My companions and I traveled on to Old Owl Well with some trepidation, given the news I relayed to them from my feathered contact. When we arrived we saw signs of battle everywhere, most of it older, and a tent. A fresh tent. With humming coming from it. My companions and I chose to hide while the bard played a trick on the unseen inhabitant, softly playing the accompanying tune to the sound brought on the wind.
As my companions crouched in hiding I surveyed the ruins, again wondering about the nature of nature. What was the line between protecting nature from destruction, and destroying nature in the name of protecting it? At what point did savior become destroyer, and protector become aggressor?
I was startled out of my pondering by the man humming in the tent, who was clearly the "brother in red" we were told about. I had been so preoccupied with my musings that I hadn't paid proper attention to hiding with my companions, and was easily spotted. This intellect can be a curse sometimes.
The man in red didn't seem to take too kindly to my presence and demanded to know what I was doing, a request accentuated by summoning a group of zombies. While it was bad enough that that wasn't overly friendly, the worst part was actually trying to figure out if he was a threat to nature. Obviously working with Undead is highly unnatural and should be dealt with, but something persuaded me to listen to what he had to say. I find that when I don't know what to do, if I just show a little patience the solution will present itself. So I listened and tried to figure out the correct course of action.
In the end we came to the mutual conclusion that neither was out to hurt the other, and he pointed us in the direction of some Orcs. Orcs are something I don't have to think about, I know they are an abomination to nature and that The Wild One is always pleased when I reduce their numbers. It also bought me time while I considered what to do about zombies in my area. And is it my area? Is my area only the one assigned to me by the council, or is it wherever I happen to be? And if it is just the one assigned by the council, does that mean that anywhere I traverse on official business counts as my area? Questions, questions, questions, and no answers! Hunting orcs is much simpler.
Following the instructions given by the Red Wizard of Thay we easily found trouble, once again while resting. Side note for trivia: did you know Ogres are tough? Well now you do.
I won't bore you with the details of that fight, it went pretty much text book: It attacked us, we attacked it, it fell on me and pinned me while my companions continued to beat it senseless, I got out from under it, and then it was over. Nothing to write home about.
We proceeded to track it back to its cave, but saw that it just had a small family there, no need to continue the attack. We traveled on.
When we finally found the Orc cave we were looking for we discovered it wasn't just your average Orcs. Not only were there average ones, there was one burly one with a wicked axe. Oh, yea, and an OGRE. Nothing is as simple as it should be!
They had a guard posted in an excellent spot, very difficult to sneak up on. Fortunately arrows sneak fairly well, especially when the target is distracted by having something important skewered by our entirely too sneaky swashbuckler. On the plus side his suffering was short. The plus side being that he suffered, of course, not that it was short.
We waited for his replacement to arrive so we could pick them off one by one but alas, this plan was ruined by an untimely dinner. When the battle was joined we learned some important things: ( 1 ) the little bastards are fast, ( 2 ) magic axes hurt, and ( 3 ) Bards are kinda handy to have around!
Droop wasn't too bad to have around either; he did a fantastic job of interpretation and even took a swipe or two in battle. Spunky little guy!
We started the battle on our own terms but somehow we went from coordinated attack to flat out brawl. If Zook hadn't kept the Ogre out of the fight until the end I am afraid the fight would have been the end! Blood, fur, and body parts were flying, mostly mine. I began my attack with a roaring pounce, biting and clawing for all I was worth. I was quickly surrounded, however, and my awareness became limited to my desperate fight for survival. I was drawing blood left and right but I just couldn't bring anything down, and all of the nicks and cuts began to take their toll. And then the big guy with the axe stepped up for a swing, and it wasn't a miss. That axe hurt like hell!
At some point in the battle I was aware of a hideous laughter emanating from what could only be the Ogre, and was grateful that Zook was able to entertain him. I also remember seeing Virgil's flashing blade here and there, and hearing Droop call out translations. But mostly I remember blood and pain and exhaustion.
No matter how much damage I dealt out The Axeman and friends dealt out more, and it wasn't long before I was forced out of my Wild Shape by a mighty axe blow which transformed me back and dealt me a great wound. I had suffered enough embarrassment at the hands of the wolves during my failed watch a few days back, however, and I surged back into Tiger form with renewed determination to make up for that earlier failing.
The battle was long and bloody, and it took all of our reserves and no small amount of luck, but we eventually prevailed. Even my ability to Wild Shape was exhausted, leaving me tired and bloody in my native form. It has been a long while since last I was this grateful to sleep in a cave recently inhabited by Orcs and Ogres, but I was too exhausted to care.
Once we rest up it will be time to continue our journey...