AiS 040: Into Deszarul's Hold

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With their preparations complete, the heroes were again ready to hunt bandits. Again Warg donned his tremendously cunning dwarven noblewomen disguise and as the party left the city through Duke’s Gate the wily warrior loudly scattered a handful of coins on the ground for the “peasants and poor people”. As he did so, he noticed two rough-looking fellows intently watching proceedings. One had a distinctive red beard and neither seemed particularly wholesome.

Travelling onwards toward Coldwater the bulk of the day was uneventful. In the late afternoon, a pair of mud-splattered riders thundered passed the party. Warg, who’d be watching out the back of the wagon, noticed a flash of a red beard as the two galloped passed. It seemed that finally—perhaps—the trap was set. After camping overnight, the party pushed on the next morning. 

Around midday, the heroes happened on a scene of violence and death. Ahead on the trail, a small merchant’s caravan of three wagons had clearly been attacked. Bodies lay scattered all around. A plump, middle-aged man stood on the road in a daze holding a bastard sword limply in one hand. Behind him a muscular woman wearing banded mail slumped unconscious against a wagon wheel. Blood oozed from a wound in her belly and she seemed in a bad way.

Thangrimm trotted forward to see what had happened while his companions—suspecting a trap—immediately fanned out into the scrub bounding the road on either side. It transpired, though, that there was no trap. Rather, the party’s approach had put flight to a large gang of bandits who had been about to overcome the caravan. Five guards and eight bandits lay about the caravans; two of the guards yet lived. Thangrimm and Genobar used their divine magic to heal the surviving guards and the party learnt more about what had happened. The middle-aged merchant introduced himself as Unto Joutsi while the female warrior named herself Pritta Hirvi. 

The two related the events of the recent ambush and using this information the party’s trackers—Orithur and Johann—easily picked up the bandits’ trail. After helping the survivors get their wagons off the road—for their horses had fled—the heroes set off after the bandits.

Several hours later, the trail the party were following combed higher into the hills and led the heroes into a densely wooded, steep-sided valley. Near the head of the valley, they discovered four cave entrances piercing the cliffs. The tracks led toward the caves and the party’s scouts—Grogor and Johann—were despatched to learn more. They discovered the four cave entrances all essentially led to the same large sunken cave. Worryingly, both scouts reported seeing multiple incredibly detailed stone statues scattered about the outer caves—could they have accidentally stumbled on Deszraul’s lost hold? With this information, Orithur argued strenuously for an immediate retreat, but braver—or perhaps more foolhardy—voices won out. 

Bravely, the party advanced into the cave. 

Immediately, forgetting the plan, Warg screamed a challenge and charged at the first group of bandits he saw. The four unfortunate, and surprised, men didn’t stand a chance. As the group rushed to support Warg, most of the bandits were quickly slain. One managed to escape up a narrow set of stone stairs all the while shouting for Venla and Deszraul. Unperturbed, the party gave chase. 

Rushing through several chambers, the party’s progress was only halted by a stout wooden door which the enraged Warg began to immediately batter down. As he hacked at the door, Thangrimm reached passed him and tried the handle—it was unlocked but something  or someone was holding it shut from inside.

At this moment, Johann who had lingered in the first cavern to make sure all the bandits were dead and not merely shamming death—suddenly shouted a warning. It seemed in the party’s headlong rush after the bandits they had overlooked a cunningly hidden secret door. This opened and a half dozen or so bandit archers tumbled out. As most of the party rushed back to help Johann, a blond-hair woman emerged from the door and shouted orders to the archers—who were clearly her minions. 

As a savage, no-holds barred combat broke out the woman—presumably Venla—made a break for the exit followed by two of her followers…