We emerged from the mite den to even more horror today. Kressle, Jihad, and the druid’s wolf were missing. The only evidence of their presence was now a blood trail of a body being dragged off towards the brush in the distance. We quickly followed the trail, which led us to Jihad’s body. He was propped up against a tree with a dagger in his heart. He didn’t look like he had many wounds, so the dagger to the heart was a precision and deadly blow. Palinus pulled the dagger from Jihad’s body and discovered that while plain, it was a silver bladed dagger. Definitely unusual. Haps had never seen it before and could not confirm if it was Kressle’s. Hearing a noise nearby, we quickly found the wolf cowering and hiding in the brush a bit further away. The druid was able to pacify her companion enough that I could heal its wounds, but it seemed quite wary of Jihad.
LiTzu followed the blood trail beyond Jihad. That’s when he came across Kressle, badly wounded and near death. She was in hysterics and was babbling about Jihad and a lycan. LiTzu came back to get me and I spoke quickly with Kressle who informed us that Jihad was a werewolf, who had turned and attacked her and the wolf. Fortunately, she had a silver dagger and was able to stop Jihad before he mortally wounded her or the wolf. I tended to her wounds, using the new prayers that Sarenrae had blessed me with recently. Seeing that she was stable, I returned to the group to tell them what had happened, and told Haps that we had found Kressle. Haps immediately ran off to her while I explained what happened to the rest of the group. Examining Jihad further, we determined that he was most definitely dead. Palinus and I were already set on giving the three companions who had died in the mite den a proper burial, and now we were going to add Jihad to that plan. Palinus removed Jihad’s equipment and symbols of Erastil, so we may present them at the statue of Erastil the next time we are there and offer up prayers for Jihad.
With evening quickly approaching, we spent the rest of the day for the burial of our companions. Kressle was hurt pretty badly, so we rested for a while there in the clearing until she was well enough to move. We traveled from there to Oleg’s and continued to take time to rest and restore our minds from the horrific events. When we departed from the tree, we sent Mikmek off to the kobold mines with his statue of his god to return to his people. He claimed that they were sick and would die soon without it, yet we did not have time to travel there ourselves. He swore to us that when we were able to arrive that we would be rewarded for the return of the statue and for saving his life and his brothers from the mites.
The twenty-fourth of the month came quickly, and we met up with [[:Kestin Carrace]] at the lightning-struck tree. He had met up with someone on the inside of the [[:Stag Lord]]’s camp and had devised a plan to attack at dawn the following day. His informant was none other than Akiros, second-in-command to the Stag Lord! This was a surprising turn of events to us, especially Haps. We had assumed that Dovan was the one who would be most likely to turn. The passphrase that Akiros had taught Kestin was “By the bloody bones of St. Horace.” Haps said that this phrase is only used when everything is ok, but if they had discovered something was wrong then the phrase should have used a word beginning with “E”.
Speaking with Kestin, we devised a new plan in which we would deliver supplies to the keep under the guise of Kressle’s bandits. This would delay the attack one day, but it would allow us to attack from within and ensure the gates would open for Kestin. Disappointed in the delay, Kestin was convinced that it was a better plan. He still would not listen or heed our “ghost stories” about the undead around the keep, but I hoped that he would change his mind by the time it came to attack. We also gained two new members of our party; Rogar, a dwarf fighter and Calathes Ozmodeus, a half-elf wizard. Considering our recent losses, they were a welcome sight if we were going to be taking down the Stag Lord.
Traveling to Oleg’s for supplies, we picked up what we needed, especially more beer, and traveled on to the keep. Getting there shortly before nightfall, we were able to get in with little trouble and make the delivery. We explored the keep and determined a plan of attack. We also found Auchs, who is quite large, but quite easily fooled as well.
Dawn came, and we took our places around the entrance and on the top level of the keep. Seeing the shimmering light from Kestin in the tree line, we commenced our attack! The Rogar easily charged and took down the first guard in the gate tower, while Haps and I attacked the other. The third guard rose the alarm but it was already too late. Palinus and LiTzu removed the bar from the gate and opened it for Kestin’s charge. Unfortunately, Kestin had ignored our warning and no sooner had they entered the field than the undead rose from the ground and attacked them. We were on our own for now.
Auchs heard the alarm and came out to fight, but Calathes was able to convince him to attack the guard who was closest to him instead. Auchs easily overpowered the guard, but Haps was unaware that he was working with us and shot him through the neck with an arrow. The guards below had begun their attack on Palinus and LiTzu, Rogar quickly raced down from the tower to join them. Kressle ran off after Dovan, while Akiros approached and began to spar with the dwarf, putting on a show but not landing any serious blows against the dwarf. I moved quickly out of the way of Auchs, who was now charging towards Haps. I reached the bottom of the stairs and said a quick prayer to the goddess to bless our attack. No sooner had I begun to help with the guards when I was blindsided in the back with Auchs’ club. Calathes tried to stop Auchs, but startled him instead and took a hefty blow to the head. I began to channel healing around me, helping all of our allies nearby. The guards now had been dealt with but that was when something quite worse showed up. The owlbear. It had been released and was now grappling Rogar. We began to attack it, and even Akiros was pretending to attack the dwarf but would miss and hit the beast. Auchs, confused by all around him, now attacked Palinus despite Calathes trying to convince him otherwise. Despite having my compassion for being so easily taken advantage of, he was a threat and my allies had to take him down. We then were able to focus our attacks on the owlbear, defeating it shortly thereafter.
That was when Dovan showed up. Kressle followed closely behind him. He began to attack Rogar now as well. Even Kressle attacked him! Calathes was able to cast a spell on Kressle and convince her to attack Dovan instead. I had been healing as much as possible, keeping the dwarf and half-elf alive, but they had taken quite a few blows. In the confusion Rogar attacked Akiros, hurting him badly. Akiros responded in kind and knocked out the dwarf. Dovan proved to be a tough fighter, and quite nimble. All of our attacks only struck the air around him. And then we had more than Dovan to deal with.
The Stag Lord had come to join the battle! He was drunk, but he was quite a sight to see and intimidating! Dovan used his appearance to try and escape from us, and Palinus nearly landed a heavy blow on him, but he was able to twist and take the glancing strike and again ran off. Kressle followed him as they disappeared into the roasting room. Kestin’s men had finally dealt with the undead, but not without a couple losses of their own. They entered the keep to find the Stag Lord and Akiros remaining. That was when Akiros officially switched to our side. With a whisper, he declared that the tides had turned and he would now fight the Stag Lord with us.
With no distractions to keep us from fighting at full strength, we surrounded the Stag Lord and attempted to take him down. He was able to block and dodge many blows, but Kestin caught him off guard, landing a critical blow nearly disabling him! The Stag Lord would not be so easily stopped, however, and turned and knocked Kestin out cold. Kressle had come back after not finding Dovan, and using her dual axes she buried them into the Stag Lord’s neck, killing him.
Victorious! The threat of the Stag Lord on this land was now no longer. I tended to the wounded, and we had found that Haps had also met his end during the battle. Dovan was missing, and a search of the area revealed a trap door to the cellar of the keep. It would have to wait….