When the early morning light fell on Daggerford the party made their way to see old King Derval Ironeater, the ancient patriarch of the Ironeater clan of dwarves. The King had lost his kingdom under Mount Illefarn to the east many decades ago, but had regained some dignity with his kin as the finest blacksmith of Delimbiyr Vale. They found King Derval propped up in a small chair overseeing the busy comings and goings of his shop with his family hard at work around him. Having already spoken to Sir Isteval the night before, the King was expecting them and had already agreed to tell them what he could of the Altar of Imix and his old home.
“Isteval may be young, but he’s no fool. He thinks you’re destined for great things. Before you head off to Mount Illifarn, there is stuff you need to know. Come closer, my young friends. Let me tell you my secrets.”
And that was it. He died right there mid recollection much to the surprise of the party, the Ironeater dwarves and the king. All was not lost though, with the help of their priestly friends in the area they were able to use the incredibly useful Speak with the Dead spell to learn what they could. It turns out that Derval’s youngest brother, Derwin found the Altar over a century ago while adventuring and, viewing it as a good omen, convinced his older brother, Korwin to return to Illefarn and restore Ironaxe Halls to their former glory. This split the family and made pariahs of the newly minted Ironaxe clan and set Derwin and Korwin on a path of woe. Aside from some backstory, Derval couldn’t actually help that much, having been away from his old home for over a century. But he did remember that the phrase “The owls are not what they seem” had some significance and that an elf prince named Alagarthas was in the Laughing Hollow and could help them find the Ironaxe Halls where his disgraced kin now reside.
Armed with some useful information the party set out that morning for Mount Illefarn. It took them several days of riding through the countryside to reach the edge of the torched Laughing Hollow but eventually they did. The Hollow was burned out by a seemingly natural forest fire, though the forest residents they met speculated wildly that some evil fire magic was the cause. They soon were lucky enough to encounter a small group of friendly centaurs that took them to meet the haughty elf prince Alagarthas.
Alagarthas shared with them his vision of uniting the elf peoples scattered about this part of the world once again under a single banner…his. But he needs street credit to get his project moving and so offered to escort them (with his cadre of guards) to the Ironaxe Halls and help thwart the Red Wizards plot. He seemed like kind of a douche though and looking for an easy tag along for glory. Alagarthas sent half his guards to search for creatures in need of aid in the forest and then led the party promptly to the hidden vale of Mount Illefarn where the Halls were tucked away.
Ironaxe Halls was dug into an ancient quarry on the lower mountainside with a singular large gaping doorway along the lowest tier. They crept as close as they could without being spotted and sent Flynnwicka on ahead to scout it out. When Flynnwicka entered the hold she immediately encountered a large group of orcs and half-dwarf-orcs (dworcs) engaged in wrestling and training matches in the main hall. They love halflings, or rather they love to eat halflings. Thinking her an easy meal they attacked, but Flynnwicka’s allies leapt to her aid and they proceeded to smash and thrash the horde of orcs as they poured out from side passage after side passage. Orcs, dworcs, Orogs, ogres and even their Ettin leader, Harglevargle, poured into the main hall only to be cut down by the mighty heroes. When the dust settled, most of the elves lay dead and the prince was badly wounded. The rest of the party actually fared pretty well and they decided to press on without the Prince while he found a place nearby to ‘rally his forces’. Moving deeper into the complex they discovered small children dworcs and a system of rune circles that appeared to be keeping the place from collapsing. They also found the Altar to Imix, though they could not see a way to open it and moving it was impossible due to the complex warding runes in the area. Nearby they heard the uncontrollable sobbing some creature and decided to investigate. Curiously, they found an ogrillon who called himself Lump sobbing inconsolably over the loss of his pet rat, Mr. Scratches. Flynnwicka cleverly reconstructed a mock rat and gave it to the dimwitted creature to console him…which actually worked! They wisely left Lump to his own devices and went about their business.
At this point the party ran into a couple actual dwarves come down to see what the fuss was about. The surprised dwarves decided that they’d better bring them before King Korwin immediately and brought them up to the second level of the Halls. The heroes quickly surmised that this floor was home to the Ironaxe dwarves and their ‘mates’. Female orcs shared quarters with male dwarves and their small children, though the dwarves don’t seem particularly happy about their situation. Before they could reach the king, they encountered an unexpected sight. Arvik Zaltos, very much alive and very much walking their way with a small host of undead at his side. Arvik dispatched some of his wight and wraith guards to kill the heroes, but they soon fell. However, while they were distracted by his guards Arvik reached into Flynnwicka’s mind and overthrew her will. Unable to control herself, Flynnwicka cut deep into Juggs and Patrick with Frostbrand before she was able to shake off the domination of Arvik. At that point, the insidious wizard had disappeared into the dark passageways of the Hall, so the party pressed on to meet with King Korwin.
Unfortunately, poor old King Kowrin seems to have lost his mind. Through their extended conversation with the mad king they could tell that he passed in and out of lucid moments. He seemed to be under the impression that his dwarf kingdom was thriving, and that an evil necromancer he defeated back in his younger days might come back. Trying to determine the significance of ‘The Owls are not what they Seem’, Patrick noticed that upon asking the king about the phrase he began to toy with his small chest necklace. Pressed for time and short on patience for old mad kings, Patrick turned to a charm spell to convince the king to give over the necklace. They then left the yammering old fool to explore deeper into the Halls.
In the very next room they came upon a strange and unsettling sight. A different Red Wizard, a pale bald human, sat on the floor of a large room while he worked diligently on his rune circle… surrounded by a score of dworc children and several suits of dwarven plate armor. “We meet again…” said the wizard as he unloaded a series of spells on the heroes and the armor sets leapt to life. Carefully (miraculously) avoiding the terrified children, the heroes smashed the armor to bits and cut down the vile wizard.
Pressing on into the Halls they encountered a teenage dworc being a little emo bitch in his room and decided he wasn’t worth the hassle. They found a partially collapsed door to a higher tier of the outside quarry and took the opportunity to rest in relative safety.
The next morning, they awoke to find help had arrived from the Ironeaters in Daggerford. A dwarf cleric named Thorin Frostmug had arrived to aid the heroes and set right the foul situation that had befallen their disgraced kin.
Upon re-entering the Halls, the party soon encountered an angry mob of torch wielding dwarves. For some reason, they were not happy that their ill-begotten dworc children were slaughtered down in the main hall the day before and that the party had robbed the king of his prized necklace. This was Patrick’s moment. Spinning a tale of critically epic persuasion/deception the Bard somehow convinced the angry dwarves that not only was it not the heroes to blame, but it was actually in fact the Red Wizards of Thay who killed their dworc offspring and that Korwin had given Patrick the necklace as a gift. The appreciative dwarves told the heroes of a Red Wizard imprisoned nearby along with many captured servants from the recent orc raid on Floshin Estate.
A short walk through the passages to the south led them to a small prison where an undead-like Red Wizard named Skannon Tolker begged to be freed. She professed her hatred for Arvik Zaltos and vowed to thwart his efforts to undermine their lichlord Szass Tam. Admittedly though that wasn’t a particularly persuasive argument for freeing her, though they decided to give her a chance. Thorin used his holy powers of evil detection to detect that four wraiths lurked in the walls around the cells and warned the party appropriately. Upon reaching for the nearby cell keys, the wraiths struck out at the heroes to prevent the release of the prisoners. The foul creatures fell quickly though thanks to a critically epic fire bolt from Illith and a holy prayer from Thorin that turned the last one. Much to their dismay, the party decided to leave the imprisoned Floshin estate workers in their cells for safe keeping…a morally questionable but effective tactic.
The heroes then encountered a series of Iron safes and made an important discovery. Given time and effort, they could smash these safes and bypass the iron coins needed to otherwise unlock them! They took advantage of this fact once, freeing up eight additional coins that they then used to unlock other nearby safes. They found magic armor, booze and a mysterious dead dwarf named Larloss. The plot thickens!
They proceeded north to explore some old dwarf tombs and Flynnwicka found the remains of Derwin the Drinker, youngest brother to King Korwin, and the finder of the Altar of Imix. The remains seemed to have once included Derwin’s Hammer, an artifact of some unknown importance to the Altar of Imix, though it was nowhere to be seen. Unknown to all, Flynnwicka managed to pocket a small but valuable looking statue (Daytime Emmy!) from Derwin’s tomb. The party collectively agreed that they would not be a bunch of grave robbers and left the rest of the tombs alone. One must have principals after all.
After a brief and unfortunate encounter with a ‘goblin smasher’ door trap the heroes made their way to the übervault, where the dwarves from earlier said they could access the top floor where Arvik Zaltos and his Red Wizard cohorts currently reside. Unable to resist the temptation of opening the four iron safes in the room, they found a collection of rare books, a pair of Gauntlets of Ogre Power and series of small and valuable boxes containing cash and a Djinn shaped vial. Curiosity demanded they open the vial and unfortunately, they found it contained an irate air elemental. Before the creature could smash the heroes to bits a whispered spell of Banishment sent it back to the Elemental Plane of Air with a ‘Pop!’. Thorin seemed to be an incredibly handy addition to the party!
The party decided to take an hour rest and take advantage of the restorative magics of some special rooms they’d found before they pressed up to the third and final floor of the Ironaxe Halls to confront Arvik Zaltos and his minions.