Dubricus, not one to abandon his friends in need, shakily regained his feet and finished casting a spell; his rapier burst into flame and dove neatly into the throat of the orc still trading blows with Terzin.
"My pleasure," Dubricus gasped. "Ow."
Two orcs remained to harry Jared, while the third turned and charged Robin with a shrill scream. She staggered back, wounded, but delivered as well as she had received. Now that he was no longer surrounded, Jared landed a blow on the wounded orc nearest him. A still-smoldering enemy began to scramble away; Terzin threw a knife, and the orc fell face-down and did not move again. Harrick moved to a better position for picking off one of Jared's remaining enemies.
Robin landed another solid blow and knocked the orc to the ground. An expression of terror dawned on his face as he realized that she was going to kill him. The last unwounded orc launched a desperate attack at Jared, hoping only to get past him and get out.
Harrick's Flame Gout caught him in the back. He collapsed, burning, at Robin's feet.
Jared's final punch knocked his last opponent unconscious at last.
"I'm in a lot of pain here, guys, can we get out of here?" Harrick inquired. Their first foray into the caves certainly hadn't taken them very far.
The orc in the room with Robin regained his feet and looked around.
"Care to surrender?" Harrick asked him.
"Get out!" he said in Hvass. "Get out, all of you!" For a moment the cave-dweller looked like he was indeed about to surrender. Then he raised his spear with a scream and charged; he ran himself up Robin's sword. They had one potential captive left, slightly on fire, backed up against the wall with a spear in his hands and a wild expression. The intruders surrounded him, weapons ready.
"Human bandits, killed all of us before, no! Stay away!"
Harrick translated this for them.
"We didn't kill anybody 'til you guys decided to come down with the spear charge," Robin reminded him. "Justput that down. We won't hurt you."
"Did we set off an alarm?" Terzin asked.
When this had been relayed, the orc looked at him contemptuously. "We saw your light." He yelled something else; Robin raised her sword with a growl, but couldn't quite kill him in cold, or at least cooling, blood. There was a clatter of boots and weapons from the stair.
Harrick cast Flame Gout into the stair as a warning; the charge halted, for the moment.
"That sounds like a lot of reinforcements," Dubricus remarked, startling those who had assumed he was dead.
"We might want to consider a strategic withdrawal," Robin allowed. "Are we taking this guy with us?"
"There are people coming the other way!" Dubricus warned, cocking his head to listen.
No time for subduing the rebellious orc, not if they were going to have to fight their way out; they left him behind and headed back down to the first crossing of ways. Eight goblins stood a slight distance down the center corridor and cast spears at the retreating invaders once they passed. One struck Dubricus in the leg and he fell. Robin threw him over her shoulder and ran for it; another glanced off her armor. As they made their way into the open, Harrick put forth a desperate effort to cast a spell that he did not have prepared; he slammed his palms together and wind whistled into the caves, sending the second flight of spears off course and buying them time to get into the woods and regain their breath.
Dubricus screamed when they pulled out the spear, then promptly fell unconscious again while they bandaged the wound. Francis and the horse shied at the scent of blood, but they managed to get Dubricus slung over the saddle. The woods offered shelter but also possibly bandits. They decided to use the road, hoping to make it to town before it grew too dark. Dubricus needed a doctor's attention.
"From what that orc was saying, it sounds like the bandits are bugging them," Harrick remarked as they trudged.
"That could very well be the case," Robin agreed.
Nothing happened to them on the road. The gong sounded again as they climbed the hill in the gathering darkness. They were recognized; the drawbridge and portcullis were moved without challenge, and Sabine opened the door and greeted them.
"Is there a physician in this town?" Robin asked.
"Yes, what happened to this man?"
"What didn't happen," Jared said.
"Mostly spears," Robin explained.
"The children will be very upset." She led them to Brother Martin's bakery. He cleared space on a kneading table, assisted by his apprentice, Jen, and a couple of local kids. Jared made a mental note to avoid the bread from this point forward. The adventurers laid him down and stepped back out of the way. Jen shooed them out of the room as Martin went to work. They took care of the horse and mule, then headed for the Green Man, aching with every step.
"Hi Wilf. Still got our room?" Harrick asked.
"Er, we have a room you can take...."
"We'll try not to bleed on the bedding," Robin muttered.
"I don't suppose you have a bath?" was the next question.
"Yes, there's one."
"How much extra?" the orc inquired.
"Couple of bits. Um...."
"Later," Robin cut off his question, and they all went upstairs to sort themselves out. They had attracted quite a little crowd, including Sabine, who wanted to know what had happened. Everyone was disheartened by Dubricus' injury, but no one seemed surprised that they had encountered dangerous opposition. That was what adventurers did, after all. They just wanted to know what had been found.
When they felt ready to face the inquisition the group headed over to the One-Eyed Cat, which seemed to hold most of the population of the Keep, including an unusually short dwarf and a woman with a broadsword and an aura of authority, despite the fact that she didn't look any older than the travelers. She included herself at the table with the four of them and Sabine, though she said nothing.
"Where did you go?" Sabine asked.
"We started off by the tower, but didn't find anything there," Harrick told her.
"The hill where people say they see the tower?"
"Although there's a fine boneyard up there," he added. "Headed north up the road, west along the Goblinwater. Nice little box canyon with a series of caves up there."
"About fifteen fresh graves along the road," Robin added.
"Between ten and twenty, it was hard to tell." He saw the silent women's attention sharpen. "About halfway between where the road's flooded out, and the bridge over the Goblinwater."
"Fresh graves, ten to twenty?" Sabine asked. "You're sure they're graves?"
"There's people buried in them," Robin shrugged.
"Ah. That would be yes, then. And you went into the cave complex, which presumably there's something living in there again?"
"Several somethings," Jared put in.
"I'd say they're probably members of the Goblin tribe," Harrick judged.
"Or at least, that's what we ran into. There's rather a lot of caves, and we didn't get very far."
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