Friday, February 21, 2014

"The Story So Far" - Part Five - "The Captured Caravan"

"The Story So Far" is an ongoing series recanting the details of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I've been running on and off since 2002.  Links to the previous entries can be found here:  

Prologue                      Part I                      Part II                      Part III                      Part IV

I've "fictionalized" the session reports in an likely-vain attempt to make them more "entertaining".  

And now, our story continues...

Solstice 22, 1492 (supplemental)

The hike to the mouth of the canyon was a depressing affair. The advanced hour, incessant rain and unknown nature of the challenge ahead all conspired to drag down the morale of the group. Their mood became even more grim when they came upon the smashed ruins of three carts, the bodies of eight guards, and two dead merchants.

By the time the Fellowship decided to make camp to rest and eat, the rain had intensified, making for a miserable and abbreviated. Fearing that an extended break might spell certain doom for the hostages, they pressed on, risking mental exhaustion and physical impairment in battle.

En route to the orc camp, Bria made sure to scout ahead, looking for sentries. Thus forewarned, the Fellowship managed to eliminate two guards in a vicious exchange of missile fire.


Eventually the heroes made it to the orc’s lair and quickly took stock of their surroundings, including a stout iron portcullis barring the mouth of the cave, conspicuously-wide footprints around the entrance and a crude painted sign outside which read:

"HUMIEZ KEEP OUT!" 

The adventurers managed to raise the portcullis without making a great deal of noise and then discovered three orc guards sound asleep at their posts just inside. Without hesitation they killed the vile creatures as they slept.
 
During this encounter, Bria became unusually distant. Even though her allies noticed little outward change in the young thief's demeanor, she was chilled to the bone when she noticed that the orc's shields bore the exact same same symbol which had been permanently branded onto her skin as a child. Terrified by the incongruous sight of the bloody crescent moon death head, Bria kept her observations to herself for the time being.


The heroes quickly pressed on to the next chamber where they faced their strangest challenge yet: a near-invisible cube of protoplasmic jelly that sought to consume anything organic in its path. Bria and Roman managed to spot the threat in time and, under their direction, the team launched into a well-coordinated assault. Even though Roman took the brunt of the creature's wrath, the beast was quickly felled by the group.


The next chamber was an oddly-shaped affair, vacant except for a motionless orc sprawled out next to a large wooden chest. Noticing an abnormally-vile stench in the room, the group examined the unconscious orc and noticed a greenish substance splattered on the face of the creature. After concluding that the chest probably belonged to the merchant caravan and was most-likely trapped, the Fellowship collectively decided to err on the side of caution and venture on to the final chamber.

The prison room was dimly lit by smoldering torches set in wall sconces. In the center of the room was a large iron cage with five filthy humans inside.

"Get us out of here!" one of the captives yelled. "The orcs will be back any minute!"

Just as Bria started to appraise the quality of the lock on the cage door, a section of the stone wall behind them suddenly swung open with a grinding rumble. The group turned to see three massive orcs rush out of this secret room, brandishing serrated axes that looked thirsty for blood.

"More for the cage!" one barked as they charged at the heroes.


Pol hacked at the vanguard, nearly felling it with one blow. Lorelei then charred the wounded orc with a flame spell before it could recover. Still distracted, Bria jammed her crossbow and cursed a blue streak as she tried to clear it. Rincewind snapped, pummeling the closest orc with his staff.

Their foes struck back with a vengeance and Pol was nearly limbed by an orc greataxe. Roman moved to protect her but was nearly decapitated for his efforts. The priest swung his mace wildly, trying to ward off the brute and give Pol a chance to down a healing elixir. He managed to knock his foul assailant back a few paces, giving the magic-users an opportunity to swoop in from the sides and and beat the thing into submission.

Battered but victorious, the heroes quickly set about exploring the rest of the fetid chamber. Bria expertly sprung the prisoners, which turned out to be a Galadrian merchant named Horatio, a trader from Footholde named Kayla, their burly drover Jeoff, their young apprentice Martin and a tenderized-looking William.

Solstice 23rd, Earthday

Dirty, beaten and exhausted, the Fellowship stumbled out of the orc’s lair at an obscenely early hour, dragging their liberated treasure chest and leading the prisoners to relative safety. Even though it was still quite dark, the driving rain felt cool and refreshing to the weary heroes. 

At that stage, their overall situation was pretty dire. After downing a healing drought and narrowly avoiding certain death, only Pol was remotely close to healthy. Bria, on the other hand, had been gravely wounded in the fight. Roman, devoid of any more divine healing, was in similar shape. His spell-flinging compatriots, Rincewind and Lorelei, were similarly spent.

Suddenly a sinking feeling came over the adventurers. The orcs weren’t carrying any treasure of their own and they didn’t seem to posses a key to the cage. That’s because most of them were off selling their ill-begotten wares!

As soon as the heroes climbed to the top of the ridge beyond the cave entrance they noticed eight more orcs armed with deadly longbows were now lying in wait for them! The foul creatures now had our beleaguered crusaders dead to rights. 

To be continued...

PHOTO CREDITS:

Orc Archer:  http://img-nex.theonering.net/images/scrapbook/orig/11486_orig.jpg

Bloody Crescent Moon: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_HFRQ-pmmOnU/TT75nDj8HUI/AAAAAAAAAkI/C_m5Aqn-woE/s400/Shargaas%2BSymbol.jpg

Gelatinous Cube: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs71/i/2011/251/9/a/gelatinous_cube_by_chellsshade-d3huvod.jpg

Axe Orc: http://gamediplomat.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/orc_axe.jpg

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