On the Offensive
Recovering from their trip to the dam, the party is spread out around the Turtleback Ferry inn, planning strategy with Vale and the Captain. They still think that their best bet is to use the secret passages in the cliff behind the tower to cause chaos amongst the ogres and then make a surgical strike to try to take out the leadership in the base. The Captain mentions that she’s worried that the ogres have some plan beyond just holding the base, and that she thinks she’s seen evidence of ogre scouts in the woods around the town, for purposes unknown.
Veshenga and Taeva, bored with the strategy session anyway, need no further rationale for heading out into the drizzling rain and searching the woods. Veshenga quickly finds tracks that support what the Captain suggested, and the two of them follow them stealthily through the forest. Before long, they catch sight of a lumbering, giant humanoid trying to sneak through the trees. They briefly consider going to get the rest of the party, but decide to see if they can take a single ogre. Taeva climbs a tree that the ogre looks to be passing under soon, and Veshenga takes an angle down a forest path. Before the ogre even finishes his breath of surprise, Taeva has dropped out of the tree with blades flashing and Veshenga has filled him full of arrows. The ogre slumps to the ground, and Veshenga goes about stabilizing him and guarding against other threats while Taeva goes to retrieve the party.
The gnome manages to remember the twisting path through the woods, and within an hour the rest of the group has arrived. Haggor binds the ogre and Balekh heals him to return him to consciousness. As the two that speak Giant, Haggor and Taeva work to interrogate the scout, from whom they find:
- He and a few others were sent to scout the woods and grab any townsfolk that ventured out alone, for unknown purposes.
- The ogre leadership has been taken over by a gray-skinned giant that arrived bearing a Sihedron rune some months previously.
- While their original leader is still in charge to some degree, he’s no longer explaining what’s going on to the ogres as a group, so the scout has no idea what the master plan is.
- A woman matching the description of the proprietress of the riverboat casino, Lucrecia, arrived after they took the Fort, and has set up inside. The party is becoming increasingly convinced that she’s another lamia matriarch like Xanesha.
- Most of the ogres are staying outside in the new barracks, annoyed by the smell of humans inside the Fort.
As they promised that they would free the ogre for cooperation, they let him go with the understanding that they will kill him if they see him again, and he is to proceed directly towards the dam and back onto the Storval Plateau. They don’t think they have much to worry about an ogre so thoroughly trounced and suborned going back to his commander. They gather their things back in town and then head towards the Fort.
Arriving in the middle of the night, the party counts on the ogres relying on their darkvision so being completely blind more than a couple-dozen yards away. With Taeva and Veshenga leading, the entire group is able to get to the secret door behind the Fort’s waterfall without apparently alerting the sentries, though Kibb almost gives the game away. Once inside, they explore the caves while waiting for sunrise, narrowly avoiding a nasty encounter with a pair of shocker lizards, finding a bridge that could easily fall, and finding a handful of treasure in the secret armory and on a long-dead halfling explorer. They nap fitfully in a cave for the rest of the night.
At dawn, Taeva waits until most of the ogres have stopped moving around in the barracks as the night shift returns to sleep, then slips out of another secret door directly behind the dwelling. Watching her back and using various scraps of tools and lumber, she does her best to quietly block the only door out of the barracks, cautious of other ogres still up and around. Satisfied, she slides back into the caves and Balekh creates a rolling ball of flame that he sets directly under the barracks near the door, right in the pile of lamp oil Taeva had scattered as she finished. The wooden structure quickly catches flame from all the dry lumber underneath, and the party shuts the door on the screams of burning ogres and chaos inside the walls.
Heading under the tower, Veshenga and the Captain work together to calm the warren of shocker lizards, and reach the secret door into the tower basement. The group sees ogres moving around in the room and immediately rushes in so they don’t risk alerting the guards. Haggor strides in and removes the weapon from a hapless ogre as the rest of the group moves in to attack what appears to be an ogre sorceress of some kind. They then completely take in that the basement has been converted into some kind of profane mortuary: ranger bodes lie on slabs around the room, necromantic runes are inscribed about, and a stack of onyx waits in a bin nearby.
The ogre and ogress fall quickly, but not without her unleashing a blast of lightning that singes most of the party (with Taeva and Haggor evading free). Just as they are falling, however, two of the apparent corpses on the slab sit up and begin radiating an unearthly cold, reaching for nearby party members. It takes a bit more work to put down the two frost wights, though only Vale is subjected to their life-draining touch.
After the room is secured, the group investigates the rest of the basement/prison and finds that there are still around ten rangers alive and imprisoned, in terrible shape. The party does what they can to help, Balekh including the victims in a burst of positive energy, and then shepherds them past the shocker lizards and back into the cave complex where they should be more or less safe. The group then turns to the stairs to the first floor, ready to begin their rush to try to secure the tower door against the ogres outside…