Davin's diary - Sessions 68 to 70

 The following account is by Davin; an IC summary of the last few sessions. I give +1 character point (XP) for those players who submit a summary for me to post here on the blog. This session was played on 2020/06/25. 


Diary of Davin of Emberwood

<Between Sessions>

 Having defeated the cult that lurked beneath the twisted grove we found within the upper levels of the valley (my notes on that particular outing don't make a lot of sense and my memories of the events somewhat blurred) we decided to take some time to rest and recuperate in the Fort itself, although sadly we had to part ways with Sister Miriam, who left ahead of us to carry word of the Cult's defeat back to the Temple of Marsh Hall.

 I spent much of the week reading, going over the papers that we had recovered from that sinister cult, looking for clues to their vile designs and deciphering their texts in order to aid the hunt of any cadet branches or cultists who may have escaped the massacre at Sir Yvor's blade. Fortunately, Brother Warian had already confirmed the group brought no Supernatural Evil back with us, so at least I could rest easy that whatever dangers lay within those pages lay primarily with paper cuts. I doubt I'll have time to complete a full translation- that will likely be left to the Temple, when we provide this valuable intelligence to them. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to give it to Miriam to take back with her! Perhaps the others have a point when they say I can be absent-minded.

 I also analysed a number of items of magical potency that we found during our previous venture - a strange helm that warps the mind of the wearer, a magical wand to detect those who bear malice towards the bearer, a scroll to ward off Evil (found a touch late, given the demonic creature and host of Undead slain within the temple) and an enchanted shortsword. Sharing this with the group, we decided to keep most of the items for the moment, with the aim to sell them later.

<Session 68>

 Our week off came to an end with the arrival of Adam Aesalor, a recent graduate of the Arcane from the University of Phessio, bearing a missive for Lady Miao. I'm not quite sure of the full contents- apparently it had something to do with Professor Vaal, who I recalled taught Blood-Magic at the Arcane University (although Adam has since told me that he is now involved with the research of ancient Gate magic). Anyway, Vaal had recommended that Miao take Adam on-board and help him gain some real-world experience, so we welcomed him to the group - I put a bit of extra effort into that evening's illusionary performance of our adventures, to bring him up to speed on the story so far.

 With Adam appended to our party, we decided that the next day should be spent fulfilling Miao's honour-debt to murder the second Orc chieftain (I have yet to decipher the strange codes of the nobility - I need to start taking notes on this). There was considerable discussion, both in the tavern and on the journey to the valley, on the best way to do this.

 A simple surprise attack was ruled out early (for reasons of honour) and it was suggested that we try to slay as few orcs as possible, ideally just the chief. The solution we settled on was to challenge the chieftain to a one-on-one duel, although I suspect both our nobles and Hemmu all had their own desire to be our actual duelist. There was some scepticism among the less titled member of the group about whether the orcs would co-operate with this plan however it was the most honourable solution and none of us thought that the Orc chief would be a match for one of our own warriors.

 I'm not quite sure of the details of the negotiations once we got to the cave, for they were largely in Orcish with a few words of common hurled back and forth, but the long and short of it was that the Orcs insisted that the chief was out and could we go away please, they would give us money if we did. We discussed this and apparently accepting money to not kill people is dishonourable (as is taking the money and then killing them anyway), so our valiant and honourable band proceeded into the cave with the intent of killing the leader of the tribe.

 Initial orc resistance was completely absent as we first entered the cave and we'd reached a crossroads before encountering any threat. No sooner had Miao, Hemmu and Yvor entered the crossroads and started to head left than a huge net descended from above and ensnared them, with Bert only just escaping by inches. Within seconds, a band of a half-dozen orcs charged into the crossroads from the right- directly behind the three entangled warriors who were struggling to free themselves. I stepped forward, hurling an ice-knife I'd been holding to-hand in their path and commanded them to step back and surrender, which seemed to startle them and deny their approach long enough for me to step between them and my entangled companions - a mere half-dozen orcs are little threat to a mage of my proficiency.

 I immediately demanded the outmatched orcs surrender and it was clear they feared to approach me, since they attempted to demand our surrender instead- a touch insulting, since with Grease, Glue, creation of flames and a vast variety of other spells at my disposal there was no way to get past me to reach my entangled companions. Warian, concerned for the entangled Miao and not much of a fighter himself immediately suggested we yield, as did Lady Miao. I started to explain to the orcs that *they* were the ones who needed to surrender, but I foolishly kept my weapon sheathed in deference to Miao's desire to parley and they mistook this for vulnerability. 

 I had forgotten that, although I am quite capable of ending the lives of a half-dozen non-magical orcish thugs without so much as drawing a blade, this is not immediately obvious to the stupid and a weapon makes me look more dangerous. Thinking me unarmed and exposed, they ended negotiations by attempting to hack me to pieces. It wasn't hard to evade their clumsy blows and two of them were disarmed within the first second of the fight - an instant later Jenkins and Adam rewarded their treachery with a combination of a crossbow bolt and a blast of lightning that left one of them dead.

 Between hurling dehydration magic and Grease, I was able to keep the orcs occupied whilst Adam blasted them with lightning, ensuring no orc could move past me to attack our warriors. A few seconds later Axam, Hemmu's Named Weapon impacted into one of the orcs to let me know that she and Yvor had finished cutting themselves free. Bert emerged from the shadows, striking like a tiny, vicious ghost to take down one of the orcs, the scream as his ankle snapped enough to make the remaining orcs scatter, fleeing back down into the depths of the cave the way they had come from.

 Miao, who had refrained from attempting to free herself due to her surrender, finally freed herself from the net and Hemmu retrieved Axam, before we all re-grouped at the entrance to the crossroads, Hemmu's knowledge of Orcish revealing that they were preparing an attack against us. With this in mind. Adam raised a Wall of Lightning- an impressive spell indeed- across the nearest part of the crossroads to buy us some breathing room. Unfortunately, I had burnt through most of my Energy Reserve holding off the first orc band, but our warriors were free now and Miao confirmed that her surrender no longer applied now her 'captors' had fled, so the next fight would be more bloody by far.

<Session 69>

 A minute later, Adam's lightning scattered, sparks disappearing into nothingness to reveal a host of Orcs that had crept right up to the barrier, a horde of them having emerged from every corridor, perhaps two score in total. A host of warriors all around us, the largest pack, lead by two exceptionally hulking brutes in front and an equally large, if not larger, host of archers behind them on our left and right flanks. I hadn't expected them to sneak so close and had failed to spot their advance through the Wall of Lightning so the Concussion spell I had prepared to hurl at their approach was as much a liability as an aid, especially as a flying axe whirled an inch from my head as I ducked beneath it- if had had hit me and I had lost control of my spell, the destiny of all with in that cave might have ended very differently! Fortunately, I evaded that attack, just barely, but had no line to throw it cleanly from the back ranks. I charged forward up beside Miao on our flank and hurled it down the corridor beyond the orcs. At first I thought I had missed and the throw might impact one of the orcs in the way, catching friend and foe alike in the stun spell, but luck saved me at the last moment when the orc unwittingly turned to swing at Miao. A second later, that orc and more than a dozen others were caught in the concussive blast, my spell striking the floor just far enough away to keep us out of it's radius whilst leaving all of the enemies directly in front of us reeling, including one of the bigger brutes that seemed to be one of their fiercest warriors. With their foes shaken by the spell, Yvor, Miao and Hemmu turned into the human, half-orc and cat-folk blenders that I know them to be, cleaving through the confused creatures like farmers reaping wheat.

 Unfortunately, I'd stunned the orcs in the centre, but to get a clear line to throw I'd needed to position myself on the flank. It was unwise of me to take a moment to enjoy my handiwork. Sure, I avoided the first strike, and the second, but the third caught me completely unprepared and cut my leg out from under me - all the evasive talent and magical shields in the world will avail you little if you dodge into the attack. Worse still, the blow had struck beneath my maille armour, avoiding most of my more mundane protections. I crashed to the cave floor, air-walk broken, my leg no longer capable of supporting my weight.

 Miao stepped back and behind me, to fill the gap I had left and protect Warian, but the next couple of seconds were a frightful pair, as I rolled to avoid one orc's strike, then recovered my focus enough to hurl myself through space via a Blink an instant before another orcish blow cleaved into where I had been lying. I couldn't see much of the fight after that, for it took me some time to stand, but I heard the unmistakable bellow of Hemmu going berserk. I do not speak Orcish, but her rage-fueled scream was unmistakably a challenge and it was clear from the sounds that followed that she'd engaged the orc chief. I heard Miao yell and the sound of arrows scything through the air, so swiftly wove a shield against missiles around her to protect her from any arrows that might be aimed at her unarmoured back- the orcs seemingly having our warriors in a crossfire based on what I had seen of their positioning before I fell.

 Our healer, Warian, seemed exhausted, focusing all of his healing powers into keeping the defenceless but rampaging Hemmu alive and when I called him to offer him my Paut he was unable to reach me, so I drank it myself before reclaiming my bindle and using it to slowly push myself back up to my feet. By the time I had drunk the potion and got back to my feet, Yvor had smashed the orc warriors on our right flank and slaughtered most of the archers, scaring the remaining ones into flight. The morale of the archers on the left was wavering as well, holding their fire rather than risking Miao's wrath. Meanwhile, Bert and Adam were engaged in a duel-of-sorts with an orc shaman I hadn't noticed before, the two of them hurling stones and lightning bolts respectively at him whilst he responded in-kind with fireballs.

 The real duel, though, was between Hemmu and the Orc Chief, who were cleaving into each other with a mutual savagery, though the orc's greater discipline meant he was able to ward off many of Hemmu's blows, whilst her rage left her defenceless against his counter-attacks. His blade cleaved into her, again and again, but the sword's strikes neither stopped nor slowed her- thanks in large part to Warian healing her injuries repeatedly.

 With the flanks secure, the entire party advanced towards the two duelists, though I was by far the slowest, my limping advance paused as I formed an an illusionary wall to discourage the orc archers from rejoining the battle and shooting us in the back whilst we dealt with the chief and his spellcaster. Despite Yvor, Miao and Hemmu all in battle with him, the chief was skilled and persistent, wounding Yvor and almost cutting down Adam when my co-collegiate got too close. He fell back as he fought, faster than I could move on a maimed leg, so realising that my part in the battle was over, I channelled the last dregs of my energy- including some of my life force- into Warian so he could keep my companions healed and on their feet.

 The chief falling back put him out of immediate reach of Hemmu, which diverted her enraged attention onto the Shaman, cutting the spellweaver down with three cleaving strikes. Perhaps the shaman was enhancing the chief's defences, or perhaps it was just shock at the death of his companion but a second later his guard dropped, leaving him open for just long enough for a volley of blows to cut him down. Exhausted and bloodied, I drew upon my blood-magic again, burning my health to lift by body with a levitation spell, relying on sheer will to stay conscious as the adrenaline wore off and the pain and fatigue of battle threatened to overwhelm me.

 Hemmu's rage faded with the Orc-Chief's death and our battered and bloody group withdrew from the cave, carrying the orc-chief's corpse as our trophy.

<Session 70>

 I was helped down the slope of the ravine by my companions, as we carried the dead orc-chief to a nearby corpse of trees then channelled my recovered energy-reserve into Warian who used that power to heal the other injuries scattered throughout the group. Fortunately, Warian was able to restore most of us to fighting shape before a band of hobgoblins appeared, quickly enough that they must have been following or spying on us. Including fixing my leg, as good as new, another debt to the pile I owe our healer. Hemmu quickly confirmed that these were our 'Employers', whose will Lady Miao was for some reason honour-bound to obey.

 To be honest, I was drained of all magic, having given it to Warian, and physically exhausted besides, so I largely kept quiet and listened to what little was spoken in Common whilst the debate raged. It took some time, but apparently, the hobgoblins wanted the entire body, not just the head, and we were reluctant to hand over the corpse whilst it still wore valuable armour and items. This discussion went on for quite some time, but eventually the orc chief was stripped of both armour and possessions and the hobgoblins took his body- to eat I think? Or they thought we wanted to eat him? I am uncertain, for although the hobgoblin's common was broken and difficult to comprehend, it is considerably better than my orcish.

 In exchange, we were given three sacks containing armour and coins. The coins were unusual, bronze pieces from a foreign bank and I was slightly disturbed to realise they had probably been claimed by robbing a trader seeking to bargain in Ioscany (they could, perhaps, have been gained via honest trade and perhaps I am being judgemental, but... I didn't get the impression that the hobgoblins had many voluntary visits from merchants or traders). They tried to offer us another 'hit' wanting the leader of the Gnolls murdered, but Miao decided that honour was now satisfied and rejected the offer.

 This means we have now completed our second assassination contract. I admit that 'sorcerous assassin' sounds a cool and intimidating career description but it feels... uncomfortable... in reality. I wonder what will happen to the remaining orc females, with no chieftain and most of the tribes warriors dead. The most likely answer is that they will be enslaved or killed by the hobgoblins who employed us. I would much rather work for the civilised races, but I suppose humans have performed equally dark deeds and we ourselves have enabled this.

 The hobgoblins warned us that if we rested too long, we would fall foul of the dragon that lived near by, which did raise my interest enough to ask some questions about it. They knew little though and with our goal complete we returned to town. Given how blood-soaked Hemmu's clothing was and how savage her appearance, the guard at the gate was reluctant to let her into town, but Yvor managed to brow-beat the poor man. I do hope he is not punished too harshly by his superiors.

 Once back at the keep, we identified that which we had claimed (poor quality plate and two sets of cheap maille, the shaman's staff (a simple Staff enchantment, only worth a couple of silver), a quality sword, an enchanted axe and a valuable belt made of gold and silver) and counted our coins, with Miao claiming the belt as personal decoration. We decided to sell the rest, although I have requested use of the shaman's staff, as Adam already carries one. It will likely be temporary measure, as I'd rather purchase or have a slightly more ornate one made for me once we are back in civilisation, but it is slightly more practical for my bindle than my current, mundane quarterstaff.

 The remainder of our evening was turned to discussion of future plans- a caravan leaves for Marsh Hall in five days and we all quickly agreed join it. Much longer discussion and debate took place after that, as to where we would go and what we would do when we got there, though we did agree to sell the items we found in the crypt once we had access to the larger and more mystical market of Marsh Hall. At the moment, it looks like we may take a few days in Marsh Hall before heading on to Phessio - it would be good to visit the university again and a city of that size should have plenty of opportunities for gainful employment- but things are still largely undecided. Before we left, we invited those whom we had travelled with (and the guards Yvor had gotten to know) to a grand party to celebrate our time here. I also took the time to meet to the Commander's lieutenant, filling him in on the changed situations in the caves - Warian was kind enough to provide a rough map of the valley for me to present to him and I let him know about the deaths of the orc leaders, the elimination of the cult and so on. Miao had a chat with the Commander himself, although I know not what they discussed.

 We leave tomorrow, may the road be safe and sure.


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