Chapter Nine –"Hop, Skip and Chunk"

The Gnome, who stops laughing long enough to tell us that his name is Fiddle and that he is a slave working for the Wizard sorting gems and balancing his books. He continues by adding that although he looks unharmed, well treated and that there are no sign of chains or manacles, he cannot leave as his sister is kept somewhere below in the mines. They were waylaid by mysterious bandits and his privileged position is due to the fact that he was a jewellery expert prior to being kidnapped, and so managed to get himself appointed as a personal slave rather than bundled into the mines for menial labour. He then gives us details on the guards here of which he thinks are all Orc’s, adding that one or two of them are casters, “Although not as powerful as this one...” he says pointing at the floor.

This obviously tickles the Gnome and he again starts to giggle uncontrollably and we have to tell him to be quiet and close the door before an outburst warns any passing troops. In an effort to get him to focus, we tell him to concentrate and that we will rescue the slaves and close the door on him after confirming a secret knock.

Leaving the now calm Gnome behind, we move up the corridor with Idjit and his freshly cleaned gauntlets in the lead. Idjit indicates that there is a large cavern ahead but we wish to be more subtle than simply moving in and challenging people straight away so take a side passage instead. Suddenly a large gong is sounded, possibly dinner time but far more likely to indicate that we were spotted and so we quickly move up the passage to find that it ends in a double door.

Chunk takes a few deep breaths to build himself up to a door wrecking rage when the door unexpectedly opens before him. Before he can peek at the nice person who has saved him from getting splinters in his knuckles, a Fireball explodes catching the lead members of the party. Even though Stumpy was in the middle, he manages to take the brunt of the blast full in the face and looks in a bad way while Chunk pushes hard on the doors to reveal a short human Wizard standing between two large Orc’s, each holding some very large and very angry weird looking dogs. Chunk ignores them all though, as off to one side he has spotted some lovely Orc ladies, and so begins to smooth his hair down and straightens his blood soaked tunic.

Idjit again shows a disarmingly controlled burst of speed as he pushes past the smitten Chunk and smashes into the Wizard with gauntlet extended. Too late he notices the crackling dark energy surrounding the spell-caster, and they scream in tandem - one suffering a painful stab to the pancreas, the other brought to his knees with a pain like being electrocuted by darkness.

The Wizard fires Magic Missile for good measure into the stunned form of the gauntleted Warrior and the Dogs are let of the leash to bound towards Chunk followed by their owner who also steps forward to attack the Half-Orc. The other Dog handler deals a punishing blow to Idjit as he stands up and after a failed attempt to befriend one of the beasts I drop a Flaming Sphere under a dog which looks decidedly Troll-like in its appearance.

Stumpy casts Doom on one of the Orcs which causes it a few problems as it clearly is distracted by something and misses its attack. McFlurry casts Haste upon himself and cart wheeling into the Wizard drops him to the floor in a mass of elbows and swathes of brightly coloured cloth. Sadly the Monk appears to have grappled himself though as the Wizard ducks sideways and stands upright glancing irately towards the Monk.

Idjit has adopted that special look that cries out ‘please do not look or point any sharp objects at me, there is nothing to see here’ as he slopes off looking very wounded indeed while rummaging through his pack for a potion. The enemy caster drops a Fireball on the back rank catching myself and Trixie in its fiery embrace, while one of the Orc’s finding its previous opponent gone, hits McFlurry hard enough to force his Magic Eye to heal him from the blow. Trixie tries to compel an Orc to drop his weapon which sadly fails and I drop another Flaming Sphere on the caster, but like McFlurry previous attack, he dodges out of the way of. Stumpy also Haste’s himself and then uses the Hammersphere to give the caster something to distract him as he is smashed in the head and shoulders by a ghostly weapon from above.

McFlurry tries another grapple on the caster but when that also fails, manages to smash one of his elbows into the Orc standing next to him quite nicely, nearly knocking the Orc over. Another Fireball blasts the air from the lungs as it catches nearly everyone in the group, even burning some of the Troll hounds. The almost instantaneous wave of fire dissipates leaving one dead dog and two badly burnt party members with both McFlurry and Stumpy lying on the floor.

McFlurry stirs and stands upright, moving back into combat and so appears to be fine, but the burnt beard and blackened features of Stumpy indicate a far worse situation, which is thankfully averted when a fresh looking Idjit appears by his side as if by magic with a potion. Trixie moves up and casts Tasha’s Hideous Laughter on the caster who immediately falls over with a loud guffaw as Trixie launches into her “I say I say I say...what do you call....” routine, and I help by moving the Flaming Sphere on his head before changing into a Fleshraker Dinosaur for speed and healing purposes.

Stumpy feels much better now he is healed and shields McFlurry still standing on his own versus one of the large Orcs, while Idjit moves to a good firing position. The Orc is red, black and blue from punches and cuts and as another arrow hits him in the shoulder he backhands his axe into McFlurry’s thigh, wounding him further.

The Flaming Sphere continues its grim work as the pained laughter weakens and finally becomes quiet as the caster dies and I leap on top of the Orc that attacked McFlurry to try and divert his attention with bites and claws tearing multiple wounds into his back. The Orc still stands despite the desperately ferocious assault which is a bit of a worry as we all look really badly wounded and one less opponent really would have made the difference.

Luckily Chunk mops up the Orc and Dog that had been harassing him for the last minute or so but then the party mishaps occur as, and I am quoting Trixie here, McFlurry “..drop’s his sponges..” Nope, I don’t have a clue either, and I can only loosely translate this as a weird Dwarven colloquium as possibly describing an unsuccessful combat description as McFlurry fights furiously forgetting flailing forearms favourably fail falling floor-wards face first.

...thus putting him out of the threat of the Orc who looks firstly at the bundle of rags on the floor, pauses as an arrow from Idjit catches him slightly on the arm before his gaze continues to travel to me in the shape of a seven foot 400lb dinosaur with bits of his shirt between its teeth. Two axe blows is all it takes to drop my now nearly extinct form to the floor, but Trixie saves the day as with a false chuckle and a preschool cuss of “..I saw an Orc who looks like a Badger!” causing the Orc to double up with laughter, tears streaming past his fangs. He does not see Chunk step up and cut his head off, but it’s likely this action only would have made him laugh some more.

Bodies littered everywhere indicate that combat is now over and so Chunk saunters towards the ladies and doffs his cap while Trixie begins to rummage through stuff. As Chunk settles into his heroic Orc routine and the ladies begin to peel oranges for him to eat, we all pick ourselves up and search for loot before healing ourselves. Well, you have to get your priorities straight, don’t you?

All that searching makes us sleepy, and so catnapping for a few hours to get a short rest, Trixie begins to examine some of the things she has identified as ‘hers’, including a Spell Book. Wandering as she formulates a way to secrete a book that is nearly as big as she is about her person, she wanders near me and then opens the book to get a better look. Right on cue, the book explodes and the blast area is close enough to me to catch me, dropping me to from the status of ‘walking wounded’ to that of ‘crawling haemorrhaging mess’.

I don’t even have the strength to give a dirty look, so crawl off and hide in the furthest corner away from all to dig out the bandages and begin the slow painful healing that can only come from 0 and 1st level healing spells.

After a period of time a knock at the door brings startled looks as our excellent hiding place is found, and is not helped by more than one person humming or singing “..there’s somebody at the door..” One of the Orc maidens explains that they are probably here for dinner, pointing at the half eaten pig spit roasted by the throne, and so we quickly usher Chunk towards the door to speak to them.

A few words are spoken but it’s all Greek to me and they could have been reciting Shakespeare for all I know, apart from the puzzled looks from Chunk indicating that they don’t believe whatever excuse they are being told. A brief discussion on our side indicates we should just open the door and rush them, and after another minute or two of shuffling, Chunk opens the door to find nothing on the other side.

We all move out after deciding that now is probably a good time to leave this place and promptly walk into a stack of Orcs all waiting around the corner. They let loose a barrage of crossbow bolts at Chunk in the lead but thankfully miss as he runs into them. Let slip the Orc of war! I drop a Flaming Sphere on the back rank while Idjit, Chunk and McFlurry take it in turns to alternate between the front and very cramped rank. Trixie tries a Sleep spell on them which sadly fails, and with the Flaming Sphere decimating the back ranks and the trio of Warriors attacking the front, the Orcs in the middle are looking very uncomfortable, and look resigned to the fate of simply lining up to be slaughtered by fire, axe claw or fist.

The last Orc falls, but not before a shout for someone called Tariq to aid them. Not moments later someone does indeed arrive in the form of a rather large and muscular Orc, who even towers over Chunk in size and stature.

Idjit who was in the front rank is hit very hard by the Orc, and we decide to slowly withdraw to try and draw the creature back with us. Chunk takes over as the front rank while my Summoning Spells once more fail within these Castles walls. We are nearly back to the throne room as Chunk gets one last hit in on his larger foe before falling back into the room and collapsing as his Rage leaves him.

Stumpy is quickly on hand to heal the fallen Half-Orc and Trixie tries to distract the Orc by shouting out “..give up or we will kill your King!” in Orcish as we peer into the corridor waiting for the Orc to appear. The Orc does not rise to the bait, and feeling better, Chunk simply takes a deep breath and begins to trot round the corner into the waiting Orc. McFlurry is hot on his heels and as the two Orcs battle, the Monk slips in-between the pair and tumbles past them, attacking the one we are assuming to be the mysterious Tariq from behind.

Chunk has taken far too much punishment in the last few minutes to keep fighting and a devastating overhead strike pushes the half-Orc into the wall accompanied by some unpleasant crunching noises and far too much blood. As Tariq presses forward, Idjit, waiting for his opportunity, steps forward and catches another axe attack with one claw while ramming the other deep into the groin of the towering Orc. The Orcs eye blaze with fury as he looks down on the human but the anger dies within them as he slowly topples and once released from the claws embrace, slides down the wall, curiously mirroring the pose of Chunk.

Stabilizing Chunk seconds from death, we quickly take him and move him back to the throne room once more to give him more aid. The rumbling noise that has been present in the background has stopped at some point recently, and with all our healing pretty much exhausted, we carefully march onwards and back to the mines.

Here we find that the slaves have all stopped work and are doing what they can to free themselves as no guards have been present for some time. It takes a good hour or two to round people up, and soon we are all heading back to Fiddles room where the slaves are fed with the copious amounts of Goodberries that I have been stashing away. As there is still no sign of the Gnomes sister, we are ready to move on again deeper into the caves too an unexplored area called the Slave pits which has been pointed out to us by the slaves.

Past the Minotaur’s lair we go and soon we are arrive at the large decretive wooden door as indicated by the slaves. Chunk has worked up a sweat and smashes the door down with a roar and a crushing axe blow and moves into the room to find it aptly named as a series of occupied pits have been dug into the large room with a barred corridor running the length of one side protected by large gates in the shut position at each end.  

As we all enter, a door on the far side opens and armed Orc’s quickly hustle through until they line the far wall, the tromping of their boots nearly drowning out the cries of ‘Help us!’ from down below. The last of the party are inside as the Orc’s begin to level heavy crossbows while Chunk has tapped his red heels, thought of Kansas and with a hop and a skip bounds into the air as the clatter of Crossbow bolts hurtles across the room. His magical boots aiding his already incredible leaping Barbarian skills power him across the gap like a six foot 300lb Golden Eagle and he soars into an Orc on the far side who can only helplessly watch in slow motion as he is smashed from his feet before thudding into the far wall in a heap.

The Orc not only had most of his ribs broken in the strange attack when Chunk is upon him with Axe, furiously cutting him down before the Orc can even speak. McFlurry is a fraction of a second behind Chunk and scampers dextrously across the gaps in the pits while I drop an Obscuring Mist to cover our side of the room before moving to try and open the portcullis gates nearest to me.

McFlurry uses his cloak to cast Web across the portcullis and the Orc manning the levers on the far side and moves in only to be hit far too hard from someone that should be trapped in the gooey fluid of the Monk. Idjit has decided to brave the pit walk, and taking things ever so slowly is about half way across when he realises that he really should not be doing this at all and stopping at a tiny crossroads to mop his brow.

I have our side of the portcullis open, but the web holds the other end fast, so I move down to see what I can do to free it. McFlurry is having a hard time of things as the Orc defending the levers knows that he cannot move or be stuck in the web nor can he let go of the levers, so stands and swipes at the SpiderMonk as he approaches. It is not helped by the fact that McFlurry keeps missing him and with each lost strike it increases the chances of more of his Orc brethren able to help as they try and cut their way through the mess towards them.

I fly over to help Idjit across the wobbly beams while the Orc still fending off McFlurry manages to trip the lever that causes the other end to drop down, trapping Trixie and Stumpy inside the corridor. Chunk after his massive effort has become the biggest fly in the world as his huge frame is stuck quite magnificently in McFlurry’s web. With each passing movement all he does is entrap himself further and his face is redder than a beetroot from anger, exhaustion and embarrassment at his situation.

Trixie has oil and a torch, and soon a small fire is going on the web nearest the levers, and soon we have the situation in hand, which is lucky as it looked like a Rolf Harris drawing at multiple points – looking completely unintelligible before finally becoming something to be proud of.

With Trixie burning the last Orc to death in her oil and Chunk sulkily pulling the last strands of web from him, we start to look about the room for a way to free the prisoners in the pits.