As dawn broke, the party continued their march as prisoners down the highland path. A short time later, they arrived at what was clearly a great fortress. In a valley or cleft of a great hill lay a an old, strong fortress. Great fortifications were upon either spur of hill, and a strong wall with a large gate ran between them, enclosing the valley. A small stream ran from under the wall via a culvert. Another, very high tower stuck far above the rightward spur from which it rose. The party could see many sentries atop the battlements, mainly Ogres and Bugbears. As the prisoners neared the great gate, it silently swung open and they passed into the valley beyond. Here, there were many signs that this place was a very busy fortress. Hundreds of monsters and even some humans were encamped in the valley, and there were signs everywhere of preparations for war. The party was led northwards to a great citadel at the northern end of the valley (they could see a high battlement, many towers, a speaking platform, etc). As they neared the great doors, the group halted and the prisoners were hooded. This done, they were escorted for some distance into the fortress, periodically going down steps, and moving from clearly nosy and busy areas to much quieter locations. Finally, each was tossed into a small cell and a door clanged shut. All could move freely in their small cells and soon were unbound and unblindfolded, albeit in total darkness.
They spent some time figuring out that the entire party was present, each in a small cell down what seemed to be a common corridor or room. Able to speak, they talked about how they might coordinate an escape, though Cadwallidwer pointed out that they should take care — they did not know who was listening. During this, a tremendously loud howling erupted, echoing throughout the prison — this would continue periodically the entire time they were here. Although all their gear was gone, the spellcasters had a few minor spells remaining (albeit no material components to cast them). Then, as they considered options, someone recalled that the Djinniya, A’idah, merely required her name be spoke aloud to summon her. This the party now did, and a little while later, her voice came form the hall. The party was in a dungeon, obviously, she told them, all close by and with no guards immediately close to them, though many were nearby. Her second (of three) task would be to rescue the party in some manner. This she agreed to do, though claimed it would take some time to determine the best way to do it. In the meantime, Iban requested that she bring him some sand and spider webs (for spell components) which she did. She also examined the other cells, and was able to give the party a layout of where each was in relation to the others. There were also other prisoners present – 3 men, a dwarf, and a werewolf (obviously the howler). Knowing the layout, Sir Rowan was able to determine that only the werewolf was evil of the other prisoners.
With A’idah gone, the party took a roll call of the other prisoners. The dwarf was named Floi, and he was the captain of the Dwarf company taken some time ago to the west that the party had been in search of. He was most interested in news of the other dwarves and was very pleased that there had lived and returned to the Dwarf Kingdom. Of the humans, one claimed to be Owain, a merchant lord of Manston, who was being held for ransom — he offered reward for rescue, concerned that no ransom might be forthcoming. The second one did not speak – ever (he was later found to be a barbarian of some sort). The third named himself Donal, a mercenary captain in the employ of Manston, taken recently while on a patrol west of the city. The werewolf said little, but what he did say convinced the party he was one of the cultist group they had largely destroyed a few weeks previously.
After a time, a group of guards came and took Cadwallider. He was taken to a torture chamber, where his escorts ensured he got a good look at all the devices of this well-provisioned, hellish place. He was then put in a smaller side room and tied to a chair, where we waited a time until the Questioner came. She named her self Aliss, a Supremar of the goddess Lolitar (goddess of pain and torture, among other things). She then began to question Cadwallider on a variety of topics, most revolving around the plans, objectives, forces, and capabilities of the Dwarf Kingdom. Specifically, would they fight the Giant King, or stand aside? She also wanted to know the party’s relationship to the Dwarves, why they were employed by them, and the like. Some questions revolved around the party’s gear (they all suspected Havok had used a wish, but he had specifically not told anyone where their magic and wealth was sent to). As the questioning continued, a small, slight figure, hooded and robed such that the figure could not be seen) entered and stood by, saying nothing. Suspected magic, Cadwallider tried to cloud his thoughts as best he could, but in truth, he knew little of what they were interested in. Fortunately, though Cadwallider said almost nothing, claiming ignorance, there was no torture, though the threat that future visits would include it was made clear. He was taken back after a time to his cell, and the rest of the party soon followed, one at a time, to the questioning. Through sheer mental willpower, Havok believed he was able to not think of the location of their gear (a 17 Wisdom helps!). Later, when everyone was back in their cells, guards were heard to bring in another prisoner, who was thrown into a nearby cell.
The next day, A’idah returned and released the party, saying she had found a means of escape, but they must hurry. However, the party quickly debated which, if any, of the other prisoners should be released. The werewolf was clearly not going to be aided, and in the end they released the three humans and the dwarf (he was in particularly bad shape — he’d taken a lot of abuse and torture, it was clear). The new prisoner turned out to be an Orc (Floi grumbled that he thought this dungeon was for important prisoners). After a little questioning in Orcish, it was determined that he Uugrinz, an Orc in the band that had destroyed a group of Bugbears and Ogres near where the party was camped a few nights past. He asked about “the half-orc monk” and seemed disappointed he was no longer with them. Given that they had common enemies, the party decided to released him, as well. A’idah was concerned at this point, saying she had not fully arranged for so many to escape, but that she would do her best.
With the enlarged party freed, A’idah told them to follow her quickly and quietly. They came out of the cell block to a four-way intersection with two Bugbear sentries (they’d all seen it passing to the torture chamber). A’idah ignored the sentries and, when the party got close, could see they were already dead and arranged to fool a casual observer from a distance. She now led them through a bewildering series of minor corridors and stairs, ever climbing and seemingly avoiding crowded areas. A few loose sentries and others on various errands were slain by her, quickly and quietly, as she led them on and up. Finally, after a hopelessly complex path, they found themselves climbing into a high tower, the highest point of the fortress. Here, they found an aerie housing nine griffons, the aerial cavalry of the giant king, apparently. Because of the extra freed prisoners, A’idah was going to have to carry two of them. There was a little confusion on how to ride the creatures, and if mere horsemanship would suffice. Then, the barbarian who had never yet spoken, simply smiled, nodded to the party, and jumped atop one of the creatures and flew off to the north at high speed. Alarm trumpets and gongs were already sounding, the party’s absence being noted, and it was time to go regardless. A’idah told them that she’d spoken to the mounts and they would not play any tricks on the party. The dwarf and other two humans would go with A’idah to Manston, while the party and the Orc went west. They then all took to the air, and the party sped west as the giant’s fortress was driven into chaos.
Miles to the west, the Orc waved and turned north, back to his home apparently. This was fine with the party — they had no desire for him to know where they were going. Finally, they reached the cave entrance to the old imperial ruins. Here, they dismounted, and the Griffons took off, scattering (an added benefit — the enemy had lost their services). They now moved into the cave — and ran into a pair of Bugbears, clearly set as sentries. Despite being unarmed, Iban cast sleep on them and the party then slew them and took their weapons. This proved unnecessary, as soon the party had reached the secret room and found their gear waiting for them. They’d lost all their mundane gear, but the truly valuable items remained. From here, they would quickly make for friendly territory to re-equip and consider their next actions, and how they would kill the Ogre Mage.
– Experience: 500 XP each (for a grand escape)