To their surprise, the trio of Darnorth, Vorn and Aratheas were joined that morning by Riley and Gurruk, Finally released from imprisonment with the gibbering horror, they had made their way back to Westmist and the house. After a quick briefing from Riker, the two headed through the portal in pursuit of their companions. After Darnorth filled the two newcomers in on what had happened in their absence, the party decided their best bet was to forge an alliance with the mongrelmen and get them to help fight the yg-ti. Aratheas recalled the general direction of the mongrelmen lair, so the party headed off to the northwest, carefully keeping to back alleys and avoiding main roads whenever possible. Their trek through the ruined city, however, was eerily quiet and uneventful. Late in the morning they found their first signs of inhabitants. Three poles, 10’ tall, carved with crude animal faces and equip with chains and shackles. In one shackle a partly decomposed humanoid arm remained. Nonplussed and taking it as a sign help was near, the party continued forward. Near the far western cliff they discovered a series of ruined buildings, seemingly with no access. Careful observation found a cleverly concealed entrance however, so they crept forward. A strange bird’s cry came from their right, and as they approached a narrow part of the passage, eight hideous creatures appeared out of the rubble. Each seemed a mix of parts from various humanoid creatures, combining the worst features of each. Challenging the party is a debased common pidgin, they first would not let them pass. A combination of Darnorth’s charm and intimidation by the ‘witch woman’ Aratheas convinced them to take the party to their leader. Lead into the ruins, they were swarmed by a crowd of mongrelmen, and Darnorth had to slap away one little pair of hands that tried to swipe his ring of spell storing.
Ushered into a ruined building, they confronted the ugliest mongrelman seen thus far; with human, ogre, frog, and dog features, he was a mass of old scars and scant fur. He proudly announced he was Chief “Eesquuech-!ungk”, and then waved the party to silence while his witchdoctor proceeded to tell the history of the tribe. After two hours of tall tales, misinformation and confusion, the story ended, allowing Darnorth to try negotiating with the chief. To no avail, for the tribes’ custom was anyone who wished obedience of the tribe must lead them. And anyone who wanted to lead them must first defeat the current chief in hand to hand combat; no magic, no weapons. Darnorth, still fuzzy headed from the tale, stripped to his dwarven skivvies and accepted the challenge. The mongrelmen formed a ring and the combatants got down to business. Unfortunately for the dwarf, Eesquuech-!ungk towered over him and was twice his weight, so the mongrelman laid several holds and blows before Darnorth could retaliate. A handful of dirt temporarily blinded the chief and Darnorth was able to fight back. But a few head butts and eye gouges later, the dwarf lay unconscious on the floor at Eesquuech-!ungk‘s feet. The chief ordered his bodyguards to haul the dwarf and the rest of the party to the sacrifice poles (the poles passed earlier) as punishment for their failure. That finally got Riley’s blood rising, and the party followed the mace flailing cleric into battle with the mongrelmen. Which didn’t go very good at first, as the mongrelmen grappled and pinned both Gurruk and Aratheas, and Riley and Vorn seemed unable to connect weapons with foes. Things looked grim until Aratheas managed to break free of her captors and let loose a lightning bolt through the chief and one of his henchmen. Amidst the smell of burning fur and charred flesh, the rest of the mongrelmen broke away from the party and quivered in fear before the ‘witch woman’. While not quite in line with tribe traditions, a hurried conversation between the remaining mongrelmen decided she had right the claim the leadership of the tribe. The lady mage then ordered her new bodyguards to go and rouse the rest of the tribe and prepare for battle with the yg-ti on the morrow. But only after pointing out the tribes treasure, thank you very much. This they found hidden in hole under the old chief sleeping pallet; a pile of thousands of gold prices, three pieces of jewelry (a jeweled box, ring and earrings), and a potion of water breathing. Pocketing the portable treasure, the party settled in for the night, but not before sending out some mongrelman scouts to figure out exactly where they were going in the morning.
Morning came, and the scouts didn’t return. But the attack must go on in order to find Erijay and Kern, so the party moved out, ensconced in a rabble of about 50 mongrelmen. Hugging the cliff face, they headed south through the ruins until they glanced by chance a step pyramid set inside a walled compound. It looked relatively well kept up, so they sent in a few mongrelmen scouts. As the scouts approached, a figure appeared on the wall. A yg-ti, with snakes for arms, it spotted the scouts and cast fear on them. The mongrelmen turned and fled back to the larger group, which unfortunately was enough to panic the rest of the mongrelmen. The whole group turned tail and fled en mass. Aratheas tried to wield her power as chief to get them to stay, but was answered with ‘you take care of snake men and we come back’ as her army melted into the ruins. Now on their own, Darnorth fired his crossbow at the figure while Riley cast silence to stop any further spell casting by thier scaly foe. The party then charged though the ruins towards the pyramid, while the yg-ti disappeared from the wall. Reaching the walls, they dashed straight in to find an overgrown courtyard with a number of statues, pillars and platforms in the open space in front of the pyramid. Darnorth briefly explored one small enclosure, finding an unholy symbol of Yg carved on the wall in front of a low stone shelf with the remnants of sickly green candles and incense. With no sign of the yg-ti though, the party started up the covered steps of the pyramid, only to run smack dab into a pair of bugbears rushing down to meet them. A flurry of hand axes from the bugbears and arrows/bolts from the party saw one hairy goblin fall. The second leapt over its fallen comrade and fled up the steps and out of sight.
To be continued …