The Valiant Crowned had successfully reunited Cupcake with his family in Mistvale, but now they had been tasked with finding other survivors from the same orc raid. They rested for the night and gathered supplies for the journey in the morning. They hoped that they could convince Cupcake to accompany them on this quest to free his mother and his tutor, so Eight Thundercloud purchased a fancy leather-bound tome and engraved his name on it as a gift. It would serve as a proper spellbook, rather than the pile of loose notes he had previously compiled. Cupcake was eager to join them and greatly appreciated Eight Thundercloud’s gift. Glen had contracted with a local leatherworker to create a better saddle and reins for his wolf mount, Grayfang. Their last stop before leaving was to speak to Commander Davarros. They figured that if anyone knew where to begin their search for the orcs that had raided Mistvale, it would be him. Their interaction was less than friendly, but helping the Valiant Crowned in this matter also advanced his own political interests in Mistvale, so the Commander gave them the information they needed. The orcs belonged to a cunning tribe of warriors known as the Fist of Baghtru. Crimson Watchmen scouts had spotted signs of orc activity to the southeast, well into the dense and foreboding Sea of Trees.
The Hunter Becomes the Prey
After their first day of traveling, the group came upon a small clearing and decided to bed down for the night. As the sun set, and they were just about to drift off to sleep, a giant boar made its way into the clearing. It became clear that this was the boar’s territory when it charged at the intruders. The adventurers were further surprised when an orc hunter and his goblin servant, who apparently had been hiding in the trees above their heads the entire time, sprang into action, trying to drive off the intruders who had startled their prey. Narrowly avoiding the well-hidden traps that had been placed around the clearing, the Valiant Crowned managed to defeat the boar, kill the goblin, and capture the orc. After a short interrogation, they learned that the orc was a member of the Fist of Baghtru, the tribe they sought. It was all they needed to confirm that they were on the right course. They ended his life and dumped the orc’s corpse in a hole. The roasted boar was delicious.
The next day, Aryn scouted ahead along the coast and discovered the orcs’ encampment. It was much more than they were expecting. The large camp was ringed by a tall wooden palisade wall, and there was a large wooden tower with a ballista overlooking everything. She reported her findings to the rest of the group, and they spent some time deliberating the best way to approach the situation. Should they try an attack? Could they sneak in through a side entrance or via Lake Shimmerscale? Would it be possible to strike up a parley with the orcs? In the end, they decided to create a diversion at the front gate and try to sneak in through a side entrance. They busied themselves for a few days carving rough wooden mannequins in the forest, while Eight Thundercloud flew over the camp on Goldbeak for a bird’s eye view of the place. She could see many tents and much activity below, indicating a sizable force of orcs.
While preparing for their attack, the group encountered a very strange goat man in the forest. He was praying over the corpse of their old ally, Ponyhater Skinny. this goat introduced himself as none other than Senior Goat, a skilled martial artist who wanted to join their cause in order to preach his holy word to the savage orc tribe. The Valiant Crowned were not really impressed with this stranger at first, but eventually they reluctantly agreed to let him join them for a trial membership.
Fire and Smoke
The time had come to put their plan into action. Casting a spell of fog cloud to obscure her approach, Aryn splashed oil on the wooden walls near the front gate and set them ablaze while the others set their wooden mannequins into the ground to create the illusion of an attacking force at the gate. Once the fire was set and the mannequins put into place, the group took off sprinting towards the side entrance. Unfortunately, the watchman atop the ballista tower was quick to spot them. He called out their position and successfully organized the confused orc troops below.
The (Almost) Great Goblin Rebellion
At the side gate, the adventurers found themselves face to face with a large assembly of goblin servants. With the orcs quickly closing in on them, the Valiant Crowned did their best to convince the goblins to aid them in overthrowing their orcish oppressors. The goblins were not one-hundred percent convinced, but managed to hold off the majority of the orcish forces for a few moments. This extra time was key to helping Aryn, Glen and Senior Goat defeat an ogre that was bearing down on them.
With the orcish army closing in from all sides and little help from the goblins, Aryn and Rose knew that their best hope for the success of the mission would be to quickly find the captives and escape before they could be overwhelmed. In the goblin servants’ part of the camp was a large pit with a metal grate covering the top. It looked like the most obvious place to keep prisoners. Aryn and Rose rushed to examine the pit, but saw nothing but scraps of waste below. At that moment, a squadron of orcs had scattered the goblins holding one flank of the camp, and and orc was able to rush Rose and throw her down into the pit. It was all Aryn could do to toss down a rope to her before she was forced to flee, leaving the halfling girl behind to face whatever fate might befall her.
Eight Thundercloud had entered battle mounted atop Goldbeak, which gave her an advantage over most of the orcs, but also made her a tempting target for the ballista tower. Fortunately, with some quick maneuvering and a few well-timed uses of the shatter spell, Eight was able to send the ballista tower crashing down, crushing part of what appeared to be the Warchief’s tent in the process. Eight was also concerned with finding the prisoners, and decided to land Goldbeak in order to check the tents on the high plateau in the middle of camp. She noticed a few snake-like yuan-ti emerge from once tent and disappear into the ruined remains of the Warchief’s tent. She checked the yuan-ti’s tent and found it empty. The warchief, however, was not about to let the destruction of the ballista tower go unanswered. He leapt through the rubble and cut down Goldbeak. He was about to bring down his axe to finish off the tabaxi as well, but she quickly revived Goldbeak with a potion of healing, and together they were able to fly upwards, out of reach of the Warchief.
Fly, You Fools!
The attack had quickly turned to disaster. The prisoners were nowhere to be found. The party was wounded, separated, and surrounded by squads of orcs. Half the camp was in flames, blocking the potential exit of the main door. Aryn had lost her squire, Rose, and saw escape as her only option. Taking the first opportunity to climb over the wooden wall, she made a beeline for the forest edge and hid there, leaving the rest of her companions to their fate as well. Glen, riding atop Grayfang, has managed to help take down the ogre, but was now surrounded by orcs. Barely surviving an encounter with an orc squad commander, Glen had no choice but to flee. He was almost in the clear when the orc Warchief caught up to him and Grayfang in a ridiculous burst of rage-fueled speed. The Warchief nearly cut the wolf in two, but Glen and Grayfang barely managed to get away, heading for the canoes on the shore of Lake Shimmerscale. Senior Goat and Cupcake had also gotten trapped against the wall, surrounded by orcs. One particularly brutish commander cut Cupcake down with a stroke of his axe and wounded Senior Goat. He was about to finish them both off, but Eight Thundercloud swooped down from the sky and blasted the commander’s head to bits with a well placed spell. This allowed Senior Goat to carry Cupcake’s unconscious form over the wall, where Eight Thundercloud revived him using her last healing potion.
The Battle Continues…
Aryn waits hidden on the north side of camp in the woods. Eight Thundercloud and Cupcake fly high over the southern side of the camp atop a wounded Goldbeak. Senior Goat is on his own at the south side of camp as well. Glen and Grayfang race desperately toward the shore, hoping to make a getaway on a boat before the bloodthirsty Warchief catches up to them.
And down below the action, wounded at the bottom of a filthy pit, Rose sees the glint of moonlight and firelight off of cold eyes watching her; hears the scuttle of chitinous feet; and screams. She is not alone.