998 Dravago(May) 21
Toward the culprits
The PCs slept in the palace as guests of the Hags. As sunlight tried to make its way inside the stone walls of the castle, our band of new adventurers gathered their belongings and were escorted out of the palace. Amid their conversation with Sora Katra the earlier night, they learned that their targets were crossing the Maashak province when they were abducted by a large group of Orcs. The Twelve’s representative were not incompetent and should have been able to handle the situation, so why were they kidnapped? Or rather, who abducted them? With these thoughts in mind, they left the palace and headed toward the Maashak province. Once almost out of the city they stumbled upon a group of angry orc farmers who lost a part of their grains to a clumsy troll. The PCs calmed things down and protected the troll from the orcs even though the orcs were no match for the troll to begin with.
The travel to the Maashak province took about an hour at the most. The adventurers found themselves at a crossroad. Devent told the rest of the group that one of the road led to the Maashak village and the other one to the ir’Igthorn ancestral abode. The PCs knew that Ritha ir’Igthorn was the current Warlord of the province and that if someone knew who crossed this land, it was surely the ir’Igthorn bloodline. The group chose to progress toward the noble’s mansion. There they found a castle being fortified by a community of halforcs. The chamberlain welcomed the PCs and asked them to wait inside the great hall. He later joined them and ask the reasons for their unusual visit. The PCs asked for an audience with Ritha in order to ask her about the disparition of the Twelve’s agents. The attitude of the administrator suddenly changed and became more hostile. He roughly told the PCs that Lady Ritha wasn’t here and to find her they’d have to go to the Maashak town, celebrations requiring the presence of the Warlord were occuring there.
The frustrated PCs then traveled to the orcs village. As soon as the density of the population increased the crew noticed that they were followed. By the time they got in one of the central ward of the town, the amount of orcs that kept gathering around them got so high that the group had no choice but to escape. Devent chose to stay behind because of his orcish heritage. He thought that if someone could reach Ritha in this town… he was their best bet. While the rest of the group walked back outside, Devent pushed further into the village and found the festival of the Rising Fire. Meanwhile, the rest of the party tried to approximately count the amount of hostile orcs that were still following them. It wasn’t even worth bothering, they were too many. The group fled to the road and wished that the orcs would give up…They did not and kept pursuing the PCs no matter how far they tried to go. An orc on horse caught up with the PCs but didn’t attack he simply crossed them and kept going. After a long halfhour the PCs saw a couple of silhouettes on horses. They were halforc knights of the House ir’Igthorn. The company of adventurer, still being followed, approached the veteran of the Last War and hoped that they would scare the orcs away. Which they did. The Maashak orcs stayed away and waited, as if there was still a hope to catch the PCs.
Still an usual day in Droaam
The soldiers got off their mount and offered the PCs to stay with them for as long as the orcs were there. They asked the party what happened in town for the orcs to be this relentless. The PCs started talking and the ir’Igthorn seemed to have no intention to leave their post on that road. They most likely had orders to force the orcs back into their camp.
The knights improvised a small camp and started to cook food. They offered some to the adventurers and they obliged….After a couple of minutes, the PCs blacked out. They had been drugged.
They later woke up in a circular underground cell, almost naked, wrists and ankles chained to the wall. The floor was wet and cold with moss covering parts of it. Devent was not there. It was good news, he had not been captured… At least not yet. Loeva managed to quickly slip out of the shackles, Breyten snapped the chains that were welded on his warforged arm. and use this arm to break the other chains. Together they helped the other two to get out of their bounds. The PCs never received any food and the only water they got was poured from the very high ceiling directly onto the ground. They had to be ready and try to drink as much as they could or they would have to suck the water out of the moss on the ground. The water was only poured each three days. For food they tried to catch rats in some kind of gutter on at the base of the walls. The rodents used this plumbing to move around the castle. Breyten used his dragonmark in an attempt to recycle the cell’s metal door back to raw materials. Unfortunately, the door was enchanted and almost immune to the transforming effect. To melt this door, Breyten knew it would take multiple days of efforts… Even though all they had was time; energy, food and water was scarce. The next days were the toughest the PCs had to face in their life yet…yet
The festival of the Rising Fire
While all this was happening Devent didn’t stop to enjoy his time in the festival of the Rising Fire. As soon as possible, he searched for Baroness Ritha ir’Igthorn. He quickly found her eating with orc nobles on an upper platform. She was there awaiting for some challengers to provoke her. The festival of the Rising Fire is a common ritual that occurs each seven months in many orcs tribes both in Droaam and the Shadow Marches. The idea of the festival spurted out of the duality between the druidic teachings of the Gatekeepers and the many cults of the Dragon Below. It offered each seven month a chance for the common folks and other nobles to challenge the Chieftain for their title and responsibilties. It assured a chance for renewal and made sure that no government would be permanent, may it be good or bad. Still today, it is not a perfect way to elect a new leader, the system is corrupted and biased. Grull suddenly showed up and befriended Devent. They chatted for most of the afternoon and the Orc captain invited Devent in his abode to eat with his family.
Grull lived in one of the poorest district of the town but he displayed great hospitaly to the Tharashk heir. He met the small family of the orc and just before they feasted the last member of the family arrived. He was a heavily armored and old orc nicknamed ’’Jal’Orc’’. The ancient one climbed the stairs and left the rest of the folks to eat on their own. Grull explained that Jal’Orc was one of the royal guards and was tasked with the protection of Baroness and Chieftain Ritha ir’Igthorn. The venerable one ended up joining his household for dinner but stayed silent. Grull and Jal’Orc exchanged a look, Grull noded and he then asked Devent to joined them later. Devent had no idea what was going on, when he ended up in a dark secret room in the back of Grull’s dwelling. Jal’Orc, the orc officer and devent were joined by a couple of orcs. Obviously a meeting was occuring and Devent had no idea what was going on. The group of orcs began their conference and quickly the attention had been directed toward the adventurer. Grull explained to the group the exploits of Devent and his connection to the Daughters of Sora Kell. Jal’Orc, with the approbation of the other elders, asked Devent if he would challenge Ritha in a trial he was comfortable with in the festival of the Rising Fire… For three years she was leading the Maashak and didnt allow this nomad tribe to go back to the Shadow Marches. They needed a champion to challenge her, they needed a champion to free them from the ir’Igthorn’s grasp. Devent was not all that interested at first. But then Jal’Orc told him that one of his agent in the ir’Igthorn forces learned that his companion were taken prisonners. The bounty hunter then negociated with the elders that in exchange for Ritha’s riddance, he would need their help to free his companions.
Devent knew most of the tradition’s caracteristics but the elders still explained the whole concept of it. For a two days, challengers can defy the Chief in any form of duel they can think of. It can be a building challenge where the chief and the contender have a week to build the toughest, most economic and most impressive building. Or it can be a simple duel of might and blades between the two of them. A bout is rarely fought to the death, this is simply because it would become a long-term problem for the tribe if every potential fighter risked their life in these events. All the rules of the challenges must be stipulated and debated on the spot and cannot be changed thereafter. If anything isn’t prohibited by a rule, it is allowed. Baronness Ritha abused and exploited that rule. Some poor orcs peasant challenged her to a cooking contest without mentioning that killing the oponent was prohibited, the end of this story is obvious. Once the days of Provocation is over, the Chief has to choose one of the challenge and announce to the people the result. The rest of the day, known as the day of Precaution, is dedicated for the preparations of the challenge. The following day is the day of Confrontation where the challenge occurs or start.
The second day of Provocation was the next day, Devent waited until then to challenge Ritha to a hunting contest. In the meeting with the elders, they told Devent of a strong and monstrous giant serpent in the forest and swamps, south of the Maashak village. The creature had been named ’’Guishishila’’, an orc term for ‘’Children eater’‘. The master hunter chose to challenge the baroness in a hunting contest. The first to bring Guishishila’s head and mount it on the Pier of Triumph would be the winner. The only rule that he stipulated was that the only weapon with which you can leave the town was a hunting knife. The clever young heir of House Tharashk intentionally ’’forgot’’ to mention that killing the other contender was prohibited. He hoped that if the serpent was too strong or dangerous, he could murder Ritha in the woods. If she wanted to come after him herself, it would have been even better.
Knowing that the male who challenged her wasn’t part of the Maashak tribe, she knew the populace would’nt care much if she killed him during the challenge. So she obviously accepted Devent’s challenge. During the day of Precaution, the hunter received a message from a courrier telling him that Ritha invited him to dinner at the Chief’s hut the same night. Grull told him not to got, she was most likely up to no good. The orc captain feared that she would poison his champion before the day of Confrontation. Devent dismissed Grull and went to the rendez-vous. Ritha warmly welcomed her contender knowing that he was from a dragonmarked House. Together they had dinner on her terrace. From up there they could see the celebrations of the druids down below where Devent challenged her the day earlier. During the evening, Ritha asked him if he was interested in rising his position in the world. She proposed to Devent a political wedding, apparently interested in an alliance with House Tharashk, which he promptly refused. Offended by such a fast denial, she told him that she found the weapons his friends hid in the forest during the day and that she trapped the caches. Devent left furiously the immense warhut… He swore to himself that given the chance, he would plunge his knife into her throat.