What laid before the heroes was a veritable city of ruined buildings of all kinds- elvish, human, and dwarvish all mingled in a ruined expanse of cavern. Torchlight could be seen here and there moving throughout the “streets,” and shadows moving in the darkness could be sensed, but a clear view of who or what was actually in the rubble was not to be had.
The party moved into the area cautiously- each member picking his own way carefully to avoid being too loud until a structure came into view that seemed particularly alluring- an elvish tower of white stone illuminated from within with magical light. The decision was made to investigate this place quickly.
Inside the tower faint voices were heard talking and laughing in elvish until the party made its presence known. All else seemed orderly and clean, despite the building leaning at an odd angle due to structural damage- even the direction of “down” was altered upon entering to make it seem as if it were completely normal- indeed there was much of magic in this place.
Investigating the room once all had entered, cookies and tea were found, and Weiss, availing himself of the treats, verified that they were not stale nor poisonous. As the party moved up its other levels, the tower proved to be devoid of occupants, but had all the furnishing and comforts of a kind of research facility or school- there were beds, elvish clothing , and books all in their properly ordered places.
The topmost level proved to be the most interesting- ghostly figures of elves worked on arcane and astrological calculations while fussing over a large bronze sphere with odd markings all over it, which filled most of the room. Glyphs and rings smoothly glided across its surface, and from time to time, after consulting a book or chart a phantasmal attendant would approach it and tweak one of its mechanisms, as if to correct it in minute degrees. All who were in the room puzzled at its meaning, purpose, and workings. The figures who moved about the room took no notice of the visitors, and were quite incorporeal to any who tried to touch them.
Meanwhile, Lan’Lei had discovered a secret passage as the others went upstairs, and decided to explore it on her own. She found a secluded library/bedroom where she found many books on the heavenly bodies, a suit of Imperial armor, and a chest which didn’t seem to have a mechanism to open, despite being obviously magical in nature. She took these items and headed upstairs to join the others.
When she observed the sphere Lan’Lei produced the chest to compare the glyphs which appeared on both items. This elicited a reaction from the spirits of the room- one approached it, moved the markings around the surface with ghostly fingers, and the chest opened, sucking the sphere and all of its attendants inside despite them being far too large to naturally fit in. It was deduced by Bartholomew that the sphere is a model of sorts, depicting the different planes of existence. It was theorized that it may allow for travel in some way, but far more study would be needed to test the idea.
As this was going on Weiss decided to act impulsively, as he is wont to do. While the windows of the tower in this room displayed an illusion of a pleasant, sunny day, he decided to stick his head out to see the actual outiside of the building. From his vantage point he could see a patrol of orcs carrying a torch a short distance away. He yell at them, issuing a challenge as loudly as he could. The orcs approached.
Now suddenly needing to leave, the party decided to jump from the window to a nearby temple ruin as the orcs went around to the front door. The party made the jump intact, and was able to reach the next building without the orcs’ notice. From the new vantage point the group was able to surveil the orcs, who seemed reluctant to enter the elf tower. Tallendryl crept to the edge to listen to their murmuring- they feared the tower, deeming it “haunted,” and resolved to wait for the party to leave the tower at the front. The heroes took this opportunity to enter the temple through its cracked roof. Tallendryl’s preoccupation with his golden men caused him to stick around a bit longer, overhearing their mention, and that their superiors were holding large amounts of gold and prisoners, as well.
The inside was badly damaged, and not much more than rubble was to be found inside the pitch blackness. As the group reached the ground floor their faint lights revealed shadows moving about with them inside! The shapes moving around turned out to be corpse-like beings with nothing but rocky crests for heads rummaging around in the debris. At intervals one would find a piece of a statue, a small symbol, or a semi-valuable-looking piece of stone and would then carry it away.
Once it was determined that these “block heads” were no immediate threat, and that they seemed entirely oblivious or indifferent to their presence, they resolved to follow them to their destination. As they traveled in an eerie march through the darkness of the stolen city streets it became apparent that there were many hundreds of the creatures all heading in the same direction, and each bore some piece of a building. After some time it became clear that they all traveled toward a point ahead of iridescent white light.
Orcs were spotted in a cave jutting off of the corridor the party now found itself in, however, and the tug of moral duty, (and the mention of looted gold assumed to be the original payment for the golden men) obliged the party’s immediate attention. The group followed the orcs who leisurely strolled toward their sizable base camp- fires burning here and there, scaffolding and wooden beams crudely constructed to create a level floor over craters, and whips cracking on the backs of slaves taken from Krovan’s Gate.
The heroes rushed into action, attacking the orcs head-on. A large battle ensued, but the orcs were overwhelmed by the might of the intruders. Several members of the Red Rock Tribe were spotted among the captives, so Lan’Lei armed them with a few magic swords looted from the golem smith. Though they were all slain by the orc captain, their efforts helped ensure victory, and at least some of their shame was undone. At the last all of the orcs lay dead, the civilians were freed, and the large sum of gold liberated.
After a short breather the party appointed Bartholomew the guardian of the townsfolk while the warriors set out on a search that seemed to be nearing its end- the golden men, and hopefully a way home…