Here is a follow up from last night.
You sleep late into the next morning. The rooms at the Green Meadow are very nice: down mattresses, layers of light cotton blankets, warm rooms and fesh fruits for your liking. A local militia member is waiting in the hall when you rise, and he informs you that Sheriff Balder would like to speak with you at your soonest convenience. Warm water and perfumed soap is brought for you to wash. It seems funny to put your dirty clothes on over a clean body, but that is what you do before heading downstairs to gather. You realize the sheriff put you in some of the nicest rooms in town. It was a pleasure.
The militiaman leads you across town to the sheriff's office near the old West Wall. You wait outside for few minutes, inadvertently eavesdropping on a heated conversation between the Sheriff and someone else. The door opens, a hand on the inside knob holding it ajar. You make out the last snippet of a conversation."
".... cannot continue to ignore this situation! Something must be done!" Sheriff Balder shouts in a demanding, angry tone.
"What must and will be done, Sheriff, it exactly what is being done. I will continue to follow my mandate which is, precisely, to protect and preserve the free flow of trade between Trier and the Sayani Underlanders. A missing farmer and some greedy orcs is not a matter for my concern. That, sir, is PRECISELY the concern of YOUR militia. I am doing my job, perhaps you should strive to better do yours."
The door swings open and the County Administrator, Captain Longstadt is momentarily startled to see you. He quickly regains composure and strides right through the middle of your party. Captain Longstadt is widely known to be a humorless man, bent on duty, except for every other Friday, when he takes the evening off to get wildly drunk and sing bawdy songs at the Rusty Axe. He is certainly humorless, and scowling, as he moves off toward the new County Administration building, still under construction. It's his Friday, maybe his disposition will improve as the day wears on.
The Sheriff calls to you to enter. His face is flush and he is pacing. Normally controlled and even tempered, calm under pressure, the continuing difference in priorities between the farmers of Westwall and the traders from Trier has reached a new peak. Balder seems to be on the verge of snapping.
A map of the county is unrolled on the table in front of the sheriff. First Deputy Riley is carefully studying the map. The crude map you found in the orc's case has been placed on the county map, right next to the area it is thought to represent. The sheriff runs his hands through his hair, pulling it a bit, then he takes a deep breath and slaps himself soundly. "Okay, from the top, I need to hear exactly what happened, again."
You oblige him, and for the next hour you relate, again, the entire series of events from the moment you left your farmhouse. He nods frequently, interjects occasionally, and asks for frequent confirmation. "You're sure?" comes his mantra.
"Orcs have raided our farms for 300 years. They are cowardly. Typically, they steal some livestock, ransack a farmhouse, or burn a barn. They never stand up for a pitched fight, they run as soon as threatend, and they rarely kill anyone. In my 49 years, I can only recall two instances when orcs have killed townsfolk. The first time, the entire militia mustered and tracked them to a cave in the foothills. There were probably 15 of them. We burned out the cave and didn't hear from the orcs for 5 years. The last time someone died at the hands of orcs was probably an accident. Todd Flander had one trapped in his barn. The others had run off. In a scuffle to subdue the orc, Todd was knocked unconscious and a lamp overturned. The barn went up quickly, the orc escaping into the woods. Todd didn't make it."
Sheriff Balder continues, "But I have never heard of orcs taking prioners nor have I heard of them ... eating humans. Sure, we've all heard stories of the savagery of the Sundering War, of battle crazed orcspawn feasting on bodies in the middle of battle, but that was a thousand years ago. It is not now." He pauses, looking at the map.
"Something is going on. It is not just that the orcs raid more often these days. They are bold, and thirsty for blood, it seems. Maybe this is an isolated incident, but I have a bad feeling it is not. The harvest is approaching. I am hard pressed to muster the militia for more than a day or two at a time just now, and I certainly can't ask any of them to look into this more closely right now. I need to know where these orcs are coming from and how great are their numbers. Farging Longstadt will do nothing unless they harass the trade routes."
He looks at each of you. It is a powerful gaze, and you feel affirmed and emboldened by his look. It is no wonder he is continually elected sheriff. The man knows how to make you feel important.
"Westwall needs your service. I need your service. You are more than capable. You will have our gratitude, if not much more. I can see to it that you are properly equipped, horsed, and I can offer you a meager stipend, but I am relying upon your honor and integrity in this matter. Certainly, companions of Tenzin require no guarantee past that of his friendship, and you have proven yourselves well beyond that. Do I have your support, gentlemen?"
Tad, in particular, straightens up and raises his chin. The sheriff seems to have struck a chord in him. Perhaps is that no one has every called Tad a gentleman before, perhaps something more. Tad grabs the sheriff's hand, shaking firmly, and roughly pulls him down to a knee. Able to look the the sheriff straight in the eye, Tad claps him on the shoulder and exclaims, "I will not rest until I have rid these lands of that unholy menace and spilled the last drop of orc blood into the dust!"
The sheriff looks at Tad seriously, and smiles slightly. "You are certainly the best of the halfmen, Tad, and equal to twice the best man I know." Balder may be stretching the truth a bit, but Tad doesn't notice. You'd think the sheriff had just proclaimed him king.
Tad has decided for you. You spend the next hour studying the map of the area. The sheriff marks the location of the burned out orc cave, raids in the last several years, and general features of the terrain. It seems clear that the orcs are crossing on boats. The only fordable point in the Saystan River is 10 miles north, and orcs never venture that way - the feral halfmen don't abide it. He suggests, when you are ready, that you take the bridge across the River and head south. Maybe you can pick up the trail of the latest raiding party, or find what pathways they might be taking to the river. The sheriff leaves it to your discretion.
You leave his office after midday and head off to the County Commerce Hall. With some haggling, you are able to divest yourself of the unwanted loot you collected from the raiders. A Sayani gold worker confirms that the belt and the gold are dwarven. The markings indicate that the gold was minted in the last few years. The belt is court attire, he tells you. That type of belt would probably only be worn to official functions or to make a impression. You wonder at its fine condition, given that it was in the hands of orcs.
You next make your way to the shop of Anson, Master of the Lost Arts. He barely seems to master the known arts at most times, but it is all about advertising when you are in business. After paying his substantial fee, he enlightens you as to the nature of the dagger you acquired. He is less helpful regarding the boots, but tells you enough that Tad feels comfortable in trying them.
They seem to work. Tad hops around like a jack rabbit on khat for a few minutes before settling down. He sits down to remove the boots, asking if anyone else would like to have a try. He is unable to remove the boots, but it doesn't sem so bad. They are extremely comfortable, breathe well and make him go really fast. Why would one want to take them off. For the life of him, he can't get them to go fast again the rest of the day, but Tad is not discouraged. "They'll work tomorrow. I just know it."
Next time: Tracking Orcs - or - Making Friends with Mean Things that want to Kill You