SESSION 31: They'll Eat You, Then Kill You

With their newly acquired sailing ship, which none aboard were prepared to operate, they assessed the situation. In the distance, the Orc raid on the Cardel Navy was escalating. On the East side, Vardan ships were being seized and their crews murdered (or worse), and Orc ships were being torn apart and sunk. The Naval base was chiefly concerned with the assault on the Eastern side. On the West, however, fleeing merchant vessels were being picked off by the small number of Orc ships that had been awaiting their escape. The Pillarmen briefly deliberated which way they should go before realizing that they really didn't have much control over the ship anyway. The current that flowed into the harbor was carrying them to the Western side of the fort whether they wanted to go that way or not. Regardless, Igan stood at the helm and while he may not have been steering the ship, he at least kept it pointing in the direction it was traveling.

Meanwhile, below deck, Lena decided to inspect the inventory of the ship and, upon investigation, found a number of locked chests with fabrics and garments in them, a single heavy chest (presumably filled with precious metals), and two mimic chests among them. Realizing that her father had ruined her lock picks, she enlisted the help of Sklooh to bust open the chests. Sure enough, most of them were filled with incredibly fine clothes -- the clothes of nobles and royalty that Lena soon adorned. Moving to the heavy chest, Lena and Sklooh disarmed a dart-trap before breaking into it, where they hastily counted roughly 15,000 gold pieces worth of Cardel-minted gold and platinum coins.

At about that time, Igan (who was feeling very ill from the bobbing of the boat) and Irthir were alerted to their dangerous situation. As they were carried forward by the current, they saw an Orc vessel drifting towards them. The crew of the ship looked at them unflinchingly, keeping an eerie composure as they moved steadily in the direction of the Pillarmen. The appearance of such large and grotesque creatures was intimidating in the silence and placidity of their approach. Irthir immediately loosed a magical spell on the Orcs, attempting to fracture their bones and prevent the confrontation. A single Orc reeled back.

The ships collided. Lena and Sklooh scrambled for the deck. Igan lobbed one of his dragon-fire bombs at the Orcs and the bows of both ships erupted in flames along with many of the Orcs who seemed accustomed to pain. He charged forward, meeting them in combat as they crossed over the battered, flaming, and crumbling fronts of the ships. They surrounded him and began cutting and tearing at his flesh. Irthir tried to magically induce a retreat by attempting to bewitch Igan, but the Cleric resisted the compulsion. Then Irthir threw a fiery blast of magic at the single recoiling Orc -- who appeared to be some kind of shaman -- before he was confronted by other members of the savage gang. Lena joined the fray, followed by Sklooh, and they did their best to repel the invaders, but Igan was falling fast, and Irthir was quickly overwhelmed. It wasn't long until both of them couldn't carry on through their wounds, and Lena soon followed suit after some arcane combat, leaving Sklooh alone fighting the good fight against the remaining six or seven orcs.

Just when all seemed hopeless, through sheer determination or magical resolve, Lena rose again from her near-fatal wounds and quickly cast a spell to put some of the assailants to sleep. In order to gain her composure, she abandoned ship and essentially ruined the dress she was wearing to enable the use of her wings. She carried out the rest of the battle assisting from a safe distance. Almost just as miraculously and as Sklooh was tiring in battle, Igan awoke with a surge of adrenaline, entering the fight once more. This time, taking a supporting role with divine protection.

Though the battle was long and hard-won, it concluded with the Pillarmen having successfully defeated the entire Orc crew, taking their ship (carrying from the merchant ship as much of the fine clothes and coin as possible), and setting out once more for the sea. Once the coast seemed clear (pun intended), the party decided to search below deck. Unfortunately, Lena's weak constitution and Igan's compounding sea-sickness prevented them from exploring the Orc ship due to the putrescence and gore of the lower level. Sklooh could only bear the stink by breathing through cloth, but he discovered that this ship bore dozens of groaning prisoners in the darkness, many with limbs missing and large chunks of muscle removed from their bodies. The women captives were all dead, because no mortal women apart from orcs themselves can survive ravaging by grown male Orcs. Almost all of the survivors had wounds that were septic, and they were all certainly in shock amid the piles of half-eaten, rotting corpses that littered the room and which resulted in the floor being covered in a thick layer of coagulated blood (added to their own urine and fecal leakage). Finally, stored at the back of the hold, Sklooh found three Orc-women who had been badly beaten and raped almost to death.

Sklooh began ferrying surviving Men, Dwarves, and Halflings to the deck where Irthir did his best to attend to their wounds (using an experimental ointment which may have expedited a few of their deaths). Regardless, all were treated to the best of the Pillarmen's abilities. The ship, once it had broken free of Cardel, leaving gleams of fire and streams of smoke on the nighttime horizon, set out for the west. Deciding to release the captives of the Orcs, they begrudgingly banked the ship in an alcove, not knowing if they'd be able to set sail again. Camp was made, rest was had. Sklooh used the morning tides to push the ship out to sea again, and went alone to recover the Orc-women from the ship. Once he had released the most sensible one, she commanded him to help her and her sisters. Having overheard the Pillarmen's predicament about being unable to sail, the Orc women promised to sail for them in exchange for assistance. Sklooh went back to shore (meeting Irthir in the shallows along the way), and told the group what was happening. The orc women made a wide circle to come back and pick them up.