Evading the furious orc patrols, the party regrouped in the shadow of a low hill a few miles away from the orc camp…whereupon a very angry Girald punched Inigo right in the face. A fight might have broken out, but the group was too worried about escaping to let the rogue and ranger battle it out. Vilanestra solved the problem by offering to teleport the badly-wounded MacTavish, Aeryn, Wulf and the slave escapees back to Phlan . They accepted and spent a comfortable night in the inn resting up, while Girald, Inigo, and Rajmani spent a restless and rainy night in the wilderness hiding from orcs. The next day, with spells re-memorized, Vilanestra teleported them back as well and the party was reunited.
After making it clear that the party owed her, the elf mage gave them a little cash to re-equip, and then she and Girald departed to continue the search for Ren the White, while Rajmani stayed at the inn to rest up a little longer. Most of the party re-equipped at Jerome of Melvaunt’s shop while MacTavish did penance at the Temple of Tempus, after which he was awarded a holy symbol to replace the one he’d lost to the orcs. They were now re-equipped, but unemployed.
Being the proactive type, Aeryn went to visit Poryphrys Cadorna hoping for a free dinner and a commission for the party. After a night of…active negotiation, she returned with both. Apparently, after the clearing of Sokol Keep, a powerful Phlan merchant family called Bivant hoped to capitalize on the now-reopened shipping by importing a boatload of hopeful young women from around the Moonsea to Phlan as spouses to the guards and colonists – and decided to save on costs by transporting their young heir, Galon Bivant, to Phlan in the same ship. Unfortunately, the ship was captured en route from Hillsfar by that notorious scourge of the Moonsea, Captain Scabbard. Scabbard demanded a rich ransom for the Bivant heir, and the problem of recovering him had been dumped in Cadorna’s lap.
At the lure of 20,000 gps (with 5,000 in advance and another 10,000 promised as a bonus should the party be able to deliver Scabbard’s head) the PCs accepted with alacrity and rushed to get themselves outfitted for the day-long journey to Scabbard’s pirate fortress in Stormy Bay. As they did, Rajmani approached them and offered to help out, if the party first helped her deal with a tribe of Thri-Kreen hunting out all the game in the area. Reasoning that a pretty druid/ranger would be an asset against the pirates, the party accepted and they all rode north of Phlan to the insect men’s lair.
The Thri-Kreen village appeared, from the surface, to be a series of seven low and irregular mounds. With visions of insect hordes dancing in their heads, the PCs started to think twice about this side trip, though Rajmani eventually got them moving with a deft combination of insults and flattery. She and Inigo headed into the group of mounds, while the rest of the party waited at the village perimeter. Not long after, a single Thri-Kreen peeked out from one of the mounds – and took an arrow from Ginallath in its shoulder. Chittering loudly, the mantis-warrior leaped to the attack and the fight was on.
Two more Thri-Kreen exited the mounds to attack MacTavish, Aeryn, Wulf, and Ginallath, and a second pair engaged Rajmani and Inigo. Happy at the opportunity to have something to kill, Inigo chopped his opponent down and Raj quickly dispatched the other. Eager to find another opponent, Inigo rushed into one of the mounds. Finding a tunnel leading underground, the elf thought nothing about leaping into it. Raj grinned wryly and followed. They found themselves in a small tunnel system beneath the village, with Thri-Kreen constantly sniping at them with throwing wedges.
As elf and ranger fought underground, the rest of the party finished their opponents and began to move into the village. Ginallath carefully inspected every mound entrance, scattering caltrops to discourage surprise attacks. Their reconaissance was disturbed by a second group of Thri-Kreen, returning from the hunt. This group avoided contact with the party, giving them a volley of throwing wedges before disappearing underground.
The PCs still on the surface were not really excited about going into the tunnels after them (for some reason our group of players HATES tunnels), but one by one they descended – except for Ginallath, who was guarding the rear, or watching for re-enforcements, or something. Reunited with Inigo and Raj below ground, the party searched the winding tunnels until they found themselves at the entrance to a large inner chamber dominated by a large unexcavated pillar, nestled in which was a large golden mantis statue guarded by two Thri-Kreen.
Noticing the party, the guards hurled their throwing wedges and prepared for battle as Inigo, Raj, and MacTavish rushed into the room – only to be ambushed by three more Thri-Kreen and their chieftain, dropping from the ceiling. Wolf and Aeryn soon joined in. The fight was tough and the party was hampered by the low light and confined spaces. MacTavish accidentally banged his funnybone with his mace and dropped his shield, Inigo bumped his head, and Wulf actually stabbed himself with his longsword (they all rolled these fumbles in the same round too…the Fumble Deck got quite a workout). One by one, however, the mantis warriors fell. Raj and Inigo accounted for three of them, Wolf slew the chieftain in a brutal slugging match that left him almost dead as well, and MacTavish finished the last Thri-Kreen after it almost eviscerated him with a single well-rolled crit.
With the Thri-Kreen dead and the balance of nature restored, the party lost no time searching through their loot. Apart from the obviously valuable statue, the mantis warriors had assembled a sizable pile of cash (7000gp), five nice-looking gems, and a store of weapons from the travellers they’d waylaid- some of which McTavish’s orisons revealed were magical. Also clearly magical was a ring they discovered, still attached to a skeletal finger.
The defeat of the Thri-Kreen helped restore the party’s morale as well as its material fortunes, both almost at zero after their defeat by Mace. Loading up the valuables, they began to plan for their confrontation with Captain Scabbard and his pirates…