We started where we left off – sitting in a wagon full of offal, plus a crate of iron ingots marked with the mark of the Silver Citadel. We had just reclaimed it from a band of orcs outside their cave (without actually dealing with the orcs), and then fleeing. The horse was exhausted, as were we, but we chose to press on back to Eastdale. We were delayed by the need to bypass round a field of some reddish flowers. The horse didn’t want anything to do with the field and we chose to defer to it’s animal cunning.

We approached Eastdale well after dark, and prudently sent BB ahead to prepare the way. The two gate guards surprised me by demanding the tribute due to Denara at the passage of cargo through town gates; most of St Ygg are less observant of such practices. Perhaps there is hope for Denara’s role in this town to grow after all. Yet even after the customary offering, they refused us entry at first when they saw what our cargo consisted of. BB, Prig, and I left the wagon at the gates (under guard mind you!) To explain the circumstances to the priests of Ygg. They were suitably horrified by the contents of the wagon, but quite glad to receive the ingots. An immediate ceremony was arranged to shrive the fallen and burn their corpses, as if they were diseased, rather than perform a normal burial rite.

I thought at first I was breathing in too much smoke from the fires, for as I celebrated the caravan’s last bargain, strange and demonic figures seemed to swirl in the smoke rising from their bodies. It seems there is much more afoot than mere banditry. And indeed, I was told this was not the first such wagon of slaughter to be discovered. I must make further inquiries about the others. If there is a conspiracy in restraint of trade in this region, Denara must see it stopped. I also speculated that the goods found in the wagons – the ingots in this case, perhaps others? – might be somehow cursed or tainted by association with the horrific remains.

We stayed a rough night despite returning to town, for I had spent all I had preparing for the caravan search. My efforts were not in vain, however, as we were paid 50 gold apiece for recovering the wagon and the ingots. (We had also explained that we had traded the donkey of St Ygg to Denara’s blessed three for one deal, receiving in return the horse, the wagon, and ingots. Truly Denara works in mysterious ways! The brothers of St Ygg could not deny the truth of the omen, and set the value of the three for one deal at a thousand gold. They are truly more open to Denara’s guidance than I had imagined!)

Following our meeting with the brothers of Ygg, we split up to offer tribute to Denara in the manner of commerce. I bought a shield, a backpack, rope, more wine, and refreshed my food supplies. My companions did likewise in their own way. I also made it known about town that I was seeking aid from those willing souls who would protect the lifeblood of the region – specifically those caravans upon whom Denara gazes with such careful eyes, auditing their every transaction with care.

We met a gnome named Retep, who deals in antiquities. He had a very interesting chalice recently acquired, and claimed it to be worth ten thousand gold! Prig’s eyes nearly bugged out of his head! I had to take the man aside to explain that, if he so wished, I would teach him the matter of loans-at-interest and broker a deal with the local moneylender so that he might acquire the chalice for himself as he so clearly wished to do. Alas he denied the desire. He may bear watching, lest he seek to acquire the chalice outside of a fair bargain.

I was approached after that point by one Tannen, an exotic elven man, and his faithful war dog Ruffin. He had heard of my inquiries and wished to enter the service of Denara to protect trade and commerce in the region. My first employee! And Denara again showers her blessings upon me by offering a two for one deal! I am truly blessed. I hired the man upon the spot and paid him his 4 gold for the day. If he lives, he may advance far in Denara’s service (and his little dog too!), for this region clearly has need of her blessings upon it’s roads and caravans.

I must remember to ensure that he is equipped for his task, if he is not already well armed. A bow at the least. Perhaps a sword and dagger as well, should he do well, and leather armor. I must always be frugal so that my business can turn the holy profit. It is a difficult balance to strike. At any rate, I set him to filling out all the proper forms. Getting Ruffin’s paw print on the dotted line proved difficult, but the pup got the hang of it eventually.

We resolved to head out to observe the orc cave and, perhaps, punish them for their assault upon a blessed caravan, and indeed we turned resolution to action with all due haste. However, on our way out of town, I caught sight of a colleague – one Frederick Merryweather, called “The Apocalypse” by his friends for he cannot seem to cease speaking about it. He fears a mark of some kind, upon the forehead, such that those who lack it would be barred from the market and cast out as accursed, denied the holy light of Denara’s blessing of trade. We merely exchanged glances, yet it is good to know I have a friend in town should his aid be needed.

But back to the orcs. We found their cave once more, complete with two guards outside as before, and began to punish them for their unholy acts upon the caravan. Sensing Denara’s righteous wrath, the two orcs on guard fled inside. Tannen, Ruffin, Prig, BB, and an uncouth and ill-mannered man named u-Heury set a watch upon the cave entrance. We had left word in town that we would be seeking to deal with the orc threat, so reinforcements may arrive soon.