Our heroes continued their onslaught into Gardmore Abbey's village by heading straight for the main building. With only a couple of rounds time before they got to the main building, they quickly healed up as much as they could and pressed on. Just outside of the target they were met by another group of 8 orcs, 2 ogres, and 2 ettins as well! The party cautiously approached, ready for any charging monsters. But the orcs were equipped with bows and made full use of them by targeting the softer targets - mainly Zerak and Jobi - and they would continue to harrass these two with arrow fire for nearly the entire battle. The ogres and the ettins also hung back, apparently waiting for the party to come to them. Zola, Kel, and Asphodel took the fight to the monsters and closed into melee, while Blackwell, Zerak, and Jobi used bows and magic to attack the creatures from a distance.
Asphodel, still affected by her rage, but not the unbridled, uncontrollable rage, rushed into combat with one of the ogres and made short work of him. Jobi kept switching between using her scorching ray wand and casting magic missiles at the creatures once she had advanced close enough to see the enemies. Zola went into melee with some of the orcs on the front line. Kel bull rushed a couple of orcs that were starting to surround Zola and hit them with such great force that she sent them back twenty feet, knocking them prone right next to one of the ogres. Blackwell then used one of his cards and forced the ogre to attack his allies who had just conveniently landed right next to it. And true to form, the ogre made one of the prone orcs into mush within a single round.
One of the ettins then used its two heavy flails and managed to score tripping attacks against Asphodel. These attacks didn't really trip her since she was flying, but did manage to entangle her and pull her down onto the head and shoulders of the ettin. That turned out to be a fatal miscalculation on the ettin's part. Asphodel tore into the thirteen foot tall beast with all her eidolon's claws and did so much damage that not only did the ettin crumple into a bloody, heaping mess, complete with a severed spinal column, but Asphodel once again went into an uncontrollable rage of blood-lust. Her next victim was an orc standing close by and she made very short work of it. Next up was the last standing ogre, the one that had been dominated by Blackwell's use of the Rogue card. Even though she only scored three hits against the ogre, she also turned it into a bloody corpse in a single round. Her fourth attack missed so completely that she had winded herself to the point that she had to just stand there and rest for a couple of rounds. This was actually a fortunate event for it gave her time to survey her surroundings in search of more enemies and time for the other party members to get out of her immediate vicinity to avoid becoming targets themselves like the last time she went beserk like this. But since none were close by, Asphodel was able to fight back the blood-lust urges and calm down enough to get out of the uncontrollable rage.
Meanwhile, Kel, Zola, and Jobi had convened against the arrow shooting orcs off to one side and managed without too much difficulty to defeat them. Zerak and Blackwell went after the other two orcs located on the other side of the building's entrance. Zerak put both of them to sleep using his deep slumber hex. Then Blackwell advanced on the first one, tried shooting it with his bow and promptly broke his bowstring. So putting his broken bow away, he walked the rest of the way and got next to the sleeping orc and used his wounding mace in a coup-de-gras attempt. And so spectaculary missed the orc and nearly shattered his own leg! Zerak saw what happened and went to Blackwell's aid. He healed him using his healing touch powers and then went over to the orcs and finished what Blackwell had started and did the beasts in with his weapons.
Now that there were no enemies in the immediate vicinity, the party once again took a couple-three rounds of time to heal up and get ready to enter the main building where the orc leader was supposedly stationed. Blackwell did his thing and check for traps and locks on the two sets of double doors leading into the building (still limping a bit from his self-inflicted bruise) and found none but discovered that the doors had been barred from the inside. So Asphodel approached one of the doors and prepared herself to break down the door. She evidentally overestimated the strength of the door and bar and effectively shattered it into splinters (toothpick, anyone?). Peering into the large room beyond, our heroes did not see much of anything. The entrance was jutted out from the rest of the main room by 20 feet so Asphodel and Blackwell crept into the foyer and peered around the corners to get a better look into the room. Kel and Zola also crept into the foyer area while Zerak and Jobi stayed just outside the door, waiting to hear what the others saw. Just as Asphodel and Blackwell got a good look and saw taht they were now facing nearly a dozen orcs and two dire wolves, one of the orcs casted a web spell in the entrance and coated the whole area up to the doors in thick, sticky webs.
Zola and Blackwell were able to move just outside the webs before one of the other orcs used a card from the Deck and shot flames into the area right at Zola and Asphodel who were standing next to each other. The webs caught on fire in a flash and caused burning damage to Kel who was still in the middle of the foyer. The dire wolves had rushed in to attack Zola and Blackwell and some of the orcs were also using bows against the party members. One of the orcs engaged with Asphodel and proved to be a bit of a challenge, definitely more so that the other orcs. Zerak used his summon monster spell to summon his pet rhino to go after another one of the big orcs - this one looked like he was probably the leader. The rhino only lasted a couple of rounds against them. Then to Zeraks surprise, the orc moved all the way across the room and nearly getting next to him! He must have a something to enhance his movement, or maybe a haste spell. All that Zerak knew is that he had to stay out of range of this one for he feared that just a couple of hits from him may do him some serious harm. So he skirted just out of the creature's reach further into the room. Then Asphodel swooped over and engaged the leader just after she had dispatched the other big baddie. Zerak then saw a chance to do some major damage and positioned himself in such a way that let him use his remaining javelin of lightning on a group of 5 of the orcs who so compliantly lined up in a nice neat line.
At this time, Blackwell and Kel were engaging not only a dire wolf but three or four of the orcs at the same time. Blackwell's mace of wounding finally did in the orc that was harrassing him, allowing him to concentrate on the dire wolf, by using his Key card and teleporting around a couple of times to get better posiitoning. Unfortunately, the last time he used his card to teleport near the wall, the card ended up outside of the building so he wouldn't be able to use it any longer for this battle. Jobi had slowly moved into the room and continued with her scorching ray / magic missile strategy of ranged combat quite effectively. She was able to keep herself out of melee combat partially with the help of Asphodel standing in front or her while she kept her back to the walls. the entire battle didn't last very long and finally, after all the enemies had fallen, Asphodel literally ripped the head off of the leader and stuck it on a pole. She then went outside and began flying around the entire battlefield, screaming as if she were a dragon by using her ghost sound spell, until all the remaining orc troops saw that their leader had been defeated - uh, beheaded (his feet were still on his legs). Once the word got around, the orcs routed and the forces of Winterhaven gave chase and killed every beast they cornered. Soon, only the cheering forces of good were left at Gardmore Abbey and the area was once again free from orc tyranny. The party and the rest of the troops spent the next day clearing the village area of bodies and loot and soon they would all head back to Winterhaven. The party collected all magical weapons and armor from the last two groups they had fought head on and came up with the following items (Note: Please disregard if there are any differences in this list from what we had during the session. I did not write down what I said and my memory of what I said fails me. Kevin has the correct list in his notes.):
- 2 warhammers +2
- 16 falchions +1
- 12 longbows +1
- 2 composite longbows +1 rated for 18 stregth
- 2 chain shirts +2
- non-magical armors and wepaons plus gold silver and copper totaling 2,000 gold pieces
- 3 more cards from The Deck of Many Things
The party and Lord Padraig's entourage then headed back to Winterhaven for a much deserved victory celebration that commenced as soon as they made it back to town. Every member of our group was treated as true heroes of Winterhaven and were given honorary Lords and Ladys titles by Lord Padraig at the height of the celebration feast (he actually is a Baron but never really liked the sound of Baron Padraig). The party lasted for some nearly a week but the major celebrations had finished in a couple of days and life started to get back to normal in Winterhaven. The party kept most of the magical loot that was taken from the last battles at Gardmore Abbey, since Winterhaven was in no real position to purchase all the magical falchions and armor they had taken and had plans to sell it in Neverwinter when they returned. Valthruun who had worked on creating the magical headband for Jobi during the feasting, had finished and delivered it. And Blackwell found supplies and gear for his newest endeavor into gunslinging. So he spent most of those days practicing his new found craft in earnest by fine tuning his first pistol, making another gun along with a bunch of ammo. Our stalwart band of heroes were now beginning to contemplate going back "home" to Neverwinter soon. It was at about this time that Lord Padraig had sent a messenger to find the heroes and ask them to join him for a meeting at his estate.
When our heroes arrived at the estate's main audience chamber, the overall mood in the hall was somehow different than the last several days. Not nearly as happy and friendly. Asphodel stopped just inside the door, keenly aware that something wasn't right and almost immediately noticed that the guards' crossbows, while pointing to the ground, were loaded. And she didn't remember any other time when crossbows had been loaded in this room before. Plus, there were many more guards in the room than ever before, all with grim, emotionless faces and all seemed to be hilghly alert.
Lord Padraig then addressed the party, "Greetings my friends. Come on in. I wanted to thank you again for everything you've done for me, for Winterhaven, and for the rest of the area by defeating the orcs and other menaces resulting in liberating Gardmore Abbey so that it can, once again, be used by the forces of good to secure the peace in this region." Asphodel spoke up immediately and asked why there were so many guards in the room and why did they have loaded crossbows. Padraig just dismissed this as there was no real reason why there were more guards, just a quirk of the time of day, and that they always had loaded crossbows. Apshodel disagreed with that but Padraig stuck to that assertion, mentioning that it was possible that they just hadn't noticed the loaded weapons at other times. Padraig quickly kept the conversation moving by saying to the party, "The reason I called you all here is that I want to offer you gifts for your service to Winterhaven." Upon hearing something about gifts, Blackwell advised the rest of his party memebers that they should tread carefully and hear what Lord Padraig is offering, since gifts are always a good thing to get. So Zola and some ofthe others stepped a bit further into the room and gave Padraig a chance to speak to them.
He continued, "I want to offer each of you a land grant so that all of you can build a small keep, stronghold, temple, or whatever you desire. The grants are spred out around the area but are all within a day's travel of each other." Blackwell was very excited to hear about getting a land grant - he began thinking about how he would be a noble-titled-land-holding-big-shot-gypsy-big-wig! Then Zola immediately spoke up, "What's the catch?"
"Well yes, there is a catch. The main idea for giving you the land grants is so that you can continue to help defend the Winterhave and Gardmore Abbey area from the violent threats that still exist here in the north. This would give the entire region much more stability and give the common people peaceful existences. Plus there is one thing that we have not yet spoken of which we need to discuss now. I want you to give me the cards from the Deck that you have retrieved."
Almost as one, Asphodel and Zola said, "No." Asphodel asked Padraig for him to give her his cards. He also refused this request. And then Zola added that she would see the cards destroyed before allowing them to be reassembled into the complete deck of cards. This last statement casued a bit of concern to pass through Lord Padraig's face before continuing,"Come now friends. We've all seen the many dangers that face this part of the world and you and I have worked well together. I want you to work with me, not against me. I'll give you help to build your own small strongholds to allow us to better defend the area. You know I've paid you well for your service to me and I will continue to do so. Just think of what I could accomplish with the cards in my possession. The entire region would be a safe haven from all enemies, both from outside and inside my borders! I would be able to extend my protection all the way to Neverwinter and Waterdeep and beyond! All I require from you is your agreement and all the cards."
Zola made a quiet comment about evil overtaking Lord Padraig and that he must be stopped. But Jobi interjected that it had to be the Deck exerting its influence on people's minds, a sort of mind control, which inferred that Padraig is not in his right mind at the moment and they shouldn't do anything rash. At this point Zola decided to use her detect evil abilities and found that no one in the room had any evil inclinations at all, which meant that none of this was steeped in any malicious intentions. Nothing inherently evil was going on here so something else was causing these irrational behaviours. Someone tried to remind Padraig that the fall of Gardmore Abbey had occured because the leader there had decided to use the deck back then, but the argument just fell on deaf ears. Blackwell continued to try to calm everyone down and take things slower and make no rash decisions, but he too seemed to be ignored. Zola stuck to her previous conviction and reiterated that she would not see the deck reassembled; that it should be destroyed.
Padraig had lost any semblance of patience at this point and yelled out, "Guards! Sieze them and bring me their cards!" Immediately the entrance door was slammed shut and barred from the outside. The guards with the crossbows then began lifting their weapons and the other guards started spinning their bolas. And then Zerak got fed up with the whole thing and threw his cards down on the floor and exclaimed, "That's it! I'm done with these." They landed in the middle of the room and everyone's attention went to the three cards.
Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of the adventures at Gardmore Abbey. What will our heroes do? Will they kill Lord Padraig and go from heroes to regicidal pariahs, running for their lives from the other nobles in the North, especially from Padraig's good friend Lord Degault Neverember? Will they figure out a way to diffuse the situation and restore peace between the allies? Will the party tear itself apart fighting over the cards? And finally, will they assemble the Deck and take a chance on Fate and use it...