Having fully recovered in the cave half way down the mountain, the team trekked back up to the stairs. The gnolls knew that they might be back and had planned to hold the gate – they had reset the Mind-Trap preparing to split the party and pick them off one at a time. The Huntmasters were to play dead having taken a few pot shots so that the adventurers would gather round the barred door and be burned in the Vortex of Chaos. Having left the fortress it would not be easy to get back in, unless they were careful and had a good plan…
Rounding the corner to the stairs the Huntmasters shot down volley after volley of arrows but bow, crossbows and magic missiles flew back to the unstable balcony and soon the gnolls went down. Approaching the door, Grim and Gronek found it was not easy to force and Mordan heard whispered gnoll barks on the balcony. Up popped a spellcaster and Grim was engulfed in psychic fire. Together Vintera and Mordan hooked the balcony and began to haul down the unstable platform but by now the gnolls had moved away.
Inside, Felix disabled the Mind Trap, possibly saving lives. Gronek braved a misty portal to find himself surrounded by gnolls. Fortunately he got out fast and as the Maulers came through they were mashed. Felix kindly let the gnolls have one of their dead back without taking its head. Then there seemed to be stalemate. The gnolls did not intend to be picked off, but neither did the Flying Circus. Many interesting strategies were suggested including forcing a horse through and a desperate dash by an expeditious wizard.
Eventually a strong plan was forwarded – dislodge all the crumbling rock around the balcony and make a safe climb 50 feet up by rope and grapple. Mordan took the lead and it worked – the dark narrow corridor was empty, the huntmasters thinking they had done their bit returning to their marshalling point. They were soon alerted however and the team were not quiet in their invasion. Grim led as Mordan and Vintera glanced anxiously down a side passage.
Arrows flew at the brave dwarf as he rounded the corner and one gnoll managed to escape down the stairs. As Grim and Gronek fought in the lower passage, Felix relished the arrow slits and the multiple targets visible in the marshalling room. Icy Terrain brought some down and if they thought it was getting chilly that was nothing – a blizzard erupted around them! Thoughtful Felix sympathetically sent a flaming sphere to ease the freeze. The gnolls were in complete disarray. The scourge managed to jump into the passageway beneath to hold off that route but a following recruit landed badly and broke his neck. Another recruit fled up the north passageway while the warmaster desperately tried to unlock the escape route and the Shadar-kai Kyrion, regretting he had ever helped these foul smelling beasts, looked for any way out. There was no escape from Vintera’s arrows. Felix took a rather nice dragonsilk scarf embroidered with a platinum dragon from the belt pouch of a lowly recruit. Vintera found an interesting note on the body of the Shadar-kai.
The gnolls that did get out of the door were joined by the cell guards and rallied by the warmaster. Their stand was not a long one and it was Vintera who finished the stubbornly tough Keeper. They lifted “Wicked Fang” the powerful jagged Shadar-kai shadow longsword from the body of the defeated warmaster. Felix took the keys and they moved to open the cells. First released was Thorak Bindlewindle taken from the area of Nimon Gap. Next the endearing Brandon Fairlion, curate of Pelor from Brindol and finally the proud man calling himself Duke of Dennovar. The prisoners were given food and gnoll weapons and escorted to the safe(ish) cave down the mountain by Vintera and Gronek whilst the others stayed alert in the entrance room preparing to venture further next time.
Killing blows… (a possibly inaccurate list) Gronek: Vintera: Gnoll Keeper, Kyrion Shadar-kai Weaponmaster Felix: Gnoll Guard, 5 Recruits Mordan: Gnoll Huntmaster, Recruit, Grim: Gnoll Mauler, Warmaster, Scourge, Guard, Huntmaster