The next morning, the party set out to look for the caravan. A few goblins on the outskirts of town gave them trouble, but in the end all the goblins lay dead, and a little boy named Damien had his fish back. Magdelena and Killian were moaning over their headaches, just as Elijah had predicted, but were well enough to be of use. The only good thing about the morning, in the halflings’ opinion, was Borg’s bad mood.
It was only when they were a few miles away from Easthaven, just approaching a cave they had seen, that they were rushed by a few wolves that were easily dispatched. A line of abandoned wagons were lightly blanketed with new-fallen snow, and a pair of orcs stood guard at the entrance. The elf in Jaruah kicked in and she downed one with a shot from her crossbow, conveniently nestled in its throat. The other had taken three arrows in the chest and a bullet in the skull from Catti’s sling. He didn’t notice the dagger in his eye until it was actually in place.
They approached to riffle through the belongings of the corpses and found only a little gold.
“Ugh,” Maggie said in disgust. “He just had to get eye jelly all over my new dagger.” She wiped the filth on the orc’s tunic.
“Come on, let’s get inside,” Elijah urged, and they cautiously entered the cave. A group of orcs was gathered, seeming alerted by the skirmish outside. They advanced slowly, with much noise and waving of axes.
Borg stretched his arms and grinned. He picked up his axe. “Step right up; I’ve got plenty of death for everybody!”
“Borg, no!” Elijah called out as the dwarf charged headlong into the midst of the orcs.
Jaruah was fairly fast with her crossbow, but not as fast as Killian and Maggie with their long and short bows, respectively. Arrows and bolts were flying, and everyone tried to avoid killing Borg.
With a wordless cry Catti launched bullet after bullet at the orcs, just as Elijah yelled, “For Tyr!”
Eventually, every orc was dead, and Borg was left with no scratches. Now fairly confident they could take on whatever awaited, they headed deeper into the caverns.
There were a few minor skirmishes with other groups of generic orcish guards and even a few orcish archers, but they, too, were taken down.
They found the boxes and crates the caravan had been carrying, unopened. Footprints in the tracked-in snow led the party to a group of orcs, complete with two archers and a shaman.
“Catti, take the mage!” Elijah called, before following Borg and Jaruah into the fray. Killian and Maggie stayed behind to loose arrows into the enemy archers.
Catti began the spell she had memorized the night before. The orcish shaman also chanted, waving his hands and weaving spell-light in an oval before him. But his spell failed as the crimson orbs of Catti’s ‘Magic Missile’ spell slammed into his body. He was dead before the last sphere hit him.
But Catti had more to worry about as she tried to force a healing potion down an unconscious Maggie’s throat. The halfling had been knocked down by the velocity of an arrow, luckily deflected by her studded leather armor, but it had still nicked her collarbone where armor and clothing met flesh.
Soon both orcish archers lay dead, and the other orcs were swiftly taken care of by Killian’s arrows and Borg’s axe, as well as the blades of Elijah and Jaruah.
The only thing they got from this fight was a scroll for Catti and a replenished supply of arrows. When the whole group felt ready to continue, they walked even deeper into the frigid, dingy caves.
Maggie halted suddenly, holding her fingers to her lips. ‘Voices ahead,’ she mouthed, and melted into the shadows, hugging the uneven walls and clutching her bow.
Killian was standing stock-still, and when he heard the snap of a bowstring, followed by orcish battle-cries, his muscles tensed. Another bowstring twanged and Maggie yelped further down the tunnel.
Killian shot into the narrow alley towards his sister’s voice, only vaguely hearing Elijah shout his name before he disappeared from the party’s sight. Borg was close behind him.
Maggie was backed up against a wall next to a chest, shooting arrows into orcs as fast as she could draw them. An orcish arrow was lodged in the wall by her head. She had cried out in surprise, not pain, and for that, Killian was grateful. With a shout that echoed off the walls, the halfling warrior leapt to his sister’s defense, the dwarf close at his heels. Between Maggie’s bow, Borg’s axe, and Killian’s short sword, they made short work of the remaining orcs. The rest of the party came running up just as Maggie made the latch on the chest click open.
Killian took the items as she handed them to him. “Let’s see . . . a scroll for Catti —”
The spellcaster took the parchment and immediately gasped. “Chromatic Orb! I’ve been looking for that one.”
“. . . two healing potions —” These were immediately tucked into the potion case Catti carried.
“. . . and a ring,” Maggie finished. She held the band up to the torchlight and examined it. “I think it’s magical.” She tried to slip it on, but Catti snatched it away, snapping, "It could be dangerous, halfling." The priestess tucked it into her gem bag to be identified back at the inn. That finished, the party backtracked and took another torch-lit way.
Guttural orc voices were echoing from a large cavern, and Maggie motioned to the party that she was going to check it out.
She came back in several minutes. “An ogre, three orcish archers, three orcish grunts, and an orcish shaman,” Maggie informed them.
They advanced slowly, readying their weapons.
“The good will be upheld!” Elijah cried when they were sighted, and rushed to engage the first two orcs wielding axes. Killian was by his side in a flash, cutting down the third orc with his short sword. Borg ran headlong into the archers, scattering them, and went after each with his axe.
Maggie edged into the shadows, and as soon as she was sure she couldn’t be seen, she darted behind the orge and slashed his calves wide open. She dove forward, between his legs, as he fell backward.
The orc shaman was casting a spell, waving his hands and chanting in his harsh tongue.
Catti, too, was creating magic. It was a race between orc and half-elf — until a Magic Missile downed the orc for good.
Jaruah, who had not been as active in this battle, walked up to the unconscious ogre calmly and pushed her two-handed sword through his ribs.
Maggie found several more crates from the caravan, unopened, in the back of the room. A chest was open, and the thief riffled through the contents, finding only a few necklaces that would fetch some gold, and another healing potion.
A note was pinned to the top of one of the crates. Basically, it detailed what the caravan was assigned to do and such. Maggie read it aloud with exaggerated theatrics. Borg especially liked the part that called Pomab ‘a blood-sucking Calimshite weasel.’
The group retraced their steps and exited the cave. The sunlight was welcome after the hours spent in the dark, and the party headed back to Easthaven.
“Hmm,” Hrothgar said thoughtfully when they had finished telling their story. “It is . . . odd . . . for orcs to be so brazen as to attack a caravan just outside of town. This bears looking into, but we cannot spare the time. Take this supply list to Pomab and buy whatever you’ll need for the journey to Kuldahar. Our expedition leaves at dawn tomorrow. Be here — we cannot afford lateness.
“I must prepare for tomorrow. Farewell.” Hrothgar swept out the door, leaving them to while away the rest of the day.
Jaruah, Borg, and Catti headed back to the inn, Borg singing ‘The Little Lowland Maid’ in a loud voice. Elijah was taking the list of supplies to Pomab and selling the things they’d picked up in the cave that the party didn’t need. The twins decided to teach the children of Easthaven how to play a few halfling games, and the squirrel the children had been playing with was given to Old Jed for safe-keeping while the kids were otherwise occupied.
Catti immediately sat down at the desk to copy ‘Chromatic Orb’ into her spellbook and organize her spells for the next day. Borg decided to wander around the inn while Jaruah polished her sword and armor. Both women cringed when they heard an elven voice singing in harmony with a dwarven voice. The lyrics and the tune were not bad by any means, but they knew they’d have to deal with Borg singing all of the next day if he learned a new song. Catti and Jaruah stopped to listen.
O, tomorrow, comrade, we
On the battle-plain must be,
There to conquer, or to both lie low!
The morning star is up
But there's mead still in the cup,
And we'll take another swig, ‘ere we go, boy, go;
We'll take another swig, ‘ere we go.
O, ‘tis true, in elven eyes
A passing tear will rise,
When we think of the friends we leave lone;
But what can wailing do?
See, our tankard’s weeping too!
With its tears we'll chase away our own, boy, our own;
With its tears we'll chase away our own.
O, let those, who brook the chain
Of Cormyr or of Thay,
Ignobly by their fire-sides stay;
One glance to home be seen,
One prayer to Seldarine,
For Evereska and her cause, boy, hurrah! hurrah!
For Evereska and her cause, hurrah!
O, but daylight's stealing on;
The last that o'er us shone
Saw our children around us play;
The next - ah! where shall we
And those rosy urchins be?
But - no matter - grasp the sword and away, boy, away;
No matter - grasp the sword and away!
“Well,” Jaruah said when the duet had finished. “I’d better go drag Borg away before he learns any more.” She left and came back seconds later ushering a dwarf who was alternately singing and protesting. The elf shoved him into the party’s room and shut the door quickly. There came the sound of an axe thudding into the wall, followed immediately by a high-pitched shriek of rage. Jaruah decided to wait a few minutes before going inside. When she did so, Catti was clutching Borg’s axe, and the dwarf was lunging for it, pouting, and whining. It gave Jaruah a sort of perverse pleasure to behold it, and she dreamed pleasantly that night.
Notes: Unfortunately, I cannot upload the MIDI file that coincides with the lyrics and the website I got it from no longer exists. The lyrics nor the melody belong to me; I simply changed some locations and names to reflect Faerun in the song. If you would like to hear it, email or PM me and I will try to send you the tune.
IV. The Caravan of Caer-Dinival
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