With us all hiding behind tents and rubble, the masquerading solider calls out that we have five minutes to leave the castle else we will be sorry. We ignore him obviously, especially as Stumpy and Spider Monkey are still left under the torn tent. Trixie lets me know that she can see two familiar shapes on the distant shore – Shadow and Idjit have finally made their way here at last following our Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trail.
With Stumpy and Spider Monkey quickly gathered, we move to the cover provided by a small broken tower while Shadow and Idjit dither on how to actually cross the lake before finally getting some rope from their packs. McFlurry appears from where he had hidden in another tent to run over and join us before the five minutes are up, and we can hear soldier like activity from the walls in which the soldier caster once stood.
The five minutes are nearly up, and all the others have managed to do is get very wet and half drowned as Idjit swims like a fish on steroids across half the length of the lake before sinking like a stone at the mid way point. He then suffers the indignity of being dragged like a helpless kitten out of the water by Shadow and fed a potion to stop him from drowning.
With the minutes ticking down and two of our party on the wrong side of the water, I drop an Obscuring Mist which allows us to run from the cover of the broken wall we are currently behind towards better cover against the walls. The spell does not quite cover all the area however, and with our fingers crossed we emerge from the mist into 20’ of open ground, running with gritted teeth and trying to not look like targets.
No arrows or spells are fired in this few agonising seconds, and all of us crash into the wall with relief. Using the rubble and running from cover to cover, we soon have made our way out of bow shot and towards the gates where we came into the complex, allowing the two wet idiot’s entrance to the castle grounds.
Heading back the way we came, but now with a Rogue to scout for us, we are all full of thievery inspired confidence, which on reflect does not quite sound so right when said out loud. Shadow is aptly named as he hugs the walls flitting from place to place, and with a low profile, crests the rubble that breaches a wall section to peer over the top. He spots a guard, and as he scrambles back down the slope, McFlurry as SpiderMonk! goes straight up the wall to peek between the ramparts.
We decide to move further along the wall to the more accessible parts of the castle walls, i.e. the ones that don’t involve a ‘20’ high scramble over treacherous rock footing only to be shot at from the other side as you try to make your way down carefully so you don’t break your neck’, and walk into one that is open and doesn’t have guards anywhere near it.
The largest tower has collapsed across the wall forming a tunnel of sorts – the top of the tower smashed and scattered around, while most of the cylindrical tower walls have remained intact. As we are lead ‘down’ this tower by Shadow, a large black outline detaches itself from the wall and steps before us. The light reveals some kind of giant praying mantis creature which begins to chitter furiously and quickly makes its intentions known as a heavily armoured leg is raised to strike down again very near to Idjit.
The fight is over very quickly though, as Idjit manages a couple of fine strikes on the beast with his scraping claws, and McFlurry ups his game by smashing bones and quite literally punching pieces of flesh and shell off the creature body - very impressive indeed.
Checking in case there are more hidden beasts, or treasure obviously, we cautiously move through the tunnel and out the other side into the courtyard and straight into a Fireball cast by someone who has quickly popped out from round a corner. Both Idjit and I are badly burned in this attack, and dragging him back, I heal us both with the wand, after a suitable bark from Idjit of course.
Then chainmail armoured guards with long swords and shields charge round the corner and the fight begins! Trixie manages to get one to fall asleep, while Stumpy casts a helpful Bane on them to put them off their strikes. McFlurry and Idjit are in the front battling away, and Idjit drops the first. Shadow has tumbled into combat and manages a few nice strikes, but leaves himself open and multiple sword strikes lay him low and bleeding.
Stumpy is on hand to help though, and healing with one hand while he hastily inflicts a critical wound with the other, the Dwarf kills Shadows attacker very painfully indeed with a withering attack to the jollies. McFlurry fells another, and I drop a Burning Sphere in the back ranks to disrupt those attempting to manoeuvre round to attack us from the sides.
With Shadow back into the fight, he tumbles out of his perilous position and into another one to help flank an attacker, and with a fine strike almost kills a guard outright. The guard takes this attack none too lightly however, and with a fine return swing, drops the Halfling to the floor with a mortal wound.
Trixie hits a wounded soldier with a Sonic based spell causing the guard to drop with bleeding eyes and a pained expression on his face, and my burning Sphere claims another screaming victim. I move to heal Shadow with the wand, and the guards begin to retreat, calling for reinforcements.
The reinforcements arrive in the shape of the flying wizard, and with no time to react, another Fireball erupts amongst us. I am hit again very badly, and drop dying, and SpiderMonkey also collapses to the floor. Idjit returns the favour from earlier by reviving me, and after I have checked on SpiderMonkey and stabilized him, I help Shadow up again. No more soldiers have arrived yet, and Stumpy and McFlurry finish off the last two, while the flying wizard flies in and out of cover to shoot Magic Missile at Brother Ashitaka McFlurry.
Shadow drops a smoke stick to envelop and confuse the area with thick yellow tinged smoke, and as it bellows out, we regroup and move back to some cover. I gingerly pick up the limp form of SpiderMonkey and take him further back to safety, stopping at a good spot in between the tower and the wall.
With the smoke still billowing behind me, I dig out a blanket from my pack and some Goodberries for food to leave beside him. Like it or not, and with gritted teeth and tears in my eyes, I look down at his shallow breathing body and can’t help but feel that this adventure is far too dangerous for him now.
His canine dexterity saved him from the full effects from both of the spell blasts, but with his fur bearing deep scorched marks, his ear half missing from a Warg attack and various other scrapes and cuts, I cannot think what would happen should he perish in my care. So with a half sob and a wiped away tear, I make him as comfortable as possible, use another charge on the wand to guarantee his safety, and pull the blanket over his head to help make sure he is unnoticed until he recovers.
I catch up to the others who have found the reinforcements of the guards hiding round the corner, but these look very battered and bruised and quite familiar. Idjit, Trixie and McFlurry all drop their opponents in quick succession with various spells and weapons and fists, and as I get closer, I see a large heavily armoured warrior step up before the two front fighters.
The old McFlurry is back though as he tries again and again to stun the warrior before him, flailing fast and furiously. Idjit, probably wishing that the Monk would hurry up and just hit him is smashed nearly to the ground with two punishing overhead strikes, and the only reason he did not fall is because Stumpy held him up with the Shield Other spell. Idjit begins to bark on queue for healing, and receives it while Shadow is cut down for the fourth or fifth time.
McFlurry tries to grapple and I bring a dog in to help flank the warrior who really has not been troubled too much in this fight. Stumpy stabilizes Shadow, and finally McFlurry stops mucking about and lands some well placed punches. I am spotted in my healing role as I have been standing behind Idjit and healing him with the wand far too often, and with a sideways step he interrupts my chain healing plan by smashing his sword deep into my side.
A sonic spell from Trixie lands, and the fighter at last seems to be wobbling on his feet before us. My dog manages a cheeky bite in the warrior’s bottom, and I take this opportunity to run away and hide round the corner, very the worse for wear.
Trixie has hidden herself in the corner and after a few barbed comments from me as I run past her, finally returns to the fight to fire off some Magic Missile. Unfortunately for us the warrior sadly has just casually drunk a potion in the middle of combat, watching with a smile as everyone nearby misses their free attack. We step up a gear and now practically have him surrounded, and another strong attack from the warrior against Idjit actually causes Stumpy to fall over and not look very healthy at all, while Trixie Dix pounds more missiles of force into him.
The warrior draws another potion from his side and just as he pops the cork, Idjit’s claw removes his throat. The warrior drops, and the potion is caught by the dexterous McFlurry without a drop spilt, and delivers it just in time to the dying Cleric. With us all just about back on our feet, we retreat back into the fallen tower dragging the assorted goodies that we found on the warrior and guards.
Despite it being early in the day, we are all very weak and all the casters have minimal spells left from their daily repertoire, but we press on. With the flying caster able to drop Fireballs, we did not want to allow him a chance to rest either, and so push on into the castle itself. The doors we saw beyond the fight with the warrior open into a large great hall that has rubble strewn everywhere, and we move inside, and towards the only exit from the room.
We soon find ourselves in a bedroom and Shadow searches and discovers trinkets hidden in a drawer and a false section of the bed, and then actually picks a proper lock on a door leading from the bedroom.
With the door open and everyone ready, we enter to find a man tied and gagged to a chair in the middle of the room, with some armour piled in a corner by a chest. Freeing his gag, we question him, and I being my obstructive self become difficult with my lines of questioning.
Apparently his name is Melekin, a scout for the Royal Guard of the city. Melekin answers all the questions correctly and without hesitation, encompassing everything from “What is the statue of outside the watch-mans quarters in the town” to “Which cheese do you prefer and why?” He is released, and once dressed in his armour and removing the items from the chest, tells us of his capture. Which was really boring and I don’t remember enough details to write down – I think they simply got him while he was asleep. Amateur.
Shadow proves his worth once more as he spots a torch sconce “...that doesn’t look quite right...” then when pulled reveals a secret door and soon we are in a corridor full of rubble which leads to a room full of what appears to be old animal bones. Falling foul of that old chestnut, McFlurry approaches the innocent looking pile – if you can class a pile of the remains of creatures that died horribly, probably in pain and then where not disposed of respectfully as innocent, which then shudder and all form together to make a huge skeleton, and promptly bites him.
A few people try to tackle the beast, but with McFlurry running off and Idjit’s claws not very effective, we all run away from the cramped confines and smell of dead things and quickly close the door.