Deep under Stonefang pass, having learnt a little of the mighty battle between stone giant and honorable dwarves, the small group of diverse races on a simple mission to re-open a pass and rid it of the orc menace, were to face their most testing time yet. Through it they would find not only more about the truth of their quest but also the resilience of their party and the strength of the bonds building between them.
Cautiously emerging from the stairwell with the stench of battle between the cult of the Shadowed Chain and the orcs so fresh that the blood still dripped off the walls, the party found two orc archers wandering the caverns. Although Niema and Vogir stole a march on them, the tables were quickly turned as they found themselves facing an Orc Troll Shaman and his pet Ogre while somehow becoming surrounded on all sides by more of the bow wielding orcs.
The situation was stranger than that though. It quickly became clear that the area was the scene of a massive cultish ritual. Surrounding a central pit were two altars and four magical circles of different colours.
Orsestes was quick to engage the Shaman and then the Ogre. His force of will drew the battle to him and Bayern drew on all his gods power to shine divine prophesy and might upon the huge ogre. Huge damage was inflicted on the creature by both Vogir and Orestes with the help of the cleric, but the Shaman was dealing big blows himself with phantom claws striking from distance dazing all they struck with their shadowy touch. What was more, it quickly became clear that the mask of the blackened troll that the shaman wore was no mere ornament, but endowed him with the ability to regenerate from his wounds.
At the same time, Niema and Rudha-an were moving through the other side of the cavern dealing with the menace of the archers. Niema was dealing efficiently with her quarry and even found time to cast her devils shadow behind the shaman to give him something extra to think about. The druid however was not able to find his feet - his spells repeatedly missed their target or simply couldn't find their natural power among these cold stones.
However, the straight-forward fight was about to be thrown into confusion. As was becoming familiar, the earth shook as though mighty fists were beating against it. This sent everyone flying off their feet and being thrown in random directions across the floor of the cavern. That no one fell into a brazier, or worse, the pit was a miracle.
Soon the battle started to turn in the party's favour. A few of the archers fell and they were even able to fell the ogre - the luckless Rhuda-an landing the killing blow. They had also discovered that the magic circles endowed those standing in them with enhancements to either their fighting abilities or even to heal their wounds and they were able to manoeuvre the orcs from them and themselves into them.
But the cleverest manoeuvre of the fight was still to be played out as Orestes danced as he fought pulling and pushing the shaman until, at the edge of the pit he was pushed over and into the pit to his death.
His Safewing amulet saved him from the fall, but Vogir kicking a brazier down to shine light on him sent arrows thudding into the Shaman, dropping him dead.
Or not. The troll-like shaman simply got up and continued fighting. But this time the earthquake's aftershocks drew their most comic picture as both Vogir and Orestes, damaged as they were were shaken into the pit, 40 feet down nearly to their death.
But this, of course spelt the end for the Shaman as he was burned by a brazier being shoved into his face as he lay dying.
With the battle over the party found more orcs waiting for them, but bloodied as they were they soon were able to kill them and find the rest of the Shadowed Chain dwarves that were holding out against the onslaught.
(more on this in the next post!)