Gathering the spoils of their last fight, the group quietly peered out the broken door. The corridor led both north and south. In the dim light spilling in from their entrance room and other unknown sources, they saw that the hallway was once nice, paneled in wood, but now was the victim of 50 plus years of neglect: cobwebs hang; dust balls lie scattered and mold seemed to be growing on the slightly damp walls. No sounds came from either direction so they began to check out the doors to the south.
The adventurers were as quiet as possible and entered each room cautiously. Syndylys made a joke about Jonathan and Ariston walking quietly but no one paid it much mind. By one door, Keestake stopped and almost seemed to whimper.
“Tis me own room. Someone has been inside, I know it!” Keestake wanted to see it but he had not seen it since he was captured by the Goblins. Inside, they find it is a mess. The furniture he had taken to his choice room and kept up all these years was recently destroyed and picked through, including his bed, his chest of drawers, his tables, his chairs. He complained and moaned loudly until Flavius turned to him and glared.
In most of the rooms to the south, they found nothing. Keestake said they were the quarters of servants like him except the next to last one on the eastern wall. In this room, they find only enough broken furniture for one person. On the northern wall is a large (8 feet tall, floor to ceiling) wooden plaque, only slightly damaged weapons. It is a piece of relief sculpture showing a harpooner (full size) drawing back his weapon to release at a distant whale. The plaque has been pulled bodily from the wall, presumably by those searching for secret doors, and leaned against the wall. Braving the moldy conditions of the room (they can hardly breathe), Sarmboc and Aniston examine the sculpture. They soon discover that the harpoon the figure is holding is a separate piece, inlaid into the wood of the plaque but easily removable. It has been painted to look like part of the plaque, but it is not. Aniston tugs on the harpoon and it easily slides free of the sculpture. When he did so, the harpoon head dropped off and revealed a golden and quite sharp head underneath. Not knowing what to do with it, he kept it, tying it to his back with some of the rags of his clothing.
The characters turned towards the northern part of the hallway, going by their entrance room. As they headed that way, Syndylys heard something and called the group to a stop: voices perhaps and the scuffling of shoes or boots on the floor. Quickly listening at each door they pass, it becomes clear that it is the last door on the eastern wall that hides someone or something. The group confers quietly in the hallway and Sarmboc decides they should bust open the door like the Orc did previously. “Perhaps we can surprise them,” he says.
Flavius and Chronos were silent about the plan but Syndylys nodded his agreement that it might work. The Dwarf backed up in the corridor then ran as fast as he could into the door. In slow motion, the door splintered then Sarmboc fell into the room. Three Orcs stood at the ready with their swords and all three connected with the Dwarf. Blood splattered onto the door’s frame and he crumbled under the blows. The party, having hoped to surprise whatever was on the other side of the door was in turn surprised.
The first seconds of the fight were almost the last for the party. Flavius and Ariston were both hit and nearly brought low by the Orcs. But then, from the far shadows came a tumbling shape. It expanded into a woman and she struck one of the Orcs with her fists. That rallied the party and distracted the Orc.
Ariston thrust his sword into the heart of one of the Orcs and twisted it out just in time to avoid the blade of another. From tip to hilt, it was covered in Orc ichor. Droplets sprayed as Ariston swung his sword.
The third Orc found his mark and Ariston winced from the blow. Flavius stepped up and hacked into the unarmored Orc’s shoulder and the beast shuddered from the blow, moving back five feet from the Forestor.
The party noticed that there was not just one more human in the room but two others. They were busy untying themselves in the far corner. The one who had tumbled up to the fight was scrambling for the fallen Orc’s sword. She grasped it just in time to block a blow from the lead Orc. She side stepped and swung but he moved out of the way and into the way of Jonathan’s sword. A line of red appeared on the Orc’s forearm.
The Orcs’ nerve was unwavering and they pressed the attack. They focused on the obviously wounded Thyatians. Ariston was forced to his knees and Flavius was knocked to the wall. With a yell, the new woman landed a blow to one of the Orc’s back as Melisana landed a club to its head and Flavius cut its stomach. It clutched its entrails as it fell; dead before it hit the floor.
The last one, the obvious leader, stood over Ariston. Syndylys stood poised behind the large Orc, dagger at the ready but the Forestor grunted and jumped to his feet. The primal sound and spring powered his swing and his sword separated the Orc’s head from it shoulders. The body took three steps backwards then fell onto the dirty floor.
Once the Orcs were dispatched, the group made introductions. One of the new people, a man, did most of the talking.
“This here is Kyri,” he said pointing to a slight woman. It was clear that she was an Elf, not human as the party first thought. She bowed gracefully then turned to pick up one of the Orc swords.
“My acrobatic friend is Jael.” The man turned to the woman who was cleaning Orc’s blood from her newly acquired sword. She was tall and attractive with dark matted hair which was probably quite nice when clean. “Besides her tumbling skills, she is a great singer and kept us heartened during the last night.”
“And I am Chae de Trey,” the man said with an overstated bow. He spoke Thyatian but with a distinct accent. Flavius knew it to be Darokinian.
Chae explained that they were all three onboard the slave ship together, taken up to row (Melisana and Syndylys recognized Jael but none of them remembered an Elf onboard).
Chae continued, “So lightning struck the main sail and cracked it in half and some of the slaves jumped off the ship. The slaves started revolting and we Jael, Kyri and me) were all bound together. The deck was rocking and rolling, pitching and acting right ornery. Just then, a wave hit the ship and we were knocked off our feet. Being bound together, we were probably a sight to see as we struggled to get back up. Unfortunately, the Immortals had other plans for us and the water reached right up and pulled us in. Luckily, that Jael is pretty quick and she grabbed onto the broken mast that was bobbing in the water.”
“We all grabbed on for dear life,” said Jael. She had begun searching the Orcs and finding nothing.
Seeing that he was perhaps missing out on loot, Chae kept talking but started searching as well. He cut off the little steel belt buckles from each Orc and motioned as to put it into his pocket. He seemed not to notice that he did not have any pockets in his rags.
“So, anyway, we grabbed onto that mast and floated. We kicked and kicked against the tide. It was not much use so we just went with the flow. We wrapped our chains around the giant log so we would not fall and let the Immortals take us.” Chae slipped another buckle into his imaginary pocket. It stuck somewhere and did not clatter to the floor.
“We were very lucky.” These were the first word the Elf had spoken and everyone looked at her. She looked away. She moved closer to the Cleric, who was tending to the Dwarf, trying to stop the bleeding of his wounds. Sarmboc was not yet dead but close.
“Well as I was saying,” said Chae, "We eventually wound up on shore. Using the wood that was all around us, we were able to get our bonds off. The rain was coming down like widow’s tears and we knew we could not stay on the shoreline. So, we trudged around in the muck and eventually found what looked to be an old and forgotten village. There were rotten piers and a few sloping chimneys. We found the largest chimney and curled up inside its fireplace. Jael sang us to sleep with a song I had not heard since my childhood. She’s from Darokin too.
“Anyways, we stayed in the fireplace as a break against the wind and the rain. We were stiff and still tired when we awoke but Kyri was stiff as a board. I asked what was the matter and she pointed at the largest, meanest group of pirates I had ever seen (not that I have seen many). They were all Orcs.
“They had us surrounded so we decided not to fight. Besides, we had just been slaves a little while ago and the Immortals saw fit to release us. I figured they would come help us again. So luckily, I speak a little Orc from my days helping my parents as a scout. They kept asking about “the old man” and if “he” was working with the Goblins. None of us knew of an old man nor any Goblins but I don’t think they believed us. Instead they tied us up and marched us here. Then you came along and helped us escape, just like I thought it would happen."
“Oh, that’s a mighty nasty wound you have there,” Chae was looking at Ariston. “Let me see if I can do something about that. I learned some of the healing arts when I was scouting.”
Ariston looked hesitantly at Chae and then at Kyri. Kyri again looked away but there seemed to be a smile on her face. Chae was already tearing off bits of his rags and tying them on to Ariston. Tighter and tighter, like a tourniquet.
“Hey, stop that!” Ariston pulled away. The tightened rags had turned bright red. He was on the verge of swooning and leaned on the wall to steady himself. “I will be okay. Save your touch for someone else.”
“Suit yourself,” said Chae. He moved on to try to help Flavius who looked at him with slightly widened eyes.
The cleric took a few moments to pray for the party and the Immortals answered his ministrations by making Flavius and Ariston feel slightly better. However, they are faced with a dilemma. Sarmboc is still unconscious. Ariston states that death is natural and the weakest die first. He wants to leave the Dwarf behind. Flavius and Chronos balk, “He will most certainly die if we leave him here. There has already been enough death on this island.”
The new party members seem indifferent. “I just don’t want to carry him,” said Jael.
“I will carry him. My spirit is lightened by the weight of this burden,” said the priest.
“Well, I will hold any heavy items he may have been carrying,” volunteered Chae.
The cleric ignored the scowling Ariston and joking Chae and shouldered the Dwarf. The party then gathered up everything of value or use and decided to explore more deeply into the manor.
Back in the hallway, the party listened at the door to the north. Hearing nothing, they went through it and into another hallway. This one was also lined with dusty, cracked wood panels and showing the wear and tear of 60 years of neglect. Tattered cloth on the walls indicates the hallway was once hung with tapestries and drapes. Keestake wistfully says this wing housed the royal family of Viledel. The hallway stretches both east and north.
Jael moves to the front of the group. “I am going through those double doors.” She moves eastward to the doors in the northern wall. Syndylys looks indignant. “No, we should go north. Keestake’s map says the throbbing stick is that way.” Jael ignores him and moves to the doors. Chae, Kyri, Flavius, Keestake, Jonathan, Melisana and Chronos (and of course Sarmboc) follow her. She shakes her head. The Mage and the Forestor move away to the north.
Listening at the door, Jael hears nothing. She forces the slightly stuck door open and sees a rather large room. There were the moldy remains of a rug on the floor, three smashed desks, and two ruined tables. On the far side wall, a small barred but glassless window looked out on a courtyard. Heavy rain was pouring down and the sound of thunder could be heard in the distance. A tapestry hung on the wall beside the window which Jael moved aside with her sword. Beneath was a small wooden door. She motioned for her entourage to be quiet then listened at the door. Nothing was heard so she opened it, forcing it with her shoulder.
Keestake appeared in awe as he entered this room. He muttered, “The chambers of himself, the King.” He bowed slightly and averted his eyes to the floor. It is clear that this room was once lavishly appointed but now has been slashed brutally. Broken sofas and tables are piled in the center and it looks as if someone tried to start a fire at some time in the past. The party briefly searched but found nothing of value. Double doors led to the west and a single door led to the north. Jael listened at the single door but heard nothing.
As they were going through, Syndylys and Ariston joined them, moving quietly but quickly. They were clearly agitated.
“There are Orcs around the corner and up the hallway. Perhaps four or more of them.” Ariston looked back as if they were being followed.
“Well, I guess we should go back and take them out,” Jael said matter-of-factly.
“Wait, I need to check this out.” It was Kyri who spoke. She was examining a desk which had escaped being totally demolished. “It does not look quite right.”
The room in which they were standing was again large. A barred window was on the eastern wall, through which flashes of lightning could be seen. A single door led north. The contents of the room were demolished furniture but one desk, the one at which Kyri was standing, appeared to have an untouched drawer.
“Stand back, Kyri,” said Chae. “When I was a scout, I learned to find and remove the traps of overly cautious hoarders. Let me take a look.”
He examined the desk but found nothing. He agreed with Kyri, though, that there appeared to be extra space. She nodded then moved him out of the way and yanked on the drawer. It came out, empty, and she dropped it on the floor. Peering into the space left behind she said, “Aha” and reached in.
She pulled out a dagger in a moldy leather sheath and a small, blue, glass flask, stoppered and sealed. She pulled out the dagger and it was amazingly shiny, showing no sign of rust after all these years. It was a good double-edged fighting-style dagger with a black stone hilt inlaid in gold in the design of cresting waves. She handed it to Jael who began to study it; searching her memory for clues to its origin. She came up empty.
The little glass flask definitely contained a liquid but there was no clue to what it was. No one wanted to open it but Jael wanted to examine it. There were no marks on the bottle and she could not tell what it was. She handed both back to Kyri for safekeeping.
“Let’s go get some Orcs,” she said and headed for the door to the south.