Part I – Mustering the Troops
The companions wake, some of them in the most regal accommodations they have ever experienced, to find an aide supplying morning refreshments. Their view of the city from their quarters is truly magnificent. The clear day does the sight true justice; from their vantage they can see the rolling hills surrounding Bellview, with their golden acres and the rocky outcroppings protruding from the landscape like jagged spires.
After the hearty breakfast, they are seen to the Counsel Chambers, where the Elders have convened to contrive their next move. There was a marked change in Elder Rosenbraugh’s interaction; where she was once prudently observing many of the Elders arguing among themselves, Wynona was now dictated orders to attendants who rushed to carry out her orders, masterfully setting tasks for many of the other Elders to oversee. Gazing up over a new set of correspondence at the new arrivals, she set aside the missives directly in front of her and announced their received the group with a warm smile.
The room applauded the heroes, clearly appreciative of their efforts to recover the citizens of the peaceful city. Now that the Ironbellow Clan had showed their hand, Elder Rosenbraugh revealed that the township would sit by idly no longer. They were preparing to make a move on Yaaz Jiguura and wanted the companions to lead the operation. Lacking a committed information network, the Elders could only speculate on the current whereabouts of the mercenary group.
As luck may have it, a mysterious person had contacted the authorities with apparent knowledge of the Ironbellow, though the contact specified that they would only divulge the information to the companions directly, without the interference of the government.
Part II – The Eight Queens
The group are escorted to The Mill, a rather sizable delicatessen in a huge re-purposed windmill and granary. The militiamen buffer themselves an appropriate distance away while the companions see themselves into the tavern.
They are seen to their meeting, a lone figure in a far booth somewhat distant from the rest of the patrons. Billowing thick smoke from his elaborate pipe, Baatu greets the group from under a wide brimmed hat.
He tells them the story of a King, who traveled his eight realms and brought back the most beautiful maiden in each. He pondered after each, but could not decide whom he would take for a wife; so he married all eight and made each of them Queens.
The Queens were all very fond of the good King, becoming jealous of each other’s time with him. He found the bickering to not be very regal. It would not do. So he declared that each would have their own separate wing of a Grand Castle.
Baatu then produced a wooden board from his cloaks, proposing that if the group could finish the story with a puzzle of logic, he would tell them another story. A story he learned when observing the movements of the Ironbellow clan.
After a time, the companions solved his story riddle and Baatu revealed the current location of the Orcs. They had entrenched themselves in the ruins of Mohr Dhoma, an old Dwarven stronghold along the edge of the Farthenfaust Mountains.
Prying further, the companions inquire on any more details the Halfling might know. A story for a story, he persists. With a solemnity that surprises his companions, Sayer sings a epic poem absolutely soaked in gravitas.
Thoroughly impressed, Baatu tells another story; one circular in nature. He knows that small green figures seem to hunt in the area just outside of Mohr Dhoma. They bring the carcasses in the front door and smoke billows out the top, a ring of action looping around and around.
Ogg insists that they’ve gleaned the necessary information to make a move and usher the group back out to their task. Before long the heroes are on their way, eagerly accompanied by two troop squads from Bellview. They design their plan en route, spending much of the afternoon in transit.
Part III – Mohr Dhoma
The companions make camp about half a league from their destination, deciding it best to wait for the dusk to make their final approach. After the rest, On’ogg makes a resounding speech. Where his words fall short, his heart’s spirit prevails. The detachment of of soldiers are deeply moved. Their headlong need for vengeance gain an edge; much needed order, discipline.
They move in, skirting the open hills preceding the massive Dwarven gates. They move towards the telltale signs of smoke just as twilight’s curtain is falling, finding a cleft in the rocky cliff face. They continue climbing the crevasse, soon finding a large grate with old iron bars billowing greasy smoke.
With some difficulty, they are able to eventually squeeze through the wrought iron bars. Needing to crawl on their hands and knees (except for Thadeous, the group realized the excellent Dwarven, even through the thick grime that has accumulated over the centuries. The edges of the passage were straight right angles with smooth stone lining the chimney. eventually they came to an area where the integrity of the passage had begin to dwindle; large cracks cleaved through the stone and crumbled the tunnel in areas. Luckily they could see light cast by several fires at the end of the passage.
Appraising the room with keen eyes, Sayer leaps from the grating, realizing too late his miscalculation of the ceiling above. He painfully smashes his noggin on a beam above, shortening his distance considerably. He lands nimbly on the edge of a large, steaming cauldron, which pitches forward with his weight, soaking the stone floor and the swashbucker both with a tepid green goopty.
The crash alerts a completely surprised goblin, who pulls cooking knives off of the nearby wall and begins flinging them at the group as they pour out of the hole in Sayer’s defense. Closing on Moot the Unclean, they take out both the Chef and his Sous, Itchy. Dodging both the knives and the flees, they dispatch the pair in short order.
Creeping through the passages beyond, they come across two rooms seeming to be sleeping areas of the Orcs, but only find a pair asleep. Ogg confirms the uninhabited state of the sleeping rolls with the tip of his sword while Sayer wakens a pair of sleepers. They cross swords with the Orcs, taking them out before they can run for reinforcements.
Continuing on, they find a multi-tiered viaduct, flooded with water at it’s lower level. Thadeous recognizes it as a Dwarven Steam Vault, for washing and relaxing. He drives his staff into the water, showing his Orc Paladin friend that the water is shallow enough to not worry oneself of drowning. Sayer knocks his foot against something hard, lifting it to get a better idea. He notices the object is a skull and tosses it into the open shaft of what seems to be a well. It clambers against the wall a few times in it’s descent before banging loudly against something metal at the bottom. Without knowing with any certainty the fate of the guardsmen outside, group decides it’s best to continue on.
They leave the side passages, finding a large chamber with the remains of a Dwarven rostrum, the ruins of an ancient throne atop the platform. The hall extends out a large way, abruptly cut down by a landslip of caved in walls on the far side. The explore around, noticing the sounds of fighting down a passage that they figure leads to the main entrance. They slip into a side room that leads down a winding passage, plunging them down into the depths of the lower levels.
Probing further, they find an armory of stereotypical Orcish weaponry and a chamber largely caved in. Thaddeus climbs through the broken wall, gaining sight of several Orcs further along. Creeping in the shadows, he’s able to fire off magic, catching the guards totally by surprise as the rest of his colleagues rush in and finish them off.
They find a pair of heavy cells, but much to their chagrin it seems bereft of any prisoners. Venturing forward, they pass through a large smithy, with charcoals still warm in the hearth. Huge chains hang from various beams across the ceiling. They continue down a passage, following a cool headwind from the hall and find a large balcony with the remains of what might have once been a library. Anything useful seems to have either been looted long ago or used for kindling. They do notice some ways off another balcony, seeming to be a roost for several manticores. It’s distant enough that they’ve little options forward, so they backtrack to the smithy and continue down a wide set of steps.
The companions march along the long steps, driving straight into the depths with torches lining the walls on either side. At the bottom, the chamber opens into a wide chasm with a giant sand lined pit in the center. Rows and rows of long benches line the sides along the wall, angling up to a large throne on the far end where sits Yaaz Jiguura, flanked by his warband.
Og charges forward, anxious to bring vengeance to Karth Drachum, but the Warband do not seem surprised by the group’s arrival. Well beyond the group’s immediate reach, with the huge pit between them and a score of underlings lining the stands, Karth and Korgan depart, leaving Yaaz and Xandrilla atop the stage. Sayer notices a drainage duct sprouting from the ceiling above the arena and with a groan recognizes an all too familiar skull wedged in the grating of the pipe.
Just then several massive chains rise from the sand in the pit, pulled taught across a large mound taking form in the center. The rest of the clan looks on as a massive Orc takes form, yanking free the chains from their moorings. Xandrilla raises her arms and with the softly spoken words of magic, an intense red glow takes form between her outstretched hands. The chained Orc lifts a giant fist in the air and a gem embedded in his bracer glows with the same eerie light.
The grins on the faces of the onlooking Orcs turns to a desperate fear, then cries of horror as they burst into magical flame, dissolving their entire form. The flames coalesce around the chained beast before pouring into the dark ruby. Her work done, Xandrilla takes her leave, followed by Yaaz.
“If you’ve a score to settle, you’ll find me in the great white north…”
The heroes then turn their attention fully to the hulking great Orc, it’s chains now dancing around wildly with a slight aura not dissimilar from the energy emanating from the ruby. A fierce battle ensues, but the heroes eventually slay the monstrosity.
They barrel up the steps to the stage and run into the area where the Warband had fallen back, Thaddeus dragging the giant rubied bracer he had just wedged off of the great Orc. The arrive with frustration at the roost, just barely able to hear the creaking of the wings of the manticores carrying the Warband over the peaks of the nearby mountains. Overcome with emotion, Og falls to his knees emanating a fury that rattles him to his core.