in the southwest at Rundbord, Aisling (with the as-yet-unintroduced Cartwright and the ogre Tezcatlipoca) is doing her best to keep a lid on the potentially growing 'liberated orc' problem.
On both of the northern fronts, the decision is to hold; the orcs' superior mobility in general makes prancing around on the plains of Menkgu a dangerous idea, and Trahaern decides that he'd rather let the enemy take the initiative and come up with a clever counter than find his supply lines cut off while he's in enemy territory. As for Lubasser, its proximity to the mountains (and the extended scouting radius of the Pegasii) means that Sven is mostly unworried about an attack in the short term, and it's decided that invading Zerniless at this stage would be premature.
In Rundbord, Cartwright (who's been hiding out in Cape Sud for several months, having made his way south after exile from the Fae Court) strolls into town and learns of Aisling's involvement in The Liberation. He (rightly or wrongly) assumes she's running a con, and talks his way into a meeting with her to find out what the game is and get in on it. She assures him that it's not a con but offers him a job, as they've worked together in the past - Aisling now has a new Spymaster, and Rundbord now has a new Master of the Sword as Cartwright's cover story. Tezcatlipoca has been appointed by Gharza Brokentooth as Aisling's daytime bodyguard, replaced by two orcs at other times.
This is where Rigar Gloomfang's plan to betray the Liberation kicks off. Kevin (the player) had seen this coming for a week or so, and had discussed it with the GM. The decision was that Aisling has been mostly tripping on aspected high mana, and a combination of that and her general overconfidence (it's not "Overconfidence, [-5]", but it's really quite reasonable to believe 'I can outwit an orc') led to her deciding to give Rigar enough rope to hang himself with, and just lay contingency plans for the inevitable betrayal.
As a result, she hadn't gotten a chance to warn Trahaern or Sven, but had warned the local militia to stay uninvolved if trouble happened, and gotten a message to Groanridder telling them to stay out of the way of any hostile orcs - keeping the comm mages alive and hidden was more important than trying to fight or block a superior force. Rigar and several of his loyal troops burst into Aisling, Cartwright, and Tezcatlipoca's rooms, and in short order (and with some violence, in the ogre's case) the three of them were prisoners on their way west. I admit my original expectation was that Rigar would try to fortify himself at Rundbord; instead he started a rapid forced march of his troops towards Venrike, planning to use the prestige of capturing Aisling to get himself promoted to Tusked Banner Taeza and command the re-invasion of Hanist with the orcs there.
Fortunately, Aisling's magic ring lets her broadcast, and she opened a channel to Trahaern's communications outpost while getting Rigar to monologue a bit. This led to a discussion among the other PCs about how to stage a rescue. Various plans were offered and discarded (most of them would leave critical places uncovered, cancel training investments for troops, or simply take too long) and it was eventually decided that the direct action team would have to do the rescuing themselves, largely without the help of the army.
- "It came with the badge!"
In the interests of serving the meta of 'let's not have multiple PCs of a single player involved in things at once', it was determined that Sven would have to remain at Lubasser - the next guy down the chain of command, a Yorg "Strongarm" Kufter, was clearly not qualified to command the garrison, and they couldn't afford the time it would take to replace him and find someone competent. With the rain leaving the Flying Boat out of commission and the imminent thunderstorms making flying a somewhat dangerous proposition, this left Nesta, Nayla, and Hloomawl getting aboard Hloomawl's new Ally Mount - a giant leaping dinosaur - and taking a (frankly terrifying) high-speed trip back across the country in the pouring rain.
- "I'm starting to think none of these guys has ever watched a heist movie. Or a prison break movie. Or a war movie."
It still took them a couple of days to catch up with the orcs. Rigar had (somewhat hilariously) failed his rolls to manage the forced march, so the enemy were leaving a trail of broken wagons and deserted troops behind. Nesta and Nayla surveyed the situation and it was established that there were several tents under guard. A pretty disorganized plan was put together that involved Nesta and Nayla sneaking as close as Nayla could manage, then having Nesta sneak in and deal with the guards, with Hloomawl preparing to ride the giant dinosaur through the picket lines to create as big a distraction as possible.
This worked out pretty well in practice: Nesta more or less trivially snuck past the entire orcish army, picked a tent at random, and rescued Cartwright, then Aisling. The inevitable conversation between Nesta and Aisling managed to attract the attention of the guard, who promptly sprouted one of Nayla's arrows in the eye. After that, Nesta and Nayla continued murdering anyone who got close to the prisoners while Aisling first rescued Gharza, then went on to rally the Nightbloods and retreat while Rigar's forces were still getting their act together. It turns out Aisling's a better commander than Rigar, and managed to get the Nightbloods free without casualties. Rigar, with the delusion he could take Hloomawl in a fair fight, challenged the Minotaur to a single combat. Hloomawl beat him into the ground in three blows and the orcs fell into scrabbling about who should take command and failed to pursue.
- "On the bright side, he's not going to be executed by the orcs for treason."
Rigar survived the duel (barely) and was dragged back to the Liberation's lines by Hloomawl; in the resulting confusion between the remaining Gloomfangs, the Nightbloods beat a hasty retreat and headed for the fortress at Groanridder.
Meanwhile, in the northwest, Banner Taeza Pogar had come up with a clever plan that actually was pretty clever: He was going to march his regiment outside of Trahaern's expected scouting radius, ford the river, and cut off his supply lines. Unfortunately, Pogar doesn't know about Greex's magic map. Trahaern timed his march to hit the Ironhooves right after they finished fording the Berger river, and the resulting fight was a master class in what happens when a superior force ambushes a weaker enemy who can't retreat: in an afternoon, the Ironhooves ceased to be and Trahaern the Ever-Victorious got another notch for his belt.
Next session will probably involve the invasion of Venrike in the northwest, and a challenging defense at Groanridder fortress - while a full cohort of pikemen have arrived to help the Nightbloods and militia defend the place, the orc forces in southern Venrike have finally gotten the message that something is rotten in the state of Hanist; the four companies massing across the border in Zerniless might also prove a problem.