Winter is now over, we're preparing to do a new task for the Duke. This is the life, being on the local nob's payroll, and getting to deal with local interracial tensions (and getting to pocket the loot, not that we've become very wealthy just yet). The new job is to find a new trade route through the mountains. As part of our journeys in the autumn we found a way into the mountains north of the keep, and there are rumours that there may be a way through the mountains that could be used as a shorter trade route with the kingdoms in that direction. The job we've been asked to do is to find such a route if one exists.
We headed off out of town, past the watch towers and out into the wilderness. We have run into nobody for the journey so far, but today we picked up a some familiar looking footprints. Excretia and I both agree these look like orcs. If they've got a settlement anywhere near here, we want to deal with it.
Following the footprints for the morning lead us in the direction we wanted to head - north in the direction away from keep. As the day wore on, the trail brought us to a cave entrance. The footprints seem to go right on inside. We felt it was our duty to investigate immediately.
The caves, it turned out (with no surprise) to be inhabited. There are orc in there alright. Our first foray into the caverns lead us straight into a fight them. Bob took a knock or two, but they were defeated, and we captured a prisoner. Bob was ultra-keen to interrogate him, which we let him do after we've patched him up, and Redamber helped him get on with that job. Bob was as intimidating as I've seen him, while Redamber just cajoled and wheedled.
After a few minutes of Bob's angry looks, the orc gave in and blabbed. He revealed to us that the orcs in the lair have a chief, and he's an extremely large monster, probably an ogre and he has a large guard dog that he keeps as a pet. Bob made the orc's end as quick and as painless as he could.
Pressing on into the caves we found a kitchen area rank that was smeared with grease and smelled horrible. A little further on we found the largest a pile of orc shit I've ever seen, mostly straw and rags, ruined food and daily waste of the orcs. It took some steeling of ourselves to get through that place. We sneaked in deeper.
Just a little further on, we entered chamber with several exits, but which had a deep fissure running across it. Bob was at the front, and across the other side of the fissure were a bunch of orcs, who were alerted to our presence by us not being very quiet. Before Bob was fully aware of them, they opened fire on him - he was pincushioned, and we retreated.
The orcs couldn't pursue us over the ravine, but we felt sure thay knew of another way round. This gave us some vital time to get out of the way and patch up Bob as well as we could. It turned out he was more badly hurt than we had at first thought, and he was bleating like a baby. We moved quickly, we wanted the orcs to come after us, rather than just run away. We hoped that they recognised it was a dwarf that they'd shot and will be coming to take proper care of him.
While we administered ointment and sticking plasters to Bob, we discussed our next immediate action. Assuming that the orcs were coming to find us, we needed to be fighting them on our own terms. We took a decision to retreat outside, and to try and get them to come out and fight us in the open. At the very lease we hoped they'd come out to look for the dwarf.
Much to our surprise, it was an hour or two before they came out to investigate. Of course, we were ready for them as we'd been laying in wait. We opened fire with our bows. It turned out that they were only clearing the orc bodies away that we'd scattered through their home, but those who braved the outside didn't survive more than a few seconds.
Trying to keep our profile low, Redamber sneaked in close alone to collect the heads for the bounty, but he became aware of noise in the lair. He scurried back to us and let us know what was happening. It was a clattering metallic noise, raising a few eyebrows among us as we speculated about what it could be. But by now, dusk was starting to gather, and we felt that confronting them at night might not be the most sensible approach to this. Instead of attacking at this time we headed back to the prepared camp site we'd used on our way up here. We were in need of some proper rest, and Bob needed some healing.
Although we'd used this camp site before, we took even more defensive precautions. We even dug a proper fire pit. As we needed to get Bob healed, we ended up spending the next five days here, which itself is a huge testament to Excretias skills as a healer - this would have been a couple of weeks if it had happened in the autumn. We were well hidden, and in no danger of running out of food, as I'd hunted a deer on that second morning of our journey, and Excretia is an expert cook. We dined well while waiting for Bob's wounds to heal, although by the time we were setting out we were down to deer sausages.
To help us with our assault on the lair, Bob had come up with a cunning plan of building a ladder which could allow us to safely cross the chasm. We let him carry it as we made our way back towards the cave. We moved quietly through the lair once again, heading directly towards the chasm room.
We guessed that the orcs, clearly now fewer in number, had retreated away from those southern caverns where we came in, and were now living in the more northerly rooms. This made our journey through the cave complex much easier than the first time we'd done it. As we sneaked into the chasm room, we could just make out five orcs in the near darkness on the far side of the gap. They had a simple candle with them for light, and they did not appear to have noticed us.