With little time before more orcs arrived, the party sprang into action. Everyone agreed that it was time to make a run for it. Some noises from a nearby room prompted curiosity, and opening the door revealed a kitchen and a solitary cowering goblin. Adjacent to the kitchen was a small latrine. Magus dispatched the goblin while the others checked other doors from the main hall, looking for anything useful. They found nothing. Near where the goblin had cowered, Magus found and took a small keg: later inspection revealed it to be full of some kind of strong alcohol.
The party decided that the best option would be to escape down the latrine. The foul-smelling opening was little more than a large stone chute descending most of the way down the cliff. Despite being covered with all sorts of unmentionable orc slime, it seemed like the best way to avoid the incoming orcs and make pursuit difficult. A rope was secured in the kitchen, and the party descended one at a time. Gyth went first, making it down safely to a huge mound of steaming sewage. Arkan did not fare as well, losing his grip on the rope and falling… fortunately, Gyth was able to catch him well enough to prevent injuries. Donavan, however, was less lucky: he fell all the way into the sewage pile, ending up neck-deep in the stuff. Meanwhile, up above, the orcs had arrived and spotted Magus in the kitchen. He quickly untied the rope and dove head-first into the latrine, pushing out with his arms and legs to slow his fall. He cannonned out of the chute and landed on Donavan.
After freeing Donavan, the party ran into the woods, trailing brown and green muck. Darak did his best to hide everyone’s tracks and conceal signs of passage… despite the sticky situation, an excellent Survival roll meant he was able to direct everyone out of sight and mask their trail. The overpowering scent would confuse any trackers temporarily. After moving quickly and quietly for a quarter hour, the party found a stream in which to rinse themselves off. Once clean and on the other side, Darak worked as hard and as fast as he could to patch up his wounded party members, applying various strange-smelling herb poultices and incanting quietly over them. His efforts exhausted him, but most of the party was healed, and they were all able to move onward.
The decision was to follow the strange-symboled map that they had found in Norgrug’s chambers. One side of the map showed the local countryside, marked with a distinctive rune also found on a short staff that had accompanied the map. The other side of the map appeared to show the region around the ancient city of Teledil, and was marked with a similar rune. The party reasoned that the fastest escape (and the quickest route to more adventure) would be to ollow the map and take the “teleport,” or whatever it was, to the Teledil ruins on the north side of the mountains.
After an hour or so of careful traveling while covering their tracks, the party found a wide, shallow depression in a cliffside with an unnaturally flat back wall. Touching the staff to the wall caused it to open, two huge stone doors quietly rotating outward and revealing a tunnel leading into the earth. The map didn’t mark a teleport: it marked the ends of this tunnel! The group decision was to rest up for a day or two, gathering supplies, and then venture into the tunnel to see what adventures came (and to put distance between themselves and a lot of extremely angry orcs).
The morning of the second day, they were spotted: a group of goblin scouts, mounted on wolves, had finally tracked them down. They were easily fended off, but one scout escaped, meaning their position would soon be known. With the clock ticking down once again, the party entered the tunnel once more and began their journey through the darkness.
The entrance of the tunnel was littered with debris from the orcs’ previous passage: discarded waterskins, shredded cloth, and foul-smelling fist-sized lumps of some sort of meat skewered on the ends of long sticks. The tunnel itself was unmistakably dwarven in make: the stone was smooth and unbroken, flawlessly carved, their path perfectly straight. The passage was about 25 feet wide and 30 feet high, the roof forming an arch. The first few hours of their journey passed like a dream: the walls and floor never changed, the only sound the steady rythm of their own feet.
Eventually, though, the flawless walls began to be broken. Small cracks were visible in the walls and floor. They grew bigger and more frequent as the party progressed. At one point, they passed the remains of an orc skeleton, his bones picked clean and gleaming in the torchlight. His near-pristine armor and the lack of dust hinted that he had probably not been there very long.
The cracks continued to get bigger and more frequent… eventually, they found themselves at a large crevice in the floor about 25 feet wide. Arkan stepped forward… after concentrating for several seconds, he gestured slightly. A stone bridge rumbled out of the side of the crevice, forming a smooth and narrow passage over the dark pit. As the echoes slowly died away, the party carefully moved across.
The dying echoes gave way to a new sound, like falling gravel, that grew gradually louder. Soon, a swarm of small red insects, like large ten-legged earwigs, flooded into them. Torchlight glinted off of their bright red shells as they rushed forward, swarming and biting everybody at once. Magus took off running down the hall, fleeing most of them but drawing a subswarm in chase after him. The party swung at the red-shelled bugs with their torches, trying to burn and smash them.
Darak, meanwhile, began to chant, and tap his feet against the stone in a rythmic, mesmerizing dance. The swarm was captivated, ceasing their attack, swirling around Darak in a spiral of tiny legs. The dance changed slightly, and the swarm departed, flowing into cracks in the floor and walls. Meanwhile, Magus realized he wasn’t going to outrun the swarm: they were gaining on him. He whirled around, brandishing his torch. The rest of the party sped towards him to help. The rest of the swarm was dispatched quickly, one torch finally managing to set many of them on fire. The rest retreated, dispersed. It turned out to be fortunate that Magus had turned around when he did: another large gap lay in front of them! Fortunately, this one was small enough for everyone to jump.
A short time later, the party encountered a new opening in the rocky wall: this time, it appeared to be some sort of burrowed tunnel. The smell emanating from it was the same distinctive (and nasty) scent that had accompanied the meat-on-sticks found near the entrance. Concluding that the orcs had been hunting something for food, the party decided to do some hunting of their own, and filed into the narrow tunnels.
The burrowed tunnels turned out to be home to more bugs: similar in shape to the first, but man-sized and with bright yellow shells. The resulting fight was brief, but left Arkan dangerously wounded. Deciding that hunting maybe wasn’t the brightest idea after all, the party returned to the main tunnel, where Darak applied his healing abilities once again.