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January 20, 2003

Tetrapteracide (Feather Fall)

Drusilia's Journal

Moonday, Planting 24, 592 CY, continued

There is quite a dearth of elves in the party since my last entry. Our plan to cross the valley of orcs was simple enough— Four Feather and Trap scouted ahead quietly, finding the best path past the orc encampment so as not to arouse their ire. We would have been able to pass through without their notice, but for one alarming revelation— it was not merely an encampment, but a group of about 20 to 30 orcs running an iron mine. Worse still, they were not laboring in the mines, but managing the enslaved humanoids (elves, gnomes, humans, halflings and kobolds) who were. This atrocity could not be allowed to continue. And so, we made plans to kill the slavers and release their prisoners.

There were a lot of problems with our strategy, I’ll admit. First, we waited until nightfall, even though orcs have better night vision than we (or the rescuees) do. In fact, they would have had more difficulty seeing us in direct sunlight, and since they had cleared away nearly all the trees in the vicinity of their camp, we would have had plenty of light. But, the wait proved to be important for the slaves— we had assumed the huts were for the orcs, when in fact their “shift change” showed us that the slaves lived in them— the orcs had taken residence in the cliff face over the mines. This precluded the use of fire spells or lit arrows during our inevitable battle. Our other problem was a watchtower built to command a wide view of the valley, making sneaking into the camp impossible during the daylight hours. Thankfully the orc in the tower wasn’t overly observant, allowing us ample time to study the camp from the tree line. When the time came to fight, Four Feather had an arrow ready to eliminate the watchtower orc (and she did— we later found him with an arrow going through one ear and out the other), while Trap planned to go from hut to hut releasing as many prisoners as he could. Ghelt and the rest of us snuck out of the woods right past the watchtower after I cast a quick blessing on those close enough to benefit.

The battle was bloody, and over very quickly. Ghelt waded right into the fray in that admirable dwarf-like fashion, while the elven assemblage attempted to take down foes with arrows. I was able to even hit the orc leader standing well back from his forces (most of which were trying to hit Ghelt with javelins), though I’m sorry to say my arrow didn’t take him out of battle immediately. Fafnir seemed to be everywhere at once (thanks to his mirror image spell), and turned quite a few orcs into mounds of char with a flaming sphere. Valon went down in battle pretty quickly after a particularly nasty hit (he needs some armor!), but in his inimitable style, sang a rousing battle song while laying crumpled near my feet. Trap had a lot of success as well, even though he was on the other side of the camp— he picked off about a half dozen orcs one at a time as they tried to match his pace between the slave huts. There were some scary moments too— at one point I really needed to get to Ghelt and Four Feather to provide healing, but was afraid to leave Valon where he’d surely be trampled in the fight (not to mention I was shooting as many rampaging orcs as I could from where I stood). In fact, at one point I thought Ghelt was lost to us, but she shrugged it off and kept fighting. Fafnir wended his way over to Four Feather and dumped his only healing potion down her throat, but she was still too weak to stand. She managed one final attack on her own slayer though, with a sword thrust up through his armor from where she lay. I can only wonder if she’d just played dead if that orc would have left her alone, but we’ll never know now.

When we were down to one remaining orc, he routed and turned to flee into the mines. Trap, with some bizarre form of halfling bloodthirstiness, tore off after him and finished him off somewhere in the maze of mines. And apparently Trap was having a lucky day— he found a huge iron chest full of coins and a gem, and claims that he successfully disarmed the trap that was on the lock.

After healing those of party that I could, I found a key ring on one of the dead orc leaders. The keys helped Trap get into his (disarmed!) box of treasure and enabled us to take the shackles and manacles off of the slaves. Only one of the slaves can leave camp with us though. The rest are wearing iron collars that somehow prevent their departure. We were told that the only one that can remove the collars is the “Witchlord” who keeps a stronghold up the path towards were we are headed. The one would-be slave, a halfling going by Korin Greenmeadow, had just been recently captured and not yet fitted with a proper collar— he is more than eager to accompany us on our travels. If we are able to get the key to remove these collars from the slaves we will certainly come back for them. At least for now, they aren’t under the direct influence of their orcish overlords.

The sad task of putting Four Feather to rest weighs heavily on us all. I was touched to see that Ghelt gave her a dwarven blessing to speed her on her way. Valon has offered to carry Four Feather’s body back to Smallville on the chance that her uncle returns for her, though it may just be simpler to bury her where she fell, and carry word back with us when, and if, we return home.

Posted by Kristin at 12:59 | Drusilia’s Journal