- While on watch outside the fortress, Gvados circles the sky in the form of an owl and spots something peculiar. A wagon approaches the front gate of the fortress, driven by their recent companion Largo. When he arrives at the gate Largo reads a scroll and speaks the language of the Duergar. They open the gates and let him in, closing them behind, keeping the wagon contained in the main tower. Two Duergar climb down from the tower house above the entry, and they begin questioning Largo. Although he cannot understand, Gvados can tell things get heated. One of the guards pulls Largo from the wagon, throwing him to the ground. He places his axe at Largo’s throat, yelling. Then Largo says something that gets the guard’s attention. Their gnomish friend speaks, and the Duergar relaxes his posture taking his axe from Largo’s throat. When Largo finishes speaking, they pick him up and let him stand by the wagon while one of the guards enters a side door in the tower.
- Inside the fortress, Landen and the adventurers speak with Rhinn. “I’ve worked hard researching this valuable relic for the guild, I can’t loose all my work. If we can’t find the item now, we at least must take him.” Rhinn gestures toward the lone prisoner. “We’ve all been prisoners since the caravan was attacked and captured by the dark dwarves, but he’s been a captive much longer. The emperor’s men in the caravan were keeping him prisoner. And the more I researched I discovered that as long as the empire of Thaotrem has held this relic, that man has been their prisoner. During their campaign to destroy the Kingdom of Karadahan they had this relic and prisoner with them at every decisive battle; the battles when the Karad people were decimated.” He looks to the lone prisoner. “If we cannot get the relic, then we must take him.”
- Gvados sees three guards emerge on the west tower. They notice the two guards posted there are missing, and see their crushed bodies below when they look over the tower’s edge. They get excited and one of the guards returns into the tower hatch, running into the fortress.
- Hillfort, Landen, and Durgyn work together to free all the prisoners locked in chains. Sapphira goes into the hallway to watch for any approaching Duergar. Suddenly, the fortress rumbles with a loud, low humming sound. Gvados can faintly hear the hum coming from underground as well. The party knows it’s an alarm and look at eachother. Sapphira comes back into the prison, “Are all the prisoners free?” “No,” someone replies. “We’ll hold here ‘til it’s done,” Sapphira commands. The others agree and without a moment lost continue freeing the captives from their chains. Down the hall, at the extent of her vision, Sapphira sees the ranks of Duergar soldiers approaching, formed up in the hallway in two side-by-side lines.
- Outside, Gvados sees a guard run from the gates in the cliffside towards the main entry tower. Gvados swoops down and casts a spell, grasping the guard just outside the main tower’s portcullis. The guard becomes alarmed inside as the ghostly animal jaws hold the other guard, shouting and fighting to get free. The chomping jaws take the guard’s life and fly at the portcullis, its teeth scraping at the bars. The Duergar inside back away, and much to their surprise Gvados swoops down again with fire on his wings. Two darts of fire blast into the gatehouse, striking the wagon and setting it in flames. The Duergar take Largo over to a ladder where they climb up into the tower house above while the livestock inside the wagon scream the beastly cries of animals in distress. As they take refuge in their little tower stronghold Largo spots an owl land in one of the arrow-slits. Largo’s eyes open wide, “you!?” Gvados winks and flies back to the sky as Largo shouts to the Duergar. They run to the arrow-slits and fire crossbow bolts through the air after Gvados.
- With the prisoners free the adventurers run into the hall with Sapphira and see the ranks of soldiers. With a set look of determination, Hillfort steps forward forming a ball of fire in his hands. He throws it down the hall and a blinding explosion envelops the corridor. Although blackened by flame, a few Duergar remain standing, and behind them the party sees another formed rank of soldiers in the hallway ahead. A few form up in the hallway adjacent to them, and a robed figure appears from the doorway to the cleric’s quarters.
- Sapphira casts a spell, sending a magical weapon into the ranks of Duergar, chopping them down. Hillfort throws another fireball, this one with more effect than the first. A wave of hot air from the flames rushes down the hall at the adventurers. When the blaze clears, none of the Duergar are left standing, yet behind those that fell are more forming into the same two line advancing ranks. Although they are falling in large number, their front line gets closer to the party. Franz’s badger rages as the dark dwarves in the side hallway. Bloodies from battle the badger lunges at a Duergar’s throat and rips the life from him. As the group advances with the prisoners in tow, they are startled and think the dwarves begin to attack on another front… then they realize it’s just a group of drunk Duergar emerging from the tavern to see what the commotion is. With his fireballs exhausted, Hillfort launches magic missles at the commanding soldiers, continuing to be the dominating force in this underground battle. As the party slowly advances, Landen notices the cleric cut back into the chapel. The theif breaks off from the party and chases the cleric.
- Outside, Gvados knows the battle has begun underground after hearing the alarm. In his owl form he swoops over to the west tower, casting a spell sending piecing bolts of wood that skewer the two guards on the tower. He flaps his wings, circling higher, and glides over to the west tower. Two guards stand watch there as well. Gvados wants to make sure all possible exits are clear, and he blasts the tower with flamestrike. The tower hatch is blasted open and only charred Duergar remain. As he flies back to the main, central tower, he notices the wagon is fully engulfed in flames. The fire is burning so fiercely, the heat and smoke is invading the guardhouse above the tower. A burning Duergar jumps from an arrow-slit and falls to his death below. As they realize their fate, one of the soldiers points to Largo and yells with rage. Largo backs away, fear in his eyes, and the dark dwarf grabs him, throws him to the ground, and begins hacking with relentless violence with his axe. The other guards crowd at the arrow-slits gasping for air. Two more jump, one survives with broken legs. Inside, the remaining Duergar slowly burn, and even as the flames take them completely Gvados can still see the soldier hacking at the bloody mess that once was Largo.
- Inside the chapel Landen spots the cleric running towards the other exit, trying to gain a surprise flaking position on the party in the corridor outside. As the cleric opens the door, Landen chirps a whistle to grab his attention. The cleric turns and shuts the door, and grins disturbingly at Landen.
“Welcome to the temple,” the cleric says as he slowly approaches the theif.
“Where’s the relic,” Landen demands.
“I know not of what you speak.” The clerics voice sounds slippery and conniving. “But I will show you something else that will open your eyes.”
Landen looks confused, and tauntingly closes his eyes. The cleric’s brow furls in anger and he reaches toward Landen, casting a spell. Suddenly, the rogue is locked in place, unable to move in even the smallest manner. The cleric grabbed Landen by the throat and laughed. He moves the statue-like rogue over to the stone bust of an illithid at the chapel’s alter. Landen wills himself to be free, and he saves himself from the spell’s hold… but he successfully fools the cleric, making him believe the spell is still in effect. The cleric pushes Landen’s head back into the illithid’s maw, open tentacles waiting. To Landen’s surprise, the stone tentacles begin to move and wrap around his head; that’s when he knew it was time to move. Taking the cleric completely unaware, Landen slips from the tentacles and slashes both scimitars at the cleric’s throat, opening a deep channel and the blood flowed. The cleric’s limp body fell backwards off the alter’s stage, and Landen grasps the dead body’s robe, lifting him back to the stage and positioning the body slumped over at the foot of the stone bust.
- In the hallways the Duergar ranks wield crossbows and the front row drops to a knee. In a synchronized attack, all ten dwarves in a unit fire crossbow bolts at the adventurers. Another firing squad forms up behind them at the other end of the corridor. A frightening number of piercing bolts now fly at them from every direction. Durgyn takes a number of the small arrows, like splinters in his furry hide. Gerard looks around, “Where’s Landen!?” “We must keep moving,” Durgyn’s gruff voice commands. Landen comes from the door to the chapel, rejoining with his companions. “Sorry I’m late,” He says sarcastically. “I had to kill the cleric.” Sapphira turns to look to Landen, “he was supposed to be mine,” she jokingly says. Their exit route blocked, Durgyn decides to solve the problem. He charges, horns down, at the formation of Duergar soldiers. He tramples them back, striking one solidly with his gore. Sapphira casts and obscuring mist to fill the hall behind them for protection against the other formation. Durgyn fights with the frontline soldiers while the ones in the rear continue sticking him with crossbow bolts. Falling in battle for a second time, Franz lifts his wounded badger into his backpack to carry him out.
- Durgyn spotted two Duergar in ornate armor standing at the rear of the ranks, watching the battle with their hands rested on their large axes like a cane; it’s apparent these are some of the commanding officers. As the adventurers fight their way through the dwarves closer to the exit to the east tower, the two lieutenants lift their axes into a battle ready position. Hillfort launches magic missles endlessly at them, and Durgyn meets one toe-to-toe. The battle is fierce, Durgyn taking a large, severe gash from the dwarven battleaxe. Durgyn returns the favor with his longsword, driven down straight through the lieutenant’s shoulder.
- For no apparent reason, Landen suddenly dashes in the opposite direction, into the obscuring mist. Gerard yells out, “you fool!” then dashes after him. He runs into Landen in the mist, “we need to stick together and get out of here.” “Grow a pair!” Landen replies. Stepping just to the edge of the mist so he can see the dwarves, with bow drawn, Landen emerges from the mist and lets an arrow fly. Gerard picks up a dead duergar’s crossbow and fires as well. Their small attack wounded a couple of the archers, and they withdrew through the mist to rejoin with the others.
- When Landen and Gerard come out the other side of the mist they see their companions had fought their way to the east tower tunnel. As they’re running to the tunnel, Landen looks down the corridor towards the heart of the fortress where the soldier advanced from, and saw a menacing figure. Approaching their location is a duergar that could be no one less than the commander of this fortress. His armor is golden, his axe writhed in electricity. As he walks toward Landen, the thief is frozen in place by mixed awe and fear. The golden clad Duergar reaches up to his neck, where a necklace hangs with numerous glass spheres glowing like fire. Landen lets an arrow fly and misses. The dark dwarf plucks a sphere from the necklace and holds it in his hand. Landen sees all his companions escaping through the tunnel to the east tower and runs to catch up.
- The fresh night air refreshes each of the adventurers, and even more so the prisoners, as they emerge to the top of the tower. Gvados spots the party on the tower and swoops down, his owl form large enough to carry a normal man. He works flying the prisoners to the top of the cliff one-by-one, and Landen gives Durgyn his slippers of spider climb. The minotaur walks up the cliff face while Landen rides piggy back. To buy time to get everyone off the tower, Sapphira casts a spell, shaping the tower’s stone to seal the opening to the stairs below. Now there’s no way for the soldiers inside to access the tower. Working quickly they manage to get all the prisoners and adventuring companions to the top of the cliff. With Rhinn, the mysterious lone prisoner, and eleven more prisoners in tow, everyone escaped the Duergar fortress alive.
-Along the road, ambushed by brigands: pay a toll. One escapes them & they take a prisoner. They find a sigil on each body.
-In Shiny Cove Largo splits from group to meet Serin and update him on the status of his debt. The rest of the party goes to guard garrison to turn in their prisoner. Turns out the leader of the group they killed was Spender, an employee of Serin Colmok, 500gp reward. The sigil is his mark for those that work for him that they may gain entry to his properties within the city.
-Shopping: Durgyn finds Gronan, minotaur smith. Durgyn introduces himself with full lineage. Arrange custom full-plate armor set to be crafted, Gronan promises a minotaur enchanter to do the magic work. Also identifies the mark on axe found on gnolls as an item crafted by legendary smith of Iath Savon.
-Largo: Serin, I have 300… I mean 3,000 & info: Brindonford. Largo lies about money, Serin “I can start removing body parts…” Search him and finds 2k more gold. Asks for details of his traveling party. Serin says he wants updates and will be watching them, and will not hesitate to take his money from his companions if he fails to pay. Largo stores his wagon in Serin’s warehouse and Serin gives him a sigil for access.
-Sapphira visits church of Heironious to donate 660gp. Hillfort brings news of Brindonford, specifically about what Landen saw at the church of Pelor to the local temple of Pelor in Shiny Cove. They inform him that they know and brothers went to Eurnox to join army being assembled by Eurnox & Mithrondale.
-Landen visits docks at night and posts the Black Starling note on Pier 7. He leaves a gold piece in a sleeping drunk’s hand.
-The group assembles at Shiny Cove’s largest inn: The Tankard & Gull. They each get the style of room they desire. Landen gets the largest suite “how much? doesn’t matter, I’ll take it” and plays off like Largo’s his servant. “Largo, pay the man” and sneaks away.
-After the rooms are sorted out, Largo goes up to the top floor suite. He unlocks the door with the key and finds Landen kicked back & shirtless (having picked the lock to get in) inside. “Largo!” Landen cries jovially. “Fetch me some elven maidens!” Largo throws the key at Landen and leaves the room to find his bed in the common room.