After leaving Roxbury, the party set out to the northeast, towards the reported location of Norgrug’s base. As the first afternoon waned, Shadow the hawk spotted a group of goblins poking around a mountain meadow. After brief deliberation, the party decided to quietly approach and investigate. Arkan tripped over a branch, alerting the goblins that something was in the woods, but the ensuing fight was over quickly. One goblin was captured, and a search of the meadow made it apparent that the goblins had simply been looking for loot in a spot where there had once been a battle of some sort.
Magus was quick to volunteer to interrogate the surviving goblin. He insisted on being the one to do the job… and as soon as he got agreement from the others, he then suddenly ran off into the woods, muttering something about needing to find a squirrel. The party waited a couple of minutes… then decided they should probably interrogate the goblin without him, just in case Magus didn’t find a squirrel. To everyone’s disappointment, he didn’t, and we still have no idea what he had planned.
The goblin’s name turned out to be Splug. The only useful information he had was that there was apparently a secret tunnel leading from a nearby cave to the abandoned building where “Norgrug the Unslayable” was located. The party never did get a satisfactory answer as to how Splug knew about this alleged tunnel… by the time they were done with him, Magus had returned (without a squirrel) and volunteered to take Splug for a walk back into the woods… he caught up with the rest of the party shortly after that.
Other events on the journey to Norgrug’s base included an empty trapper’s cabin where the party spent the night (followed by a confrontation the next morning with a group of unfriendly trappers who were not pleased to see them there) and being hunted down by a pack of dire wolves deployed by Norgrug’s army to hunt down intruders. Fortunately, Darak was able to communicate with the wolves, and even claimed that they were friends of Splug the goblin… apparently, the wolves knew Splug, because they accepted this explanation and left the party, to the relief of everyone.
The next day, the group spotted their destination… a large building built into the top edge of a cliff. The smooth stone walls gave little information about the purpose of the structure, but it was clearly dwarven-made, impossible to determine where the stone of the cliff ended and that of the structure began. The party decided to check out Splug’s claim of a backdoor cave… despite seeing some signs that the area was routinely patrolled, they did not encounter anyone, and did eventually find a tunnel hewn into the back of a small cave system nearby. They followed it as it led them upward, towards the strange building.
At one point, the tunnel suddenly opened up into a large crack-like section of natural cave. The bones on the ground and the bits of webbing visible in the torchlight gave everyone a reason to be cautious. An attempt to fire a flaming arrow upward revealed more webs, which unfortunately refused to burn. Donavan crept forward, stealthily looting the accessible bodies, and amongst the corpses of goblins, humans, and dwarves, found a wand of some kind, the smooth stick carved with runes. He also saw what looked like light leaking through a stone door, just ahead.
After returning to the party with his discoveries, Darak decided to give the wand a try. Despite not having any magical aptitude at all, he managed to trigger the wand once, unleashing a bright beam of light that illuminated the roof above. For just a second, the party could see big bundles of thick webbing… and eight thick hairy legs protruding from one of the larger masses of them.
Since it looked like there was only one spider, of a (hopefully) manageable size, the party decided to go ahead and take it on. Donavan ran forward at full speed, hoping to trigger the spider’s trap but still evade it. The spider, however, had years of practice at intercepting fast-moving bodies, and managed to land squarely on the elf as he ran. Before it could get a good paralyzing bite in, though, a well-shot arrow from Darak hit a soft spot on the spider’s abdomen, causing it to explode in a mess of foul-smelling fluid.
The light at the end of the tunnel was, in fact, a door, and led into an empty room. Nearby, the party found a prisoner, begging for his freedom. Samus was an Empire soldier who was captured some time ago, and had been forced to watch all of his captured comrades used for Norgrug’s “demonstrations.”
As described by Samus, these demonstrations were regularly arranged by Norgrug the Unslayable to reinforce his power and position with the army. Norgrug would take off his armor and abandon his regular weapons, and step into the ring with one of his captives, dressed in the same rags and wielding the same weapon, of the captive’s choice. He would allow the captive to beat and kill him, at which point both captive and dead Norgrug would be carted out of the arena. Moments later, Norgrug would reappear, alive, the captive dead instead. All of this to demonstrate that not only could Norgrug not be killed, but that anyone who tried would end up dead in turn.
Samus had been expecting that he was the next “volunteer” for Norgrug’s demonstrations. Instead, the party had appeared, hopefully to rescue him. Instead of simply letting him flee out the way they had come, however, they decided that he could be useful… so they fetched a short sword from one of the corpses in the secret entrance cave, and insisted that he come along to help. A starved and beaten prisoner wasn’t likely to be that much good in a fight, but he could at least be a distraction.
Moving forward down a hallway, the party discovered a pair of orcs guarding a stairway from above… apparently they had entered on one of the lower levels. Magus and Donavan crept up on them carefully, then with the help of some good die rolls executed a picture-perfect surprise attack. Magus lept around the corner, punch-knives in hand, and thoroughly ventilated the near orc. As that orc crumpled to the floor, the other started to stand and open his mouth to scream… but before any sound could get out, Donavan fired a single arrow straight through his open mouth and out the back of his skull, pinning him to the wall.
The group quickly moved further down the hall, and after rounding a corner, found a pair of doors opposite each other. Listening revealed conversation coming from one room, and after some hurried discussion and planning, they had Samus open the door, then run away, planning to ambush whoever came into the hall after him. As Samus ran down the hallway past the others he yelped that Norgrug himself was in the room, along with two of his bodyguards… the fight was on. Trying to fight into the room Norgrug was in wasn’t working so well: the chokepoint of the door gave Norgrug and his bodyguards the advantage. After burning through several bennies and attempting several tricks, the party pulled back into the hallway. At this point, the bodyguards made a critical error: they charged into the hallway one at a time, thinking they had their attackers on the run. Instead, they found Gyth, who quickly became the focal point of the battle, aggressively attacking with his greataxe. Arkan used his earth magic to help defend the half-orc, while Donavan and Darak fired arrows for damage and distractions and Magus backed him up with his knives. Faced with this change in the tactical landscape, the bodyguards went down quickly.
Just as the second bodyguard collapsed, the second door (opposite the first) opened, and two robed orcs ran into the room where Norgrug still was. The lull in battle sounds also revealed the noise of pounding orcish feet reverberating through the stone hallways. Apparently some sort of alarm had been sounded, and reinforcements were on the way…