A perception check and the process of elimination let the party figure out where the remaining portal was -- trapped in a small room, with two large doors controlled by the levers in the control room and the third small access door blocked by part of the destroyed half of the catwalk. So they got in formation, with the silence coin retrieved to protect against bardage, and Alex used a glaive to jam the gear-like door after it had only opened partway, so that they could have an even better chokepoint.
They immediately slew one of the smoke-serpents and one of the mephits inside before they could react, then had the nearly invulnerable dragonne stand in the gap and block the monks from getting out -- they tried to tumble past him, but he was a wall. The snake monks in back resorted to throwing shuriken at the lightest armored person they could see, Lilia, but the dragonne provided cover and they only hit a couple times.
Then Lilia summoned a huge air elemental in their tiny room, and turned the room into a blender of death, incidentally putting out all the candles and closing the portal that none of the party had even managed to see.
The monks and surviving mephit managed to kill the elemental before it finished them all off, but they were very wounded and prone, and Ironhoof and his dragonne made short work of them. The instantly-slain mephit from the first round of combat had had a portal book on him that would have let them open another portal if he'd gotten away... oh well.
Not that there weren't any more books elsewhere in the city -- they knew of at least two places where people were opening portals to various elemental planes -- but this group of snakes was shut down. They teleported to the edge of the restricted zone, then had to sit and watch a battle through the giant central portal for a few hours until the orcish army's weather control gave out and smoke obscured everything again, at which point they could talk to the general.
Who thanks them, but didn't pay them. He did explain the rationale behind the ongoing assault on the plane of smoke -- the ongoing undead problem wasn't just the lack of an afterlife. Without the gods, the prime material plane was slowly sinking into the negative energy plane. To stop this, the orcs (and others elsewhere in the world) were constructing anchors that would hold the plane in place and keep it from being lost to nothingness. This anchor, for example -- the giant chain they'd seen them forging earlier -- was to the plane of smoke.
The party members with spellcraft or knowledge of the planes thought that the explanation for the undead sounded sort of plausible, but the remedy was completely insane. Of course they'd have to see the research behind it to be sure.
At any rate, in order to complete the anchor on time, they needed one more full-sized shipment of coal from the dwarven mine. Supposedly, this was taken care of, in the good hands and/or flippers of the sahaugin, and the elves that had earlier harassed the mine had been eaten by nightmares and were too crazy to interfere. At least, that's how it had looked the last time they checked. Maybe it was time to go check on them again and make sure?
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