However it is shortlived. A desperate call for help comes from inside the rough palisade beside the party. Opening the gate reveals a sole occupant who identifies himself only as Bart. He is weak, starving, and his arm is in a crude sling. He quickly assesses you as his rescuers and, bursting into tears, informs you that the rest of the surviving townsfolk are inside the mine. He begs you to act quickly and rescue them before their captures begin silencing them - permanently.
The party begins to heal up and does a quick search of the area to ensure that no more goblins or slavers are a threat. The search of the two barracks reveals some gold which the party quickly scoops up. Delian also finds a key upon the slain human guard. The key unlocks the door to the final building where the party finds a finely crafted dagger. Ethan claims the prize and soon learns it is known as a Duelist's Dagger +1.
Having healed and regrouped, the party ensured Bart would be safe on his own and joined Jonathon and Braddoc who were guarding the entrance to the mine. Jonathon's concern for the endangered slaves seemed to get the better of his senses and he proceeded to enter the mine ahead of his comrades. A few short steps in he heard the voice of one of the guards in the mine warning him to leave or the slaves would be executed. Jonathon's attempt at parley was met with a volley of crossbow bolts and the battle was on.
The party's attempt to quickly take down a guard near the terrified group of slaves was eventually successfulbut not before one of the slaves lost his life when he was nearly decapitated by his master's halberd. Questionable tactics aside, the group was able to overcome the 4 guards and rescue the remaining slaves. Or so they thought.
A quick exchange of information revealed that there was possibly one more slave within the mines. A rather bold - or foolish - slave named Salji had been sent to the "Pit" to test his fate with the beast within. None of the slaves knew the nature of the beast. They only knew that no one had ever been seen again once sent to the Pit. They begged the group to rescue or determine the fate of their friend. They claimed that it was Salji's temperment, hope, and encouragement that had kept them alive within this hell hole. If anyone deserved their freedom it was Salji. The group said they would do what they could. However they still had to deal with the taskmaster of the place as well.
With Larien and Braddoc in the lead the group proceeded down the tunnel. They soon came upon a wooden door on their left and a branched tunnel to the right. After determining that the door was not locked or trapped they opened it to discover yet another much larger more solid door about 20 feet farther up the tunnel. The group slid the barred door open and discovered a sloping floor ending in a black hole. Obviously they had found the Pit.
There was quite a lot of bickering about how to proceed at this point. The pit was about 25 feet deep so the group opted to tie off a rope to the large doors as well as disable them so they could not be blocked in from behind. As they all readied themselves near the edge Larien came running down the tunnel. She had decided to guard the branch in the mineshaft. Luckily (or unluckily) she made it to her comrades side just a a huge portcullis slamme down behind them and a small giggle was heard up in the darkness above them. It seems a Clay Scout was waiting for victims to the "Pit Trap". (Hahahah! I love the pun.)
It was not over though. A sudden diluge of water sent most of the party members plunged over the dropoff in a heap. Only Ethan was unscathed at the bottom and Larien's surefootedness allowed her to remain up above. They were now trapped in the Pit and had to face it denizens themselves.
Ethan's keen eyes found someone alive in the corner. It was Salji. He was starved and delirioius but alive. The party also discovered a large winch, a portcullis, and a sign that read "Best the Beast that lies within and win your freedom beyond." That was when the cave bear appeared.
The inexperienced party could not decide how to proceed. One of the members tried to clam the beast with food. An excellent idea except the creature had its eye on a much larger main course. Two of the members tried to shoot the beast through the bars. However it was difficult to hit and the beast - being in this situation before - retreated out of harms way to await an opportunity to catch its dinner. Another member decided the direct approach was the way to go and started raising the portcullis.
When the portcullis was high enough the bear charged. However Braddoc timed the charge and released the winch in time to drop the gate upon the beast's body. His well-timed blow killed the enemy. The party was free to enter the chamber beyond where they found a flaming longsword +1 upon one of the previous victims. Sterling claimed this prize.
Climbing the ladder on the far side of the chamber the group and Salji found a narrow passage that lead back to the entrance of the whole Pit affair. The clay scout calmy moved out of the way as they passed. The victors had earned their reward of freedom. Its job was to await the next victims.
Salji was able to make his way toward the entrance of the mine and meet up with his comrades. The party made their way across the tunnel to the other door they had discovered earlier. Ethan checked the door which seemed safe and unlocked. He was able to hear a faint metallic scarping from beyond. Bursting through the door the team was met by 3 snarling metal beasts known as Iron Defenders and their human master. Unfortunately the entrance to the room was crowded with a kiln, bellows, and a small well so the party had difficulty filling into the room. The human took advantage of this and cast Thunder Burst on the crowd which left several members hurt and dazed. He later followed with lightning that danced around the room striking 3 of the team. Dispite a couple tactical gaffs, the party was able to finally subdue their enemies and look around the room in detail.
It seems that this human mage/artificer was none other than Orile - the name mentioned in the note from Black Pit. This was the individual responsible for heading up the mining operation and enslaving the townsfolk. His death would not be mourned by many.
Among the tools scattered throughout the shop and the accompanying bedroom/shrine, the team found a number of magic items; 2 holy symbols +1, some Darkleaf armour +1, and a Vicious Battleaxe +1. Amongst the distribution discussion Ethan was able to locate a small box that contained a letter addressed to Orile and a fist-sized ring. The letter read as follows:
The ore you are supplying is satisfactory. I assume you have put the Iron Defender schema to good use. Ensure the supply line is not broken. My master does not take delays lightly.
I have a special job for you to complete.
A lone traveller is passing your way South from Crawar. He should pass the road to Black Pit in a week's time. This old human carries an item of great import to my Master. You are to obtain the item from him at any cost. Use this accompanying ring to indicate when and how you intend to accomplish this. If I do not receive a reply post-haste I will take matters into my own hands. An Iron Cobra schema shall be your reward. Failure is not an option.
With that the party prepared to leave the mines.