Returning to Hammerstone to lick his wounds, Roland and Fendrel met with Rowan and Archibald to brief them on their discoveries. With the help of Maester Darrow, it wasn’t hard to connect the dots and identify the mysterious bandit woman who had so grievously wounded Fendrel. For the last few years, smallfolk had been fixated on the tale of “The Ghost of House Donniger”, a walking corpse leading bands of wildlings, bearing the arms of a dead house.
House Donniger itself was a small house in the Vale which had been crushed by bandits twenty years prior. The lady of the house was the only known survivor, and she fled to the Riverlands to remarry and start her life again. The axe the woman wielded was linked to the house too; their ancestral Valyrian steel axe, Siegebreaker.
Curious to chase up this lead, the party resolved to investigate the ruins of Fort Donniger, hoping to find some sort of clue. After waiting a week for Fendrel and Roland’s wounds to heal, the party headed out; five members of the Hammerguard, two of Roland’s personally trained guerillas, along with Roland, Fendrel, Maester Darrow and Titus Levi.
Fort Donniger is nestled deep in the mountain ranges of The Vale, and it took the better half of a week to make it to the ruins. The party didn’t find much of use, unfortunately; the ruins were picked clean of all valuables, and most of the architecture had burned to the ground besides.
Keeping watch overnight, Roland spotted figures moving in the distance around the fortress, but chose to dismiss the sight, assuming them to be simple hunters. Seemingly, he was right, as the morning came peacefully. Until it was discovered that both of Roland’s guerilla outriders had gone missing while scouting the trail back to Hammerstone.
Deciding that they’d cover more ground alone, Roland and Fendrel headed out to find the outriders themselves, and stumbled onto a bloody trail. Evidently, the outriders had been attacked by Black Ear clansmen, and forcibly marched up the mountain. Following along the perilous mountain trail, the two finally found their lost soldier, the other having died on the trail.
The problem was that the lost guerilla was imprisoned within a giant mountain clan camp, occupants easily numbering within the thousands. This kind of gathering of wildlings in the mountains was unprecedented, clearly a bad omen for the Vale.
Unshaken however, Roland and Fendrel were quick to make a spectacularly awful decision. They would sneak into the camp at night, free their captured comrade, and set a supply tent alight before fleeing. This plan went surprisingly well, until Fendrel’s attempt to silence a guard ended with a blood curdling scream which awoke half the camp. Frantic, the party fled, leaving the blazing supply tent behind them as the mountain clans awoke and gave chase.
Seeing that there was no chance of outrunning the clansmen in their own territory, Roland made another spectacularly awful decision. Telling Fendrel and the guerilla to press on, Roland turned around, attempting to set the forest surrounding the camp alight as a distraction.
The distraction worked perfectly, diverting most of the attention of the clansmen away from Fendrel, and right onto Roland. Even the master archer of the Vale couldn’t hope to dodge twenty battleaxes, and he soon suffered defeat, falling under the relentless axe blows. His fate remains unknown, for now.