The party takes care of miscellaneous business in Hillcrest until that evening, when Vlad and Poppy hold a funeral pyre for Warder Kev. The next morning they depart for Leitus’ compound.
When they arrive, they find the facility abandoned, ten Elven Etu’sauri are on the premises, they have been sent to punish Leitus for his crimes and are hunting for clues as to his whereabouts. When Poppy inadvertently uncovers such a clue, indicating that Leitus may have fled into the Eastern Wastes, the Etu’sauri depart with the promise that if they find Leitus, they will return with any warpstone he may be carrying.
The party quickly finds the flooded mine shaft which leads to the goblin cave, after a few attempts, Gronk swims into the murk and discovers a plug left by Leitus’ Dwarven engineers, and uses it to drain just enough water from the tunnel to open up space to breathe. Moriel travels to the fort two miles away and instructs 3rd Battalion to start their assault, then returns. The party strips down to their respective skivvies (except for Vladimir, who strips down completely, ritualistically painting himself in Warder wax paint. including, let us not any of us forget, decorating his privates as a dragon), takes only weapons what will not be harmed by submersion along with two small explosive charges Gronk brought from Hillcrest, and begins the long swim through the dark. Roughly halfway through the tunnel, they discover another warpstone sorting room that appears to have been flooded with its cache of stone intact, they continue on to the end of the tunnel.
When they emerge in the mine chamber, they find it empty, the goblins all distracted at the cave entrance defending their fortress against the assault of the Northland Army. After sneaking through the tunnels, they find their way inexorably blocked by the horde, with no way to proceed to a point where the explosives could properly seal the bloom. After some argument over what to do next, Banagher promptly lights the fuses on the powder kegs, grasps them, speaks a word of power, and vanishes, much to the party’s surprise. He teleports himself to the head of the bloom, drops the lit kegs down the shaft, then teleports back to the party – but not before the goblins hear the commotion. They flood into the tunnel, and the party mounts a brief defense before retreating. Again, much to the party’s surprise, Banagher somehow ignites himself in a holy fire, killing hundreds of the small goblins in the swarm and allowing the party to retreat to rear chamber and barricade the door.
The explosives detonate, collapsing the bloom and preventing more goblins from coming to the aid of their brethren on the surface. The army troops quickly overwhelm the fort and use fire to flush out the remaining goblins.
The party emerges from the caves to the shock of the assembled troops. Soaking wet, covered in goblin blood, and almost entirely naked (except, again, Vlad, who was completely naked, with a roused…dragon), the party serenely walks through the troops and into the woods back towards Leitus’ compound as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
They had to stop the greenskins, of course. And the only way into the goblin fortress lay through Leitus’ caves. Moriel did not much like the idea of going back there, though she knew there was a chance he was not even there. That would depend on how mad he actually was.
There were no guards outside the cave, but there _were_ ten horses. Ten black _Elven_ horses. She should have expected that; her people would not have been pleased by what Leitus had done, but no more than ten? She was trying hard to remember who they would be; the black horses, they were clearly some sort of elite, but she could not remember hearing of any such force.
They entered cautiously. The place was deserted. Here and there, they came across bodies, clearly far gone in warpstone poisoning. They had been slain, though, with blades. It was hard to tell from the wounds what kind of blades had been used, or even the techniques, but a suspicion was nagging at the back of her head.
And then they found them. Ten of them. Etu’sari, not apprentices, but masters. Ten. Her mind staggered. Desperately wishing for the others to keep their mouths shut. The thought of them chattering and tossing out random thoughts like they used to in this company worried her enough to gather her thoughts. She stepped forward, before she really had time to think about it too much, and bowed. Deeply.
“Greetings apprentice. What brings you to this foul place?” It was the one she assumed was the leader of the group who spoke, and he spoke, of course, in Elven. A mercy, that. If the others did not understand, chances were they would not insult anyone either. As for Gronk and Banagher, she doubted any of them would be that careless.
“We are here to find a way to stop the goblins.” Not her best, but her mind was still reeling. Ten. That had to be every etu’sari that the Elves of Ar’Avariel could muster. Did the others even realise what it meant?
“Ah. They are not our concern. We were sent to seek retribution.” Of course. That was as expected. Leitus could not be allowed to get away with what he did. She was somewhat surprised, however, at the speed of which the Elves had reaccted. No matter how threatened they felt, to manage to gather ten etu’sari in a matter of days, she had not expected that.
“He was already gone?” She knew the answer. It was in their faces, their voices, their choice of words, and the obvious lack of corpses that they had not.
“He was. He left behind those of his cult who were too badly warped to be useful. We put them out of their misery.” That did not need any comments; of course they had. To leave them as they had been would have been cruel.
As she spoke with the etu’sari, one of the humans said, quite loud, something about the Elves owing the humans for saving them. She bit back an angry retort. If there was a debt there, it was to Poppy. The Halfling was the one who had gone in, alone, without asking anyone, to get the device. And Dorothea was, after all, Poppy’s home as well. As for the humans, she remembered that they had not been willing to help, they had told her to wait, and had even told her she was ‘unhinged’ when she voiced her fury against Leitus. If the Elves owed the humans anything, it was for letting them borrow the device, after Poppy had stolen it, for Moriel’s sake.
And even had there been a debt here, this was not the time, nor the place, to bring it up. Nor the right group. They were here for a reason, and that was not something that could be set aside. Even the humans should have been able to figure that one out. The fact that ten etu’sari were here should be enough for anyone to realise that they were here for a reason, one that could not be abandoned.
They had, at least some of them, of course understood what the human had said, but they did not comment upon it. So she did not answer the human. He did not really _deserve_ a response.
Then Poppy, who had been skipping around in the room, found something. A shipping manifest, suggesting that Leitus might have fled to the Eastern Wastes. It was something, at least. The etu’sari prepared to leave, intending to check out the lead.
As they were about to leave, Moriel stopped them. She quickly explained why they needed the warpstone, and the etu’sari agreed to let the humans have the warpstone, if they found Leitus, and had a way to safely transport it. Most likely, they would not find Leitus until it was too late for the warpstone to actually help, but asking did no harm, just in case the etu’sari got lucky.
“Well, if we haven’t heard from them in a few days, we’ll come help search.” That was one of the humans. She bit back a laugh, or tried, at least. The etu’sari thought it might take months; Moriel thought that it might take even longer. Leitus was old, clever, and it might take years to track him down. Especially if he divided his followers, and took only a few with him.
As the etu’sari left, she watched them, part of her wanting to go with them. But she had most likely played her part in that story, at least for now. She and Poppy had done their part, and not a minor one either, really.
Besides, they had other things to do. Moriel went to tell the soldiers close to the other entrance to start their distraction. As an afterthought, she also told them to make sure the goblins could not use the flooded mine as a second exit they could attack from, should she and the others fail.
Like getting through the flooded mine and stop the greenskins. At least with Gronk’s help, they found a way to lower the water-level enough that there were pockets of air along the tunnel. Leaving behind any equipment that would be ruined by the water, they all somehow made their way through the flooded tunnels.
Banagher worried her somewhat, though. He seemed different, it was almost as if he did not care what happened. She was half expecting him to pull some reckless stunt, and decided to keep an eye on him.
The room they surfaced in was empty. The room was clearly in use, but clearly, the goblins were distracted. Not that the horde was hard to find; not far down the corridor, there were hundreds, if not thousands of goblins, trying to get out, most likely as a response to the diversion the army was staging.
As they discussed how to bring the tunnel down, Banagher suddenly lit the fuses on the powderkegs and grabbed them. Before she had the time to do anything at all, he vanished, with a small, popping sound. Not much, but enough for the goblins to notice them.
Then Banagher was there again. Without the powderkegs. With the goblins rushing at them, there was no time for questions, as they retreated towards the water-filled mine, though Moriel had not the faintest idea how they were going to get through the mine ahead of the goblins.
Suddenly, the room lit up, and Banagher seemed to be on fire. She could hear the goblins scream, and then they were inside the chamber, door barred.
Then they heard a muted thump, far too muted, she though, for it to have gone off at the top of the bloom. They waited until there was nothing but silence outside the door.
Moriel slipped outside to scout. Outside the door, there was nothing but charred goblin corpses. As she rounded a corner, careless now, since the goblins seemed to be all dead, she stared straight at three soldiers from the 3rd Battalion. At least she assumed that was what they were. They stared back, clearly more surprised than her.
Her thoughts raced. She had an idea what she looked like; almost naked, covered in goblin blood, armed with a wooden sword. As the soldiers stared, she wondered if there existed any dignified way to handle this encounter at all. In the end, all she could think of was to nod at them, once, before turning around, walking back to let the others know that the coast was clear.
They walked past the troops, pretending that there was nothing odd about their group at all, as they headed back towards the entrance to Leitus’ cave.