The heroes entered the lowest levels of the great fortress of Pax Tharkas. Finding a storage room they gathered some supplies, while Tictok poisoned all the alcohol, a rough plan to potentially delay the draconians from following them… if they managed to escape. Moving into the next room, they interrupted a small squad of draconians that was harassing a young maiden, a maiden who was invited to dine with Highlord Verminaard. After she was freed, the woman gave some loose directions of the keep’s level, directing the Companions to the other cells that held several hundred women.
Freeing the enslaved womenfolk, the heroes discovered than the children were being held separately and guarded by a dragon. The children were allowed out once a day to be exercised by the women, who were also allowed to take food to the men. The heroes decided to free the women first then scout and try to free the children in the morning.
In the cell, the Companions also discovered the injured Eben Shatterstone (who immediately launched into flirting with Elsebeth and Arthur) and the sick Elistan. Both are being tended by the women before being returned to the mine. Arthur balked at Elistan, as the middle-aged man is a high Seeker albeit deposed.
Gauraux and Arthur explored elsewhere in the lower level and discovered a room of gully dwarves. Introducing himself to the king, the Highkhlad, Gauraux tried to impress them with his knowledge of planks. The king proposed a deal: free a gully dwarf hero, Sestun, being held by Verminaard in the ground floor of the fortress. In payment the gully dwarves will act as a distraction, drawing attention away from the heroes.
The group decided to scout ahead before proceeding, so Tictok made Gauraux invisible and let the minoraur examine the main floor. The ruffian snuck up the stair, listening at every door and silently moving by the sentries in the hall. The group followed, as Gauraux blocked and sealed the door of a barracks while Arthur managed to finesse a fireball into knocking out a pair of guards and Tictok disables all the alarms. The hallway free, the group dashed down and freed the gully dwarf Sestun who cheerfully vanished down the stairs.
Dressing themselves in the uniforms of the two hobgoblins, Eben and Guaraux guard the door in case Verminaard exits. The minotaur is close enough to the door that he can hear the loud voices on the other side, as the dragon Highlord chastises Fewmaster Toede for letting the slaves of Solace escape and not capturing the oracle, Arthur. Toede leaves and is promptly knocked unconscious by Gauraux and Eben then dragged into the cell that had held Sestun. Shortly after, Verminaard exited his throne room and went to his dining hall for dinner.
Realizing the gully dwarves will create an immediate distraction, the group moved to free the children right away. They employed Fizban to create the illusion of daylight in case they needed to lie to Flamestrike, clad themselves as slave women as best they could, and snuck into the nursery. Silently they moved past the dozing dragon and retrieved the children, slipping them out one at a time. As the last dozen kids exited one cries out “goodbye” to the dragon, awaking her in a panic. Flamestrike remembered the old war that cost her all her true children, and grew angry and fearful. Then she saw Elsebeth’s armour and flew into a rage. The group quickly dashed away as the dragon snapped at Wilder Spirit. As the last of the children escapes Flamestrike breathed in and readied a blast of fire. Fizban stepped forward and raised his staff to chastise the dragon before vanishing in a blast of dragonfire. As the group fled to a rallying point Arthur used stoneshape to seal Verminaard in the dining room. The furious highlord tried to push his way out catching sight of Arthur, catching sight of his opposite.
Hurrying, the group moved to the far tower, throwing open both guard rooms and unleashing several waves of hobgoblins and draconians. Tictok handled one crowd with a spell of tentacles and Arthur fireballed another room. Gauraux and Wilder Spirit waded into the room of draconians, hacking and slashing away while Elsebeth engaged the hobgoblin monk Galang in a duel to the death. Else fell but was defended and avenged by Tictok who defeated the monk.
In an adjoining room the last of the captured womenfolk were found. Elsebeth, Arthur, and Gauraux freed them and, with the other women and children moved to find the men. Meanwhile, Tictok and Wilder Spirit returned to the chamber of the chain beneath the fortress and climbed the massive metal structure to its peak, looking for the Great Mechanism of Pax Tharkas used to seal the fortress during times of invasion.
After finding the slaves, Gauraux pretended to be a member of the dragonarmy and moved through the slaves spreading the word the women were freed and provided weapons taken from the keep. The slaves soon rebelled and effortlessly defeated the couple dozen draconian guards. Then, Verminaard arrived upon his red dragon mount Ember. Roaring, the dragon prepared to incinerate the slaves as Verminaard condemned the uprising.
Climbing down the chain after unleashing a torrent of rocks into the keep, Tictok and Wilder Spirit heard the roar of the great dragon Ember. Wilder Spirit suddenly had an idea, and rushed over to the nursery. She cried at Flamestrike, telling the massive dragon that Ember was going to attack her children! With a roar, the senile old dragon smashed her way out of the keep and raced at the smaller dragon.
The Companions gathered together the refugees and fled to the south along an ancient dwarven road. The refugees immediately divided themselves into factions: the townsfolk, the Seekers, the plainsfolk, the free folk, and those few that are being swayed to follow Arthur and his new gods. The makeshift council debates the issue and argues their destination. The heroes propose heading to the dwarven kingdom of Thorbardin, while other factions want to strike back or flee over the sea. The heroes managed to convince the factions that working together was their best option and the group continued south for a day.
As they rested for their second night outdoors Arthur experienced a vivid dream where he watched a white-robed Elistan wandered without direction. Arthur advised him to not make the same mistake twice and Elistan began to climb a dream mountain, showing his devotion to the new gods.