After another day's travel, the party knew they were getting close to the Duergar fortress, because they heard a group of duergar and orcs tormenting an escaped slave. Shanarea tried to sneak up to investigate, but wasn't nearly as stealthy as she normally is, and got spotted by one of the orcs, who shouted a warning to his friends, and they all turned to attack her!
She tossed a blinding bomb, and ran back to the rest of the party to say 'oops'. The party's formation when they finally joined in melee, due to the vagaries of the intiative roll, ended up being extremely suboptimal, with the defenders in back, and to make matters worse Shanarea decided to use an acrobatic stunt to vault over the enemy line (drawing lots of AoOs) so that she could attack the enemy archers in melee. Or... something. She was surrounded and cut down, too far from the rest of the party for Vexx to use an inspiring word.
But Vexx was able to knight's-move Bore into the front lines, and Bore was able to batter his way through the enemies using his shield push -- and when the orcs tried to surround him, he whirled his axe around, slicing them all deeply (and marking them), then activated his shield of protection and ran to Shanarea's side, and with a small prayer to Moradin healed her wounds.
Then Vexx and Sam nuked the ground where he'd been standing repeatedly. All the orcs but one lived through the barrage, but they didn't live for very long after that.
One of the two duergar turned invisible, though, and managed to get away.
So the party quickly looted the bodies and rescued the slave, then took a short rest while staying alert for reinforcements, which didn't come. Apparently they were a little farther away from the fortress than THAT.
The slave told them that he'd escaped from the duergar, and knew a secret tunnel into the pantry. He offered to show them the way if they agreed to rescue his son in law and his daughter. Vexx tried to convince him to comission the party to murder his son in law instead -- I'm not really sure what he was trying to get at there. I'm guessing it was a joke I didn't get.
At any rate, he lead them into the secret caverns that were totally safe, where they'd be able to rest before assaulting the castle. Of course, they were attacked by fire bats. Vexx theorized that they'd let the old slave through because he hadn't had any light sources with him. "They just want to mate with our torches!"
The bats flew around at random and set people on fire as they passed, and were fairly hard to hit, but there weren't enough of them to be a serious threat. Once they were cleared out, the party had a good night's sleep, and in the morning moved out into the kitchens.
They quietly grabbed and gagged the kitchen slaves -- that the old man had warned them were broken and would serve their masters as best as they could -- and decided to lie in wait for the rest of the slaves to be sent to the kitchens on some errand or other. Perhaps they could rescue them all without a fight?
Unfortuantely, the next slave to wander by after they outlined that plan screamed loudly before they could grab him. The party decided to hold still in the kitchen anyway, in case the duergar hadn't noticed. Unfortunately, they had, and soon a duergar wandered in to check out the screaming.
What followed was a nasty fight in the dining room. Hilights included Bore being repeatedly assaulted by the deurgar 'beard quills' -- quills that they shot out of their beards. A true sign of evil! Sam discovered that all duergar were highly resistant to fire, negating most of his magical abilities. And Morgan teleported a giant hulking duergar elite away from the wizard he was trying to pummel, ruining his attack combo.
Of course, one of the scouts turned invisible and ran away again. But who needs stealth anyway?
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