Back on the road after the clerics had seen to the party’s damages, the scouts had returned to duty, scouring the forest before the army, looking for an opposing army of drow. Beleg and Sloane quickly noticed the abnormal behavior of the Drow, both in the huge masses of the grey elves roaming about the forest to the fact that they were dogging the army, even by day, when the drow are at their worst.
Several days of this mass of men stumbling through the forest passed, until the scouts noted that the tracks of Lord Ilmeth‘s cavalry had veered off the track onto an ancient and over-grown road leading to an old abandoned elven keep. Over-grown no more, for Ilmeth’s cavalry had rushed onto the old road and beaten the undergrowth into pulp. Sloane and Beleg, though, had found in the surrounding wood where the turn had been made, the wrecked corpses of men, horses and Duergar, as well as signs of drow being wounded or killed. A battle had happened here and Lord Ilmeth’s cavalry had been driven from the road, likely to the keep, some 4 or 5 miles beyond.
As Beleg began leading the foot soldiers onto the the ancient elven road, an arrow appear in the road before him. Everyone began crouching and looking around, but Beleg informed them that it was not a drow arrow, but from an elven ranger that he knew. Shortly, a middle-aged elf detached himself from the woods and greeted Beleg in the manner of their kind.
The new ranger spoke to Beleg of alarming events taking place at the Standing Stone, an ancient symbol of the pact between the elves of Myth Drannor and the men of the Dalelands. Hoards of drow at this moment were descending on the place and Beleg’s companion ranger was part of a small band elves that had gathered to try and deter them. But they now found themselves horribly out-numbered, and the drow had made pacts with other denizens of the underdark, like Ogres and Duergar, and others. A host they could not take was protecting what evil plan the drow now unfolded.
The ranger informed them that Ilmeth was indeed holed up in the elven keep, but only by a token force of Duergar. But the grey dwarves had the ability to turn invisible, to make themselves larger than two men, and had, through cunning and illusion, convinced Ilmeth that a much greater force had him pinned within the broken walls. The ranger spoke frankly of the fact that if they could not free Ilmeth so that his host might join the elves in driving the enemy away, unknowable fell curses might fall upon them all.
Soon the army was double-timing it through the forest, while the Rangers and Rogues scouted the Duergar army laying siege around the keep. Sloane and Beleg discovered newly turned bunkers dug into the ground all around the the ancient walls, but could not see any duergar movement around them. The bunkers all faced inward toward the keep, but a huge brutish and tusked man was driving a number of duergar to build bunkers and fortifications facing back down the road. Obviously the enemy knew there were men coming. In the distance, beyond the keep, orc drums throbbed with excitement. Withdrawing back to the army, the scouts brought the commander, a newly promoted Dalesman who had some foreign armed service experience, what knowledge they had gained of the enemies’ lines.
“We need someone to inform Lord Ilmeth that he has been held by an inferior force and must join us on the field so we can rout these bastards and get ourselves to the ”/campaign/defending-the-dales/wikis/Standing%20Stone/new" class=“create-wiki-page-link”>Standing Stone" the commander said. “Beleg, Sloan. I entrust you can handle this task while we hammer at the duergar army from the east and provide you with ample distraction.”
When the army caught sight of the duergar earthworks, they charged with a roar as Beleg and Sloane slipped silently through the forest south of them. As the two scouts passed, they noticed a number of duergar laying in ambush, but to try to warn the army at this point was futile and would cost them what hope of success their stealth had provided. They crept closer and closer. Beleg almost jumped up too early to make his way toward the keep walls, but a few well thrown stones from the rogue held him in check. They waited as the duergar ran through the forest around them, heading to support their kinsmen at the place of battle.
On the road, the men surged forward, Bjarngrim, Xunen and the Commander in the lead. A round of token duergar bolts flew at them as they ran, but they were poorly fired and harmed no one in the Dalelands charge. Bjarngrim assaulted the first of the duergar bunkers, slipping inside and laying about him so ferociously, that the last of the duergar fled from him, and leapt from his hole. Xunen was hot on Bjarngrim’s heels, when the duergar ambush fell upon the front ranks of the men, and a great toll on the Dalesmen was extracted by the cunning duerg. As they ran from the forest and fell upon the men, each duerg grew to great height, looming over the men, causing fear in the bellies of the foe. With the sounds of battle bringing still more duergar pouring out of the forest, the remainder of the men surged forth and the clash of sword, shield and hammer rang from the forest.
Xunen fell back to where River and Alyia fought near the front ranks of the battle. The small druid summoned creatures from the forest to aid them against the grey dwarves, then lay about her with her magical druid fires. Alyia sang a great courageous song to bolster the mens hearts, then drew and fired arrow after arrow about her with skill and ferocity. Xunen was hard pressed by many enemies and almost fell to the fray, but new reinforcements came and surged over his opponents, allowing him to pray for strength and healing to recover and rejoin the battle.
The melee was intense, men and duerg pitted in mad struggle. Among the men, clerics and young wizards loaned their occult strengths to the battle and spells of different colors and effects bounced back and forth amidst the melee. Evil duerg clerics dropped curses upon the men to counter the blessings of the benevolent Dale clergy. The front lines of the battle erupted into a huge mass of flames and burned the men there horribly, leaving their clothes and hair on fire as they screamed their misery and rolled on the ground. the duerg pushed forward and slew the burning men, taking advantage of the confusion the blast had sewn. The huge tusked man stepped from the forest shadows and fired streaks of light at Xunen, burning furrows across his armor. One of the younger Dale mages returned in like fashion, but the mage’s inexperience was apparent by the small meager blasts he sent back. The men on the right side of the Dale army were suddenly engulfed in green clouds, and the men there instantly were overcome with tears, cramps, loss of breath and retching. Alyia tried to harm the great spellcaster, but her arrows were cast aside by some spell before they could reach the creature’s foul heart.
Sloane finally indicated that it was now or never to Beleg and the two crouch-ran from tree to tree to bush toward the stone walls. They passed behind the giant spell-caster as he threw his great blast of fire and knelt near the edge of the wall. Sloane assessed the wall for good climbing spots. The wall was ancient and craggy and vine-ridden, an easy climb for an experienced burglar, but then her eye fell on a crack in the wall that looked like it could be more easily traveled. Crouching, she and the ranger shuffled into the keep.
Inside the wall, they were confronted by a series of arrows nocked and pointed menacingly in their direction. They quickly spilled the purpose of their mission, and Lord Ilmeth joined them while they ran over the infomation about the duergar and the drows secret plans at the Standing Stone. The cavalry was already mounted, as Ilmeth’s watchers on the walls had heard the commotion to the east and they had readied themselves to sally forth.
But even the great size of the duergar and their cunningly laid plans could not save them from the overwhelming numbers of the Daleland foot-soldiers. Then a set of battle horns rang from within the keep, and the majority of the duergar force realized they were between two greater forces of very angry men. As one, all of the duerg suddenly vanished, leaving a token force of duerg struggling along the battle line to be quickly overwhelmed. The giant mage had also disappeared.
As the horsemen poured from the ruined arch of the keep’s entrance, Sloane and Beleg climbed upon the read keep wall. To their surprise, the orc camp that they had worried would go to the aid of the duerg instead had stopped drumming and was quickly packing up their campsite. Shortly they ran deeper into the forest of Cormanthor.
As the last of the struggling duerg died under a rain of sword-tips, semi-grey-haired Lord Ilmeth drew up to gathering of footmen with a smile. Some sixty or so men had perished that day, and another 23 lay wounded beyond moving. Clerics prayed for their health and rapid recovery with the last of their strength. Frustrated, Lord Ilmeth worried that any wounded that he left behind might be set upon by the duerg as soon as the army moved on, but the urgency of the elven ranger’s need meant that he could not afford to be slowed by the wounded. Finally, he told the wounded and handful of keepers and herbalists to take what protection they could and ordered the army to march on.