Wrath of the Orcs
The party awakens with their position still secure in the underground facility-turned-base camp. Using the word of command taught to them by the aboleth, they open the portal in the stone wall and proceed further into the facility, taking with them a contingent of 3 orc healers and 3 orc huntresses for protection.
The room they emerge into has not one but six portals, with a single rune circle in front of each one. They emerge through the third portal from the left and directly in front of them is a very intricate door, with a strange lock that seems at once to be mechanical and magical. After manipulating its interlocking gears to disable the magical component of the lock, Sim quietly picks the lock and peers through to the other side. The layout before him mimics a map that he had seen in the laboratory: a diamond-shaped hallway with rooms at every vertex. Leaving the orcs as a guard for the portal room, the party heads quietly down the left hall. Despite their efforts they are overheard by some humans in the room at the left vertex, and one steps out into the dark hallway to check.
With deadly precision, the party quickly dispatches the soldier with an arrow to the throat and another to the chest. He drops to the floor before he can scream, but the clamor raises the suspicion of the remaining guards in the room. They call out to him, and Sim successfully calls out (in the voice of the dead soldier) that there isn’t anything in the hall. Out of the corner of their eyes, however, they catch a glimpse of their fallen comrade, and they begin to step towards the hallway. Before they make it two steps, the party bursts through the door.
The room before them is a barracks, with many beds lining the walls and a wide array of weaponry. Most of the bunks are empty, but one in the far left corner has an unarmored soldier. Standing in the center of the room behind an overturned table are two armored humans; they call out to rouse their comrade, “Sound the alarm!” Seeing that the unarmored soldier is beginning to dash for something, the party rushes past the two armored soldiers and descends upon the unarmored man, attempting to trip, web, and otherwise incapacitate him. Despite the party’s efforts, he manages to slip past them and make a frantic leap for something on the wall, but falls just barely short on the ground, where he is promptly knocked unconscious by the party.
Seeing the situation before them, the two armored soldiers lay down their weapons and ask for their lives to be spared. They inform the party that they are members of a mercenary band led by a captain named Archibald, and that they were hired as guards for a group of Elven wizards. Their access to the facility is extremely limited, so they are unable to provide the party with information as to the goings-on of the wizards, but they do reveal (and subsequently are coerced to quickly use) that the 6th portal leads to a cavern that allows exit to the woods. They also implore the party to spare as many of the mercenaries as they can, mentioning that their captain is not evil and may listen to reason.
Leaving the barracks, the team escorts the prisoners to the portal room, but continues down the hall towards the vertex on the right side. They discover a locked door, on the other side of which can be heard orc voices, elf voices, and hissing reminiscent of the wind serpents that attacked the orc encampment. They pick the lock quietly, and then burst heroically through the door, shouting out in orc “We are here to rescue you!”
The scene before the party is of three wizards, two low-rank and one high-rank, as denoted by the ornate designs on one of their robes. The two lower ranked wizards are chanting, concentrating on wind serpents which hover calmly in the air above rune circles. Behind the higher-ranking wizard stretches dozens of cages, stacked two high, each containing an orc or a beast. With the huntresses and healers at their side, they engage the wizards.
Realizing quickly that the battle can be easily shifted in their favor should the orcs be freed, Sim uses a wand of magic missiles, which was recovered from one of the wizards the day before, to break the locks on a few of the cages. The huntresses throw axes towards their orc comrades, and the orcs begin to split up upon being freed: some continue breaking locks, others rush towards the high-ranking wizard.
While Sim and the orcs work to free the remaining orcs, the wizards complete their chants and free the wind serpents. One of the wizards so badly botched his chant that his wind serpent immediately turns on him, devouring him whole. The other serpent, at the behest of his wizard master, darts like an arrow at Sim. Lawrence and Petra kill the remaining low-rank wizard as the higher-ranked wizard is overrun by a dozen bloodthirsty orcs. He is summarily torn limb from limb, unable to cast even the most basic spells due to choking.
The huntresses, Petra, Sim, and Lawrence all begin to engage the serpent which is fixed on Sim, but their attacks seem to have little effect against the hardness of its scales. Lawrence, recalling how the water loosens the scales and allows for piercing, flings a bottle of water directly at the serpent’s torso, following it with a well-placed arrow that sinks deep into the flesh. Now vulnerable, the party manages to kill the serpent before it can make short work of Sim.
The second serpent, berserk after devouring its wizard master, is quickly set upon by a cascade of orcs, which beat and tear it until it too is torn limb from scaly limb.
Although the orcs freed are all seasoned warriors and lieutenants, the warchief is not among them. The party leads the orcs back to the barracks where the majority of them are able to arm themselves and find weapons. Eager to seek further revenge, the orc warriors make ready to charge into the final room at the last vertex, but the party insists on scouting the area before allowing a charge.
Despite the markings on the map, the party discovers not one but two rooms at the last vertex: one which opens into the center of the diamond and one which opens out. Listening at each door, they hear a faint humming from the door that opens out, and the very faint sound of metal-on-metal from the room that opens in. They take this to indicate that their presence is known and that someone or something awaits them on the other side of that door.
Heeding this warning as much as an orc warrior would, the lieutenants head a charge into the interior room. In the vast room, they see human mercenaries in formation guarding several elven mages of varying ranks. Behind all of the mages is a man in grey robes, who Lawrence immediately recognizes from his vision, who calls out “Deal with them” before stepping through a portal at the rear of the room and vanishing.
As the orcs begin to descend on the mercenaries and mages, Petra catches sight of three strange figures in the back of the room out of the corner of her eye. Their manner of dress is unfamiliar, more suited for the desert than the forest, and one of them she notices is lazily plucking a lute and singing a song without a noticeable care for the chaos unfolding before him. The other two descend into the melee and are lost to sight.
Petra begins to lead Sim and Lawrence around the battle towards the singing man. As they approach him, they fire arrows but are unable to strike true at such a distance. The man seems unaffected by the attack and continues playing, but the party does take note that one of the other strangely-dressed men begins cutting his way through the orcs, turning gracefully during his ritualistic movements heading directly towards the party. As he comes into closer view, they see that he is blindfolded and wielding kamas, which he swings with precision, grace, and such force that he might as well be dancing alone rather than cleaving orcs.
Using druidic magic, Petra warps both the lute and one of the warrior’s kamas so both are ineffective. As the lute strings snap in front of him, the singing man stops his song, stands calmly, and pulls punching daggers out of his robes. If the second warrior even notices the change in his kama, he chooses to not react in any visible way. Off in the distance, Petra recognizes the familiar clang of a spiked chain striking metal and stone.
Rather than wait for danger to find him, Sim tumbles artfully behind the kama-wielding warrior and strikes a clean blow through his side and under his ribs. Though bleeding profusely, the warrior’s force of will prevents his ritual kata from being affected, and he counterattacks with such force as to bring Sim to the brink of death. Between him and the party lies the deadly warrior, and he has only moments to live.
Seeing this unfold before her eyes, Petra sends Sir Krawley forward to feed Sim a potion and attempt to save his life, but the warrior’s quick strike knocks Sir Krawley unconscious. Wrestling the decision of whether to let Sim die or intervene and save his life, Petra opts to rush forward, risking life and limb at the mercy of the warrior, to make a desperate attempt to heal Sim before he bleeds out. Seeing her move to act without using her weapon, the singing man calls out one word in something resembling Common, and holds up his hand. The warrior’s already-striking hand stops in midair and he allows Petra to rush past him and heal Sim.
Placing his weapon back in his robes, the singing man calls out something else in the same language which resembles Common. The kama-wielding warrior takes off his blindfold, revealing two functional eyes, and in the distance the sound of the spiked chain ceases to be heard. Fixing his eyes on Petra, the singing man bows gracefully, tosses her the warped lute, and calls loudly in his accent-drenched Common: “The Order of Al-Rashid recognizes you.” He and the warrior begin to make their way, in no particular rush, towards the portal that the grey-robed man used to exit. Seeing this, one wizard launches a fireball at the singing man, but he misses and does not even garner the attention of the man. The three strangely-dressed men exit without another word.
Turning their attention back to the battle, the party notices heavy casualties on both sides, and they watch as the last of the wizards are overrun by the orcs. The flow of battle has clearly shifted in favor of the orcs, but a fair number of humans remain, and they rally behind one man who seems particularly well-armored. The party calls out to both sides, pleading that they stop the fighting since the battle is already more than decided. Resisting their warrior instincts, the mercenary humans and orcs both hold thier strikes back, and the humans begin to lay down their arms. One orc, unaware, uncaring, or consumed by battle lust, cleaves one more human in two with one stroke, but his counterattack comes from an orc lieutenant near him, who smashes his face with a gauntlet and holds out his arm to halt any further aggression.
With the fighting halted for the time being, the party begins to aid the fallen. Lawrence offers his help to the human mercenaries, while Sim and Petra take care to aid only the orcs. Once all the aid they can give has been given, they leave to examine the final room of the area.
Opening the door to the humming room they discover a chamber similar to the previous crystal chamber. This one, however, has much more craftsmanship involved in its construction. Rather than a rugged sphere of crystals, this chamber has a ring of perfectly smoothed stone running a circle along the middle, with a hemisphere of crystals above and below it. In the center of the room on a lowered stone platform, they find the orc chieftain unconscious but alive. Upon hearing that the chieftain has been found, several orc lieutenant burst past the party and carry their chieftain off.
Upon closer inspection of the room they find a hidden door opposite from the entrance, which opens into a vast study, far more expansive than the two that were already found. This room, too, was not marked on the map, and spellbooks line the walls from end to end.
The orcs take the remaining human mercenaries and put a guard on them, and the party retires for a while to the study.