The men-at-arms continually patrolled the path between the base camp and the entrance into the mountain, moving in five-man groups patrolling in a circuit continuously from end to end. None of us knew this at the time, but this consistent presence proved to be the deterrent necessary to keep the local hostiles inhabiting the land about the mountain away until we could breech the entrance-way and gain access to the mountain.
The last thing I did before breaching that portal was to create a series of illusions that would make observers believe that the patrols persisted in our absence; application of visual and auditory misdirection in service to known psychological phenomenon would provide all of the advanced warning needed for the garrison to respond properly. That proved correct; what I did not count upon was that the hostiles would circumvent those protections, intended for securing the base camp, and instead go after the away team directly.
Breaching the portal into the mountain did not take much in terms of raw power. Instead, it took a great deal of finesse and willpower. The hostiles first attacked us as we assembled at the portal; they were a deformed, degenerate Mannish race of midget-sized savages armed with crude weaponry—spears, clubs and daggers; their blades are of knapped flint—and armored in animal hides that one can barely see as clothing.
Against our steel-tipped spears those hides were nothing, and against our steel chain shirts their flint-knapped spears were as granite; they came in waves against our men-at-arms, who—led by Gar—kept discipline and held their square formation while I worked out the seal on the portal. Long minutes played out as the half-sized savages shattered their spears upon our shields and shirts again and again, only to be speared in turn when they went for their clubs, and many more of their kin shot down by our archers before they could close into melee.
At long last, however, the savages’ master arrived. It was a giant of a thing, easily half-again as tall as a man, and horrific in the degeneracy of his mannish form. While fearsome, that did not strike terror into the hearts of the men; it was a dull iron club, clearly worked by hands that knew some skill, with one end wrapped in leather, nearly as long as a man is tall wielded by a giant wearing a metal helm, breastplate, grieves and vambraces- a giant armed and armored for war. I could feel the shivers shake their spines, and I knew what would come next.
Gar called for me to attend, and wisely I did so. Many times I faced such situations, and experience showed me that great brutes often lacked the will that true warriors with such might had. I knew of a great technique that directly exploited such a flaw, and kept it on hand embedded in a scroll; I drew forth that scroll, and I cast that spell. He died, and we won.