While we were searching Loethar’s room, Malin, Theseus and Thames had decided to explore the stairs leading down to what we assumed were an old dungeon. From what Thames told me later “Malin wuz freaky quiet, despite walkin along not carin where iz feet wuz steppin.”, and apparently, Theseus was also almost silent, “probs coz he’s from a underground maze posse.”.
At the bottom of the stairs, they found themselves in a large, well lit, square hall. Its vaulted ceiling held up by tall pillars. Directly in front of them in the centre of the room lay piles of boxes, supplies, bolts of cloth and other items obviously stolen from the various raided trading convoys. Across the hall, a massive pair of ornate double doors dominated the far wall, flanked by two smaller doors and again the walls at either side stood two large bugbears, in front of giant gongs. Obviously ready to sound an alarm if say, a large Minotaur and a belligerent gnome happened to enter.
Of course, this would have been a brilliant idea if said Minotaur and angry lawn ornament didn’t immediately charge the bugbears on seeing them. Malin rushed at the nearest enemy, slashing with his ridiculously oversized spear, severing the poor monster’s jugular, while Theseus dashed across the room, head held low and skewered the other one on his horns.
Moments later, the rest of the party joined them and I could hear sounds of distant hammering, like that of a smithy and the ranger could hear some sort of discussion going on behind the door to the left of the double doors. Looking around there was another door near the stairs and two corridors ran off from near each of the gongs. Down these corridors appeared to be cell doors. This could be where Zander was being held!
Theseus and I walked down the shorter corridor to attempt to open the cell doors there while Malin scouted the other corridor, which appeared to be longer. The rest of the party searched the raided stores and supplies for anything potentially useful.
Liking the look of the first cell door he came across, Malin took a swing at it and on the second attempt, smashed it open. Inside the tiny, dark, damp cell, a young man hung in chains from the wall, near death.
Before Malin could even say hello and ask if the man was enjoying himself, there was an enormous roar and the door near the stairs slammed open. An enormous hulk of what I could only assume was a hill giant stomped out, swinging a huge battle axe. His size was matched by his extreme ugliness. Apart from having one eye larger and higher than the other on his misshapen face, his back was hunched awkwardly to one side and scars showed through the gaps in his almost rotten armour.
The giant wasn’t our only problem though. Bounding out alongside him were two huge apes, while on the other side of the room all the doors burst open and we were being charged by two squads of bugbears lead by what was obviously their captain, a much larger beast wearing almost professional looking armour and swinging a very nasty looking morning star.
This was a very nasty situation. Not only were Theseus and I on the other side of the room facing the bugbear captain, but the rest of the party were spread out on the other side of the hall facing multiple attackers from all directions and the alarm had been raised.
The two apes bounded across the room flanking the deformed giant, one bouncing off the wall past the mage, attempting to bite him in passing but bouncing off some sort of magical shield. The giant and the other ape charged into the centre of the party, swinging wildly but being slammed to the floor by Jasper. Un-phased, the brute simply stood up again and slashed him with his axe but not before Ash managed to stick an arrow in his hide.
On our side of the room, Theseus took things in hand and whirled his hammer around braining the bugbear captain, knocking him flat. Stabbing down with my longsword, I heard air escape as I punctured a lung.
“He’s mine!” roared Theseus and it was obvious that the minotaur was going to be able to handle this group, so I called up my Skald’s aura and rushed across to try and aid the rest of the party against the hill giant. A bugbear stabbed at me as I passed, but fortune sometimes does favour the storyteller and the wound was only minor.
As I was rushing across the room, five more bugbears charged screaming out from the central doors to attack Theseus and another three from the right door rushed Jasper overwhelming him.
While Vogue slashed at one of the apes, striking it with a glancing blow, Malin left the prisoner and rushed out from the cell immediately killing a bugbear.
Reeling under a hail of blows from the remaining two bugbears, I could almost see the wave of thought energy coming from Jasper as he blasted them, the hill giant and an ape surrounding him. Both bugbears practically vapourised.
At this point, Erevan thought it useful to bring in reinforcements and summoned a flaming hell hound to his aid. With a shout to his allies and a sweep of his arm, a scything blast of fire struck the giant and ape, while Thames and Vogue dived for the floor and the room was filled with a smell of signed fur and greasy back hair.
Theseus and the captain were locked in a mighty battle, the minotaur going into a berserker rage.
Having bounced off the mage’s shield, the other ape jumped off the wall it was clinging to and across the prone Thames and Vogue, over Malin’s head and onto Jasper, biting all of them along the way. Ash managed to loose a volley of arrows at the ape as it past, leaving them stuck in its pelt and spraying blood from the wounds.
I chanted a few words in an ancient bardic language that my master had taught me. While supposedly being a short satirical comment on an enemy’s bravery, the real effect was that three of the bugbears around me fell to the floor dying and their captain winced in pain. I took another minor blow from the remaining pair of bugbears, but stood my ground.
Thames and Vogue both jumped up from the floor, striking out. Thames with a massive cleaving blow on the hill giant, nicking the ape next to him as he followed through, while vogue stabbed the ape with her rapier, slashing it across the chest.
Jasper sent another mental blast at both hill giant and ape together, slapping the ape with a powerful force, just as the mage commanded the hell hound to blast the giant with fire, stepping into a conjured portal of fire and teleporting away to a more suitable fighting range for a mage (very, very far away being ideal).
The giant wasn’t done yet though, lashing out with a huge swing of his battle axe hitting both Thames and Jasper and throwing Jasper across the room.
“This must be the jailer!” Ash shouted from across the room, “look at the belt of keys!”, pointing them out by sticking another two arrows in the giant’s backside through the keyring.
Theseus was definitely winning in his battle with the bugbear captain, although taking some heavy blows from its morning star, he obviously had the upper hand, landing much stronger strikes with his hammer.
My two bugbear friends suddenly became one thanks to a simple thrust of my longsword and with a mighty swipe of a very similar longsword, Thames staggered the jailer and clipped the ape across its side, just before Vogue sliced the ape in two with her rapier.
Screaming something probably profane in Gnomish*, Malin lowered his spear like a lance and charged at the jailer. Unfortunately, his aim wasn’t as good as his battle cry and he ran straight under the giant’s legs, tripping and falling on his face on the other side.
As the giant looked through his legs puzzled at what had just happened, Jasper shouted a challenge at him
“Down here you monkey humping gimp! You’re mine!” and with the immediate attention of the giant and his remaining ape, he blasted giant with a mental attack that started it toppling slowly backwards. Seeing the increasing shadow of the falling giant growing around him, Malin just managed to scramble out of the way and avoid being flattened.
The ape then staggered back as a blast of flame shot from Erevan’s hands hit it full in the face. Recovering, it bounced off the hellhound but was decapitated in mid-air as it tried to leap at Jasper.
Staggering to its feet, the giant jailer stomped on the gnome and I heard a crack as he went down badly injured.
His friend the minotaur was doing better. Swinging downwards with a devastating strike, Theseus practically pulverised the bugbear captain just as I eviscerated the remaining bugbear.
Another arrow from Ash brought the jailer to his knees and stabbing it through the heart, Thames finished him off.
Binding our wounds, we searched the jailers room. A large chest opened with a small key and then was smashed to splinters by a very annoyed Malin, who just needed something to hit.
Before it was disintegrated, the chest revealed an intricate elven amulet. Identified as a powerful protective ward, the party decided it would be best warn by Jasper as he was typically taking the brunt of any enemy attacks.
“Aarrrrrrrggh. Stop, Please for the love of Crurk!”
The sounds of torture came from a door at the end of the cell block. We prepared ourselves for another fight and opened the door..
*this isn’t difficult, almost every word of Gnomish is profane. Even some of the punctuation should only be used after the nine bells watershed.