“Ask not for Whom the Bell Tolls….”
We are on the point of leaving the forest where the Lady of the Wood resides. She seems strangely sorrowful of her role in the current state of things, so our clever Bard, Tumdrum, asks the fae creature for a token, something that will give a signal to the Men of the Bear that we can now pass peacefully through their territory. The Lady is agreeable, and provides him with an elaborate multi-branched staff taken from one her trees (Dryad Staff). Tumdrum expresses his profound thanks.
It is a somber group that rides away from the forest. DeeDee and Tanna still share the same horse, but it is now the dwarf who must do the leading. What is a scout with no eyes? What is an elf with no ears? Tumdrum speculates what he’ll do with the staff once they are past the Men of the Bear — perhaps he’ll gift it to “our” Ech’lun back in New Dawnsburg since they hold the Lady of the Wood in such regard. Most of the day’s travel is spent quietly.
We reach the center of the ruined Valkyrie city by nightfall, and rather than risk disturbing any Bear clansman in the better buildings, we decide to take the night’s rest in a more dilapidated structure. Eerily, shadowed figures are seen nearby — do they have branches coming from their heads? — but they do not approach, then disappear into the night. A fire is decided against; we don’t want to draw attention. It is a somewhat restful night for all but Tanna, who chooses not to trance.
Near dawn, however, a figure approaches the ruined door. Tanna boldly goes out to meet him. He is of fiendish appearance, quite devilish with cloven feet, red skin, fierce teeth. He seems oddly polite, however, mildly stating he has been sent by his master to take “the Bounty”. Tanna rightly assumes he means Tumdrum, and flatly refuses. The creature, who calles himself a Servant, tries to bargain. The rest will not be hurt, he claims, if they just turn over the Bounty. Tanna declares he won’t be taking her friend without a fight. Disappointed, the Servant leaves.
DeeDee, who was sharing the watch, has roused the others as this is taking place. They decide to leave with all speed, but are able to make it down the road only a short distance before a RIP in the air manifests, disgorging two figures. One is the Servant, and the other is apparently his master — Orbach the Burning Ranseur. He is a fierce-some being and bears a flaming halberd. Orbach demands the surrender of the Bounty — our Tumdrum. The bard, as is his nature, first tries to talk his way out of the predicament, then humbly tells our group that this is his problem and they need not stay to defend him. This is, of course, out of the question, and a battle ensues.
It is a tougher battle than thought, especially with six against two, but the fiends are eventually defeated. It is Kaleth who gives the death blow to Orbach, but not before she casts a spell to hold his death off until she asks some questions. The question-answer session, however, occurs silently so the rest of the group is unaware of the subject. Kaleth finally sends Orbach back to his world, leaving a noxious hideously odorous pile of goo on his departure.
We are barely able to breath relief from this encounter before another begins. Hideous figures appear, aiming directly for us. They are fiends in humanoid form with hyena-like heads, sporting lethal claws and teeth. These are the Hounds of Murr (linked to Prince Murr). They are shape-changers, resistant to elemental damage. Just as the fight begins, another being appears. Robed, floating, and apparently made up entirely of multiple clawed arms, this is the Acolyte of Murr.
The battle is long and takes a terrible toll. Adam is severely wounded, near death. DeeDee is fierce and lethal, and Tumdrum spins out multiple spells. Even Mako inflicts damage, throwing daggers from a rooftop, and Tanna overcomes her lost confidence and is able to get off multiple deadly arrows. But it is Kaleth who bears the brunt of the battle, casting her spells and taking terrible damage. She retreats to seeming safety near a building, barely hanging to life, when the dying Acolyte exacts his final revenge before perishing himself — he casts the Finger of Death at Kaleth.
Kaleth, the noble dragonborne, smiter of demons and keeper of secrets, is killed where she stands, her body turned into undeath, her soul ripped from its corporeal remains.
The battle over, our group is stunned at the felling of our best ally. Perhaps in shock, we fall into bitter argument over what to do next. Take Kaleth’s body back to New Dawnsburg where perhaps Thal or Macdaman can perform their miracles? How much time do we have before Kaleth is irretrievably lost? Should the zombie-fied body be destroyed now before it gets away from them?
We calm ourselves enough to take action. Tumdrum puts a dagger in Kaleth’s heart in order to still the flailing body, then it is wrapped tightly and packed for the journey home. We make haste in our departure, a terrible desperate hope that we will be in time.