With auguries and portents aplenty, and the blessing of the god of holiness besides, the path for the party seemed obvious… right? Well, at least to most of the party it seemed clear that action had to be taken against Sanila and the forces of shadow magic – or more properly necromancy. After all, Qodesh had smiled upon them, and they had seen (and fought) the shadow dragons from the augury, they had equipment suitable to the task, and NubNub had a staff and a quest to fulfil – to save Kl’kayt.
With all those dominoes in line, it seemed that all they needed to do now was to determine where exactly Sanila was. They suspected the orc forces would be moving out as soon as boats started to come from Manxiga to collect them. The real question would be whether Sanila would go with the rest of the troops, or would travel before, or wait until after most of them had moved on. Should they be hopping on the next boat to Manxiga themselves, or risking another teleport? While they did sell some of their spare equipment for some spending money, Vargas pointed out that boat fares aren’t cheap, and so they shouldn’t be wasting any more money on auguries or spyglasses. And so it was decided that, rather than hop on a boat now and spend anywhere between three weeks and two months at sea only to find they were mistaken, they might as well spend a few of their days travelling to the dividing mountains, and spying into the Bitto to get an answer as to what the situation was with the orcs. Besides, it might give Jethro a bit more time to sort out the legal wranglings that Xin Hao had him trapped in.
Veri gave the kobolds in Nubton some instructions about the future upkeep of a library, as well as attuning herself to a teleportation circle there, while Roland managed to secure from the Vahassan leadership diplomatic papers both for himself and Veri so that, if the party did travel to Manxiga, they could formally represent the Vahassan leadership – at least in petitioning them to turn the orc army back, because invading the mountains was not a good idea, at least not with the same orcs that had ravaged Vahassa only months earlier.
From Nubton, it was an easy walk-over-water (Hesed was happy to oblige once more) toward Pachia, where the party had hoped to pick up some horses from Veri’s parents, and to likewise inform them of a new place to live in Nubton, hopefully away from he orcish invaders and their future attempts at raids (rather ironic, since in the last war Pachia was one of two places not to fall to the orcs…). But before they even made it past Pachia, the party saw ahead of them on the road a man – and quite a man, built like a carrot, armed and obviously ready for battle, though he was not wielding, simply strolling, apparently alone, following the road up from Pachia to Basten. He had something of a wild look to him, but there was not much else the party could make out from that distance… if only they had a spyglass…
And while the party were taken by this rather confusing looking individual, walking alone along the road, they noticed something far more interesting, and immediate – a small group of orcs had suddenly appeared between the two groups – one clearly having brought them there by magic, the others readying bows and preparing to take pot shots at the stranger. Well, the party were not going to allow orcs to re-invade the savannah, even if it were only five, and furthermore they were not going to let them shoot down some lone human, regardless of how strange he looked. They called to the orcs to cease, they ran forward and made threats, and Mellvin even fired some ‘warning shots’ (his excuse for missing almost every single time). But it was not until the magic-wielding orc turned and they recognised him – Connu – and he recognised them, that things really got heated up. This lone stranger drew his sword, took up a defensive position, and prepared to take a charge… but it never came, possibly because Roland had ridden his dinosaur mount between him and the orcs, and told them to stop their attack. Connu, however, wove a quick spell upon the paladin’s mind, and asked him to step aside – which he did dutifully.
And even more than stand aside, he lay himself flat on the ground when Veri started firing lightning bolts all over the place, fearing that another might strike him. The orc archers continued their fire, now splitting it between their chosen target and these new targets of opportunity. The stranger seemed to call out to the gods… but not for help, instead telling them not to interrupt, jocularly calling their names in jest and joke, it seemed, rather than in seriousness. The firefight continued a little, both with arrows and magic, and Veri and Connu had themselves a little wizardly duel, which Veri lost due to simple oversight and her love of lightning… but when the numbers were obviously not in Connu’s favour, when he saw they had a healer who was good at his job, and when two of the orcs had already fallen, he teleported away – without his other two companions, who briskly sought to run towards the Wilds for cover. Of course, they could not outrun a centaur and a paladin on a dinosaur, and the two were swiftly knocked down and captured.
But of far more interest was where did this strange warrior come from? All they had gotten from him was that his name was Rogan, he was a mercenary, and he had most recently been in the employ of the orcs – that much was made clear from the large chunk of silver he had around his neck, obviously crudely taken from the fall of the silver tower. But another question stood out – why were the orcs after him? Any answer he would have given was marred by the interruption of squeakings and rustling from his pack, from where he produced a ferret and a chinchilla, the two rodents being introduced as Carna and Qodesh. Veri thought they were adorable, and gave a typically feminine little squee of joy, and the desire to hug them was instantly seen in her eyes. The rest of the party, though, were unsure what to make of this strange blasphemy…