It has been weeks since they left Dravia. Gretchen’s squad of 20 orcs spend the days marching and camping, covering ground at a steady pace. They move along the north coast of the Amin; Gretchen hopes Amunash, the most populated city on the continent, would prove more fruitful with information.
One morning, Gretchen is standing on the beach looking east into the dawn. Her left eye held the view of the ocean, its waters ebbing and and flowing; her right saw a different ocean, caught up in its own ceaseless dance. But at the moment she is focusing on neither. Squinting and turning her head slightly to the right, she tries to make out what it is she is seeing against the rising sun. A silhouetted figure seemed to be moving back and forth across the beach up ahead, hard at some sort of work. Whoever it is, he is the first person they’ve seen in their long march, aside from the bedraggled orcs making their way back to their homeland.
She calls to her seargents, who came quickly from their morning chores. Not turning from the person of interest, she asks the keen-eyed Seargent Sieht. “What do you make of it?”
Studying the distant figure for a short time, she replies, “Dwarf, sir. Definitiely. Seems to be building something in the water.”
Gretchen grunts. “That’s new for a dwarf.” She pauses long to think before she speaks again. “He might have information. Maybe about Sai. Maybe about where to go in Amunash to find information. We should go question him.”
Gretchen begins to walk purposefully down the beach until one of her other seargents makes a sound. Turning her gaze on young Vier, she asks, “You have something to say, Seargent.”
Clearing his throat in a way that reminds her very much of Sai, Seargent Vier answers carefully. “Lieutenant, I request to approach this dwarf alone. I wish to prove my ability to you. If I fail, you can still question him after I am dead.”
The group of seargents hold their breath while Gretchen thinks in silence, methodically connecting dots in her head. Finally, she nods and the seargents heave a collective sigh. “Take your warband. I will not lose a seargent to an ambush or unexpected enemy. The rest of us will strike camp and follow behind.”
Vier nods and rushes off to collect his soldiers.
As Ostia is working on his port, he looks up and see a small group of five orcs moving toward him along the beach. This strikes him as odd since they are headed east, the opposite direction of most of the orcs that he’s seen, and traveling light, carrying only their large weapons and wearing chain armor. A little ways away, the largest of them, who is by no means the largest orc that Ostia has ever seen, stops and appears to give instructions to the other four. Then the large orc leaves the four and jogs over to Ostia alone, clinking all the way.
When he gets close to Ostia, he speaks in near-fluent dwarvish. “Greetings! I am Seargent Vier, under Lieutennant Hilgard, under Captain Angra, under Major Kierak, under Warcheif Graan.” Vier pauses to acknowledge Ostia’s praise of his military hierarchy. Receiving none, he continues. “We are engaged in an important recovery mission, and seek information. I would like to ask you some questions.” Vier waits to see if Ostia would be agreeable to talking.
Ostia responds flatly, “What is in it for me?” He continues loading his ship for his next trade mission.
Vier pauses for a moment, apparently biting back his first response. He speaks slowly, unsure of what would appeal to a dwarf. “Well, we have money. We can pay for information.” Looking at the goods in the ship, he adds, “We can also trade other goods or services. What did you have in mind?”
“Gold will work, depending on what you want to know. Why did the orcs send only a sergeant?” Ostia asked cooly.
Bael’Sol and Jan are near home after seeing the girls off to the elven isles. It has been a long journey, but a cheerful one. As the come over the bluffs outside the city, Baequi’Runi, Bael’Sol’s dragon, sees an odd party up ahead. Bael’Sol and Jan break off their conversation as Baequi’Runi chirps and growls and lands on Bael’Sol’s shoulders. He settles there, twisting and coiling his tail, and lightly setting his claws into Bael’Sol’s tunic.
“What is it, Bael’Sol? What does he see?” Jan asks, suddenly worried about a possible ambush. Fezig returns to Jan’s side, tail tucked and every bit as concerned as his master.
“There are Orcs up ahead.”
“What?!? I thought they had all left this area!”
“I thought so too. It looks like a whole warband. And…and they appear to be meeting with Ostia…” Bael’Sol was perplexed by this meeting. He reached up and stroked the dragon, said something to sooth him. “Jan, let’s stay up here on the bluff and watch this meeting. I’ll send Baequi’Runi down closer to see if he can gather any information without being spotted.”
Vier manages to grit his teeth and smile at the same time. “Trust me. It is more pleasant if my commanding officer is not directly involved yet. Aside from that, my soldiers and I are the only ones among us who are skilled in your language.”
Vier reaches into a leather purse at his side and tosses a gold piece on the dock. “We are under orders to retrieve a specific orc last seen on this continent. His name is Karn Wulfgar, but he is sometimes known as Sai. We are interested in information regarding his present location, activities, and condition. Any information that leads to his recovery will be richly rewarded.” Vier put his hand back in the pouch, clinking the coins inside.
“Aren’t all orcs in the military? Didn’t he come home with your “phased” withdrawal from Amin? If not, why such concern over…..what a deserter?" Ostia asks finally keeping his focus on the conversation.
Vier narrows his eyes, his assessment of the dwarf shifting towards suspicion. “You ask a lot of questions for one barting his own information for gold.” He pauses, thinking. On the one hand, the dwarf hadn’t outright said he’d never heard the name Karn Wulfgar, which is farther than they’d gotten in Dravia. On the other hand, he could just be trying get more gold out of the orcs, very characteristic for the dwarves. But Vier’s suspicion was pricked. Could this be a spy for the dragons? He decided to procede cautiously.
“Some of what you ask I can answer freely. Some is restricted military information. But, if you wish an equal exchange of information, our agreement must be renegotiated.”
Sensing some frustration from his orcish visitor, Ostia takes a tactical risk. “My price is far more long reaching then a sack of gold. This ship is built for ocean travel and my plans are to start trading with as many far away places as possible. So if your superiors can open those doors and assure the peace of Amin, then I have plenty to tell. Otherwise you best be on your way.” Ostia stated coldly. He had hoped that his memory that orcs prefer bluntness would pay off or he just lost a sack of gold.
As Ostia predicted, Vier does not blink at his bluntess. “Peace…” The seargent pronounces the word slowly, over-enunciating. “I do not know this dwarvish word. I do not think we have that word in our language. But I do understand trade. Myself or Lieutennant Hilgard could open the orcish port to you. After arrival, it would be up to you to negotiate your own trade arrangements. If Cheif Warrant Officer Wulfgar was one of your passengers, as well, I can assure you that Warcheif Graan will view you and your business favorably. That will cause all other orcs to view you favorably, too.”
Vier pauses, sizing Ostia up. “However, such a tremendous favor would only be exchanged for Karn Wulfgar himself. It is too high a price for anything less.”
Ostia realizing the opportunity decides to take it. “I can negotiate for myself when we arrive. I can deliver the orc, but if my ship is to be your way of passage. Then you must adhere to the rules of her captain. He will be delivered safely and with no harm done for the entire voyage. Can you agree?” Ostia adds almost as an afterthought, “we would also need to negotiate passage, but as a small token of good will I can give you and your Lieutant a free passage.” Occasionally, it is profitable to be generous he thought. Ostia extended his hand for acceptance.
Vier’s eyes widen slightly as what Ostia has said sinks in. “You mean you have Karn Wulfgar?” Vier can’t believe his luck, that the first dwarf he speaks to near Amunash has not only information, but the orc himself. He turns his attention back to the business of the deal. “We are under orders to deliver Kar Wulfgar alive, so you do not need to fear for his life. As for harm,” Vier pauses, then speaks carefully, “I can agree that no harm will come to him from myself, the other seargents or our soldiers. I cannot make that agreement for my Lieutennant. I’m confident she will see reason and agree to it, but she will have to speak for herself in that matter.” He glances back over his shoulder.
He can’t see them yet, but he knows Gretchen is on her way with the rest of the troops. “If it is agreeable to you, I will deliver this news to Lieutennant Hilgard. She is on her way with the remainder of our squad. She will want to negotiate passage with you. While I am doing that, you should retreive Cheif Warrant Officer Wulfgar. We can meet here again at sundown to complete negotiation of terms.” He reaches out to take Ostia’s hand. “Is that agreeable?”
“I cannot agree to that timeline! I must finish my preparations on the ship today. I plan to sail within the week. I can lead your lieutennant to him or with a small band if she needs an escort.” Ostia implies cowardliness with the last word. Realizing he may have bitten more than he can chew with this quick deal and hoping he can back the sergeant off a little. “Assuming you orcs can remain peaceful while in halfling and dwarven lands? Your lieutennat can meet the orc. I make no promises for how you will be received by Sai.” posulated Ostia.
Vier thinks over Ostia’s words, then answers coldly. “No escort will be necessary. Lieutennant Hilgard will choose the soldiers to accompany her out of her squad. We will require you to lead us to where you are keeping Karn Wulfgar. How he receives us is irrelevant.” He thinks again, then nods curtly. “A week will work. We may lend our strength to aiding you in your preparations. As a sign of goodwill.” He says this through an orcish smile. “That will give us time to make our prepartions also. How many orcs will your vessel carry?”