When I had recovered as many arrows as I could, I stood guard while Mikael healed up Yeti and Ezekiel took the others to help him search the rooms along the corridor.
The room nearest the secret door was some kind of storeroom, with barrels, blankets, tablecloths, and other household goods.
The second room was a bedroom, with a carpet, bed, a locked (and trapped?) chest, and two crossed swords decorating the wall.
The last room before the corner was a long bunk-room, which I guess is where the orcs slept (before they slept in peace).
I didn’t see much peeking through the doorways, and the others had only just started ransacking the place when someone shouted in through the secret door, “How many times do I have to tell you ‘no fighting’?”
We all froze, and Ezekiel gestured us all into the rooms.
Yeti and I jumped into the bunk-room – where our orc prisoner was tied up – and closed the door almost all the way – leaving enough to hear through, maybe.
Someone came stomping down the passage-way, not sounding happy. I felt sure this was our scary magic giant.
Then he shouted out, “Who’s been in my room?!”
I knew from the banging and clanging that our party was engaging, so the two of us charged out to join in.
The guy looked pretty imposing, with a glowing sword and everything…but we had him flanked, and he went down much like a ton of bricks.
When I could take a closer look, I realized he was a half-orc – although he looked remarkably like a human in his face – so obviously he wasn’t the master of the house.
Ezekiel searched the body, finding a silver ring and a ring of keys in addition to the glowing sword and the half-orc’s splint mail, and then we finally went around the corner to find the prisoners.
There’s a door facing down the corridor, and around the bend are cell doors – two on each side, and one on the end.
Raven and Ezekiel were able to open the doors (they just had to point out that the barred window in each of the banded doors was above my head), but they didn’t find anyone alive.
Raven found a dead dwarf, who had somehow scratched words in the wall with his belt buckle: “Armory next door…avenge me.”
Ezekiel found a skeleton (not that kind, though) with a set of lock-picks hidden in its boot…pity the owner wasn’t able to use them.
In the door at the very end of the prison we found what we were looking for…seven men – in various stages of abuse, but alive.
One of them was, sure enough, Brannod Colnet – so at least we can get him back to his father and uncle.
The others searched the cells one more time on our way back up the corridor, and then we unlocked the door at the head of the passage.
Sure enough, it was quite an armory: weapons, axes, three suites of human plate mail, chain mail, and several boxes of spices bearing the Colnet mark (so we found our stolen goods, anyway).
The rescued prisoners, while in no condition to fight, could still walk – and they equipped themselves with armor and weapons to give themselves more of a chance should the need arise.
There were still three men missing, and while I don’t feel much hope for their chances, we of course can’t leave without searching the rest of the house for them.
Raven and I carried the dead orcs into the armory, so that if the master of the house came along, it wouldn’t be immediately obvious that something was wrong.
Meanwhile, Mikael used Detect Magic to determine that the half-orc’s sword and splint mail were both magical.
We’ll lock ourselves into the armory tonight, sharing rations with the rescued prisoners…and in the morning, we shall see.
Quiet night. We left the prisoners with the key to lock themselves into the armory, and set out to explore the rest of the house – hoping to find the missing men, of course, but also to find some kind of proof against the Valentas, or at least some kind of answer about that.
The roasting meat was gone from the front hall (understandably) and the doors were closed.
Two other doors led out of the front hall – one to the south (about seven feet high) and a pair of double doors to the east (about twelve feet high).
Since we were still leery about meeting the Furbolg (although Ezekiel said we’d have to deal with him eventually, so this didn’t happen again), we went with the shorter door. The passage beyond led to two guest rooms and a kitchen.
Raven investigated a trapdoor in the kitchen – he told us there were big blocks of ice, several deer corpses, a human body, and a giant blue frog toad.
He had just closed the door on the toad when we noticed a man with a big black beard, wearing a brown robe and a two-handed sword, advancing toward us from the front hall.
Lydia threw her rotten egg, and greenish smoke filled the doorway. Raven rushed to the edge of the smoke to fling a dagger, while Mikael chanted his spell and lit the enemy with Faery Fire.
I started filling our opponent with arrows while Yeti and Ezekiel stood at the edge of the cloud, ready for when they could enter the battle.
The Furbolg called out, “Simba” – and then a lion appeared from somewhere and charged forward…as well as it could “charge” while wading through the gas, choking and gagging.
Yeti wound a cross-bow and took a shot at the giant – who was staggering back to get out of optimal range – while Raven hit the lion with such a blow I could almost see it stagger and shake its head.
The Furbolg – who was actually big, now, by the way – batted a few of my arrows out of the way.
Mikael had tried talking to the lion and make friends with it, but apparently it didn’t care about that – because suddenly he whacked it hard with his staff.
Yeti got off another cross-bow bolt. The giant deflected another of my arrows, and then the cloud dissipated.
Mikael hit the lion so hard it disappeared, while Raven charged into the hall and swung at the giant.
As I distracted it with a couple more arrows, Yeti sped forward and struck with his war hammer…bang.
The Furbolg collapsed…dead.
When we searched him, we found a gold figurine of a lion (Lydia’s carrying it in her pocket) and the two-handed sword, but nothing else of value.
We explored the rest of the house. Through the double doors to the east was a huge anteroom or sitting room (the ceilings must have been twenty feet tall – Raven says they were “four Elwyns” which is not all that funny).
The door beside the fireplace (on the north side) opened into a lavish library, complete with carpet, oil lamps, and maps between the bookshelves on the walls.
One of the maps looked like the local one the Colnets had given us, and one was of the Flanaes. Another map, though, I didn’t recognize at all.
You could practically see Ezekiel drooling, and we had to drag him out and remind him that we didn’t have much time and had to get the prisoners to safety.
The other door out of the sitting room led to a bedroom – and the bed was at least eight by twelve feet. (Do giants have their own carpenters? Or is all their furniture custom? Turning into a human form must help with that.)
Ransacking the giant’s chest, we found a velvet pouch of gems, a small jewelry box, three potions, and mountain of gold and electrum money.
Ezekiel checked over the potions and pocketed them – he thinks they’re a fire resistance potion, a flying potion, and a healing potion.
I searched the desk and found what seemed to be signed contracts – between Vasl Valenta and Gador the Furbolg. One was paying Gador to kidnap and hold Brannod Colnet, while the other promised him payment for plundering caravans from the Colnet merchants.
If I were ever to engage in dirty business, I’d do better at giving myself plausible deniability…
Well, we had everything we came for.
Raven took me and Mikael (and Yeti) with him back to the trapdoor in the kitchen, as he wanted to recover the corpse of the man, and he wanted us to stand by to deal with the toad.
Raven tried talking to the toad, but apparently it didn’t like us very well. Mikael Summoned Insects, and two giant ants appeared (I don’t know how they got there!) and fought with the toad while Raven dashed down to unhook the body.
I think the ants died, but Raven climbed back up the stairs with the body and nothing worse than some serious frostbite on his arms and legs.
One of the cloaks we found in the giant’s wardrobe should make a suitable shroud for this poor fellow.
We decided it was late enough in the day, we’ll rest another night (and feed up the prisoners) before trying to return to civilization. Raven helped me check on the horses (who seem to be getting along with each other all right). Mikael used Detect Magic to confirm that the lion figurine and the potions are magical…but none of the other new treasure is.
Ezekiel and Raven spent some time in the library together, and came back laden with books. Frankly, I don’t think we’ll make it through the mountains like this.
The Colnets will doubtless want to recover their merchandise, so maybe we can return here with a cart.
At least we found Brannod and most of his men alive. And those orcs will never harm another person again.
Ezekiel says he plans to set our imprisoned orc free when we leave.
Journey back to Gurdikar as smooth as could be expected. Saw Druid Kun-tworna on the way out, so we could let him know the prisoners were safely rescued.
The Colnets were of course delighted to get their son/nephew/heir back safe and sound. They gave us an old wooden trunk as thanks, and inside we found a new mace for Ezekiel (it’s got a ram’s head on the end with some kind of rune between the horns), a magical rope (they said it was a Rope of Climbing), and a magic ring (Raven put it on and said he felt warm and toasty).
They told us some ancestral stories about these items – although they also pointed out the stories might not all be true.
One of them was something about how the wielder of the mace struck a zombie or skeleton or something, and the mace “disrupted” the magic that held the undead together, and it collapsed.
Master Colnet says he’s sure the details aren’t quite accurate, but Ezekiel looks eager to try it out on something evil.
Bought a cart (since we’re living the high life now) and retrieved the rest of the treasure without a hitch. We also helped the Colnets recover what crates of spices we could find in the Furbolg’s house.
(Wonder what will happen to the Valentas? Fortunately, we don’t have to stick around to find out.)
What’s more, besides the reward the Colnets paid us for rescuing Brannod – and finding the incriminating documents – the city of Gurdikar paid us bounties for all the orcs we killed – and for the Furbolg.
[page of numbers and calculations]
I’m almost not comfortable walking around with this much cash.
Yeti feels like he has such a good grasp on his skills as a Paladin, that he wants to seek out a Master to help him hone his craft even further before we continue.
Ezekiel suggested we go to the capital of Celene for that. I think he wants to find some elves to talk to about Ao.
Maybe I can convert some of my new wealth into a really, really high-quality pendent of Ehlonna.
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