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The Stag Lord glared at Janekfan from behind his mask as she cast Stabilize on Jakul, who was at death’s door. The villain did not move to attack; rather, he stayed where he was and let his first lieutenant, Akiros, deal with her. With one hand, he crushed the stirge that Jane had summoned to distract him. Then he raged—revealing that he was a barbarian—and moved in for the kill.
Realizing how dangerous the Stag Lord was with his bow, Jane withdrew into the corner and pulled out one of her Warp Wood scrolls in and attempt to warp his bow. After striking Jane with his sword, Akiros was immediately intercepted by Tad and Toboe, who raced in from the adjacent stairwell.
Meanwhile, Jane watched with dismay as her Warp Wood spell failed: the Stag Lord’s bow bent slightly, but then resumed its normal shape—she realized then that his bow must be magical! So she ran into the stairwell and joined Vincze at the top of the stairs, calling a now-seriously-injured Toboe after her. Dovan suddenly ran to help Akiros in the next room.
Jane then healed herself and Toboe on the stairs. Then, with Khrystos, they joined Tad in the next room as he battled Akiros. (They caught sight of Dovan, hiding behind Akiros, drinking what was probably a healing potion of some sort). Vincze, meanwhile, seeing a logjam of people in the next room, pulled out her Fly scroll (which she had obtained from the kobold shaman, Tartuk) and used it on herself. Though it was a third-level spell, she managed to activate it; she then flew into the next room, hovered above the crowd (with her Levitate spell, which was still active), and cast Shocking Grasp on her right hand.
In the rounds that followed, the male Defenders—Tad, Toboe and Khrystos—battled the Stag Lord’s two remaining lieutenants, Akiros and Dovan. Jane showed great discipline, abstaining from attacking in order to heal her comrades as needed. Vincze cast a Magic Missile at Akiros, but otherwise she too kept out of the fray, waiting for an opportunity to fly in and deliver her Shocking Grasp to the Stag Lord. Similarly, the Stag Lord also remained in the background, behind his lieutenants, taking pot-shots at the party’s spellcasters as opportunity allowed.
[The fact that the Stag Lord’s arrows met their marks without fail confirmed the magical nature of his bow, because they plowed right through the Protection from Arrows spells that Vincze had cast on herself, Khrystos, Tad and Jane.]
Akiros proved very difficult to kill; he was fighting well past the point of no return—he clearly possessed the “Die Hard” feat. Tad finally annihilated him with a flurry of blows, after which he was so far gone, no coup de grace was necessary (!). Khrystos fired off a slew of Magic Missiles, as well as his two Scorching Ray spells: one at the last remaining low-level bandit in the room, reducing him to a pile of ash; the other at the Stag Lord, effectively drawing first blood (first scorch?) from his blackhearted nemesis. After a few rounds of combat, Toboe took down Dovan. Immediately following this, Khrystos delivered a coup de grace to Dovan. In doing so, he turned his back on the Stag Lord—which proved a near-fatal mistake, as the Stag Lord shot him full of arrows! (Unfortunately, Tad’s strange cat, Agamemnon, couldn’t get close enough to help him, as he did last episode). If not for some miracle (divine intervention, perhaps?), the Stag Lord would have succeeded in exterminating Khrystos’ entire tribe—him included. Indeed, the sorcerer seems to possess nine lives!…
Meanwhile, Vincze flew around the corner, through the room with the stairwell, over Khrystos’ Entangled patch in the Common Room, and attacked the Stag Lord. “Stag Lord! I have a little present for you!” she cried—and then clumsily missed!—even with a magical assist from her familiar, Trixie (who was hiding safe in her backpack, nudging her master with Diviner’s Fortune through the material). As the wizard flew past the stag-headed menace, he shot two arrows at her—but luckily for her, he also missed. The next round, she again failed to connect with her Shocking Grasp. The Stag Lord, however, shot her full of arrows that round, and she retreated into the Owlbear’s lair to heal herself with her potion of Cure Moderate Wounds.
At about that time, the Stag Lord’s remaining lieutenants fell, and the rest of the party rushed into the Common Room. The Stag Lord—seeing that he was now vastly outnumbered—ducked back through his hide-covered door, disappearing into his private chambers. The party then split up—Vincze and Khrystos, determined to cut off the villian’s escape, ran out the front of the fort (Khrystos dispelled his Entangle at this point). Tad, Toboe and Jane, meanwhile, followed him through the hide-covered door into his inner sanctum.
Khrystos ran through the courtyard with Skyduster at his side, following the wooden palisade towards the back of the Stag Lord’s keep. On the way, he noticed that the front gate had been opened slightly, and through it he caught sight of zombies eating a bandit who’d tried, in vain, to escape. At about that time, Vincze, who’d taken to the air, spotted the Owlbear, who had just finished off another bandit and was happily tearing apart the bandits’ two horses, who had run through the courtyard to the back of the keep.
Tad, Toboe and Jane found themselves in what looked like a Storage Room, dimly lit by candle-light, with two doors leading out of it. Jane and Toboe explored the Storage Room, taking note of a diary—apparently written by Akiros. Tad, meanwhile, went through one of the doorways and discovered what appeared to be the Stag Lord’s bedroom; the putrid smell of stale alcohol and vomit of the hide-covered chamber overwhelmed him. Within its pitch-black interior, his darkvision discerned a cot, a few chests, and some empty bottles scattered on the floor.
Regrouping with Jane and Toboe in the Storage Room, Tad decided to try the second doorway. Through it, the three Defenders could hear the Owlbear’s hoots and growls, together with the crunching bones and frantic screams of the bandits’ horses. Wary of the huge Owlbear just a few feet away in the courtyard outside, Tad gulped down his potion of Shield of Faith and whispered a prayer to Irori. Then he parted the curtain and crept through. Toboe followed, determined to prevent the Stag Lord’s escape. Unfortunately, the Owlbear spotted Tad and rushed him! Toboe (who had successfully snuck past the monster) bravely jumped to the monk’s defense, biting into its hind leg, wounding it (but, unfortunately, not tripping it). Battled was engaged!
At about that time, Vincze was soaring above the courtyard behind the fort, carefully scanning the ground below for any sign of the escaped villain. “STAG LORD!!” she cried, in her frustration and rage. Suddenly alerted to her presence above, the Stag Lord emerged from the shadows where he was hiding, under some stairs which led up to a walkway connected to the southwest watchtower. He let loose two arrows, and their combined damage brought the diviner down to just one hit point! Vincze quickly downed her potion of Invisibility and flew away. Next round, she drank a potion of Cure Light Wounds—her last remaining magic item.
Meanwhile, in the courtyard below, Tad and Toboe tussled with the Owlbear. Jane drew aside the curtain and stepped outside just in time to witness the powerful beast scooping up Tad, grappling him—while at the same time, biting deep into the half-orc’s left shoulder. Vincze, watching invisibly from the air above, felt conflicted: should she save Tad, or attack the now-revealed Stag Lord? She decided on the former—and flew down to activate her Shocking Grasp in the monster’s back, instantly killing it. Suddenly visible again, she floated down, and she and Jane helped Tad out from under its carcass.
The Stag Lord used the heroes’ distraction with the Owlbear as an opportunity to escape up the stairs to the walkway above. Once Tad was free, he and Toboe immediately scaled a wall and intercepted him, while Jane and Vincze waited below. Switching from his bow to his longsword, the Stag Lord desperately defended himself as Tad pummeled him with fists of fury. Just then, Khrystos finally rounded the back of the fort and climbed the back stairs. Upon reaching the top, he let loose a Magic Missile, landing the killing blow upon the Stag Lord—and avenging the grisly murder of his Greenbelt tribe! Following this, his loyal familiar, Skyduster, flew in to deliver the coup de grace: he ripped the evil man’s throat out. The villain was, finally, well and truly dead.
The distaff party-members ascended the stairs, and the Greenbelt Defenders gathered silently around their fallen foe. Vincze ceremoniously removed his stag-helm to reveal the face behind the mask: an ugly, acid-scarred visage, mouth frozen in a twisted, tortured scowl.
Next episode: Against the Evil Cellar-Dweller!