Part 35: Into the Valley of the Mines- Into the Valley of the Mines
Now that the Claw had been empowered, I returned to town and slept until morning.
After waking, I exited out of the southern gate and went to do something for a long time now.
The Orc in the cave outside town had been a thorn in my side for a good while. Every time I returned from Jharkendar, this thing would be here waiting.
The battle lasted awhile. Despite my new blade, the creatures armor and thick skin was preventing me from doing too much damage. That is until the magic started.
One of the abilities of the Claw was for it to release a bolt of energy upon a successful hit. It didn't' do it every time, but when it did it was devastating.
With the orc now dead the portal back to the area near the Dead Harpy was clear. My trip to the Valley of the Mines was made much shorter.
The portal put me just outside the door to the one that would take me to the ancient temple. I left the forest and rejoined the road.
The Prison Colony was aways from town, but the old signs were still present. Not that I didn't remember where it was. I spent a long time there.
I followed the road until the gate to the Valley was in sight. I recalled that Gaan, a member of the Ring of Water, had been having some trouble with nearby wild life. I left the road to go give him assistance, stopping at a nearby shrine to Innos for a quick prayer.
"How's the hunting?" I asked.
"The last animal I could bring down was a large rat. Not very encouraging and bad for business. For several days now, some kind of snorting beast has been roaming the area. It not only kills everything that moves, it also interferes with my work."
As if on a script, the creature in question then made an appearance a ways behind Gaan. I could see now that it was a Dragon Snapper. I knew from personal, very personal, experience that this would not be easy.
Using a scroll of Ice Block, I encased the creature in ice. While it was helpless I beat it on with my sword. As the ice thawed, I saw that I'd been successful. The creature was dead. I returned to Gaan.
"That horrible creature is dead, I assume. Then I can finally hunt freely again." He tossed me a light purse of coin. "Here's the money I promised you."
I rejoined the road and made my way over to the Valley gate.
Two paladins guarded the pass.
"Are you sure you want to go in there?" one asked. "I'm afraid you won't get very far - the orcs are on the other side."
"If there's a way into the Valley of Mines, I shall find it." I told them.
"Good, then go. Go with Innos."
The pass seemed devoid of any plant life. Dead trees and shrubs lined the side of the path. The only sign of anything living was a starving pack of young wolves. I dealt with them and moved on.
Further down the pass I encountered some Orcs, just as the paladin said I would.
I drew one of the two orcs toward me and pinned it against a wall. While it was trapped I repeatedly stuck at its midsection. Combined with my sword's magical discharge I was able to defeat it fairly fast. I dealt with the second orc in a similar fashion.
Despite being much stronger than I was, Orcs were still trouble. They were muscular with large, sharp weapons. A single struck easily pierced my armor and cut deep to the bone. I had to be very careful around them. I continued down the now clear path.
Or so I'd thought. In the center of the pass the Orcs had made camp. A shaman and three or more warriors took notice of me and gave chase.
My only recourse was to run back and duck into a cave. Luckily, the Orcs did not follow.
The cave took me to the ledges above the pass. Curious, I walked on. Maybe I'd find a way to bypass those evil creatures.
On the other side I found a pack of wolves before an old mine. The wolves, like the others I'd seen in the pass, were quite sickly and easily defeated.
The path clear, I walked into the old mine.
After many hours of being lost, I finally emerged on the other side. The sun had since set but I'd made it. I was in the Valley of Mines.
I immediately recognized where I was. Just behind me was the spot where I was thrown in and where I'd met Diego. If I followed this path down I'd eventually come to the Old Camp. First, though, I walked up this winding path and went across the bridge.
A few field raiders were there to greet me, but I was far past worrying about such pests. I looked for anything useful that may have been left when the Barrier fell.
In the corner, sitting atop a barrel, was a unique treasure. A rune of teleportation. If I understood this rune correctly, it would return me to this spot when used. No doubt the Paladins had this commissioned when they moved into the area. Luckily for me they seemed to have forgotten it.
I rejoined the road and began my descent. I stopped.
Something was very wrong. In the distance, I saw fire appear in the sky and the echoes of screams. I quickened my pace.
A bit further down, tucked away behind a tree, I discovered a dragon snapper snacking on the fresh corpse of a paladin. I beat away the creature and looked through the Paladin's things. Among his belongings was a paladin zauber, a magic rune made specifically for the paladin's brand of magic.
Down at the bottom of the hill I found someone.
"What are you standing around here for?" I asked.
"I come from the castle. They've sent me to look for those missing and to check out the area."
"Some fled when the dragons attack." So thats what that was. "Most of them didn't make it - no surprise there - but if there are any survivors left I'll bring them back."
"Can you help me get into the castle?"
"Sure, but you have to do me a favor. If you can make it to the castle, talk to the paladin Oric. Tell him that his brother bought it up there at the pass."
"How can I get into the castle?"
"First of all, you can forget the direct path. But if you walk around the castle, you might have a chance from the back. You should stay away from the paths and use the river. It will be best if you swim downstream for a stretch. It should be easier from there. The orcs have set up a ram behind the castle. You can get in that way - creep up on those orcs as close as you can then run for it. You might just make it if you're fast enough."
I hopped down into the shallow waters below. I could see the Orcish camps across the river.
I tried to bypass the orcs by simply following the river but I was spotted by the orcs. Unfortunately, it was back into the river for me.
Finally, I was far away enough from the orcs that I could again leave the water. A large pack of scavengers was situated where I exited the river from. I dealt with as many as I could and moved on into the forest.
I flanked the orcs and saw the ram that I was looking for. A group of orcs were nearby, though. I'd need to be fast. I dug around in my pack for some snapper weed. I munched on it, and felt a surge of energy rush through me.
I ran as fast as I could past the orcs. It was late and they were clearly not expecting some suicidal human to break their siege. I hopped onto the ram and scrambled up the side of the castle wall.
Finally, I made it inside. The sentry at the edge of the wall helped me inside.
"You had damned good luck when you came in. I very nearly shot you."
"Then I guess I should be glad that you have such keen eyesight."
"Save your breath. Talk to Sengrath if you want something."
Sengrath was nearby, standing in front of the campfire.
"I knew it! I knew that someone would succeed! Have you come over the pass? Our messenger managed to get through then?"
"No, your messenger didn't make it across the pass. I have come by order of Lord Hagen."
Sengrath growled. "Accursed orcs. Well, Commander Garond will certainly want to speak to you. You'll find him in the large building guarded by two knights."
"Who can teach me something here?"
"Ask Keroloth. He trains the boys in sword fighting. Maybe he'll teach you something."
"Where can I find gear here?"
"Tandor hands out the weapons. Engor the steward is responsible for everything else."
"What about magic supplies?"
"We are equipped with spell scrolls. If you want some of them, let me know."
"Show me your spell scrolls." I browsed through his things, but he didn't have anything I needed. I went to go find this Kerolath.
"You train people?" I asked.
"Yes. Once those orcs, or even worse, the dragons attack again, every single hand will be needed."
"Can you train me, too?"
"Sure. I'll train any good man but besides your talent you need a good weapon if you want to survive here. Ask the Knight Tandor. He'll take good care of you."
Kerolath offered training in both one and two handed combat. I considered it, but I decided it'd be better for later.
Next I went into the chapel. Back when this castle was part of the Old Camp, this was the Fire Mages'
base of operations.
I walked up the stairs and found another rune. The second level of the
On the bottom level, I found my buddy Milten.
"Look who has returned! Our hero from the barrier!"
"Good to see you, Milten. Are you still here, or here again?"
"Again. After the Barrier collapsed I entered the monastery of the Magicians of Fire. But once it was clear that the paladins wanted to come here, my experience and knowledge of the place proved to be quite useful. So they decided then and there to entrust me with the holy mission of providing magical support to this expedition. Do you remember Gorn, Diego, and Lester?"
"Of course I remember the boys."
"Well, Gorn and Diego didn't get far. They were picked up by the paladins here in the valley. Lester has vanished, though. I have no idea where he's hanging around."
"I've met Lester - he's with Xardas now."
"One bit of good news, at least. Well, I have nothing pleasant to report."
"Where are Gorn and Diego now?"
"Well, Gorn is sitting here in the dungeon because he resisted arrest. They assigned Diego to a troop of scrapers - ask the paladin Parcival, he assembled the groups."
"Let's go and free Gorn!" I said.
"Well, the problem in this matter is that Gorn is a convicted prisoner. If we're lucky, Garond will agree on a deal and we can buy his freedom."
"Keep me in the picture."
After leaving Milten, I went to the main building of the castle to meet with Garond.
"Stop." The gate guard demanded. "Who are you?"
"The question where I come from is much more important. I came across the pass. So are you going to stop me now, or can I go in?"
"Well, I couldn't know that. Of course you're allowed in."
Garond was inside, sitting upon the throne that once belonged to the Ore Baron Gomez.
"Where do you come from? You aren't one of the scrapers, and you aren't one of my people. Well?"
"I've come across the pass."
"Over the pass? You actually got through - by Innos! What are your orders, soldier?"
"I come from Lord Hagen. He wants me to bring him proof of the presence of the dragons."
"And you've come here just to fetch it and then disappear again?"
"That's what I had in mind."
"So he wants proof? He can have it. But I can't send you back to Lord Hagen without giving him information about the ore. Listen - Lord Hagen absolutely must learn what the situation is here and how much ore we've mine up to now."
All right, what do you want me to do for you?"
"I've got three troops of scrapers out there but they haven't sent me a single nugget. Visit the mining sites and report back to me how much ore they have stored. Then I'll write you a letter that you are going to take back to Lord Hagen."
I sighed. "I guess I have no choice. Where can I find the mining sites?"
Garond handed me a rolled up map. "Here, take this map. It shows the two areas where the mining sites are located. If you have any more questions, ask Parcival. He can tell you all you need to know about the scrapers."
"I want you to let Gorn go."
"I can't let him go. He has committed many crimes and they must be atoned for."
"Can I pay his penalty?"
"That might be a possibility but certainly not a cheap one. I want 1000 gold pieces for Gorn."
"That's a lot of gold." Luckily my trip to Jharkendar had made me pretty rich.
"Gorn also has much to answer for. Bring me the gold and I'll set Gorn free."
I counted out the coin and gave the pouch to Garond. "I want to buy Gorn free."
"Agreed. You can go to Gerold and tell him to release Gorn on my orders."
Gerold was by the northern side of the castle, standing guard outside of the prison. After telling him of Garond's orders he let me inside.
I found Gorn in one of the cells, unlocked it, and walked inside.
"Enough of this lounging about - you're free!"
"It's about time somebody got me out of here. I certainly hadn't expected it to be you, though. It's damn good to see you."
I grinned. "Garond says you eat too much and he can no longer afford to feed you."
"Now that you mention it, I could stand a couple of beers. Let's get out of here. I've seen enough of this cell."
"Okay, see you at Milten's."
I went and found Milten to tell him of my success in rescuing Gorn.
"I have freed Gorn." I told him.
"Good. Then we should think about what happens next."
"What are your plans?" I asked.
"I shall return. I will wait for awhile but now that Gorn is free, I can take off together with him. It is more than necessary that Pyrokar learns of the situation here. I hope that Lord Hagen will recognize the threat that emanates from this valley. Not to think of what will happen if the orcs come over the pass."
"Well, have a safe trip."
I was tired. I wandered into the barracks and found an empty bed on the second level. I slept until noon.