Out of nowhere, Pony appeared! It seemed that she’d been watching from a distance for a while, but they didn’t get the whole story until after the fight with the ogres was done.
Speaking of ogres…fighting ogres isn’t easy.
But the party sure made it look so.
The dragonborn basically just…charged up the middle,facing down the enormous alpha ogre and one of the smaller ones, while the wizards magically delayed the two that were following Sardis towards the party’s right flank. With the left flank covered by Pony, the party’s line held and, other than a surprisingly drawn-out game of Kick-the-Ogre played between the wizards, they made pretty short work of the whole lot.
Even Akra didn’t go down.
Afterwards, they brushed themselves off, caught up with Pony (who informed them that she’d been in the area following up on rumors of a one-armed eladrin), and idly explored the surface level of Fort Pendred
It turned out that several members of the party knew a lot of the history of the cursed ruin. Upon considering some of the legends, the group concluded that the stories of mystical wells in the lower levels seemed awfully likely to relate to the stories of mystical wells in places like Gar Gorran and Aven.
The party spent quite a while at the Fort, most of that time was spent by most of the party in sorting, appraising, and packing (mostly into Pony’s magic bag, but some on the horses) the substantial trove of valuable trade goods they’d found in a ruined tower.
Sardis, encouraged by Pony mentioning that she had indeed found some sign of an eladrin-sized humanoid in the area around the Fort, combed the worn flagstone floor for any indication of Glass.
And found it.
It seemed that someone about glass’s size had come out from the basement of the fort, and returned there at least once in the past several days. Naturally, Thala (with Ink following), wandered downstairs to have a look.
They only went as far as the first landing, and couldn’t really see much other than what appeared to be a large room with some columns in it. Probably fortunately, the rest of the party dragged the two wizards away from the lower levels, though not before Ink left a piece of parchment with ze’s signature spiral design, and a used quill, on the landing. Just in case Glass happened by.
After some general discussion about the probable value of coming back later to explore this ruin further, the party headed out, ogre ears in-hand, back to L’ekar to quickly claim their bounty, fetch a letter, and sell their trade goods, all in the hope of returning to M’ziir before nightfall.
On their way through the parched hills, scrub, and stunted trees, they spotted a trio of riders a few hundred yards off, headed their way. As the riders grew closer, the party recognized Avosh, the dragonborn mercenary, a human woman who looked like some kind of pirate, and an unfamiliar male tiefling with a thick magical rod. They also noticed a third rider (an eladrin, it turned out) riding quietly out towards their flanks.
The tense encounter began with the tiefling, whose name was Baranks Az’Ragazi, introducing himself and making small talk about Fort Pendred. Quickly enough it came out that Baranks was leading a party of six adventurers, including Avosh, Katalina the pirate, two eladrin, and a halfling, out towards Fort Pendred to clear it of a “group of bandits” and some ogres. Even before Baranks called off the eladrin and halfling, who had been sneaking up on the party’s flanks, it was apparent that Baranks and his people had been sent to kill them.
Avosh, despite the elder eladrin’s clear disdain, successfully convinced her companions that the Hill Crew were much more trouble than they were worth.
Which left the twelve of them awkwardly waiting for each other to leave.
Eventually, they reached an agreement. Nobody wanted to fight, but Baranks’ crew wanted some payout, and the Hill Crew wanted to know who had hired the other crew to kill them. It seemed simple enough to trade ogre ears for information.
They learned that Baranks and his people had been hired only a couple hours ago, by a halfling calling himself Ladro Piper, who had displayed Thieve’s Guild connections. Ladro was known to several party members, though Kaijo commented that he had thought that Ladro had quit the guild. Baranks, smiling, agreed that he’d heard the same, as well as that the halfling had left for an apprenticeship of some sort.
After that, they pretty much parted ways amicably. Baranks’ crew decided they would head up to the Fort anyway, just to check things out, and the Hill Crew rode off to L’Ekar.
There, Pony quickly sold off the trade goods they’d found, and Kaijo stopped by the Keep to inform Lady Sheraz’Aal’s Captain of the Guard that they’d killed the ogres, but had failed to salvage any ears. Fortunately, the Captain believed him, but denied him the bounty. He handed over the letter from the Lady of L’Ekar, and shortly thereafter, the Shade were on their way back home.