The Hand minus one returned quickly to the Growtharn village from their time with the Sea Eagles, but with the union of one more tribe. At first look, it was evident that the population of Growtharn lands had grown much with the influx of tribes. In the groups absence more of the smaller Growtharn and Kordian frontier tribes had made their way to the large gathering. The fringe Growtharn tribesmen came for the protection, where the Kordians came because of Kordson.
Hemgesh and shubut had done well to lead and organize the Kordians in the Kordson’s absence, and though Hemgesh was a little wound up, he had been a very loyal convert to the Kordian way. The Kordson did suggest that in order to better utilize his skills, and to head off any over enthusiasm the Growtharn Chief should put Hemgesh into the field on long patrol.
In the few days they were within the village Hendrik put himself right to work organizing the chaotic war tactics and field training underway, where Tronar just sat and observed the strange ways of the human cultures before him. One thing for sure is that before long, he would need a new journal to log all the strangeness.
Ghostwalker spent the downtime perfecting a ritual that allowed him to run alongside his cohort, Mist, on all fours. Being able to change into a wolf would increase the Hands ability to effectively scout ahead, a skill that was missing without Fader around (now all they needed was a master dancer that left his clothes on).
Their stay was ended when word from the southwest came in, telling of a Minotaur and some gnolls searching the fringes of the Kordian lands, for something in the lands vacated by the Misty Orc Tribe when they went west. In the times of the original One Horn, the Minotaur progress was stopped cold by the Misty Orcs, and within that battle one of the many sons of the original One Horn lost his life.
Without much delay the group too headed this direction, with hopes to intercept. The long range scouts had been paralleling the progress of the searching band, and it was not long before the party stumbled across one of the rangers. He informed them of the closeness of the Minotaur’s group, but headed off just as Nanzad suggested the benefit of some ranged support during an ambush (Nanzad mumbled something about the ranger’s possible home tribe being the Whitetails).
With Ghostwalker in wolf form, it was easy for the Band of the Hand to get ahead of them and find a good place for an ambush. It would have been perfect, had it not been for the Minotaur’s great battle senses. As it was it was still good enough to get some good cover and choose the site of the battle. Additionally Tronar was able to increase the cover with his shadow cover power. The Minotaur closed with Nanzad and Hendrik, and even was conned into swinging at Nanzad as he move in behind the group, a move that cost him a smack from Hendrik. After Charnel’s Arrow of I’ll Omen allowed Nanzad to crunch through the Minotaur’s good defenses on two damaging occasions, the remainder of the battle was short lived, as the gnolls lacked the endurance against the group without the Minotaur.
In the end the group captured two alive, and went to work to get some intelligence about what these guys were looking for. However these battle hardened brutes seem to fear One Horns retribution far more than anything the Hand could possibly do to them. The only thing that these two did give up prior to the warrior’s death they wear given, was the name Cloudtop.
Between Ghostwalker and Charnel the location of Cloudtop was identified and the group was off in that direction. Before long the natural stairs, which wound up the steep hillock and disappeared into the low lying clouds came into view. After a rugged climb they came to the open aired tower top, which had a deerskin cover over the only portal, the smell of rotting meat, and the occasional flap of wings betrayed the presence of avian creatures.
Wanting to get off the stairs and away from of the cliff, made a frontal quick assault was the best approach for the group. The original call of Harpies turned out to be correct, and a tough battle it turned into. With their ability to dazed, blind, and lure the group, the group had its hands full. Tronar’s ability to pull creatures toward him, work to drop one off its high perch, placing it in trouble on the floor with Nanzad, Hendrik, and Charnel. When the battle looked in bad shape after the one feathered survivor, who stayed off the floor (away from Nanzad and Hendrik), had flown outside and failed to lure a blind and dazed Ghostwalker from the cliffs, it flew off sparing its own life.
After a brief search the group found that what the Minotaur searched for had to be down the covered stairs, as the scattered coins of the harpy lair offered little wealth. A short while later the uncovered stairs revealed the groups descent.
Within the halls beneath the natural tower, the group found a series of trapped short halls ending in a Minotaur statues and an end room where a pair of hell hounds appear as the entire area was engulfed in flame, and a spectral Minotaur attack through the walls. Another tough fight, but the teams combined efforts proved way too much for the creatures of the flame chamber. With the fight done, the only direction left was beyond the ornate set of double doors centered on the northern wall centered between the two flaming braziers…….