I woke the next morning to find the bed empty other than myself. Lucien was not in our room. Feeling the sheets beside me showed they were cold. He must have left a while ago. With a sigh, I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling a moment before finding the effort to rise. Once I was dressed, I headed to the tavern for breakfast.
I found Kael and D.W. seated at a table, finishing their meals. They informed me that Lucien was running errands and putting plans in place for the upcoming wedding.
I felt an excited fluttering in my heart at the idea of the elf preparing for our walk down the aisle until Kael further explained the rogue was looking at security and fliers to announce the upcoming nuptials in his effort to draw out Ethren. Of course, Lucien would only be interested in bringing the enemy to our doorstep in order to kill him. Ethren was enemy #1 in the eyes of the rogue after he had kidnapped me a week ago. Lucien figured if we pretended to marry, Ethren would come out of hiding to try and put a stop to it, thus giving Lucien the chance to fight him.
My appetite gone, I looked around the room to see who else was here. It was mostly the usual patrons with a few other townfolk I had seen before. Toward the other end of the room was a young male dwarf in a travelling style of clothing. A dwarven waraxe lay on the table in front of him as he ate his meal with a bit of gusto. He looked up and spotted me watching him. It did not seem to bother him in the least as he smiled at me before returning to his food.
Seated atop a barstool, one patron was becoming rather animated as he told Andar, the tavern owner, and another patron about troubles he was having. He was talking about orcs he had seen on his land the last few days. The man made it clear that he was afraid to return to his own property for fear of what the orcs would do to him. He believed they were responsible for several of his farm animals disappearing. Since his animals all had collars with his mark on them, it was clear to anyone they belonged to someone.
I realized Kael and D.W. had also been listening to that conversation as they both walked over to the man to ask for more information. The dwarf also stood at the same time to do the same. It took little prodding to get the man, Virgil, to tell what he knew about a couple small caverns nearby that he believed the unwelcome visitors were staying in.
As our group stepped outside to investigate, so did the dwarf. He looked each of us up and down in an assessing manner before nodding to himself.
“The name is Oscar Longdrink” he told us. “I believe we have the same intention of lookin’ inter the orc matter.”
I stifled a giggle at the dwarven accent as it would have been impolite. Still, not running into dwarves that much, I found it a delightful kind of sound. The man’s voice was deep and his handshake firm. Something about him seemed to make me want to trust him. Glancing at my companions, it seemed they were of the same opinion.
The dwarf explained that he was part of an adventuring group of his own. Several members had needed to attend personal matters such as visiting loved ones, so they were temporarily disbanded. Oscar was heading toward his homeland to visit his own family as well. He had stopped off in town for a good meal before heading out again.
So it was we trudged off toward the small caverns northwest of town. We soon found one to the edge of the forest. The dwarf and Kael both went in first to search. D.W. and I were content to straggle in behind in a more cautious manner. The first tunnel lead to a dead end with a small pool of water. In the next tunnel, we found a large spider with a bit of an attitude. We dispatched of the vermin as quickly as possible. There were no further tunnels in that cave.
Once outside again, we discussed which direction to go in next, then headed off to find another cave. There appeared to be several more, but none all that deep and none with critters in them. As we were ready to turn back, we found one more that had a slightly larger entrance than the previous ones.
This cave lead downward a ways where we encountered a couple orcs. They attacked the moment they saw up, which confirmed our suspicions that they were up to no good.
As we finished taken the first two down, we could hear the sound of more running toward us. Kael cast a wall of smoke up in front of us to help slow them down and give us a slight advantage. Sure enough, it worked. We stayed close together to provide protection to one another as we battled three more of them. When we were finished, all of us were still standing and all the orcs were down.
Further in, we found what appeared to be their cooking area. A goat was currently roasting on a spit over an open fire. The remains of another goat and a sheep were dumped to the side. We found a leather collar with an odd design embossed on it. After confirming the rest of the cave was empty, we headed back to town. The farmer, Virgil, confirmed the collar belonged to him. He was grateful for our help.
D.W. and Kael decided to buy Oscar a drink and chat with him a while more and exchange adventuring tales. Something told me the tales would get larger and more involved with each ale they downed.