Smoke ’em Out

Taeva pokes her head through the door into the main floor, the rest of the party clustered in the stairway/storage room behind her. Cautiously, she moves down the hallway, listening at doors in the pitch black. In several, she hears shuffling, as of ogres or more of the undead they encountered below, and she catches sight of what might be skeletal patrols near the end of the hall. She slips back into the stairwell to confer with the party about whether to start going room to room or make a break to bar the front door. Unfortunately, one of the ogres nearby seems to have extraordinarily acute hearing, and there’s a muffled “what?” in Giantish from the nearest door.

Taeva and Haggor rush forward, ripping apart the startled ogre before he does much more than get the door open, but he has time to let out a death rattle that starts a reaction of doors slamming open. Another ogre sticks his head out of the next nearest door as four skeletal rangers begin moving down the corridor with bows drawn. The party fans out, gives up on stealth and draws light sources, and begins tearing apart the incoming enemies. Within a few seconds, Balekh and Shayliss grow worried about the grim-faced undead their human eyes can barely make out in the torchlight… and Balekh unleashes an arcane blast of lightning which Shayliss uses to pinpoint the target of a fireball. Hundreds of charred bones, as well as the remains of a door, clatter about the hallway, and there is no longer any chance of surprise as every door on the ground floor slams open and begins to disgorge ogres and undead into the halls.

Haggor is worried that someone will call for backup, and sprints to the end of the hall, preparing to bar the front door—he sees that it’s in poor repair after the ogres fought their way in, so a bar will be only a temporary solution. However, he doesn’t have much time to contemplate, as Balekh tosses a torch down the hall behind him and Shayliss unleashes a conflagration magic that causes it to bloom into a vast cloud of choking smoke. Haggor is now cut off from the rest of the party by a hundred feet of smoke, and enemies that intended to pour down the hallway take another path and spy a half-orc standing at their front door. He turns to face two frost wights, four skeletal archers, and three ogres as the rest of the party forms up to eliminate anything that might come out of the smoke.

What follows is a minute of sheer chaos, as arrows and spells fly past Taeva, Vale, and Kibb holding the front line, each seeking out terrible faces that appear from the magical smoke. The party can sometimes hear the sound of Haggor, distant, fighting in between cursing at Balekh for stranding him. Finally, the party clears the last of the oncoming horde, and Balekh and Kibb charge through the smoke to help Haggor as the rest of the group moves carefully to clear any remaining rooms. When Balekh finally struggles out of the smoke of his own devising, he finds Kibb with a skeleton’s head in his jaws and Haggor standing on the corpses of three ogres and a half-dozen former rangers, none the worse for wear save for frostbitten fists. He is staring, annoyed, at Kibb for snatching the last of the enemies. For his part, Balekh simply asks why Haggor was complaining since he was obviously fine. Balekh troops forward past Haggor’s scowl and arcane locks the front door.

The smoke clears, the party confirms that there are no more enemies in the abattoir that used to be a fort. Balekh patches them up, and they head to the second floor. Taeva again slips forward, and spies a mighty ogre creating grisly taxidermy in the desecrated ranger’s temple. Rather than risk being noticed again, they dash through the door, barely giving the warchief of the Kreegs time to begin raging. The assault is brutal and fast, with the ogre barely getting a swing in, but, just before he falls, Balekh moves into range and the terrible beast takes two swings, carving the theurge’s chest open with an X. Jaagrath slumps to the floor shortly after Balekh.

Haggor rushes forward to shove a healing potion down Balekh’s throat, and just as he’s groggily sitting up, the rangers in the hall call attention to another door opening. They can make out the features of a woman who must be Lucrecia. She bears a striking family resemblance to Xanesha even before she flickers out of her human guise into a towering snake-woman. Unfortunately, she is not nearly as prepared for a fight as her sister, and the furious onslaught of a hasted party makes every action a delaying tactic. Haggor smashes her over and over, Taeva bounces all over the room, never allowing her free of flanking, and magic and arrows rains through the door into the chamber she took over from the leader of the rangers. She falls without doing anything to seriously threaten the party, and Rannick is all but reclaimed.

After securing the upper floor, the party takes to the roof, brandishing the warchief’s head while lobbing fireballs at the ogres that have finally begun to assemble at the magically barred tower door. They run screaming into the hills, morale broken, and the party begins the long process of making the keep livable again. Mystery remains, however: there is no sign of Commander Bayden amongst the prisoners or the undead, nor of the giants their captive ogre said had taken over the ogre clans. Clearly, a threat remains atop Hook Mountain…