The group returned to Homlett from Verbobonc and dropped off the loaned wagon to the people we borrowed it from and the horses at the stable at the Inn of the Welcome Wench. We had a new addition to the group, a mercenary hireling fighter by the name of Morley Sorenson who had been hired in Verbobonc. Sir Darion and the rest of the group ran into Rufus at the Inn and the Lord Protector implied that Byrn was not convinced that our group was really looking out for the interests of Homlett but in fact were just mercenary adventurers looking for loot like so many groups before. Sir Darion tried to convince him that this was not the case and that his group was in fact here to scout out rumored evil activity at the TOEE but he said that it would take more than that to change the wizard's mind. We stocked up on provisions and left on foot for Nulb to investigate any signs of a return of cult activity at the Temple of Elemental Evil.
We learned that the Velverdyva River, which the river in Nulb dumps into, was notorious for river pirates of all sorts. The small river is navigable and one can go north down its course and enter into the much larger Velverdyva River where large amounts of river born commerce and piratical activity take place. We also learned that the Boatsman’s Tavern and the Nulb Market sit right next to the port’s dock area in Nulb where most of the boat transport activity was taking place on the smaller local river. Upon entering the godforsaken town we observed that it contained filthy and ramshackle buildings and was mostly populated with boatmen and fishermen.
The group passed through Nulb and searched for a suitable campsite to stay at outside of Nulb and the TOEE. After one was located we went on to the Temple itself and decided to reconnoiter the perimeter of the ruined walls and work our way outward to explore the area around the temple. As we approached one of the corner towers which somehow appeared intact, the group was ambushed by 13 brigand archers with longbows concealed in cover near the walls! A pitched battle was fought after we closed with them and Ryn managed to put most of them to sleep and all of the others were defeated in combat and went down except for one, their leader. Seeing most of his men out of action he decided to flee. The knight looked at Emran and said “go after him”. He didn't want word of our intentions to reach the ears of our enemies in Nulb. Those would be the last words the knight would ever say to his comrade. Ashe and a few others followed along as best they could but couldn’t keep up with the speed of the half orc. When he found their location he heard the sounds of a pitched battle. By the time he found him he was dead and some of his prize possessions had been looted from his body. The area around Nulb and the Temple is indeed a dangerous place.
The group mourned the loss and deliberated about what to do. We didn’t want to go through the streets of Nulb with our tails between our legs carrying a dead party member so we decided to have the Ranger swim the small river with Emran’s body in tow. He was still invisible from when Ryn had cast it on him previously. He got across the river and stumbled into a camp of six bugbears on the other side! Seeing the futility of trying to fight his hated enemy at such long odds he swam back across the river with the body in tow. The bugbears saw the body being towed through the water by something they couldn't see and came closer to investigate. They started swimming the river to get to it and at this point, Ashe let it go near the bank hoping to retrieve it later and fled. After he got away, the Bugbears swam over to the area and searched but couldn’t retrieve it either.
Meanwhile, the group was heading back up the other bank to meet up with Ashe and Emran’s body and walked straight into the same group of Bugbears! They caught most of the group by surprise and we were assailed from three sides with the two fighters mostly surrounded and two other bugbears threatening the two wizards in the middle of the group. A ferocious hand to hand combat ensued and Ryn managed to fall back near Iggy while Golgroth moved up to stand beside Aeth El Bar against the monsters on the flanks of the group. Seeing the desperation of the situation, Iggy cast Darkness on top of the Bugbears and everything went black for everyone inside the radius of the spell. Upon seeing this (or not seeing it) Sir Darion ordered the group to fall back. As we withdrew from the blackness we made our getaway. Iggy even managed to cast Dancing Lights in the form of a silhouetted humanoid heading through the forest away from us to draw the Bugbears away from our trail. We met up with Ashe at this point and he told us what happened. We sadly made our way back to Homlett.
When we returned to the town we ran into Elmo at the Inn. He told us he had been busy defending the town from the creatures that still inhabited the Moathouse and had even managed to recruit others of his order to help him in the fight. The Knight asked him if he would return with us to the Temple but he said that his place was in Homlett so we departed without him. Before leaving we stopped off to see Jaroo and asked him if he could help out with healing for those that were still wounded from the previous day’s battles. He agreed and also introduced us to Geth-Rel-Daen, a half elven Druid who agreed to accompany us to the Temple.
We set out in a driving rain and made our way through Nulb without any problems. While traveling through a wooded area on the way to the temple we ran into a large group of Gnolls (ten or so). Nobody was surprised and Geth-Rel-Daen acted swiftly and cast entangle on the surrounding undergrowth which grew and managed to immobilize about half of them. The other half got entangled while trying to get out of the living undergrowth. Ryn also managed to put some of them to sleep as well. The Druid issued the warning “Leave these woods and never return or the spirits of the forest will be much less forgiving.” Rather than risk fighting them and becoming entangled ourselves, we decided to move on in the hopes that they would heed the warning. We couldn’t fire missiles at them because the rain rendered the archer’s bowstrings useless so we continued on towards the Temple again.
We returned immediately to the tower. There was no visible door on the outside so Iggy scaled the ruins of the perimeter wall and threw over a rope for the others to get across and into the perimeter of the Temple. When we got to the other side we found a stout door below and two ravens watching us from above on top of the tower. Iggy’s curiosity was piqued so he threw a stone up towards them. To his and the group’s amazement the ravens began growing in size and then swooped down to attack the party. After a few rounds of melee combat, the giant ravens were dispatched. Ryn was very interested in having a giant raven feather cloak and began pulling feathers out of them. Iggy went to peer into one of the arrow slits with the use of his darkvision and told us he saw men moving around inside.
Ashe spoke up and began to lecture Ryn on the proper way to make a giant raven cloak (by skinning the creature) and suddenly we were attacked from within the tower by arrow fire! The group withdrew over towards the wall some distance away to decide on a plan of attack. Ryn and Iggy went back towards the tower and took up positions on either side of the arrow slits. Sir Darion and Morley ran to the door and started trying to knock it in but soon discovered it was a very sturdy oak reinforced door and wouldn’t budge. The rest of the group withdrew to the cover of some stones further inside the perimeter towards the temple to avoid the arrow fire.
Ryn cast web inside the arrow slit on the left and soon we heard men shouting in frustration as they became entangled. Then we heard them screaming in pain as their companions tried to burn them out of the webs. Iggy quaffed his potion of Protection from Arrows and Geth-Rel-Daen cast warp wood on the door which finally allowed the two fighters to get it open. The archers fired at Iggy who taunted them from beyond the warped door in full site knowing he was protected from arrows by the potion. This served to be an effective diversion since they all fired at him and missed and the knight and fighter went in through the portal. When they got inside, they faced a line of three men two deep (six total) with spearmen in the back row and many others behind them at the opening beyond the foyer (around twenty men total).
The knight moved in and was able to use his armor to his advantage in this situation to hold off six attackers at one time in the narrow opening while Morley backed him up with a spear as a reach weapon behind him. It had occurred to Darion that ceilings of entry halls like this one often hold some kind of murder holes where defenders could pour boiling water or burning oil down on the heads of attackers. While he was contemplating that thought, the ceiling caved in and knocked everyone in there down wounding them in the process and filling it with an impenetrable layer of dust. As the dust cleared and the victims groggily got to their feet, the fight was resumed.
Darion and Morley managed to take a few of them down without being hurt too bad and then the Druid cast Charm Person on one of the defenders in the middle of the line. He failed his savings throw and now believed that we were good friends and couldn’t understand for the life of him why his companions were attacking us. So he decided to turn on them and managed to kill the guy next to him and one or two further back before being dragged down by the men in the back of the tower. As the number of defenders gradually dwindled we were left facing two hardened leader types wearing plate armor. They proved to be hard to hit but were eventually brought down. As the survivors were given the “dagger of mercy”, Ryn found the one who had helped us and tied him up for questioning so that he wouldn't be dispatched with the others. He told us that there was plenty of food in the rafters and that their leader probably had plenty of loot hidden somewhere in his chambers. He also told us that their leader “Bob” was rumored to have had a secret escape somewhere in his room or in the tower and had left the fight before his men had been overwhelmed. He also told us that he had some way of making the ravens on top of the tower appear smaller than they actually were. We surmised that perhaps this was the same brigand that had killed Emran the day before and made a mental note to remember his face…
TO BE CONTINUED...