House cleaned out and definitely worse for wear, we all hobbled back into the woods and met up with Shalelu and the three weakened prisoners. They looked a little better by this time at least. The mage, however immediately went on the offensive asking each of them to take of their shirts, as he was trying to ferret out the one that had the tattoo on his wrist.
Skeptically, Shalelu’s dad (Jak) and the other man whose name is Vale, took off their shirts which revealed none of the damning marks. The third roguish looking character seemed as if he were trying to hide something. Once it was brought out that he had the mark, he explained it away that it was just something he got when he was younger that represented his love of the stars. It sounded off, but we really had no reason to not believe him otherwise.
Regardless, the mage still took Jak, who looked to be the one in charge, off to the side and had a lengthy discussion with him. I never asked exactly what was said. I can only assume he told the tale of why we are edgy about a man bearing the sihedron as a tattoo, and that he would feel better if the rogue were watched.
A few minutes later, we were all heading back to Turlteback Ferry, and that’s exactly what happened. As soon as we were back in town we went to the sheriff’s office and explained what was going on. He was fairly skeptical on our reasoning, and showed us his own similar tattoo as well. A little odd, but he explained it as being a sigil of VIP customers for the local street walkers. Regardless, he agreed to watch the rogue until we returned from Fort Redneck, or until we didn’t come back from there in five days.
We spent the next day recuperating from the mutant ogre ordeal (oh, did I mention that? The ogres we fought all had some sort of deformity) and then were soon on the road. We had Jak and Vale in tow with us for the help, not to mention they knew the way and the layout of the place.
An hour or so travel brought us within sight of Fort Redneck. Jak drew up a rough sketch of the keep, and told us where the weak points were for entry. Naturally, with the mage being afraid of front doors, that wasn’t happening. There was a refuse hole that we could climb up in (ewe), as well as a secret backdoor behind the waterfall. We could also have chosen to fly up above the keep to the aerie (how about that, they had giant eagles that they could ride here?!?), and then come down that path, but according to Jak, there was a pile of rubble along the bottom that would need to be cleared away which the mage didn’t want to use spells on.
After much deliberation, we had to weigh whether we wanted to get wet or smelly. Wet won out even though Jak also warned us that the entrance was “guarded” by shock lizards, and I ended up swimming across a small river to tie off a rope behind the waterfall. One by one we went across, eventually one of us was seen and the ogre’s on the ramparts started throwing boulders at us. Well, at those that weren’t in the cave anyway. Thankfully, they missed and we were all safe. Wet. But safe.
Into the cave we went, creeping slowly through, waiting to find these shock lizards that Jak warned us about. And find them we did. No less than two rooms contained nests with dozens of the creatures’ eggs. One last room also contained about 20 of the lizards themselves. We thought it best to leave them be, as they only really seemed to be watching us.
A little further in, we came to a sheer dead-end. With a little searching on my part, I found a secret door. Upon opening it and seeing that it led into a supply closet of some sort, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was afraid that we’d have to go through the lizards. Ziqo heard breathing from behind one of the doors that led into here, so we cautiously went through and found another gnome, badly beaten, inside of one of the fort’s prison cells.
The gnome spun a grizzly tale of the ogre’s overrunning the fort. They beat him and shoved him in the cage to be used as a light snack at a later time. He was willing to help us out as long as we had a way to supply him and heal him. Without thinking twice, Ziqo healed him up and we outfitted him with the extra equipment we’ve gathered over our travels. Now we were ready to take out some ogre’s.
Creeping up stairs, we found ourselves in a main hallway of the first floor in the keep. It was fairly loud here, as we could hear ogres yelling and such from everywhere. Having the three Black Arrows with us was helpful, as they all knew the layout of the keep fairly well. Jak directed us to the top level, since that was where the command room and such was located.
Once into the second level, someone cast a spell on the entrance from the stairs to make it so that only someone of human size or smaller could get through. We did not want any of the ogres from downstairs to come up from behind us, just in case.
We crept through the upper level hallway, and Jak pointed out which of the rooms up here was the command room. We figured if we were going to find a big bag evil guy, they would be in there. Listening at the door rewarded us with hearing two voices in an apparent argument. We prepped ourselves, then swung open the door charging in. Two ogres filled most of the room, one a male with an iron jaw, and the other a female (shudder).
Luckily, we surprised them in their argument, and were able to move in. I couldn’t get the exact positioning I wanted, and after one or two swipes at Ironjaw, I suddenly started losing time. The rest of the battle went in steps for me. At times everything was blurred, or blank. Others, I remember attempting to roll past Ironjaw only to fail. Once my head finally cleared up, both ogres were dead, everyone looked ragged, and the gnome we found in the cells below was dead. I was slightly horrified to learn that I was partially responsible for that.
Turns out, the empty patches of memory I had were due to the female casting a spell. I wasn’t the only one under the effects, which seemed to befuddle at time, and cause insanity at others. That must have been when I attacked the gnome. Poor guy never saw it coming. Me, Ziqo and Shalelu all seemed to have wounds that matched up with our own weapons. Whatever spell she cast was not good for us.
Healing up, and searching the bodies (we also took back the equipment we lent to the now dead gnome) found us a few good items, but the key thing came from a secret compartment that I found in one of the walls. It contained an item or two, as well as some information on what happened to the commander here involving some woman and an area that I can’t remember at the time. We will most likely investigate that further.
But first, we need to find the head of this operation. We still have two rooms to go through up here.
To be continued…