Pushing Towards the Keep
Setting out early on the morning of the 16th, the Eight made their way on the northern trail towards the Keep. Climbing slowly in the growing grade up the main slope it was uneventful to the split in the main trail. Evidence still abounded that orc patrols had recently been about and even increased since Jolly’s push into the region. It was therefore decided by drawing lots that Jolly, Throp, Gurny, Hodekin, and Talathel would remain on the main trail, while Gideon, Edmos, and Morgrym would make their way along the parallel animal trails in case of ambush. Being a particularly cloudless warm bright day, the nocturnal orcs were not to be seen along the main road and the parties made relatively quick progress. Coming back together it was decided that the parties would again split in a similar manner, with the larger group approaching the main approach to the Keep after dark, with the remaining party members trying to scale the cliff walls and approach the Keep from the flank.
When they arrived at the base of the cliffs to the west, Morgrym and Edmos became embroiled in a heated if not muted discussion of the best approach to the climb. Morgrym slipped into a dwarven curse-filled rant of Edmos’ heritage, while Edmos let his nobleman mask slip just a wee bit in return. The tempest caused Gideon to sit down in a lotus position and begin to meditate hoping that the two would resolve their issues before he had to knock them both out.
Unaware of their friends’ delay, Jolly and company made their way to within site of the Keep’s primary towers and portcullis. Throp, Jolly, and Talathel hunkered down in a good blind, while Gurney made his way to the east as Hodekin snuck along the western approach. Their reconnaissance revealed no roving patrols around the outside of the keep but some movement along the Keep walls and in each tower. Gathering back together it was decided that Hodekin would release a fiery trap via his modified crossbow onto the wooden roof of the building inside the eastern side of the Keep. With the guards’ attention hopefully drawn to the eastern corner of the Keep and Gurney providing overwatch with his thunder stick, the rest would try to make their way to the portcullis and attempt to enter in as the portcullis seemed to be of the unimpressive variety.
Hodekin let loose a well placed shot onto the roof and in no time it was ablaze. The guards on the walls and in the towers did indeed seem to be adequately distracted, and with one muffled grunt Throp slung the portcullis noiselessly up to everyone’s surprise [natural 20 on the die for strength check]. The lever was set inside, and no one appeared the wiser. The signal was given and Gurney made his way into the Keep and joined the rest of the group without being spotted.
Making their way up the nearest tower via the tight damp circular stairs, Throp peaks around the corner and spies a group of four orcs with javelins. A surprise attack dispatches the orcs handedly without an alarm being raised. Jolly enters a room across the hall to find two more orcs sleeping and dispatches them into forever slumber almost dropping his knife on the second hapless orc [2 on die roll]. Making their way to the top of the tower, they silently dispatch the remaining guards on this tower. By this time, screams can be heard coming from inside the wooden building that is now completely ablaze. A large troll is seen barking orders to a small group of orcs who are hurrying in and out of the burning building and dragging out ragged looking humans—some of which are on fire and expire in the courtyard of the Keep.
Looking out over the courtyard, the adventurers see two winter wolves chained to the well at the center and they seem to be watching the spectacle as well with curiosity—pacing at the end of their chains. Also, on the raised platform below and to the left are 5-6 orc archers watching the chaos around the burning building. The group quickly makes a plan and begins executing as soon as Gurney attempts a headshot on the large troll barking orders.
Setting up on the wall to the just east of the tower they were in, Gruney attaches a suppressor to the Verdict and takes his time drawing a bead on the ugly troll. In very short order, he gets his breathing into a rhythm and gently squeezes the trigger allowing the shot to come as a surprise. A loud cough, hardly noticeable above the din of the fire and screams, results in the troll’s head vaporizing in an instant as his body tumbles stone dead into the burning detritus outside the building. Two of the orcs who happened to be looking at the troll at that exact moment as they listened to him barking orders to them, were dumbfounded as they had never seen anyone’s head explode in such a manner with the rest of the body intact—what God had he angered?
As soon as the troll was falling, Jolly, Throp, and Hodekin made their way along the wall towards the next tower, but before they even really left the first tower they are spotted and the orc guard begins shouting an alarm. The last of his miserable and short existence.
As soon as the alarm is sounded, Talathel lets loose a magic barrage on a guard on the eastern wall taking him down. Gurney opens up with his thunderstick with a repetitious barrage of booms. One orc in the courtyard after another drops into death. Jolly, Throp, and Hodekin and his snake clear the second tower with little difficulty and only minor wounds. They press on to the last tower as Talathel takes another guard out in the courtyard with a magic barrage. Gurney drops a few more as two try to go out the portcullis in the back and the others’ scatter into the other wooden building that so far has remained unscathed. Talathel’s monkey then scampers up his staff and with two fists full of flaming poo rains death onto the archer guards on the platform below the tower as the dry wooden platform erupts in flames. His monkey screeches in delight! “Quiet, monkey, that’s enough.” Talathel whispers.
The third tower offered little resistance with a couple of the orcs surrendering and then rendered unconscious by Throp to be held for trial later. Steering clear of the winter wolves in the courtyard, Talathel and Gurney make their way into the courtyard to try and calm the humans down and figure out what is going on. By the time they are joined by the rest of the group, Talathel has determined that the humans are captured slaved who are forced to work in the mines behind the Keep by a particularly dastardly fellow named Kurjan who they say deals in the dark ways of the dead. They refuse more questions until you free their comrades they say are still in the last building. The same building the orcs had run into when shots started ringing out. Thalathel lays his ample elf ear against the door, but all he could hear was the crashing of Throp’s boot kicking the door down as he rushed in—into an ambush of five waiting orcs and one javelin throwing kobold. Arrows are loosed and some damage is taken, but Talathel casts his magics crumpling most of them to the ground asleep. Talathel tries to reason with the last one, but his answer comes too late, as he is flayed at the end of Throp’s axe. The remaining kobold throws down his javelin and pleads with Hodekin to spare him as he states he is a slave in the mine too and was forced take up arms and fight or be put to death like his friend who lays dying at his feet. For the moment, he is believed. The group makes its way upstairs and finds several more emaciated human slaves who tell the same story, and corroborate that the kobolds were indeed fellow forced labor in the mines.
They make their way to the courtyard and begin to make a plan for what to do with the prisoners and what to do about the mine when, suddenly, the back portcullis is thrown open with a mighty shout as Edmos charges in with blade drawn and Gideon tumbles in and takes up a particularly menacing martial stance.
“Better late than never, boyos!” Jolly quips with a chuckle.
“Could…one…of…you…secure the gate…” Morgrym grumbles as his arms begin to shake under the weight. Gideon deftly moves to the lever and engages it.
“Well, ladies, what you figure is our next move?”