We set off from the ship and leave the two 2nd level warriors, Jacks, Riggs, and the seven commoner crew and go to the keep. The idea is that instead of going in guns blazing we have the idea to pose as envoys of the mayor to whomever is guarding the keep. Maybe we can bust in, kill the figureheads, and take over/loot/something.
Approaching the keep, we can see that some orcs are guarding a gate. As we approach, discussing how we are going to handle the orcs, we decide on a sneak attack would probably be best. And then we see that the entire area around the keep has been cleared for what seems like a mile or more. So much for sneaking.
Plan B hits me like a crossbow bolt: let’s just walk up there and talk our way in, get a view of what we are getting in to as far as defenses, and then fight our way through whatever is inside. While not necessarily one of my best strategic moments, we are not getting in any other way. Maybe we can pretend to be mercenaries there to join up. That cover seems a little bit better than just walking in. So, we stroll up to the keep.
Approaching the gate, the orcs seem surprised to see us. However, they entertain talking to us at least. A lot of our questions are met with some variety of the answer, “Balls.” The orcs are not interested in letting us in at all; we need to come back later when the boss is in. Because my plan is taking too long, Sven is getting frustrated and tired of talking to these orc dopes, so they start trading insults. I tell ’em they need to come down and open the door, and we can trade insults face-to-face. For some strange reason, the one I am talking to agrees and open the gate. Meanwhile, the other orcs are not having any of it, so one of them decides to fire a crossbow bolt or two at us, missing me but hitting Sven. Just as the gate opens, the bolt connects with Sven, who goes into a bloodlust rage and proceeds to scale the wall. I take that as the cue that our cover is about to be blown and proceed to gut the orc who opened the gate in front of me, and we charge forth!
Our momentum is great! We roll in and take on the orcs within the walls, and they fall like wheat to a scythe. The raging barbarian is having some trouble up on the parapet with his orc; however, those of us in the courtyard are faring much better, and orc bodies litter the area. Oddly enough, we kill the remaining orcs in the courtyard while Sven is still busy working on his original orc and another that had joined in.
Taking stock, within the walls of the keep, a very large, high, wooden platform has been constructed that connects with the walkway of the surrounding wall. A large well sits in the middle of the keep with a very large winter wolf chained to it, which a pair of trolls seem to be beating. We notice some orcs from another wall rushing over to the platform to make ready to fire on us. We decide the best course of action is to save the wolf, and to do so, we needed to distract the trolls. Therefore, it seemed to make perfect sense to throw some alchemist fire on the huge wooden platform and turn it into a giant pyre!
The battle with the trolls commences, with Sven joining myself, Miranda, and Rundazuk in the melee. While we are fighting, the wolf, even in its weakened condition, decides to come to our aid and also attack the trolls. The trolls decide they have had enough of the wolf and throw it into the pyre, where it gets caught behind some of the huge poles that hold up the platform. Rundazuk, fearing for the life of the wolf, leaps through the flames and slowly-collapsing platform and successfully pulls the wolf out through the other side, leaving both the wolf and Rundazuk barely alive.
Meanwhile, we keep slashing away at the trolls. With magic and sword, we dropped one, but he would not stay down for long before getting back up. Sven, still raging, decided to grab one of the trolls and grapple with it. They struggled against one another until the grapple ended up in the pyre, where both of them burned. Sven was able to roll free of the pyre just as the platform came crashing down, killing the troll within and burning it to ash. While Sven’s brawl went on, Miranda and I were able to keep the other troll down; we ended up throwing its corpse on the pyre to let it burn to ash also.
A couple of orcs got away, but we were battered enough not to pursue them. Cleaning up the battle involved policing the bodies and healing the burned Sven, Rundazuk, and the winter wolf. We burned the corpses after stripping them of anything of value. A short hour’s work later found Sven, Rundazuk, and the winter wolf healed enough that they decided to strike out to go and warn the other winter wolves that were part of the wolf’s clan and, if possible, bring back a huge number of wolves to meet the monster army that was bound to return to the keep. Thus, Sven and Rundazuk rode off on the back of a dire winter wolf to go somewhere and summon the Natural Army of the Wolf… or to be eaten by a larger pack of winter wolves. (Of course, Mini-pygma went with them, too.) Either way, they took off and left us to check out the rest of the keep and the mine.
In checking around the grounds and areas of the keep at the courtyard level, we found two barracks each full of ten peasants each. Notably, we also found an elven paladin/rogue of Sharess being held in a solitary cell. Her name is Jeex. She wears a plate mail bikini and wields a rapier. She told us she was being held captive and would like to accompany us. Of course, given that Sven and Rundazuk had taken off, we could use another sword. Giving her gear back to her, we released the rest of the commoners to their fate, also. We informed them that their was an army approaching the keep overland that was a day or better away from the keep, and that this army was between them and Marikest. Have fun!
We decide to take off through the mine to see what we can find. Going through the mine, the three of us kill a tentacle beast/chaos monster after having the paladin turn/destroy a large skeleton. The chaos monster infected Miranda with some sort of “chaos affliction”, or so the paladin’s trained eye tells me. Luckily, in the creature’s lair, we found several magical and divine scrolls and a couple of gems. One of the scrolls was restoration, which we used to cure Miranda.
Finding a dead end, we proceeded to the left side of the mine from the entrance and ran into a room filled with giant purple mushrooms. I decided rather than risk some more infection or something worse, we should use one of the scrolls. Unfurling the summon monster VI scroll, I summoned a fire elemental! We release the fire elemental on the mushrooms, which it makes short work of. We order the fire elemental onward! Destroy all of our enemies! The fire elemental charged forth and destroyed everything it came across, and we hurried after it.
Eventually, the fire elemental came into the chamber with the hundreds (400) of skeleton miners. We ordered the elemental into the chamber (but did not follow it). With its last burst of energy, it poured flame down upon the chamber inhabitants, washing away the undeath and leaving behind a wake of ash. Unfortunately, the spell’s duration had run its course, and fire elemental gated back home, leaving behind a substantial number of skeletons who were now intent upon killing something.
Thankfully, we had Jeex along. I had always heard about cleric’s divine abilities to destroy undead and cleanse the world of both holy and unholy things, so we sent her in. With no vested interest in her well-being, it seemed the best idea.
Best of all, sending her in there worked! She did some sort of strip tease dance/hymn/hip gyration/orgasm and destroyed the remaining skeletons. It almost made me a believer. Almost.
With the chamber covered in the dust and ash of hundreds of skeletons, and the entire top-level of the mine clear of beasties, I went out to the ship through the passageway to the river and gathered up the crews of Sven’s longboat and the pinnace. Instructing them into the mine, we had them pull as much in the way of uncut gemstones and whatever else they could find out of the mine using the carts and such the skeletons were using. Meanwhile, Miranda and I went about the rest of the mine searching the rooms we originally ran through for any worthwhile bits. All in all, a majority of the horde was hauled back to the pinnace. When we were finished looting as much as we could, I gathered the men from the pinnace and had them “close it up” as much as possible so no one could easily board. We left the longboat’s crew behind with the ships, and the rest of us headed back to the keep to make camp and wait for Rundazuk, Sven, and the winter wolf to return.