The party had an uneventful journey from the aging metropolis of Niole-dra south to the Keep on the Borderlands, where they had dinner with the Castellan, Tylanis Johnsson. He was regaled with tales of their travels through Keoland, over the Lortmils and into the Bright Desert, but sleep called at last and all turned in to rest up for the journey through the Dreadwood in the morning.
After defeating a bulette that swallowed Paddy’s pony whole (and nearly Paddy, too) these messengers of mayhem entered the forlorn vastness of the great Dreadwood to reach Exex’s home village of Elfsalvador (don’t hurt me – I didn’t make up the name). They were told that the trouble that drew our party here is centered in the southern part of the forest, close to the elven village of Elmillinea, now deserted ruins. After “ambassadors” representing one Verdichlorinous (titling herself “the Poisonous Green Queen of the Dreadwood Elves”) delivered a request for tribute and were rebuffed by the elven inhabitants, the village suffered an overwhelming onslaught of humanoids, gnomes, giants and monsters. Most perished, some fled and the rest were captured and taken. After several months the elves of the northern reaches are paying tributes and organizing a resistance, though slowly, as the long-lived race are known for much deliberating and squabbling along familial and racial tribes. Exex and her compatriots heard that a group of spies was organized to find the location, but they haven’t returned. With this little to go on, the party accepted a pair of elven guides to lead them to the destroyed village.
Before reaching Elmillinea they encountered a small band of nervous elves on patrol who informed them of an old gnomish mining road south of the village that led to an elven fortress. This had been built to guard the gnomish mithril mine, in a joint agreement with the gnomes and the King of Keoland, but the fortress was no longer useful after the veins tapped out and so sits abandoned. As it was late the party decided to camp near the road, and were almost surprised by a patrol of easily-exterminated bugbears that night.
The next day our heroes followed the road to a hill, mined for white stone used to build the overgrown fortress atop it. They encountered no resistance as they boldly climbed the path and entered the great circular courtyard; the barbarian and thieves then climbed the walls to scout and saw nothing amiss. Dangerous animated vines were burned and crossbow bolts were dodged to gain entrance to the keep; they then climbed the outside walls to the roof of the keep without checking to see if there were any ground-level doors, probably to reach their bolt-throwing antagonists. Oh, to no avail.
They made their way from the roof down through the keep’s three empty levels to the cellar, seeing only large humanoid footprints, until descending a deep curving stair from the cellar to a wide round chamber; two bolts were shot from down one of two long hallways exiting this room. Darmok, now hot under his steel gorget, chased down the hallway into a smaller room featuring two doors, and pursued his hairy prey around a corner and into the entrance to a well-attended bugbear lunch party, where the hosts awaited him and his crew.