[1 Kythorn 1372]
While they wait for Ralkin to return from his exploration of the tower, the others discuss what they should do next. Mellia elicits more information from Fargrim on what he saw when he went under the water, and then suggests the group has two options: explore the submerged courtyard or return to the locked door that presumably leads to orcs. Concerned that either avenue of exploration could lead them further away from the Crown of Horns, Mellia makes a surprising suggestion: could Cain make a sacrifice to his deity, Kossuth, for guidance on the question? Cain, who had already suggested various acts of arson, enthusiastically supports the idea. He and Mellia begin loading as much flammable material they can find into the stables. Cain tries to sneak in a horse as well, but Mellia catches him and strongly objects.
As the two spellcasters prepare, Fargrim and Markus investigate strange voices coming from the direction of the keep--it sounds as if a returning monk has discovered the bodies of his fallen comrades. After approaching cautiously, however, the two discover that their new ally Ralkin has played a trick on them
by imitating voices. He tells the two that he found nothing of interest in the tower. The three then travel to the locked door, realizing that one of the torches on the way is an enchanted everburning one. This time, Ralkin has little difficulty picking the lock. Opening it carefully, the trio see a staircase descending into darkness and hear loud voices from the bottom. The three adventurers carefully shut the door and return to Mellia & Cain to report what they've found.
Mellia is incensed that the three acted without consulting her and Cain. A debate ensues about what the party should do. Mellia advises caution, as Bearos may not even be alive or have passed through the orcs' hands. Ralkin is the first member of the group to suggest that they know the orcs are slavers, and that rescuing slaves is enough reason to go below. The debate continues for some time until it starts to rain. Worried that their intended sacrifice could be ruined, Mellia and Cain hurry to the stables. Mellia cuts her palm and
writes a message in blood, which Cain translates into Ignan: "Is the way to the Crown of Horns through the Bleak Theater?" Mellia ignites the barn with a massive fireball, and Cain's sacrifice is received favorably. Although the adventuring cleric operates outside his faith's normal hierarchy and tenets, his passion for fire is well-received this day and he feels an answer fill his mind: "Yes". However, the cleric initially keeps this answer to himself. A frustrated Mellia unsuccessfully resorts to divination magic to try to get the answer before finally extracting it by promising Cain he can set the rest of the castle aflame.
Later that afternoon, Mellia identifies one of the magical rings worn by Grim as a Ring of Spell Resistance, while Ralkin correctly predicts that the other is a Ring of Darkvision. Cain makes some attempts to see if he can lure the creature that Fargrim saw in the water into becoming visible, but his attempts fail. That night, while resting, the group have a long discussion on how to proceed the next day. They conclude that, after searching for traps on the stairs, Ralkin will pretend to be a slaver with Markus as his slave. The others will
then follow behind invisibly, hoping to catch the orcs by surprise.
[2 Kythorn 1372]
The morning begins with Cain conjuring a veritable feast of somewhat bland food. In a bid to make Markus' disguise as a slave realistic, Fargrim suddenly punches the swordsman in the jaw! An enraged Markus tries to respond in kind, but is restrained by Ralkin. "I'll get you for this!" Markus shouts.
After opening the door and examining the stairs leading down, Ralkin has no difficulty spotting two crude tripwires. Moving below cautiously, he sees that the stairs lead to a guardroom. A half-dozen orcs are sitting at a table, while a half dozen more are sleeping behind a crude barricade. Two doors lead off from the chamber. Oddly, the orcs have an appearance quite different the norm: milky white skin and silver-grey hair.
Ralkin returns to the top of the stairs and the group put their plan into motion. Upon seeing Ralkin and his "captive", Markus, the leader of the orcs continually expresses surprise and states that he wants to see Ikenvar. He's clearly very suspicious, but Ralkin manages to persuade him to go check with a figure the orc refers to as "Kaernga." However, an invisible Mellia tries to follow the orc through the door but accidentally kicks a metal goblet that skitters across the floor! The paranoid orc changes his mind and states that he
needs to talk to Ikenvar personally. With the others still invisible, Ralkin and Markus follow the orc back up the stairs. When they reach the top, Ralkin shouts to Fargrim to grab him, but the surprised orc manages to throw the suddenly-visible dwarf off of him. The orc's shouts about traps and treachery rouse his allies below, and half of them rush for the door while the other half take defensive positions.
Cain, seizing the moment, waits until the charging orcs are massed in the narrow stairwell before unleashing a wave of flame in their midst. Even the few that survive are badly hurt and easily finished off, as is their leader. Meanwhile, Mellia quickly dispatches the rest by casting a very effective (and very loud) fireball. Markus moves into the chamber to examine a door on the west wall. His timing is unfortunate, however, as seconds later a massive minotaur bursts through the door and impales the adventurer with his horns! Mellia casts a
spell to increase her allies' speed and then retreats up the stairs. Cain tries to slow the beast with a sonic blast, but the minotaur is enraged and connects with his huge greataxe on Markus' unarmored body. The adventurer is left barely standing. Suddenly, Fargrim charges at the minotaur and, with a single swing of
his greataxe, lays the beast low! Judging by his prowess in this and the previous battle against Grim, the group clearly have a powerful weapon in their midst.
Director's Commentary (June 4, 2014)
A fun session, as the party starts up some classic dungeoneering by moving below Startop Keep. D&D does have its strengths, and adventuring like this is one of them. The PCs ruse against the orcs was a good one in theory, and although it didn't work out due to a poor Move Silently roll, the PCs were already plenty tough enough to take out the orcs (they're at least level 5 by this judging by Mellia's fireball, and the level was designed for 2nd level PCs). Springing the minotaur on them was great fun though, as the image of it crashing through the door and goring Markus was memorable indeed. Fargrim once again proves his awesomeness by bringing it down with a single swing. Enjoy the high-action dungeoneering while it lasts, because there's not much more of it! (and I'm writing this as of Session # 82!)
Before they went below, there was some good RP on the surface. Cain's bonfire was a good way to show the cleric's devotion to Kossuth. This element actually becomes far more developed later in the campaign, and I think the player really starts to figure out how to RP the character in an interesting and distinctive way after a future storyline set in Thay.
Quite telling that none of the PCs are particularly worried about rescuing slaves per se, and interesting that Ralkin was the first to bring the notion up.