Vani Thorngage has reunited with Yuna and Jade after slaying gnolls in the forest with the dwarven blacksmith Gurn Rockwright. After swapping stories, the group set out to do research on some of the loose ends left by the assault on Volg Keep.
At the Bronze Boar tavern, Vani talked Gnolls with the hunters gathered there, learning they may have a demonic origin; some hunters claim they've seen demonic idols made of skin and bone in Gnoll ranks, and one even claimed that hyenas glutted with the meat of the dead dissolve to birth new Gnolls.
Jade conducted his contact ritual with Belial, asking if he knew what entity snuck past Gorbos from the Nine Hells. Belial claims that no demon under his direct command left, but his realm has a number of visitors not under his direct control.
Yuna, with some help from Jade, plumbed the Volg libraries for information about demons. While unable to pin down a suspect for what escaped the portal mirror, the party learned some facts about the Nine Hells and the distinction between Devils (Lawful Evil of the plane of The Nine Hells), Yuggoloths (Neutral Evil of the plane of Hades) and Demons (Chaotic Evil of the plane of The Abyss). These factions do not like each other and often war amongst themselves.
The group spoke with the imprisoned Megga Mundt about her crow. Jade's link to Belial was enough to get her talking; she had used rituals to summon and bind a shape shifting Devil known as an Imp, but it was not the entity from the mirror. She may have twigged onto the source of Jade's pact, but at the moment she has no means of investigating…
The elf Jandar, friend of Karlov Volg, returned to the Keep with a knight of the crown, Sir Colmb. On behalf of Volmi, he provided Vani, Yuna, and Jade with payment for their first quest. He showed off a preserved eye of a Yochol, a demon bound to Lolth. The eye was looted from the body of an orc. Whatever is beyond the western mountains, it was enough to force a fierce tribe of orcs and ogres out from their lands.
Jandar also helped fill in Yuna's drow marching orders map, showcasing that through the underdark, a detachment of drow had passed nearby. He also told of Lolth's realm, a plane of portals and webs, drawing in and disgorging entities to serve the Spider Queen's designs. When asked how he knew all of this, he explained he was taken via portal from another portion of the world. Because of monsters and other dangers, the societies he knows have yet to contact the ones the party are familiar with.
The group elected to join the war effort against the Orcs, traveling with Sir Colmb, Ulrich, Gurn, and Mark the woodsman to the east. Not many people living in Volg seemed keen on joining the militia; they'd had enough trouble without sticking their necks out. It would take a day or two of brisk travel to reach Throughway on horseback. Uli managed to convince Gerard and Agnes to travel to Throughway Keep after besting Agnes in an arm wrestling match, though they are not moving with the group.
The west of Astaroka has turned into a hushed no-man's land. Wrecked carts and gutted buildings were the only sign of human life for miles. The group encountered a pair of heart-eating mountain creatures called Perytons, and elected to slay them as they feasted on an orc carcass rather than risk having them return later on empty stomachs.
Vani, adept at tracking Orcs, noticed a warband of about 10 moving about to the north. As they grew closer, the halfling realized the Orcs had stopped. Vani and Yuna scouted over a nearby hill upon hearing the sounds of battle and a litany of menacing shouts and growls.
The pair found a wrecked cart flanked by two opposing forces; a mob of orcs and a mighty Gnoll Pack Lord with his bodyguards and an enormous attack Hyena held in check by a rope around its neck. Human, Orc, and Gnoll bodies are face down in the grass around them. To the two adventurers' horror, they spotted a small boy peering out from underneath the wagon, unnoticed for the moment by the monsters.
The hyena's nose twitches; it smells elf.