I soon surmised how it was that Grindelman and Oloshan knew of the Erised’s current condition–they too, like the dwarven mage, and like my Uncle Reggie, were Harpers. Grindelman’s subtle touch of an object beneath his tunic—a Harper pin, I suspected—seemed to confirm it.
“Where? How? And how can we get there?” I asked. Any friends of Uncle Reggie’s friends were friends of my friends and I, and I had no doubt that we should do everything within our power to—once again—rescue Erised.
“’Eess been trackin’ Orcs, ee ‘as,” said Captain Oloshan in an accent so nautical it brought to mind froth on a storm-tossed sea. “We can take the Skua, and be there afore ye can scrape barnacles from a bilge.”
“This seems wise counsel,” said Shinzu somewhat inscrutably. I was unclear whether this indicated a previously unsuspected degree of familiarity with bilges or barnacles, or if this was simply the way monks always said “yes.”
“We can go on one of those airships?” said Tipwill, his eyes lighting up with almost schoolboyish enthusiasm. “Really? On one of the flying ships? How do they work? Can I take it apart?”
“We can kill Orcs?” grinned Liam as he sharpened a blade.
He was lucky Amra wasn’t here. I suspect that our last fight with Orcs had upset the druid, reminding him he was in a world where neither Orc nor others would accept his mixed parentage. It was no wonder that he found comfort among the animals of the wild places. In this Silverymoon, “half-breeds” were considered an abomination fit only for slavery.
I missed my old world. For all its many vile inequalities, no one in Waterdeep had condemned a person to slavery simply because of his or her parentage, any more than the authorities would limit the language one could use in commercial transactions, or prohibit the wearing of religious symbols by public officials.
Captain Oloshan led us to the Laughing Skua, docked high above the city at the apex of a tall tower. It was a sight to behold: teak timbering, sleek lines, sails, and a huge glowing light than encircled the hull amidships. This, I understood, was Shadowvar magic that drove the vessel, however improbably. Tip could hardly contain his excitement—I’m now half inclined to buy him a captain’s hat for his birthday (or “construction day,” or whatever it is he might celebrate).
Liam continued to sharpen his kukris.
It took us about half an hour to reach the area where we believed the Orcs to be. I was worried that we would soon be spotted, but Captain Oloshan gave me a knowing wink and activated some device near the wheel. The hull, sails and rigging quickly assumed the appearance of cloud and sky. “We can’t be movin’ fast like this, ye see,” se said, “or the skyglow would give us away. But fer hiding and floating and skulking it works just fine.”
I suspected if I searched the ship well, I would also find several hidden compartments ideal for cargoes of a not-entirely-legal sort.
We decided to ambush the party or Orcs as they crossed a small river over a ramshackle bridge towards where we would be hidden among the trees. We would let most of the pass, until the moment we knew Erised was on our side of the stream. At that point we would launch our attack—Tip casting Fireball at those nearest the bridge, hopefully destroying it and hence slowing any reinforcements. I was acutely aware that we were now in the territory of the Orcish foe. Tipwill kindly cast Darkvision on Liam and myself, so that we would have no need of lights.
After a quarter or so, the enemy began to approach us, led by perhaps the largest Orc I had ever seen. He crossed the bridge, sniffed the air, and looked directly at the tree where Shinzu was hidden. I held my breath… had she been spotted?
Yes, unfortunately, she had. The enemy charged forth towards us. There was little sign of the dwarf we had come to rescue, who was apparently well to the rear of the Orcish party. Our plan was in tatters.
Shinzu stood her ground, dealing grievous blows against the first of the Orcs to reach her. Tipwill launched a Fireball towards Orcs running towards the bridge—but did rather less damage than expected. The reason for this became clear when the shamans among them launched fireballs back in our direction. Clearly this greenskin clan revelled in the fiery arts. I dodged the fires and threw my skiprock, hitting several. Trees burst into flame all around us.
Just then the huge Orc stepped forward, and swung at our elven monk. His blow connected. She crumpled like a damp paper crane in a threshing mill, barely clinging to life.
“Oh no you don’t,” cried Liam, who charged forward, twin blades in his hand. “Pick on someone your own size!”
The orc was a good two feet taller than our brave fighter, and perhaps two hundred pounds heavier. He laughed, only to find his right knee severed by the sharp edge of a kukri. “That’s more like it,” muttered Liam as the Orc staggered and fell to his knees. “Now you’re just a head taller than her—and we can fix that…”
With a grin and another flash of his blades, he then severed the creature’s head from its neck. It rolled to Shinzu’s feet.
With this, the tide of battle began to turn. Tip and Phulgyar assaulted the enemy with arcane majicks, felling them like so many Orcs in the woods (which, indeed, they were). I dropped another with my skiprock. The remaining Orcs made as if to withdraw, guarded by a pack of snarling warg-beasts.
My friends pressed forward. Not so fleet of foot as they, I had another idea. I drew one of the enchanted ivory goats from my pocket, and muttered the command word. Faster than you could say “whodiddleydo” it transformed to a most formidable goaty mount of war. I clambered on its back, and charged forward, across the bridge and deep into the enemy’s ranks!
The warg creatures fell back in fear, as did the one remain orc guarding Erised. My companions quickly slew the orc and unchained the dwarf.
“Weel, its abit time! whaur hae ye bin? ye hink Ah enjoy spendin’ time wi’ these fool-smeel creatures?” he asked in an annoyed tone. I didn’t doubt, however, that he was grateful we had rescued him.
I quickly collected whatever valuables I could from the corpses, and we retired to the Laughing Skua. Although Tipwill had directed a conjured water elemental to extinguish the blaze caused by the fight, the black columns of smoke hanging in the air were sure to attract unwanted attention. We needed to leave the area quickly, and return to Silverymoon….