Setting off from their temporary encampment with the Orcs, the Intruders headed through parts unknown towards the Goliath Stronghold. Once out of the Orc valley the landscape rolled through progressive changes, each more arid and barren. The lush ferns and evergreens were replaced by dry, fallen timber and rocks. At last, the gravel path they were following led them into a depressed trail that wound into a canyon wall.
“Might save us time,” said Hirk, as the group stared at the canyon opening.
“It also might prove eventful,” said Ardjuna with a smile, and he continued into the canyon.
“I don’t like the lowground,” said Ember. “We’ll be vulnerable”
Hirk hoisted his broadsword over his shoulder, and grinned. “We’re never vulnerable with the might of Kord on our side,” he said, before continuing after Ardjuna.
Ember rolled her eyes. “I’ll watch the rear.” She stood with her usual resolved manner as each of the team walked passed.
To the left and right of the party, steep rocky grades shot up, uneven and filled with blind spots. The dusty gravel crunched underfoot, kicking up puffs of ashy dirt. Possibly an old riverbed, the trail was the easiest terrain for them to cross in the canyon, but also the loudest and most obvious. Karak had shuffled to the front of the group, and held up his hand, a motion for silence. “We are being watched”
Tehbest scanned the cliff faces. “I agree.”
Hirk stared rather boredly at some boulders in front of him. “I only see roc-”
Suddenly the rock in front of him sprang to life, uncurling into a mean looking, axe wielding dirtball. Too late the group realizes that the large boulders before them were, in fact, Gnomish Barbarians intent on making a stew of them. Bits of rock and earth clung to their skins, and their movements left behind swirls of dirt in the air. Together, both Gnomes let loose a nightmarish scream and took hefty swings at Ardjuna and Karak, carrying through to clobber Tehbest and Hirk as well. Still reeling from the suddent onslaught, the group was blasted by a series of dark bolts from the rocks above. Only Tehbest was able to dodge the chaos magic, and the others were left blind and wounded by the attack.
As the men struggled to regroup against the surprise attack, Ember came bounding up the trail. She cursed herself for letting her group move into such an obviously disadvantaged position. She also cursed Karak, the battle-seasoned warrior, for not avoiding such an obvious trap. “Might of Kord my…” An explosion from the cliffs to her left cut her speech short. Thunder clapped in the air as lightning slammed into a gnome standing on the cliff. “Good to see we’re not just taking it,” muttered Ember, as she tightened a leather strap on her shoulder, hefted her massive longsword up in both hands and slammed into the fray.
As the Warlord, Paladin, Cleric, Sorcerer, and Barbarian all battled with their surprisingly powerful enemies, another Gnome appeared on a ledge to the northeast, riding a wyvern. With a scream he swept over the battlefield, clawing at the Hindean Prince and then retreating. Again and again he performed the maneuver, raking through the adventurers and leaving no opportunity for rebuttal. Another bolt of magic struck the group. “He’s killing us,” yelled Hirk angrily. Ardjuna surveyed the battlefield positions.
“Tehbest, focus on their wild magician. We’ll reposition and handle the rest.”
Tehbest nodded, and began whispering elemental words under his breath. A single gray cloud bloomed in the sky almost instantaneously, crackling with energy. A column broke off from the cloud, hurtling towards the cliff. There was no lightning, but a concussive blast suddenly shook the valley, kicking up chunks of dirt and rock. Even the two Barbarians in the riverbed gave a moment’s pause to look after the fate of their friend. All that remained was a stain on the rocks, and a splintered cane. Before the barbarians could adjust for the sudden loss of artillery, Ardjuna slammed a fist into the ground, causing the earth to rumble. Both Gnomes lost their footing and were knocked prone. The last thing they ever saw was a crazed-looking Paladin of Bahamut, a Barbarian more than twice their size and two large swords coming at their necks.
Without warning the wyvern returned for an assault, gashing a deep wound into Ember’s arm and leg. Karak rushed to her side, easing her down as one would a child and beginning his divine prayers for healing. Ardjuna, who had been watching the pattern of the aerial Gnome, motioned at an open spot in the riverbed. Hirk nodded, and ran into the open.
The Gnome saw the large Half-Orc standing in the open, and recognized the obviousness of such a poorly laid trap. Still, he was interested to see what this burly enemy had in store. With a shriek and woop, he dove back towards the riverbed, ready at any moment to pull out of the ravine and over the cliff ledge, thus avoiding any possible ground attack. The Half-Orc was still waving his arms madly and flinging insults into the air when the gnome closed on him. Perhaps this was not a trap, he thought smugly, as his wyvern clasped the Barbarian around the wrist and ankle, picking him off the riverbed floor. He tried to bank quickly to the right, but found his new cargo much heavier than he thought. Unable to turn effectively or rise into the air fast enough, he was unable to dodge the spear that came shooting from behind a boulder, right into his throat. He rolled off the wyvern without so much as a gurgle, and was dead before he hit the riverbed floor. This was probably for the best, as the wyvern decided to let go of all its burdens, and shortly after a 300 lb Half-Orc crashed onto the gnome, smashing him into the dirt and rock.
Two more spears sailed into the air and struck the wyvern, which was now barely staying aloft. A bolt cracked into its back, causing the animal to cry out into the air. Its master dead, the creature fled.
The group took a brief respite, as Karak tended to their wounds. Hirk rolled off of the pulpy body, which now lay half buried, and stomped towards Ardjuna. “What in the Hells was that?”
“What do you mean?” asked Ardjuna, unconcerned with Hirk’s angry, hulking form. “It was a trap.”
“I thought you were going to kill it before it grabbed me,” the Half-Orc yelled.
“If I could do that, then we wouldn’t have needed the trap, now would we?” replied the Hindean. “I figured that much was obvious.” He yawned before walking off to stretch his legs.
Hirk’s jaw was hanging open, and his rather large brow was furrowed in annoyance. “I’m gonna kill him.”
“Calm yourself, brother,” said Karak. “This was a good day for us and for Kord. Let your curses be prayers,” he said, adding “Besides, it worked didn’t it?” Karak let loose a loud, bellowing laughter. The rest of the group, except for Hirk, joined in raucously.
And so the Intruders continued on their path, and not shortly after came to a fortified entrance blocking their way. Behind it stretched a vast city with a large unusual tower standing in the middle.