The Escort

The adventurers set off on their hired quest to escort the military caravan. It consists of two carts, one for food, supplies and other necessities, the other carrying what appears to be a large steel container, bolted and latched, with the seal of the Empire on the fastened lid. The guards accompanying Krik and Ivan refuse to tell what is inside their objective, only saying that it must reach the docks in Skerim within the week, and will be shipped to a more secure part of the Empire. Krik is fascinated by the crate and thoroughly perturbed by the fact that she doesn’t know what it is.

The first day passes, uneventfully, and the adventurers ease their guard, and relax, enjoying the travel. Night falls and the captain orders the group to set up camp. Friendly banter around the campfire is interrupted when krik hears a noise coming from the dark alpine forest. The captain nearly sloughs it off, and orders Ivan and Krik, along with 3 other guardsmen to check out the “noise.” Scouting out ahead of the group, krik peers into the night with her half-orc darkvison. Suddenly, she can make out a very large beastly shape, far too large for comfort. The guards, seemingly oblivious to the danger blunder full on into a Dire Bear. years of traversing the northern wilds honed Kriks reflexes, and without missing a beat, charges head on at the menacing brute of a bear. Ivan looses searing magic missiles into the the bear and the stench of burning flesh fills the night air. The guards hastily try to form a line and hold their ground, but the Dire Bear roars with primal fury and swipes it’s mighty paw down onto one of them, opening a mortal gash on a guard’s chest. The other two fight for their lives with sword and shield, fending off the beast as krik unleashes her fury and bursts into a bloodletting rage and chops and stabs at the bear with her halberd with wild abandon cleaving grievous wounds into the animal. Ivan dips into his spell book and throws out an arcane barrage upon the beast, blasting it into a bloody corpse. The scouting party regroups and limps back to their camp to nurse their wounds.

The next day and a half of travel goes by with little excitement, a pleasant reprieve from the previous night’s battle. Mid afternoon on the third day, Ivan spots a dark spec one ridge-line over. Upon further inspection, it appears to be a figure off in the distance, cloaked in black, and following them. The captain of the guard doesn’t want to take any chances, putting the guards in defensive formation around the carts, and orders Krik and Ivan to chase down the cloaked figure. They race off, in the direction of the menace, but despite their best effort, could not find or catch him. They return to the caravan, and trek onward for the rest of the day, setting up camp at nightfall.

The next day began like all the rest, with more marching. But it certainly wouldn’t end that way. Mid morning, again Ivan spots the black figure on the other side of the narrow valley as it passes over a patch of white snow, a clearing in the trees. The group tenses, keeping their senses keen and eyes watchful. Later that day, they hear it. Drums.

Lots of them.

A chorus of different drums beating in the hills to the west of them. Then an acknowledgement from the forest to the east. More drums. The guardsmen begin their defensive formations just as the drums stop. An eerie silence befalls the forest. Then a single horn pierces the trees, followed by the screams of charging orcs. The caravan is beseiged with orcs, a throng of gnashing teeth, studded leather and rusty swords. They come in hard, screaming out of the trees on both sides of the road, more orcs than either Ivan or Krik has ever seen. The guards dig in as the green wave of fury washes over the convoy. Krik explodes in primal fury and tears into the oncoming masses with destructive zeal. Ivan conjours bolts of acid and magic missiles to quell the orcish onslaught. The guardsmen try desperately to hold the line, but there are simply too many. Little by little the mass of orcs push them back, separating them from the carts. Ivan turns this downturn into his tactical advantage, seeing a large group of orcs between the guards and the carts. He rushes forward, dodging Krik and her bloody massacre to position himself for maximum casualties and calls forth a great wave of flame from his hands and incinerates a great mass of orcs in a terrible conflagration. The adventurers fight on slaughtering orcs as fast as they can, but still more come from the forest beyond. Then with the escorts pushed back, away from the precious cargo, they bear witness to the true objective of this seemingly random attack. There, from the west, the cloaked figure apears, to far for anyone to hear him, but he seems to be pointing at the carts and barking orders. The orcs push on, harder, forcing the group farther still form the carts, just as two huge Etins charge out of the trees from behind the Black figure. They race towards the carts, smashing though the restraints and letting the horses gallop away. They grab the carts, turn and pull them back off the road, into the hills. The mysterious steel container with them. Their mission complete, their brethren slaughtered, the orcs disperse, and scatter, just as quickly as they had come on. The guards and the adventurers left, stranded on the roadside with but one choice: Track down and retrieve the mysterious black steel container.



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