Elves pursued Marley through the night, but he eventually made it back to Kaladon. In the common room at the King’s Blade, he met up with Neptu and Alastair Finch, and told them of his ill-fated journey to the Oakleaf Tower. Neptu helped him reequip himself (all of his possessions were taken by the elves). They checked in with Captain Herrod Guy, who let them know he was still working on convincing the City Council of the Horde threat. His two biggest concerns were that the Knights of Kaladon were woefully unprepared for war, and that the Minister of the Treasury was itching for an excuse to wipe out the Shriekwood Elves and claim the forest (and all lumber therein) for the city.
The next morning, they set out into the Shriekwood.
Neptu brought them to the camp of the Skyclimber Clan near the forest’s northern border. They found the camp nearly deserted, with only children and the elderly present. At first they were refused entry into the camp—Queen Analen had forbidden contact with outsiders—but Neptu was able to make contact with an old friend of hers: Savian Skyclimber, one of the clan’s elders. He agreed to meet with them under cover of darkness.
He confirmed what they knew of the deposing of King Carufil and the crowning of Queen Analen. Analen, he explained, sought to execute Carufil, but could not do so without the approval of the Eight Clans. The clans had gathered to discuss and vote upon this issue (that’s where everyone was), a process which he expected to take a full week. He confided his suspicion that Analen sought to to go to war with Kaladon, and that the execution of Carufil would be the act that inspired them. He believed that although not all the clans wanted war, none would violate law and tradition by going against the queen. Neptu asked for the location of this meeting, but Savian refused. “It is forbidden,” he said.
The party spent the next two days seeking other elves in the Shriekwood, but found none. When their supplies ran out, they returned to Kaladon.
They met with the Mother Superior at the Church of the Keeper and asked for an introduction to members of the City Council. She told them that she was a close personal friend of Minister of the Treasury Ithelm Rookhill. She agreed to meet with him on the party’s behalf.
They killed a day around the city.
That night, the Mother Superior visited the party, along with Ithelm Rookhill and Knight Commander Reynard Lott. Ithelm informed them that, true to his word, Captain Herrod Guy had warned the City Council about the orcs in the Greyfang Mountains. The Council was concerned about the prospect of committing to a military action in the mountains when the elves in the Shriekwood were posing such a threat, especially when they’d yet to see any proof that the orcs were in fact part of an invading force, and not just a lost tribe or raiding party.
He wanted the party to return to the cave they’d discovered in the Greyfang Mountains and thoroughly scout it. He wanted to know exactly how many orcs their were, what kind of equipment they possessed, what capabilities they had, and what their intentions were. He was willing to pay 100 gold apiece, provided they were able to accomplish it within the week. In addition, he could cover 100 gold worth of expenses (for travel, equipment, etc.).
The party agreed. In the morning, they bought horses and provisions and headed out of the city.
They arrived at the cave in the afternoon (after a nervous encounter with a giant flying something) and found a hiding spot from which they could observe its entrance. They watched it through the night and saw no activity. The next morning, they went in…
…and were promptly attacked by three orcs in dark cloaks. Marley got his brains rattled, but in the end they were able to kill one of their assailants and drive the other two off. Neptu advocated heading in the opposite direction, but Alastair wanted to give chase, so deeper into the caves they went.
Before long, they caught up with the two orcs, along with eight of their buddies. Alastair faced off against them to give his companions time to escape. The orcs crowded around him, hacking at him with curved daggers. He succumbed to their weight and collapsed onto a staircase, but kept fighting. On his back, he managed to swing his sword with enough force and precision that he cut one of them clean in half. This display of strength and skill was too much for the rest of the orcs, who retreated the way they came.
While this was going on, Neptu did some quick exploration. She discovered
- a 15’ statue of a humanoid creature composed entirely of screaming faces
- an altar
- a mural depicting a beam of light shooting out of the roof of this cave high into the sky, and thousands of orcs and other beasties charging into battle.
The party reconvened outside the cave and decided to head back to the city.