2 Harvest 508
In the morning, the party packs up and continues their way through the jungle. Both Savaric and Noor are confident that they will reach the ruined city of Karsk before noon. They travel on-guard for predators and for Orcs, with Noor, Savaric, and Scarlatta on-point, scouting.
Along the way, both Noor and Savaric find signs of Gortheks. Both agree that they had passed through within the last day, but Savaric is able to tell from what direction they traveled, which way they went, what they had eaten in the past day, and other fine details. The party decides to move on toward Karsk.
As they continue to push their way through the jungle, the party hears the rumble of heavy steps crashing through the trees. They manage to get out of the way as a Gorthek, ridden by a large Orc, bursts through the foliage. After a hellacious fight with the rider and his mount, both are defeated by the party and Mõrvar decapitates both corpses. From the rider, the party gains some potions, some magical half-plate armor, a magical lance, a cloak of resistance, and some gold. They opt to leave the lance, as it is too bulky to carry. They also collect a horn the rider presumably could use as an alarm.
Finally, they approach the valley in which Karsk lies. Scarlatta, Surm, Mõrvar, Savaric, and Noor opt to check out the perimeter of the ruins. It’s difficult to see much through the jungle growth and due to the height of the some of the buildings blocking the view. They decide to send Scarlatta inside with an invisibility potion to see if she can find the captives. After she leaves, Surm returns to the rest of the party to keep them apprised of what is going on.
Two hours later, Scarlatta returns. She has found what she believes is the slave pen and it is guarded by five Orcs. The small group opts to return to the rest of the party to formulate a plan.
In the course of their planning, it is decided that it would be a bad idea to try to take the captives on a day’s journey back to the ships through the jungle with Orcs on their heels. The party sends Jalynel, who does indeed have a bronze griffon statuette that becomes an actual griffon, to take Noor back to her ship and arrange for both vessels to meet them on the shore at the west side of the ruins. It’s the only way they’ll have a chance. Noor nervously mounts the griffon with Jalynel and the two fly off. Jalynel will return to harry the orcs and cause a distraction later.
Surm and Mõrvar head back into the city, skulking about until they find the slave pen. There is a apparently a hole in the back wall that Scarlatta had found previously that allowed her to peek inside and see who was in there. Surm sends a message spell into the pen, calling for Azura, Mandreth Kerendal’s guide. The captured guide tentatively answers. After a brief conversation in which Surm learns how many slaves there are (13) and their state (healthy enough to walk, but Angelet, Kerendal’s former guard, is “broken”). Kerendal is not with them—he is with Gorruk. Surm tells them to “keep the hope” and he and his brother return to the others.
The party then reformulates their plans according to this new information. Scarlatta prepares to go back into the city and try to ascertain the location of Gorruk, the Orc’s chieftain. Rilka prays to Bruni for courage in the face of long odds.
After what seems like an impossibly long wait, Scarlatta comes back from the city. She has determined that Gorruk is in one of the central buildings and has six guards in the room with him. Also, a prisoner that matches Kerendal’s description is chained to a column within the chamber.
The party finally formulates a plan. They will strike near evening, when the ships should be arriving to the west. Jalynel will take the alarm horn and fly to where they struck down the Gorthek rider. There, he will blow the horn and cause a distraction, hopefully drawing a lot of the Orcs’ response to that site. The Bronze Griffons will work to free the slaves while Mõrvar, Surm, Rilka, and Savaric work to eliminate Gorruk and rescue Kerendal. After the initial distraction wears off and the slaves are freed and heading west, Jalynel and Alban will “cause trouble” in the city to further confound their foes.
Before they each go off on their respective missions, Rilka gives all of the party a hug and wishes them luck. Mõrvar says he is more worried about how well the Bronze Griffons will be at doing their job.
The plan goes off virtually without a hitch. Jalynel flies off and, when the party hears the horn sound in the distance, they all make their respective moves. While the Griffons go forth and engage the five guards at the gate, the party heads into the city. They meet some orcs in the streets, but these are quickly dispatched. Savaric takes up a perch on a nearby building and starts firing arrows into the Griffon’s enemies and keeping watch on the streets for any more resistance. Rilka and takes out the guards outside Gorruk’s residence and Surm makes his way inside.
Meanwhile, Mõrvar is making his way through the a hole in the roof of the residence and invisibly makes his way to the sleeping Gorruk. He manages to sever the chieftain’s spine before he even has a chance to react. Soon, he is visible and begins to attack the guards.
The party take on the six guards and, with the help of Surm’s grease spell, they manage to dispatch them relatively quickly. While the party pauses to take stock and Surm begins to work on Kerendal’s lock, explaining as he does so who they are and what they are doing there, they all hear a voice come from the dead chieftain’s sleeping area.
“Thank the gods, I am saved!”
Mõrvar immediately heads in that direction to find the source of the sound. It is easy to find. The sound is coming from the small alcove which is now covered in blood and Gorruk’s dead body. There is a sleeping pallet made of furs and silks that he was lying in. And nailed to the wall is a scabbard with the emblazoned symbol of Barthal (a balance with a sword as a the fulcrum). This scabbard is obviously the source of the sound as he hears coming from it:
“While I deplore your cowardly methods, I am glad to be free of those odious beasts.”
Meanwhile, outside, Savaric is on the roof of one of the buildings. He has been picking off Orcs that threaten the party. The rest of the party are in Gorruk’s residence. Half of the Bronze Griffons (Prana and Scarlatta) have been leading away the slaves from the slave enclosure—for which he has been providing cover fire. The other half of the team (Jalynel and Alban) have been harrying the Orcs in the streets and causing a distraction so the rest of the plan can go off without a hitch.
Savaric now sees an Orc emerge from a nearby building and start jogging toward Gorruk’s residence. Savaric notices that the figure is fully armed and armored (a masterwork falchion, a bandolier of javelins, and masterwork hide armor) and is also wearing one of the horns that you’ve all noticed the guards wearing to warn each other of danger. He fires on the figure, hitting him square in the heart. He fires again and again, finally taking the figure out.
Surm explains to Kerendal “I traveled from Aldasar to the University in Kalimsport just to find you. However, you were already taken by these orcs as explained to me by your assistant, Trevans. He and I convinced the University to fund this rescue for which I assembled a group and came straight away. We were not expecting thirteen other prisoners, so our escape plan has been improvised from this point on to include them. They should already be heading for the beach. Once I have you free from these chains, stay close to me and be ready to run. We have the orcs distracted and confused for now, but if they organize, we’ll be overrun by their numbers.”
“Thank the gods. I’ll do anything you say if you’re heading out of this place," Kerendal says.
“Who’s talking in that corner, someone we missed?” Surm asks.
“It’s a scabbard. I suspect it’s a Crusader’s Scabbard, but I can’t be sure without inspecting it. Gorruk can’t use it, but it amuses him to hang it on the wall and taunt it. The chieftain has—had—a sick sense of humor," Kerendal says, disgust thick in his voice.
Mõrvar confronts the scabbard. “Cowardly methods? I just slaughtered 5 orcs including this piece of shit without so much as even taking a scratch. I call that efficiency. Perhaps you should know your place before you begin insulting someone. I don’t see you freed from this wall yet. Call me a coward again, and you can hang there for the next odious beast to find you amusing.” He then decapitates Gorruk and begins to riffle through his belongings, stripping him down and throwing everything into a pile.
Mõrvar finds a suit of masterwork full plate, a masterwork Orcish Double Axe, a masterwork composite shortbow with quiver and 20 arrows, and a pouch.
The scabbard says, in a subdued tone, “Perhaps I have misjudged you. You are not a benefactor, but a boor. It seems that I have fallen from the frying pan and into the fire. With the Lord of Justice’s grace, I shall yet fall into the hands of a savior.”
“Again, insults….too prideful to apologize. Then continue to hang there.” Mõrvar then says to Surm, “Do we know if the Paladin and his team have the others?”
“Paladin? Did you say Paladin? Could it be that a holy knight has traveled to this forsaken place?” The scabbard asks, hopefully.
Rilka has been quickly picking off belt pouches off of the dead personal guards and putting them in her backpack. She doesn’t turn her gaze from the front door for any length of time.
As she makes her way closer to the two brothers and the scholar, Rilka says “We need to get ready to move.” She flicks her eyes over the dead orc chieftain and the scabbard. “We’ve waited here too long already. Grab what you can carry and still fight.”
“If you are traveling with a Paladin, then they will be very interested in meeting me,” the scabbard says.
“With your insults, too bad you won’t meet him,” Mõrvar says.
Rilka makes it to Mõrvar and Surm finishes picking the lock.
The scabbard says, “Killing a creature in their sleep is a cowardly act. If you find that insulting, you should look to your methods.”
“Well, then I guess your rude and disrespectful attitude just sealed your fate. Don’t like it, then you should look no further then your misguided, self-righteous, unappreciative, and quite repulsive personality. Enjoy the next Orc leader. Leave the scabbard, it will just cause us issues with the Paladin.” Mõrvar says.
Surm pulls Rilka and Mõrvar in for whispering. “We should take it, it will buy us points with the Paladin and his group. If not, it’s bound to be valuable! That will go a long way toward covering our expenses. We’ve been promised money, we have not been paid. A magical scabbard in the hand is worth more than promises.”
Surm grabs the scabbard and is immediately overwhelmed with a peculiar feeling of weakness, as if he’s lost something of his essence.
The scabbard says, “I do not know you, sir, but you do not seem to be worthy of my service. However, you do seem to be rescuing that poor man—though for what motive, I cannot yet tell. If you truly travel with a Paladin, bring me to him so that I may aid him in his quest.”
“Leave it. It will Just cause a rift between us and the Paladin. Rather have allies then enemies. It’s not worth our time regardless of its abilities or value. It will just cause us grief. Sometimes you got to cut losses. We are here to rescue these people, not some mouthy trouble-making scabbard,” Mõrvar says.
Rilka grins and snorts at that, but says "I’m for taking the scabbard rather than arguing with it. Perhaps the Paladin will take it in lieu of pay. But if it will make the difference between us getting off this island alive and everyone getting killed by Orcs, by all means just give him the damned thing. "
“The scabbard is useless. Can’t even help itself when opportunity arises. If we are cowards and not worthy of it, then it’s not worthy of our help. If you take it, I will make sure it finds its way to the bottom of he ocean,” Mõrvar says.
Surm looks confused by that, “I’m not sure why you have such a hatred for an item; since when did you care what inanimate objects think? We aren’t going to keep it. I would like to gift it to Alban as a thank you and a relationship builder with the Bronze Griffons. It’s good to have positive contacts all around. Right now they are hired hands, this moves them closer to friends and friends are good to have.”
“It costs us nothing to carry it to Alban, but we have the potential to strengthen a relationship. It’s a complete waste to leave it, so let’s do it and build relations with another adventuring group. You don’t have to touch it or talk to it, you don’t have to be its friend; I want Alban as a friend, not it. It’s a tool and this is it’s purpose for us.”
“So, if a vote is required then let’s be quick. I’ve stated what I think is the best use this item, I vote take it. Mõrvar, Rilka, take it or leave it? Savaric is not here, it’s just us.”
Surm wraps the scabbard in a blanket and prepares to place it in his satchel, pending the vote. When he is no longer touching the scabbard, he no longer feels that weakening sensation. As he wraps it up, its voice is muffled as it says something about “useful,” “paladin,” and “boorish.”
“You know it can probably sense my heart. This will cause trouble with the Paladin. Take if you must, but if blood is shed because of it, don’t blame me,” Mõrvar whispers to Surm in Joslac.
Surm whispers a reply in Joslac, “You never touched it, so I doubt it knows anything beyond your behavior and words. Don’t start trouble and there won’t be any. Alban will be grateful and we’ll have allies in the Bronze Griffons.”
“Sure you wouldn’t rather sell it, or set it sail in the ocean? Alban and the Griffons better show more appreciation then that waste of material,” Mõrvar says.
Rilka listens to the conversation with bemusement. She shrugs. “I already said what I wanted to do with it.” Then she’ll head back to the entrance, her falchion at the ready. She goes to watch the door and listens—she hears the alarm horn blowing but not at the kill-site; Jalynel must be within the city.
Surm packs the scabbard and takes Kerendal by the arm, and moves up behind Rilka. He grabs the quiver of 20 arrows to throw to Savaric as they leave the city.
Mõrvar throws Gorruk’s body out of the pallet to see if there is anything under there. Then he gathers the full-plate armor and gives it to Kerrendal to carry. Then he sheathes Deathblow and carries the double-bladed Orcish axe. He then decapitates all of the guard corpses and makes his way to the others.
Surm sends a Message to Savaric from the doorway. The ranger not only hears the message that the others are ready to move, but hears multiple horns sounding to the east—the Orcs are returning. He also spots a band of Orcs heading to the slave enclosure and another group of three approaching Gorruk’s residence from the south.
Savaric fires on the three orcs approaching the residence as the other three prepare to leave the residence. Mõrvar says, "Get to the beach. I’ll buy you time and meet you there.” Surm waits to see what Rilka does, not wanting to head to the beach alone.