Dr. Crocetti calmly and carefully explained the situation to Grace Howe. Her reaction was about as he expected.
“And you just let them go out there?” She wasn’t quite shouting, but her voice was certainly raised.
“Please, calm yourself. I don’t know what you think of the North Star, but our security force is meant to deal with people wandering off, burglars… and perhaps just a bit more. That, with the help of technology.” He sighed inwardly, but kept his face and tone neutral.
“When were you going to tell me, then?” She spoke the words carefully, one at a time, but it was clear she was still angry.
“I wasn’t. It is not our responsibility to inform people of other’s decisions. If Adrian wanted you to know where he had gone, he would have told you. Based on what I know of him, he would not want you to worry, and wait for him to return. He is not the type to be reckless.”
“Yet he isn’t here. Tell me where he went!”
Dr. Crocetti shrugged, “I don’t know. They could have gone any direction, but we don’t have anyone with the expertise to track them. If you really must look for them… the only thing I can say is… keep an eye on the horizon for smoke.”
“Why smoke?” Grace squinted her eyes.
“Oh, Sam is with them.” Kanon’s voice came through the open doorway, “Umm… I brought Ken.”
Dr. Crocetti smiled and nodded. “Well, come on in.” He gestured to the remaining chairs
Adrian frowned, “Hmm. I did say that we would turn around and go back if we didn’t find an orc camp by now.” He frowned even deeper, “So… can we go back? I’m not feeling any better about this now.”
Brian turned toward Adrian. “Why would we go back? We just got here.”
Adrian gestured to the tents they could see in the distance, beyond the trees there were crouching behind. “Because that’s an orc camp. If all of them have axes like that one, they could easily kill us. Why are we here again?”
“They don’t all have axes like this one. Some of the axes are bigger, and they stole some other kinds of weapons too.” Brian looked straight into Adrian’s eyes, “We’re friends, right?”
“Sure, but not the kind of friends that go and get killed by orcs together. Maybe I’d fight one, but…”
“Right. Well, we’re not here to fight them.”
“I don’t think talking to them will go any better…” Adrian shook his head.
“We’re not going to talk to them. We’re here to rescue someone. A woman. She’s in…” Brian pointed, “that tent.”
“I would doubt the accuracy of your information if you hadn’t told us how to get here, and when we would arrive. So, with those orcs there…” He gestured toward the handful of orcs they could see wandering around, “How can we rescue her?”
“Well, we can’t fight them.” Brian shook his head, “Maybe I could fight one? But it would be suicide without more weapons and training and muscle and people. So, we’ll have to wait for night or… create a distraction.”
“How?” Sam asked. “I don’t think any of us could outrun a bunch of orcs.”
Adrian grinned, “Actually, you can do it. Just… go over that way somewhere and start a fire. Then get out of there before they come look.”
Sam looked at the ground. “Hmm, it’s all wet. The fire wouldn’t spread far,” he sounded almost sad, “Hey wait a minute, I don’t start fires! I don’t!”
Adrian raised an eyebrow and spoke sarcastically, “So, all those fires that appear around you… just happen?”
“Exactly!” Sam nodded his head seriously.
Brian frowned, “Hmm. I believe you, but… what’s the chance of one happening soon?”
“I dunno man, they just happen. I can go over there and see if one appears or something, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
Adrian shrugged, “Well, if it doesn’t work I guess we can just wait for night.”
Sam nodded, “Well, okay. If you guys want me to, it would be fine. I’ll stay far out of sight of the camp.”
Everyone assented to the plan, and Sam walked a long arc around the camp, soon leaving sight of the others. Adrian turned to Brian, “So, do you really believe he doesn’t start those fires himself?”
“I do. I believe he doesn’t think he starts the fires. Besides, he doesn’t even have a lighter or matches.” Brian leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “Though, he does know how to start a fire with just the sticks and leaves and stuff around here. He just didn’t say that because everyone yells at him when fires start.”
“Oh, okay. How long will that take?”
“I don’t know. Maybe a couple of hours, it’s pretty damp. Still, it will be faster than waiting for night, and umm… I’d rather not delay too much.” Brian turned toward the camp and stared at intently. After a minute or so, he looked around. “Oh, hey, Adrian. Umm, we’re still waiting for Sam to light a fire, right?”
“Yes. Did you really forget that already?”
“Oh, sorry to bring it up. It’s not polite to talk about… that stuff, is it?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll forget about it in a few minutes here.” Brian turned back toward the camp. A few minutes later, he asked approximately the same thing.
“Yes, we’re still waiting.” Adrian nodded.
Several more minutes passed. “Oh, hey, Adrian…”
“Yes, we’re still waiting.”
“Oh, ok, but… aren’t they doing stuff? Is that the fire over there?”
Adrian looked and blinked. “Oh man, that is a fire. Uh…”
Brian started to hurry toward the camp, watching for movement. They could see several orcs at the edge of the camp, facing toward the fire. There were still a few around elsewhere, but Brian ducked and weaved through a few of the tents before arriving at his target. Inside was a woman, tied up with ropes. Her eyes widened upon seeing the two of them, and she said something. Brian quickly used the axe to saw through the top part of the rope, after which the coils loosened and it came off. He gestured for her to stand up and said, “Come with us.”
The woman looked at him blankly, loudly whispering something toward him.
Brian reached down and grabbed her hand, pulling her to a standing position, “Come with us, we’re here to rescue you.”
“Okay.” The woman nodded.