The party was very pumped up for this meeting and even though there was much running around and combat and fire - there was also a decent amount of planning and the group came together in many places to bring it to its conclusion.
As a DM, I could not have been prouder.
Write up follows:
We picked up the game right where we left off. The fight ensued with Karis charging towards the rest of the party to repel upcoming orcs, while Zoltan and Detheron finished strapping Ringo to the druid's pack. The one orc who came up the stairs was set upon by Gwyn, Puck, and the charmed orcish wizard Nyrex helping as well. The Castellan's voice roared from below to get up there but the grease fire was still too high and dangerous for any other orcs to climb.
And once that one was taken care of, Puck greased the BACK half of the steps – setting them ablaze as well. The orcs gnashed and cried and screamed but gave ground grudgingly – giving the party a moment's reprieve in order to come up with a cunning plan.
Zoltan was loading his bags with whatever paperwork he could glean from the boxes, not reading them, merely taking – on the off chance we were unable to reclaim the boxes. The sounds of the orcs on the lower floor was getting quieter and quieter until the group realized that there must have been some change in the orcs' tactics.
And change is not always good.
Group was going back and forth over the merits of using one of the Blessed Bolts of Sutur – not really knowing what, if anything, it could do. Is it effective against one foe? Numerous foes? Karis had skimmed through the priest's papers and according to the documents - there were supposedly 10 of the bolts at one time. We have 4. Where are the other 6?
We needed to get to a good place for us to hold up and it was decided that we should make it for the 1st floor and stand ground there. And then we heard the sound of crumpling wood and shattering timbers.
The orcs (maybe with, maybe without the Castellan) had run OUT of the keep, up one of the guard towers, and CROSSED to the area on top of the keep proper. Nyrex informed us that there was a walkway to affect such a crossing as it was only 20 odd feet. Crap.
Group ran into battle formation with Gwyn and Karis taking position at the area between the bottom of the stairs to the third floor and the top of the stairs to the first floor. Nyrex joined them and the three of them threw their dwindling precious flasks of oil on the steps, coating them thoroughly. Puck prepped the fire source. Detheron ran as fast as he could, Smokey following. Fodder was ordered to stay behind with Zoltan and guard him – the weary bardic/thief staggering around since his near death experience.
And then they came.
The first orc hit the clearing and threw his hand axe – catching Gwyn in the midsection and staggering the stoic dwarf. But the oil was ignited and flames ONCE again paused the now horribly incensed orcs. Two more were shoved through the flames and they ran as best they could – trying to clear the party out of the way. The first one leapt down six steps – his momentum carrying him into Gwyn. The dwarf staggered, slipped, and FELL down the next flight of stairs, grappling with the orc the entire way. He twisted and shoved off the walls and steps as they fell, twisting the two of them so that the orc took the brunt of the fall and smashed his neck and head at one of the corners where the stairs turned.
Another one tried to do that to Karis but the half ogre stopped the orc cold with his out thrust shield and hacked the creature in two. The group was massed at the top of the stairs while Karis tried to take out the last orc – the cavalier shouting for the group to get down. And it was a good thing too, because Gwyn was in trouble.
As the bottom of the stairs on the first floor was a clearing/landing to the basement – as well as the main defensive heart of the keep proper. The area had three orcs there with crossbows – and then three more orcs with axes and broadswords, AND then an orc clad in leather and wearing some sort of ceremonial garb that was dyed red and covered in flame designs – the keep's priest. Before the dwarf could react – he was struck with three quarrels and knocked flat – ducking behind the dead orc for cover – the wind knocked out of him. The priest called upon his god and Gwyn was suddenly filled with an uncontrollable and unreasonable fear. Sobbing and crying – the dwarf painfully tried to crawl away from the foes and down the next set of steps to the basement.
Puck came down the steps first – and FINALLY using his readied crossbow and Blessed Bolt – he turned the corner and raised his weapon to fire. An unseen wind scented with sulfur emerged from behind him while a low moan rose in a crescendo – the vibrations setting teeth to chatter and the stones to move. The quarrel seemed to burst into flame and then the trigger fired.
It was an inferno.
A blast of flame burst free like the finger of god – snarling across the chamber unimpeded as it blew through two of the archers, immolating them instantly – continuing on it barreled through the three next orcs without pausing, consuming them. It washed over Grgich the priest long enough for him to scream as he was melted and seared away. The fire bolt continued on until it hit the keep's doors and exploded through them – even further going across the courtyard and blasting into the barbican – tearing through two of the closed portcullis before it expired.
Puck's crossbow was a burned and broken mess – the weapon useless and hot to the touch. The group was stunned – never before had any of them ever seen or heard about such destruction on any level. And as was said at that time – where were the OTHER 6 blessed bolts? And what if – what if it was used against them?
The party tried to give chase after Gwyn who was still running away. Karis meanwhile ran into the nearest room and took out two straw mattresses and tossed them onto the base of the third floor steps to keep the fires going before running after the party.
However – we had a glitch here. Zoltan could NOT keep up with the group – he was sucking wind and tired and aching and not doing well – and being mostly useless in a fight he was going to be a hindrance to the group. So back before the entire group actually began fighting on the second floor with the first thrown flasks of oil – our intrepid thief went back into the privy – faithful Fodder following along – his last command being adhered to as guard Zoltan.
He eased himself back into the foul privy hole, crawled through the filth, and tried to lower himself down the shaft but lost his grip – rolling to absorb some of the damage but still hurt and tired at the bottom of the drain. Fodder followed – the dog hurt too on the landing.
Once there – he went to the drain that lead to the kitchen and poked his head OUT of the sink – seeing the orcish kitchen closed and empty. He crawled out, tired and filthy – and helped Fodder out as well. It looked like whatever orcs were in here once before had moved on and had left the food they were preparing alone.
Back to the main group. Gwyn ran full of fear into the waiting graces of TWO orcs standing guard in front of a reinforced door; the two of them stabbing at the frantic dwarf. The rest of the party ran up – struggling to take the fight OUT of Gwyn's tired hands and save the group's fighter. It was a serious struggle and it was made more so when Gwyn was breaking away and ran down the crosshall further into the dungeon. Nyrex tossed a thirty foot length of rope at one of the guards and then cast animate rope on it – the coils tying around the surprised guard and incapacitating him.
The group got to Gwyn at last who was doubling back after finding the storeroom and the wine/ale cellar – and a guard dog. Detheron filled the dwarf with courage and the magical fear abated while Karis took down the last orc. They quickly gave the area a once over and Nyrex told them that the door they found here was the vault – but the Castellan has the code (three levers marked with numbers 1-6 on each). The group told Nyrex (asked – poor charm person) to set the levers in the order they said (451, scrawled in the Castellan’s room on the 3rd floor) before trying the turnbuckle to open the door.
Now to go back to Zoltan who had donned an orcish apron from the kitchen, took a hunk of meat, a cleaver – and then drank his potion of ugliness. No mirror was there but from what he could see of himself he was covered in red and brown scaled skin and pox marks and must be hideous to behold. He then entered the hallway and worked his way towards the sound of commotion and the mid area of the 1st floor. A few VERY burned dead bodies were here as well as a scoured scorched mark that ran in a straight line from the base of the steps, across the room, out the busted doors, and to the fire blackened barbican.
Fire and dead bodies? Yep – the party must have passed through here. Chuckle.
A strange orc armed with a long poignard came out of a closed room and made pantomiming hissing motions and noises at Zoltan who in his ugly state – passed quite well for an orc. The strange orc pointed DOWN the stairs and made stabbing motions and the thief nodded and said sure – the party must be down there – let's go kill them. The other orc was dressed as a scullery and had apparently had his tongue torn out long ago – leaving him unable to speak but capable of hissing a great deal. Zoltan motioned for the other orc to go first.
And when he did – the thief struck. The two of them tumbled down the steps towards the party, kicking and biting and snarling and choking each other. The group gave up their attempt to open the door and took in the strange sight. Two orcs – one really hideous – apparently cook and cleaner – were having a knife fight on the floor while Fodder was barking and snarling and trying to bite one or maybe both of their ankles. What the hell?
Zoltan began singing one of his bardic songs while the other one seeing the party coming close to battle sprang almost straight off the prone thief and punch kicked both Karis and Gwyn in the face. Who the hell was this guy? The lone orc displayed a dazzling number of flips and kicks and punches that had the group surprised in the ferocity as well as the skill. Puck, now using Gwyn's crossbow, tried to shoot the leaping orc but the arrow that would have critically torn out the humanoid's throat was kicked aside at the last moment.
It was a difficult struggle and Nyrex' last spell – an urge to cough – was rebuffed. Another crossbow bolt was knocked aside and then the orcish monk tore Karis' sword from his grasp and threw it behind him. Zoltan grabbed the tossed sword and hurled it over the monk's head and sadly on a botched throw, INTO Karis, however effectively rearming the half ogre. A fear spell hit the orc who then turned and ran – getting a few hits on his back as he fled.
Zoltan (now identified as such) got some ribbing for his ugliness, but as he said "what happened to getting back together on the first floor? I was there! Where were you guys?" Detheron was trying to get the lone dog to be his buddy and the group had Nyrex open the sealed door with the combo 451. It opened – and we looked in.
Left side was all long abandoned equipment such as helms, shields, and armor – all for ogre sized humanoids. Right side had a series of 10x10 cells and the group could hear some moaning within. And they could also hear the sound of the Castellan and the orcs getting closer.
It was time to do this. Zoltan prepped the stairs coming down the basement with two flasks of oil and set it ablaze – giving the party a few minutes tops to find what they needed and move on. Karis went to one of the cells where there was noises and opened it – having three frantic and terrified kobold women come out. They were frightened and would not leave Karis alone saying he came back to save them. And then the party realized this was the SAME three kobold women that they liberated from Kuluk's harem that were not welcome in Orihalcus…OR in the bugbear clanholdings of Drywood. Whoa!
Group realized they were going to have to make a stand – and this was the place. Gwyn was hit with the party's last possible cure light wounds – and Karis was touched with the 6th charge of Heimdall's Bulwark. At this point – we have NO idea if the staff with ever work again. Some cells were looked in, but so far no magic sword or treasures. Gwyn informed us that there were no weapons – just defensive equipment. Grabbed two tower shields and set them up near the door.
Group got into battle formation and some of the last oil was set at the furthest area of the corridor near where the stairs came down. Zoltan continued to check over the cells and the party was ready – and the orcs came. The oil was set alight with a thrown torch and Karis and Gwyn held the door as more orcs burned. Castellan was fierce – roaring to ignore the fire and kill them.
A few rounds passed and the group was doing what they could to keep the orcs from closing and it was working – until there was a flash of fabric on the far corner of the room and Volvent – the same orcish assassin with the blinking cloak they fought earlier snapped INTO the room from seemingly nowhere and threw a pair of poisoned daggers at Gwyn.
The dwarf went down instantly and it was Karis manning the door by himself. Detheron tried to drag the dwarf to safety and ordered Smokey to attack the approaching orcs and Fodder to attack Volvent. Puck ran into the fight as well, knife flashing as he and Fodder attacked the assassin. Nyrex donned the fallen tower shield and with hand axe out – tried to help Karis and Smokey at the front door.
Volvent tried to escape the room but Fodder and Puck prevented him from flashing his cloak around himself and the command of "eat balls" to the snarling wolfkin was given by the angry druid who had administered an antidote to the weary dwarf.
Karis cut down another orc and then he was worried – a lone archer was running AWAY from the party down the hall and the command to "Clear way!" was being given. And the party heard the rising moan and wind that prefaced one of the Blessed Bolts of Sutur. Damn it.
Karis made a snap decision and abandoned his tower shield and TRIED to shut the heavy reinforced door in time while shouting to get away get away. But the bolt fired and a single tongue of flame scoured the hallway clear and blasted the door off the hinges – killing Karis, Smokey – and immolating Nyrex. The devastation was incredible and the party had to act NOW.
Gwyn lurched to his feet and slammed the reinforced door closed – burning his hands in the process. Detheron, feeling very overwhelmed, prayed for a miracle and pressed his staff into Karis once more. The Heimdall's Bulwark fired off one more time – larger than anything the group had experienced. The last power of the staff healed everyone within 15' of Detheron 20 hit points as well as erected a rainbow ward in the hallway beyond the closed door. But that was it – the staff was spent. Deth's going to need to find a place or someone who knows how to recharge such an item.
Fodder and Puck finished off Volvent and searched him over. More poison – the damned cloak – and ho ho ho! ANOTHER Blessed Bolt of Sutur!
Karis and Smokey alive once more but very low on hit points rejoined the group who came up with a daring plan to slow down the Castellan and his orcs. They looked at the lever combination on the back of the door and changed the right combo to something other than 451. The group had ONE crossbow left – and four Blessed bolts. It was time to take out the Castellan no matter what.
After a few minutes the ward from the Bulwark faded and the orcs were beating at the door to get in. They heard the Castellan take over and put in what he thought was the right combination – and then the Ogre was howling and screaming as his body was pierced again and again from spears in the walls. He was frantic and shouting and terrible as he tried to burst the door open with his war axe and calling for blood.
Wait. The Castellan is FIRST on the other side of the door? And wounded?
Puck readied the last crossbow with a Blessed Bolt and Karis and Gwyn each grabbed one of the two doors and the group watched and waited – and then the lock was opened and the doors pulled wide.
And Puck fired.
Rising moan and wind and flames and then a roaring bolt of god-borne fire tore down the TIGHTLY packed hallway with some fifteen odd orcs AND the Castellan. Most of the lesser beings were blown away and vaporized but the mighty ogre took the lion's share of the firebolt and died horribly from his wounds.
And the last orcs in the tower who saw the devastation and the death of the Castellan finally lost their nerve and ran.
The Keep emptied and it was a good thing as the party had no reserves left. Hit points were very low – Karis and Zoltan and Smokey were suffering from mortal wounds, the party had the beginnings of fever from the infected wounds from the privy crawl they had and the struggles since that time. There were no spells left to both druid and sorcerer, and the healing staff was exhausted.
But they won.
In total – the party killed 41 of the Keep's contingent of 55 orcs as well as the one Ogre. The remaining 14 fled taking what they could with them. The slavers – warned over an hour ago of the attack in the keep from the three organizations that were within at the start of the combat (one being the Lycos Suns) as well as the sounds of fighting and smoke and fire and whatnot from the keep – broke their encampment down as fast as possible and ran for the hills – taking their slaves and goods with them.
The party locked the front door and last remaining portcullis in the barbican and positioned the fake guard from tower three on the front wall with the Castellan's head on a spear. And they rested. No one came during the night and the group woke up the next morning and gave the keep a once over.
Found 5 mountain ponies and the Castellan's steed as well as two heavy carts that could be cobbled together to make one working one, but it would take time and both Gwyn and Zoltan would need to spend hours on it. Puck and Gwyn gave the place a once over and found replacement crossbows – orcish made but more than serviceable – in fact there were 10 extra! Whoohoo. Karis was dismantling the two ballistaes from the room and were taking them with us – as well as the three chests of treasure we found in the basement, the enchanted sword "Deathknell" and it's sheath, the records from the slavers, everything else we've found so far, about 550 quarrels, and 10 odd bottles of the best wine.
Karis tried to break the Castellan's warhorse and got beat up and thrown around a bunch to the group's amusement and…wait for it…DETHERON'S FIRST TIME USE OF SPEAK WITH ANIMALS!!! Whoo hoo!! Good for him!! Hooray! We had a great time listening to the world from the horse's point of view – the pony's point of view – heck even Smokey's point of view! ;)
Zoltan painted the symbol of the adventuring party on the wall of the keep in big characters (like Zorro) and about 1:30 in the afternoon on Firemonth the 3rd – the party rode away (well – Karis rode – the party walked behind the cart that Deth and Zoltan were teamstering) from Fulgore Keep and on the long way (2 days) back towards Orihalcus.
Great job everyone, really. I know it was hard and dicey and questionable at some places – but it was a great job by everyone. Really did an ass kicking job (as evidenced by the xp awarded this day!). Adventure SEEMS to be over – but it's not. :) But until it is – the group did really good and you should all be proud of yourselves.