The Heroes have been waiting impatiently, none more so than Lester, who openly questions the wisdom of fragments of the Party going off on their own.
Faldorn and Genive return from their expedition, and start to summarize their findings. The Dwarf Paladin interrupts to ask where the Scout is. Genive tells him that the Scout dropped in combat. Angry, the Paladin demands to know if the humans checked to see if the Scout was dead, or merely unconscious or comatose.
Neither Faldorn nor Genive can say, as they did not check on him after the fight. The Paladin motions quickly to four Dwarven Defenders, and leads them into the stairwell and up to rescue the Scout, if he still lives. The Heroes, flat-footed and slack-jawed, get their act together and hurry to follow, torches in hand.
Exiting into the 4th underground level, Faldorn is questioned by the Paladin and Defenders as to where the fight took place. The Druid points the way to go, and the Dwarfs hustle into the Storage Room to locate and aid the fallen Scout.
By torchlight, Genive gets a sense of what the Scout and Faldorn saw by way of their Darkvision. She notices and calls attention to another stairwell, across the hall from the Storage Room entrance. This one leading up to the 3rd underground level. The Heroes take a look, and discover that the stairwell is jammed with wrecked furniture, boxes, and as much clutter as could be crammed into the first flight of stairs. This way has been intentionally blocked.
Faldorn indicates the fallen human soldier to the others. With their light sources the Heroes can see another body, further down the hall. It looks different somehow.
Lester is curious, and daring. He has Kartug hold a torch for him as they both advance down the dark hallway. The Halfling stays fixated on the second body as he draws close. This corpse is smaller.
Close enough for a better examination, Lester discovers that this is a Duergar fighter, dead for as long as the human soldier. This fighter, however, has been rearranged in a respectable repose for the dead, arms crossed, weapons removed, flat on its back. It does not smell very good. Lester leaves it behind, untouched.
The Party follows the Dwarves into the Storage Room. The Paladin has checked the Scout, and the Scout is indeed dead from his wounds. Before them are the security doors, sealed shut and bearing signs of worthless effort to bash them in. Options to open these doors are debated. Genive is ready to use the Chime of Opening, but Lester has an idea. The Halfling Conjurer casts a Summon spell, and an exceptionally strong, Small-sized Earth Elemental appears.
The Elemental seems nice enough, and obedient, but it is not terribly smart. Lester explains what he wants done. The Elemental seems to understand. It turns, and walks into the stone wall, presumably passing through the solid stone and earth to re-emerge in the hallway on the “safe” side of the security doors.
Lester grows concerned as the seconds tick away and nothing has happened, but finally the Elemental heaves open one of the doors and the Halfling is quick and catches the portal before it swings closed and locks again. Wobberts blocks the door open with heavy boxes from the supply shelves.
Looking down this hallway, instead of a darkened Commander’s Office the Heroes groan in unison. There is another set of security doors.
Lester’s Summon still has time; he directs the Elemental to do as it did before, for this next set of doors. Obliging, the Elemental does not take as long for this task. The Heroes block open these doors, and the Halfling has time enough express his thanks before the Elemental blinks back to his Plane of origin.
The Commander’s Office is theirs to explore. No sound emanates from any of the rooms in this area. Faldorn, still in Huge Scorpion form, has an impressive Tremorsense. This ability of his chosen form does not warn him of anything moving within sixty feet of the Party.
They start in the Commander’s private office first. The elegant oak doors have been smashed down, wall hangings and paintings of picturesque landscapes torn aside, and the floor littered with papers and scrolls and overturned furniture.
It is not hard to find the hidden location of the Commander’s base key; an open stone hiding-place is starkly obvious where once had hung a portrait of the Commander himself. The Duergar share their distant-cousin Dwarves’ stonecunning ability, and had sensed the hidden stonework with a glance. The key is gone.
This is a disappointment, but the foray to this place has not been a complete loss. The Commander’s leather-bound journal had been tossed aside by the raiders. Flipping through, the Heroes find very little of interest until the last few entries. The Commander made tactful disagreements in his notes, mentioning recent orders from the Lord of War instructing him to collect almost his entire garrison from Moonwatch and march north to Lakehurst and then on to Skywatch Tower, to act as re-enforcement against a new threat. This last entry was dated a few days before the Heroes had been told that contact was lost with Moonwatch Tower.
Sifting the papers thick underfoot, Genive’s expert eye spies useful information. Much of what lies on the floor is boring military bureaucratic paperwork: supply requisitions, inter-Fortress memos and requests, inventory reports. Scattered among this factual debris, however, are some actual high-level correspondence. The Spymaster finds various letters sealed by pretty much all of Corinthia’s Decade of Lords.
One, from the Lord of Diplomacy, informs the base Commander that a dignitary is soon to make a brief stopover at Moonwatch, and all efforts to ensure a comfortable and impressive stay at the fortress are to be made. This letter is six months old.
Another letter is from the Lord of War, granting assent to the base Commander’s request to promote an officer to Major from the rank of Captain. This, too, is months old.
With help from the others, Genive and the Heroes scour the mess of papers and uncover a particular letter that ties directly to the base Commander’s last journal entry. It is an urgent message, sealed by the Lord of War, originally stating what the base Commander had politely protested in his log book.
The Commander was ordered to arm and equip all except two platoons of his garrison, and lead this force north to the town of Lakehurst and then on to Skywatch Tower. The Lord of War states that troubles with Giants have been reported at Skywatch, and the base Commander’s forces are the closest to assist. This letter is dated as received the day before the last journal entry.
There is not time to examine all of the documents at length, so the Party scoops thirty pounds of papers into a Bag of Holding and moves on.