After sweeping out all the frogs, Tikaani explored the second floor. She found two beds and a wardrobe. The wardrobe had two sets of clothes--for a man and a woman (Puera I'd guess) and a mysterious wrapped bundle. When she unwrapped it she found a sword and chainmail--old, but very well cared for.
Meanwhile Elenwe was peering over my shoulder as I was cooking and recognized the mushrooms I had found as something called Rats Fungus. She said they were holy to the Nameless One and used to cause doubt in the minds of the weak. It could enslave men to the nameless one and keep blessed ones from calling on the name of their god. I'm glad, of course, that she recognized it.... but...
the cottage was smelling SO nice and all that was left without the mushrooms was a pan of herbs. Rather disappointing. I added water and we ended up having a, well, a very nice smelling--if somewhat unsubstantial--soup.
Elenwe started singing as we bedded down for the night in the cottage. It was melancholy, but very beautiful. I took the loft, of course, thankful for a proper bed finally. I heard Wigolas and Tristan talking late into the night about our adventures... and I think their books. Funny. Half the party are aspiring authors. My books, of course, Tristain's helpful handbook, Wigolas' beastiary. Ironic that we would have all met and decided to adventure together.
Speaking of Tristan... I have been thinking a good deal on what to do next. Getting rid of my gold did nothing to cause the Emporer to loose interest. I suppose it was foolish to think it would change anything other than my ability to buy my own dinner. Oh, well. Ignoring it is also not working particularly well. And now... Well, lets just say I like him whispering in my ear about as well as I like Wigolas tricking oaths out of me. Well, that isn't quite right. Wigolas is harmless, but I'm certain the Emporor is anything but harmless. But I have no idea what to do about magic things. Tristain might, however. Perhaps, if I talked to him, he might have an idea of what I should do next.
I must have fallen asleep thinking these thoughts in that great big comfortable bed, because the next thing I knew the sun was shining in my face as I lay on the bed under the deep blue sky. The roof had caved in. I heard Tristain muttering something. The porch he had been sleeping on had caved in and he'd fallen through to the mud underneath. The first thing I heard clearly was, "One of two things has happened--either the spell that Puera has used to hold the cottage in an unchanged state since the man who lived here died has broken when she left, or we have been here a very, very long time. Much longer than one night." I noticed then that both he and Wigolas had beards--well, what passes as a beard at their age--while they had been clean shaven before.
Not knowing how much time has passed, we decide to head back to Phexcare, at least until the evening. When night fell Tristan was able to tell by the stars that we'd lost at least a couple of weeks. Somehow. There was a quick debate about whether we should continue on our remaining two missions or go back to Phexcare. Tristain was anxious about... well, I'm not exactly sure. I suspect it had to do with the scented envelope. Tikaani was anxious about her brother. When Thorwolf found out he was enslaved by thorwalers, he immediately objected. But Tikaani assured him it was true. That was when he remembered someone who had been cast out of the thorwallers who had been rumored to keep slaves.
The debate didn't last long before we concluded that as urgent as Tikaani's and Tristain's business was, we still needed money. And I had taken partial payment for one job in order to finance the trip. So we couldn't go back to the city without at least completing that one.
After about three days we were heading into the Griffens Vedlt. Tristain was telling us about some of the orc tribes in the area, specifically the Sharshi, a tribe of orcs who use wagons to go from tribe to tribe trading with whoever will trade, when I noticed some wagons burning in the distance. Of course they were orc wagons and none of us were particularly interested in doing anything about it. Well, except Wigolas--who decided he was going to help the orcs whether we did or not. He started running--and by running I mean lumbering. We watched him for a couple minutes as Thorwulf unloaded one of the mules and threw the packs on his own back, then lead the mule up to the still lumbering Wigolas and told him to get up. At that point we went pretty quickly toward the fire.
It was obviously an orc attack of orcs against orcs. The majority of the orcs were dressed in coloring that matched the three wagons pulled in a circle. The few remaining orc bodies were dressed in warrior garb. We only saw two living orcs--A warrior who was hammering another orc to a post. Elenwe fired a warning shot by his foot as Thorwulf shouted "Swafnere!!" and charged in. When the orc saw all of us he turned and ran, diving under one of the burning wagons. Elenwe let another arrow fly. It struck his leg, and he fell dead.
Tristain cut the hanging orc down with his flaming sword and I helped pull him down. When he woke up he was very confused--he asked why we had helped and expressed his thanks. He said that the attacking orcs were Zoloki--who had also been responsible for all the major orc attacks against Griffonshire.
At that moment we heard a scream from behind one of the wagons. In looking for survivors Tikaani and Thorwulf had found one of the warrior orcs alive, and had drug him behind a wagon for questioning. Wigolas waddled away to check on them. While we continued talking to the orc, he began to heal himself and we realized that he was a shaman. Tristan asked him to send word if he found out why the Zoloki were attacking again. The orc took a lock of Tristain's hair and promised to send a bird.
We heard more sounds from behind the wagon and Tristain disappeared to check on the group. I followed a few steps, just enough to see, but close enough to the Shaman to keep an eye on him as well. As I watched them, the Shaman gestured at me and said in a horse voice, "Potent." At first I thought he meant Tristan's magic, and then I realized he was gesturing at my pack--and the knife inside. He said magic smelled the same in the orclands, but this wasn't orcish magic. He said he'd smelled it before in the Griffonsvelt, and that it was moving in currents through the land to the south. He promised not to say anything the others.
Tristan and the others brought the warrior orc they had found alive just then, and asked the Shaman to question him. The shaman closed his eyes and smiled coldly, and almost instantly the other orcs body began shuddering. A moment later he fell, limp and dead at Thorwulf's feet. The Shaman, Sadrak, had learned that the warriors were lead by Gerald, who was seeking something in the orclands to the north. Something that was supposed to be forgotten.
He told us that many years ago there was a sorceress who lived in the orclands. It was in the time of his great great grandfather--at the time the orcs brought her tribute. Before she left she shut up her artifacts in a vault. The orcs knew her only as The Gray Raven. I had heard of the Gray Raven--but mama called her Lahemma. She would tell me when I was a child that if I wasn't good Lahemma would come for me--we even had a magic carpet supposed to have been enchanted by her. My Aunt has it now. Seeming to have his own suspicions, Tristan pulled out the stone vial and asked if Sadrak knew where it lead to. He held it up, and then pulled out another vial from around his neck and compared them. They were the same--leading to a secret place he and the other shamans guarded.
We continued on our way to the Griffon Veldt. I have still not spoken to Tristain... tomorrow. I am much too tired tonight. I couldn't keep my eyes open for another minute.