As we set off to visit the dwarves, in hopes of getting some provisions for these recovered slaves and to find a place for them to build a home, the ground begins to rumble. I look back to where the Padric and Bjorn stand. The spear has reactivated and the earth is moving again—or has the ground realized that the spear controls it and it wishes to take control of itself again?! Either way, a huge face forms and swallows Bjorn and Padric right before our eyes!
Lorick rushes to their aid, digging with that shovel that we have yet to toss aside for some reason unknown to us. After a few minutes, Critter and I get Lorick to calm down, realizing there is nothing that we can do for them now. They have been underground too long to survive and the spear with them.
We calm the former slaves and head to the dwarven settlement. We fill almost every room available in the few inns within the dwarven home. After a few days, the dwarven coin purses are bit heavier and the former slaves are more capable of travel. Lorick asked the dwarves about some abandoned human settlements. He learned of a few and chose one that seemed most likely to be ignored by the Lion’s Hammer and the rest of Estilin. It was also in a decent location that would allow for trade with both the elven town and the dwarven mine.
It took some time and money, hobgoblin coin for a better purpose to create what the new townspeople needed. We ensured that a road would be built to a quarry for stone. We ensured that the town would be able to trade with the elves and dwarves. I believe the elf ranger Beriadin began to help build that relationship with the elves. We also left some coin for the town itself to get it started—for the purchase of seeds and livestock to begin farming within the new cleared lands around the former ghost town. At least we have a place that we can find a place to rest in our travels while away from Estilin. It would be good to let Faithbringer Varatus know of this location when we are completely confident in its safety. After what he went through with the Church for us he might like a slower pace.
What is next that we need to determine as a hazard on this island. The witches. Before heading toward them, we learn that there are several paths to get into the volcano without having to climb up the side to get to that ledge we saw that witch upon. We get a guide to show us where a bridge crossed the moat. The bridge was hidden—stashed away and simply had to be put in place to give us passage over the crocodiles. The guide attempts to get us to pay him 50 gp to show us the mine entrance, but there was no need for the large cavern was clearly visible. There we parted company with the guide; Lorick, Critter, and I headed into the volcano.
The entrance looks like it has not been used in some time. There are benches lining the walls with hooks above them—a place for the miners to get ready for work, but it has not seen a miner in some time. A rush of cold air pushes at us, telling us not to enter, but we do not listen. I lead the way, staying in the light of Lorick’s spell, but far enough away to allow them to be warned of a trap should I set one off.
The path is fairly straight when we have to decide to go on a path that slopes up or one that slopes down. I decide that up makes the most sense, as the witches are higher in the volcano that where we entered, but I decide to have the others check to see if either path is more traveled. As Critter is looking around, I hear the most beautiful voice I have ever heard singing from the path that slopes down. Lorick hears the singing also. We head toward it.
Critter attempts to stop me from finding that voice. Why would he do that? The voice is so amazing, how could you not want to be near it?
The tunnel becomes very steep, almost vertical. Lorick leaps down. I follow him and land gracefully as he did. The voice is closer. The voice is straight ahead.
The path opens into a cavern that we cannot see the ceiling in. In the center of the cavern is a feather littered floor. Feathers of black and some of other colors strewn all about. The singing stopped. Initially startled by the lack of the beautiful voice, but that did not last long—it lasted until the light Lorick had been carrying suddenly went out after a crackling voice spoke in a strange language from above.
Lorick recast light on the rock he was carrying. As he did I ducked into the shadows. Then a rope fell from above, one end landing on the ground near Lorick’s feet and the other disappearing into the darkness above.
We searched around. There was no other way out of here. The door was now sealed. The rope seemed to be the only way. Lorick used an arrow to send his magical light upwarded where we could see several ledges with movement on them. Lorick attempted to climb the rope but only made it halfway before falling.
We contemplate several methods to get up to those ledges. I attempted rig another line to help us climb, but could not figure it out. We could start a fire and bring whatever is up there down to us. Lorick had an idea. He cast his create water spell repeatedly and began filling the cavern with water—we would float up and guide ourselves with the rope! After a few moments, something from above swooped down—a giant bird, in a cave?!
The creature attempted to strike Lorick but missed. We got our bearings when a second one, this one brightly colored rather than black like the room, swooped down, also missing everyone. We prepared for them to swoop again. I awaited them to swoop down before trying to strike out at them. Critter took his advantage and dropped one of them with several twangs of his bow string. The other one rushed back up to the ledges.
Lorick began filling the room with water. We reached the ledges, the other bird was gone—obviously escaping from the secret door that was poorly constructed on one ledge. One of the other ledges had a nest with eggs in it. Lorick covered the eggs with the body of the bird—more like a birdman—that Critter had put down. We then left that cavern behind us and went through the door.
The next cavern had a way out, up or down through a winding passage. We went up. After a short time, we came to a door. The door was steal, Lorick said had some magic on it, was locked, and I am sure it was trapped. It was too out of place not to be. With limited options, I picked the lock. Before I could finish though a needle like blade shot out of the lock itself. I was nimble and moved out of its way. With one more thing left to try, I knocked on the door. No answer so we headed down the winding path.
The winding path came to a wall. A dead end. Or so it seemed. Critter and Lorick were standing on a trapdoor. I quickly unlocked it and we took the ladder below it.
We came to a platform with a spiral staircase leading down. The rest of the cavern was dark, save a bright orange spot down at the very bottom. It was a long way down so we navigated the stairs carefully.
At the bottom of the stairs we came to a door. It was not locked, but we did not know about traps, so I attempted to kick it down. That was painful. The door stayed put while I hobbled about for a moment. Lorick tried to kick it down also. Same result. Critter, after watching us, opens the door by the lever. No trap. But what was behind that door made us wish it was trapped.
The door open to a room that housed the heart of the Lion’s Hammer weapon making. Four massive forges offered numerous slaves the opportunity to work themselves to death. I quickly ducked into the shadows. Lorick shouted at one of the guards who in turn killed a slave that Lorick claimed “was not being worked to death.” I am not sure what had happened to Lorick for that was not like him. Lorick left back through the door, closing it behind him.
I tried to stay in the shadows as I made my way toward one of the other caverns that left this main chamber. I saw too many guards to attempt to free these slaves at this time so I hoped to find someplace that I can make something happen. Critter was also in the room. He was heading across the room, seeming to be looking around and checking out the weapons. I headed out of the main room.
In the side cavern, I found where the new weapons were being stored. There were two guards who noticed me. Of course they confronted me—stopping me from entering the storeroom. I attempted to talk my way in, claiming to be an inspector and in need of checking on the progress and quality. Asking my name, I claimed I was Critter. Not sure way I did that. It did not help my situation any. Perhaps in my mind I figured the Lion’s Hammer knew the name Critter from the Governess. Perhaps I panicked. Either way, Critter might be mad at me when he gets picked up for breaking and entering.
Well they call for more guards and I do as I always do—I let my mouth talk me into a fight. In hindsight, I probably could have scared those guards to their knees, but my mouth just likes to mock these Lion’s Hammer fools instead. This time, my cockiness might have sealed my fate.
The guards attempt to grab me and show me the lava river. I wiggle free and run into the storeroom. A couple of guards give chase. I duck and weave into the crates, looking for a place to hide. No place looks good, so I throw a couple of weapons at the chasing guards so they keep coming. I know—I am insane at this point! I rush past one of the shelves and notice it is wobbly—I loved playing dominoes as a kid!
I ran up the shelf and bound up onto it. The extra weight brought it down, hitting the next, and hitting the next. Before long all the shelves had fallen, some guards were down, some slaves were down, and the other guards ran!
But when they ran they closed and locked the door behind them.
I went to the door and unlocked it. I was about to burst out when I realized I have an small unskilled band of freedom fighters behind me and a huge pile of weapons. So I equip the remaining slaves with the most basic weapons I can find and give them a quick lesson—“this pointy end into the bad guy.” Before they turned on me, I took my fake Lion’s Hammer tabard off and tossed it away.
I hear Lorick call for me to come out from the other side of the door. I thought Lorick had left? Unsure of what is going on, I decide to go forward with my plan. I throw open the door and step aside as my mini-battalion rushes through. Amazingly, they manage to cut down a guard and not get killed!
Critter takes the lead, calling for the slaves turned freedom fighters to follow him. Lorick and I dispatch the other guard near here and survey the room. There are slaves to free. he and I decide that that is the best course of action—thin out the guards and free the slaves that we can.
We quickly make waste of a few guards and get a key. Using that key, I free the slaves that are chained to the forges. The fight is going well. I attempt to keep the weapons out of the guards hands and Lorick quickly dispatches them. Critter is on the other side of the room, attempting to dispatch a cyclops or two with the help of a dozen or so slaves. It looks like we might hurt the Lion’s Hammer efforts.
“Watch out!” Lorick yells to me. I glance over my shoulder and see two cyclops rushing at me. With a guard still in front of me, I decide to tumble backwards through the legs of the rushing cyclops. I miss and seem to trip up one of them. Or so I thought until it vomited right on me. Somewhat confused, Lorick steps up and gives me a chance to regain my feet. He quickly finishes off one of the cyclops and then dispatched the one that vomited on me. I dispatch the guard and free the remaining slaves near us.
Heading over to Lorick, who crossed the room, I see the body of Critter. Badly beaten—it looked like he took several large club strikes to the chest, head, legs….well, all over. Lorick takes the head of Critter and we head forward.
Across the room from the storeroom we come to another alcove. There is another cyclops here. He is massive compared to the others, wearing armor, and smashing cages of slaves without remorse. Unable to allow such an action to continue, I through a dagger at the cyclops to get his attention. He turns and flashes a smirk.
The armored cyclops rushes us and swings at Lorick, who falls to a heap on the ground! The cyclops turns to me. I look up at him, look at the lifeless body of Lorick, look at the cyclops, look at the cyclops’ club, and rush between his legs. I run past that giant brute and out the passage behind him, into daylight, right into a massive Lion’s Hammer camp!
I glance around and see a small city of Lions’ Hammer soldiers! This must be on the side of the island that we have not ventured. Good thing we had not! As I look around, images fill my mind—Sir captured and missing, Jiminy dead from acid, Bjorn and Padric swallowed by the ground itself, Critter mutilated, and Lorick smashed by a cyclops. I look down at my weapons in my hands and look up at the camp—city of the enemy. I think about my fallen allies. I decide to survive and quickly duck into the shadows….