Our heroes found a small hamlet in Malum Transitum called Willowvale, comprised of a single inn and a few houses. The only inhabitant was Asztrik Woodspire, a good-natured dwarf who told recounted a tale of orcs swooping in from the northeast and mercilessly raiding the town. Most of the townspeople and miners escaped; Asztrik remained, however, out of personal ties to his worn business.
In the morning, Hogarth relayed to the group his suspicions that the raiding orcs were his own tribe. He revealed that he slipped out during the night to confirm that his suspicions were correct and that he now wished to make a detour to aid his ailing mother, Urzul Trailslag. The party agreed to accompany Hogarth.
As they approached the camp, they witnessed two sights of interest: First, a couple of orcs were fighting to pull a dire bear through camp; Second, two orcs were locked in combat and surrounded by a group of onlookers. Hogarth revealed that the larger one was Kurgan Trailslag, current chief of the tribe who now owned Hogarth’s mother. The smaller was Krampf, clearly a challenger to the chieftainship. Kurgan made easy work of Krampf and decapitated him within moments to the apparent chagrin of the tribe, which dispersed in despair. Hogarth approached Kurgan and requested sülh, a state of protection that Kurgan appeared hesitant to grant. However, upon seeing Cain Silverkin, he granted them sülh for two days and charged them with the task of curing Urzul, his “rightful property”.
As part of sülh, Kurgan requested the heroes’ presence at dinner. They arrived, only to discover that Krampf, Kurgan’s challenger, was to be served. Present at the dinner were: Bagrak, Kurgan’s shaman aid; Lieutenant Thresh, Hogarth’s estranged uncle and brother to Urzul; and Mazgak, Kurgan’s dim-witted son and potential heir to the chieftainship. Serving the dinner were two slaves: Yazgash, unknown to Hogarth; and Shelur, Hogarth’s half-sister.
The next morning, they discovered that Hogarth had left the encampment with his mother in tow. Kurgan sent a pair of orcs to recover her, even if it meant killing Hogarth in the process. The heroes searched Urzul’s tent and found an arcane symbol drawn in the mud beneath her bed. They immediately took the sigil to Bagrak to ask if he knew about it; he claimed to know nothing. Dietrich, Obed, and Ivy attempted to track Hogarth, but were unsuccessful. Ayla and Cain remained to continue their investigation.
Further investigation revealed a similar rune beneath Kurgan’s sleeping rug; he suggested his son, Mazgak, may be out to kill him. Mazgak, however, proved incapable of any task that required more than rudimentary motor skills. Yazgash gave Cain a note requesting she free him.
Eventually, it was discovered that Shelur placed the symbols under Bagrak’s orders (in exchange for her freedom) to undermine Kurgan’s power and allow the Bozargh Tribe, a rival clan, to gain the upper hand. Kurgan confronted Bagrak but was met with powerful mystic force; when the PCs approached Bagrak, the shaman let loose the dire bear and his two slaves, Rugdumph and Lurok.
The heroes defeated Bagrak and, in exchange for the three females, gave him to Kurgan. They freed the females and Kurgan also agreed that he no longer had need to raid the small hamlet.
Unable to find their companion, the heroes left the orc encampment and returned to Willowvale to prepare for their journey to Hell’s Tower. They headed back down the mountain to request aid from Priestess Runa Castillo, who healed them and sent with them Brim Seafire, a dwarven cleric loyal to her cause.
Hell’s Tower stood in what appeared to be the center of an old meteor crater. Lava pooled at the bottom, surrounding a single column of earth that rose roughly two hundred feet above the swirling fumaroles and supported the old tower. A single stone bridge with one arch spanned the chasm and led to the dark black tower rising into the sky, its entrance guarded by two giant wrought-iron doors. No windows dotted the surface of the tower, suggesting whoever built it wanted to keep it safe from prying eyes, but the exterior seemed to have a life of its own and jutted in strange angles and uncoordinated architecture.
However, the single stone bridge was blocked by a large, well-maintained mansion. Upon entry, the heroes discovered vast amounts of wealth while an organ played a dismal dirge from somewhere within. They discovered horrors the likes of which they had never seen: in the kitchen, a boiling pot filled with the remains of a human infant; in the courtyard, a mass of headless Order of Malum soldiers; and in the billiard room, the missing severed heads (upon which Dietrich and Obed made a bizarre show of attempting to play pool with them).
Even worse, the path to the bridge was blocked by a large, shimmering gate of energy.
Further exploration led them to two interesting objects: a skull with a spirit inside and a mask that appeared to have magical properties. Cain wore the mask and found that it immediately latched onto his face; the skull could speak and seemed to know much about the arcane.
The single inhabitant of the house was an older man by the name of Goladin, who appeared more than happy to help but incapable of remaining on a single train of thought for too long. The heroes encouraged Goladin to research the method to pass through the barrier, in which he offered to them the rooms in the mansion to stay while he searched for the answers. He did ask, however, that the heroes stay clear of the Tea Room, but wouldn’t say why.
That night, the organ began playing again, rousing the heroes from their sleep. They investigated, only to see that the organ was not being played by anybody (or any thing) corporeal; True Sight revealed that a woman, likely Goladin’s murdered wife, was playing the instrument.
Naturally, Obed picked the lock to the Tea Room and opened its doors, revealing that Goladin had kept his murdered family — now undead — in the room. They spilled out and swarmed the heroes, who barely managed to keep them at bay until finally they decided to retreat. Goladin easily herded the zombies back into their containment room, suggesting that he is much more powerful than he lets on.
Goladin revealed to them the means to which they could penetrate the barrier: Each person wishing to pass through must reveal their deepest, darkest secret.
Ayla admitted that she wishes for death and passed through the portal.
Dietrich admitted his desire to murder the remaining members of his family.
Cain admitted to the part he played in his former master’s death.
Obed admitted that he once played a practical joke that got out of hand.
Brim admitted he had fallen in love with the Priestess.
Ivy admitted that she is of dragon lineage, and that one of her ancestors is a full-blooded dragon.
Hell’s Tower lies across the bridge. Eight days have now passed since Dietrich received his missive from Balor, leaving only six days until Balor comes to collect payment in the form of Dietrich’s soul.