The next day I was up and ready to go before anyone else and ready to make Shojin keep true to his word. Gnoman was just gone. No note or anything. He just left sometime in the night. It wasn’t all that surprising and I had a feeling we would likely be seeing him sometime down the road. I did feel a little bad about how I treated the bodies, but what’s done is done. Shojin was awakened by me just sort of right in his face. He freaked a little. After everyone was up we were off to find out what was going on with the orc raiders. Fayne was able to pick up their trail and track them into the brush. We eventually came upon a recently used camp that was in line with all the signs of those we were chasing down and as such we moved off into the trees.
After moving into the deeper forest for some time through the trees into a deeper part of the woods we came upon a stream and that’s when things got weird… or interesting. Matter of perspective I guess. Things certainly did get more fun. As we approached the stream, we heard some rustling in the bushes on the opposite side and since we were tracking orcs. That was when we came upon what I can only describe as a big, dumb bear. It came lumbering out of the woods and Fayne seemed fit to pop a blood vessel with excitement.
It was never worth writing about at length because it was annoying and just seemed like the kind of obsession someone with a childlike intelligence would have, but ever since meeting her she would not shut up about making friends with a bear, and it looked like she might just get her chance. It looked hurt, like it had maybe met up with the orcs we were looking for at some time prior to meeting us and seemed to have a little trepidation at this frantically gesticulating dark elf, but while it may have been wary of her intentions it just observed her. Eventually she healed the bear a bit and that seemed to make it a little less concerned with her being a possible threat and it was just about then that the orcs that had hurt the bear came out of brush.
Things happened really fast at that point. Shojin seemed to lose his mind and go into some kind of blood rage. Fayne positioned herself between the bear and its attackers and Z seemed like she was in the mood to hurt something. I had the misfortune of not crossing the stream with my companions before the fight, and due to it being nearly as deep as I am tall I kept a healthy distance from the fight and fired some crossbow bolts and a few choice spells at the baddies.
We ultimately were able to dispatch our foes fairly quickly, but not without the damn bear getting even more hurt. Fayne continued to insist that this was a sign of something or other and they were destined to be best friends. After the last orc finally went down Shojin just lost it. For all his talk of a decent burial for ocr-kind or whatever he just beat the corpse of the last one to fall with his staff until long after the wood cracked. We just kept calling out to him and he either didn’t hear us through the fog of war or something far more personal was at play.
Eventually I’d had enough and told him a stupid joke laced with a little arcane energy and he fell down laughing, and that should have been the end of it. However, since he was still not in control of himself he rolled down the bank and ended up almost completely submerged in the water and starting to drown. So I dropped the spell and wouldn’t you know he got up barely breathing and went right back to work beat the bloody pulp that used to be an orc to an even bloodier pulpier mess.
Eventually he just sort of wore himself out and we were finally able to continue on our way. I guess he fixed his staff and we never really talked about what happened. Tracking the orc led us to a path that appeared to follow a patrol circuit around a valley. Figuring either direction was just as likely to get us there, we picked a path seemingly at random and off we went.
A short while later we found ourselves outside a crypt or mausoleum that was built into the side of a hill. We extinguished the outside lights and then end up in a situation where we were luring orc guards away from the door and helping them meet their god. Eventually this attracted the attention of those inside the crypt and we made our way inside.
After a bit of sneaking around I had the lay of the land down so to speak and had discovered what seemed to be an orc in a position of authority, there was a small miscalculation and we ended up once more in a fight for our lives, which was a perfect time for Shojin’s magic to develop a mind of its own and when it was down to just us and the Orcish Taskmaster, the floor became greasy and some of us had the good fortune of finishing things out firing our spells and crossbow bolts from the floor. And it was not without paying a pretty hefty cost. We were all various degrees of beaten and bloody and the bear was very nearly dead.