Conniving Caravan

Expedition into Xul-Jarak

Expedition into Xul-Jarak.

Condol made enough bacon for the group, “as a little pick-me-up” he told them. He sprinkled what looked like either dirt or peppercorns, but of course was some poison of his own to a few of the strips, namely the ones for Arcadian and Gaffgarion. He wasn’t sure the gnome would take to it however… he likely had “eccentric” tastes…
“Hope everyone likes bacon!” Condol announced. “Eat your fill and regain your strength. In honor of Slegna, we drink a mug of ale tonight.”
“I will take first watch” Darnell offers, seemingly uninterested in the food. “I am healthy still.”
“Dont eat the food!” Arcadian runs toward the fire, and Condol. “He tampered with our food!”
“I did not.” Condol replies, offended.
“Yes you did. He’s trying to kill us!”
COndol reaches over, taking a piece of bacon. He takes a bite.
“Asshole” Arcadian grumbles.
“I’ll take first watch” Condol offers over Darnell, staring at Arcadian. “Come and have some ale and bacon friends. Come ranger, you’ve earned this food more than any. Look how many arrows still lie in the beast.”
“I’m not hungry.” Arcadian disappears into the trees.
And Condol sets off to take first watch.

Meanwhile, Gaffgarion had ambled over to Slegna’s body. He touches the forehead of the body, and it becomes immersed in a green glow, before opening it’s dead eyes. He commands the zombie to sit up.
“There there child.” the gnome says quietly, digging around inside the dwarf’s backpack. He pulled out Slegna’s original mask, and applied it to the corpse. It hung loosely and crooked.
The lifeless corpse of Slegna stood, and surely more questions would have been asked by the party, but at that moment they found a prisoner of the orcs, a human who ahd been bound and gagged.
“So, like,” the dude took a breath of fresh air. " Thanks for rescuin’ me and stuff guys. I thought these guys were gonna cook me over a fire ‘n shit. All I could think while I seen ya’ fight was ‘man, was how rad a theme song would be!" He scrambles around looking for his geetar, he finds it un-smashed by the orcs. He dusts it off, hops up on a nearby rock, and starts playing an awesome tune.
“Hmmmm…” JessaKat steps out from the shadows. "I wouldn’t be much of an adventurer if I didn’t know a good tune when I hear it."
“Righteous,” the ‘bard’ responds, still playing. “It was my dad’s geetar, ya know.”
“Good day sir” Gaffgarion greets the newcomer, with the zombie Slegna following beside him, indistinguishable from a living being with the mask on. “I have heard that tune before, and it is what my ancestors would refer to as ‘bitchin’”.
“My name’s Sky, man” the bard finally reveals, “what’s your name little one?”
“Gaffgarion” the gnome offers. "
“I like your name bro, but it’s a ‘lil long. I’m gonna call ya ‘G’. Tell ya wut, I seen your dwarven friend bite the dust man. I’ll play something slow in his honor.”
“Let us not speak of what you saw here. such word travels fast. My friend is fine, as you can see” Gaffgarion offers sincerely. “He stands here beside me now. Don’t mind that he doesn’t talk too much.”
“He was not a very jolly kinda dwarf” JessaKat chimes in with a laugh. “He was kinda naive and arrogant.” She smiled to herself, knowing nobody thought of the halfling gypsy as a serious threat. Enemies tended to die with a look of shock, rather than fear.
“That’s not cool, man… but he looked tougher than a dire boar- whoops poor choice of words my bad man.” the bard smirked. “But none the less, he was an ally, and will be remembered as such.” and the ‘bard’ played a sad tune for undead dwarf next to him.
GAffgarion put an ear up to the motionless mouth of Slegna’s mask. “WHat’s that SLegna?” the gnome asks with no response. “You don’t like this ‘Sky’ guy? Hmmm… I say give ’em a chance.” He catches odd glances from many of the party, including JessaKat.

Condol returns from his watch, and nobody catches the quick moment of recognition on his face as he sees Sky. SHortly thereafter, Arcadian returns, likely having suspiciously followed Condol. The druid Lenwei appeared shortly after, as the rains increased.
“We should press on” the druid said. “if we intend to stop the sacrifice. Beside, we’re too close to Xul-Jarak to camp.”
“I can go on” Gaffgariona greed, knowing he could always ride his minion should he tire.
“Maybe Slegna should lead,” the druid senses the unnatural being, “that is, if he can ‘carrion’”.
“I will scout ahead” a still unsettled Arcadian said. “We are close.”

And they would have reached the gigantic, towering fortress, on the plateau amidst the trees, if not for a blunder by Arcadian costing them another day. Hiding under the edge of the plateau, they decide to send Arcadian up.

He is pelted with rain as he scales the wet cliff, and moves near the gate. Lenwei follows, though they cannot see the doors because the fog is so thick. The thunderous rainstorm, they hear a loud knock on the giant doors, and a conversation in orcish ensuing. Returning to the others, Arcadian tells them.
“It was Orcish emmissaries… of Obould Many-Arrows, come to witness the ritual and pay homage to the new orc warlord, if there is one. I think our best chances come from dividing, and sneaking in through the shattered west wall.”
Arcadian, Sky, and Lenwei volunteered to sneak in, disguised as local orc druids themselves, except for Lenwei, who would change into an owl and guide them through the darkest areas of the fortress. They scaled the slippery wall again, and amde their way over the rubble. They crawled hastily over the ruins, until Arcadian and Lenwei froze in their tracks, staring at a wyvern sleeping in a nest made of the rubble. They had noticed the creature in the fog and rain rain, and had wandered dangerously close. Sky followed far enough in the distance to avoid their mistake, and the group made their way up some stairs to the top of the wall. Well placed arrows and bolts silenced an orcs before they could raise an alarm, though the group was separated at one point. Lenwei and Arcadian had found a staircase leading past the ground floor, into the depths of the dungeon below. However, they needed to find Sky before proceeding.
A bolt whistled through the air, narrowly missing Arcadian. IN the distance, an orc was firing at him from around a corner. He returned fire, though the orc’s bolts seemed more accurate. A dangerous game of chase ensued, with the two firing at each otehr as the orc made it down the stairs to the ground floor. Arcadian regrouped with Lenwei, and prepared for an onslaught of alerted orcs… instead they got only Sky, emerging from around a corner, out of breath and breathing heavily.
They ducked into the deeper stairwell, and proceeded downward. The farther they went beneath the mighty fortress, the louder they could hear drumming and ritual chanting in orcish, easily made out by the three who also understood the language. They were allowed to pass with little more than a nod, as many visitors were expected to witness the ritual.
They arrived in time to see one of the scions brutally speared by a chanting orc priestess. The spear disappeared from her hands, and into the hand of a mighty orc, his pale white skin covered in painted symbols, including the eye of Gruumsh. The spear glowed with an evil glow, and representatives of orc tribes who ahd not yet been convinced finally put their offerings forth. The banners of orc tribes from all across Faerun were there, swearing allegiance to this new orc avatar, Thrull, favored of Gruumsh.
Quickly the trio made their way back out of the room, where Lenwei guided them to the one remaining scion, Oreal Nanther. Bruised and battered from torture at the hands of the orcs, he was still alive, and more than willing to go with the false orcs, whose disguises he could clearly tell from his captors. He would never forget his captors.
What few guards were placed so deep in an populated orc fortress were too distracted with the ritual themselves to pay any attention to the prisoner being “taken for mroe ‘questioning’”. Back up the stairs and before they know it, they emerge from the fortress, Lenwei flying ahead to tell the party to prepare to move.

The entire group escorts Oreal Nanther back to Melvaunt, their larges numbers likely dissuading any of the nromal predators, and their pace keeping them ahead of any orcs sent after them. BArely after reaching the town, word spreads of the return of one of the scions, and they are greeted by some happy townsfolk, some who could care less, and event a servant from one of the nobles, Lord Dornig Leiyraghon. Oreal offered the party follow him home for a feast and their reward, and msot were happy to join him. Leiyraghon’s servant offered dinner with his master, who wished details of his son Kalman Leiyraghon’s demise. Sky and Arcadian joined him.

At Lord Nanther’s, the group feasted, and Oreal filled them in on his experience. He had been adventuring for years with the other scions, with Dorn Crownshield guiding them. Of course they had to sneak out due to their parent’s feuds, but due to thier inattentiveness it was quite easy. They had been doing well, and had planned an expedition to Xul-Jarak, but hadn’t planned on it being reoccupied by orc armies. They were ambushed and taken pprisoner, beaten and tortured until the ritual was ready. Then they were sacrificed one by one over the course of the week long ritual.

Over at Lord Leiyraghon’s SKy and Arcadian entered to a feast themselves. Lord Dornig Leiyraghon thanked them for their attempt, though he insisted the real problem was not orcs and it was likely a plot by Lord Nanther to eliminate future generations, leaving the town to his own. His remaining son, Bremmen, stood and gave a short toast, thanking the adventurers for their efforts, and excusing himself from the room.
The door slammed shut hard, startling Lord Leiryghon, and orcs burst forth from the balconies above, led by a large pale one much like Thrull. The great orcs voice booms in the dining hall.
“You are mighty warriors, great will be the strength of the Bloodspear when it tastes your blood.” He then looks at Dornig. “Your days are ended old man.”
The orc archers unleash a barrage of bolts, half a dozen hitting the noble square in the chest, dropping him to the floor dead. They then turn their attention to SKy & Arcadian, who begin retunring fire, but are quickly overwhelmed. Bloodied by the bolts and even carrying a few the ahrd way, They make a break for the main doors of the hall, and find it unlocked.
Barely alive, Arcadian stumbles outside into the sunlight, followed by an injured Sky. There, they’re greeted by the newly acquired Lord Bremmen Leiyraghon (thanks to his father’s demise) and handful of guards.
“There! The ones that killed my father!” he cries, the guards readying their spears.
Sky spoke up first. “I’m not with him, you just rescued me from him!” and he falls to the ground feigning like his injuries are worse than they are.
“I didn’t do it! It was orcs! They have crossbows and I have arr-”
He was cut off by multiple guards spearing him, and dragging their bodies inside, Bremmen shutting the door behind them.

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