Waterday, 26 Reaping, 1468 CY
Hearing nothing, but smelling the foul stink of sulfur, the party opened the doors and looked up and up and up into the enormous chamber that had been built by dwarves so many ages ago. Skien’s light barely reached the ceiling, casting impressive shadows around the central steel pillar that stood as tall as the room with two pipes that jutted out near the base. A narrow stone walkway circled the room, with stairs leading up to the very top where a platform made of woven metal led up to the top of the steel pillar. Other metal platforms wrapped around the pillar in two other places, seeming out of place amongst so much stone.
L took one long look at the Nexus and shouted a few words of advice before heading back to the shrine so she could collect the tapestry—there was no way she’d be able to puzzle out the keys to the Nexus without some kind of written record.
The others began to climb at the half-orc’s urging, and soon realized that there were a number of tunnels carved into the rock. It wasn’t long before it became clear that these tunnels eventually led clear to the other side of the Stonehome Mountains, for orcs and orogs began swarming out of them and raced to attack the Hordebane. That Bitch and Kalad fought shoulder to shoulder as Grymm led the way with his axe, cutting through as many orcs as he could. For each one he cut down, it seemed that two more rushed to fill the gap. Tanner stuck with Grymm and the dwarves, using his bladespells to push orcs off of the stairs so they could advance inch by painful inch.
Irjan and Diony hung back a bit, using their range to their advantage when they could. The echoing in the chamber made it difficult for Irjan to hear, but he fought valiantly, shooting when he knew he had a sure shot. One of his attacks brought the dark, shadowy woman who had raced to the top of the Nexus to the very doorstep of death. Tanner’s quick shooting brought her down and the orcs’ leader, a very large orog with brutal tusks, bellowed his rage and plowed through his allies to kill those who had dared to hurt his beloved. Irjan’s ears were ringing after that, but he managed to regain his hearing in time to shank a few orcs who had managed to make it close.
The leader knocked down Grymm, but That Bitch was quick to get him back in the fight. A great sweep of his falchion would have taken Grymm’s head of had he been standing, but instead it brought That Bitch down. Showing a little athletic prowess, Grymm nearly fell from the walkway but managed to catch the edge, hurl an orc to its death, and slide over to where That Bitch lay and pull himself back up. He had a healing potion in his hand, and before Tanner could kill four more orcs, That Bitch was sputtering through his beard and hauling himself back to his feet.
The tide of the battle turned when Tanner used his magics to push the leader off of the walkway. He stumbled and missed his grip, falling some thirty feet and landing heavily even as he tucked into a roll and got back to his feet. The forward party advanced, hurrying to get to the top—the only objective they could think to go for—and the ranged members of the group (and Skien) took out the orcs’ ranged fighters in kind. However, the tide seemed fickle as the large leader climbed up onto the platform beside where Diony hung back and swung his mighty blade to fell the unlucky elf. Skien, who had climbed all the way to the top of the Nexus, reacted quickly and hurled himself from the top of the Nexus at the leader. His impact snapped the giant orog’s neck, in addition to breaking a number of his own bones and taking him into unconsciousness.
Unsure what had really happened, Irjan called out to the two he had been fighting alongside. At their lack of response, he felt his way over and managed to stabilize them. He stood over them, blades drawn, and protected his fallen companions for there was little else he could do with the rest of the group so far away he could hardly hear which direction they’d gone.
With the death of their leader, the orcs seemed to lose purpose. They’d come all this way, only to see the defeat of the greatest among them…they couldn’t exactly turn back, but they knew their deaths were not far away at the end of one of Irjan’s arrows, or beneath the arc of Grymm’s heavy axe. The forward party finally reached the top and That Bitch set about trying to decipher the ancient Dwarven scripts written on the control panel while the others either held off the orcs or let a rope down to Irjan.
Diony and Skien, limbs tangled and their bodies coated in blood, abruptly awoke gasping for breath! Diony tied himself to the rope so he could be hauled up, while Skien used a blade to splint his broken arm and began climbing the rope one-handed. Irjan grabbed the heavy falchion from the fallen orog leader in one hand, and groped for Diony’s outstretched arm with the other. Slowly, painfully, the group approached the top of the Nexus. They were only partway up when That Bitch and Tanner finally activated the control panel and the room began to fill quickly with boiling water. Irjan could feel the steam between his scales, and he shouted for the pulling ones to hurry it up.
Everyone managed to scramble up onto the top platform, and clamber up the ladder to freedom! Once on the other side, Kalad slammed the trapdoor closed (it surprisingly became very hard to see on the floor of the small storage room the Hordebane et al now found themselves in), and after a quick dwarven moment, he touched one of the stone in the floor and depressed it to make it flush with the floor. “They won’t be comin’ up after us,” he assured the group. Everyone wanted to take a moment to relax, but there remained the question of where they had emerged. Steeling themselves, they ventured out of the small door, received questioning looks from a few dwarves, and eventually realized that they were in Bordrin’s Watch, right on the front of the battle with the orcs!
Kalad gave minimal explanation as the group was led to healers’ camps that had been set up in the courtyard. Skien and Diony were immediately put to bed. Irjan managed to give a few pointers to the archers before exhaustion overtook him and had needed to be led to a bed of his own. Likewise, Tanner joined the fight from the wall, picking off the occasional breakthrough orc with his magic missiles…for about five minutes. Each missile drained him further, and it wasn’t long before he said, “You guys got this, you’re doing great!” and shuffled off to find a bed of his own. The others knew their limits, it seems, and they appreciated the welcome of a hard cot away from the fighting as they took their rest.
Earthday, 27 Reaping, 1468 CY
The next day, all but Diony and Skien awoke, for they required a little more recovery time. The others were called in along with Kalad to report to the high commander at Bordrin’s Watch: Durkik Forgeheart…
Tanner, Grymm, That Bitch, and Irjan awoke feeling refreshed in the late afternoon of Earthday, 27 Reaping, 1468 CY. The healers are bustling around, and the cots you slept on are quickly taken up with more injured from the front. You see that Diony and Skien are still recovering from their injuries—Skien in particular looks like he has been wrapped in a full-body cast after the craziness he pulled yesterday. One of the healers notices you are awake and speaks to you while washing someone’s blood from his hands. “That paladin who was with you, Kalad I think…he came looking for you this morning. I’ll send a message boy to let him know you’re awake now.”
True to his word, he walks over and calls out the door and speaks to an eager young dwarven boy with a wooden axe tucked in his belt. The boy nods and grins before running off, and the healer returns to the next priority injured soldier.
A few minutes later, Kalad enters sporting a few fresh bandages. He slaps away the ministrations of any healers that look up from their work and takes a direct path to meet with the group. “Good to see ye up and about agin, lads.” He says in his gruff manner. “Seems the lot of ye had a harrowin’ few days.”
He nods, almost to himself, as he trails off…his eyes taking in the still-asleep members of the group. The paladin clears his throat and visibly shakes himself back to the task at hand. “High Priest Forgeheart has asked for a full report, and implored me to bring you to him as soon as the healers released you. We should go speak to him, and quickly.”
Irjan recalls hearing the name, probably back in Overlook, but can’t quite place where he heard it before. That Bitch remembers Durkik Forgeheart from his time in the area as the High Priest of Moradin in Overlook, only the dwarf who is closest to the god in the whole civilized region…though “closest to the god” in the middle of a city like Overlook could mean many, many things.
Beaming, Tanner springs up from his cot, his hair bouncing about his shoulders. “That’s great news! I wanted to make sure we reported all the goings on as soon as possible. I just felt that they would want to know all of the details! Did you tell the High Priest anything yet, Kalad?” He stoops to grab his rapier, which he fastens to his belt. It’s clear that he’s ready to go.
Kalad shook his head, somewhat sadly. “I’ve had a bit o’ restin’ to do meself. I just made certain they knew no orcs would be comin’ up after us, and figured I’ll let ye tell the rest.” Once everyone was ready, he led the way through Bordrin’s Watch, walking briskly past columns of troops constantly prepared to refresh or relieve the front; adventurers worked alongside dwarven soldiers, helping them stand strong in the face of the orcish onslaught.
At the edge of the courtyard stood a stone guard tower which overshadowed where the troops prepared for battle. Kalad nodded to the guards who flanked the heavy stone door, and they acknowledged him and stood back so the group could pass. Inside, it took mere moments before High Priest Forgeheart granted the group an audience.
“I see the Hordebane has returned, thank Moradin!” Durkik Forgeheart began. He glanced at Kalad with gruff sympathy before starting at the beginning: “Please tell me what has become of our other brothers at the Monastery, and how you came to be here”
-he gestured to indicate the whole of Bordrin’s Watch- “just as the first waves of orcs charged to attack our walls.”
Tanner stepped enthusiastically forward. “Yes, it’s true! We have returned! We managed to find ourselves here after sealing the Nexus — which, by the way, has always secretly been right under this fortress. We came out of a storage closet, it was quite confusing! But to return to your original question, sadly, Kalad was the only surviving dwarf at the Monastery. We arrived too late. Hordes of orcs were streaming up from the tunnels. We slowed their advance and were able to rescue Kalad just as he sealed the tunnels. Unfortunately, the Great Hall of the Monastery was destroyed in the advance of the orcs and orogs, it collapsed on our way out. That’s where we met L…”
Tanner’s telling was a quick succession of events, summing up their long ordeal. When he got to the part where L came in, he trailed off, then abruptly interrupted his monologue. “The only other survivor of the massacre at the Monastery was a scholarly half-orc woman named L, which might be short for something else or may be her entire name. She was completely unrelated to the attack and she joined us and helped us seal the Nexus, which we’ll tell you about in a minute. The main reason I bring her up is because she is missing! We were separated in the Nexus and hopefully she wasn’t boiled alive. I suspect she may arrive at some point, possibly with a very heavy tapestry, so I just wanted to let you know that she’s with the Hordebane and to please not confuse her with the attacking hordes of orcs!”
At word of the Nexus, the high priest shoots a sharp look at Kalad, who merely nods grimly. He returns his attention to the tiefling, sorrowed to hear what befell the Monastery, and raising one bushy gray eyebrow as Tanner derails himself. “A scholarly half-orc?” Forgeheart guffaws, unable to contain himself—but it is Kalad’s turn to look sternly at the high priest.
“L is an admirable lass,” the paladin rumbled quietly, “and I’d face any odds no matter how fierce if I’d her at me back.”
Fortunately for High Priest Durkik Forgeheart, his thick, bushy mustashe and braided beard masked the way his jaw dropped at Kalad’s firm affirmation of this half-orc’s character. “Very well, I’ll let the lads know. What happened next?” He turns back to the party quickly, escaping the brunt of the paladin’s angry stare. “Speak up, the rest of ye!”
“We fought our way over the great staircases in the cliffs,” added Grymm. “The orcs just kept coming. There was no end to them.”
“As it seems out there,” Forgeheart grunted. “No end to them.”
He shook his head, his beard bristling with the motion. “So Kalad sealed the tunnels at the Monastery, you were unable to save our other brothers, and you found a surprising ally in a half-orc,” he summarized briefly. “How, then, did you come to be here.” His stern inflection made his words more of a demand than a question.
Grymm scratches his head forgetfully and looks to Tanner. “We fought through hordes of orcs across the cliff stairs and through tunnels. You must forgive me, my mind is hazed when in the heat of battle. I only know that we fought our way to the Nexus and found ourselves here.”
Tanner glanced hopefully at the others, waiting for them to speak up. He rocked on his heels for a few seconds, then spoke up. “You’ll have to forgive them for not speaking up, they’re a little shy. I usually end up doing most of the talking, not like they could stop me! Anyway, Kalad helped us make the way from the Monastery to the Vents. Wending our way through the noxious gases, we made it to the front doorstep of the Nexus, which had some clever traps, as well as some orcs. You probably recall that the Farstriders were sent to tend to the Vents, a superbly dangerous mission. Unfortunately, they weren’t successful at all. Their horses were starving outside the Vents, then we found the adventurers being munched on by a troll who was accompanying plenty of orcs. We sadly were much too late. But lucky for us we were able to burn the troll and we survived. (Really, why would a troll hang out with orcs that throw fire?) We turned on the power to the Nexus and began climbing our way around the rather impressive device. There’s a pattern here, and you can perhaps see why we got our name, because as we tried to make our way up, orcs spilled out ahead of us, behind us, boxing us in. A great big orog emerged and did a bunch of damage to us, but we slayed him. He must have been a commander because after that point the orcs were more disorganized. We eventually made it to the top (very harrowing, let me tell you!) and deciphered the controls. Once we had the Nexus running, steaming water began rushing in, sealing the lower levels. We climbed through a trapdoor at the top and sealed that, then found ourselves here!”
Relaying all of that made him feel tired all over again, so he glanced around to find something to lean on. Unfortunately, dwarves are stout and doughty and audiences were not made for making the petitioners comfortable so no chairs were to be found. Instead, he nonchalantly rested his elbow on That Bitch’s shoulder and smiled winningly.
Grymm pats Tanner on the back (perhaps a bit too hard but only in the best of intentions). “Tanner is a natural born talker. I wish I could be as brave, bold, and well spoken as he! You would not believe his prowess!” Grymm smiles admiringly at the tiefling. Tanner stumbles slightly as Grymm’s hand thumps his back and knocks his arm off of That Bitch’s shoulder. He quickly recovers himself, though, and tries to resettle himself as if nothing happened.
“The Farstriders were defeated,” Forgeheart repeated, somewhat stunned. He had heard of them before they came to Overlook to answer the call, and their list of deeds had preceded them by far. He shook himself sternly. “Well, the lot of you have done well, even if half of you are mute. On the behalf of the Council of Elders, I thank you for not only completing the tasks assigned to you, but for also looking out for the safety of all in the Elsir Vale.” He nodded to Kalad. “You did well to guide them to the Vents after their task was done.”
Turning back to the party he rose and clasped his hands behind his back. “We had not expected to see you here, but your help defending our walls would be most welcome. Though their attack seems haphazard and uncoordinated, deaths are still mounting up on our side. If, however, you would prefer to return to Overlook, the Council is fully prepared to provide the reward you were promised.”
“O’ course they’ll be stayin’!” Kalad said gruffly. “They are here to be helpin’ people, and just now the front is what needs the most help, like as not. They’re not the sort to be in it just fer the glory, or the wimmen, or the money,” he assured the High Priest.
The group glanced at each other, knowing that Diony would likely speak up if he were there. However, he was not, and instead Irjan commented, “Von can gets wimmen dis vay?”
After the conversation was over, they joined the fighting wherever they could do the most good. There was still no word of their half-orc friend, and after a long day of fighting Kalad spent much of the night in meditative prayer at Moradin’s shrine.
Freeday, 28 Reaping, 1468 CY
The next morning, Diony and Skien finally awoke, feeling much refreshed and less broken than they had before the healers drugged them to help them sleep. Skien was quick to join the fight, dashing out during lulls in battle under the covering fire of Diony and the other archers, finishing off the last orcs and then helping bring the wounded back to the healers. His affliction made him tire sooner than the others tasked with those duties, but he used the extra rest time to try and study the ritual he had found that might help him.
Around mid-day, there was a bit of commotion in Bordrin’s Watch on the side away from the fighting. Any member of the Hordebane who was not in the middle of fighting was summoned, and Kalad pushed his way to the front of them when he arrived a few moments later. At the gate from the Dwarfroad where it led to Overlook, there stood a tangle of dwarves arguing and blocking the path of a half-orc who stood thoughtfully and patiently as she waited for them to sort themselves out. She held the guide rope of a horse in one hand and stroked its head with the other. The horse was hitched to an interesting contraption, a small flat platform on wheels, no bigger than two by three sturdy dwarven boots lined up end to end. Lashed to the platform with ropes was a giant roll of fabric at least as big around as the torso of the biggest dwarf standing in her way, and longer than Grymm would be if he were to lay down next to it.
It took but a few moments (and some good diplomacy rolls) for the Hordebane—and Kalad, with his gruff approval—to explain that L was an important member of their team, and that she had brought with her something of great importance to dwarven history. Thus, the Hordebane were reunited with their “pet orc”—a term that Forgeheart may or may not have started among the troops—and though their distrust of L did not go away no matter what was said, they did not dare to disrespect her openly after the first day (a number of them got involved in some kind of brawl during their break, and Kalad returned from his prayers with a broken nose that night).
Wave after wave of orcs were slain, in addition to the orog leader of the orc horde and his shadar-kai lover.
- 377 XP to all players (Total: 5575). Everyone becomes Level 5!
- 45 lb falchion with the black arrow emblem on its hilt picked up by Irjan
- Dagger and rod picked up from the warlock by Grymm
- Diony realized his burn gave the same benefit as a Fireheart Tattoo
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Diony – Session 12
Skien – Session 12
Tanner – Session 12
Irjan – Session 12
Grymm – Session 12
Lilac – Session 12
That Bitch – Session 12
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