(Warning! This post contains spoilers about Icewind Dale. If that bothers you just ignore it. Also this post is brought to you by the word spoon. SPOOOOOONNNNNN!)
It looked like Easthaven was finally safe. Or at least it didn't have any problems inside it or near its entrance that required the help of a band or roaming adventurers. That was the only thing the party wanted to make sure of before they went to meet Hrothgar about his invitation for an expedition. There was only one small problem. They decided to let Red Hood lead.
Like any talented ranger she got them lost. How lost? Well, they found themselves somewhere outside Easthaven fighting hungry wolves. In the dark.
It was a brief fight that ended with the demise of the poor wolves. As the party tried to figure out how to go back to town, Red Hood intervened saying there was nothing to worry about. She was a ranger. She was one with the wilderness. She could find any trail even in a moonless night! They would be back to town in no time!
Turns out "no time" actually takes a long time because instead of finding themselves back in town the party ended up in front of a cave too. Not only any cave either as they approached it there was a lonely orc there too who quickly entered it as he saw their approach. Outside the cave they also find some abandoned wagons which they quickly surmised to be from the lost caravans.
This made them worried. They had no idea what lied inside that cave and as far as they knew that orc might just be trying to lead them to a trap. After all, what kind of orc won't fight by his lone self a band of adventurers armed to the teeth?
On the other hand, if these were indeed the wagons from the missing caravans then it was their duty to go inside that cave and stop whatever evil lied inside.
Duty spoke higher and inside the cave they went. To the surprise of no one they found more orcs inside who wanted to murder them.
They were pushovers though and quickly dispatched. A bit more of cave exploration (and more orc killing) led them to what seemed to be the chieftain of these orcs and their shaman. Unfortunately it also looked like the party wouldn't be able to get any kind of dialogue done except through their weapons and spells.
These actually took some effort to kill. But it was nothing they couldn't handle. After the fight they found several crates with goodies in that area reinforcing their beliefs that these orcs were the responsibles for all the missing caravans to Easthaven.
With a job well done they all patted each other in the back. Now it was just a question of exploring the rest of the caves, killing any stragglers and.... AAAH! Is that... is that an ogre?!?
*clears throat* The party just did not have that panic attack. Also I totally didn't get the party wiped six times and had to reload, trying different strategies each time, because I am an excellent player. In fact, it was a battle of such epic proportions I forgot to take a screenshot of it. Which is actually becoming a bad pattern. On the other hand due to Icewind Dale's technology it can be really hard to take a good screenshot of a battle.
Anyway! After the fight was over they found a contract on the ogre's body that pretty much confirmed that everything in those caves were from the missing caravans.
Nearby they also found a chest containing some wolf pelts as well as some other goodies. After looting anything of value from the corpses orcs and making sure there were no stragglers the party sought their way back to town. Without Red Hood leading them this time.
Fortunately that wasn't all that hard. Soon they found themselves back in Easthaven. The party went first to Pomab to sell all the loot they could. Next they went to deliver the caravan contract to its intented target. It was a man named Gaspar who also turned out to be the father of the boy they saved from goblins earlier!
Gaspar was distressed with the news but nonetheless was thankful for the party and gave them a small reward. Finally, it was time to meet with Hrothgar!
They found him in a small but comfortable house with several curiosities that seemed to be trophies of his past days as an adventurer. During their talk Hrothgar confirmed that. He claimed to not be completely retired though, just semi-retired, taking his sword and shield out only when the security of Easthaven is threatened.
About the expedition he didn't have much to say. Only that there was some sort of trouble happening in their neighbors to the South, Kuldahar, and he wanted to go there to investigate it.
The party inquired about the nature of the evil they were going to face but Hrothgar wasn't able to give any more details as he didn't know either. Still he wanted the party to be join the expedition and they, as the good heroes they are, accepted.
Hrothgar was quite pleased with this, promising to get everything ready to depart in a few days. He wanted to go sooner but there was the matter of the missing caravans that he wanted to investigate first. Well, that was just his lucky day then! The party already solved that and explained it to them what they found out and how they solved the problem.
As an experienced adventurer, Hrothgar thought that there was something strange about those orc attacks. It was just too brazen of them to attack so close to town. He wondered if it was because of the coming winter or if there was something more going on. In any case, he was glad the case was solved and would send some people to retrieve the crates soon. This would also allow him to launch the expedition sooner. For now he suggested that the party to go rest a little, outfit themselves with any gear they may need and gather some supplies for the trip.
It was a suggestion they were more than happy to follow after such a day of adventuring and off to the tavern they went.
While the party rested, they started to come up with conjectures of what kind of evil they were going to find in Kuldahar:
Hansel thought it would be a necromancer leading an army of undead. Harassing poor, defenseless people are what necromancers like to do after all!
Red Hood thought it would be something more vicious. Probably a pack of werewolves or maybe werebears considering how far north they were.
At the mention of werebears, Goldilocks started to shiver. She then guessed that what they would face would actually be druids turned into bears with huge claws, big teeth and demonic voice. The rest of the party stared at her in disbelief. Goldilocks then realized what she was saying and went quiet.
Snow White thought it was more likely for it to be just some war between barbarian tribes, as that is the only thing humans (and pretty much every non-elf race) know to do.
Grethel however was hoping for something unexpected. Perhaps Hrothgar was actually gathering every able-bodied person in Easthaven, leading them to a trap, while his evil master attacked the town.
At this, Alladin interjected saying that was too much of a convoluted plan, one that could only happen in some ridiculous story made up by a five years old. Then he remembered about his current predicament and agreed that it might actually be possible. Still he was hoping it would be something classical, something simple like an army of orcs causing havoc.
Whatever the case is, they would soon find out. For now they had some much deserved rest to catch upon on!