Amongst several fawning towsfolk, the party met a barbarian warrior named Duncan who seemed drawn to the group. Meanwhile, Parson Sheed returned and explained that historically the floodgates of the dam opened automatically to slowly release the waters of the reservoir beyond when flooding threatened. He also noted the mechanism by which this operates is unknown. The dam has never been examined because it is the home of a hostile tribe of trolls. The party agreed to investigate and Duncan asked to join them.
After the night of revelry, the heroes set out for Skull’s Crossing. Freezing rains fell during several hours of hard riding. Cold and tired, the party finally reached the massive Thessalonian structure. Here, the skull River flowed through a deep rocky channel with the narrow road rising with the western shore.
Spanning the great breadth of the gorge was Skull’s Crossing. The massive wall of stone held back the waters of the Storval Deep. Thousands of skulls had been carved in the dam’s face, while five larger ones decorated the middle length. The eastern most of these immense skulls was intermittently hidden by a flow of cascading water pouring through what appeared to be a recent break at the dam’s lip. The ancient dam seemed to be holding its own against the Storval Deep, but if the damage worsened or the rains continued, the recent flood of Turtleback Ferry would be but a minor precursor to a fantastic disaster.
The eastern slopes of the gorge were sheer but to the west a narrow stone stairway, its edges decorated with hundreds of poles bearing the skulls of many different creatures, rose to a cave mouth near the western rim of the dam itself. As the heroes ascended the giant sized stairs, Azrak recognized the runes decorating the skulls to be territorial markers of the Skulltaker troll clan.
Maggie slunk forward through the rain and underbrush and entered the musky cave. Moving silently she heard the snores of the large sleeping beast within. After returning to the party, Maggie and Mal crept forward to investigate further. While scaling a tall embankment several pebbles dislodged under Mal’s foot. The ranger silently swore as the snoring stopped. Once both women entered the cave, a huge two-headed form rounded the corner. The rumbling bass of Gigantish yelled “YOU NO GET BY ME! ME SMASH YOU!”
Outside, Azrack understood the threatening words and charged forward. Several of the adventures struggled to ascend the embankment, including Albi who fell suffering a painful sprain. Inside the party found the ettin already overcome by Maggie and Mal’s combined attacks. The giant was not alone however.
An enormous cave bear lept over his fallen master. Maggie evaded a series of savage blows. Duncan screamed a Shoanti warcry and charged. He buried his massive blade deep into the creature’s hide. Maggie slipped into a flanking position and hamstrung the bear. It reared up with a furious roar and Mal sunk several lighting arrows into the beast. It fell to the ground silent.
The heroes rifled through the giant’s maggot-infested hide bedding and found several items of interest.
Passing through the back of the cave, the party emerged on the surface of the dam. The structure could be seen to be about a quarter of a mile from end-to-end. Behind the dam stretched the Stroval Deep, a broad lake stretching into the distance amid snow-covered peaks. In front, the dam dropped away into the gorge far below. This close the five large skulls carved in the front of the dam could be seen for what they were: giant sluice gates, but closed tight by some unknown internal mechanism.
In the center of the dam appeared to be some sort of structure, a blocky bunker of some kind. Beyond this, the breach in the dam allowed the intermittently surge of the rain swollen lake water. Between the adventurers and the bunker stood a distant group of Kreeg ogres – perhaps 100 yards away. They appeared to be chipping away at another damaged area on the dam surface.
The party rushed forward as Mal began launching long-range arrows. She injured several before the party closed. Duncan charged one and buried his axe from shoulder to spine. Albi injured several others with a well-placed firebomb. When only a single ogre was left standing, Azrack shoved him over the wall, and he screamed into the gorge hundreds of feet below.
The rain-soaked bunker resembled a pile of 20 foot tall skulls staring off into the cardinal directions. The heroes found an entrance damaged but securely boarded shut. Tal’Vesha cast spider climb on herself and slipped into the empty eye socket windows above. She found a chamber full of thick cords of vines coating the walls and ceiling. After securing ropes, the party climbed into the chamber. Maggie crept into the neighboring room and found the remains of a massive battle. Many ogre corpses and broken weapons littered the ground.
Thick sheets of fungus and vine covered these walls as well. When other members of the party entered the room, several trolls emerged from hiding. Albi menaced them with his firebombs. Tal’Vesha healed the injured but suffered the most grievous wounds himself. The beasts fought furiously on their home turf but even their hideous tusks could not penetrate dwaren plate or defeat the agile tiefling’s dance. Duncan easily dropped one while Mal’s arrows dropped another. Tal and Albi’s flame attacks ensured that they would not rise again.
With the battle ended, the party searched the bunker. They found a cache of troll loot. They also found a pair of unlocked heavy double doors with a smooth surface smeared in graffiti written in dried blood. Azrack translated, “Below dwells wet papa Grazuul! All hail wet papa Grazuul!” Beyond the doors, a flight of stone steps led down into the darkness.