They rested briefly after the fight with the Orc hunting party.
Davidian decided to place a Glyph of Warding on the body of the “Chosen of Lillith” so it would explode if disturbed. This was a very expensive trap – using the last of his supply of diamond dust.
Clayton and Abraham devised a plan to lead pursuers the wrong way, south along the lake shore. The ranger cleverly made a contraption to simulate footprints, attached to the back of the priest’s Skeletal Warhorse. Abraham ordered the warhorse to walk along the lake shore for a couple of hours and then cross the lake (two miles walk along the lake bottom), emerge on the far side and turn left and walk along the lake shore until it reaches the cliff or meets up with him.
As the horse tramped away south, they turned north with the two rangers carefully concealing their tracks, eventually paddling into the cold lake and then rappelling along the cliff face to get around the northern end of the lake valley.
As it grew dark and overcast, they struggled on. Only the elf Davidian and Mulan (with “elf-sight” granted by her circlet – given by the Gnome King) could see clearly. It was only a matter of time and suddenly the humans began to stumble – they were all roped together and all tumbled down into the water – except for Mulan who cut the rope to save herself.
There were jagged rocks and soon the water was tinged with blood. A hundred yards away there were muffled splashes and our heroes struggled (under the weight of armour and equipment) to get out of the water.
Two huge crocodiles swam in and began biting and death-rolling at Clayton and Abraham. The priest was dragged under and passed out, but Mulan shot the monster through the brain and the priest bobbed back up where Gaston could drag him out and Davidian could stabilise him. They just managed to save Clayton from the jaws of the second one and then Davidian’s faerie Prayer of Healing restored them all.
A few more hours of scrambling round in the dark and they reached the other side, after midnight. Suddenly from back where they had been came a burst of fire and distant cries of pain. A couple of dozen orcs had been caught in the explosion and a few Wargs too. The flames lit up that section of the shore for an hour or two. It looked like maybe there had been 25-30 mounted Orcs in a war party. The few survivors seemed to have fallen for their trick as they followed the Skeletal Warhorse tracks in the wrong direction. Abe found his horse by the lake shore, dragging a huge mass of smelly seaweed. If anything crossed his trail on this side of the lake, it would have no trouble following.
It seemed that the lake was about 15 miles long and at the other end they could see there was an Orc town – probably an inland port. The rest of the night passed peacefully and they slept late into the morning and then spent half a day climbing ever steeper towards the hidden valley mentioned in Agraven’s Journal.
Keep of Statues.
Instead of a peaceful valley with an entrance to the citadel protected only by a waterfall, it seemed the orcs had been busy in the last couple of hundred years. The waterfall entrance was still there but the orcs had built a small fort to guard it and there were lots of tracks around as though the number of hunting parties was a lot more than they expected.
Somehow they got to the hillside overlooking the valley and spotted that the orcs on the battlements seemed to be stone statues and the big gates were open, more statues inside. They started whispering about a Medusa!
Suddenly Mooshoo the pseudo-dragon familiar of Mulan, let them know that monsters were approaching from behind them. They managed to hide just in time as a Hill Giant and 10 orcs and five dire wolves, all laden down with deer and wild boar, came trudging up the mountain towards the keep.
As they got close to the gates, deep barking came from within and two hell hounds, red-eyed and breathing smoke, barred the way. Their barking and the answering dire wolf howls brought a woman with silvery snake-tentacled hair, to the gate. A few words seemed to pass between them and the hunters passed through. They could just see that the hill giant stood in the waterfall while the other passed through, then the massive humanoid passed through after them.
The Medusa and her hall hounds went back into the courtyard out of sight.
After much discussion they decided to try and sneak past using Clayton’s Pass Without Trace spell. This would mean climbing up into the roof and around the battlements to reach the waterfall. Abraham decided his Skeletal Warhorse would not be able to manage the trip so he reluctantly destroyed it (because he couldn’t summon a second one if the first one still existed).
They hid the pile of bones and the saddle and harness in bushes at the valley edge and sneaked through. The hell hounds were asleep in the courtyard and with the help of the spell they managed to climb over the walls and around the far side of the keep walkways (past the sightless eyes of the stone orcs). As they reached the far side they could see the floor where the Waterfall crashed down was a big iron grate. The water thundered down but passed through the grating into an underground river far below but the grating could be easily crossed.
At the last minute Gaston made some noise (failing his stealth check by 1 !) and the Hell Hounds began to look around. They all leapt into the waterfall and found that the weight of water actually hurt! But they passed through and reached the cave mouth beyond. They are only an hour or so behind the hunting party but for the moment, they are “safe”.