This was our last meeting before the holiday rush. And an opportunity for the party to try out their skills as 3rd level characters. Most of the first part was role-playing - but there was a side adventure to save some dwarven miners and the party accorded themselves well.
Write up follows:
The party healed some of their hurts (thanks Detheron!) after their ill-fated attempt to plumb the haunted secrets of Fengarth's Tower and trudged back to Orihalcus arriving at the lift sometime after 8:30 at night. We wandered to our flop-house and for a moment Karis was willing to take us out for a night of drinking to "lift our spirits" but as was said - we just got our asses kicked and didn't feel much like celebrating. So one by one, we all fell asleep.
Next morning we woke up and talked about what had happened, vowing to return one day. Then we discussed our upcoming journey to Fulgore Keep. We talked about the slavers, the keep, the Castellan, the Lycos Suns, Vanir, and various plans on getting in and around the location. A review of Thadar's notes/map gave us a framework and a feeling on what would be in store for us regarding the journey there.
Sheriff Phozarn came next, asking about the party's hurts and their time in Fengarth (which was very glossed over and pretty much pushed aside). He then talked about Sir Walter allowing the party to make the trip to Fulgore Keep - allowing the group seven days/six nights out of Orihalcus and away from their bondsmanship duties. If the party would need more time, they were told they MUST send work back to Sir Walter first - mainly so he knows that they are uncaptured and alive. Concern is that the group is going into a slaver encampment and want to know that the group will not be recaptured.
With Marzen's help (pretty much the eldest living being in Orihalcus), he was able to help Sir Walter go through the forgotten relics in Orihalcus' vault and came up with something to help the party. Phozarn presented to Detheron a darkwood staff he referred to as Heimdall's Bulwark. A mystical staff from a time before the OgreWars, it was used here in the defense of Orihalcus until the divinely inspired regiment that was using it had been slain to the last. The art that once existed to make or recharge such an item is long gone, but luckily the staff still remains. Its powers were vague but something about healing at the wielder's will was more than enough to engage it. It was hinted that it might have other abilities as well. Finally according to Adeptus Bjorn the magic within the staff is old and fading and the party can't expect much more than half a dozen uses before the item is exhausted.
Detheron took it reverently and then Phozarn wrapped up answering any questions the party had. The group then discussed what their next course of action was to be and the scattered about town taking care of last minute purchases/changes/contacts. Zoltan went for a haircut, getting a mohawk (opting not to get a leeching though), and going to the fields, spoke with Keohn about buying some really old equipment (whips, chain shirt, short sword, manacles, etc..). Puck went to pick up his clothes from Clothier Dellia who didn't want to speak with anyone, eventually going upstairs in her house and avoiding all customers. Detheron renewed his faith with Frey and made sure he was as ready as he could be. Karis had the face of his shield blackened at Jarlian's Forge so he would be less identifiable. Then he went to Yrrg and had the seamstress make his a real piss-poor jerkin of stitched together old leather.
Group got a good night's sleep and woke up the next morning ready for their journey. They went to Sir Walter Slaine's and deposited much of their belongings in his vault (anything they didn't trust bringing with them), and then picked up from Drit's Liquors a pony-keg of ale, three wooden pipes, plenty of tobacco, and a 6 dose hit of fine opium. Karis was disgusted just being there but the party finished their dealings with the merchant (who's math skills were very poor!) and then left Orihalcus at 10:30 on Heatmonth the 30th.
The roads from Orihalcus were somewhat busy with all the comings and goings to Ironcamp (the former K'Tharkian' Homewarren) but in a short while the party left them behind and traveled the traderoads in silence towards Ponyboro. The hours passed and they broke for lunch briefly before moving on, looking for a mountain that appeared to look like a bear. Just in the last light of the setting sun, they came upon the mountain in question and left the traderoad, walking into the wild a few hundred feet and setting up camp. They scavenged the area for deadwood and scrub and set up a fire eventually breaking into watches and resting.
The next morning while breaking their fast and waiting for Detheron to finish his morning abulations to Frey, Zoltan climbed a nearby spire to scout. Seeing just more mountains and valleys around us, his keen ears did pick up the faint echoing of some sort of conflict not too far away. The group gathered their bedrolls and moved on. They traveled a short while until they heard angry voices nearby and some sort or arguing. Zoltan and Puck went off from another direction and scouted the site. They saw two carts dumped on their sides, boxes and barrels and bags scattered about. Four dwarves in sturdy traveling clothes and helms were arguing and cursing pointing around wildly. They all looked a bit disheveled and one was pretty wounded. Stone tipped spears were everywhere and the traces of the carts were cut but no animals were seen nearby. Puck went back to report what he saw and Zoltan stayed to keep watch on the 4 party of dwarves.
The group heard from Puck what was going on and they decided (at Gwyn's insistence) to go forward and see if they could help. The group of dwarves came from Cymbarton and were 3 weeks out from the capital city. They were prospecting the Dusty Mountains looking for signs of iron ore for the mineral poor county. The leader, Ungoth Rockholm (the same clan as Gwyn) reported that while coming through here just after breakfast a number of "Thor-damned painted greenskin toothed orcs burst from the very stones themselves and attacked us!" Their ponies were taken, some foodstuffs, two of their number, and numerous boxes with iron samples and maps of their travels. They admitted they were not warriors (don't even have armor) and had basic skill with weaponry, but would like the party to try and get their men back. Orcs took their people/ponies up some trail to a crag overhead.
Zoltan traveled a bit of a distance away and began climbing the 40 degree rough side of the mountain. He went up, up, up - maybe 900' distance, 400' vertically off the ground - until he was able to scout of the orcish area. A shelf of stone with low stacked walls was watched half heartedly by a half dozen feral orcs with crude bows. The dwarves were behind the walls being bound, gagged, and kicked - while the ponies were being abused and hobbled. Another eight or nine orcs were nearby. One of them was wearing some sort of feathered hat. Zoltan came back and the party planned out a rescue. The dwarves came with them (one of them with a xbow, the others with picks and hammers) and the group got into place.
Zoltan caused a swarm of multicolored lights to appear over the orcs' heads which captured their attention and the rest of the group ran forward. Crossbow bolts twanged and the first of the orcish archers were engaged. Ringo finished off the first one and the group marched to battle. More xbows fired and the group was now in melee range (some of them), Fodder and Ringo were tag teaming an orc when the Shaman tried to Hold Animal Ringo - the spell failed. Karis was hacking though the enemy and Gwyn kept popping up for xbow firing. Zoltan's sling kept flaring out whacking orcs left and right.
The Shaman directed his bear to attack but Puck's distraction spell captured their attention for a while, allowing the party to come closer and engage more of the orcs. One of them ran back into the cave to attend to the women and children and the dwarves had finally gotten to melee range, picks and hammer flashing. Detheron tried to get close to Karis and more stones and bolts were fired. Karis took some wounds and even Ringo and Fodder were getting beaten down. Puck took a chance and engaged the ring he had purloined from Kuluk the Terrible almost a month and more ago. It was a battle of wills but Puck's proved to be the stronger and a shaft of sickening black tinged yellow light snaked out and slammed full force into the Shaman who collapsed screaming.
The bear stormed forward and sent the 3 dawrves scattering but Detheron called upon Frey and bent the rampaging bear to his will, pulling the beast's loyalty from the pain wracked shamans. The animal stopped, looked around in confusion, and then began stalking after the shaman who was healing himself. Karis engaged the orcish chieftain next - the brute's stone axe no match for the militant trained Karis and his 6' greatsword. The 3 dwarves ran to Karis' side and tried to help the ogre in driving back the collapsing orcs.
Everytime the shaman stood up, he was hit with either spellbolt or quarrel or stone. Detheron called upon Frey's might and infused Karis with the power of the bull which made the already huge half-ogre swell up even larger. The tide was turned and one by one, the orcish clansmen were taken down and destroyed. Karis gave chase into the cave but the last warrior had led the women and children out of the back of the cave into a pass on the side of the mountain and away from danger.
The two dwarves captured were not dead but needed some attention which Detheron and Ungoth gave them. The ponies were hurt but not killed and there was a look around at what the orcs had. Most of it was crude ogre-sized equipment and stone tools. There were barrels of berries and some sort of dried meat. Detheron made better friends with the bear and the group counted themselves victorious. They helped the dwarves out of the orc's camp and back to their carts where they rehitched up the ponies and reloaded their supplies. The dwarves tried to pay the party for their heroic efforts (totaling up to roughly 45 crowns in various coins) but the group refused (except Zoltan who had actually taken the dwarves' money and had to be convinced to return it - sans about 3 crowns worth of coin he snatched before giving it back). Ungoth and the other miners were ecstatic and the party knew that their deeds this day would not be forgotten when the mining troupe eventually returned to Cymbarton.
The dwarves were told how to get to Orihalcus and were asked if they could lend their ponies to the Greengrocer Coalition while there, which they agreed happily. Expected to spend 3-5 days in Orihalcus and then follow the trade roads home to Cymbarton. The group wished them well and the dwarves and the party parted ways.
And that's where we ended it. A good job everyone and it was a nice show to kick butt as opposed to the trouble we had the prior meeting. We are about 2-3 hours from Fulgore Keep (assuming all goes well) and then we'll see what happens next.