The party was led through an outer courtyard, and then through another portcullis to an inner courtyard where they were able to stable their horses. From there, they were led to a garden where they were told to wait while Icar spoke to the lady of the keep. The party spent quite a while waiting here as the sky darkened and the storm clouds rolled in. During this time, they became keenly aware that they were surrounded on the rooftops by archers, while other creatures under the influence of the keep waited to pounce. They also saw that a hobgoblin was walking with a Boggle on a leash - using
Guliyet informed the party that Alforas was still at the keep and that the Lady Markessa would welcome them to dinner, where they will have a chance to deliver their message. She said she is looking forward to speaking with each of them. The party was led to a waiting room with a sofa and chairs and told to wait until summoned to dinner. Sensing a likely trap, the party decided to play along for now.
While waiting in the room, an eerie moaning sound started coming from the chimney. Suddenly, a white figure fluttered out from the chimney. "Run!" yelled Jarrus as he and Pontus went crashing through the door from which they came. Cadwin immediately transformed into a bat and flew into the corner of the room. Sarril, suspecting an illusion, risked staying in place and tried to disbelieve. He was able to immediately tell it was a sheet blowing out from the fireplace and pulled it down. Jarrus and Pontus high-fived each other, regained their composure, and walked back into the room like nothing happened. Still, the moaning sound didn't stop, and Cadwin sent his weasel companion up the chimney to investigate, where it was immediately stabbed by a dagger and nearly killed were it not for a quick heal spell Cadwin was able to get off. Pontus and Cadwin then decided to climb up the chimney themselves to investigate and found a crawlspace in the ceiling where a madman with a dagger was attacking them. Working together, Cadwin and Pontus were able to subdue the man, take his dagger and investigate the rest of the area.
Their search eventually led them to Judith - an escaped slave woman and her baby. She explained that the madman was also an escaped slave who was protecting her by setting up elaborate illusions and traps to make the area appear haunted. As a result, the hobgoblin guards were too scared to come down this hallway, allowing them to be safe for the time being until they could escape. Now that he was incapacitated and unable to maintain the ruse, she was certain they would soon be found. Sure enough, within an hour, two hobgoblin sergeants with boggles on chains came into the room, searching for the escaped slaves. The party pretended to know nothing as the search party passed them and went down the hall. As soon as it became apparent they were going to sniff out Judith, the party sprung into action, using spellpower to quickly take out the hobgoblins and silence them before the alarms could be sounded. Using the hobgoblin's swords, the fighters finished off the boggles to save Judith. During the fight, a human in banded mail carrying a two-handed sword - a captain perhaps - showed up with more hobgoblin guards, but a fully armed party was able to deal with him pretty easily.
For the next hour, the party carefully hid all of the bodies and cleaned up all of the blood, determined to stick to the plan and not spoil their cover. No sooner did they finish cleaning than Guliyet returned, with two strange looking cavelings in tow. She informed the party it was time for dinner, and led them away through the keep. They passed through multiple doors, around winding hallways, around obvious traps and through barracks packed with hobgoblin and other humanoid guards, eventually coming to a set of double doors, behind which was a large dining room with several people sitting around it, one of whom the party immediately recognized as Hazzard the Mage. A beautiful elf at the head of the table introduced herself as Lady Markessa, and bid them each to take a seat, saying she had been looking forward to speaking with the party.
Around the table sat several of Markessa's inner circle, while in either corner stood two intimidating presences. In one corner stood a 7ft. tall, dark-skinned man in black plate mail and a helm with no
|Lady Markessa with one of her guards|
Jarrus, recognizing that the presence of Hazzard has given away their identity, quickly adjusted his story. He handed over a letter the party recovered from Sturm Bucholtz that incriminated Edralve (one of the inner council of Slave Lords) in plotting treason against the other Slave Lords. He told Markessa that the party was undercover, working for the council to try and flush out other traitors. He said they allowed themselves to be captured on purpose in order to determine what Captain Garana was up to and offered to reveal information to Lady Markessa privately, as he did not feel that everyone at the table could be trusted. The ruse seemed to be working on Lady Markessa, even while Hazzard and Agnar grew agitated and accused Jarrus of lying.
It was then that the party may have pulled off their most daring, and best coordinated maneuver to date. Jarrus turned to Agnar and said "That's right, I killed your traitor brother" which sent to the dwarf into a rage and started an argument amongst the group. While Markessa was distracted with getting the dwarf under control, Sarril let loose with one of his few remaining spells - Boccob's Rolling Thunder - and sent it right over the table at Markessa and Hazzard, hitting them both full-force and getting a few more people in the process.
For all of the times that the party complains that I roll 20s against them, they rarely notice all of the times I fail to roll well. This was not one of those times. As I went around the table rolling saving throws for each NPC, the players cheered as one after the other failed the roll. Many of the NPCs had massive bonuses to their saves, but I was rolling 3 and lower. At the same time, the damage roll for the spell was really massive, creating a double-whammy and doing enough damage to kill Markessa and her cleric. While the damage was just shy of killing Hazzard, the secondary effect of the spell is to stun anyone who fails their save. This one action eliminated all of the enemy spellcasters in one swoop. Now the fight was on.
Taking out the magic users made the fight survivable, but not easy. The fighters quickly realized that Agnar and Icar were no joke. And those three barbarian-looking guys turned out to be wereboars. Unfortunately, the session ended mid-fight, so we won't know if the party survives or not until next session. It is now early evening on the 22nd Day of Reaping, CY 580.