Ashelia Raminas, elf ranger-rogue/2-3
Nineve, human knight/5
Sarek, human wizard/5
Xicar, human cleric/5
The giant falls, the keep’s defenders sally forth, and the siege is broken. We rush down the hill and start stabilizing the wounded convicts. Edain, Astrid, and Black Bart have come through the battle okay. As we’re seeing to the fallen and wounded, a group of riders approaches from the keep.
Their leader introduces himself as Captain Lorring and seems surprisingly cheerful, but quite crestfallen when he realizes we haven’t brought any luxuries from Istvin with us. We patiently explain that we’ve been out of supplies for almost a week and fighting for our lives through orc-infested countryside to get here and save his ass. He immediately stops sulking. After surprising Haroldur with a congratulatory slap on the back and handshakes all around, sprinkled with lots of “Jolly good show, chaps!”, he leads us down into the keep. As we’re passing through the courtyard, we notice 3 of the Sawfish Boys among the convicts. They seem to notice use, too. After we get cleaned up and settle in, we go to see Jarkardos.
Jarkardos is a middle aged, dark haired human. He is charming and friendly, and politely invites us up to his office. His lab is littered with automaton parts, clockwork horrors, and clockwork beetles like the one 31E carries. Jakardos explains he’s been expecting us. We chit-chat a little about his collection and he shows us how the clockwork beetles are navigation devices of some kind. When placed on a map, they spring to life and skitter off to a precise location – each beetle seems to be keyed to a certain place, and will plant itself on that same place each time. The beetles also seem to be sensitive to the scale of the maps, so if the beetle is keyed to a distant location, but the map it is placed on is a detailed, small-scale map, the beetle will run off the map, off the table, and across the floor, presumably in the direction of it’s marked destination. It really is quite intriguing!
After an appropriate amount of chit-chat, we get down to business. We fill Jarkardos in on 31E – his missing limbs, memory loss, strange protocols and references to people and places that don’t currently exist… the artificer is intrigued. He agrees to help us (for a price), but needs 31E’s exact model number… and of course we don’t know it. Sarek sends to Mossad for information:
Convicts delivered. Freed keep from siege from giant, orcs, ogre. Ranger outpost sacked, loss of life great. Can you ask 31E his model number? Praise Wee Jas.
Good work! Model number? 0FB3A4F3D4, why? When will you be returning to the Cabal? Praise Wee Jas!
With that sorted, we head back to our rooms. As we’re returning to our chambers, we’re approached by Captain Lorring. He requests our help in getting the keep squared away over the next few days… we agree to start work on the various issues tomorrow morning. However, we don’t even make it to our lodgings before the first problem presents itself:
Rebuilding the Wall: Tamklar vs. Rangers!
The rangers and Tamklar are discussing the rebuilding of the keep’s walls. Tamklar is suggesting making improvements to the wall which would make it stronger and better, but would take a little longer to build. The rangers want to rebuild the wall exactly how it was, as quickly as possible. The rangers seem to think that Tamklar’s plan is over-engineered and will waste valuable time and resources. Tamklar points out that if the keep’s wall had been properly fortified in the first place, they wouldn’t be wasting time and resources rebuilding it now. They argue back and forth a bit and we attempt to convince the rangers to do it the right way: the dwarf way. Unfortunately, the ranger foremen and their convict laborers will have none of it – a hastily built wall is better than no wall at all. We fail to convince them to heed Tamklar’s advice.
Next up: R-E-S-P-E-C-T (for the dead)!
Looking through the wall’s rubble onto the remains of the battlefield, we can see a crew of convicts carelessly shoveling dead bodies into a mass grave. We hurry over to them and find out what they’re up to. The convicts complain to us about heavy work and the daunting number of bodies that need dealing with. They claim they don’t have time to provide proper burials for each of the fallen. We instruct them on the appropriate, respectful way of dealing with battlefield graveyards, trying to impart to them a sense of honor and duty to the dead. I don’t feel like we’re getting through to them, though. In the end, they follow our advice mostly because Nineve is really scary when she threatens people – nobody wants to find out what comes after “or else!” But, at least we succeed in seeing that the dead are properly buried!
Evening falls and Captain Lorring has broken out the reserves to provide a great meal as a victory celebration for the survivors. A raucous party ensues. We relax a little for the first time in weeks, and everyone enjoys themselves. The whole keep sleeps in later than they probably meant to, but the next day we’re back at it, helping out.
Talk of Surrender
Despite last night’s party, there’s talk of surrender among some of the convicts. They see defeat as inevitable and they’re wondering why Captain Lorring doesn’t just give in to the orcs and flee the keep instead of being slowly ground down by them. A couple even propose slipping out of the keep and taking their chances in the wilds instead of being trapped behind the walls again. It takes some stern words, but we manage to convince the convicts that they don’t stand a chance outside the keep walls by themselves.
One of the keep’s rangers directs us to a copse of trees where a group of convicts is supposed to be harvesting timber for the repairs. However, the sounds of woodcutting are intermittent at best. We find Parne and Torkan, the barbarian Anderhoff brothers, among the layabouts. When the Anderhoff boys see us, they perk up and try to look busy. After some displays of strength and pointers on how to work smarter, not harder, we’ve whipped those convicts into shape and they’re deforesting the countryside like pros!
On our way back to the keep we notice one of the convict gangs assigned to dealing with the corpses is returning from the battlefield, laden with spoils. Here and there we spot a thick orcish armband or torc, and several convicts have armed themselves with particularly fine examples of orc weapons. Each has a heavy pouch tied to the belts that clinks with newfound coin. They’ve clearly been looting the remains on the battlefield. We stop them and explain the difference between looting for personal gain (bad) and reacquiring useful items for the survival of the group (okay). We’re sure to speak slowly and use small words. Eventually, we get through to them, and they agree to turn in their loot to the keep’s treasury so it can be distributed as needed among the group.
It should be noted that throughout all of this, Nineve is constantly flirting with Vander Anderhoff, Buttercup-and-Westley style. She barks orders at him, like “Polish my armor, swine!” or “Fetch me that water jug!” and the like, AND HE DOES IT.
At the end of the day, Captain Lorring rewards us for moving things along from his cache of useful things: (Magic bag! Magic bag!)
Nineve: CLW potion x2, Everlasting Rations, Resist Fire potion, letter of recommendation (good for +1 influence with the Cabal)
Xicar: CLW potion x2, Scroll of Mass Snake’s Quickness, vial of Black Veil powder, Pearl of Power lvl 2
Sarek: 2nd lvl scroll, 3rd lvl scroll, Quall’s Token Whip, Scroll of Dismissal
Ashe: CLW potion x2, Amulet of Toxin Delay, Naivia (MW Comp. longbow +3), letter of recommendation (good for +1 influence with the Cabal)
As we’re thanking him for our rewards, he mentions he’s looking for a resourceful group like ours for a “small task”. He wants us to slip into the main orc stronghold and take out the leadership of the tribe while the larger orc force is regrouping in the woods. He would also like to find out more about the dragons seen among the orc forces, since this is pretty weird. We agree this is probably a good idea, and there really isn’t anyone else handy who can do it. We tell him we’ll leave in the morning.
That evening we meet back up with Jarkardos. He produces a leg that will fit 31E. He also recommends we get some scrolls or spells of Repair for healing the automaton. Unfortunately, Jarkardos won’t part with the leg for less than 5,ooo gp. We tell him we’ll discuss it with him further after we get back from our task for Captain Lorring.
In the morning, we leave for the main orc camp. Following Lorring’s directions, we ride through the mountains for about a day and a half and at last find ourselves at the entrance to the orc cave. Since the main orc force is still slowly regrouping farther down in the valley, the “main orc camp” is sparsely populated, as advertised. That’s always a good sign. I scout ahead, but clumsily. I spot some sentries just inside the cave, but they see me, too. They shout and throw stuff at me as I schlep back to the party to let them know about the sentries, and, oh BTW, they know we’re here.
We enter the cave and the sentries are waiting for us on the other side of a rather inconveniently-placed 20-foot chasm. We exchange fire and Xicar fills the cavern with a cacophonous roar which stuns the vermin.
We soon tire of fighting from a distance. Nineve throws herself down to the bottom of the chasm and Xicar follows suit. 10 feet of falling damage? That’s gonna leave a mark! I opt for the express route and leap gracefully across the empty space, drawing my swords in a flourish as I land cat-like on the other side. Sarek provides artillery support as I cut through the remaining sentries. Nineve and Xicar scrabble at the walls of the chasm like rats in a bathtub. The orcs keep coming, but eventually we kill them all, and get everyone past the chasm. A quick healing break and we’re ready to advance down the corridor, deeper into the cave.
Suddenly, two flaming hellhounds streak towards us. Gouts of flame erupt from their glowing maws, and envelop me in fire! Then, a half-dragon arcanist like the one we faced while taking the ballistas during the siege appears in the corner and blasts the party with a fireball! The battle is joined. As before, these guys pack some serious firepower, and things get pretty heated. Sarek makes a big stink(ing cloud), which of course sickens everybody. Xicar chases the arcanist around, threatening(?) him with his dagger. Sarek takes pot shots at the enemy caster while the rest of us stagger around, retching. It takes FOREVER, but we eventually finish him off.