Faldorn, Lester, and Jaques are especially eager to get moving. The Heroes request six Dwarves of Ironhaul’s company; the three Scouts who escorted them here, two Dungeon Delvers, and a Dwarven Defender. These soldiers will travel to the secret entrance with the Heroes. On arrival, one scout will return to the main body of the Dwarven force and lead them back to the cistern outfall point. The Dwarven Defender and two scouts will guard the secret entrance behind the Heroes as they and the Dungeon Delvers enter the passage and advance inside. The main force will follow in upon arrival, also maintaining the security of their exit point.
It is only an hour to the hidden location; the Heroes quit their generous host, take on their traveling companions, and set forth. This time they are extra cautious in their pace. While it cannot be seen over the hilltops against a twilight sky, certainly the spire of Moonwatch Tower lurks as black-on-black somewhere just out of resolution. This means danger is close.
And in fact it is. Not halfway to the secret cistern outfall site, the Heroes stumble upon a war party – three bright-red Fire Giants, plus thirteen mercenaries, all Dwarves. One leader, four Fighters, and eight Ranger archers.
The enemy party is immediately hostile and fans out to engage the Heroes. The Dread Pirate Wobberts charges into the middle ground and beckons for a fight. Lester casts defensively as the Rangers loose shafts from their short-bows, pelting the Heroes with their half-accurate Rapid Shots. Genive returns arrow-fire, as Jaques casts Acid Sheath and Flight on himself with his Rod of Quickening. In a few seconds several Party members, were they in possession of such technology, might set their watch by Jaques turning Invisible as his next action.
The clash of battle comes as the Dwarf war band and the Heroes engage in melee and ranged and magic combat. Faldorn reverts to the form of a Will-O’Wisp, and spends most of the battle zipping around like a firefly, invisible half of the time, a minor irritant to the foes the rest of the time. Then he becomes a Naga and lays into the Rangers at close range.
The newcomer Cleric is helpful indeed, casting support spells to boost his new allies’ ability to hit and damage. He, as well as raging Gurth and spellhound Lester, sense something extremely odd about the terrible tactics and complete lack of fighting prowess from the Fire Giants. It will have to wait until after the fight. The Dwarf fighters are pressing their attack, the Bowmen rangers are advancing slowly, and the Dwarf leader seems confident in another successful wipe of a scouting party discovered too near the tower.
It is about then that Gurth Spine-Breaker kills nearly every one of the enemies all on his own.
Enraged, paired Mauls in hand, the Half-Orc lunges into the fray. The Dwarves are just over half the level of the Heroes in experience; their advantage was their numbers and that advantage is swallowed quickly as Gurth sets to killing them at a rate of one every couple seconds. Jaques gleefully rains down destruction from above, fobbing out spells like they are going out of style.
Lester has an ace in hand; he Summons a pair of Dire Wolves, which immediately set upon a pair of Dwarf fighters from the enemy party, flanking and biting and Tripping their opponents while Lester watches with ease and decides that a tasty snack of Dwarf is reward enough for their service.
A minute later the fight is ended; two Fire Giants, dropped to semi-consciousness, make lunging attacks from prone to no effect; as does a Dwarf Fighter also coincidentally reduced to 0 hit-points. Everyone else of the enemy party is dead, really dead, or splattered over friend and foe alike.
Their gear is mundane : +1 weapons and shields, low-grade rings and amulets, Mauls far too large for Medium-sized creatures to use without the legendary effect.
Gurth, the Cleric, and Lester immediately check the Fire Giants, and are baffled by what they find. Their reddish beards are made of moss, stuck on with pine tar. And their skin is caked with reddish paint or dye; these “fire giants” are just Hill Giants dressed up in nonmagical Scale Mail armor and painted to look like their more formidable distant cousins. There are a lot of questions, and fruitless effort made to identify some sort of pun involved.
The slain Dwarves all carry some gold, and Genive’s Search check is not sufficient to find anything else. Light is fading; the Heroes collect their ally Dwarves from their defensive position outside of the fight, and move on.
As the last light fades and the sky above is violet and star-speckled, the Heroes find what must be the site. A large pond, almost a small lake, lies flat on the down-sloping land easing toward the broad river unseen off in the distance. It is ringed by willow trees and there are the stone cairns indicated by Renn. This is the spot, perhaps a kilometer south of Moonwatch. Somewhere along the grassy shoreline will be a small mound; under this, concealed, will be the outfall of the cistern tunnel.
The Heroes send back the scout to bring the main force of Dwarves, and prepare to wade into the shallows and duck under the surface into the unknown.
The adventure ends here for the night.