Legion nodded, making sure the orc stood still while it was being tied up. As they were leaving he gave the creature one last look: "Remember: if you're close enough that I can see you, you're already dead."
(Since we took its weapons did it have any arrows?)
The party, having succeeded in rescuing the traders and acquiring the information they needed from the cowardly orc, decided to set up camp for the night as the sun was swiftly descending below the horizon, the final lingering rays providing just enough illumination for the warforged Legion to see by without the darkvision his companion Azax possessed. They found a stand of tall rocks arranged in a rough circle and, while Legion stood sentinal-like at the edge of the ring, alert for any danger, Azax cautiously left to gather wood for the fire, his predatory senses attuned to his surroundings, large owl eyes absorbing the the last flecks of dissipating sunlight. Thankfully, the gathering of the wood went without incident, though at one point he thought he discerned a shadow dashing between the cover of the rocks and trees. Had the orc they'd restrained already escaped his bonds? Or was it something...else? A more sinister foe, tracking the party before waiting for the right moment to strike? The Owlin stood, statue-like, eyes fixed on the place he'd last seen the figure, but whatever, whoever, it was seemed to have vanished. He narrowed his eyes, slightly perturbed, then made his way back to the site they'd chosen to make camp where he informed his companion Legion about the mysterious shadow. The warforged agreed that they must remain vigilant, lest they be caught off guard and slain before they even made it to Wyverling Woods, let alone the orc stronghold itself.
((OOC: Sorry if Azax doesn't hunt. He's half owl, so I assume he does. If not, tell me and I'll edit it)) Azax ventured out again, this time to secure his evening meal. He silently took to the air like a spectral ghost, alighting upon the gnarled, weather-worn branch of a sturdy tree. Focussing on the foliage beneath him, he patiently waited for what he sought. There! The plants below gave the familliar tell-tale shake that revealed the presence of his quarry. The Owlin unfurled his broad wings, swooping swiftly and expertly, his curved talons outstretched to snatch up his prey, a large, plump coney. He brought it back to the camp, where Legion had already ignited the fire. After cleaning his kill ((OOC: or do Owlin eat it whole, fur and all, like a real owl?)), Azax speared it on a stray stick and roasted the meat over the gently crackling flames. After he'd had his repast, he unrolled his bedding and settled down for the night.
The morning sun beamed down in greeting, its rays casting a pleasant warmth on the land and its inhabitants as Azax and Legion prepared to leave and continue on with their urgent quest. The songbirds trilled in the trees, as if wishing them good morning. It all appeared so peaceful as if nothing was amiss. But the party knew different. The all too frequent orc raids and what the cowardly orc had told them heralded the dawning of a new age of darkness. Azax shook his feathered head slightly. Perhaps he was overthinking. Perhaps the orcs were just getting too cocky and it had nothing to do with a great evil approaching. After all, it was just a few orcs running amok. How was that a prequel to a great calamity? But he couldn't shake this forboding feeling that the world was out of balance.
Legion, meanwhile, was focussed on the task at hand with a steely determination that pushed him ever onward, never wavering from his orders. He had a princess to save, orcs to slay, and potion to secure and he would pursue that goal with all he had.
The party mounted their steeds and rode towards the edge of the Wyverling Woods. They encountered no other travellers upon the road so they made good progress. They halted their mounts once the rocky ground gave way to the foliage of the woods. The trees stood close together like sentinals watching over their domain. Despite the gleaming sun high overhead, the woods remained shrouded in a perpetual gloom, the ominous blanket offering the party no welcome as they urged their horses forwards. The animals snorted nervously, eyes rolling in their heads which they tossed in their unease. Azax could sense it, too. This place was a far cry from the brightly lit woods of his home, where wildflowers carpeted the ground in a rainbow mosaic and the entire area was bursting with life. No. Wyverling Woods had none of the cheer of his homeland. He couldn't even hear any birds in the branches above him, nor animals scurrying in the foliage before him. It was as though this place repelled life instead of embracing it. All senses alert, they pressed onwards.
A couple of miles in, they heard the sharp snap of a twig on their right. The party spun around and out emerged a lizardfolk, his weapon, a slender spear, poised to throw. Another slowly approached them, a low, mencing hiss wormed its way through the thick, cloying air as it bared its needle-like fangs. It carried a shield on its left arm and a short sword in its right hand. A third came out from between the trees, long tail lashing from side to side like an angry snake. A fourth and final lizardfolk joined its brethren, a short handled axe in its right hand. It had no shield. The creatures surrounded the party and the one that had emerged first spoke in a thin voice underlined with a sharp hiss.
'Who goessss there?' It demanded, raising its spear a little higher over its angular, snake-like head. 'Who daressss tressspass on our domain? Speak, or we shall run you through. Sssstate your businesss here.'
Azax and Legion prepared for conflict, but hoped this situation could be resolved without bloodshed. However, that was exactly what happened as the lizardfolk, displeased with their replies, swiftly bore down on them.
Okay, overview of the terrain:
*Thick foliage, but not enough to hamper your progress and speed (so you move normally). Same applies to the lizardfolk.
*Many trees surround you, standing very close together so you that may inhibit and restrict manuverability when fighting. Same applies to the lizardfolk.
*Hidden rocks underneath the foliage. You can't see them. So you might stumble and/or trip. Same goes for the lizardfolk.
*As for light, it's dark, but not dark dark. Azax can see fine of course because he has darkvision. Legion may struggle a bit. Lizardfolk don't have darkvision, so they may struggle a bit, too.
Posted on 2022-11-06 at 06:02:12.
Edited on 2022-11-06 at 07:10:16 by dragon-soul92
"We're just passing through to-", Legion started, but couldn't finish his sentence before battle started. Thinking that the darkness would make him to merely lose his arrows, the warforged drew his swords and prepared to confront the first enemy to get close: "I'd rather not fight you people. Reptiles are not my intended target."
Azax looked at the lizardfolk and groaned a bit inwardly. Lizardmen were not necessarily evil, but they lived by their own rules which generally seemed to amount to "whatever is good for lizardfolk is good and whatever gets in their way is bad." He understood it as a species directive but as a non-lizardfolk it did make getting along difficult.
His first move was to take to the air and put distance between him and the lizardfolk. He quiickly moved upwards 30' (Assuming this is possible inthe trees.) As he moved up he started of attempting peaceful neogtiations. "We mean you no harm . . . oh, damn." When the lizardy kind attacked he responded in kind. In quick succession he sent two arrows down at his enemies, all while still saying "We don't have to fight!"
Two arrows: targets are determined as follows 1. Any that have ranged weapons. 2. Those in the front and closest to Legion.
A Quick Scuffle And...An Unexpected Turn of Events
The Lizardfolk hissed menacingly. The third reptile that emerged drew its bow and aimed at the winged warrior Azax who had soared into the trees as soon as the battle commenced. Despite the semi-darkness that clung to their surroundings like a shroud, the arrowhead scraped the Owlin's left shoulder, leaving a fine gash but didn't bleed too heavily (-5 HP. No bleeding damage on this turn or future turns because it's not deep). The Owlin emitted a soft hiss of pain and returned the favour, striking the lizardfolk in the calf. The shaft buried itself deeply due to the thick reptillian skin being thinner their, thus not providing much protection. The creature gave out a hiss of his own and collapsed onto his knee.
Azax's second arrow swiftly followed the first. One of their enemies was quickly advancing on Legion, axe held level with the top of the lizardfolk's scaly head, ready to deliver a glancing blow. Azax let his arrow fly and it embedded itself in the reptile's side, just beneath the ribs. A roar cut through the dusk and he glared up at the Owlin furiously.
Legion, seeing that the lizardfolk with the axe was distracted, took advantage and was about to strike his enemy down-when a new voice rang out from nearby.
'Stop!' It commanded, the underlying hiss announcing him as another lizardfolk. Sure enough, a fith creature stepped into view. His countennance and attire were different from his brethren, however. Where the others only wore simple armour (mostly leather with a simple steel breastplate), this one had donned fine chain-mail armour, the breastplate carved with the crest of unknown meaning. Azax and Legion assumed it must have some significance to the creature. A polished bronze helmet covered his head and most of his face, moulded to fit over the creature's muzzle. He also bore a rapier, though it was sheathed and he didn't seem eager to use it.
'Please, cease this conflict. I mean you no harm and I beg you to wish us no harm in return. I emplore you to sheath your weapons so we may converse in a civilised manner. My brethren,' he continued, turning to his fellow lizardfolk. 'Please stand down.'
There were hisses and glares from them, but with reluctance they lowered their weapons and stood back. Those that were injured clutched their wounds in an attempt to stem the worst of the bleeding. The others went to their aid.
'Now, I must apologise for the rash behaviour of my fellow tribesmen,' the new lizardfolk nodded. 'These are trying times, frought with peril and they have made us most wary and eager to defend our homes from unknown intruders. Not that I'm saying you tresspasses knowingly, of course,' he quickly added. 'But you must understand why my friends acted as swiftly as they did.' He paused, then a small smile stretched his lips. 'Pardon me, where are my manners? I am Sithrandor, at your service.' He gave a slight bow. 'And who might you be, fellow warriors?'
((OOC: Just to move things along, I'll assume you give him your names))
'Well met,' he nodded again. 'You appear to be capable fighters. It's a good job I arrived when I did, hmmm? Otherwise, there could have been enough of you perished to roast on a spit.' He chuckled humourously. 'Now, may I ask what brings you here? If your quest is noble and you are not on your journey for malicious means, we may be able to assist you. If my friends can find it in their hearts to forgive you for skewering them,' he added, laughing again. 'Also, if you wish to ask me any questions in return, I will do my best to answer them. Ask what you will and what help you require.'
((OOC: Again, decide what questions, if any, you wish to ask in the Q&A thread. Or post them straight as a roleplay post. Up to you. And what help you'd like the lizardfolk to give you.))
"We are on a mission for His Majesty", Legion explained in his monotonous tone, "He has asked us to retrieve something from the orc stronghold... Speaking of which, would you happen to know of a quick and easy way to get there? Or of any weaknesses in the fort or of the orcs within? If I may be so bold and ask of course."
Azax and Legion were relieved the fighting had come to to an abrupt end, for they could waste no time with unnecessary conflicts as time was a precious thing on their quest and it was steadily running out for the princess.
Sithrandor paused as he listened to the two companions' explanations and questions about their journey and when they had finished, he scratched his scaly chin thoughtfully.
'So, King Valoran is going through a dark time. It is well known that his daughter, Princess Avira, is very precious to him. Perhaps that is why she has been targeted by those loathesome orcs.' The chief emitted a wary sigh. 'Alas, we have remained within the confines of these woods for too long. The time has come, I believe, for us to linger no more the shadows and step into the light. To assist where we can for the betterment of our tribe and all that is good in this fair kingdom. To answer you questions, my friends, all we know about the orcs' increased activity is that they appear to be excited as if anticipating something. What that may be, I know not, but whatever bodes well for those beasts, bodes ill for the rest of us. Dark times are on the horizon, I fear. Thus, we must band together if we are to stand a chance to ward off this evil.' The lizardfolk uttered a strange cry that was a mix between a roar and a yodel with sharp hiss to finish it off. In response, another of his kin approached with long, loping strides. His piercing emerald eyes were hooded by a thickly ridged brow, his mouth set in a grim line and curved fangs protruding from both hhs upper and lower jaws like a crocodile's, giving him a brutish appearance. He wore armour of hardened leather. A bow with runes etched into the wood was slung on his back and a short sword was sheathed in decorated sheath at his side, the sheath painted green with vines around the mouth. 'In pursuit of that goal, may I present Erundak, one of my finest warriors. If you will permit him, he will assist you in your endeavors and accompany you on your adventures. What say you?'
((OOC: I assume Azax and Legion agree))
'Excellent,' Sithrandor beamed. 'Most excellent.' Turning to Erundak, the chief placed his long, reptillian hands upon his shoulders, his eyes softening, and when he spoke, his voice was but a whisper tinted with sombre tone. 'Be well, my son. You have made your father proud. You are my heir and have proven you are a worthy successor as the next chief. And you will be. But for now a new quest awaits. Be strong and remain forever vigillant and go knowing that your mother and I love you. Farewell, my son. And may we be reunited in good time.'
'Fare thee well, Father,' Erundak replied in a deep bass rumble as he grasped his father's arm. 'I will bring honour and glory to our tribe and help free this land from tyranny.'
'I wish you to have this,' Sithrandor said, unclasping the pendant around his neck and handing it to his son. It held a glittering emerald in a silver setting, shaped like a lizard's eye. 'The Dragon's Eye pendant has been passed from father to son for many generations and now I think it is high time I passed it onto you.'
'I shall wear it with pride, Father,' Erundak nodded, accepting the gift and fastening it around his own neck.
Father and son embraced each other a final time before Erundak went to stand by Azax's side.
'You fought well,' the lizard warrior acknowledged with a curt nod. 'You bore yourselves well. I just hope your skills with the bow and blade will be sufficient enough in the coming trials.'
'Oh, with regards to your other enquirey, Azax,' Sithrandor said, 'there is indeed a shortcut but it requires you to traverse through bandit territory. They are allies of the orcs as they trade with them, so if you still wish to brave that shortcut, I wish you luck. Those bandits will not hesitate to slit your throat while you sleep and pilfer your coin and other belongings. Vile, despicable beings.' He shook his head in disgust. 'Take the shortcut or don't, the choice is yours of course. If you do, it lies in the south-west area of Wyverling Woods. Erundak can guide you.' He smiled and said enthusiastically, 'now go, my friends, and may your quest be fruitful. My son, know that you will always be in our thoughts and hearts. Just make sure you return to us.'
Erundak gave a final nod and raised his hand in farewell. The rest of the lizardfolk tribe gathered around to see the party off, with shouts of good luck and well wishes to them, especially Erundak, their future chief.
The party remounted their steeds ((OOC: Erundak has a horse, too)) and continued along the narrow game trail deeper into the woods.
'Are we heading for the shortcut?' Erundak enquired.
((OOC: I'll assume yes. But if you've changed your mind, please let me know in the Q&A thread))
'Very well, please follow me.' The lizardfolk urged his stallion down the left path once they arrived at a fork. The gloom that had shrouded them seemed to be getting thicker as they went, as did the foliage. Once, a knotted thornbush clawed at Azax's tunic, tearing the fabric before he could extricate himself. He frowned in annoyance. Legion grew concerned. If this darkness grew much more, he would have difficulty seeing, as would Erundak. But surely, having settled in these woods, the lizardfolk would have counter measures for such things? Sure enough, Erundak pulled out a curious object: a lantern, but devoid of flame. Instead, a cloud floated within the confines of the glass walls. It sparkled with surprising brilliance for such a small cloud.
'Pixie dust,' Erundak answered in response to their confused stares. 'A simple spell is tied to the dust cloud and the lantern which allows the bearer to alter the strength of the illumination. With this, we need not fear the dark. A pixie gifted it to me after I had saved her from a pixie trap. Pixies can fetch a good price as their beautiful, glowing forms can be used decoratively by caging them in lanterns to make what they call "fairy lights". A cruel practice.'
They travelled the rest of the day without incident. At least Azax and Legion assumed it was the rest of the day. It was practically impossible to tell with the thick canopy of the woods obscuring the sky and, in addition, the sun and moon.
'We are approaching bandit territory.' Erundak whispered. 'Best be on your guard. Do you wish to make camp here, or continue on?'
((OOC: Answer here or in the Q&A. Up to you. I'll do another DM post once you've answered))
Posted on 2022-11-29 at 07:13:09.
Edited on 2022-11-29 at 08:37:36 by dragon-soul92
The campfire crackled, painting the immediate area in a ruddy light, but beyond that the landscape was a world of deep shadow, which made the party a little nervous as they knew not what could be lurking in the darkness, be it beast or bandit. The air spiked their lungs with a sharp chill when they inhaled, their skin also feeling the frost which heralded the arrival of another Winter. They huddled around the fire to stave off the chill.
'My friends,' Erundak spoke, though softly as they were in dangerous territory. 'The arrival of Hoarfrost is upon us. It is a time to celebrate the closing of another year and the harsh beauty of the winter months. It is also a time to spend with family, but as none of us are able to, it's good that we have each other. Long may our friendship endure!' He raised his mug of ale in a toast.
((OOC: If you want to celebrate Hoarfrost, you can do so in your next post, but I'm going to continue with my DM post anyway))
Later that night, when the fire had dimmed to a rosey glow, Azax offered to gather additional firewood as he was the only one in the party whose eyes could penetrate the gloom of the murky woods. The Owlin crept into the thick shadows, striving to remain as silent as possible, lest his movements alert an enemy to his presence.
He collected the first few sticks without incident and was just moving on to gather more when a flash of movement caught his sharp eye, so fast it was more of a blur. It was so reminiscent of the figure he had spotted while hunting near their last camp, that he was sure it was the same. If so, that meant whoever-or whatever-it was was following them. But for what purpose? Did they have any connection to the king or the orcs? Whatever it was was lithe, nimble and fleet of foot. No mere mortal could move with the grace this being displayed. So, it was a creature intuned with the arcane, which meant it could be a formiddable foe if it proved to be an enemy.
Azax paused, his large eyes scanning the surrounding foliage, but just like the last time, the creature disappeared as swiftly as it had materialized. He remained motionless for a few moments more to confirm there was no further movement in the undergrowth or trees. There wasn't, so with caution, he gathered the remainder of the firewood and made his way back to camp.
'What is it, Azax? You look troubled. Come and sit by the fire and try to forget your woes, for this is a night of joy. It's Hoarfrost.'
((OOC: I'll leave it up to Azax-aka you, Nomad- to decide wether to tell the rest of the party of the strange magical figure in the woods))
The companions celebrated a few hours more, then bedded down for the night, weary from the day's events. Legion stood like a stoic statue, alert for any threats that may disturb them, but none were forthcoming. The night passed without incident.
When they awoke, the morning hardly appeared any brighter than the night, which Azax and Legion were starting to get fed up of. Gloom, gloom and more gloom. How could Erundak and the rest of the lizardfolk choose to live in such a depressing wood of their own free will? Azax was an Owlin, so the night was his nature, as it was for all owls. But he still believed the daytime should be in stark contrast to it. This wood was bathed in a perpetual darkness that was starting to weigh on him, beginning to make him and Legion feel as dull as the woods themselves. They longed to be free of the smothering shadows and dangers of the confines of Wyverling Woods, which is what they hoped the shortcut would provide them-if they could make it through alive, that is.
Gathering their equipment and supplies, they mounted their steeds and continued on down the thin trail. They had traversed only a few miles before Erundak, who was still in front leading them, suddenly held up a scaly fist to stop them.
'I hear voices ahead,' he whispered softly. 'Be on your guard.'
The companions quietly dismounted. Azax winced when he accidentally caught his saddlebag, causing a couple of pots inside to rattle against each other. He prayed the owners of the voices wouldn't hear and investigate. They didn't. But they were still heading towards the party, though unaware that the party was there.
A chorus of hearty laughter filled the silence of the woods and a rough voice said smugly,
'Just look at all! Quite the haul, ey? I'm really likin' this job. Those rich fools are as easy to steal from as a bunch of babies. You'd think they'd spend some of their coin hiring better guards.'
'I know,' another answered in amusement. 'That last lot had guards that could hardly swing a sword. It's just too easy! It's like they're giving us their wares as a Hoarfrost gift.'
The group howled with laughter again.
'But,' came a new voice, 'what about HIM? We have to donate a portion of our spoils to fund his campaign. He made it clear that if we refused, he would put us to death. I don't want to risk his wrath. He's mighty serious.'
'Cheers for killing the mood, Ardsun,' one of them grumbled. 'But you're right. We don't want to get on his bad side. We don't even know what this campaign of his is, but we made a deal. Can't break it now if we value our necks.'
Azax peered through the leaves before him. He counted 5 men dressed in rough travelling clothes that were peppered with small holes and frayed at the hems. Two of them had short swords belted on their waists. The third had a long-handled axe the handle threaded through leather hoops on the man's back. The weapon was surprisingly ornate and expensive looking. The men's appearance was quite the opposite, so Azax assumed the axe was something they had pillaged from an unfortunate traders' caravan. The fourth man had a menacingly spiked mace, the spikes longer than usual. The weapon looked brutish and Azax was sure it could put a dent in even the most stout armour. The final member of the group had a bow and quiver slung on his back and a short handled axe strapped to his belt that was a little rusted on the blade. Clearly the weapon had seen better days. Azax hoped the blade's edges were as dull as the rusty steel itself. Three of the men were carrying canvas sacks over their shoulders-obviously their spoils.
The Owlin quietly informed the rest of the party of what he had seen.
'They don't appear to have noticed us yet,' he added. 'We could remain still and hope they pass by without seeing us, or we could strike first and attempt to catch them off their guard. What should we do?'
((OOC: Well, the choice, of course, is yours! What will you do? Discuss in the Q&A thread, then post your next roleplay posts here once you've decided))
Posted on 2022-12-12 at 13:38:10.
Edited on 2022-12-12 at 13:48:12 by dragon-soul92
As the flesh-creatures celebrated, Legion first stood silently until eventually decided to join as it seemed less awkward than just standing there. The warforged raised a mug onto his metal mouth and let the liquid flow from it, and some of it was absorbed by his vine-like artificial musculature as it went through him - though a portion splashed onto his feet and the ground beneath.
And then he stood guard as always, a statue in the last place one could expect to find one. And come next day, they continued their journey until the lizard stopped them.
"They don't seem like orcs", he whispered, "Nor like drow. This is not what we were told to deal with."
After seeing the figure in the woods Azax was troubled. When he returned to the fire their new lizardman companion noticed that he was distrubed by something. "There is someone out there. Or something. By our last camp I caught just a glimpse of something and now it has happened again. It is quick and hard to catch a glimpse of but is it something native to these woods or something that is following us? It didn't seem threatening - it seemed to flee a glimpse, but I don't like the idea of being followed. We are small in number and stealth and secrecy need to be our allies."
He settled down by the others and tried to relax and enjoy a very small Hoarfrost celebration. It wasn't much, but it was always nice to mark the passing of the seasons and feel connected to the rest of the world in even a limited way. But soon he needed to rest.
In the morning the group continued on into bandit territory. While they had hoped to avoid contact with the bandits it seemed that might not be doable. But maybe it was - they could hear the croup speak as they approached but didn't appear to have been noticed themselves. Legion spoke quietly in favor of avoiding an encounter.
Azax looked at Legion. "Agreed. I'd like to find out if this "him" they speak of has some link to the "him" the orc wasreferring to, but now isn't the time. We don't need a fight here."
So Azax settled back into the landscape and stayed quiet, a thing that came natually to his kind.
The conversation of the bandits slowly faded into silence as they moved deeper into Wyverling Woods and out of earshot, ignorant of the three companions that were hiding in the foliage nearby. The party was relieved to see them go as they knew the less battles they engaged in, the quicker they could find the antidote and save the princess.
Once they were sure the group of bandits had really gone, the party urged their mounts on and continued on down the almost non-existent game trail, Erundak once again resuming the lead with his pixiedust lantern, whIch emitted a soft radiance on their surroundings. When the party had travelled for a few hours, the Lizardfolk held up a scaley hand to halt the rest of the party.
'That tree...,' he whispered softly, pointing to an ancient, gnarled oak tree with blackened bark as though it had been scorched with intense heat long ago. It stood alone in the centre of a large clearing-one of only a few clearings Azax and Legion had seen during their time in these woods as the foliage engulfed most of the area which made the woods almost bereft of clearings. 'It is a popular trading post for those we do not wish to deal with. The orcs, goblins and other unscrupulous fiends believe that the dark tales surrounding it is enough to keep superstitious people away, thus alowing them to trade in peace. We must be careful we do not encounter any of the fiends while we are unprepared.'
No sooner were those words uttered than a crudely built caravan rolled into view. It was assembled with unsmoothed wood and black, tattered canvas peppered with small holes and pulled by a large boar with tusks longer than a spear and at least as deadly. The beast had a compact, muscular torso and stout legs. Its mean, beady eyes seemed to glow red like coals on a campfire. The driver of the caravan, an impatient looking orc, tugged the reins and the boar grunted before coming to a halt. He dismounted the driver's seat and waited on the ground, casting his head about as if searching for something-or someone.
'Where are they?' He snapped in orcish to his companions, three fellow orcs who had just exited the rear of the caravan. 'The note said they would be waiting for us. That they were already almost here by the time we set off. Utvek-scout around and see if you can see any signs of them. I want this trade over as quickly as possible. This place makes me uncomfortable.'
Utvek gave a short grunt, reminiscent of the boar, and went to follow the driver's order, peering into the foliage at the edge of the clearing. The party shrank back into the shadows and Erundak softly uttered a spell that dimmed the pixiedust's glow until it was gone entirely, but the orc was getting ever closer and the fear of discovery increased until, with the orc a mere three feet away, a sudden series of rustles could be heard from the the East side of the clearing as the plants were disturbed. All the orcs' heads swivelled sharply in that direction as four more orcs and six goblins emerged on another bedraggled caravan
'You're late. Where have you been?,' the driver of the first caravan demanded irritably.
'Slight change of plans,' one of the orcs from the second caravan replied, carrying a long, thin something wrapped in a tattered cloth. 'You-Know-Who's knights had new orders for us, directly from You-Know-Who himself. He wants us to move his precious item to our stronghold tonight.'
'Tonight?' The first orc grunted in surprise. 'Why the sudden rush?'
'The knights said that You-Know-Who has been forced to accelerate his plans because THEY'RE getting suspicious.'
'You know...THEM,' the second orc emphasised the final word as if attempting to make the first orc realise who he was talking about without actually saying it, but the first orc still looked nonplussed. The second orc rolled his piggish eyes at his companion's slowness. He leaned closer and whispered something in his ear which the party couldn't make out.
'Oh, right,' the first orc nodded. 'That's going to mean things will be getting tougher for us then, eh?' He sighed. All the orcs grumbled discontentedly.
'Anyway,' the second orc continued, 'that's for later. For now, have I got a treat for you.' He took hold of one end of the ragged cloth covering the object in his arms and with a flourish pulled it off to reveal a beautiful, ornate blade, a sword sheathed in a scabbard wrought with gold filligree. When the orc tilted it, the party could make out, by the flickering light of an orc's torch, a dragon in the same gold filligree upon the scabbard, clasping a ruby in its front claws, with tiny rubies for eyes. The sheath of the blade was a bright gold, with the crossguard being forged into two dragons facing each other, their serpentine bodies stretched out to form the crossguard. The handle was wrapped in fine but strong brown leather, the pommel mounted with another ruby, this one as large as a chicken egg.
The orcs from the first caravan gave great exclamations of awe and shock.
'Where in the realm did you acquire such a precious thing?' One of them said in a hushed whisper.
'You-Know-Who's knights chanced upon one of the members Golden Order who, for reasons unknown, was injured. The knights managed to get her blade and scabbard, but as soon as they did, she managed to escape. Hasn't been seen since.' The second orc explained. 'At least we got this beauty though, eh?' He added gleefully, raising the weapon higher. 'You're ordered to take it back to our stronghold in the west of Spireridge Valley and lock it in the room where we keep our most valuable artifacts.' He rewrapped the cloth and handed the blade to the first orc with a frown on his piggish face as though unhappy having to part with it.
'Utvek, put it in the caravan,' the first orc ordered, giving him the weapon. While Utvek went to place it in the back of the caravan, the driver of the first cravan asked, 'so, anything else? I'd like to hurry up and leave this place, if you don't mind.' His beady eyes darted from one shadowed area to another as he shifted uneasily.
'No, that's it,' his companion replied. 'We're off to our other stronghold in the south. Going to be a long journey...,' he added grumpily.
'Well, get there safe,' the first orc replied, grasping the other one's arm. The orcs of the first caravan bid farewell to the others.
*The area is quite dark, but Legion and Erundak can just barely see.
*The orcs and goblins have an assortment of short swords, bows and axes.
*It's a large clearing about 20ft in diameter with hardly any foliage or rocks to trip over so footing will be good-unless you're unlucky.
*The charred tree in the centre of the clearing is the main plantlife in the area.
*There are a few trees scattered around the edge of the clearing.
((Now again, the choice is yours wether to confront them or not. You could wait until the second caravan leaves so you only have the orcs from the first caravan to face. Discuss in the Q&A as usual, then post here.
Oh, bit of info: the Golden Order is an order of Dragon Riders who ride Metallic Dragons who fought the drow in The Age of Shadow, but they haven't been heard from or seen since that big war-except now, it seems. Everyone knows the story, so Azax, Legion and Erundak would too. The drow's equivalent is called the...can't think of a name yet lol. I'll edit when I do haha))
Posted on 2023-01-10 at 09:18:35.
Edited on 2023-01-10 at 12:30:11 by dragon-soul92
Azax and the rest of the group listened to the plans being discussed in front of them. For the second time that day the Owlin itched to take on an enemy the deserved taking on and learn more about this mysterious "him" that suddenly seemed to be everywhere. And that sword, that was appealing as well. But for the second time that day he held back. That wasn't their quest and their quest had a real deadline. They needed to focus on the prize.
But somehow this chance meeting had yielded something of value. It seemed that the group that now had the sword was going back to their fortress. It seemed extremely likely that this was the same fortress that the three of them were trying to get to. Trying to get to and didn't know the way to. And now these orcs appeared right in their path to guide their way. Finally, a little luck. (Although, when he was in a mood to admit that his luck might also be good he had to admit that meeting the lizardmen might also have been a win.)
He looked to Legion and the Lizardman ranger and extremely oftly whipered, "we can follow them." The other seemed to get the idea. When the orcs left the clearing on their way back to their fortress they were followed by three silent shadows. Azax till wanted to get that sword, but for now he was happy enough to have a guide, even an unwitting one.
"I actually worked with the Golden Order before my hibernation", Legion whispered as they followed the caravan, while they were still within a safe distance, "I'd like to hear more... And possibly find that rider they mentioned."
For a mostly unfeeling creature the warforged seemed eager for once.
The driver flicked the reins and the large boar lumbered into the thick undergrowth, which obscured most of the narrow game trail. Azax, Legion and Erundak followed as quietly as they could, glad that they now had an escort to guide them to the orc stronghold, however unwitting the escort may be.
Several hours elapsed as the party trailed behind the caravan, the miles steadily melting away and their destination coming ever closer. The companions thought they would now be able to get to the stronghold in good time, but fate, it seemed, had other ideas.
There was a soft rustle of leaves about fifty yards behind the party and you all turned your heads in the direction of the disturbance, concerned that you were being pursued by orcs, goblins, bandits-or something even more dangerous that lurked in the gloom of these ominous and uninviting woods.
The silhouette of a figure swiftly raced out from behind a gnarled oak and took refuge behind another oak not far from the first. Azax immediately recognised the figures movements: they had the same fluidity, swiftness and grace as the figure he had spotted twice before when he had been hunting. Movements too fast and lithe for that of a mere mortal. It was magic.
Suddenly, a piercing roaring screech shattered the stillness of the woods and the party spun to face the new threat. The driver upon the caravan yelled gutteral orders to his fellow orcs and there was an explosion of movement as they hurried-albeit in a panicked way-to carry them out. The terrible screech rang forth again and a harsh, forceful wind caused the surrounding trees to creak and groan with its power, the undergrowth flattened. An orc screamed as he was snatched up in the beasts' claws and tossed into the branches of a tree, breaking his back as he collided with a branch. Another orc soon followed his friend into the void as he too was grasped in those deadly talons and when he was dropped, his head was detached from his shoulders. The party looked up to see a serpent-like creature with two muscular hind legs, but no front legs, perched upon a branch like a monsterous bird of prey, its batlike wings flapping to help keep its balance as it continued its assault. It was busily devouring the unfortunate orc's head, the wet crunching just audible over the woosh of the beast's wings. Blood oozed down its spiked jaw.
'It's a wyverling!' Erundak exclaimed sharply. 'I had hoped this route would be devoid of these beasts for they usually nest further south, but it seems this one has chosen to hunt further than usual. They aren't the most intelligent of creatures and consider anything smaller than itself as a potential meal. I don't think it's seen us, yet. It appears distracted by the orc feast it has stumbled upon. What shall we do? We could use a guide to the stronghold, which is swiftly being devoured by that wyverling. Should we assist the orcs in slaying the beast? We would risk exposure if we do, however. Or shall we find another way?' Just as the lizardfolk had uttered the last word, the leaves behind them rustled again. Whoever-or whater-it was was still there, watching them keenly.
The party had yet another decision to make: assist the orcs, or try to find out who their mysterious stalker was.