We did it. We found the orc leader, Duluk, and also, what seems to have been his... accountant? Secretary? But I'm getting ahead of myself. The second underground floor was indeed far more lived-in by the orcs than our first and second visits - and unsurprisingly, a lot more disgusting, if less scary. At least in part. Upon descending, we soon found out that the orcs were using this dungeon for a fairly innocuous purpose - there was something like a dining room or a kitchen, two... toilet rooms. A sleeping room. We managed to take one of our enemies alive and questioned him, finding out that half of the place had been left unused - because it was "owned by the dead". Siavash mentioned the word several times - necromancy, he said. Powerful magic of that "school", as he put it, had been behind a lot of the weird stuff we encountered so far, and it continues to drive me to thoughts of something far more sinister behind these orcs, but more on that later.
I can't describe all the individual steps we took in navigating the orcish hideout, not necessarily because I don't want to remember, but because some of the things we did were not suited for reading by someone of a weak stomach. Using the orc's own
pissurine was one thing, but me and Asmund have, in an attempt to keep ourselves and our friends safe, done some things I couldn't see myself doing normally. Funny, but not unexpected - it seemed second nature to him. Much like to me, it seem second nature to fit in, and do things I wouldn't consider on my own when I am around this group. I never thought I'd be an adventurer, exploring dark dungeons and taking up jobs to kill an orc leader and bring their head to someone else. I also didn't expect to come up with tactical plans of approach, and direct my fellow adventurers to surround our enemies and take them from two sides, like we did in the "accountant's" room. We converged on eight orcs arguing in their equipment room, and as we took them down one by one, I saw the priest, Thomas, nearly get cut down right next to me. I feared the worst, but instead of panicking, I mustered all courage and optimism I had, and with help of the Lady Luck, managed to strike down who we later found out was Drighka - the camps's quartermaster, accountant, maybe Duluk's right-hand man, who knows. Thomas managed to mend himself with his God's help and we could feel we were close.
We found yet another trap room - boy, this place is a nightmare - but also found out what triggered it. Unfortunately, the triggers were also rigged, and when testing them, Asmund was nearly killed, too. I think he exhausted the last of his luck with the fact that the spear coming out of the floor only took a toe, and not his whole foot or worse, impaled him whole like a pig for a roast. Either way, we reached the room in which Duluk, the man who likely spearheaded or ordered our capture, and who had been terrorizing the region, lived in. He detected us almost immediately and used the environment to his advantage. The orc was inhumanly fast, shooting arrows through the doors faster than I could understand, keeping us pinned down two doors away. There wasn't much we could do as both Odilo and Asmund's arrows were only hitting the orc's makeshift cover - a table he turned over - and Siavash clearly had a bad day, as during the entirety of that day's adventure, none of his fiery magic bolts were able to find their target. I felt compelled to once again do something about it, and used my agility and speed to rush the room, leap over Duluk's table and engage him in melee. He dropped his sword and fought me with a huge axe, but fortunately I was too small for him, which allowed my mates to cross the halls and fight alongside me.
After a heated battle, most of which I spent dodging and weaving away from Duluk's strikes, preventing him from really striking at him, I think it was either Odilo or Asmund who struck gold with an arrow - and Duluk fell to our feet, dead. We searched the room, found some additional treasure, but mostly focused on taking Duluk's head, as we promised to Jarl Bjorni, and got the hell out of there. Other than hearing some pursuers - whom we dodged - we also found something new. A mozaic had been uncovered in one of the rooms we passed through before, showing a ritual of blood sacrifice, with a mage's staff crystal shining with red light from the wall. Besides that, we previously found out from Drigkha's scrolls and letters that there was another leader, giving orders even to Duluk - a powerful shaman, called something like "Murzol Togatgh". It was hard to read - these orcs are barely literate.
We made it out of that terrible place and set out to return to Stormgald to report our success. On the way, we dodged an encounter with another of those monstrous giant centipedes, further assuring me that these entire lands were cursed or otherwise afflicted.
After we've rested a night, we informed the Jarl of our success - but his elation was short-lived. Our news of more powerful orcs, or perhaps even other beings, being the puppeteers behind Duluk troubled him, and I could feel he was holding something back. Anyway, he suggested we visit one of the nearby cities to figure the mystery out, and offered aid in conquering the dungeon fully. He wrote us a letter of recommendation and we all went back to the village to rest and go about our business before resuming our adventures...
Before we decided on our next course of action, the priest Thomas informed us of a vision he had - that he was atop a mountain in the region, required by his God. He asked us if we would kindly accompany him, and, to my surprise, everyone agreed. Me, I've seen what his God can do - and while I'm not every superstitious, I assumed helping Thomas out with it could grant him some favor if he convinced non-believers to help, and perhaps also me, even if I helped a herald of a god I did not believe in. Either way, Thomas also asked me to help him with fencing, and either he was a horrible student, or I a horrible teacher - I felt somewhat I had to help him in other ways, and so also agreed to accompany him.
On the way to the mountain peak to the east of Stormgald, we encountered a creature I have never seen before. Apparently a chimera, it was an otherwordly beast, with three heads - that of a dragon, a lion, and a goat. Giant wings and a spiked tail, fighting a group of what seemed to be other adventurers in a field. My suggestion was going to be that we take a wide berth to the skirmish and pray later that night for the men we saw, but before I could voice my opinion, both Odilo and Thomas were already charging downhill, intent on attacking the beast!. Me and Siavash stayed a bit back, but were not going to abandon them. With our bows, Siavash' magic, and the other group of men, we managed to slay the incredible beast. A sight to behold, with me and the young Odilo hitting our bows true, while Thomas and Siavash used their arcana on it. It was hard to tell, but I think ultimately it was Thomas' crossbow landing the death blow on the chimera. I was elated, and relieved, but it only lasted so long. When we encountered the other group, something felt off. They were as if from another world, not fully in control of their bodies. Have you ever seen a puppet show in Brecht? Sometimes, a lesser skilled puppet master fails to keep their middle finger, which props up the head of the puppet, higher than the rest of his or her fingers. The puppet then appears hunchbacked, or sad, with their head bowed. That was the feeling I got from these men, and even when they briefly spoke, even when they seemed mostly reasonable, I felt something was off. Either way, clearly, they wanted nothing to do with us, and felt no need to thank us - even if we did just save their hides.
I thought of the group and what we just achieved and I was sure we needed to take evidence that we had slain this great beast, so I negotiated with the strange men - asking to be allowed to take a trophy without starting a fight. There was a strange and difficult negotiation, and in the end, even if I tried to deceive them by claiming there are the jarl's men just behind us who would take the trophy forcefully, we had to pay. I was unwilling to, but the priest seems always intent on ending conflict with other men - if they were men - peacefully, and paid them the full price. Or was it Odilo? Either way, we concurred that we would take the dragon head, while the strangers took the lion's head from the corpse. Many of their man died in the field, but they took all their bodies with them. In secret, I confided with Siavash that maybe he should see if he can feel the strange magic from these men - he didn't want to do it in plain sight, however. We allowed them to leave and then a decision was made - wé saw the chimera bite off and swallow one of the strangers' heads... surely, it would still be in its stomach, largely unaffected by the digestive tract? So as my friends hacked off its head to take as a trophy, I cut open the belly of the beast and delved in to reveal the contents of its stomach. Bile, bones, pieces of undigested meat, and of course, a damaged and chewed up head of one of the warriors that left us. Holding my breath, I held it up for Siavash to analyze, and here I have to say I was not surprised - he did detect a faint hint of this "necromancy" he mentioned several times before. I have a feeling the plot is much thicker than what we have seen so far...
Anyway, we continued. Soon, we were near the foot of the mountain, and spotted a small settlement just under it. When we reached it, we were elated to see a familiar face - Viji, one of the men we found ourselves trapped with in the dungeon - the men who rescued us, and then we rescued them - was present. Turns out this was his nomadic tribe, and he was surprised, but happy to see us. We shared with him our intent to scale the mountain, and he revealed there was a man-made path up there. I asked and paid his men to to as much as they can to preserve the dragon head we collected before we began our ascent. When we reached the mountain's peak, I was... underwhelmed. Thomas spoke of his vision as a great revelation, but nothing really happened. Disappointed, I decided to inscribe a note for the later generations - a simple "SANCHO WAS HERE" into the stone floor. The mountaintop was flat, almost as if someone simply cut the sharp peak of a mountain with a sharp dagger and left it that way - but Thomas offered no revelation, just shared that he must build an altar, or a chapel, or something alongside those lines to his God, on top of here. I saw that as foolish, but offered to pray with him anyway, even if I was not going to support the endeavor of bringing building materials up the steep and dangerous stairway that led us up here.
Once we got down from the mountain, the night was falling - unrelated to Siavash nearly falling down from the mountain before, it was actually getting dark - and we spent the evening with Viji's nomads. I could finally start to understand the Rjurik men and women, and we generally had a good time around their campfire before we retreated to a hut built on top of some fallen ruins which they graciously offered to us to stay the night. I had a good time with Viji, and felt I had truly made a friend for life that night. Perhaps it was only because I could understand just about half of what he said, but he seemed like a very good man. In the morning, once the dragon head was given back to me, cleaned of excess meat, blood-let, and preserved as well as the men could, I gave Duluk's axe which we took from the dungeon to Viji, informing him of our success with the orc camp. He seemed appreciative, and so I feel like I can hope to see him again. Viji's wife even came out as we were already mounted and ready to leave, giving us a strange, greenish potion that she seemed convinced had healing properties. It smells and looks terrible, but perhaps we can find a use for it. It did not seem nearly as magical as the health potion we used to mend Asmund's initial wounds back in the dungeon, but anyway, it was a gesture of good faith.
We resumed on our intended trip north, to what we now knew was the Faerseton Fort, next to the lake on which the capital city of the region sat. We reached it at nightfall, and spent the night in The Triumphant Hound inn, and it felt like a celebration. Thomas had purchased an entire roast of a boar, while Odilo offered to pay for everyone's drinks. We ate, drank, caroused, partied, and I ended up bedding a fellow halfling, a wizard adventuress called Poters. Avert your eyes, children, as the next paragraph is not meant for those who are virgins still, and perhaps even those who are sexually experienced could feel jealous of my stamina and skill:
-- the next paragraph reads like an erotica, with Sancho looking like a total stud. just FYI, dear reader, I rolled a natural 1 to determine the actual performance, so it was probably extremely terrible for Poters --
We all went our separate ways the next morning to explore the settlement around Faerseton Fort. We resupplied, talked to some locals, and ended up meeting the local Jarl's second hand. I convinced him to give us an audience, and he mentioned a problematic lumber mill west of the Fort which he asked us to investigate, if possible. After discussing with the rest of the group, we agreed, as west was anyway where Siavash's treasure map was suggesting we go - it seemed like a useful detour in order to have favor with yet another lord of the land. We spent the rest of the day in the village, I think Siavash and Odilo were doing something with magic while Thomas was doing priesty things... he may have been negotiating supplies and materials, as well as workforce, to build his chapel atop a mountain. I remember he came to us elated at first, that he will be able to do it right away. That was before he realized Ukhel, the local woodworker, was asking for five thousand god pieces, not five hundred... but anyway, he set himself up and now seems to have a clear goal to continue adventuring with us until he either meets an untimely demise, or acquires enough gold to build his dream or vision or whatever it was into a reality. Siavash and Odilo had some deals with the beautiful Poters (I hope she hasn't mentioned anything about our night together), and then the next morning, we set out to the lumbermill that the Jarl's right hand man pointed out as problematic. The plan was clear - we approach through the forest, as stealthily as possible, to observe the lumber camp from a distance to see if anything suspicious is going on.
On the way, we had a minor detour - an old, collapsed watchtower which turned out to be full of sleeping orcs. After
murdering them all in their sleepbravely defeating them, we decided to investigate a chest inside of the tower. Cautiously, we left just the mage inside to open it from a distance using his uncanny abilities - only for the chest to release a cloud of the same purplish, pixie dust that covered the sleeping orcs, and it put Siavash to immediate sleep as well. Fortunately, we anticipated this, so he had a rope tied around his waist with which we managed to pull him back out. The priest the stupidly went in before the pixie dust settledI will not mention Thomas' next actions, but with the help of Viji's wife's concoction, we managed to all stay awake and loot the chest for a minor treasure before we secured it on our trusty mule for... further use. We continued our journey, and settled two miles or so away from the lumber mill, just as the night fell, intent on spending the night with an exchanging guard that should keep us aware of the comings and goings on the pier that had been built on the lake just next to the lumber mill. If the Jarl's right hand man is correct in his suspicions, perhaps we will be able to solve the mystery of the underperforming mill in just one night. I had been writing for a while now, with nothing but the moon as my light, and I better catch some sleep before it is my turn to stand guard and monitor the lake. Until next time...
Yeah sorry I'll probably have to cancel this. Don't have enough time and we are playing enough with the real one. Maybe after the current campaign. Sorry for those that took interest in it!
Some things need to be recorded for posterity sorryplz don't