Chapter Eight –"Lying in the arms of Jesus"

Trixie, Chunk, Stumpy, Idjit and I are peering round the corner, with only our heads visible and appearing to an outsider to be some weird multiracial totem pole waiting for the Obscuring Mist to disappear. Starting a countdown, the mist fades from view on my queue and the odd crossbow bolt is fired from the more observant Orc before we all duck back into cover once more.

The Orcs have started to call out for reinforcements, while Trixie shouts back “ will not come for you oh helpless ones...” at the top of her voice. As the Humans of the party cannot see anything that is going on, Trixie casts Light on a bottle and throws it towards the barricade.

It’s not much, but it’s a good start, as the bottle lands more or less in a perfect spot and wobbles in the rippling water created by Stumpy, who was on his way to swim across the hole. We can now see the Orcs atop the barricade, and before they bring arms to bear on the Cleric, I drop a Flaming Sphere on the blockade to cause trouble.

The barricade soon clears pretty rapidly as I make it move back and forwards like some demented Donkey Kong fireball – it hits no-one, but allows the better swimmers a chance to get to the base of the wall while not being targeted with huge crossbows.

With Idjit covering the walls with bow fire and Chunk at the bottom of the wall ready to clamber up, I test my exceptional swim skills to the limit by attempting to swim less than the width of a child’s pool, failing magnificently halfway across the gap. Chunk has scaled the walls and lands atop the barricade to face a barrage of waiting Orcs on another blockade some twenty feet away, all armed with Crossbows.

Luckily Stumpy had prepared a Shield Other spell to cover him, as with eyes screwed tightly shut as he expects the worst, and is pleasantly surprised to only be hit once - admittedly very hard. He digs into his reservoirs of Barbarian power and shouts his rage and anger at his hastily reloading kin, noticing with glee their nervous fingers trying to restring and re-cock crossbows.

Stumpy runs down the steps to the bottom of the barricade and banes the Orcs closest to him, and I resurface gasping for air and looking very much like an aqua phobic kitten in an apple bobbing contest, not even making the first barricade as the rest of the party hit the second. Total Wipe-out contestant, I am not....

The Orcs have dropped Crossbows and have Pikes ready to repel the intruders, and more than one Glaive is pushed threateningly at Chunk to either score a hit or attempt to stop him from climbing the second barricade. They have not taken into consideration the extraordinary abilities of Stumpy the walking stepladder however, and kneeling down, Chunk bounds upwards from Stumpy’s back and onto the barricade to face the inappropriately armed Orcs.

On his own, Chunk starts to take a terrible beating, as does Stumpy from the spell effects, but he still holds the breach. Raging, he smashes a Warrior from the wall to allow the fast approaching Idjit time to leap onto the wall and step into the freshly made space to gut a surprised Orc as he lands.

I finally make it to the top of the first barricade and help the fighters by casting another Flaming Sphere, burning those in the back and trying to hamper movement on the wall, while Chunk and Idjit are cleaving their way through the defences very nicely thank you very much. Trixie casts Tasha’s Hideous laughter on an Orc who drops to the floor laughing and pointing at his bemused and burning brethren as another burning corpse drops from the wall.

Chunk in full flow now builds his rage to a crescendo and proclaims loudly, “...are you laughing at me?” before dropping his axe to the barricade. Trixie’s well placed slingshot pops off a burning lad who was trying to climb down the inside of the wall, and a short scream and a crashing noise indicate that he did indeed land very badly.

I now have two Flaming Spheres spreading their fiery love to those on the wall, and the bodies are piling up as we whittle the defenders down. An Orc escapes through the door at the back, and Chunk finally kills the Tasha inspired laughing Orc at his feet before the clattering of battle stops.

A few quick healing spells are passed about, and Trixie confirms that only one escaped, as the only other unaccountable Orc that was ejected from the barricade by flame and stone lies in an awkward heap on the floor not far from us. Led by Chunk, we open the door and run into a passage only to see a huge Minotaur type creature in a room at the end of the door less corridor. A quick u-turn and reshuffle of the party see’s Trixie taking the front spot, a Sleep spell ready to cast, and opening the door again, we enter the passage.

The beast on queue charges, the Sleep spell is cast, and nothing happens. I cast a Summon Spell to try and hold the charging creature, but this fails once more – it appears the Summoning spells fail on all levels of this castle so far. A five foot wide corridor with uncertain members suddenly thinking they should be elsewhere right now is not the best form of attack and while a certain amount of dithering takes place, a decisive Trixie tumbles past the Minotaur into the room beyond. Sadly she takes a massive strike to the back as she does so.

The Minotaur steps forward to strike Idjit, and we back off to try and draw it back with us and away from Trixie. It starts to follow us at first, then as we shuffle back, it doubles back and goes for Trixie, causing us all to run after it once more.

Trixie tries to evade the creature as it closes in, but sadly fails and is struck down, unmoving on the ground**. The ferrous strike has some benefit though as the Minotaur loses its grip on its axe, allowing Chunk, the closest to it, to hit it hard as it reaches for the weapon. Gathering round, we all have a go at the beast, my Shillelagh smashes down very hard due to my Stumpy powered increased strength, and Stumpy also hits it a belter with his club.

The Minotaur still looks very strong however, and with a powerful strike, more or less cuts Idjit in half with a sweeping axe strike. Other attacks lay about Stumpy and Chunk, and both of them look very close to death, and thankfully in the on slewing melee, our attacks fell the creature so that the beast can swing no more.

IIdjit is given to Trixie and I to look after, which as Trixie puts it, is that he is currently “...lying in the arms of Jesus.” With no way of reviving him, we retreat back out of the Orcs lair and out of this mountain castle. The path back through the levels is uneventful, and soon we are back at the gates to the city once more. Asking for the nearest temple, we are directed to the Temple of Selune, and to ask for Broethra, a high ranked Priestess.

We find the Temple after a short while, and the beautiful Priestess seems much taken with me, especially as I am still attired as I was after the Spiders destroyed my armour, and still have neglected to wear any clothing other than the ragged cloak that forms a loin cloth and barely covers my modesty. We leave Idjit with her for the long preparation duration of the spell and wander off to the weapon and armour shops to buy fresh supplies, noticing soon after that we are being followed.

We pass other Temples on our way around the shops – the Temple of Shontessa is noticeable for being utterly deserted with locked gates and boarded up doors and windows. Trixie continues to look for peasants to abuse, sadly failing and I wander down the immaculately kept path and bushes to my temple a short walk away to offer prayer.

Once back at the Temple, we confuse the Priestess with our rambling story on how Idjit got to be in the state he was in while adding our reasons for why we need Raise Dead Scrolls, interjected with swimming stories and horned beasts, while Broethra tells us that the boarded up temple apparently was used by Devil Worshipers, hence its closure.

A few hours later, and with a weak looking Idjit in tow, we are walking slowly back to the inn. I drop into some clothes shops on the way through, and once back in our rooms, my Sparta dress code days are over as I am clothed correctly once more.

It is mentioned later to us in the inn as we discuss our shadowy friends from the shops earlier that they are most likely to be members of the Thieves Guild - selling a wagon load of goods obviously encroaches on their turf, and so we need to be on our guard.

After another day of rest, we are finally ready to go, and with a good six hours of travel, we are back into the castle, down through the levels and back to the water filled corridor by the Orc barricade, with no interruptions. There we are interrupted, as at least three Orcs appear at the top of the barricade and Glaive the front rank about to climb the wall.

Chunk takes a massive beating and drops while Trixie makes one drop out of sight by causing him to laugh his head off, and I ease his burden by setting him on fire with a Burning Sphere. Chunk manages to get up after some help from Stumpy, and leaps to the top of the barricade into a hail of crossbow bolts, but they thankfully all miss. Idjit takes a spot beside him and begins firing at the reloading Orcs, shooting with fine strikes that would have made Robin Hood proud.

Chunk has started his run and leap to the next barricade, while Idjit once more calmly takes out Orcs with precise shots. I am up and smash an Orc dead that had fallen off the barricade in an attempt to escape the Flaming Sphere and hadn’t quite made it to the next barricade.

There are possibly six Orcs ducked behind the second barricade as we all clamber over the first, and this is reduced to five as someone’s head is shown enough for Trixie to blast them with Magic Missile. My Flaming Sphere helps thin things out as I make it leap up and cause trouble for them, and Chunk, waiting patiently at the base of the wall, takes this moment to leap up and smash one off the wall quite dead. The Orcs begin bellowing out for someone, whom we assume is a leader of sorts, and one particular loud mouthed Orc who is still shouting is burnt, Magic Missile’d and then finally cut down by Chunk.

Stumpy once more takes the role of step, and allows me to climb the wall to Shillelagh one in the head, while Idjit’s withering bow fire knocks the last one from the wall.

We move down the corridor and come across a locked door which Chunk boots open with ease. I can hear rumblings of machinery in the distance, and we explore closer to the noise. The room contains rope and lots of assorted equipment - a storeroom for mining equipment that is obviously happening in this area. There seems to be a little less clutter in one area of the room, which catches Idjit’s eye, which after a short period of investigating, discovers a secret door within the wall.

The catch is opened, and we move into a dusty corridor with Chunk leading the way. The passage ends in a wall, but another secret door is found easily and opened. Chunk peers through to see a Gnome chained by the neck and a Half Orc bending over a table looking at some maps and paperwork on the table.

Suddenly the man turns, and before anyone else is even aware of what’s happening, Idjit has run in and gutted the Orc before he can say a word. The Orc, with finger raised and a stupefied expression on his face simply looks at Idjit while holding his stomach, then falls back onto the table before crashing to the floor. The silence is broken by the Gnome laughing his head off, shouting “..who’s the big Sorcerer now eh?” while kicking the corpse.


**Trixie loses her chance here.