It all began by chance, really. About eight days ago, several of us happened to be standing nearby one another outside the Hunter’s Arms Inn in Rinnings, though we didn’t know each other. Nonetheless, we were approached as a group by a messenger who identified himself as one of Duke Ungarth’s men. He instructed us to report to Ungarth’s court the following morning.
Since it was early in the day, I suggested (since I was clearly the brains of the group) that we should all find a nice tavern from which to pass the time. Having done so, we proceeded to introduce ourselves. I was the only male in the group! Yen was an elvish woman from the Orfannis, who showed a great deal of promise with the longbow. Dusk was a faerie with a mysterious background, but who seems to have some skill with magic, as many of her kind do.
And there was X. A vision of loveliness. An orc woman whose tongue has been cut out, she sports a tattoo across her chest that we all assume is her name, though I cannot pronounce it. Ah, such a wonderful creature. . . .
But I digress. We passed the day with only a few minor inconveniences which may or may not have included Yen crushing an already defeated thug’s head under her boot while I was sleeping off the effects of my generous patronage of a local establishment of repast and refreshment. The following morning, I found a branch of the Hanseatics and took out a letter of credit with them. With this bit of business concluded, we promptly reported to Ungarth’s hall.
Ungarth received us graciously enough, though he seemed a bit. . .nonplussed. . .that we were, every one of us, non-human. At any rate, he explained that there were some villages to the east of Rinnings experiencing raids of some sort. He commanded that we investigate and exterminate those responsible. We agreed, though we truly had no other choice since he is a duke and we are mere commoners, and non-human ones at that. As we were leaving, we were approached by a tall, thin nobleman of middle age. He did not name himself, but introduced himself as the representative of the King in Rinnings. He pointed out that the King and the Crown Prince are known to be at odds and that Ungarth is Prince Garewyc’s chief ally. That being the case, he instructed us not only to exterminate those responsible, but to bring evidence of their guilt to him, as well.
We spent the evening at an unremarkable inn and set out. Within half a day, we reached the first of several villages that had been raided, East Fernish by name. The villagers said that orcs had raided them, taking all of their livestock and burning their grain silo. Yen found the raiders’ tracks, but was able to determine in some kind of outdoorsy way that the tracks were not orcish, but human. With my clearly superior ability to read people, I was able to determine that the villagers at least believed their village had been raided by orcs. Quite a puzzle!
Since someone had clearly taken some kind of pains to disguise themselves as orcs we decided to travel to the nearby orc village of Gnurrash. The village was locked down. They knew that they had been framed for the raid on East Fernish and were obviously apprehensive that humans would arrive to punish them. Their chieftain, upon learning that we knew that they weren’t responsible, commanded his village champion to accompany us and cleanse the stain on our honor. Our little band grew to 5, and we met a dour, grumpy and utterly stuck up orc named Oreg. He actually had the temerity to threaten me!
Anyway, we returned to East Fernish and picked up the raiders’ trail, which lead generally east through several other villages to the village known as Dorwich. There, we found that the villagers were saying they had been raided by druids, who had not harmed any humans, but had slaughtered four sheep and two guinea fowl in an apparently ritual fashion. Trouble is, druids don’t act that way — they find animals to be sacred. The villagers didn’t seem to understand how important we are and we got very little information from them.
From Dorwich, we followed the trail north. In the next village, the villagers said they hadn’t seen any raiders, and they didn’t believe that they had. They mentioned that the only strangers passing through had been a few of the Duke’s men bearing a wagon full of supplies and meat. My beautiful X put two and two together and somehow managed to communicate her insight to us — the raiders were actually the Duke’s men! The plot really began to thicken, let me tell you!
Anyway, we kept following the trail north until it crossed the road from Rinnings to the monastery at Connag-Ter. The trail crossed the road and continued north, but we elected to go east and investigate the monastery to see what the monks might know and to see if any refugees might be seeking sanctuary there.
We arrived at the monastery and proceeded to the sanctuary. We inquired from one of the monks praying there what he knew about the raids. He indicated that he didn’t know anything about the raids per se but that even though the Duke was known to dislike the druids, he didn’t believe they were responsible, since the behavior wasn’t in character for them. We asked where we could find the Abbot and the monk pointed out the entrance to the Abbot’s office behind the sanctuary.
When we entered, the Abbot pleasantly asked what he could do for us. I might accidentally have mentioned we knew the Duke’s men were behind the raids. Anyway, the important thing is that the Abbot suggested that we must be mistaken, that the Duke surely had the raids in hand, however. Thing is, I could tell that he was lying. We said that of course, he was probably right, and that we’d take our leave. Just outside his office door I whispered to our group that the Abbot, ah. . . was a threat and in league with the raiders and that we should, strictly in self-defense, take action. Via some dark magic the other monk, who was still praying in the sanctuary, heard me and took my words in the worst possible light. He ran out to get the guards.
While we were arguing about what we should do — stupid Oreg was going on about “honor” or some such — the two gate guards came in. The fight was short and ugly. The guards didn’t fare well. Once the fight was over, we returned to the Abbot’s office, and I demanded to know why his men had attacked me. A bit of an argument ensued and we suggested he round up all of his men and ask the what had happened. He did, and the monk who had raised the alarm said that he had heard me say that we should kill the Abbot! Can you imagine? I tried to smooth things over, but we were made very aware that our presence at the monastery was no longer welcome, so we left.
We returned to the trail and followed it north to the village of Ham. I asked if they raised pigs, because, well, you know. Anyway, nobody seemed to see the towering humor in my joke. Humans are so dull. We questioned the villagers and found, once again, that the village had been raided by what appeared to be druids, who had slaughtered a hog, taken the body but left the head lying in what was supposed to appear to be a magic circle of rowan branches. We weren’t fooled.
After a bit of discussion, we decided that we should double back to the south to visit the druid circle at the edge of the Orfannis forest. We trekked down there and met the Grand High Muckety-Muck druid guy. He was a weirdo. He said he knew that his people were being improperly framed for the raids, but declined to offer us any aid. Finally, after badgering him for a while, we at least got him to give us a herbalist’s kit, which was nice, I guess.
We returned to Ham. The trail led cross-country to the Village of Hartwich. There, we found something new. Hartwich had been raided by the Duke’s men, but it had been raided again a bare week later by goblins. Rey was able to confirm that two separate sets of tracks led in two separate directions. The first, the Duke’s men, led generally south. The second, the goblins, led northwest.
My lovely X followed the goblin tracks while Yen followed the Duke’s men south. A day or so later they both returned. At great length, we were able to determine from X that the goblin tracks continued northwest to the King’s road and beyond. At that point, X had abandoned the trail and returned to us. Yen, on the other hand discovered the camp where the Duke’s men were hiding. We rested for the remainder of the day, then set out at nightfall for the raiders’ encampment. Under cover of night, Yen sneaked in close to the camp and attacked the three men sitting around the campfire. Bedlam ensued. Oreg charged in to defend Yen. Yen took a serious hit to the knee and went down. The leader of the bandits came out of his tent, only to stumble over the body of one of his men who had fallen at his tent flap. A mage came out of another tent. Oreg, who seems to prefer attacking the legs, cut down a a couple of men, while dusk healed Yen. The mage took the opportunity created by the general confusion to sprint out of the camp and escape. In less than thirty seconds, the fight was over. We searched the tent and found a dispatch the leader had been writing to Ungarth explaining that they had raided several camps and were waiting for us to show up, as Ungarth had warned them we would, so they could kill us. Double crossed! The dispatch also mentioned that other raids had been noted in Barony Don and Barony Ulfris, but that they weren’t the work of the Duke’s men.
Anyway, remembering that the King’s man had wanted proof, we cut off the leader’s head and took the unfinished dispatch and returned to Rinnings, where we informed the King’s man of our discovery and activities.