Sophie O'Griffin, human, the leader and ringmaster. Played by EM.
Esmond Gellert, human, trick-shot archer and dog trainer. Played by MK.
Ganz, elf, stage magician and wizard. Played by JC.
Quexechetl, lizard man, strongman and wrestler. Played by KF.
Talman, half-elf, acrobat. Played by JM.
Fiorio, human, a peasant with a knack for playing to the crowd that the circus picked up along the way. Played as an NPC.
June 25, 850
When we last saw our adventurers, they had followed the boy-king Miklo, who had strayed away from his army, to an old dwarven lookout post in the Bekel. Ganz's spell revealed that there were enemies somewhere behind the door that led into the mountainside, and the circus performers heard footsteps approaching from the other side....
Sophie pushed King Miklo behind her, Talman and Quexechetl faced off against the door, and Esmond drew and nocked an arrow. All eyes were on the door, as it opened and revealed not orcs, but goblins.
Quexechetl was caught a little off because he was expecting orcs, but Talman's spear and Esmonds arrows quickly dropped the three goblins. Sophie turned to grab King Miklo and carry him to safely, and saw a stranger standing in the doorway, also trying to grab the king. Sophie was quicker. She swept up the King and pushed past the man to get the him outside.
"And they shall call me...Goblin-dropper!"
"Come, boys, get out of there," the stranger called to the King's companions. The two other boys weren't sure which way to go, but then Fiorio ushered them outside. By that time, the action with the goblins was all over. A quick check past the door showed a narrow corridor that ran into the mountain for a half-dozen yards and then turned to the left. It carried on as far as the dim light that Ganz conjured would show.
Outside, Sophie saw that the man had a companion, an elf. From their clothes, Sophie figured they must be scouts in the employ of one of the lords marching with the army -- or, perhaps, that was only what they wished to look like. They carried bows and wore cloaks, the human's gray, and the elf's a patchwork of greens.
King Miklo wanted to go back and see the goblins, and with the danger past, everyone figured there was no harm in it. It turned out that two of the goblins were alive, though unconscious. Sophie roused one of them and questioned him. After a few false starts, she learned that he spoke no Lodean, but some broken Gondan. Terrified and in great pain from the arrow in his chest, he told them they were scouts, and a ways down the passage -- "tunnel and tunnel and tunnel" -- there was a fortress with a great many orcs. Sophie thought this might be useful intelligence, so she bandaged up the goblin and had Quexechetl carry him back down the mountainside.
King Miklo and his two friends came along willingly, since they had seen about all that there was to see at the lookout post. The two strangers, scouts or whatever they were, said they were traveling with Lord Haimel. Once the King was back with the army and his regular bodyguards caught sight of him, Sophie asked what he thought should be done with the goblin. "We ought to find Count Anelmo," he decided. So they marched toward the Count's banner.
Count Anelmo proved to be someone of consequence in the army. He was gathered with a number of other noblemen, including Lord Fels. Sophie noticed Lord Fels quietly shake his head at her, but she wasn't sure what that meant. She showed the noblemen the wounded goblin and explained what they had learned, but her audience was unimpressed. They knew all about the castle, having visited this part of the Bekel in years past, and expected it to be defended. In fact they were waiting for an advance party of knights to return with intelligence.
Since no one seemed to have any use for it or care what happened to it, Talman put the goblin out of its misery. The circus left the king with his knights, and went back to their wagon as the army got moving again.
It was not long before they came into sight of a ruined city, or at least a large town, with a somewhat less ruined castle overlooking it. Sure enough, the walls were defended by orcs. While the baggage train set up a camp, the knights and men at arms began to make sallies against the castle, testing the resolve of the orcs and looking for weak spots in their defenses. It was late in the day, so they made no more than a few charges.
Sophie thought she ought to call on Lord Fels and let him know about the man and the elf who had been at the dwarven lookout. He was not at his tent, so she waited. Meanwhile, the other members of the circus put in a little practice at their various arts. While Esmond was practicing archery, he noticed that he had gained an audience: the man in the gray cloak.
He introduced himself as Borov, and complimented Esmond on his skill. He said that he and his elven friend, Lutzog, planned to go hunting in the morning, and asked Esmond if he would like to go along. Esmond agreed, and Borov said he would find the circus's tent around dawn.
Sophie, meanwhile, waited until after sundown for Lord Fels to return. One of his servants invited her into his tent, and she told him about the day's events. Fels agreed that the two supposed scouts were a little suspicious, and asked her to keep an eye on them. She left, found out where they were camping, and chatted them up over the campfire. She learned that they been with the army since Nalfavor, where they entered the service of Lord Haimel, a Willanese. They seemed to be on the up-and-up, not trying to hide anything, so after a few rounds of dice (in which Sophie won a few pennies) she returned to the circus tent.
The performers conferred and decided that Borov and Lutzog merited a close watch and some precautions, so Quexechetl was volunteered to go with Esmond on the hunt the next morning.
June 26, 850
Just at dawn, Borov and Lutzog showed up at the circus tent. Esmond explained Quexechetl's presence by explaining that he could flush game for the three archers, and the two scouts made no objection. Quexechetl was worried that the army would attack the castle while he was away and he would miss his chance to fight orcs, but word around the camp was that the army wouldn't make their big push that day.
The hunting party set out for the hills. Esmond bagged a rabbit, but as for bigger game, between the Lodean army and the orcs it seemed to have already been hunted out. Around noon they all sat down to eat and watch the probing attacks the king's army was making against the old castle. This caught Quexechetl's attention very well, and Lutzog, the elf, sat beside the lizardman and kept up a running commentary on the battle.
A little ways away, Borov sat beside Esmond and worked the conversation around to Esmond's choice of occupation. Wasn't it a bit odd, he asked, for a man of Esmond's obvious talents to make his living as an entertainer? Didn't he think that there was more he could be doing for the good of the world?
Esmond replied that he felt attached to the circus, because they had been good friends of his. Borov spoke plainly, then. He said that he and Lutzog were memebers of a brotherhood of travelers, wanderers of the roads and the wilderness who were dedicated to protecting the helpless from the evils of the world. They had no lord or commander, but answered the call for help whenever they heard it. And if Esmond was interested, he could join them for a forest gathering when they returned to Lodea.
Esmond said he would be glad to, and silently felt relief at learning that the two scouts weren't secretly plotting to kill the king or the Circus Sophia or anything. Borov asked after Panzal, explaining that it was Esmond's hat that made him think he might be a fellow wanderer in the first place. Panzal was just fine, Esmond said, and now that Borov pointed it out, he could see the Panzal's meticulous workmanship in the cloaks that Borov and Lutzog wore.
They made it easier to blend into the rocks and grass, Borov explained, and Esmond agreed that they worked well, since he hadn't seen them at all when he followed the King up to the dwarven lookout.
"I noticed how good you were at not being noticed."
After eating, the hunters returned to their work. Esmond shot another two rabbits and Borov and Lutzog bagged one each. Quexechetl tried his luck with the bolas he had made, but he never managed to find a good target.
Quexechetl's disappointment was magnified when, as the hunters descended from the hills, they saw King Miklo's army make a general attack on the orcs, which went splendidly. The attackers found a weak spot in the wall, breached it, streamed in, and soon had the orcs dead or fleeing in a rout. Quexechetl could only watch from the distance as his chances of getting into the fighting slipped away.
Back at the camp, Borov and Lutzog went their own way, and Esmond explained to Sophie that all the two scouts wanted was to make his acquaintance and perhaps recruit him into a group of informal guardians of the road. All the other entertainers thought this was a bit odd, but agreed that it explained why they might seem to be keeping too close an eye on the King -- it was after all the same thing the Circus Sophia was doing.
All the fighting seemed to be over up at the castle, so the whole circus hiked up to take a look at the aftermath of the battle. They were stopped by a little knot of men-at-arms at the gatehouse, who explained that it wasn't safe inside. Quexechetl immediately asked what the most not-safe part of the castle was.
One of the men began to explain that an ogre was still alive and barricaded in yonder tower, and that the knights were discussing who would get the honor of going in and -- when suddenly, with a great crash, the ogre bashed through the crumbling stonework of the old castle and leapt out.
The ogre, already with a couple of arrows in his back, sprang up and ran for the ruins of the city. Quexechetl was after him like a rabbit. Esmond and Talman, seeing that Quexechetl was determined to fight something that day, chased after, and the rest of the circus trailed after them.
Esmond alternated running and shooting, and though he put three arrows into the ogre's leg, he didn't seen to slow him down at all. Quexechetl threw his bolas, but they just wrapped around the ogre's waist, apparently doing him no harm. The ogre was huge, probably eight or nine feet tall, and ran with gigantic strides. He had opened up a lead of about fifty yards when he reached the walls of the ruined city and disappeared inside.
Quexechetl was behind by only a few seconds, but saw nothing but streets overgrown with grass and tumbled-down walls when he entered the city. He looked around in vain, but when Esmond and Talman caught up, Esmond was able to spot the tracks and trial of blood easily.
The ogre hadn't gone far. A little ways down the street, he had found another ruin to hole up in. Quexechetl immediately charged in. The ogre threw a massive stone block at him, but it missed, and fortunately also missed Esmond, right behind him. Quexechetl ran forward and grappled the ogre with both arms and his jaws.
The ogre screamed and pounded at Quexechetl, who hung on and found the ogre's throat with his teeth. Though the hide was awfully tough, the lizardman tasted blood, so he knew he must be doing some harm. Esmond, meanwhile, poured arrow after arrow into the huge creature, while Talman stabbed at it with his spear.
The ogre managed to connect with Quexechetl twice, and the lizardman took a couple of blows that would have flattened most men, but the fight was soon over. Talman had stabbed the ogre in both eyes, blinding him, and in winding up to swing at Quexechetl, the ogre managed to pound his elbow into the wall behind him, breaking it and making his arm useless.
The other members of the circus, arriving just after the fight started, weren't of much use. Sophie tried to help out by snagging one of the ogre's legs with her cloak in order to trip him, but all she managed to do was get the cloak torn off her back after entangling a leg. At the end, Fiorio even tried to make an attack with a knife, but he missed, and the final blow went to Talman.
"And they shall call me...Ogre-dropper!"
Seeing that the fight was over, Ganz dropped the spell he had been preparing, and instead cast a magical cleaning spell over the others' clothing, since they were covered in ogre blood. Right behind them, the circus heard the sound of knights and men-at-arms approaching.
Wrapping it up
Yay, a fight! And a potential plot hook for further use! I glossed over it above, but Quexechetl, besides working his bite on the ogres throat, also tried Wrench Neck a couple of times, which was utterly ineffective, the ogre being so monstrously strong. I think Quexechetl was a little disappointed that the others were responsible for most of the damage.
 Fiuzo Panzal is the eccentric, reclusive alchemist that the Circus got most of their magic items from. Panzal offered them in exchange for capturing and returning some of his foxhawk hybrids that had escaped.