Grel showed us a map indicating a secret entrance to the old inn, the inn that had been converted into a rude orc fortress. Ragar and Beláldur had other business, but Ja’Kar and Fergus and I agreed to join Grel in searching out the entrance. We added a few others to our party – the illusionist Mazlor and his hireling Sally, the cleric Alana, and the elf mage Pyria – and set out on foot for the orc stronghold.
It was a miserable trek into the woods. The thunderstorm was unrelenting and the orcs were still patrolling, so it took most of the day to get to the area around the inn.
It looked pretty much as I remembered it from our last trip, if a little soggier: The orcs had roughly cleared the land around the Inn and used the felled trees to put up a rough palisade around the buildings and tents. There were still stumps and brush around, so I was pretty confident we could keep hidden, particularly with the noise of the storm. Of course, the same would be true of the orcs, so Pyria and I kept our ears and eyes open!
Grel thought the map showed the entrance to the underground levels of the inn were to the south of the road, so Mazlor cast a spell to roughly locate it. The orcs were still patrolling, and keeping a lookout from their towers, so we waited until after nightfall to make a more formal search. It took about an hour and a half, but 20 yards from the palisade, I found a sinkhole that led down into a room with three exits. I came back up to report.
We dirtied up a rope, and went down by turns into the room, which was roughly triangular. We took the north exit first, and found a pool of healing water in the cavern that led too. We also found stirges! Four of them surprised us, and they just about killed Ja’kar and did some damage to Fergus, who had fumbled his weapon away in the melee. But we were at the healing pond, so all was well.
I looked around for the stirges’ nest, but Ja’Kar had seen them coming out of a crevasse in the ceiling and swarmed up the wall before I knew it. He found 10 gems and gave one to each of us, reserving three for himself. There was a tunnel leading off from the nest but it was closed off by a pile of rocks.
We head back to the entrance chamber. We move through a crack to the east into a kidney-shaped room. We hear animal noises from the tunnel that leads off from this room; I offer to scout ahead, as Grel checks his map and says, “Hey, badgers!” A couple adult badgers lunge at me and hurt me pretty badly. I fight back, mostly to get them off me. Sally heals me as Ja’Kar, Fergus, and Mazlor try to stop the badgers from attacking. Fortunately, as we back away, the badgers quiet down – they were just defending their lair and cubs. Alana heals Fergus, who also had taken some hits. We make our way into a chamber, and find 4 more gems, lots of copper pieces, and some skeletons and maybe a vanquished zombie. We definitely locate ourselves on Grel’s map, but run into another blocked corridor.
We go back to the entrance chamber to try the third exit. This last passage gradually curves to the north before splitting into three. A bad smell has been building for some time, it is strongest to the southeast, or towards where we think the Inn is. But it is getting late, so we head back to the entrance chamber for the rest of the night.
Mazlor has an idea that we can learn something from the zombie body. He tries a spell to talk to the dead, but he is immediately knocked out. It turns out this was animated by the soul of a necromancer, so Grel pours holy water on it and the body dissolves. We go back to the forking corridor. Two passages seem to lead to a trash heap. The last takes us to a chamber with all its exits trapped with tripwire. These traps would be easy to disarm but we don’t want to alert the orcs, so we avoid them and move along one corridor to a rat farm tended by an ancient kobold, Atunok.
He loves his rats, hates the orcs, fears the darkness, and really, really wants friends. We give him some food, and he shows us the way out, through his home and into the forest. So now we know two secret ways into the Inn! I climb a tall tree to see inside the palisade and we make up a basic surface map and match it up with Grel’s underground map. We decide to head back and talk to Yinivax, see if we can get a larger force to clear out the orcs.
But Yinivax has gone, on his way to help the forces in Ericia’s North Keep. We report instead directly to the Marshall, who begins planning the assault on the Inn. He asks Mazlor to seek help from Sir Raynald, so we head to the monastery (and, I am told, a floating tower!).
Sir Raynald has secured the first level under the monastery, dispatching the mud demon and a spiky goblin. He found a chapel of floating ropes, a zombie-secured iron door, and a large network of caves he has his men guarding. He asks us to help him clear the monastery but we are committed to the assault on the Inn. He invites us to stay the night in his camp.
The next morning, Pyria is whisked away to meet with the Striped Mage in the tower. Pyria comes back with a few spells in exchange for a geas: Kill the mage’s old apprentice, who has opened a portal that threatens to destroy humanity. Oh, and the elves plan to go to war to take the human’s land.
I need to take some time to think, maybe get in touch with my family. Plus, I want to check on my pony and cash in my treasure, look around the town. First stop will be that jeweler, then maybe I can find some other littlelings – or at least a bar with decent cider!