When we left our heroes, Hochnor was in Count Henry’s library researching the nature and history of the mysterious door discovered by the dwarf miners. Putting two and two together, Hochor figured out that the door might lead into a powerful living dungeon, which may also by the secret tomb of the first Orc Lord. And his magic axe. The party decides not to share this theory with Khash.
But research and scholarship had to wait, because a traumatized dwarf lumberjack arrived at Maksim’s with terrible news: Five Hawks lumber camp was under attack by a demonic force. It was rounding up the dwarves, killing them, and raising them again as something horrible. Maksim insisted on coming with the party; Maksim’s honored slave Boris insisted on coming with Maksim. A high-spirited group of paladins for the Crusader insisted on coming with Nureddin. Elanesse likes cake.
On the way to the camp, the party came across a slain dwarf messenger lying in the road. A letter lay in the dirt nearby:
Please forgive the lack of pleasantries, but I have terrible news to share and time is of the essence.
The Imperial Inquisition, your last recourse for justice, has failed you. Worse than failed: it has betrayed you. Its corrupt representatives in Blackmarch have dismissed all charges against the villain Maksim Goldfinder. It is obvious that he used his wealth—rightfully yours—to bribe them, but no one dares speak against him now.
The outrage does not end there. The Inquisition has given orders to arrest you and seize your property! If their hired enforcers aren’t already on their way to your camp, they soon will be.
My friend, now is the time to do the thing that we discussed. It is a radical step, and once taken there is no turning back. But I know you have the strength and courage to go beyond the Veil.
Begin with the one who bore this message to you, and do not stop until all is complete. Bring justice to this hellish world. We will see you soon.
I am very truly yours,
Magus Astrum, O.T.L.
The party scouted ahead and saw several of the dwarf lumberjacks in the open, their throats cut and their corpses animated by writhing thorny vines.
The Battle of Five Hawks Camp began as the party poured lamp oil on Maksim’s carriage, set it on fire, and crashed it into the possessed dwarves at high speed. Nureddin and the paladins took a position to the north and Elanesse took a position to the south, flanking the dwarves and attacking with ranged fire. Hochnor, Khash, Maksim and Boris entered melee.
Suddenly Elanesse underwent a personality change in response to the demonic activity, becoming Essenale. She suddenly had a whole lot of scary demonic powers, which she used to kick various enemies around.
Then Nikolai, now possessed by the Howler in the Woods and wielding scary demonic powers of his own, entered the battle. He and Essenale went toe to toe for a few rounds until Elanesse made her save to regain control of herself.
After taking severe damage Nikolai opened a tear in reality through which eight gnolls entered the battle. For a while defeat seemed imminent, as three out of four party members were reduced to 0 hit points. But thanks to saved-up icon rolls, reinforcements from Foothold arrived in the form of a posse of city guards and a healer. In the end, the forces of the Dragon Empire prevailed and slew all of their enemies, sending the Howler back to the Abyss.
In the aftermath of the battle, Maksim rewarded the party with gifts, and granted Boris his freedom and ownership of the Five Hawks Lumber Company.