On the road by mid-afternoon, Syl and Igneel rode in the carriage while Syl’s unseen servant drove. Foradjinn rode Patra next to Kaven and Cleo, asking the halfling paladin to teach him some halfling. The road turned north, the occasional traveler appearing with a friendly or neutral greeting. Soon the path, worn by extensive traffic rather than any sort of working, met and wound alongside the Enora river which widened and narrowed as they progressed.
With the onset of evening, Foradjinn applied a few pointers he had gleaned from Igneel and caught two rabbits. Still, he could not hope to match the monk’s speed and soon four more rabbits joined their deceased brethren on the fire spits. “Shall I save you these pelts?” asked the bard, busily skinning away. “You could have them made into another mask to wear on alternating days.”
Igneel brightened and agreed.
After training Patra to stick with Cleo and stay out of trouble during the night, the group entered Syl’s conjured hut for the evening. After his usual four hour meditation, Syl continued his spell study and added water breathing to his repertoire. He cast it on the group with a flourish and Igneel dove into the Enora along with Foradjinn to test it out. After a minor delay in which both misread the current, they all continued on toward Port Cecil.
A little while later, they passed a bend in the road and came upon a scene of devastation. An overturned wagon, its contents of salted meat spilled into the road, lay at the center of a group of orcs. Some were mounted upon strange, bearded, shaggy-pelted, bull-like creatures with twisty horns. As the unseen servant reined in the phantom steed, the orcs turned to face them. Two were mounted, three were covered in bulbous boils, two wielded staffs, and one of the mounted had a finer helm and armor than the rest.
Battle broke out, the boil-covered orcs proving most dangerous and suicidal, their bodies bursting open to splash poison on various members of the group upon their death. But with a vicious hum and thwack of an arrow into one staff-wielding orc’s leg, an unseen assailant provided aid toward the orc’s end from a high, shrub-covered bank nearby. Syl tested out his pixie’s polymorph spell, utilizing the form of a giant ape to drop a wagon on one orc caster. Igneel caught a glimpse of their hidden friend as they leaned out behind a tree to magic an orc into hysterical laughter. Then, while Foradjinn and Kaven teleported atop the orc leader in the fine armor to surround him, Syl leaped through the air to chop off the beleaguered enemy’s head in one swing.
When the orcs breathed their last, Syl turned to their unexpected ally who charged out of cover at last to loot the fallen orc captain in a hauntingly familiar manner. “Well done! Many thanks for your assistance, friend.”
Plucking the last coin from the corpse, the figure arose and turned to them. Scarlet hair glinting in the afternoon sun, the female half-elf nodded. “I am Tunuviel.” Her emerald eyes lingered on each of them in turn. “Who are you all?”
Introductions followed and Tunuviel revealed she was under the employ of the crown in Port Cecil. She had been tracking the orcs for a few days, unable to eliminate them due to their advantage in numbers. “We want to know why these orcs are moving so brazenly along the roads,” She frowned. “They normally roam the lands east of Mount Alverston.” Bending down, she rolled the captain’s corpse over to point at the set of blue triangles on the armor.
“We’ve encountered this tribe before.” Syl told her of their fight by the lake on their way to the dragonborn monastery as well as the connection to Meles the wizard.
Her stern expression deepened. “I must report this to Gwendolyn.”
“Gwendolyn? We’re going to see her, too!”
Cocking her head, Tunuviel brightened. “Are you the adventurers Sir Targin told her about?”
“The same.” Eyes narrowing as a thought struck him, Syl studied her. “Do you have anything that proves you’re a servant of the crown?”
In answer, Tunuviel revealed an amulet with the signet of a hawk and a crown, one which the wizard recognized.
Satisfied, Syl and the rest invited her to travel with them and asked her to introduce them all to Gwendolyn. She agreed and they all bonded over looting the rest of the corpses. The two orc casters turned out to be clerics, or whatever the equivalent was, of the orc gods Luthic and Gruumsh. Tunuviel saved their necklaces in a little sleeve dimension. On the captain, she found a pouch with a piece of copper, silver, gold, electrum, and platinum – each one with a line carved through it.
Kaven decided to tame the bull creatures (which he identified as Aurochs) and ended up hitching two to the carriage.
Leaving the scene of carnage, the group and their new friend proceeded on for awhile until making an early camp. “Kaven,” Foradjinn said, “Could you make me a sheath for my scimitar?”
“If I have materials and time,” the halfling nodded.
As if on cue, Igneel returned to the camp, staggering under the weight of a boar.
“Aha!” Foradjinn skinned the dead creature and cheerfully plopped the pelt in the Bag of Holding, spattering a disgusted Syl in the process.
“Do you mind?” the wizard dodged out of the way as the bard attempted to stuff the hooves, tusks, entrails, and various other viscera in as well. “No more animal bits in here!”
“But what about these orc tusks-”
“NO MORE.” With a sigh, the wizard took the bag off and opened it as wide as it would go. “Anyway, does anyone want to try an experiment?” he asked, his voice taking on a sinister and casual tone.
“What kind of experiment?”
Ever since they had discovered the bag, Syl wondered if a living being could enter it. Curious now, Foradjinn agreed to try. He squirmed through the narrow opening and found himself in an expanse of darkness. He floated and yet did not float. No breeze, no sound, and only faint glimmers of stars in the farthest distance showed him light. Nothing pushed in upon him and yet he felt a slow rise in claustrophobia.
A pulling sensation drew the bard into light and he found himself held half out of the bag by his hair. “Well?” demanded Syl.
Freeing himself, Foradjinn explained to the wizard all he had experienced and he eagerly wrote it down. In his excitement, the latter failed to notice the bard slipping the orc tusks into the bag.
The next day, the traffic along the road increased and woods gave way to hills and farmland. The increased presence of guards spoke of the outer realms of Port Cecil. Fishermen lined the banks of the Enora river; Igneel dove in and caught a large bass barehanded much to a curmudgeonly angler’s amusement.
“Do you know a man called Aeroth?” Foradjinn asked Tunuviel.
She nodded. “Why?”
“He lives in the banking district. Could you show me to his house after we meet Gwendolyn?”
Tunuviel paused and looked him up and down, gazing over his well-worn travel clothes and trophy-laden apparel. “You’d have a tough time getting in to the banking district. They wouldn’t,” she pointed at Kaven, who took the hint and covered his glorious armor, and Syl, who preened a little more and prestidigitation’d a little more dust from his cloak.
With a small sigh, Foradjinn snapped his fingers and cast a disguise self spell to form his garments into those like Syl’s.
“Even then you’ll find it difficult. Aeroth is a member of the Brothers of the Veil, a mysterious group, supreme in wealth and influence. It’s kind of stupid how much money he has. Why do you want to meet him, anyway?”
As they approached the city, the bard filled her in on his backstory with Anaya. He also used sending to set up a meeting with Anaya at a restaurant called Bernardos in the Banking District that evening.
The walls of Port Cecil soon rose before them, the stonework intricate and well-constructed. Guards lined the parapets, guarded the portcullis, and kept watch over all entry points. While the group attracted a little more attention than many, the guards allowed them to pass unmolested. Soon, the group found themselves within the walls in the midst of a massive farmers market.