Our passage through the mountains was uneventful, but we were ambushed by orcs as we entered into the woods that are supposed to lead us to a human settlement. They were followers of Gruumsh and avid followers of their leader. While most were slain, we managed to capture one. We did our best to question him, but his allegiance was firm and we learned little more than that “our doom was coming.”
Upon reaching the village, it wasn’t long before a spokesman met with us to learn of our intent and hear our news about the orcs. They seemed rather incredulous that the orcs could be of any concern, but my tale of our recent ambush was compelling. We were recommended a guide who could lead us to an old castle keep in the forest. It seemed a likely gathering place for an army if they were in the area.
The keep was in poor repair, having been defeated by an army of giants at some point in the past,. We surveyed collapsed sections of curtain wall and tower, and the boulders used to smash them, as we planned our assault of the place. Our cunning strategies were of little use, however, as there wasn’t so much as a scout to meet us as we charged through the gaps in the walls. We were left going building-to-building to find any fight at all.
Eventually, we fell upon some orcs and a minotaur preparing a breakfast in the keep’s kitchen. I caught them in the small room with my icy breath, and Ohlakani followed it with a stroke of magical lightning. I sensed an evil presence behind a heavy door beyond the kitchen, leading to the keep’s tower. We regrouped around the door before I kicked it in, but our attempt at a rush had been expected. Electricity crackled through the door, and leapt through our group. In truth I think our pride at being so easily predicted was the greater wound, and we watched as several goblins scampered up the tower stairs in retreat.
Spike was the first after them, and though he delivered a solid punch to one of them, it vanished in a puff of smoke rather than crying out in any pain. This wizardly goblin was proving to be troublesome! I followed up behind and buried my sword into another of the duplicates. I was rewarded with a meaty crunch and groan of great pain that told me I had found the true caster through Bahamut’s good guidance.
We had reached the top of the tower – or rather what was left of it, with everything above the current floor having been demolished. The goblin lifted a flask to its lips and downed its contents. Elodie had used the time to retreat out of the kitchen and climb to its roof. From her vantage she could just see the goblin as it raised the flask, and loosed a carefully aimed arrow. To our frustration, it passed cleanly through its head without slowing, and another clone vanished in a puff.
The remaining goblin let out a scream of alarm and stepped out into empty air beyond the shattered wall. I hurriedly gathered my bow and launched an arrow after him, but my aim was not equal to the task. Spike raced back down the stairs, hoping to cut him off. I readied another arrow, as I saw a streak of lightning swat the goblin and spin him around. Looking back over the tower’s crumbled wall, I could see that Ohlakani had flown up above the keep and was racing to cut off the goblin’s escape. Now, too, however, I could see that the goblin’s call for help had been answered. Worg riders and a fiendish Bhargest had burst forth from the stables into the courtyard – where they found Spike exiting the kitchen. For those above roof level, however, a greater concern was a manticore that had burst up through the collapsed roof of another dilapidated building.
The goblin had steadied himself and identified the source of the lightning bolt while I had been distracted by the arrival of the new foes. He returned fire with a lightning bolt of his own at Ohlakani, and I could only watch as she spiraled down onto the roof of the kitchen building near Elodie. Now I drew back the string of my bow with all my might and loosed the arrow at the goblin. It struck him hard and threw him backwards, and then he fell and crunched into the ground with a solid impact. Satisfied with his fate, I grabbed back up my sword and raced downstairs.
I exited the kitchen and launched myself upon the Bhargest in the courtyard, calling upon all the might that Bahamut could deliver to my swing. The bhargest was felled by the blow, and I could see that the party was mopping up the remaining enemy. Elodie had tended to Ohlakani, and as I looked up to their place on the roof, she released a spread of arrows in rapid succession that drove deep into the manticore. It was foaming at the mouth like a rabid beast, and it scrabbled over the roof tiles to reach Ohlakani. It managed one last swipe at her before it succumbed to its wounds and collapsed. As Spike pummeled a worg rider to death, I ran my great sword through the beast beneath it, and finally the castle was ours.
Quite literally, as it turns out, for among the treasures we found later on while searching the grounds, was a deed to the keep. I’m not quite certain that anyone remains to which it might be presented, since the empire it belonged to is long gone, but is an amusing find nonetheless. A more chilling find, however, was a detailed map with the orc army’s plans. It appears as though this was a forward unit of the army that was preparing or helping plan the invasion.