8. Rundarr’s Keep – 1st May 2015
After they had rested and regained their vigor, the group decided to press onwards. They had two choices; to press on to the main keep over an exposed bridge, or head south to the other watchtower through a passage carved from the mountain. After some discussion, it was decided that going through the passage and clearing the other watchtower was the safer option, not only because it offered less chance to be exposed on the bridge, but also because clearing the watchtower mean there be less reinforcements the main Keep could bring later.
After a few false starts in which a trap was sprung, they entered the watchtower, which seemed to be lacking in the usual aggravated response from enemies. Indeed, the initial area they moved into was devoid of their foes.
They soon ascertained that there were three slaves in the area, but one of them panicked when seeing them and ran through the main room, alerting some hefty looking Duregar of their presence. Devoid of other options, the fight was on.
While Titan, Corvar and Brannoch took on the Duregar, Ulrik seems to get distracted by the thought of food and heads to the pantry, before he tried to talk the slaves into moving somewhere safe and out the way. This succeeded so well that the slaves were overcome with relief and gratitude, seeming to think he was some manner of chosen one destined to come and save them. Taking his advice to heart, they scampered off to the store room where they thought the safest place for the moment.
Thus freed of moral obligations, the group engaged with the Duregar, but it fast became obvious that the Duregar in charge was not as easily dealt with as his brother Urwol had been. Rundarr was, by dwarven standards, a massive hulk of a male, being around the height of an average human, but with the breadth of a Duregar. Overall, he posed an intimidating figure, especially as it became apparent that he was not only skilled in battle, but bloodthirsty for it.
The battle raged, for although there were less Duregar here than in the last keep, Rundarr’s expertise and sheer might more than made up for this. Like many battles the group had fought over my following of them, this one appeared to be less a well-executed battle, and more of a mish-mash of luck, both good and bad. Sometimes they seemed to show tactical excellence, while at others, whether through poor luck or poor decisions, the enemy gained ground.
Their job was only made harder as the slaves, whom had been so won over by Ulrik, decided that they needed to help their savior beat off their oppressors. Despite Ulrik’s attempts to tell them again to go to safety, they seemed only to be more determined to help him, with one of them all but flinging themselves at their Duregar overlords in an attempt that was surely to end in their untimely demise. The second slave tries to run after their friend, trying to turn them from this course of action, while the third sees the Duregar and panics, running to Ulrik and grabbing him in what can only be described as an outpouring of relief bordering on fanaticism.
The second slave, failing to get her friend to stop, tries to run, but seeing that escape is not an option, then flings herself at the Duregar attacking Corvar, before retreating hastily when their retaliation misses. Corvar moves to block the entranceway the slave had run through, ensuring the Duregar had to deal with him first, rather than the slave, who regained some of her courage enough to shout past him at the Duregar tauntingly.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Ulrik tries to get the slave to stop grabbing him, since it was making it fairly difficult to help in the fight, and redirects him to go hide in the pantry. Taking this as a command for food, something that the slaves had likely been commanded to do for years on end, the slave happily goes off to prepare a meal, glad, perhaps to have an order to follow that was within the realms of possibility to complete.
Thus freed of the clingy slave, Ulrik makes his way into the main room to help dispatch the Duregar there. Rundarr, who was by no means dismissable in the fight, became absolutely enraged when he sees him, and even more so when he sees the beard of his brother attached to the shaman’s totem Ulrik carried. Such was the rage, Rundarr, before now large for a dwarf, seemed to grow, and indeed do so until he was by far larger even than Titan, throwing all those around him back. With a move far swifter than one might expect from such a gargantuan dwarf, he flings Ulrik across the room.
With Rundarr distracted, Ayanna darts in and deals massive damage to the monstrosity. Unfortunately, even damage such as this seemed to do little to hinder him, such was his constitution. Further attacks by Titan, Brannoch and then Ulrik, hits that would have taken down a normal foe many times, has only shown the tiniest spot of blood on the Duregar. Clearly this foe was unlike any they had fought before. If this is the standard of foe in the watchtower, I can only fear what would lie in wait for the group in the main Keep.
Meanwhile the most fervent of the slaves had lept upon a table and was attempting to wrestle with one of the Duregar scouts. I could only watch with trepidation and worry over this slender hooded female trying to take on a battle-hardened enemy. The fear of her situation seems to have completely bypassed her, driven on by years of enforced slavery and then the liberation by the group, she seemed heedless to the danger, only intent on trying to do as much damage as possible to aid in their escape. Corvar, surprisingly perhaps out of the whole group, appears to have taken it upon himself to aid in the otherwise suicidal attempt by the slave while Brannoch continues the attacks on the massive Duregar leader.
Rundarr was not one to be ignored, for with rage fairly frothing from his mouth, he executed a large attack that hit Titan and Ulrik then reaches over and backhands Ayanna away. None of the group were looking that healthy now, and I feared for Ayanna, who had taken many blows to the head of late, but she appeared to recover fine and maneuvered herself back into the fray.
One of the scouts however took advantage of Corvar’s diverted attention and shot him in the back, though thankfully it seemed to have missed most vitals organs, though was undoubtedly painful. Realizing the he was fairly cut off from the rest of the group, he followed the slave through the bed chamber and back around to the kitchen, using the walls to cover his escape from the Duregar with the crossbow. Meanwhile another guard had attempted to attack Brannoch from behind, but unlike his compatriot, he was not so lucky in his shot, for it swiftly became clear, when his eyes started overflowing and he started to sneeze repeatedly that he was fairly badly allergic to wolf fur, and had to stumble away, getting bitten for his trouble.
The slaves had not been idle, for the one in the kitchen had finished making food it seems and was, despite there being a massive amount of fighting going on, determined to get it to Ulrik. Perhaps the years in slavery and fear had cracked his mind. Corvar attempted to get him to return to the pantry where it was safe, but the Kenku had never been good at convincing others, and the slave paid him no mind, attempting to get past him to Ulrik. He then shouts for Ulrik to command the slave to get to safety and for Ayanna to help take down the Duregar scout that was engaged with the slave, but both ignored him.
I could see Corvar glancing between the Duregar coming up from behind him, to the one that the slave across the room was still fighting, only able to make one shot that might have a difference. The shot fired across the room to the scout that the hooded slave had managed now to actually hit and then knock off the table before leaping on him. Corvar’s choice had been made, and unfortunately for the slave with the food, the scout that had been following Corvar decided to take his frustration out on that one, killing him instantly.
The others were more focused souly on the massive threat of Rundarr, with Ulrik doing some healing before he and Titan do all they can to bring the massive male down. The Duregar was not about to be felled easily though, and does a circular sweep of his weapon, hitting Brannoch and Ulrik.
Seeing little difference in Rundarr, Titan turns to attack a scout that Ayanna had been engaging, the blow so hefty on the already wounded scout that he fell to the ground, dead. Likewise, Corvar kept his bow focused on the dazed scout that the hooded slave was attacking, managing to finish that one off to. The two remaining slaves are euphoric, and one moves from where it had been flailing pointlessly at Rundarr to try and heal the hooded one.
Meanwhile, Corvar, found himself cornered by a Duregar guard and a scout. Seeing no other option, he attempts to execute a complex menouver that was only partially successful, knowing as he did so that the move would leave him open to counterattacks. Heavily wounded, he props himself against the wall as the battle fights on.
Brannoch was still souly focused on Rundarr, who had been his primary target for some time now. He had been fairly heavily wounded, and was taking damage from a poisoned shot. Heedless of this, and aided by the rest of the group, his vicious bite seems to have been what finally took down the gargantuan dwarf, his own huge heft slamming into Rundarr, snapping his legs off from where special greaves had been keeping him steady. This was the end of Rundarr who could no longer sustain such grievous wounds. He bled out on the ground.
The last two Duregar, wounded and having seen the messy end of their leader, seems to give way to fear and panics, running, but doesn’t make it a few steps before he is cut down. The second guard attacks Titan, then runs, with both Ulrik and Titan chasing after him, but it was quiet Ayanna that finally put an end to the messy business.
The watchtower once more silent of combat, I watched as the group wandered around, tending to their wounds, picking over the corpses. Ulrik knelt beside the fallen Rundarr and hacked off his beard to add to what was clearly becoming a grizzly collection.
Meanwhile Titan was fixated on the dwarven greaves that lay lodged in the ground, still holding the remains of Rundarr’s legs. With some help from Ayanna to fix the jammed mechanisms, he picked them up and put them on himself before bagging some cheap longswords while an iron key was added to the group loot, since no one had any idea of what it was for.
Corvar had been checking the other rooms, taking note of the foodstuffs that were stored there, his sharp eyes also noticing some imbued dust from old hunting trophies that he pocketed out of sight of the others.
I couldn’t help but think that while the group appeared to be one of cohesion in a fight, it was more a collection of individuals that was slowly learning to work together, than the molded mercenary group it could be. Perhaps would be in time.
Meanwhile the slaves spoke up, hoping to return to their hometown of Fallcrest, but needing to get to the Seven-Pillared Hall safely first. Ulrik seemed disinclined at first to stop their hunt in the Keep, but to rest here and continue into the main keep, but it was Corvar who championed need for taking the slaves back safely to the Hall, offloading their filled packs of loot, before returning to the Keep to finish the job. Titan agreed, seeing as he would be able to visit the temple there to deal with the dark skin of the necromancer he still carried, so Ulrik agreed, and the group, along with the two slaves and their pack mule, thankfully still alive, returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall.
Thankfully there was no trouble getting back to the Seven-Pillared Hall, and, perhaps more exhausted than they had thought, they settled down for some rest at the Halfmoon Inn, the two slaves included. What would happen to them from now on, was thoughts for another day.