The Old Path, called such by Odo Bristleback of Zelkor’s Ferry, made its meandering way farther west than the Stirge caves. Odo said it rounded the lake and eventually turned north to the Jarl’s domain. On its way east, however, it crossed a middling fork of the Swamp Cut River. A narrow wooden bridge spanned the fast flowing water, just wide enough for two horses or a merchant’s wagon.
As you made your way across the span a rain of long-shaft arrows flew from the far side of the bridge. Whoever set them to flight was hiding in the deep snows surrounding the Ford. For those who had the shortest path to the far side, dashing forward was the best choice. Some had not begun to cross, so they returned to the near shore. Gnolls rushed the far shore, attempting to take the heroes there by sword and bow. The arrows rarely pierced armor, but the curved swords of the dog-like creatures cut deeply.
The near shore initially appeared free of foes, but that was because the Gnolls there had planned to sneak up and attack those attempting to retreat. Their tactic was successful, aided by the deep banks of snow and the loud conflict across the river. The battle did not seem to be going well.
Meklor was able to hold his ground, until a deadly cut nearly brought him to face his maker (once again). Arrows whittled away at each man. In turn, however, the Gnolls were equally cut low. Their ambush had taken a turn for the deadly, and they determined to make a hasty escape back into the surrounding hills.
The fight had turned into a run-and-catch attempt to flee on the part of the Gnolls. They ran, you caught, and they died. On the near shore, Ben became separated from his companions and tried to circle back to the party. He nearly made it. Then the slashing sword of his tenacious Gnoll opponent found its mark on his throat. Ben saw the world tumble and the snow rise up to meet his eyes. In the moments before blackness took him, he realized he was looking back up at his body as blood erupted from its neck and it dropped to the ground.
“Oh, I think they cut off my head.”