"OK. But you're really not going to like the answer," Deep Thought said. Then he cleared his "throat" and declared, "Anndd Noowww! The Answer to Life ... The Universe ... And Everything is ...." Oops sorry. Wrong fantasy story...
The rest of the party soon departed and made their way to Neverwinter before dispersing to their respective settlement areas. Asphodel began construction on her temple to Bahamut and greeted Sir oakley when he arrived at her castle. Zola basically hung out with Asphodel in addition to upgrading some of her magical gear by selling some off and having a new headband constructed for her in Neverwinter. Kel parted ways once they got to Neverwinter so she could concentrate on the task of building her Abbey and gathering followers loyal to Desna. Blackwell also went back to his settlement to start the task of planning expansion and building - plus he spent some time also training to have more battlefield endurance. Those couple of months soon were spent and Asphodel, Zola, and Blackwell made their way to Blackstone Keep once again to reunite with Zerak and Jobi.
When the friends met up again, some were surprised about Zerak's new familiar, named Dawn. Earlier, Jobi had already gone through the adjustment period she needed and still wasn't 100% OK with Zerak's choice in familiars. He had called forth a lyrakien azata to be his familiar. While no one objected to having a good aligned outsider from Elysium around. The fact that she looked like a very beautiful woman - albeit small at only 13" in height - with large delicate butterfly wings and surrounded by sparkling lights and gentle rainbow arcs also was no issue. The real issue was the fact that this little woman didn't wear any clothing and seemed perfectly at ease with the whole world looking at every inch of her physique.
After the awkward introductions, our heroes and Valindra got down to business. Valindra gave a short recap of the situation with the Grey Wolves:
Several days travel to the northeast of Blackstone Keep was all that was needed to reach the evil Grey Wolves fortification. it was a rather large area protected by a sixteen foot palisade. Before the main body of troops arrived at the front gate, the party split off and circled around to the "secret compound exit" and saw two werewolves guarding it. Asphodel used her greater invisibility spell to circle around and flank the two guards while Blackwell led the rest up to a short distance from the guards and hailed them. The guards were immediately suspicious and near hostile but did not attack immediately for it appeared to them that they were outnumbered by two to one, so the opted to speak with Blackwell. He began by telling them that he was a member of the Ghost Wolves and that he was here to liberate "our tribe" from the evil machinations of Ethrain Marrowslake.
After several minutes of Blackwell and the guards speaking, he was able to convince them that there really was a Thayan army unit outside the front gates ready to storm their compound and retake the area by force. But if the guards were to leave now they could take this writ and present it to the Thayan commander and be spared anything nasty and be offered to rejoin the Ghost Wolves once they had won the battle and be counted as heroes to their original tribe. the guards finally agreed to "walk away" from the gate and once they turned the corner of the palisade, they saw the army - looked back a Blackwell who waved - then back at the army and went rushing towards it with the writ held high and waving it in the air. Blackwell, smiling, turned back to the closed secret exit gate and proceeded to defuse the trap and unlock the lock so they could make their way down the tunnel to it's exit inside the compound.
The tunnel ended at a ladder that led up about twenty feet to a closed trap door, which magic showed was also trapped with another glyph trap. So Blackwell went up, disabled the trap and made sure the door could be opened but found that he probably wasn't quite strong enough to force it open all the way. He came down and let Asphodel up who put a lot of muscle into it and forced it open with a loud crash from something that had be on top on the door falling over. She immediately jumped up into the room to allow space for the others to quickly follow. She saw that the building was a barracks that had eight werewolves and one Netherese in it all preparing for the battle outside. The amount of noise and force that she created busting up out of the secret trap door surprised all of them which allowed the entire group of heroes to move in and attack them before they could even react.
This time there was no chance for Blackwell to parley them into surrendering, especially since there was one of those Netherese bastards with them. The battle in the barracks was pretty brutal for the enemy had a couple spell casters and they were not afraid to use area of effect spells even to the point of catching the barrack on fire. Our heroes slowly made progress through the enemies cutting them down one by one. Once Zerak was able to get in a good position, he cast a black tentacles spell to grapple and injure up to five of them, including the Netherese soldier. Jobi then followed the Grey Wolves' lead and threw some fireballs of her own at the entangled ones. In addition Zerak and Jobi kept using other attack spells to help weaken the foes. Blackwell's pistols proved pretty effective at damaging these unrepentant evil creatures, and along with Zola an Asphodel wading into melee, the party was able to kill them all except the Netherese soldier who somehow was able to cast some kind of teleport or dimension door and get out of the barracks without sustaining much damage.
Once the battle was over, they quickly cast detect magic and grabbed up all the items that were worth carrying, mainly magic swords, armor and crossbow bolts. Then they left the building before it could collapse on them in a burning heap of rubble. Once outside they were able to see that the battle at the front gate was going well for the troops of Thay since they had breached the gates and were starting to meet the Grey Wolves head on inside the compound. they also noticed where the slaves were being held and saw that they couldn't run straight across to them without drawing the attention of more of the Grey Wolves and their allies. So for a few moments they assessed the situation and began to formulate plans while hidden from sight by the now burning barracks.
Zerak came up with a plan to distract the enemy while they circled around the back of the main building to the other side where the slave pen was. He cast two different spells and had them charge out after the enemies near the main building. First was his ever popular summoning of a bad-tempered rhino followed by a new spell he learned while transforming his profession from witch to wizard called mad monkeys - and a troupe of raving mad monkeys joined the rhino in charging the Grey Wolves and afforded enough of a distraction to allow them to hurriedly sneak around to the slave pens.
Blackwell got the cage door unlocked and then he continued to pick the locks on the chains holding the slaves prisoner. Apshodel helped by using her very large great axe by chopping down on the chains to break them free. They also threw down the weapons and armor telling the slaves that they could join them in dispatching their captors, but most of them looked to weak or scared to be of much help against the armed werewolves. they had been working feverishly try to get everyone free before being noticed, but Zerak's spells didn't last forever and soon our heroes were spotted and more werewolves began to advance on their position. Zola and Asphodel went ahead to meet them before they could get to the slave cage and Zerak used a wall of fire to surround and burn a few of the werewolves and their spell casters.
The Grey Wolves' spell casters that came after them this time, three in all, made no effort to spare the slaves and targeted our heroes trying to get as many of them in the blast radius of their fireballs as possible. This had the unfortunate effect of roasting all the slaves alive, which upset Jobi greatly. Spells from Zerak and Jobi rained down on all the werewolves in range while Blackwell pummeled them with bullets, Zola showed them the business end of her mace of disruption and Asphodel went into her controlled rage and began tearing them apart limb from limb.
Even though the party handled themselves well during this and the last battle, they definitely felt the lack of Kel's presence. if Kel had been with them, they would have been able to free all the slaves very quickly using her Liberation domain powers granted by Desna and quite possibly all of them could still be alive. In addition Kel's channeling of positive energy to heal her allies was sorely missed as area effect spell after area effect spell kept injuring our intrepid adventurers. Jobi even resorted to channeling positive energy herself just to keep some of her friends from dropping at a most inopportune time.
In all when this part of the battle was over, the party successfully had killed eleven more Grey Wolves. The sad part was that none of the slaves survived and none of the Grey Wolves ever got a chance at redemption.
At this point, the way was now clear to the main building where apparently their main objective was - the head of the Grey Wolves, Ethrain Marrowslake. It was time to storm the mansion and put his head to the pike! And maybe, just maybe, Blackwell could convince at least some of the remaining Grey Wolves to rejoin their ancestral pack the Ghost Wolves after seeing what they did to the enemy in the courtyard.
Stayed tuned for next week's exciting adventures ...