This meeting not so much, but the following one had a rich result of wandering monster checks and interesting meetings and experiences that the group seemed to enjoy the trek.
Write up follows:
We rode through the rain for a few hours until both Finta and Guyus had the party come to a stop. They conferred for a bit and then had to admit to the party that the inclement weather had obscured the trail and for the last half hour, they had not been sure they were following the orc’s tracks any longer. We talked about our options and decided that we would press on, relying on what directions we’ve been riding in and hoping that we would catch up to some sign of our quarry in the near future.
It was just past 10:30 that we arrived at the rain line, a seemingly hard barrier between the druidic ensorcelled weather that had held for the last 2 days and the normal weather pattern beyond. We emerged on the other side of the veil, and took stock of our surroundings. It was on the next nearest rise that we alighted and using Perrin’s spyglass, took a good look around the countryside for any sign. It was to the north that we saw a faint smudge rising, sure sign of a fire in the near past. Meanwhile Korg was gathering what firewood we could now that it was dry.
We decided to ride towards the north where the smoke was seen arriving just before noon. Sure enough, it was the remains of a large encampment. Orcish. Gone now but according to Perrin, no more than 4 hours or so head start. We estimated around a hundred orcs, and there were carts/wagons, and drag marks. The party ate while Dust Devil kept us company. We discussed our options and decided that since the dragon was here, we should make a deal with him. There was talk and eventually it was settled on either 6500 crowns of treasure OR 3 items, with the dragon choosing the first two without discussion and the third being up for a possible deal. It wasn’t great, but we took the deal.
We relit the orcish fire and kept it burning bright while we stripped off our very wet gear and clothes and made some time to dry it out. It was by 2 PM that we broke camp and mounted up, riding off along the now obvious orc trail, our horses goaded to a cantor where able.
About 3:30 we came upon an orc with most of his right side stove in, his head mostly pulped. It had been stripped and left on the side of the road. We rode onward, approaching the high point of the hills we were in. It was just after 5:30 that we came upon an area where the orcish trail split. Half of it went north and half west. The northern trail continued with carts and wagons and now also had animal tracks as well. Which way? We assumed the northern trail with the wagons STILL had our friends and figured that would be best. But we only had an hour or so of daylight left. And what about the western orcs? Were they close?
Dust Devil went off the check, the drake returning with news that about a mile or so from here was a keep. Stout walls, four watch towers on neighboring hills, over 60 orcs guarding the visible areas. Neigh upon impregnable to say nothing of the many catapults and ballistas also in the area. Obviously the heart of the Four Tusk orcish clan and not to be approached. We decided to ride BACK the way we came for a half hour or so, putting more distance between us and the orcish fortress. And then we rode off even further in the hills until we were near no tracks. Camp was established.
Korg’s skill at foraging came in handy once more as the tough dwarf found a nest of prairie dogs and set about braining as many of the animals as he could. We had a good meal that night with Perrin making some connection with the drake by feeding him a choice number of the varmints. Watch was set and we had a tense and watchful night’s sleep.
We awoke on the 3rd; weather was cold today, maybe going to hit 50 tops. We broke our fast and studied for a bit. Thurin volunteered to polymorph to a sparrow and scout ahead to see if he could find any of the orc’s trails. It was once he was gone that the group learned that Dust Devil seemed to understand and speak Common. He did not like slaving in general and broke the Charm enchantment that was on both Finta and Korg. He then explained that any sort of enslavement was wrong and that the scales were just rebalanced. The party was surprised and opted NOT to tell Thurin when he came back of Dust Devil’s ability to understand Common.
We mounted up after the wizard returned, letting us know that the trail was steady northward and we should not tarry. Our horses were given their headway and we rode onward, long strides and steady hands. For hours we pressed on until the hills were behind us and we were riding through the wildlands and tall grasses of the Forsaken Lands. A wary eye on the horizon and a cautious gaze looking everywhere for danger we rode. The hours passed and we kept the horses fresh where we could, changing them often and relying on Guyus’ knowledge of their abilities to eek our every ounce of their speed.
And our gamble paid off.
At just before 5 on the horizon we caught a glimpse of our targets, over 3 miles from us and heavily laden wagons. We broke into a gallop and began to cut the distance. But it was going to be close; we needed something to slow them down more. We sent Dust Devil ahead with instructions and the drake flew up to a thousand feet in height and winged in the orcs direction, banking over, diving, and strafing the ground before them with a roaring goat of fire. They shot crossbow bolts at the dragon as it banked once more and flew back towards us.
We then saw them arrange their wagons in a circle and with crossbow bristling prepared themselves to receive our charge. The group rode to within 200’ feet where we stopped and treated with them (both sides waving white flags to parley). Finta rode out to talk, the presence of the drake enough to keep the unsteady peace.
We explained that we wanted our friends and the orcs were not going to give them up. No reason to. Could we fight? Sure but with over 30 orcs and only 6 of us, especially with the prisoners unable to defend themselves and possibly be slain outright we did not want a direct confrontation. Finta and the Orcish subaltern went back and forth until it was decided that if we agreed to fight their champion one on one they would release one of ours.
One of the Giant Orcs stepped out, axe at the ready. Finta looked up at the 14’ orc and called out for his champion to step forth. Korg was going to do it but Guyus told the dwarf to wait, he would. The paladin strode forward and then did battle with the giant orc. He swung mightily and ducked the whistling blade of the axe. His blows were sure and strong and it was within an embarrassingly short time before the barely winded paladin laid low the giant orc.
The orcs paused, but did honor their deal. We chose Detheron to step free and he was guided to the edge of the wagons where Finta took the drugged, battered, and broken druid’s naked form with him back towards the rest of the group. What about the others? We wanted 4 more (Aleron, Norris, Gwyn, and Mebali) and the orcs agreed – but THIS time Guyus would have to fight 4 on one. And the paladin agreed.
The other giant orc stepped free along with the 3 well armed and armored orcish fighters. The battle was joined and Guyus was whirling and dodging as many of the blows as he could, relying on his armor to save him when he couldn’t step free. He hit and struck when he could, felling one orc and getting wounded in return. Then another orc fell and the giant orc was wounded. The paladin’s head rung from the many blows he was taking but he dropped the third orc at long last until it was just him and giant. Snarling the two combatants went toe to toe until with a mighty hew the giant was slain.
Shocked but not wanting to risk any more, the orcs gave up the rest of the requested members. We grabbed them, mounted up, and the orc team and ours rode away in mutual deference to each other. We rode south until the sun was under the horizon and the sky turned dark before daring to stop and rest.