The party decided a rest was in order after their fight with the Ghouls and Ghasts, and thus turned back east. Iban noted that their hiding places were probably compromised from much use, and so the party decided to head to the outdoors to camp. While still in the dungeon, however, they ran into a party of Hobgoblins. The party, in no mood for a fight, found that the Hobgoblins were in a like state of mind, despite their superior numbers. They parleyed briefly and then carefully passed one another without incident. The party was soon outdoors and made their way to a wooded area a half mile or so from the river cave.
They passed the night uneventfully but, given their state, decided to rest an additional day. During the day, Iban cast invisibility on himself. Later, he and Nordak scouted over the hill in the direction of the ruined imperial fort, just to see what was up. There, they found signs of recent camps, likely by well organized humans – they thought they were probably the bandits they’d seen from time to time in the area (and fought once or twice). There were none there at the moment, but the signs were quite recent and seemed to head in the direction of the track that headed deeper into the Highlands.
Later that night, a party of Orcs appeared near the camp. They did not attack, and so Lune went to parlay with them for a few minutes (followed by an invisible Iban for protection). They spoke briefly together, and Lune reported that the Orcs wanted no trouble, and were content to bypass the party, which they subsequently did. The rest of the night passed uneventfully
Next morning, the party returned to the dungeon and their explorations of the second level. The headed west once more, past the ghoul area, and soon came to a large room, with two doors leading out. Parker could hear loud noises behind each of them, and the party determined they were likely Ogres, ones they’d encountered before. Rather than fight large numbers of them, the party opted for a parley, knocking on the door. The Ogres reacted cautiously, and were willing to speak. They were refugees, of a sort, they said. They had previously fled from the Giant King’s service, who was enlisting every humanoid and monster in the Highlands that he could into his new and burgeoning kingdom. The Ogres had fled with their females and young, not wishing to be killed in the service of another master. They also said that Gulliveg, the giant king, was served by a strange witch, they said, a mysterious figure who some said was the real power behind the throne. The Ogres had hoped that this dungeon would be a safe place to avoid notice, but they’d since learned that the Giant King wanted the place as a fortress defending his eastern territory. They knew little more, save that the Giant King’s capitol was to the east, deeper in the highlands.
Departing the Ogre encampment, the party continued exploring west and north. In one room, they found a brass pole leading down into a magically darkened pit, the pole scratched and obviously used – no one wanted to try it and they continued on. A nearby room they found contained butchered humanoids, obviously a foul larder. Nearby they encountered Bugbears (ones they’d encountered before) but instead of parleying, they attacked, disgusted by their foul eating practices. The area was a small complex of rooms and doors, and the party soon had a two-front fight going on, as additional Bugbears came from the party’s flank. More Bugbears followed, but they were no match for the party at their full strength, and soon all were slain save one, who had been knocked asleep by a spell from Iban. This one was made prisoner and sent to walk in front of the party (note: I can’t recall if you interrogated him, and if so, what he said). A goodly plunder was taken from the fallen Bugbears, as well.
The prisoner was marched back towards the brass pole, and also incidentally served as a meat shield when a wandering spider attacked. Along the way, Parker sensed a secret door, beyond which was a rich treasure (magic and other loot, including golden spurs), and a dead man with old ink, quill and parchment — apparently the semi-legendary Jamal the thief. At the pole, the Bugbear was sent down to see what would happen, and that was the last he was seen. Also around this area, the party found some dwarf runes on the wall, marked “DZ” and quite recently made. None knew what the initials or runes meant.
The party now moved further west, and soon came to a room full of wererats. These were soon put to the sword, save one that surrendered when all his companions were slain. The ratman whined for his life, and finally told all that was asked of him. His pack was not affiliated with the cultist ratmen and wolves on the surface (and knew nothing of them). They were also independent of the Giant King. Instead, they worshipped their own rat god, led by their priest Slitheen, and their chieftain, Wrenthor. His masters and more of his pack were nearby, to the south…
– Experience: 2601 XP each.