After resting for a month or so, the newly formed group struck out from Ratikhill into the rocky hills separating the Loftwood from the Rakers. Several days of uneventful travel were punctuated only by occasional encounters with refugees moving north. The party reached the western fringes of the Loftwood without further incident and began their journey through that cold, gloomy place.
Much of the journey in the forest was also without incident. It became rapidly obvious that the orcs had scoured the wood for all available food sources and signs of their presence were everywhere. A small hunting party of orcs was encountered and annihilated, but it was around this time that the PCs realised they did not have enough food for the round trip. With this realisation, the party’s speed slowed to a crawl as they hunted and foraged for food. While all party members still carried several days of rations they preferred to save such readily available food for the return journey (just in case they had to move quickly).
This slower advance meant they spent more time in the woods and so several encounters with its denizens resulted. All – an owlbear and an ettercap leading a small pack of hunting spiders – were slain.
After almost two weeks of travel, the party eventually reached Xul-Jarak. As dusk was creeping under the forest’s boughs, Tzaran transformed into an eagle and flew high overhead. he saw only a few orcs on the battlements and no wyvern in the courtyard. A general air of inactivity hung over the fortress and he returned to his comrades satisfied that the vast majority of the orcs in and around the fortress had marched to war.
The party rested overnight and planned their assault.
The next morning, they moved up to the fortress and scaled the black rock upon which it stood. They reached, the base of the wall safely, but armour banging against the rock summoned a sentry. Stunned to see intruders at Xul-Jarak’s wall he opened his mouth to shout a warning but was shot several times by the party’s archers. Before he could effectively alert the complex, he was dead and the party continued their cautious, almost stealthy approach.
They reached the courtyard without further alarm and using a small door to their left gained access to the battlements. There they were finally spotted and Oreal engaged in a lively archery exchange with another sentry. Wounded, the sentry fled shouting for help. As the party advanced to the rear of the place, they could hear the sounds of approaching warriors. Quickly, they formed a shield wall and waited for the orcs to appear…