Things were looking bad for the hard-luck crew of PCs, with some cowering in a pit from a shower of crossbow bolts and others fighting a desperate battle for the gate. In the end, what saved them was not their skill at arms or mighty spells, but a horrible mistake made by one unfortunate Orc.
This Orc, Hrakh, of the Broken Rock clan of the Plain of Thar, had the misfortune to be stationed in the left ballista tower by the gate when Rajmani and Beck Darkmantle appeared and began slaying the ballista crews. Hrakh had the further misfortune to be just that much more skilled than his fellows: he actually managed to land a hit on Beck.
This was a Bad Thing. For everybody.
Howling in pain, Beck revealed that he’d gotten a lot more than cheap liquor in his fight with Raymo of Phlan and promptly transformed into a mindless lupine killing machine, tearing Hrakh and the rest of the ballista crew into red rags with his claws. Rajmani, realizing she had a choice between jumping from the tower and being torn limb from limb by Werewolf Beck, picked the long drop and placed her fate in the hands of Mielikki. Several broken ribs later, she found herself hurt but alive a few feet from Ginallath and the oncoming orcs.
With a roar, Werewolf Beck launched himself from the tower into the courtyard – and into the path of the orcs. Grishak and his minions froze for a fatal second – giving Rajmani time to revive Ginallath with a healing potion while Werewolf Beck ripped into the luckless orc subchief.
Meanwhile in the pit, MacTavish, Aeryn, Inigo, and Girald had abandoned cover and were desperately trying to climb the sides of the pit. Girald scrambled up nimbly (being a high-level Rogue has benefits) and engaged the guards at that end of the pit while the PCs climbed up and joined him. It was a tough fight – the PCs daggers against the heavily armed orcs – but they eventually prevailed.
As the battle raged, Rajmani and Ginallath opened the gate, letting an extremely annoyed Wolf join the fight. Back to back, the three of them cleared the remaining orcs near the gate while Werewolf Beck raged through the orc camp, killing anything that moved. Out of spells and realizing it was time to go, MacTavish and Aeryn headed for the gate while Girald and Inigo worked to get the last remaining slaves out of the pit to freedom. This became a problem when Werewolf Beck, to whom the slave pit was essentially an Old Country Buffet flung himself headlong into the pit and began tearing apart anyone he could get his claws on. Chalking this up as possibly one of his worst days ever, Girald told Inigo to run for it while he descended into the pit to deal with Werewolf Beck. Inigo, not having any weapons capable of harming a lycanthrope, obliged and joined the rest of the party at the gate.
The party was reunited for all of five seconds before Wulf split off to try and find their gear, only to be discouraged by more orcs spilling out of a cavern system beneath the camp. Running back to the Gate, Wulf was joined by Girald (who explained tersely that Beck was “no longer a problem”), Rajmani, and the remaining five slaves. By this time, Vilanestra and Vola had arrived, and the party withdrew from the fortress under cover of the elf mage’s spells – bloodied, poor again, but wiser in experience.