Chapter Forty-Four

March 24, 2012


12th of Saltmonth


            We outfit Chancellor in the exceptional barding we found, and begin to formulate a plan of attack against the ogres.  We decide to send Hans in as if he is returning without us; however, I will be with him hiding inside the bag of holding.  When we are safely within, I will climb out of the bag and open the gates for our attack.
            Boian expresses concern that we are trusting my life to the man who was sent to kill us, but as we can come up with no better plan, we proceed.  Before we leave, Briggette takes Hans aside.  "Remember, Cuthbert is a god of many things:  love, retribution. . . .  If you cross us, it will be answered."  He expresses an oath to not impede us in any way from defeating Sindri and his host.
            As we approach, there is an inset in the mountain face which shelters a fortress.  We are able to get our entire party within a quarter mile of the first wall without being seen before Hans continues on with me in tow.  After what seems an excruciatingly long time, I see a crack of light.  I sit and listen quietly, and I hear Hans say in Goblin, "I will go and see Sindri when I have had time to make myself presentable from my travels."
            A guttural curse escapes the hobgoblin's mouth, then "If Sindri is displeased, it will be your head, not mine!"  I hear a very heavy set of footfalls walk by, followed by some movement and lots of water splashing.  Someone kicks over the bag of holding, then walks loudly across the room and noisily exit.  I clamber out of the bag, and find myself in a room with te very old beds lain with furs and hides.  It seems to be a military bunker of some sort.  I make my way to a window, and find that it is shuttered from the outside. 
            I make my way to the door and open it onto a huge courtyard.  To my right is a large wall about fifty feet high with stairs built in to reach its parapets.  Three sides of the courtyard are walled in by the mountain's face.  There is a huge burned out husk of a keep lying in ruins to one side.  A smaller piece of the keep has been rebuilt and appears to be in use with an ogre standing guard outside its door.  Two other large buildings make up the contents of the courtyard, along with a large pit and another large firepit set for giant-sized users, and a cave entrance across the way guarded by two more ogres.  I make my way to the stairs and climb up.  There is an ogre nearby wearing banded mail, as well as a group of bugbears wandering the grounds.
            At one point, four bugbears comes by the staircase as I am climbing, so I hop deftly over the side and hang from the rail.  He doesn't see me, and I am able to pull myself back up and over once he clears the area.  As I mount the wall, I see a large group of about 20 hobgoblins training behind the keep.  On top of the wall, I see two ogres who are pacing back and forth in a pattern, but don't seem to be truly paying that much attention.  There is a sixty foot gap to the next wall, which stands about twenty feet shorter.  The gates in the two walls do not align.  The exterior wall has been breached at some point, and several large tree trunks have been set in the ground to block the hole.
            I move to the gate in the inner wall, and manage to find the mechanisms on its two gates.  I then make my way to the gate in the outer wall and prepare, then open its gate.  I signal my friends with the mirror we found, mark the wall for the direction they  should turn to find the inner gate, then return to those gates to spring them.  As I do so, I hear Finn's horn sound as my friends charge the gates.  A few moments later, Korvinean blows his horn of fog, and the eerie mist starts to roll in.
            Ulric and Briggette lead the charge out of the fog toward the two dumbfounded ogres guarding the outer gate.  The moment is cinematically dramatic, and the two ogres are dispatched without pause.  As they enter the outer gate, Ulric rides to meet two ogres to the right while Briggette wheels left following my mark.  They cross each other's paths with grace and beauty just as I get the gate's mechanism to lurch into motion and begin to open the way for my charging companion.  The doors open just barely in time for Chancellor to squeeze through.
            Finn follows Ulric toward the ogres, and quickly dispatches one of them, while Ulric demolishes the other.  They turn toward the secondary gate.
            An ogre guarding this interior gate drops his shied and mace to hoist a large rock and aim it at Briggette, but I stab him and open a gash in his leg.  His buddy swings at me, but misses.  The rest of the party catches up and charges into the courtyard toward the ogres that have begun to head our way.  The two ogres by me both attack again, but one drops his trident.  I hear Ravassaadi call out to me from below, where she has my pony next to the wall.  I drop over the side and vault onto his back with a minimum amount of pain and a maximum of style.
            Ulric manages to skewer another ogre and Briggette takes out yet another.  As I enter the courtyard, I turn and fire at the ogres I left looking askance atop the wall.  Two boulders hit Korvinean.  My shot takes out the first of the ogres on the wall, and the other backs away toward the back side of the wall.  Suddenly, Ulric spurs Alabaster, and the horse makes his way to the staircase and charges up it.  The glorious sight of Alabaster rearing up as he pivots toward the ogre is like something from a dream as the sun glimmers through the fading fog behind him.  Ulric raises his lance and charges toward the final ogre on the wall.  He drops his lance at just the right moment, killing him as his trident shoves into Ulric's breastplate.  Alabaster pushes forward and the ogre's body is slung off the wall.  Briggette witnessed the entire event and is driven to distraction by the sight.
            We hear a rhythmic drumming sound coming from the opposite direction of the cave.  There is a phalanx of hobgoblins moving forward and beating their swords on their shields.  I notice a woman rushing toward Briggette, who says, "Are you here to rescue the children?  They're this way!"  The lady turns and runs toward one of the buildings.  Most of the party follows, but Finn, Korvinean and I remain behind to deal with the phalanx of bugbears.
            Briggette dismisses Chancellor and follows the woman down a set of stairs.  She kills a bugbear at the bottom, and the woman searches his body for a ring of keys.  On the fifth key, she turns the lock and opens the door.  She is immediately impaled on the end of a spear as an ogre attacks.  Briggette kills him and they move forward to another door, which also has a bugbear guarding it from the other side.  This time, however, they are ready, and Boian stabs his rapier right through its temple.  A faint clanking--similar to that of a blacksmith's shop--can be heard down the hallway.
            After checking a few more doors to find storage rooms, Ulric catches up to the group.  They make their way toward the sound, and open a door to find a massive forge where a bugbear and two hobgoblins are coming to see what's wrong.
            Meanwhile, the phalanx continues to advance despite the large number Finn and Korvinean have killed.  I toss out my caltrops in between us.  "Back into the building!" Korvinean says, and we start to do so, defending as we go.
            As they enter the forge area further, Briggette and Ulric can see that there are several dwarves in the room fighting a few bugbears and ogres.  Together with the dwarves, the assailants are defeated.  The dwarven leader says that the children are being held below in exchange for their labor, and agrees to help us free them. 
            Briggette heads down to where Brianna was searching the next area for the children, and sees her on the floor unconscious with a man standing over her.  He wears a sort of robe, and nods toward Briggette, "Cuthbertine," he grins slyly, "have you made peace with your god?"
            Briggette immediately charges and begins a fierce battle with the man until he suddenly disappears.  A moment later, a door slides open in the wall and closes, presumably as he leaves the room.  Briggette tries to force the door open, but cannot find it, so she goes to check on Brianna.  She is limp and unconscious, but appears otherwise unharmed.
            Ulric and the dwarves work to set up guards and plan an escape.  I arrive and let them know we are being overrun up top, and make my way on down to the room where the man disappeared.  Ulric heads up to join Korvinean and Finn in fighting the hobgoblins.
            I go and find the secret door.  I manage to get it open and find a narrow hallway that ends in a ladder that turns out to have been greased.  We decide to return to help with the fight while Briggette and Brianna join the dwarves in going to free the children.