The group rushed down the stairwell to the portal room realizing their possible mistake. Their fears were confirmed when they could hear the screams of the dying on the other side. A quick check of the door revealed that the captives had blockaded the door to prevent discovery from a normal patrol. Now it was their doom as it prevented their rescue.
A haze came over Jord’s eyes as he realized the situation at hand, “Not again!” he cried out and brought his axe down on the oaken door. He cried out again as he swung a second time and then a third time. The rest of the group watched in confusion as the burly fighter tore the door away piece by piece until enough of the door was broken that Maxim could push a crate out of the way so the door could open.
The room was more of a slaughterhouse than a portal. Eight orcs were gleefully slaughtering captives as fast as they could catch them. Without wasting a moment, the adventurers charged the room to try and stop the orcs as fast as they could. The battle would prove to be their toughest test yet.
The first seconds into the combat saw half the orcs take notice of the group and move to engage them in combat, while the remaining ones were still lost in the bloodlust of killing three captives. Even Jord was lost in his haze of remembrance and left his defense at the door as he took hit after hit from the orcs until he could feel his legs getting weak from blood loss. He was then forces to back off for a moment to consume a precious healing potion to stop the bloodletting. The rest of the converged around their teammate and pushed the orc line back, while an arrow from Ruby at the entrance dropped an orc trying to creep up on Jord from behind.
Realizing that he needed his shield if he didn’t want to die himself, Jord drew his sword and shield and charged back into combat. The group pushed the orcs back, now commanding their full attention. Cage dropped a second orc with his pick while Ruby picked off a third with an arrow. Yet, the remaining five surged forward at Jord, seeing him as the weak point in the group. Their combined assault pierced his defenses and a solid hit from an axe knocked him unconscious.
With their friend down, Maxim immediately reacts and calls upon Tempus to spare his soul from the afterlife. Yet, in doing so, he wasn’t quick enough to protect himself from the group of orcs who turned on him next with their axes. Their savage brutality stopped the cleric in his tracks and he quickly fell to the ground. Seeing his comrade fall, Cage surged forward with his pick held high to try and save Maxim. Ruby was quick with her bow and dropped an orc that was coming up on the halflings flank, killing him. Yet, she wasn’t fast enough on the reload to stop the second one as it rushed in and buried its axe into the paladin’s stomach, dropping him as well.
WIth only Ruby and Kalenthor left verse the remaining orcs, Kalenthor quickly casts a spray of acid before rushing into the room with his quarterstaff at the ready. Surprised by the wizard charging them, they were not looking at Ruby as she drew down on the orcs and let loose a flurry of arrows, dropping the last ones.
With the battle over, the two were quick to use a healing potion to revive Maxim, who then used his divine magic to heal Cage and Jord. The group then assessed the damage. Out of the forty five captives they rescued, only twenty seven remained. Their mission to save Talthar was now forced into a secondary concern. The living captives needed to be taken out of Krast’amar, but the question was now how to do that.
As they discussed, Ruby’s eyes got wide as she saw a demonic looking hand come out from the portal and grab the ledge. The gnome quickly rushed over and began stomping on it and yelling for whatever it was to go away. The hand then retreated, but replaced by a pair of massively large antlers. Thinking quickly, Kalenthor drew the finger bone portal key and chose two runes at random; Earth and Sword, to activate the portal in hopes that it would close the current one.
The trick worked and the portal closed on the antlers, slicing them off and reopening to an unknown location. Hoping that the portal would lead to someplace helpful, Kalenthor stepped through the portal to see what was on the other side. As he reappeared, he found himself standing in a large dome-like structure with open walls and elvish script edged into the stone. The elf then moved to the edge of the building and saw the sprawling magnificent city of Evereska. The elven city was far from where the group wanted to go. Also, the city was currently in the middle of a siege by drow and shadovar. Not waiting to be discovered, Kalenthor quickly retreated back through portal to Krast’amar.
With the portal not helpful and the portal key needing time to recharge, the group decided to escape by conventional means. They lead the captives up the stairs to the tower and then used rope to climb down to the ground of the Stonelands. Once everyone was out, Jord used the stars to figure out where they were and picked the southeast direction to begin walking.
At midday of the second day of travel, the group was ambushed by an owlbear looking for an easy lunch. The group was quick to react, striking the owlbear fast and hard. The beast was only to take a swipe at Jord and Maxim before succumbing to its injuries. The group then spent some time carving up the owlbear for meat to feed the many captives.
After another two days of travel, the group spots a column of dark smoke in the distance. Ruby volunteers to scout the area to find out what is going on. What she finds is a caravan currently on fire and twelve dead bodies spread out over the area. In particular, several of the bodies show that they died from something exploding out of their chest. The gnome then makes her way back to the group and reports her findings.
The group agrees to go and investigate further while Cage looks after the captives. Maxim takes a look over the wagons, finding a few items here and there, but nothing of real note. Kalenthor, meanwhile, takes a look the off chest wounds and surmises that the people died from slaad, an aberrant transdimensional frog-looking humanoid with the ability to shapechange. Jord then calls out that he found some tracks of creatures with four toes, which Kalenthor thinks could be the creatures. During their investigation, the group was attacked by multiple slaad tadpoles.
No large than a small cat, the fleshy slug looking creatures with a mouth of sharp teeth, the tadpole launched themselves with reckless abandon at the adventurers. All of the group except Maxim takes a bite from the slaad tadpoles, which then attach themselves and begin trying to burrow their way into the bodies. Unable to contend with the pain from two tadpoles, Kalenthor crumbles to the ground.
Maxim is quick to heal Kalenthor, while Jord moves over and starts hacking off the tadpoles with his axe. Ruby, meanwhile tries repeatedly to try and pry off a tadpole on her chest. She is able to finally remove it, but a second one burrows its way inside of her from her flank. Jord then quickly makes his way over to Ruby and uses a knife to dig out the tadpole and pull it out of the gnome’s body. The group was then quick to kill the remaining tadpoles.