With all of the party members recovered from their illnesses, they must set off to take the Academy’s entrance exam. They have been set with the task of finding a caravan that went missing between the elven town of Ashenbow and Coral Harbor. During the week preparing they buy weapons, ammunition, and take advantage of The Bank of Holding to keep anything they don’t need with them.
When they get off the boat at Coral Harbor, they quickly find rooms in The Inn of Many Things, courtesy of the Academy. The team agrees that the first order of business is to find out what route the caravan would have taken to and from Ashenbow. The barkeep says that the dwarf in room 4, who has connections with the Academy, might know, but it’s best not to bother him until after noon. Cael goes to see if he can find the local undercity rogues to get info on the caravan.
Voli and Marchello go to a dry goods store, The Oaken Barrel, and inquire if they’ve had any problems with their shipments. The halfling proprietor is reluctant to discuss it, but Marchello convinces him, with a few silver coins, that they just want to help. The halfling tells them that he’s lost 2 caravans over the last 6 months, and others have lost more. When they go looking they find wreckages and signs of battle. The caravans that are attacked don’t seem to have anything in common, and there isn’t a history of bandits in the area. The caravans are attacked 3-5 days inland.
Kolathe is still at the bar in the inn, trying to talk to people to gather information. A very hungover dwarf tromps downstairs and orders the greasiest food they have, with an ale in a tankard the size of his head. Kolathe strikes up a conversation. The dwarf is the famed adventurer Banner Goldenballs, and he has been waiting at the inn for a magic crossbow to arrive on a caravan. Kolathe questions him about said crossbow, and Banner offers a reward if the crossbow is found and returned to him.
The group gets back together and exchanges what information they’ve found. They decide to ride along with a caravan going out to Ashenbow, figuring that the caravans take basically the same route. Marchello convinces a caravan driver to take the team along, touting their fighters as free protection through the most dangerous part of the route. Cael stops by a clothing store and has his measurements taken for a set of fine clothes, which will be shipped to the academy once completed. Kolathe buys some additional weapons. The next morning, the team hooks up with the caravan. Voli is riding Peachblossom. There are 3 wagons, with 1 crossbowman and 3 light riders per wagon.
On the first day, they pass through scenic, peaceful countryside. There are rolling hills and grassy plains. That night, Marchello regails the caravan with a song about how he seduced an earl’s daughter and made off with all his gold. It was a decent performance.
The second day was more of the first, with nothing of note occurring. Marchello again performed around the campfire for the amusement of the caravan. This time was a song about how he met the beautiful daughter of a minor lord, and she became smitten with him, showering him with riches until her jealous father drove him away, to her great sorrow. Again, it was a pretty good show.
In the middle of the 3rd day Cael notices some debris off the side of the road. They go to investigate and find the remains of a caravan, with decomposing animals. Whatever had attacked the caravan had gone away from the road toward the southeast. Based on the age of the debris, they figure that this probably wasn’t the caravan they are looking for. No goods are found in the remains. Ine one of the carcases is a crudely made crossbow bolt, sunk to the fletching. It looks like any other bolts were collected after the battle. They can’t tell if any of the remains were people, and since the trail is so old they decide that following it isn’t worth it. The group decides to have one of their own help keep watch at night. Marchello plays to lift their spirits, but they don’t light a fire that night.
The fourth day passes uneventfully.
On the fifth day more debris is spotted on the other side of the road. The tracks lead off to the northwest. Kolathe notices that these wagon remains are more recent and not as picked clean as the last one. The goods are gone, and humanoid bodies are found hidden under the horse carcases. It looks like the attackers had used 2 of the wagons to make off with the other goods. The group decides to follow these tracks and say their farewells to the caravan. They follow the trail for 2 hours, but lose it.
Kolathe climbs a lone tree to get a look around. He sees a couple of wagons about 50 yards away. Cael sneaks into the camp and finds the remains of a campfire, and a ransacked wagon. Lia sneaks up as well, and Marchello follows after. Lia sees movement up ahead. Kolathe also decides to sneak up, leaving a fuming (and mounted) Voli all alone. Cael thinks he sees something shiny in a rubbish pile and goes to investigate. Suddenly a war horn blasts sound from nearby!
Orcs appear from behind wagons and over ridges. Lia hides behind a tree. Hearing the warhorn, Voli rides up on Peachblossom. Marchello pops up and insults one of the orcs. Kolathe attacks one with his two swords and kills it quickly. Cael throws a flask of acid at another orc, misses, and runs away.
Lia gets into a ranged battle with a crossbow wielding orc. Cael hits one with an arrow. An orc moves up to Lia to attack her with its axe. Marchello sings out an inspiring verse, strengthening Voli as she hits it with her handaxe. Kolathe pulls out his light crossbow and fires at another orc, but misses. Crossbow orc misses Lia. Marchello throws out vicious insults at the orcs throughout the battle. Crossbow orc fires at Marchello, but misses. Mace orc charges at Kolath and misses.
Voli and Peachblossom charge the armored orc attacking Lia, slicing him dead and galloping past. Lia throws a fireball at crossbow orc, burning it. Cael fires an arrow at the same orc, and finishes it off. Kolath pulls up his swords again and attacks the last orc standing, the mace orc. His swords flash with dizzying speed, badly wounding the orc, but it’s still on its feet. Marchello runs up to the orc and stabs it in the back, finishing it off.
As the orc collapses, more warhorns are blown from all around. The fight is far from over.