Huddled in the midst of the old fortress ruins, the group comes to a decision to advance uphill and toward whatever forces are mustering against them. As they weave their way through the wreckage of what must have been in the distant past a formidable structure, Rory spots a Kudra warrior. It disappears in the fog before they can attack.
A short time later Grog nearly falls into a hole in the ground. Examination reveals a mostly collapsed passage leading into the hill. Tristan can't find any trace of the passage being used by anything more than small animals. The space is tight and after brief consideration they decide to move on and leave the hole behind.
The ground flattens out, though the ruins still surround them. Rory, who has taken the scouting position several paces ahead of the rest of the party, spots a quick flare of fiery light that instantly arcs skyward and towards them. He yells out a warning just before the object crashes down and explodes in their midst. Everyone dives for cover but Shujen and Gerty aren't quite fast enough. Their injuries are light.
Two more of the clay fire pots sail through the darkness and explode among the group. Still desperately trying to wipe the foul, burning liquid off from the last blast, Gerty is scorched and thrown head over heals over Tristan by another of the missiles. She cries out in pain and rolls around trying to put out the flames before passing out. The rest of the group rips her burring armor off and thankfully puts out the fire, but the damage has been done.
As they take what cover they can find, Grog performs what first aid he can on Gerty as a rasping Kudra voice cries out, "We have you surrounded. Surrender or die!"
A quick discussion rules out surrendering and a charge seems unadvisable. With Gerty unconscious they decide their best course is sneak back to the passage and quickly explore it as a possible escape.
After determining that the passage is passable by everyone, and that it at least continues a short way into the hill, they file in as quietly as possible. With a tremendous show of strength, Grog pulls a heavy stone slab over the opening behind them. By the glow of Shujen's light stone they descend into the hill.
The passage turns out to be of an extra large design and very damp. As soon as they determine that they will not immediately be followed by their enemies, Shujen sets out to heal Gerty and Rory explores further. A partially submerged fountain room lies beyond, illuminated by strange, glowing algae in the water. Beyond that room lies a short passage and two sets of stairs.
When Gerty comes to after her healing, she informs the group that the passage and ruins are of Firbolga design. Rory finds a finely crafted, unrusted shortsword within the fountain's bowl.
As they are deciding which stairway to try out, Grog suddenly remembers the Kudra he has tied up in his bag. A combination interrogation/torture session follows where they learn the following tidbits from the uncooperative captive. He serves a being called Lord Grist (who apparently will kill them all) and there is another important figure by the name of Master Scrank (who apparently will kill them all too). Grog repackages the captive Kudra and stows him away for later use, with the evil creature's last muffled words being, "I will pee pee in your bag!"
Trying both the stairs they discover that both pretty much dead end, but the left one has a very tight crawlspace that leads outside. Rory checks it and discovers what he believes to be the kidnapped citizens of Aronsborough. Grog will never fit though however.
At an impasse, the group begins searching the walls for hidden doors. Gerty's knowledge leads her to believe that all Firbolga dwellings were riddled with Slave passages. Their search pans out when they find a stuck door in the fountain room. Another display of "Grog Power ™" opens the stone door and the group is soon on the surface again.
Rory climbs a tree from which he can see a line of figures moving away through the fog. The captives perhaps? He can't be sure.
The group decides to backtrack the trail and finds the wood-lashed cells where the captives were being held. Moving down the trail the opposite way they come to a clearing with much activity. A huge, intact tower sits to one side of the clearing with a massive, giant-sized door in its south wall. From hiding they witness an eighteen foot Morodos swathed in dark wools speaking with none other than Master Greyleg and the mercenary Kirith Syvani, Spider. Daagar soldiers mill about the clearing.
The Aronsborough prisoners are led into the tower as the adventurers decide on a plan. It is decided that Rory will get a closer look while cloaked in an invisibility spell, while the others fortify themselves with Ewald and Shujen's protective spells in preparation for an attack.
Greyleg and Spider depart the clearing, presumably heading back to their boat. The robed Kudran figure from the rooftop battle arrives in the clearing as well. Next to him shuffles a blurry figure that most closely resembles a skinless, ten foot tall weasel with elongated arms and wickedly extended claws. Shujen and Ewald both immediately recognize the creature as a demon - a blasphemous enemy of the natural order. The Kudra sorcerer and the demon both enter the tower.
At closer quarters thanks to his invisibility, Rory spots their prize tucked into the nine foot high belt of the giant presumed to be "Lord Grist". The magical rod fits the description they were given perfectly. When he feels sure the others are prepared he makes his move.
Calling a globe of fire into existence on Lord Grist's head he nimbly jumps and grabs the scepter from the giant's belt and rolls away with the prize. The battle commences as the heroes charge the clearing.
The giant quickly bats away the fire and roars as Grog, Gerty and Ewald start chopping at his legs, scoring several damaging blows that serve to enrage the giant. Thankfully they manage to avoid any of Lord Grist's attacks, though even a strong parry by the giant's huge mace sends their axes and swords flying.
It's not long before the demon comes charging out of the tower and joins the battle. Tristan and Rory attack the Daagar soldiers with swords and fire, all the while keeping one eye peeled for the possible return of Greyleg and Spider.
Then the world goes dark.
Yes, once again the brave heroes find themselves swathed in magical darkness as the enemies favorite trick gets played again with great effect. Not only do the Daagar seem capable of seeing in the inky blackness, but Lord Grist seems unhindered as well.
Doing the perhaps smart thing, Tristan, Rory and Ewald retreat out of the darkness. Doing perhaps something other than the smart thing, Grog continues to battle the giant. In the dark. And blind. No one is sure where Gerty is until her battle cry can be heard from within the tower itself, showing that her choice was to advance instead of retreat. Or maybe she just got turned around?
In any case, it is only Ewald's shield of faith and maybe Shujen's blessings that keep Grog from getting tapped by the business end of Lord Grist's mace. Tristan summons a whirling, glowing sword of faith and continues to attack in the general direction of the giant, keeping his attacks high enough to hopefully avoid damaging his deranged, Hodran friend.
Then a blood curdling Kudra scream comes from the tower. With it's ebbing the magical darkness lifts and Ewald sees Gerty standing within the tower, her great axe buried in the skull of Master Skrank. At this distance he is unable to help as he then sees the demon let loose with a terrible, disemboweling swipe that sends Gerty over the lip of a giant hole within the tower. Her screams end abruptly.
Once again able to see their foes, the heroes renew their attacks. The demon charges back into the clearing. Shujen and Ewald concentrate on the demon as Grog continues to battle Lord Grist. Rory, in desperation attempts what their dragon Mistress' forbid - to use the rod. Gripping it tightly he thinks "Death to the demon" as he points it at the creature. Rory's arms sort of tingles as the demon sneers and attempts to rip a hole in Shujen's side.
So much for magical rods of ultimate power.
Tristan, having a moment to consider his options, decides to try his trusty bow on the giant in hopes of hitting something a bit more vulnerable than Lord Grist's armored ankles. His first shaft clangs loudly off the giant's helmet, but the second sinks into Grist's unprotected cheek, causing the powerful Morodos to scream in pain and make a hasty retreat toward the tower.
Grog is slow to follow, having been somewhat dazed and winded from avoiding the worst of the giant's attacks. (let us remember that fighting opponents larger than himself is something of a new experience for Grog.)
At the doors to the tower Lord Grist throws his weapon within and grabs hold of the handles as a line of Kudra bowmen let loose with a volley of arrows. With Tristan's fletched shaft still jutting from his face
he takes a great lungful of air and breaths out a horrid, wreaking fog over the clearing, then slams the doors closed.
The effects on those in the clearing is horrible and instant. All but Shujen get the rancid smoke into their lungs and eyes and fall to the ground coughing and spitting up bile, helpless to defend themselves. We should note that one other seems unaffected. The demon smiles a wicked, weasely grin and does his best to end Tristan's life.
Although overcome from the effects of the giant's breath weapon, Tristan manages enough of a defense to keep the demon's attack from being deadly, but still takes a nasty wound.
Shujen sends his magical spell blade into the demon's exposed back.
Ewald shakes off his condition long enough to sink his axe into the beast that killed Gerty and the beast dissolves in a hissing puddle of acid.
Silence falls over the clearing.
Eventually all in the group recovers from the stinking breath of the giant. Rory aids Tristan in taking Wical Illiana's healing potion, which slowly begins to knit the wound.
With Ewald's axe, Grog begins chopping furiously at the weathered but still strong oak of the reinforced tower doors.
Tristan, Ewald and Rory have what they were required to retrieve. Mistress Tashea's magical scepter has been recovered. But the Aronsborough prisoners might still be alive within the tower, and Grandma Gerty, or at least her body, is still inside.
Grog seems eager to continue the chase, and though the doors are very thick, they will eventually yield to the psychotically strong Hodra.