Two days after the raid, the newly-formed party indulged in some shopping, buying weapons and supplies. Sales were nearly derailed when Grodn noticed that the Vaasan Gate’s armourer, Gunnar Halmarsson, was a grey dwarf, but then they realised that this was widely known and accepted.
The party then began their mission to the von Karevich mine, heading north to the hamlet of Virdin, then east to the mine site itself, located in one of the many large craters dotting the Pass, a journey of four or fie hours. They approached the crater cautiously by a circuitous route, checking the small copse of trees to the north as they went, but there was nobody about.
While Jedda looked after the horses, Grodn and Astra approached the crater, again keeping an eye open. While Astra and Eckhard covered him, Grodn checked the main ramp into the crater and discovered it was unsafe. Opting to use a rope instead, he climbed into the pit and quickly checked the various structures within for occupants. Finding nobody in the two lean-tos or behind the various spoil heaps, he signalled the all-clear and the bard and sorceror joined him.
The three of them began a more detailed analysis of the contents of the pit: the larger lean-to contained beds and cooking equipment, the smaller, once secured with a padlock, held tools and other mining materials, including a box of Alchemist’s Thunder vials. Eckhard finally approached the entrance to the mine itself and was promptly hit by two crossbow bolts, which nearly killed him outright.
Grodn immediately prepared to shoot back, but was unable to identify a target in the darkness; Astra pulled the sorceror to safety and cast healing magics on him. After some discussion, Astra cast light on a crossbow bolt and fired it into the tunnel, where it briefly illuminated a barricade about 30 feet inside, before somebody covered it up.
Thus, the siege began. Initial attempts to ask the occupants to identify themselves and to leave were rebuffed, usually accompanied by vile insults in what sounded like orcish. Eckhard created a phantom noise of people coming from behind the barricade, but the squatters were not impressed. Astra’s attempts to lure them into attack by sending dancing lights down the tunnel also failed to frighten them. Eventually, they tried firing flaming bolts into the tunnel and succeeded in setting the barricade on fire, generating a lot of smoke. This worked and the squatters vanished into the darkness.
Then Grodn realised that if the tunnel supports burned, they could bring the tunnel down, so, after lobbing a number of light stones into the area, the party began to put the fire out. While Eckhard covered her, Astra now advanced further into the tunnel and encountered the three squatters in a wider part of the tunnel area. Casting sleep, she put two of them out of action, then the last orc charged her. She was able to counter-attack as he tried to hit her with his spear, and then she finished him off, leaving the party in control of the entrance.
To be continued…