This was the big climax for the party as they had finally gotten around to Kuluk's back door - and it was close. As the party was 2nd level during this adventure, they were able to deal some damage and take some as well - but I still play with kid gloves for characters until they pass 3rd level - after that, they are no longer coddled along and can (and will) die from an errant dice roll or bad saving throw. That doesn't mean that I won't let a character under 3rd level die - it means that I won't let them die from a lucky critical or the like.
So yeah, Karis died here. Chuckle. Half-ogre knight held the line for his friends and freed women and children to escape - and I think him standing there blocking the only easy escape 80' off the ground with his shield, sword, and strength would have been a disservice if I fudged the dice rolls.
Poor bastard hit -3 after hitting the ground, and the party ran back to save him with the literally last healing spell that Thistle the elven cleric had and the only healing scroll that Detheron had.
This was also the first time the party showed any real cohesion as a group - it was still clunky and some selfish moments - but overall, they were beginning to come together as a unit.
Write up follows:
After making sure that Thistle (elven cleric to Thor) and Gurerredon (pecsian fighter) were up to snuff and capable of following, the party continued on and in what direction they had been informed lead to Kuluk's home. Beyond the torture chamber was a hallway with black and white smeared kobold hand prints on the wall and numerous fetishes of ears and fingers from various elven and fey races hanging from hooks.
There was a doorway beyond that revealed a larger chamber with an over sized table, assorted chairs, scattered papers, and racks for helms and weapons. The papers were written in Ogrish and both Gwyn and Karis felt that given enough time, should be able to decipher enough of the strange language. Taking them, the party marched on, Zoltan picking the next doorway and the party making their way to another hall - this one with more hand prints but also festooned with old and ceremonial ogre spears. There was another doorway, and Zoltan was able to hear muffled heavy breathing on the other side.
There was some discussion on tactics but the noises stopped and Karis felt that it was time for action. We burst in and encountered Kuluk's demonic beast - a twisted amalgamation of great bear, sorcery, and some diseased bird. Towering over the rest of the party, it roared, charged forward, and broke free of the chains binding it. Flarg and Karis went front line, spells and blessings fired off, the animals were held back, and javelins and arrows started striking. Most of the initial blows failed to penetrate the creature's thick hide and its punishing strength and terrible claws tore through Karis and Flarg's armor with brutal ease.
The fight was long and horrendous; the bugbear brawler was caught in the punishing grip of the monstrous beast, his ribs crushed and back torn open, the brave fighter cast aside dying and Detheron running to his aid. Gurerredon softened the stone under the monster's feet, sinking the creature down to its lower calf but not before its beaked mouth ripped Gwyn's chest open. We plied all we had to take the monster down, struggling harder and harder even as its tremendous strength allowed it to break its feet free from the encasing stone. And then Zoltan told us that many kobolds were coming down the corridor.
A portcullis began to rise as the kobolds grew closer and Zoltan leapt on top of it, wrenching the teeth off the wooden gears with his added weight and allowing it to crash back to the ground. A wave of yellow necromantic energy shot down the hall from Kuluk standing resplendent in blue scale mail, an eldritch scimitar in his hand, his half dozen hand picked guards in front of him - And Thistle went down in violent pain.
The fight was now in two places - Karis, Asgirda and Gwyn finishing off the owlbear, the rest of the party struggling against the charging kobolds and their efforts to lift the gates - Kuluk shouting at them. When Puck's flaming hands burst against two of the K'Tharkians, the mage was suddenly the target of every thrown javelin - the sorcerer dropping to the ground and dragged to safety by Detheron. Gurerredon managed to sink his pick into one of the kobolds and dragged the beast through the bars killing it swiftly.
Puck was being healed when new javelins went flying and this time Detheron was targets, the druid dropping dangerously low. Fodder and Ringo were sent into the battle and the portcullis was raised and the battle ensued. Karis tried to hold the line with Gurerredon but Kuluk cut the pecs down with a single blast of his scimitar - a legendary weapon known as "Elfsplitter". It seemed to drink the pecs's blood and the group redoubled its efforts to finish the struggle swiftly.
Kuluk was maneuvering around the battle to bring himself in line with Puck and Detheron again - only desperate leaps by Karis and Gwyn preventing him from doing so. And then Karis let forth a horrible roar and slammed the full length of his blade into the kobold chief's chest - killing him. For his efforts, the remaining kobold guards threw themselves at Karis and tried to bring the half ogre down before being finished off.
The battle was over.
We stripped them of their gear and items - notably a ring with 5 different sized keys on it. There was worry about the ring and scimitar - but for now the party took both items. We checked over the room and Zoltan and Gwyn were able to find through much deduction - a secreted door that needed one of the keys to open it. It led to a hall with top heavy jars in it, nine in total; that we figured out how to keep from tipping by nine iron "C" shaped rings we discovered with the Owlbear. Zoltan went down bravely until there was a final door - he opened it and we beheld the K'Tharkian vaults. It was filled with items and treasures, and commodities and other items of interest that Kuluk must have gathered as of late to most likely give to the Ogrelords for the Compact. Puck's magical sight allowed us to discover 4 mage spell scrolls, 3 priestly spell scrolls, half a dozen potions, a forearm length chalky/cracked lumpy egg, and a 2' off white shaft like a pick or a horn.
The party decided there was WAY too much stuff to take and we decided to sweep the majority of the jewelry and coins into our available packs as well as half a dozen small casks of honey (on Gwyn's advice). Puck who had gone back to the guard's bodies heard many angry kobolds banging on the doorway to what should be Kuluk's house. He came back and it was decided that it was time to go.
We went into Kuluk's proper home - a sizable one room affair attached to the side of the cliff, covered in tapestries, painting, draperies, finery and other messes tacked haphazardly to the stone walls. The single door out was thick, sturdy, and barred from our side - but there was a growing number of kobolds on the other side calling in common and their own language that there were intruders in the encampment, defenses were being erected, and they seemed to be in the mines. That decided it - we could not go back the way we came.
While searching his home we came upon a single thick slab of wood with a keyhole that had female voices on the other side. Zoltan checked the ring of keys and we burst in - finding ourselves in Kuluk's harem - 11 women of various races all bound to beds by one leather thong around their wrist (except one - the apparent matron). She was taken out swiftly and the party tried to free the women who were wretched, hurt, scarred, tortured, and in no condition to fight. Our troubles got worse - as we were not going to leave the women behind.
Then Asgirda and Zoltan made another discovery - a nursery with 14 half-breed children ranging from newborn to two years of age - also in poor condition and health. We had to get them all out. There were two potential doors - the one being broken down now by what we assumed to be the village shaman and at least two militaristic K'Tharkians (most likely a lot more) - or the door to the harem which would lead us closer to the ladder but also two smaller guard towers?
The group split into two: Zoltan, Puck, Flarg, and Gwyn would leave - run across the cliff surface - and try to take out the other guard tower where the Slaver was - and bring him with us - While Karis, Detheron, Asgirda and Thistle would make for the closer ladder and run like mad to get the women to safety.
And then it was a chaotic mess.
Karis ran out of the harem - ordering Detheron and Asgirda down the ladder first to hold the base while the women followed. The half ogre shoved and pushed at one of the towers - the two guards inside going crazy trying to shoot him - the stone and wooden structure sliding over the cliff edge and fell down 80' to smash to bits below.
Zoltan led the group to the imposing wall and instead of trying to climb over it - side stepped around it by dangling over the larder below and swinging to the other side - Puck dropped a flask of oil onto the thatched roof and realized he couldn't make the climb - so cast Spider Climb on himself and ran down the cliff face - throwing a torch at the Larder and setting it ablaze. The guard tower was now aware of us.
Detheron and Asgirda were shouting at the women to get down faster. Karis was trying to push the other tower over and Thistle was struggling to hold the door closed - keeping those K'Tharkian's trapped inside. The Shaman saw what was going on and mustered a twenty count of Kobolds to his side as he charged the half ogre. The other tower went over and Detheron and Asgirda set it ablaze with oil and torches. An errant javelin struck one of the women and it was a dangerous moment until Thistle was able to grab the baby from her hand and steady the wailing woman against the ladder so she could climb. Karis ordered the elf to go now and the shaman arrived at that moment with his retinue.
Arrows struck at Zoltan's group from the guard tower and Puck used another scroll - this time a large bank of fog that obscured the group from the view of the Kobold's above. Using his last "jump" - Flarg grabbed Zoltan and Leapt 30' straight up to the cage holding Thadar who was frantic and calling for the party to save him (ironic - isn't it?). A hasty key was used and the slaver was free - until the kobold's realized what was happening and started shooting down at them. Zoltan sunk a grapple and rope into the cage's top and the group began climbing down to safety. Gwyn uncorked the gallon cask of lubricating oil we has plundered, chanced running up to the guard tower door - and set the structure ablaze as Puck saw mature fire beetled come out of the tower's top with bow wielding kobold's on top.
Detheron and Asgirda charged through the encampment - shoving kobolds out of the way and shooting any that got to close - harrying their screaming and terrified woman charges on as fast as possible. Karis was struck by the shaman with a strange club - the impact sounding like a clap of thunder and deafening the half ogre as well as crumpling the face of his shield. He opted to swing himself into space and scramble down the ladder. The shaman's power flared to life and a warp wood spell ripped five rungs out from the ladder and Karis started falling - unable to stop his plummet he struck the ground with a snap and passed out (down to -3).
The party heard the ogre's roar, Detheron ordering Asgirda to RUN (she giving him her potion of Ignore to help him) as the druid ran back to try to help his friend, and Flarg and Puck went off to try and help as well from the other direction while Zoltan dragging Thadar ran for the exit - a beetle overhead and mounted kobold shooting down at them. A well placed crossbow bolt from Gwyn toppled the rider and the two of them tried to run faster while the fire on the guard tower was being suppressed and the fire beetle was ferrying guards out of the top down to the floor - a 10 count of militaristic kobolds drawing ranks and readying to give chase.
Detheron used his cure serious wounds scroll at the same time that Thistle's last cure minor wounds went out. The shaman made it to the floor and Karis met the spell casting kobold for one pass of blade and club - chopping off the druid's arm before turning at the begging sounds of his friends to run now. A larger fire beetle came out of the cave at the druid's cry as about twenty kobolds were now down the ladder - and Puck's web scroll fired off encasing the beetle and the base of the ladder in a mass of webbing strands. Then he too and Flarg ran for their lives.
We made it to the encampment entrance and kept going - running into the dark night until the sounds of pursuit faded and the flaming glow of the burning K'Tharkian camp was left behind.
Wow. Nice job everyone. We got out of there alive but we are tired, drained, exhausted, and now towing 25 odd prisoners of the K'Tharkian encampment as we follow a dazed and weary Asgirda back around the mountain's side and towards the Drywood Clan's holdings.