The 20'th morning of this journey, we begin our return trip. Only the border town of Cragson Mines remains. We had no sign of trouble until mid the 3'rd day of out of Fort Critwall. After the noon break we saw a lone horseman on a distant hilltop. Though we presumed it was IUZ, who has darkened our travels these weeks, Malin said it was not possible to make the mines in one forced march. It was decided that we would be best off making camp in a secure a place. Then we would be better able to confront the enemy the next day if they made use of the next natural ambush spot. We continued on and made camp as we normally would, though perhaps we were all a bit more alert.
Nothing bothered us that night. The next day, making a very cautious approach to what was indeed a superb ambush spot, it was laughable when nothing happened. It began to look as if it could be an uneventful trip to Cragson Mines after all. Though, about then Klor began to mention that he smelt smoke. Raven road ahead of the caravan, so that afternoon he was the first to see the smoke from Cragson Mines. Long before then all of us could smell it and had begun to fear what we would find. We were too late to be of any help in the battle. The fires were going out as we approached. As the caravan slowly continued towards the earthworks surrounding the town, I road ahead. I made a complete circuit of the town to determine if the raid had captured slaves, and in what direction the raiders departed. If, in fact, they had departed and this wasn't yet another ambush. It was puzzling that there were no tracks outside the earthworks. I had expected many signs of the attack. Seeing none, ! it didn't take an elder mage to
The wagons stayed near the entrance to the town, turned around and ready to depart, as the caravan guards moved in. I went to check out the mine entrance as the rest began to explore the town. Hearing nothing from the shaft, I examined the mine hoist and found it so broken that nobody could use it any time soon. After some time listening for sounds from below, not hearing any, I decided we would be safe during the day and went to look elsewhere.
The barracks had been soundly trashed, and partly torched. I searched the foreman's common room, but didn't find anything or anyone. About then dusk was approaching and I began a real search in one of larger buildings, using infravision to locate anyone still alive. Hennic came to tell me that the group was leaving, but I wouldn't leave then, just when I'ld be able to make a thorough search. Besides, this wouldn't take long and may do some real good. So, my mind was elsewhere when Klor and Rats road up, and Klor totally surprised me when he assaulted me by grabbing my arm.
I told him to let me go, but the human's treachery went further than that, and Klor began to squeeze my arm as if to crush it in two. I struck out with my staff, again telling him to let go. I missed but he was too stupid to let me be. Rats told me to explain, but owing nothing to him I wouldn't explain anything while being attacked. Klor tries to prompt me by hitting me, but I will not answer. Klor asks Rats something about wanting to go search for children. At that I break my silence "Why ask that, you are the one stopping me from searching. That is pretty stupid." Klor swung at me again. He missed that time, but by then I was so mauled I couldn't resist when they took my staff and lead my horse back to the caravan.
Later, as the caravan moved away from the ruins of Cragson Mines, I recovered enough to be somewhat surprised to not be tied up. Deciding to test the limits, I went to Rats and demanded my staff back. He asked how he could know that I wouldn't again attack someone in the party. I replied "Promise me that nobody in the party will betray me and I won't attack them." He said he couldn't speak for others in the party. Well, it didn't mean much to me, but I knew it would mean a lot to him, so I responded "You're the leader." He muttered something, perhaps a prayer to the deity he follows, and said "Bash orcs, not humans" as he returned my staff. I bit my tongue, just managing to not respond "what's the difference."
We find a place to encamp. And, again, have a cold dinner. Later, perhaps knowing he needs something to tell Malin to explain the disarray amongst the guards, Rats comes to talk. He says he would have searched more but the leader had given other orders. I challenged him to prove his desire to do good, by letting me return to Cragson Mines to continue the search he interrupted. He surprised me by agreeing then surprised me further by saying he would accompany me.
It took time to convince Malin that our being gone was worth the potentially increased danger to the caravan. It took longer for Rats to try and convince Klor that Rats had to go and search the town with "that elf", and furthermore that Klor could not also come. In the end Klor never really understood, and I road up with Rat's horse to stop the discussion. I wonder if anyone else saw the irony in the fact that now it is one of their own that the humans have betrayed.
Unfortunately, Rats and I didn't find any more survivors. Only the one child found during the afternoon might eventually tell the tale of the destruction of Cragson Mine. But, based on the number of bodies found in town, I am glad that it seems nobody has been taken off to live the life of a slave. Rats gave the town a mass blessing for the souls lost, and with that we waited out the night. At dawn, we return to the caravan, to find that they had no nighttime visitors, and are making ready to continue our return travels. Malin says that we will travel as quickly as we can from now on, to avoid any further excitement.