19th of Lytormont
Just as they were about to depart, Wryde noticed 20 to 30 horseman on approach. After some careful study, Warrick determined that the riders were flying the banners of Exeter and the Crusaders. In order to slow their advance, Childris and Wryde disabled bridge and sent it crashing into the watery depths below. Grom hogtied the wounded, unconscious rogue and put him out of earshot from where the bridge had been located. The group then began its ascents towards the home used as a bandit hideout. As they approached, the party got the strange feeling that they were being watched; they also began to catch the scent of smoke from further up the valley.
The party arrived to find the house ablaze. Immediately near the area where the house came into view, the party found the bodies of the archers who had fled the battle at the bridge; they had been murdered by stabs to the back. The house was situated on an area of higher ground inside the encircling walls of the canyon. A a winding paved path led to the house. Nearby was a water well. Suddenly, the party heard screams from women and children emanating from inside the burning house. They also noticed dozens of cats on a nearby rocky ledge paying them and the house an uncomfortable amount of attention.
After hearing the screams of the women and children, the party jumped into action. Warrick, Wryde, and Childris approached the house using the path, while Grom took the direct approach over open ground. He was momentarily slowed by a nasty pit trap, but managed to arrive at the front door at roughly the same time. On the way up the path, Wryde noticed a tunnel leading through the rock toward the tower, where the party believed the Baroness was being held. The tunnel was being guarded at its far end by a giant of some sort, but its form was indistinct with the distance and the lighting. While the party paused a few moments to catch their breath and determine the best way to enter the house and navigate the perilous flames, a roguish character burst forth from the door aflame screaming and quickly died in front of the group. The party heard a disturbing cackle echo inside the building.
Warrick noticed that the house was burning quickly and looking as though it may soon collapse. The party decided to brave the dangers and rescue the stranded women and children. While inside, Warrick and Grom separately encountered what both described as a fire devil. First it found Warrick; he managed to injure it using his magic. It later found Grom, who claimed to have killed it. With some teamwork the party managed to rescue all the villagers that had been trapped inside. Unfortunately, Childris became separated from the party and was nowhere to be found. The party continued to hear cackling and discerned that it was coming from the basement. Wryde found some stairs leading to it only moments before Grom located it after crashing through a portion of the weakened floor. Grom shrugged off the impact as he crashed into an old bed in the servant’s quarters.
In addition to the bed, the servant’s quarters also contained a cauldron and a mushroom garden. The party quickly located Childris, whose body was seen lying in the corner near a door. Standing above the body was a witch, who promptly departed through the door. A conglomerate mass of animated stew, which Wryde named a Dinty Moore, arose from the cauldron and lurched toward the party. During the combat, another fire devil emerged from the flames to engage the party and assist the Dinty Moore. The Dinty Moore used magic to call fire down upon the party. Though it was defeated, Wryde noticed that it returned to the cauldron where it seemed to be regenerating. He decided that the source of its power must be disturbed. Using magical strength from Warrick, Wryde pushed the cauldron over, killing the stew monster. In the midst of the melee, Warrick ran over to his cousin’s body only to discover that what appeared to be a body was only armor and clothing – Childris had been turned into a cat. Warrick scooped up cat Childris into his arms and put him into his pack. Wryde and Grom quickly dispatched the fire devil, clearing the way for the group to pursue the witch through the door.
The door appeared to be locked and barred. With some effort, Grom was able to wiggle the bar out of place since the witch had failed to properly secure it in her haste to escape. The door led into a tunnel. Wryde entered first and narrowly dodged a pit trap just behind the door. The group decided that Grom should go first and that the party should move cautiously. Taking up the rear, Warrick dragged Childris’ equipment into the tunnel to protect it from the collapsing building.
The group squeezed through the narrow tunnel for what felt like a long while. They found themselves at a three-way intersection with the tunnel continuing ahead and also running to the right. The party stayed the course and forged straight ahead, assessing that the tunnel to the right would not lead them to the location of the Baroness.
The party emerged from the tunnel near a small lake surrounded by reeds and cattails. They immediately noticed from the sounds that the Exeter and Crusader men were stalled in the tunnel, none too eager to face its large humanoid guardian. They also noticed Urukuhag standing on a balcony halfway up the face of the tower in an overwatch position. Grom decided to move out of the reeds for a better view of the tunnel but he was detected by Arward and confronted. Arward ordered Grom to emerge from the weeds and surrender. Fearing another battle, Wryde polymorphed into a celestial mountain lion and waited for a sign from Warrick. Instead of complying with Arword, Grom bolted into the weeds to rejoin Warrick and Wryde.
Understanding that the weeds offered little in the way of tactical advantage, Warrick led the party out from their hiding; Arword was nowhere to be found. In the Orcish tongue, Warrick challenged Urukuhag, demanding to know why he had joined Exeter’s payroll, threatening the fragile peace between Men and Orc. Urukuhag claimed that he wanted power and that nothing was more important. Warrick then took his staff, which had been given to him by Urukuhag as a sign of friendship and good will, and shattered it over his knee, symbolizing the broken trust between Urukuhag and Warrick. Warrick then drew his father’s longsword. The party moved toward the tower to engage Urukuhag.
Warrick gave the party magical speed, while Grom quickly ascended the tower stairs to engage Urukuhag. Wryde, in mountain lion form, used his magical haste to conduct a great leap onto the stairs behind Urukuhag. Warrick saw the Exeter and Crusader men moving toward the tower so he casted a carefully placed web into their path, delaying them from reaching the tower.
On the balcony, Grom and Wryde battled the fearsome Urukuhag, exchanging damaging blows. Suddenly the witch reemerged on a flying broom and began to assist Urukuhag. Warrick moved into position and unleashed a deadly lightning bolt against her; however, some protective magics reflected the lightning bolt at Warrick, damaging him severely. After tangling with Wryde in mountain lion form, the final blow against Urukuhag was finally struck. Wryde then turned his attention to the witch. He leapt at her from the height of the tower and dragged he down to the ground, mauling her along the way. When they reached the ground, he delivered a killing bite. Warrick rushed up the tower in search of the Baroness. While ascending the stairs, with the witch’s curse broken, Childris returned to human form, though unconscious. Warrick set Childris down at the top of the tower stairs and proceeded into the tower’s highest chamber.
As Warrick entered the chamber, the Baroness, who was wearing a flowing silk gown, awakened confused and hungry. She kindly asked Warrick for food. Having little to give, Warrick provided the Baroness with a trail ration from his pack. Concurrently, Exeter men accompanied by a Crusader had cleared the web and began to approach the tower. With a warning from Grom, Warrick exited the chamber and watched them approach. He requested that Grom not let them ascend the stairs. As they approached, the Crusader caught sight of Wryde in celestial mountain lion form standing over the slain witch. He approached Wryde confidently, with a shit eating grin, and immediately knelt before him and began to pray. The Exeter men continued toward the tower; Warrick and Grom immediately recognized the lead Exeter man to be Henry Thorton, Exeter’s heir.
When they had come close enough, Warrick issued them a warning that they would not ascend the tower. Upon hearing the challenge, the Crusader rose and came to the front of the group. Wryde told the Crusader that some foul evil plot was afoot and that the Crusader should speak with the group away from the men of Exeter. The Crusader agreed and asked Henry to standby; Henry agreed. The Crusader ascend the tower stairs and after brief introductions, during which the party learned his name was Brother Stephen, Warrick began to explain the plot in a manner that the party’s evidence read. During this dialogue, Childris awoke and Henry Thorton must have believed that he had waited long enough; he left his men and approached the tower.