As the Crimson forces began searching the town for the heroes, they made their way to the rooftops. Carefully making their way over the heads of their pursuers, they attempted to reach Henneth, who was still at the residence of Shackleford’s mayor, Merrit Hill. Before they could get there, they witnessed Hill, his wife, servants, and Henneth being rounded up by Phlagos and put into a caged wagon. Sneaking back into the forest with Willem Tesker, they decided to follow the Crimson company to wherever they were taking Henneth and the rest, hoping to rescue them from enemy hands.
The party tracked the troops to a clearing in a bleak, autumnal part of the woods. The Crimson forces had made camp in an oversized keep which had once been used by a now dead clan of trolls. There were simply too many soldiers for the group to assault the place, so they discussed how they might infiltrate it and locate Henneth, Hill, and the others who Phlagos had taken captive. As they discussed this, Ovan noticed the ruin of an old temple which had an altar to a demon prince. Blood and other gory offerings had been made to the beastly visage of this demon, and the place had an oppressive aura of dark magic. As Ovan examined the altar, he suddenly realized he was under the watchful eye of an evistro demon, one who had probably been attracted to the unholy spot or summoned there. It was joined by a second demon, both of whom attacked Ovan and wounded him badly. The others raced to his aid, fighting off the evistros and slaying them both.
The merchant Tesker came out of hiding after the battle had ended, and he advised the heroes that he wanted to leave and return to the Stalwart Hall. Reminding them of their agreement to guard him in return for pay, Tesker demanded that they abandon Henneth and the rest and guide him to safety, far from the Crimson camp. The party objected to this and told Tesker their plan to enter the camp and rescue the captives from Phlagos and his witch lieutenant Sargassa. In disbelief at this apparently suicidal course of action, Tesker hid in the woods while the rest approached the walls of the keep.
Utilizing some cloaks, the party encountered a hobgoblin guard at the gate leading into the camp. Kai knocked the guard unconscious, and they entered the encampment unnoticed. Picking their way through the enemy’s midst, they overheard several soldiers talking about Sargassa and some kind of rituals she was engaged in within the castle dungeon. They then climbed into the troll keep proper, getting past some goblin guards and a half-ogre jailkeeper. Descending into the dungeon, they located the chamber where Sargassa was going through her bloody rites. Henneth and the other prisoners were hanging from the walls in chains, and it was clear that the ritual involved some kind of blood offering to dark powers.
Charging into the room, the party confronted the witch, Phlagos, and several Crimson soldiers as a black manifestation appeared in the room. Breagan was knocked unconscious by a berserking orc, but the Aurum soldiers battled back to defeat the guards. As Gath fought Phlagos, the Crimson officer taunted him about the powers he was confronted with, including the fearsome Demogorgon, the demon prince whose altar they had seen earlier. Phlagos further mentioned that “the hunters” would meet one of Demogorgon’s servants soon. Once the guards were dispatched, the party concentrated their attack on Phlagos and Sargassa, and after a difficult fight, both were slain. The black manifestation began to emit a high pitched screech, spinning wildly.
Before the party could celebrate this victory and unchain the prisoners, a rumbling came from overhead and a section of the ceiling collapsed, revealing a massive, ape-like demon. Realizing that the barlgura had been called by the black, spinning object Sargassa had manifested, Ovan and Kai concentrated on stopping it from luring any more demonic servants to the keep. Breagan and Gath held the barlgura at bay while the other two worked on a ritual to banish the black siren, castigating the evil spirits that it served. With Ovan’s faith and Kai’s grounding in the natural world, they were able to finally stop the siren and send it away in a flash of white light. They then came to the aid of the others against the large demon and were collectively able to defeat it.
Freeing the captives, the party fled from the dungeon to discover that the Crimson forces and their camp had been also attacked by some other demons lured by the siren. With the enemy in disarray, they made good their escape into the woods and were rejoined by Tesker. The group then returned Hill, his wife, and servants to their home in Shackleford, and took a well-deserved rest before returning to the Stalwart Hall, supplies in hand.
Everybody got 1320 XP for this session. This is more than enough to achieve 4th level. You receive +1 to two separate ability scores and 1 new Feat. Your level-based bonuses also go up by one.
The party received no gold or magic items in this session.
A good session, but I think we all got a little punch drunk toward the end there. We had two instances of PCs falling unconscious, but you have sufficient healing abilities to bounce back from those setbacks quite easily. I was concerned that the final scene would have been too much for you, but as it turned out it wasn’t a big deal. You could have probably handled another encounter without much difficulty.
The story is creeping along, and you’ve had more clues to the backstory and the motives of some of the parties involved. I’ll probably try to have some more exposition in the future if time and circumstances permits, since I don’t want to keep you in the dark about everything for much longer. As usual, I’m impatient to get to the “good stuff”, but I don’t want to do it at the expense of your characters’ development.
The next adventure will take place after you have spent several months hiding out in the Stalwart Hall. You will have opportunities to engage in some activities separate from your regular duties in this time, so think about what sort of things your characters might be up to during the long winter. The Hall isn’t massive, but it has most of the basic amenities of civilization, and you can also take trips into the wilderness of the mountain and nearby plateau if you want. You can use this time to explain how you have gained new abilities, or simply to develop some aspect of your character or the plot that you’re interested in. Feel free to email me about what plans your PC might have, and I can incorporate them into the next adventure.