With Keen in the hands of orcs. The three companions were left to ponder their next step. Would they return to the besieged town and liberate it from the small orc army? Would they seek the help of a nearby town or city, and if so, where?
They decided to consult Era’s map of The Vale. After much deliberation, they decided to venture to the town of Ambleshire to plea for aid. They were cautious about taking the roads, as they may still be heavy with orcs, and instead decided to trek through the foothills of the Blue Shale mountains. Merle led the way, though admitted that he had lost his bearing before regaining it during the second half of the day.
The three and Lady Niavara, who seemed to be in a silent stupor, made camp for the night. While on watch, Lemaia found herself the victim of an ambush. She awoke Era, who jerked from her slumber with a jolt and a dagger bathed in magical light. It was then that they say their attackers. Five goblins had managed to get the drop on them.
Lemaia threw herself forward slashing at the most heavily armored goblin with her twin daggers. Era kicked Merle awake who groggily took the scene in. As Era turned back to see how Lemaia was fairing, she saw that the four goblins who had been wielding bows had now drawn wicked looking curved blades. Thinking fast, the bard played a note on her flute that put all five to sleep. Merle gave the air genasi a sidelong glance and asked, “Why’d you even wake me up?”.
The three decided to bind the more armored goblin, as he was no doubt their leader, and dispatched with the left. Finding nothing of value on the others, they decided to question their leader. When he awoke, he realized he was outmatched and in a situation that could easily mean his death, so he complied to the best of his abilities.
He introduced himself as Bogchamp, a goblin who preyed on the weak to kill and take as many shinies as he could. Thus far he had collected five shinies (Silver pieces), meaning he was probably not a very good bandit.
Era questioned him about the strange winged woman from Keen. Bogchamp recalled seeing someone that fit the description flying through the sky the night before, though due to being woefully ignorant about directions, he could not say for sure where they were heading.
The three talked it over and decided to keep the goblin on retainer until they found the black-winged woman. They even offered to pay him the princely sum of two gold pieces and a copper candy. He asked for the candy up front.
The next morning the companions, Lady Niavara, and Bogchamp the goblin set off into the hills. Again, Merle’s sense of direction was questionable during the first half of the day, but he kept that fact to himself and pressed on. With his bearings regained, they headed due east.
As they day wore on into afternoon, they found themselves overlooking an ancient, fog-shrouded battlefield. Era, ever the inquisitive one, wondered aloud how the fog could be there, as there were no meteorological effects at play that could cause such a fog. The group decided to camp atop a nearby hill.
The chilly wind whipped over them for most of the night, causing them to shake at winter’s approach. During Lamaia and Merle’s watches, they noticed humanoid shapes moving around in the fog. At first they feared they had been followed, or perhaps they were about to be attacked once again, but it seemed the shapes had no desire to venture past the edge of the fog. Where these ghosts of a war long past?
The next morning, Lemaia and Era decided to investigate the fog more closely. Era took above, while the thief crouched to the ground to get a good look. The ground was littered with the skeletons of dwarves and elves. Anything of real value had either been plundered long ago, or had succumbed to nature, save for one dark green cloak. Lamaia drew it from around the skeleton of a fallen elf, and claimed it as her’s. Era deduced that given the decomposition of other, sturdier gear in the area, the cloak no doubt had some manner of enchantment upon it, though what it could be remained a mystery.
They pressed on through the hills, eventually finding a road around midday. The rest of the day wore on uneventfully. As the sun began to set over the mountains, the group happened upon a wayside in nestled between two hills, charmingly called “The Way Inn”. Relieved to see such a welcomed sight, the group entered the establishment, ate, drank, and enjoyed the comfort of a warm bed for the night.
The next morning they came down to breakfast. The kindly halfling innkeeper served their food and made some small talk about the emptiness of the inn, and how he expects the crowds returning from Many-Partings to fill it up once again by the end of the night. It was then that the group broke the news of what had befallen Keen.
At first the innkeep thought it was a cruel joke, but when he say the truth in their eyes, he rushed out the front door. Confused, the others followed. They found him outside talking to a few men who were saddling their horses. The innkeep told them of what happened to Keen, and-like the hallfling-they did not believe it at first, but when the others produced a tribal patch and one of the orcs’ sinister black axes, the men were more than convinced. They promised to ride to Ambleshire to warn them and muster as much aid as they could.
With Ambleshire soon to be alerted to the atrocity that befell Keeen, the others were free to travel to the nearby dwarven city of Karakzhar. After resupplying as best they could at the inn, they headed north-east down the road. After a ways, they found themselves standing at a fork, with Karakzhar only a day away to the north. It was there that they offered to release Bogchamp from service, allowing him to travel with them if he chose. The goblin thought about it, and bolted east, far ad away from his former captors.
The companions continued on, finally coming to a small trading village at the base of the mountain of Karakzhar. Despite it being dusk, not a single light shone from any of the windows. They soon discovered that the town was devoid of life and supplies, showing signs of a struggle. They slept in one of the abandoned buildings, keeping a vigil in case whatever caused what happened here decided to return.
The next morning the companions headed off towards the mountains, traveling up the winding mountain road with as much caution as they could muster, but such rocky paths can be treacherous, and so it was that Era and Lemaia found themselves on the ground, making a great deal of noise. It was then that they heard a sound that made their hearts sink; the sound of two low, rumbling voices speaking orcish.
Two burly orcs in dwarven armor, wielding black halberds arrived, weapons drawn down upon the bard and the thief, grinning with sadistic glee.