- Over the next three days Gvados used his shape shifting abilities to scout out the fortress. In the form of a hawk, he flies over the canyon. At the canyon’s end, a wall closes it off with three towers. The one in the middle is larger, with an enclosed structure on the top over large fortified gates. He notices each tower near the canyon walls have two guards always on watch. Observing them through the day he learns their schedule, and flies low enough to become familiar with one of the guards.
- Gvados lands back at the camp and scrys on the guard he observed, learning a little of the inside areas of the fortress. He observes duergar eating at a dining hall, the guard’s bunk room which is made to house ten soldiers, and an unfortunate view of the privy.
- The next day as Gvados flies in the air he observes two raiding parties, ten duergar warriors each, returning through the canyon to the fortress. They go inside the main gate, then through the courtyard, and into the gate in the canyon’s wall. After some time inside two fresh raiding parties emerge and depart the canyon, splitting up two separate directions, perhaps searching for the missing raid party that never returned. As Gvados does his watching of the fortress the other members of the party discuss plans back at camp. Hidden from the departing raid parties by the large boulders on the hill they’ve made camp, they consider attacking the raid party passing by. “We could ransom them,” someone suggests. “Or we could ransom the livestock wagon,” another says. “Ransom wouldn’t work. From what we’ve learned of them they wouldn’t care enough of the captured warriors to weaken themselves.” Then Durgyn has an idea. “Perhaps we could place the fortress under siege. We kill the two raid parties that have just left, then when more come out we attack them, dwindling their numbers and not having to take on the whole strength of the fortress at once. Then when they have been weakened we take a direct attack on the fortress.” That night Gvados scrys on another guard, observing the hallway leading into the fortress from the other tower. He scrys again and observed the warrior practicing combat in a large room.
- On the third day they lie in wait, they see the wagon approaching. They try to set up an ambush, throwing gold coins in the road and leaving caltrops just before the coins. The merchant is driving the wagon and a man sits next to him. In the rear, main area of the wagon a third man looks out between the two on the drivers bench. As they approach Hillfort is able to hear them speaking in Thaotrese. The man is discussing with the merchant where he should stop before the fortress to let him and his companion off the wagon. He is asking the merchant what a good approach would be to the fortress on foot. The merchant is half dark-elf and the two passengers are human. The man sitting next to the merchant notices the coins in the road and hops off the wagon. The mare pulling the wagon suddenly rears up, frightened by the stinging pain in its hooves from stepping on the caltrops. The party lies hidden in the shrubbery and small hills near the road and Hillfort speaks out in the local language.
“Stay where you are! You will not be hurt… are you friend or enemy of the dwarves?”
“We have a profitable relationship,” the merchant replies.
“Well perhaps I can offer a chance for more profit.” Hillfort pauses. “We need to borrow your wagon.”
“Preposterous! Show yourself! You present yourself as a highwayman, offering me profit, and expect me to let you borrow my wagon?” He draws a wand from a compartment in the driver’s bench. “Over my dead body!”
The man in the rear of the wagon jumps out and the two men draw a set of daggers. It now becomes more clear these two are assassins gaining transport from the merchant. One assassin says to the other, “We must’ve been found out…” and they quickly walk to the side of the road searching for Hillfort. Durgyn steps out and reveals himself, towering by the road. The assassins pause, startled, and the merchant is frightened. He whips the mare and the wagon begins to dash off. The whole party of adventurers jump from their hiding places, attacking to try and stop the wagon. Durgyn steps into the road in front of the mare and roars. The mare rears again and stumbles as the wagon stops, pushing against him. The others engage the assassins in combat. One becomes bloodied and yells out, “The mission must succeed!” He runs towards the hills and Hillfort sends a magic missile after him. When it finds its target the result is severe. The assassin was blasted into pieces, and Hillfort’s eyes open wide. “Oops.”
The other assassin is hard pressed and vanishes; tendrils of shadow envelop him and he’s gone. Someone notices a pouch on the ground that broke from the assassin’s belt in combat. In the pouch and on the remains of the other assassin they find two potions each. Largo identifies them as ‘darkvision’ and ‘widened zone of silence’.
- The merchant yields. Durgyn grabs the reigns of the mare so it cannot run again, but the animal panics. Franz steps up and is able to calm the mare. Landen jumps onto the wagon and pulls the fabric top aside to inspect its cargo: livestock. Goats, chickens, etc. The group ties up the merchant, and Landen hops down to assist. The merchant frantically babbles in Thaotrese, which none of them but Hillfort can understand. The merchant looks up to Landen, and in broken common language he pleads for mercy. Landen replies in simple phrases, “No killing. Just wagon. You could’ve made a profit you know.”
The duergar captive steps up and examines the merchant. He pats Landen on the shoulder with a look almost expressing pleasure. Landen takes it as a compliment on his skills of tying up the merchant, and in the middle of his gloating the duergar picks up a mace and smashes in the merchant’s head. Everyone stands silent for a short moment.
“That was the plan this whole time!?” Landen shouts. “I could’ve done that!”
Largo runs up, “I’ve got dibs on the wagon!”
Landen turns to Hillfort, “You did burn his… we kinda owe him a wagon.”
- Before the party saw the wagon approaching in the distance, that morning Gvados prepared himself for a deeper examination of the fortress. He flew down the canyon as usual, but this time landed at the top of the canyon walls and changed shape into a monstrous spider, about the size of a cat. During the ambush on the wagon, Gvados was climbing down the canyon wall and squeezed through the gar above the main entrance door to the fortress. Inside he saw the great entryway. Squeezing through the next door, a stone door designed to lock into a groove in the floor, he crawled his way around the fortress halls staying hidden on the ceiling. Being in spider form, Gvados had the senses of a spider. He could feels when duergar were near by the vibrations through the walls. Scurrying around, being sure to avoid any tremors that indicated the presence of dwarves, he was able to scout a decent area of the fortress and a rough count of how many inside he had avoided. He estimated that he came across 40 occupants, and he expected there was still a large amount of the fortress that was yet unexplored. He crawls up the corridor to a tower and changes into his human form just underneath the door in the ceiling that opens onto the tower’s watchpost. With careful timing, he trows open the hatch and changes into the form of a small black bird, flying out of the tower into the sky. The two duergar on watch are startled and don’t know what to make of it. They seem uneasy as Gvados flies away, almost as if he were an ill omen.
- As the evening approached the adventurers began to plan how they would infiltrate the fortress tonight. After some questioning of the duergar captive with Hillfort as their translator, Gvados drew a rough map of what he knew of the fortress and showed it to the dark dwarf. The duergar seems astonished, and asks how they could have such information. He doesn’t believe it possible that one of them could have been inside the fortress. “Tell him we have our ways,” Gvados says to Hillfort. “Now ask where the prisoners are held.” The duergar becomes angered and grasps the map in his first, crupling it into a ball. He tears at it and throws the destroyed paper to the ground. Gvados calmly steps forward, picks up the ball of paper, and says a small incantation. The paper opens up, the tear mends itself and the creases flatten, then held in his hand is the map in its original intact form. He presents it to the dark dwarf again. “Were are the prisoners?” Hesitently the duergar points to a door on Gvados’ map, not far from one of the tower’s corridors. The party is uneasy with the information, but decide they have nothing else to go on. Their plan is to come down from the cliff top onto the nearest tower to that room, using the cover of darkness. On a pitch black night, although the duergar could see in the dark their vision is only good for so far a distance. They expect the dwarves wouldn’t be able to see from one tower to the other on a dark night. After the guards change shift, they decide Landen will go in alone (as he is the most stealthy) and confirm if the room indicated by the duergar is indeed the prison.
Speaker in Dreams
Scouting the fortress
The plan is hatched and set into motion