[30 Mirtul 1372]
At their campsite near Startop Mountain, the adventurers discuss the best way to make their second incursion into the castle. Mellia suggests that perhaps hit-and-run tactics would be best, but Markus worries that the more time the slavers are given, the better traps and ambushes they'll be able to prepare. He also says that the group was too quick to retreat during their first attack, a proposition with which Mellia disagrees. Other options are discussed and the three males are inclined to make a frontal assault. Mellia is quite reluctant and says she'll follow at the rear, leading Markus into a rare outburst "We're doing this for you!" he says. "Why are you so resistant?" As the conversation continues, Cain casts a beckoning spell that will send an intangible hand to find Melchor and annoy him.
As the group begins moving and starts climbing the trail that winds around Startop Mountain, a cold drizzle begins. The group prepares a parley flag, but when they reach the top of the mountain and enter the long stone tunnel leading to the keep, Fargrim realizes the tunnel floors and walls are coated with oil--much like the slavers did in their hideout southeast of Mirabar. Cain uses the wick from his lantern to set the oil ablaze, and thick smoke billows out of the tunnel as the flames race to the far side and disappear.
Once the flames have died out, the group continues through the tunnel. When they reach the guardhouse at the far end, Fargrim calls out that he wishes to speak to Grim. After some attempts at dissembling, the guards respond that Grim has stated that if anyone wishes to speak with him, they need to earn it. Markus uses a telekinetic spell to move bundles of dry straw up against the barred door on the far side of the gatehouse and sets the bundles on fire with a flaming arrow. Soon, the door is aflame and the adventurers are able to burst through it into a large courtyard. Arrows rain down on them from the roof of the gatehouse, but Markus fells one with well-placed arrow and Fargrim charges up a ladder to cut down the other.
Next to the gatehouse are two long, low buildings that are open on each end: stables. Markus and Mellia investigate the stables, while Fargrim scouts ahead. Cain notices a long rope trailing from a high tower, and sets it on fire. When Fargrim reports several tents have been set up in the courtyard with little of interest inside, Cain sets them ablaze as well. Meanwhile, inside the stable, Markus and Mellia find over a dozen mounts and two wagons. The pair look inside one of the wagons to see a steel cage bolted to the floor, with empty manacles dangling from the bars of the cage. Markus sets all of the horses free, and they scatter.
Fargrim's exploration through the courtyard shows many piles of debris, isolated sections of interior castle walls, a fallen tower (still mostly intact), and a huge lake in the interior crater of the presumably extinct volcano that is Startop Mountain. He also sees, in the center of the courtyard, a relatively intact keep. Summoning the others, Fargrim bangs on the doors of the keep and then realizes they are not locked. He pushes them open to reveal the keep's main hall, with doors and passages off to each side. At the far end of the hall, flanked by a pair of slavers, stands Grim!
Fargrim strides boldly past the doorway and states that he has two questions for Grim: where is Bearos and why did Grim let Fargrim live? Grim replies coolly that Bearos is below in the Bleak Theater, and that he let Fargrim live because he wanted to see if there would be anyone worthy enough to challenge him. When Grim is finished speaking, Fargrim grips his massive greataxe, gives a battle-cry, and charges forward towards Grim. Crossbow bolts and arrows fired by hidden enemies pepper the dwarf, but, undaunted, he continues running. Shrugging off a deep cut from Grim's longsword, Fargrim brings his axe down in a long, wide arc and buries it deep in Grim's side! The surprised bandit leader collapses to the ground without even time for final words.
Two of Grim's men immediately flee, but the others are rallied by Ikenvar, a massive half-orc who served as Grim's second-in-command, and Melchor, the decadent monk the adventurers fought outside of Nesme. Markus and Cain come to Fargrim's aid, as the dwarf has fallen to his knees in an almost stunned state after the enormity of his finally achieving vengeance on Grim washes over him. Mellia decides to take a risk and launches a fireball spell over the assembled combatants, burning Melchor to death and leaving Grim a charred corpse. Ikenvar tries to battle on, but he soon falls beneath Markus' rapier, Cain's mace, and
Mellia's crossbow bolts. Soon, all of the slavers have either fled or are dead.
Markus proceeds to search Grim's body, finding a pair of rings, some armor, and quite fine weaponry. Cain does the same with Ikenvar, burning his hands on a sword which he wraps carefully in cloth. Mellia proceeds to search an adjoining room, and, after scaring away a slaver, finds some gems, a scrap of paper bearing the words "Feldspar House", and a secret door. Fargrim, meanwhile, lifts Grim's body in his arms and begins heading towards the lake.
Director's Commentary (April 15, 2014)
This session was one of the most important in the campaign so far, for an obvious reason: the big showdown between Fargrim and Grim! Grim, the bandit leader, was not only a prime target of vengeance based on events in Fargrim's backstory, but the kidnapping of Bearos was further motivation for a final confrontation. I love the cinematic image of Fargrim charging through the keep as arrows and bolts pour into him from every angle before smashing his greataxe down on Grim. In mechanical terms, the bandits had readied actions to fire, and Fargrim's player used his once-a-year Red Chip to get an automatic critical hit with maximum damage. It was damned exciting, and the fact that Fargrim barely survived the battle that continued to rage around him kept the showdown from being anticlimactic even though it happened so quickly. I certainly wasn't expecting it to go down that way--I had further developments planned if Grim managed to escape--but I couldn't complain. It was good stuff. Fargrim's player also did a fantastic job role-playing the emptiness and shock that came with achieving everything that had been driving him forward for so long. It's rare to see gamers able to handle complex emotions and do it so well.