Ghraac smiles and gives you a leveled look, "Feisty, even in the face of guaranteed defeat. I like that." He holds now a predatory look at you, for an uncomfortably long time; your intimidation fell flat. But before it becomes a test of wills, as the older men tense about to decide his fate then and there, Ghraac breaks eye contact and laughs.
"'None of the pack can do as well alone.' And now I am the last of my pack." He looks back at you three, a strange animal magnetism mixed with an unspoken plea, "I am the twice damned: to the Starving Death while I still breathe without a pack, and to the Unavenged Damnation while I fail my pack's deaths in vain."
It is apparent your prisoner's bravado goes limp from physical exhaustion and a sense of failure.
[Do you have any questions/actions to anyone in this scene?]
Nehemiah fields your question, "Sanya, he should not even be here. Your people of this Great Basin live in a hard land. You have to get along with other peoples just to survive nature."
He looks back at Ghraac, "Orcs tend to live around the Southern Plains & Deserts far to the east, fighting for whatever is left after what local humans claimed." He sighs, "There is a lot of killing on those lands, between our Easterner Territories and your valuable mines here.
"We Easterners fought 'em in our big wars and on our travels West," adds Clem. "Great fighters, and truly scary when their packs gather into a warhorde." Spits, "One of 'em's medicine bastards cursed me as I gutted 'im, but at least the Comanche kids made it away safe..."
Nehemiah flicks Clementine's chin, "What'd I tell you 'bout language in front of ladies?"
You hear Ghraac snort, and turn to catch him finish shaking his head as he looks away.
"Well, maybe just his band or 'pack', but that's direct kin. He'd be right mad and ready for blood." Nehemiah continues, "Seems like he's got a story in him..."
"And I'm losin' daylight, Nehem!" Clementine doesn't seem too happy with his act of mercy right now. "How can I leave you with this killer badger when I got my own to fix up yonder?"
"Is your littermate rabid or just dumb? I am no badger. I am far more dangerous." Ghraac looks upset at the thought of being considered so 'harmless'.
Ol' Clem turns to you, "Sanya, it's another 4 hours to my claim. I done stupid and spared a badger's life." Shaking his head, "I can't in good stead send you off alone, or leave a fellow miner alone with a killer badger --"
"You are touched in the head, old wolf," jabs Ghraac.
"Shut yer hole!" retorts Clem. "Clem!" warns Nehemiah. "Sorry, Sanya. It goaded me," Clem apologizes.
Nehemiah finishes, "I get your fear, my man. I think I'm fine. Yet when you think you got control, that's when you lose it.
"Sanya, what say you? How you wanna deal with this?" asks Nehemiah.
"No matter, Clem. It may be best to stay here and set off tomorrow. Ghraac will surely become more troublesome once he's regained his strength, and if he frees himself the townsfolk would be in danger."
Ghraac replies, "You praise me too far, woman, but I accept the honor. No orc is a match against an entire camp gathering. We are brave, not mindless. Not like the things -- those things underground! --" he looks genuinely afraid at the memory, "-- that killed my pack."
Nehemiah takes this chance to offer more soup and ply out the orc's story. Seems like his pack moved to the Great Basin's edge to avoid a new sweep of war. But tragedy struck with strange hordes pouring forth from caves, ravaging the countryside, and then running back into the deep cowardly dark...
Ghraac recounts, "I chased them, underground in big tunnels, and above ground -- they spill out like locusts! -- then back into the earth again. I am a relentless hunter, but not even I can keep up.
"They are here. They attack and eat all things made of meat, then run away. I swear they must eat on the run, in the deep cowardly dark, for I can never find where they sleep.
"I am tired now and have killed no more than the first handful when they slaughtered my pack... Even now dreams of their howling stop my sleep. Go ahead and kill me, I failed." And with that Ghraac slumps facing away from you all, in an excuse to rest, but maybe to hide sadness, too.
[These creatures were described as short (4' to 5' tall) humanoids covered in dark, mangy fur, constantly gnashing, howling, and chittering, acting without fear or sense beyond killing and feeding in huge hordes. They also ran back into the earth before daylight each time.
The next 4 hours are calm at camp, unless you wanted to explore Nehemiah's tunnels. He'll be reluctant to allow any great distance within (miner's secrets), and does worry about Ghraac left alone (and his story of ravening mobs). But he's open to a small tour above & below ground.
[What is the plan for morning, Saturday July 5th? Ghraac is more rested, yet still suffering from the last remains of exhaustion -- he can move his full speed now. He still thinks Luisey would be better off as soup.
Clem wants you to see his claim, but now wants to take Nehemiah and Ghraac as a precaution. Nehemiah thinks he can handle Ghraac for at least a half a day, expecting you two back in the afternoon. Ghraac thinks you obviously need his leadership more than ever.
Clem deferred to you on packing and trail pace, which was steep yet not too challenging. [DC 8, slower pace, if you really want to roll] Ol' Salty seems preoccupied in keeping Ghraac securely bound as he trails behind you. He deliberately left Ghraac's greataxe behind for security, and frisked him for hidden knives in case of escape. Nehemiah has been to Clem's claim before and helps you stay on course -- which proves to be unnecessary given your survival skill and taking Clem's direction well previously.
An uneventful 4 hour morning hike gets you to Clementine's camp.
It's a mess. Unattended, animals were left to rifle through things that still had lingering smells of food. But the mining gear is in unmolested piles, under tarps to keep away moisture.
"Badger..." This time it's Nehemiah. "Badgers?"
You close as a group to what he is looking at. You see several badgers drinking water from dishes(?) of what looks like hips and shoulder blades of bigger animals... And you see a pair of kobolds frozen, just inside another tunnel shaft from the bright noonday sun, holding waterskins(?) and staring at all of you in fear. The badgers (x6) are 30' away, and the kobolds (x2) in the shaft entrance are 20' from the badgers (50' away from all of you).
Meanwhile the badgers seem to give no shits. They keep drinking water.
Apparently neither does Luisey, the donkey. She seems thirsty and tentatively makes for what water the badgers are drinking. But she stops on her lead and waits, lips moving.
Nehemiah is stunned by the scene. So many badgers together sharing the same space, drinking water. "I, uh," looking at the Kobolds, shakes his head and asks, "what're you critters doing?"
Clem, like Nehemiah, seems a bit taken aback by the scene as well, but has enough soldier training to draw out his two handaxes. He moves 20' closer to where you are going in an arc, giving a wide berth to the badgers. As he does so he yells to you, "You alright, Sanya? Need help?"
Ghraac for his part squats to kobold eye level, looks them in the eye, and roars at them. He yells in the shared language of this land, Human Shoshone, "Kneel, mice, before they feed you to me!" He's still bound.
For the Kobold's part, one kneels immediately, the other still shakes while holding the waterskin. The kneeling one frantically bark-growls at the shaking one, who seems to only wimper-yip in return.
The badgers give no shits. Some stopped drinking water, look at you larger animals with disinterest, snort and return to sniffing around the bone dishes(?).
Luisey stays where she's been left for the most part, but her notice doesn't leave the "water bowls."
Sanya readies an action to grapple the kobolds if one of them tries to run, and gestures to the standing one to kneel like the other. "We can ask them about why they're here, but make sure they don't run off."
Nehemiah - retreats back to grab Ghraac's lead, just in case the orc does something more violent. He also picks up Luisey's lead to keep her a healthy distance from the badgers, too. "Uh, Clem? Never believed your badger problem 'til now. Sorry."
Clem - Keeping his eyes on you, Sanya, and the kobolds, he closes position another 20'. "No sweat Nehem, these ain't the badgers that spook my Luisey."
Ghraac - Shakes head and looks at Nehemiah, "And you follow this aging wolf?"
Kobold #1 - "Yipe yip grrrr, yaowl," to other kobold. To approaching Clem, "No kill! We no trade today!"
Kobold #2 - /at Sanya's intimidation swoons into a fetal position, cradling the waterskin.
Badgers #1-6 - /some sniff about, one knocks a hip bone over, others look at your crew, back up, and then walk about. one even approaches the tunnel, sniffing.
Luisey, donkey - /licks lips, noses head forward toward the water a bit but stays put.
[Seems like you won? Nothing is immediately hostile, but those do still look like wild badgers. Actions?]