Having cleared the entryway of hostile Tareks and successfully fended off their rivals, the party cautiously proceeded into the next section of the ruin, confident now that the cargo they sought was deeper within.
A small flight of stairs separated the entry from the room they now found themselves in, and once Raeth noticed changes in the stonework, Ceol determined that the ruin was itself built atop the remains of an even older structure. Progressing into the ruin, the party found that at the bottom of the stairs the floor was entirely made up of older stonework, while the walls of the current chamber were newer despite their own apparent age.
Within the room the party found a group of tareks guarding animal cages of reinforced bone, within which were a number of emaciated humans and muls. In the far corner of the room was a raised and fortified platform with arrow slits allowing whoever was inside to oversee the main section. Beyond the fortification, a short stone hallway led to a battered stone door. Initially the tareks in the main room failed to notice the adventurers coming from the entryway, engrossed as they were in the game they had scratched into the stone floor, but a cry in giant-tongue from the fortified section alerted them to the presence of the intruders and the savages leapt to the attack.
What followed was a difficult skirmish against the angry tareks, while from the fortification a hail of arrows peppered the adventurers (and even occasionally the tareks). The party was very nearly overwhelmed, with multiple near-deaths, but eventually they managed to defeat the tareks and storm the fortification. As the party licked their wounds, Finnan, disgusted at the tareks’ slaving intentions, bashed through the cages holding the prisoners and provided them with a small amount of food and precious water.
The would-be slaves were led by a human wearing a tattered cloak and calling himself Jem Arganos. Happy to have been released, Jem and his people asked who had sent the adventurers, at which point it was revealed that they were the survivors of the Ianto caravan. The party informed Jem that Belgrom Vor hadn’t sent them searching for survivors, but rather for the cargo the caravan held. At this news, a thoughtful look came over Jem’s face, but he said nothing.
Too fearful to travel across the desert unescorted, the caraveneers holed up in the fortification while the party proceeded down the stone hallway and deeper into the ruin.
As they moved down the hallway, the adventurers could hear the sounds of revelry coming from the other end, and as they pushed through another battered stone door the party came across the bulk of the tarek force in the midst of a meal. Several short tables stood in the north end of the room, while a massive cauldron steamed in the center, and even the hungriest of tareks proved willing to set aside their meal in favor of a good fight. Thankfully, the large stone door to the south remained closed.
Using whatever they could find as weapons, nearly a dozen tareks charged the adventurers, while around the perimeter moved a pair of hunters and one of the infamous tarek earth shamans. Through clever positioning and tactics, the party held off the swarm, but in the process a trap below them was triggered and Finnan fell into a dark pit. His companions, unable to rescue him because of the tareks, focused on defeating the monsters and preventing them from running to the south before they were finally able to descend into the darkness after their friend…