Orcs do not like music
The fire burned low in the shell of a shop or house, the woman didn't know nor did she care. It provided some shelter and that was all that mattered. Pain washed over her and she clutched her swollen belly, biting down on her lip till blood flowed. She dare not cry out least it attract the wrong kind of attention. Wild dogs were already sniffing around her hiding place but she could deal with those. There were worse things in the night that would be led here by her cries of labor. Tears streamed down her cheeks till the contraction passed.
Two days cautious travel brought them to the village of Koln. They were met by a young boy, about fourteen, outside town who could not keep his eyes off of Nara and only spoke to her. He told them they needed to see the sheriff that all travelers had to check in with him. He offered to take Nara straight there ignoring the two men he took her hand and dragged her into the village. The young boy lead her straight to the sheriff's office Elen and Svenson tagging behind. They were greeted by the sheriff with a suspicious stare looking them over he finally spoke "We don't need trouble here." Nara was about to reply when the thundering of hooves made them all spin around. Riding into the village was a man followed closely by a dozen orcs. The man bore the holy symbol of Izrador, he was a legate a powerful priest of the dark god. Everyone in the town including the three companions got quickly out of the way and averted their eyes from the man least they draw attention.
The legate and the orcs rode right up to the front of the large house in the middle of town. The door opened and a portly man came out followed close by another who carried a bucket. Water was offered to the legate and orcs quickly followed by an argument. The companions could not hear what was being said but it was obvious that the legate was not getting the answers he wanted. The legate turned to an orc and gave an order, the orc dismounted and backhanded the mayor. Sevnson started to move but the sheriff raised his hand in warning. The sheriff spat on the ground and went inside so as not to have to witness the beating. The beating stopped and the legate bent down to question the mayor again. The legate then mounted, spun his horse around and addressed the town.
"You should thank your mayor, with the information he has provided I will not have to raze your town. I command you to make a sacrifice to Izrador and gather your tribute. I will return soon to collect it"
The legate spurred his horse forward followed by a few orcs. The rest of the orcs started encouraging the villagers to gather up their tribute. The orc who had administered the beating to the mayor stood over him and glared at anyone who came near. Everyone knows that in these times you don't get involved, you don't draw attention to yourself for bad things always followed. This was the general feeling of the companions as the stood on the street whispering among themselves, however they had been told to seek friends in the town so they decided to do something to help the mayor. Mara and Elen decided to go to the tavern to see what they could find out. Sevnson elected a more direct route and approached the orc standing over the whimpering and bleeding mayor.
Mara opened the door to the tavern and stepped in she did not get more then a step in before a rough orcish voice yelled out "Bar closed." Mara looked over to the table where half a dozen orcs were sitting with several pitchers and large clay mugs. Mara gave them a disarming smile and raised her hands "Maybe you would like a song" she called over to the table. The large orc stood up "Bar closed go away now" he growled. Mara still with her bright smile again asked if they didn't want a song, didn't they like music? The orc growled something in orcish, picked up the heavy clay mug and threw it at Mara "Bar closed!" The mug hit Mara right in the forehead and she staggered backwards out of the bar and flat onto her back in the street. She was followed by raucous laughter from inside the tavern. Orc voices could be heard congratulating their friend on such a fine shot. Mara, flat on her back, was not aware of the laughter she was only slightly conscious of Elen administering first aid.
Sevnson had approached the orc who just stood there and glared at the big northman. Sevnson took some smoked beef from his pack and offered it to the orc as he moved around to see how the mayor was doing. The orc took the meat gave it a sniff and was ready to speak when there was a loud commotion from the tavern. The orc seemed to loose interest in Sevnson and the mayor as he grunted out a laugh at the woman who staggered backwards from the tavern and fell on her back. The orc peeled off a piece of smoked beef and chewed on it while watching the commotion.
Elen had Mara on her feet and was helping her across the street and away from the tavern. The door to the mayor's house opened and out scuttled two people who quickly gathered up the mayor and motioned for the companions to follow them into the house. The orc only grunted at them as he made his way to the tavern.
Once inside Elen starts giving first aid to the mayor who is coming around. He looks at the three with a slightly puzzled expression commenting on how they are not from the village. They give him a cover story about looking for a place to settle down where the forces of the shadow are not to overbearing. The mayor, who introduces himself as Derryk, comes to the conclusion that these three may be the best chance the village has at the moment. Mayor Derryk explains to them in a fast and confused way that he had no choice but to reveal the location of the Tearfall caverns to the legate. That the legate was looking for magic items and he was sure the village was hiding them or knew something. Mayor Derryk tells the companions that they use the Tearfall caverns as a source of water during times of drought but that he also suspects they are used by a resistance group as well. He implores the companions to beat the legate to the caverns and hide anything that might be there or else the village will suffer. The mayor tells them he does not know anything about the resistance and that he doesn't want to know anything but he has often turned a blind eye to the sheriff's frequent trips to the caverns. He also told them to talk to Tanner Hurly no one knows the area better then he does the mayor assures them.
They split up with Nara going to speak to Tanner, Elen and Sevnson went to speak to the sheriff.
Nara had no problem finding Tanner she spoke to him about the surrounding area and mentioned how her and her companions would really like to beat the legate to Tearfall cavern. Tanner is a man what looks after himself and he knows that the village is in a bad location that someday the little village of Koln would be laboring at the logging camps as slaves. He is preparing for that day by stock piling food and supplies. He starts dropping hints to Mara who seems completely oblivious to his hints that he would need something in exchange for the information. Finally exasperated with her failure to get the hint he comes out and pretty much tells her that he requires something in exchange for the information. Her initial offers are received with disdain. Finally they reach and accord and he tells her of a path he calls the high road that leads to the caverns. He tells her how to find it and that is should cut the time in half to get there.
Elen arrives at the sheriff's office and starts to speak with Azahn. Asahn is less then enthused to speak with them regarding anything to do with the caves. He flat out tells Elen that he and his companions are to well fed and do not show the normal signs of despair to be simple refugees. Elen tells him they have promised the mayor to try and help the village and are going to try and beat the legate to the caverns in an attempt to clear them, if there is anything there, before the legate gets there. Azahn decides to place his trust in them not out of any deep desire to save the village, villages come and go sometimes they have to be sacrificed but the supplies the resistance have stashed there are irreplaceable. He tells them about a side tunnel and small cave that holds the resistance supplies. He tells them about the trap and how to disarm it he laments about his bum leg or he would do it himself.
Since time is short and they are a few hours behind already the companions waste no more time in the village as they start the race to Tearfall Caverns.
Continued in Race to Tearfall