The party had been frustrated last meeting as it seemed there was not enough information for them to get the Lycos Suns (the slaver organization that originally captured them) and exact vengeance. Plus I was not making it easy for them to just waltz around and do what they wanted.
So they hatched the idea of infiltrating the Keep itself which had a number of possible ways in - none of them wonderful. So they settled on sneaking in through the midden - where the waste comes OUT of the keep.
I want to think that this meeting was a memorable one and I often think back on this meeting and the one that followed as one of the high points of the campaign.
Write up follows:
It was around 2:30 on Firemonth the 2nd, and the party was sitting on the lee side of one of the low slopes around the slaver encampment and Fulgore Keep - discussing their options and ultimately what their goals and next course of action was going to be. Many things were tossed out and eventually the group settled on the idea of scouting out the Keep and seeing if there was some potential way inside.
Outer walls of the keep were about 30' tall, towers closer to 45'. There seemed to be some activity on the ramparts but no one had really spent the time to spot or plot it out. Detheron also mentioned that there was a well near the exterior of the Keep's cleared land and no orcs were ever seen coming out to get any water - so potentially there was a well inside also. And that they might share a common source. Also the Keep's proximity to the wall of the ravine was a matter of interest and there was talk about either a bolt-hole escape or waste midden.
Group broke up into 3: Detheron and Gwyn would go to the well and check it out, Puck would wander around town as close as he could to the fence line and observe the Keep and the local orcs patrols, and Zoltan and Karis would go into the hills and check out the ravine to see if there was some feasible way they could use that landscape.
Detheron and Gwyn spoke with a well guard - an older human with a ramshackle halberd composed of a tied off axe to a pole, who was a bit "country" and took his time guarding the well as serious. There were 3 other slavers here passing time - under orders to remain at the well since their idea of a good time invariable meant going to Chum's and getting laid and drunk until they needed to be carried away on a litter when their organization left town. They were talkative and humorous and made life a little difficult for the druid, his animals, and the dwarf (actually charging Detheron a brass bit for insurance purposes to tie a rope to his waist). Well was deep - very deep - couple of hundred as evidenced by tossed stones. also, about 8' down from the well lip was a metallic rung stapled into the wall - and one below that, and below that and below that. There was no winch to draw up buckets - needed to just do it hand over hand. May have been one at one time but it wasn't here now. There was an altercation with a lit pipe and playing keep away with Gwyn but the matter was passed and the two of them (plus animals) moved on.
Puck was checking out the Keep itself - staying in the alleys as provided by the tents and wooden structures for cover - switching his postion about once every fifteen minutes. With the exception of one altercation where a paranoid slaver came out and mentioned that he "knew" who Puck was here for, "that fat scheming bitch and her lover hired you as an assassin to come up here and kill me so she can get rid of me, huh, well get out of here, go, and tell that no good wife of mine I'm going to get back to Ponyboro and kill her first!" - he was able to watch the Keep for some time to gather some crucial information. Each tower had one orc manning it, the top of the barbican had two ballistae's being tended to by 4 orcs, and there were two more orcs walking picket across the ramparts. The two orcs walking were very lax in their patrols - often stopping to shoot the breeze or dilly dally - making a single circlet every 30 minutes or so. It did seem though, that the "guard" in the North East tower (the one pretty much right on the edge of the ravine's edge) never moved from his spot. At all. Wondering if he/it was even real or a "scarecrow" in armor propped up.
Zoltan and Karis wandered west of the camp and gave the ravine a good once over. Easily 200' wde and about 450' deep - it was carved into the rock by the one time passing of the Copper Bottom River - a major water source that flowed from west of here fifty years ago and wound it's way downland towards the Mastelic Ocean to the east. Something to do with the dragon attacks had stopped the water's flow and the river dried up - the ravine now called the Dry Bottom River. There were no bridges across from any side and a fairly observant search revealed no trails or easy ways down to the ravine's base far below. What they did see though that roughly in line with the back of the Keep was a protuberance of stone sticking out that seemed wet and ran sluggishly into the deep cleft of the ravine. Possibly a waste culvert as expected. The two of them then wandered to the other side of the camp and did the same - seeing nothing new or different from this side as well. With the wind blowing into them from the north they figured they had found what they could for the best and returned to the encampment.
It was 4:30 or later when the group reconvened and shared their findings - this time hatching on a new and daring plan - infiltrate the keep. There had to be records and that meant besides finding the slavers - they needed to get the records from the Castellan. Possible ways in were: the well, the waste culvert, and climb over the wall where the "fake" orc was guarding the NE tower. Some more recon needed to be done to know if the well was an option so Zoltan snapped into "sneaky" mode and went off to reinvestigate the well.
Once there he was met with the lone guard now who was waiting for the dinner bell. There would be no one to replace him - well seemed to be unguarded at night. Zoltan hatched a quick scheme about how a few years ago he had been here and had hidden a bottle of potent dwarven spirits inside the well and he was here now to claim it to help pay off some debt and he needed to get into the well. Guard was really hesitant about it until Zoltan offered to share the bottle with him and he then relented. He did something strange, digging under his padded armor he pulled out a hand made knotted and crude looking amulet with some sort of pressed hunk of wood dangling from the bottom. He was proud of it and said the Castellan himself had given it to him to do his job. Put it on Zoltan and told him to be careful.
Zoltan began climbing down. Using the rungs (which were in different stages of repair - some old, some newer) slowly he made his way into the dark gloom. At around 400' down he fired up one of his dancing lights spells and was able to see the water just below him. He sent one of the lights into the water and saw it continue down. Stealing himself, he began climbing down into the water itself. Amulet he was wearing had him surrounded with what felt like a one inch layer of air, keeping him dry from his boots on up. Holding his breath he dared to go under the water and once submerged - found he was able to breath. He check the loaned amulet and noticed that it was glowing slightly - but a thin sliver was colored dark - and the longer he stood there under water - the more the darkness piece spread across the amulet's face.
Went under the water and continued down about another 30' until he came to a cut in the stone stretching off in the direction of the keep - maybe 5' wide, 8' tall tube. Below this, the cavern opened up to a LARGE underground body of water/cistern. Checking the amulet and seeing it maybe 1/5th dark, Zoltan entered the tube and began walking slowly along the bottom, feet finding it difficult to get purchase. He went 60 odd feet or so (firing up another dancing lights spell) when he saw a shimmer of surface water ahead. He ran to it, got under it, and jumped - clearing into a 12' pocket of stale air. Sinking back down, he jumped a few more times, splashing and reaching about until he was able to get a grip on the ceiling and wall and keep his head out of the water. Checking the amulet it was about 65% dark now so he took it off and suddenly the spell was broken - and he was soaked to the skin, backpack, bags, boots, clothes and everything filled with water.
He hung there in the cold dark (spell went out again) until his hands were shaking and he slithered the amulet back on - checking it once more to see it had "recharged" to about 50%. Zoltan continued along the floor of the well towards the Keep - walking in the dark. As his amulet was getting really used up and the membrane of air was very very thin, he reached the end of the tube and a vertical wall. Fumbling around in the dark he reached all over until he came upon a metal rung in the wall. He hauled himself up one at a time, hand over hand until suddenly his head broke surface and about 400' over him was a thin circle of light. He took of the amulet and hung there exhausted until he began to climb the well.
Faint voices echoed from above strangely, orcish by their sound, maybe a pony or two as well. And then someone tossed a bucket down. It whistled past Zoltan and splashed into the water, filled and was hoisted up - chains and ropes clattering and the winch above squealing. It happened again 3 more times - Zoltan being hit hard once in the head (hooray wearing a helmet!) where he was stunned briefly and his vision knocked askew - but the drawing of water was over. He waited 10 minutes and then braved climbing some more. At the top he gingerly picked his head up and peered out the well - into the interior of Fulgore Keep.
He could see the outer walls, the inner walls, a 25' or so wide clearing, animal trough where 3 ponies were drinking, a stables with 7-9 dim stalls, two carts both in need of some repair, something that might be the smithy, and at least 3 orcs hobnobbing nearby. Figuring himself extra lucky, the thief went back down the well, tiredly put the amulet back on, and slowly slogged his way back to the original well - at one point divesting his chain mail and sword to speed up his movements and better marshal his time. Back at the original well, he came out - the well guard REALLY worried about him. Saw he was wet and Zoltan told him that he had to take the amulet off at one point. Then the thief gave the guard half of the bottle of dwarven spirits he had in his pack (in another bottle the guard had went and gotten), returned the amulet and left to rejoin the party who was wondering where the hell he'd been for the last 45-60 minutes!!
Group got their info together and decided to get a final meal at the Rusty Bucket and wait until sundown. It was discussed and the end of it the group voted that they were going to go through the waste culvert. Driys came by talking to Detheron asking him if he'd like some specific animal based ranger work stealing animals from one location and bringing them to a buyer in Ponyboro? Detheron made interested noises and the group talked for a while and then the half-ogre moved on. Then it was go time.
Party went in the dark out of the encampment to the east - wandered very close to the ravine's edge - and then worked their way under the barbed wire fence. Karis actually got on his back and using his great strength and almost ridiculous threshold against pain, pushed at the wires until they snapped off the posts and went slack. With no light (covering Ringo's glowing carapace with Detheron's baladrana) and somewhat silence - the wind whistling covering their motions - the party snuck against the wall of the keep. From there it was a careful trip around the edge of the NE tower (guard above wasn't moving or anything - was now pretty damned sure it was a fake) and then towards the back wall of the ravine's edge side of the keep.
Karis went first, checking out the waste culvert - shelf was 5' down from the edge, about 4' wide at its widest, 12' long along the ravine wall - and there was a 3' round hole drilled into the wall where all manner of midden and filth was trickling out. Orge went down, set his feet - and held out his hands to help the other party members down. Detheron cast Reduce Animal on his bear (who did NOT want to go into the muck!) and one by one - group went over the side and into the hole. It was tight in there and there was no chance on changing party order. We got fouled REAL fast - and Karis was so large he had to drag his legs behind him - further skuzzing up his body.
We crab crawled forward a bit until we came under the outer wall of the keep - and saw the area ahead of us change to about 7' tall (still 3' wide) - the "ceiling" was slatted thick oaken timbers for almost a 20' run before it went back to the 3' circular tunnel. It was gross and filthy, reeking - party then shifted marching order here - able to stand - quietly discussed maybe pushing up timbers here and going into courtyard (where we assumed he were under) but opted not to. Wanted to be INSIDE the keep - where defenses would be negated for the orcs.
Zoltan now in lead went ahead and back into the narrow muck a few more feet where it turned straight up. There was a drain hole just ahead of him that lead to a kitchen he might be able to shimmy through (but the ogre would NOT be able to fit at all) or he could keep going straight up. Zoltan braved the muck and crusted walls and back and forth, inch at a time, worked his way up the sewage pipe. He gripped a lip about 15 odd feet up and looked out at the bottom of a privy - with 12 holes used for - um, well - what you would use a latrine hole for. Two orcs were up there doing what they do - adding to the filth - and then one of them opened something up there and water filled the far hole. A mounding wave of slop and what have you moved towards Zoltan, washed over both his hand, ran down his chest, and splashed to the bottom until the water was stopped and the orcs left the bathroom.
Coast clear, Zoltan stuck his head out of one of the privy holes and looked around - getting a lay of the area. Seeing it empty, he pushed at the privy planking and it lifted away easily. Getting out of the mess and furious (I believe Zoltan said he was going to kill every filthy orc in here and shit on their corpses), he slipped his grapple into the corner near one of the pipes coming out of the ceiling and dropped his rope down the hole to his friends. Party climbed up and the bathroom area suddenly got real full. Three stall showers were here as well and Karis, Deth, and Puck fully clothed went under the pipes and opened the pepcocks to clean themselves off.
Zoltan was keeping watch down the door to a hallway painted red and white, carpeted, covered with doors - there were two orcs guarding a door down at the end - when he saw an orc saunter towards the bathroom. Crap. Literally.
He tried to silence the orc with a knife to the throat but even surprised, the orc's ring mail armor turned his kukri. He was dragged into the bathroom and between him and Gwyn, they were able to beat the orc into silence, killing him. The damage was done as the scuffle and fight attracted the attention of 3-4 other orcs who came to investigate. First one was taken down in a hail of attacks and the second one fared no better - but suddenly the doors were thrown wide and orcs began filling the hallway and one of them raised a horn to his lips and began blowing.
The two guards at the end of the hall, one of them ran into the room he was guarding where lots of noises were now heard - and the hall was choked with pressing orcs. The tight fight in the bathroom was working against Karis being able to properly use his greatsword - forced to use the weapon only as a stabbing motion which reduced his effectiveness in battle. The bear was hit with a flying hand axe and struck with arrows and spiked clubs - Karis took blows too. Group was very pressed and there were now dying and dead orcs filling the floor and useable standing room.
Detheron used Heimdall's Bulwark on his bear and the staff gave forth trumpet blasts and closed the bear's wounds easily. A flask of oil was thrown and a flaming hands spell followed, clearing the doorway briefly. Zoltan tumbled out the door and began knifing orcs in the hall. Karis came after him, pushing burned orcs out of the way as he roared out challenges. Arrows flew and he and Zoltan were hit as well. More weapons thrown and lots of melee. And then Zoltan was scimitared from the cross hallway and he went down gurgling on his own blood.
Bear was ordered to get Zoltan and the animal shoved his way into the hall, clawed the thief, and threw him crashingly behind him into the room - now the thief was at -4 and dropping faster. This was going poorly. Then another 4 count of orcs appeared from the cross hall and a set of stairs there - 3 well armored one and another waving his hands. A spell fired out and struck Karis - the charm ALMOST working on him but the half-ogre roared his frustrations and the mind shackles and controls faded away. Karis' hit points continued to wither away and Gwyn came to the front, scimitar (using Elfsplitter) slashing wildly - cutting another greenskin down. Ringo was sent forward, flying overhead to attack the bow wielder and keep him from shooting Karis anymore.
Things were stacked against us when coming out of the far room (where it had been guarded) was another SIX count of armored orcs - and a 9' tall monstrosity clad in a breastplate and hoisting a mighty war axe came into the hall. "Never before have the tread of manlings defiled the halls of Fulgore Keep! How dare you! What affrontery! I will wear your feet as a necklace for this insult!"
Karis flipped the Castellan the bird at this point. :)
Feeling desperate, one party member down, Karis dangerously low on hit points, and still 20ish orcs before them - Detheron tried to enact Heimdall's Bulwark again - this time pressing it against the half ogre - deciding that even though Zoltan was dying if the half ogre went down - they would be over run. However, this time the staff rumbled louder and a tremendous blast rocked the Keep's interior - and a flashing wall of rainbow colored light blossomed in front of Karis - blocking off the hall from the surprised orcs. They railed against the wall but it rebuffed their efforts and the party had a momentary breather.
A hasty plan of spilled oil and setting the place ablaze came up and Gwyn was throwing oil around when the orcish mage fired off a spell bolt - through the wall! It stopped weapons - not spell work! Dwarf had to fight a tremendous compulsion to drink the oil he was spilling - making his save and backing away shaken. Puck enacted Kuluk's ring - having another mental battle with the evil item - until it fired off its sickly yellow blast into the orcish mage and he dropped to the ground howling and holding his head in pain.
And we ended it here.
I am glad everyone had a great time. The party did great and should not think they did anything wrong. There are no wrong choices - only less good ones. Seriously – you did fine. Some battles will be in your favor - some will not. This is a difficult one - but it is not unwinnable. What you need to do is get OUT of the bathroom - which you were almost doing. It's just a bad placement for the party as you are being assaulted from TWO hallways - and would probably do better in just one.