After defrosting the inn, and rescuing several of the prisoners -- several others were already gone, eaten or taken back through the portal to the plane of ice -- the party decided to spurn the townsfolk's offer of hospitality in favor of camping in tents in the town square (since the inn was not really habitable).
In the morning, Crossroads had yet another crisis for them -- several guards went missing during the night! The party was on a schedule, but they agreed to at least follow the tracks since they were heading in the right direction.
Right into an ambush. Unfortunately for the ambushers, the party saw them first, and counter-ambushed with an Entangle spell, which (like every OTHER time it was cast) pretty much ended the battle right there. Oh, the enemies were a pack of wights -- the leucrotta and the skunk-painted elf they'd met before, now back and undead, along with the guards from the city -- and a couple negative levels were handed out. To the pets. They burned the dead and took the charred skulls back to Crossroads, so that the priesst there could try to keep them from coming back again.
They still had enough time to get to the dwarven inn a day's travel or so north by nightfall, since they weren't hauling a wagon this time. The dwarves there described the duergar mercenaries from Ironforge that the people of Dark Run had apparently hired, but nothing else of note happened that night.
The next day, they returned to Black Run. The elves had sent an advance party to make sure the dwarves weren't trying anything -- three half-dragon unicorns, probably children of the green dragon Straza said to be living in the nearby woods. Between flight and teleportation, they'd probably be able to flee any treachery. But aside from hiring the mercs, the dwarves had nothing to hide, at least on the surface -- the dragon-horses weren't about to venture into the claustrophic mines.
The next day the elven forces arrived. The Unicorn himself was there -- a radiant figure, glowing with holy light and goodness. He and the dwarven leader exchanged angry words, but in the end he swore that the party he sent into the mines to fight the lich would not attempt to destroy the mines, along with the standard oath that they would not use fire. "But if you betray us, your bodies will litter these fields."
The party went along with the lich-killing team. The elves, through songbird-carried messages, had instructed the dwarves how to set up the battlefield -- a semicircular shooting gallery with dozens of arrow slits for elves and dwarves to fire through, the few sally-ports guarded by acid-resistant elves and duergar (mostly using potions). The duergar had already guarded the dwarven expedition to see if it was safe to build near the lich's lair, and sure enough the lich had put up a wall of stone sealing himself in with the six infested dwarven corpses that the party had never found (because the ghouls had already dumped them in the back room of the lich's cave).
After the elves (and Alex) took up sniping positions, and Alex and the elven team leader -- a high level rogue -- had disarmed all the traps the dwarves had set up to dump rocks on the elves' heads during the fight, an ankheg borrowed from the orcs was sent ahead to chew a path through the wall of stone and the rubble behind it. It was more expendable than a team of dwarven diggers would have been, and it was, in fact, expended, killed by a volley of searing rays as the lich screeched his indignation at another assault.
Then out boiled a half dozen murderous shadow caterpillar-things, right into the elven trap! Alex and ten elves, and a dozen dwarves with crossbows, took their sneak attack on the nearly-mindless bugs, and... badly hurt one of them. Apparently, they were a lot tougher than the elves had anticipated.
The duergar mercenaries and elven warriors were tougher than the caterpillars expected, though, and managed to hold the line long enough for Alex (with a little help from the others) to eventually take them down, but one of the duergar was killed in the process and the others, and the rangers, were all moderately injured. And before they could spend too much time regrouping, the lich retaliated with a symbol of pain (which hit nearly everyone except for the party) and a fireball (which killed a third of the NPCs, and badly hurt most of the party, who'd taken their position near the center of the line, which was where it hit).
The duergar screamed a battle-cry and charged... right into the remaining gloomwing, which was stoneskinned again, and provided a tough barrier for them, especially since they kept looking at its wings and getting confused and hitting themselves and each other. The elven rangers were brave enough to take up supporting positions with archery, but were as dangerous to their 'allies' as to the butterfly. And the lich wasn't done, firing off a disintegrate and a magic missile at one of the duergar to try to take him out before he lost his remaining pet.
Meanwhile, back in the now-flaming mine, Lilia summoned a water elemental in a vain attempt to put out the fire, but heard the elven team leader muttering 'sorry, but I have no choice' as he ran off. No one followed him. A few seconds later, a heroic dwarf charged into the flames to get the foreman's wand of fire extinguishing (I mean sleet storm) to put out the fire, but the elf had already run off to do whatever he planned to do.
Not content to let the duergar and rangers die uselessly against the butterfly while the lich hid behind it and taunted them, Ironhoof turned into a velociraptor, and he and his pet charged in, using flight and spider climb to get over the butterfly and flank it. The lich, worried now, tried a cone of fear, but while that sent the two surviving duergar running (to be replaced by the elves, who thought they'd do better in melee), the druid and his pet resisted. And switched to flanking the lich, instead, and wearing away at *his* stoneskin.
So the lich used his other area save or die spell, Circle of Death, which he'd been saving for the remainder of the attacking army after he'd dealt with the foolish meleeers. Again, Ironhoof and his pet resisted it, but the elves were not so lucky, and died. Artican, who'd flown up to try to keep the NPCs and Ironhoof in the fight for as long as possible, was also caught in the spell and died. The lich's pet also died. Alex had approached a bit to get in sniping position, but was fortunately back out of range and avoided the spell that way.
But since his two main problems were still laughing at his spells, the lich decided to run away. Unfortunately, even with his expeditious retreat, the dragonne and velociraptor were still faster than him, and able to catch up and bite at him again -- and Alex stepped into flanking position, and stabbed him with her admantium short sword, which bit deep into his flesh, ignoring the stoneskin which had been mostly blocking the previous attacks. He tried to flee farther -- but she took the opportunity to get another hit in, and that finished him off.
The elves peppered his corpse with arrows, and then everyone took turns coup-de-gracing him, JUST IN CASE. Lilia noticed that the 'lich' was actually a (formerly) living elf... just a very undead-looking one, since the necromantic specialty tended to do that.
Lilia also noticed that the floor was getting wet, as water from somewhere was leaking into the mine, but didn't have time to investigate it immediately, since there was looting to be done! The party stripped the lich of his possessions, as well as the dead mercenaries (whose friends had run off) and the elven rangers, once the elves weren't looking.
And then they headed into the lich's chamber to investigate it more thoroughly, now that they were safe. Except from the flood.
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