42. The Farm

“Right,” Talo starts, “looks like we are on to the farm from here! Gildor, which of these was the portal to the farm?” The dwarf listens to the answer and continues, “I think we should form up in our fighting positions for this trip, in case we have immediate foes to fell. If there are, Gildor, it may be prudent to go back immediately after we clear the other end of this portal to get our stout dwarven companions. I would hate to refuse them their portion of the orc-slaying.” Talo says this last with a grin to Munin.

“Well, do we risk more light or move slower… well for me at least.” Kradorn softly says.

Zelmar approached Cynan “Things appear less dangerous than before, but we don’t hold all the facts about this place. I am going to scout ahead, agreed?”

Cynan looks around the group, “Do not assume that all the mindflayers or orcs are dead, we may still have a tough fight ahead of us. If possible we need a live orc to give us information on the townsfolk. Remember our objective is to free the people first, let us keep together and stay safe. Me and my companions will go through first, then the dwarves. Gildor can you do the honours again and transport us please”.

Gildor points to ring 1 and say, “Ok, let’s see if we can do this in 2 trips. Me on one and Gordon on the other. Let get as many on the platform as we can safely. Remember to keep your arm inside this ring anything sticking out past the edge will get cut off. Come on now don’t be shy. We done this plenty of times now. Be ready for a fight on the other end too. Once we pop over let’s get off quickly and fan out 5 yards in a circle away from the platform ok?” Gildor calls Saphiria to the ring. Hop on girl but don’t hurt me new friends. “Give’r some room folks. If we need more than two trips I’ll search for the return ring and pop back over to get the rest.” Once the first group is ready Gildor hops on and activates the ring.

Kradorn falls to his place in line as before. Sheathing his sword and readying his bow.

Kradorn looking a bit puzzled in the dimlight of the underworld. He had always been chasing so his view had always been the backside of someone in front of him.
“Well Cynan, to the fields? Or killing everything first?” Kradorn queries.

“Hang on a minute!” calls one of the dwarves the party rescued from the mindflayers. “The farm is through that ring.” he says pointing to the second portal, “and the mines are through that ring!” he continues, pointing to the fourth ring.

“The dwarf is correct Gildor, I am sure the portal you wish to take leads back to that cavern under the lake. Let us take take the one that is to the farms first and mark the mine and farm one plus the portal we just used again so we are sure. Perhaps an M F and H so no confusion”.

There are already markings around each platform made by the party, the first pair of rings (one with five pillars around it and one without) is marked ‘surface’, the next pair are marked ‘farm’, the third one marked ‘long lake’, the forth marked ‘mines’ and the last pair marked ‘unknown’. The ring in the centre is marked ‘stars?’.

Kradorn points “Now there’s a thought I like. Even I wouldn’t get lost doing that… well maybe not very.”

Gildor thinks for a second saying, “That ORC might have been lying perhaps. Ok either way we have to get to the farms and mines and we haven’t tried rings 1, 2 and 4. Let’s use platform 2 then. Gildor repeats the instruction on getting on and ready. Who knows what we’ll find there.” Saphiria let go my dear.

Gordon will activate the magical shield once again, but this time he casts Comprehend Language to understand what the disembodied voice is saying.

“Shield charge at 98” says the oddly stilted deep female voice.

He is happy to go to the farms or the mines and will go with the others. Any resistance they encounter he will use his Sleep and ColorSpray to take down groups of opponents as in previous encounters, Flaming Sphere is also an option if they come across something a bit bigger and harder. If he has to engage in hand to hand combat he will use Mirror Image.

The party gather on the outgoing platform marked ‘farm’ and leave with a flash and a bang.

They arrive in a slightly cooler but much brighter and bigger cavern than the one they left. The arrival platform stands on a small but steeply sided hill with the departure platform just below it. The hill stands about 20m high with steps running down one side.

The cavern is huge, a vast circular space 7 kilometres across and 2 kilometres high with the roof supported by more than a dozen natural columns from 500m to 800m wide at the base.

In addition to the usual glowing fungi and lichen on the ceiling, there are seven bright spheres spaced equally apart (too equally to be natural) some 50m across and giving off a light which looks dull red to humans but glows brightly enough to illuminate the whole cavern to those with infravision. These spheres also give off heat.
The party stand about 150m from the southern walls of the cavern and from this vantage point, they can see a lake about 1km off to their left which extends around the the circumference for another 2.5-3km. An area of about 3km diameter in the centre of the cavern looks cultivated, with fields of mushrooms in rows and fenced fields. Beyond this cultivated area the ground cover reverts to wild mushroom forest.

About 2km north of the party stands a smaller pillar about 400m across, and around its base is a ring of simple fortifications with a staircase spiralling up to watch posts spaced around the pillar.
A crude road runs from the hill the party are standing on, away through the forest, to the fortress.

“Well Cynan are we going to make an assault?” Kradorn queries then with a smirk.
“We could have an underground keep….ah ah ha ha”
“We can have another dwarven army down here.”

Zelmar turned to Cynan: “Let me scout up to the fortress to see what we are up against first.”

Gildor does some thinking for a bit and says, “Ok, I think I have a better understanding of these rings. I’ll mark them like so and he does while explaining.
Ring 1 to above ground lake where we found Talo which had a platform and a ring. The ring brought us back to mindflayer Lair. In the mindflayer Lair I’ll label it MFL 1 to Dwarf Village Lake. There is a ring and platform there.
Mindflayer lair (MFL) Ring 2 took us to the Farms with a platform and a ring there. I’ll label the MFL ring 2 as MFL 2 Farm. The ring at the farm takes us back to the MFL Lair and this ring here at the farm will be labelled MFL Ring 2.
Ring 3 Cynan and I tried when we first experimented with the rings take us to the Long Lake complex I think in the middle of the lake? I’ll label it at the MFL as MFL 3 Long Lake. There will be a platform and ring there as well.
Ring 4 Not tried
Ring 5 Not tried

Gildor continues, “Zelmar do you want company on the scouting mission?” and he also looks at Cynan for either an approval to join Zelmar, if Zelmar wants the company. “I need to see if this magical chainmail will affect my skills to hide and move silently. If it does I can come back. I don’t want to hurt Zelmar’s mission. Cynan what do you want Saphiria to do? I don’t want to give away our presence by sending her up scouting. I can send her around the edges no more than a mile from me to scout up high but if anyone is in that fortress they might see her?”

Kradorn searches for any movement that he can see. Bow ready to drop anything moving.

Cynan looks around the cavern taking in the tower and the farm. “I assume if there are any guards and overseers left they must have heard the noise of the portal, so some surprise may have been lost. That being said we must also assume that watchtower is manned, so that needs be our first priority, then the farm area. Zelmar, and Kradorn go ahead to scout, the rest of us will follow behind. Once we determine what we face, we can devise a plan to deal with it.”

“I think we may benefit from getting to cover as soon as reasonable. We may not be completely covert, but removing the advantage of seeing our group’s movements may provide a little more benefit.” The dwarf eyes a good path down the hill to the fungal forest below them.

Zelmar nodded and left with Kradorn.

Disappointed he was not allowed to scout with Zelmar, Gildor knows he can practice his skills with the main group. Gildor move just slightly ahead of the main group say 10 yards. Gildor preps his bow and sets an arrow but doesn’t draw it back just yet.

“Saphiria stay with the group my dear and don’t make too much noise. There may be evil nearby. If we are attacked though, take flight and be safe and don’t fly far.”

Kradorn follows Zelmar staying a few feet behind. Listening intently and with a careful eye for movement.

Zelmar and Kradorn set off along the road, moving quickly but keeping to the undergrowth as much as possible. The fungi forest on either side of the road is dense and filled with life of all sorts. Great wide orange/red mushrooms 20m or more across dominate, with taller, thinner and paler ones reaching almost 50m in height. After about ten minutes Zelmar spots an orc scout coming the other way doing the same thing as he and Kradorn. The ranger hides Kradorn in the undergrowth with a good line of sight and takes cover himself. The orc gets to within about 15m when he spots Zelmar half hidden amid the fungi.

Kradorn draws back and lets loose.

Kradorn’s arrow hits its mark but only wings the orc as it races away from Zelmar and into the fungus forest.

Zelmar moved swiftly to dispatch the orc but it’s already away and the ranger looks like he’s in for a chase.

Kradorn’s second arrow whistles past Zelmar and away into the undergrowth. The fighter curses, nocks another arrow and carefully puts it between the orc’s shoulder blades before it disappears from view completely. The creature falls dead with a crash in front of Zelmar and he almost trips over it. It is a scout, in studded leather armour (and little else) and armed with a hand axe and shortbow.
The ranger signals to Kradorn and returns to the road, where he notices for the first time the number of recent cart tracks going back and forth. A couple of these tracks heading towards the fortress are much deeper than the rest, as if the cart were hauling something heavy.

The two scouts continue to move up the road and within five minutes they are at the edge of the forest where it has been cleared around the base of the great stone pillar.
Kradorn stays in the cover of the forest while Zelmar moves closer to get a better look at the orcs’ stronghold.
The fortress has seen better days, with more than half of its original 10m high dressed stone walls having fallen into ruin. Where there are gaps, they have been filled with a mix of loose rubble and wooden (or its fungi equivalent) palisades. The road runs out of the forest to a gatehouse which looks in the process of being rebuilt, though the work has only just begun. The gate is closed but a construction tower of poles and platforms stands around the left hand side of the gatehouse, giving an easy climb up onto the battlements.
Behind the walls and off to the right slightly is the fortress proper, half built into the side of the 400m diameter pillar. This building doesn’t look in much better condition than the rest of the place. Steps have been carved into the side of the pillar from the top of the building going anti-clockwise. Zelmar notes a balista on the roof of the building and another on the right hand side of the gatehouse. There are orcs grouped on the battlements and the gatehouse and they are also spaced every 50m along the walls. They are clearly expecting trouble.
Zelmar notes that there are very fresh animal tracks, possibly giant lizards, leading from the gate house into the forest and heading south. He estimates about ten of the creatures and they were moving at speed.

Zelmar slowly withdrew towards Kradorn while hiding his presence as much as possible. When he reached him, he whispered: “Let us go back to inform the others. We proceed as before, hidden as much as possible. There has been a lot of traffic and we must be cautious.”

Before they left, he tried to hide the dead orc and cover their tracks.

Kradorn watches Zelmar carefully, making sure there is no movement around him or following him. If there is he looses an arrow at them to kill or at least warn Zelmar of danger.
“Any creatures or dangers ahead?” he whispers.
“I will follow your lead” Kradorn whispers back. Returning with the same caution as they came in with.

Kradorn is ready should anything pop out. He will try and wound instead of kill. Going for a leg shot.

The two scouts move back down the road till they meet the party and report on what they’ve seen before returning to the body of the orc where Kradorn retrieves an arrow. Then they return to the party and continue to advance up the road towards the fortress.