Today started better than I hoped for. The group was still focused on the task at hand and did not propose to abandon the mission. Once everyone was suited up and ready to go, we headed down the trail towards the duergars keep for our final assault.
Upon our arrival, the keep was entirely devoid of light. It was so dark… The duergars are not stupid, and they had a strong suspicion that we’d be back to finish the job. As such, they intended to use every advantage they had, and one such advantage is their ability to see in the dark.
As soon as we arrived in the vicinity of the main gates, it was quiet… too quiet. It was certainly a trap. Trap or no trap, that was the front door, and unless we spent countless hours searching in the dark for an alternate way in, the front door remained the best option. However, the duergars were not the only ones with an ace up their sleeves… Our ace was The Mouth. He was successful yesterday in unlocking and opening the gate when we assaulted the Orc guards… So why wouldn’t it work this time? Besides, it seems that there isn’t any lock in existence that could prevent the Mouth from picking it… He’s just that good.
True to his art, the Mouth quickly vanished in the dark and headed towards the gates to unlock the door for us… As I suspected, it was a trap, because trouble found us very quickly!! For those of us who could not see in the dark, the only indicator of trouble came in the form of the sound of a limp body hitting the ground. The healer confirmed that the sound came for the Mouth’s limp body… The Mouth was down! We had to move quickly.
The guardian led the charge and attempted to open the door using his own universal key, brute force that is. The rest of us, who had momentarily stayed behind to assess the situation, were soon under fire by unidentified assailants located on the roof of the keep. We quickly reasoned that if we joined the Guardian at the door, whoever was attacking us would no longer be able to see us. Nevertheless, given we could not see for certain where the shots were coming from; our only option was to take cover with the Guardian.
Upon my arrival, I noticed the Mouth sprawled on the ground seemingly in a deep slumber. I immediately thought to myself that he was drugged. Meanwhile the Guardian was not wasting any time and promptly attempted to bash the door in with all the might he could muster in his hammer. Surprisingly, the door withstood the fierce blow and was left relatively unscathed. I could see the desperateness in the Guardian’s face when the door remained standing… When brute force can’t solve a problem, then perhaps finesse is the answer, so I attempted to pick the lock. I did not know what I was thinking, because I’ve never picked a lock in my life… I was simply hoping to emulate the Mouth from his casual conversation I overheard on the matter. Suffice it to say that I failed, but not because the lock was too complicated for my understanding, but because there simple were no lock to pick. The duergars were indeed very busy when we were resting… One of the things they did to prepare for our arrival was to pour molten iron in the lock mechanism, which would ensure the door remain locked… permanently.
I told the Guardian and the others what was going on with the lock. The Guardian looked at the door – as if he were sizing it up – and up at the roof of the keep… What happened next was quite odd. I’ve never seen a dwarf climb a wall so fast! Before I could even chuckle seeing how fast those stubby legs were moving, the Guardian was already up at the top coaxing the rest of us to follow suit. I immediately obeyed and started climbing. I thought I was doing pretty well, until I did the one thing you should never do, and that is to LOOK DOWN! Every one says DON’T LOOK DOWN, but when you are in the moment, it is like you are compelled to do so, which I did. The result was that my muscles froze and I could not go further. The healer also attempted to climb, but he could not even get his initial grip to start the climb. Discouraged from seeing our lack of athletic prowess, the Guardian helped us out by lowering a rope… Climbing using a rope is much easier!!!
We could not leave Mouth passed out at the front of the door, so we tied the rope around his feet and hoisted him on to the roof. We decided that the safest place for the Mouth was where we stood, so after securing him, the group continued the assault on the keep. Upon reaching the other ledge of the roof, which looked down into a courtyard in the inner complexe, we noticed that a trap was being laid for us on the bridge leading to the main keep. From what we could tell, a series of barrels were placed in strategic locations and doused in oil, to which we concluded it was meant to destroy the bridge to prevent us from gaining access to the inner keep. The Healer surveyed the situation, and assured us that the bridge would withstand the damage if the trap was sprung. Therefore, rather than having the trap spring on us, we decided to activate it while we were at a safe distance. The Historian casted a scorching burst on the barrels and a large fire ball resulted… However, the Healer was wrong because the bridge collapsed! Upon closer inspection, the situation was not as dire as we thought. We still manage to enter the keep.
It was not long after we entered the keep that we encountered our first group of duergars posted to repel the invaders. In fact, we practically came face to face with 3 of them – one of which we had previously encountered and lived to tell the tail – as we opened a large set of double doors. It was like they were waiting for us. Our first battle of the day started! Things were looking really good for us right up to the point a duergar thurge appeared behind the 3 duergars and blinded everyone except me. To make matters worse, two duergar scouts appeared and began attacking out rear flank.
Given the trouble we were in, the Healer activated his power which provided us with a resistance to damage. Combat was fierce. The guardian was trying to defend us from the three duerguars, while trying to neutralise the Thurge. The scouts were doing a lot of damage to the Healer, the Historian and the Fey, and I was trying to support the Guardian in his efforts. The scouts were concentrating their attacks on the Healer, so I switched positions with the historian so that I could protect the Healer. I was too late, he fell in combat, so did the protective zone he had conjured. I stabilized the Healer, and then I transformed into my bear form for hand to hand combat with the scouts. The Guardian and the Historian effectively dealt with the thurge, as well as the three duergars. The Guardian was as superb as always in keeping the main duergars busy. As soon as the thurge folded, the others fell one by one. We stood there covered in blood, panting to catch our breath… We were victorious, but we had had only embarked in our first skirmish of the day. We knew full well more were to come, and most certainly, more difficult than the one we had just gone through. Our resolve was strong! After rewarding ourselves with a short rest to recharge our powers, we pressed forward.
The second encounter with the duergars was as gruelling as the first one. We were again confronted with a thurge. As the Fey always says, they are ‘’SO ANNOYING’‘! This time, it was the Historian’s turn to shine and use his most powerful spell, causing a harming zone for the duergars. This battle was as challenging as the first one we had finished just moments before. We however persisted as we always do, and prevailed. We could not take much more of this. Most of our powerful powers were exhausted, but we had too much committed to simply turn back. We pressed on with the assault.
I was really getting battle worn, because the next combat is a blur to me. I know it was as tough as the others. Suffice it to say that we won them all! We finally came across a very large room with two large fire places on either side. Again, the room had some duergar soldiers… In addition to the soldiers, another Thurge was present, and none other than Mukelmor Grimmerzhul… This name means nothing to me, but it seems to mean something to the Mouth…
Like a reflex, both our camps attacked one another. The Guardian immediately charged the thurge because he had developed such a deep hatred for them. The remainder of the group concentrated on the duergar soldiers. The Guardian almost killed the thurge before he even had a chance to do anything, but due to the direct intervention of Grimmerzhul, the Guardian and the thurge were in a sort of game of cat and mouse. Grimmerzhul continuously manoeuvred the Guardian ever closer to the fire place, while the thurge manoeuvred away from the Guardian. Despite the duergar’s strategy, the Guardian eventually managed to significantly harm the thurge to a point were he fled the battle in fear for his own life. Meanwhile, the rest of us had our hands full with the soldiers. The Fey was looking very woozy. We were all down to the bare minimum.
Once the thurge was no longer in the picture, the Guardian repositioned himself in a place where he was at weapons reach of the soldiers as well as as Grimmerzhul. He was doing serious damage to all of them… We ultimately killed the soldiers and it was down to us against Grimmerzhul. He was not doing very well. Not only all of his support was dead, but he was alone, and seriously hurt from going toe to toe with the Guardian. Given the situation, he did the only thing that was logical, and that was to flee…
Grimmerzhul ran into the fireplace, to which we soon found out that there was a secret passage. The coward had actually installed an escape hatch in a fire place! We pursued using the corridors, because we were in no shape whatsoever to follow through the fire. We quickly caught up to Grimmerzhul, but to our despair, he was flanked on each side by fiery demons. However, just behind them, there they were… The slaves! ’’At last’’ I thought to myself! Despite the goal of our mission was just a short distance away from us, we could hear the demons speaking in our minds… They were pleading with their master to give them the order to attack us… But attacking was surprisingly the last thing on Grimmerzhul’s mind, since he wanted to parley.
Grimmerzhul had surely underestimated us and thought we were no danger to him. However, he likely rethought his strategy after narrowly escaping death himself from our hands. Grimmerzhul, gesturing for parley, a request we accepted… It’s not like we were in any better shape to fight, but he did not know that. Grimmerzhul asked us point blank what we wanted. I immediately replied ‘’the salves’’! At that moment, I think he realized that a handful of slaves were not worth dying over, let alone the havoc we had caused thus far. He agreed to relinquishing the slaves to our custody in exchange for the return of the magical grieves we had acquired after slaying his champion, as well as 10 gold pieces for each duergar we had killed, which was a sum that was paid out of my own pocket.
A deal was struck. Murkelmor Grimmerzhul told the two guards in the cistern room to hand over the slaves. One of the humans had to be helped out due to the gangrene that appeared to have eaten half of his leg. Upon seeing this and realizing the rest of these pathetic people put her in, The Fey sighed loudly. At least bringing them back to the Seven Pillared Hall will anger the duergar. The Fey would suggest leaving them here, but a single glance at me, the Historian and the Guardian told her that we’d insist on getting every single one to safety alive. Discouraged at the sight, the Fey finally yelled ‘’Come ON’’.
As the group of slaves got closer to us, I was desperately looking for Mika in the group. My heart sunk when she was nowhere to be found. I told Grimmerzhul that we wanted ALL the slaves, to which he said that the woman I spoke of was recently sold to a group of Gnolls. I asked WHERE these Gnolls were, to which he freely gave up the information.
Although we had just accomplished an amazing feat, I felt that I had failed Mika… I have to go after her, but I don’t know how the others will react to that. I could just imagine the fit the Fey will make. She surely feels that she is putting herself at great peril for inconsequential people, and that every delay is also putting her reward from my father at peril… We have to look at the greater good here, and it is not to collect gold pieces as reward.
I did not connect the dots at first glance regarding the implication of Gnolls purchasing slaves… But then I remembered a conversation I overheard the Mouth the other day, and we had said that there was a group of Gnolls, known as the Black Fang, who were making sacrifices to their demon leader Haldrik. This was too convenient to not be related to the Gnolls who purchased Mika from Grimmerzhul. I’m sure these monsters bought Mika for a sacrifice to their demon lord. I can’t stand for this! I don’t think the Guardian, nor the Historian could let this happen when we have the power to stop them!
One way or another, Mika has to hold on a bit longer. We are not in any shape to assault a Gnoll camp at present. Besides, we can’t let these newly freed slaves to fend for themselves. They’ll just get killed or worst, be recaptured into slavery and all this would have been for nothing. Some good has to come out of this! So we are returning to the Seven Pillared Hall with a group of 12 slaves. They are so overjoyed for being saved, that one of them has indicated to us that his father is a wealthy trader that does business in the Hall and inferred the possibility of a material reward of some kind. It will be a long trip, and perilous! I figure that the slaves will slow us down quite significantly, so it should take us at least 8 hours to reach safety. These caves are dangerous, and behind every corner, danger could be lurking.
What are we waiting for, let’s get going. Before we go though, we can’t forget to get the Mouth off the roof.