After removing the Stag Lord’s helm, the Greenbelt Defenders used Akiros’ sword to detach the villain’s head. Then, Jane healed herself and the rest of the party in preparation for confronting the “creepy old man” who supposedly dwelt in the fort’s basement. Tad, Vincze and Khrystos spent a fair amount of time searching for an entry to the basement; as it turned out, it was directly under the portion of the roof that Jane had collapsed with her Soften Stone and Earth spell—so it was more difficult to find than it normally would have been. Clearing the rubble revealed a staircase in the floor with a big, wooden board over it. (At that point, Vincze suggested that the party camp for the night, keeping a close watch over the staircase, in order to regain their spells; but she was overruled).
And so the adventurers removed the board and crept down the musty stone staircase. Tad’s darkvision made him the best choice for being first in the marching order. As soon as he got halfway down, he spotted a shadowy figure duck around a corner of the basement, and then Jane smelled smoke, as if from a candle that had just been blown out. So the bandit rumors were true!—someone was indeed down there. They followed the figure to the threshold of what appeared to be a store room. Jane cast Light on a rock which she threw into the room, but it revealed nothing but a bunch of crates. Then everyone heard something above, and looking up, they caught sight of a sinewy old man with a long beard and wild eyes scuttling across the ceiling of the room!
The group was battle-weary, and so had decided beforehand that they’d had enough bloodshed for the day. Thus they agreed to try and spare the old man’s life—if possible. The old man looked down and said, warily, “Who are you? Where is my son?” Speaking on behalf of the group, Khrystos stepped forward, replying: “We are the Greenbelt Defenders, and we have come to set you free!” The old man again asked about the Stag Lord and so Vincze told him,“You never have to worry about the Stag Lord again—he can’t hurt you anymore. You’re free now, go on peace, and blessed be, my friend.” The old man seemed to accept this vague answer, and continued scuttling across the ceiling until he reached the opening in the ceiling above the staircase. Then Tad asked him, “What are you? How are you doing that?” He turned back to the group, smiled a wicked smile and replied, “Old druid tricks!”, then quickly disappeared upstairs. When the group emerged above-ground a minute later, there was no trace of him.
The group then went back downstairs and performed a thorough search of the cellar, uncovering three cobweb-filled rooms with crates filled to their brims with furs, coins and other stolen goods. Of note was a sack full of gems, both cut and uncut, which attracted Tad’s attention. The group was amazed to discover—after a quick appraisal—that the entire stash was worth well over 6,000 gp!
After again climbing back upstairs, the group searched the fallen bandits, with Jane and Khrystos using the spells Detect Magic and Identify to diagnose magic items. [A complete list of the treasure found in the fort, including on the bandits themselves, has been compiled elsewhere]. The party then went outside and dispatched the zombies in the hills surrounding the fort (as it turned out, there were a total of 12), so they’d no longer be a threat.
As they searched the bandits’ bodies, Jane performed heal-checks and discovered that four of the bandits were actually still breathing. So she spent the rest of the day stabilizing and tending the four survivors, letting them remain unconscious while restraining them comfortably. She also prepared the Owlbear’s hide for curing. Tad spent the rest of the day meditating and listening to his strange pet cat, Agamemnon, who (unbeknownst to anyone but Tad) seemed to be trying to communicate with him (!). Meanwhile, Vincze spent the day poking around the fort, trying to work out the history of the place. There were runes on the walls of the Common Room, along with a symbol of a single, bloodshot eye. After an hour, she translated some of it, revealing that the ruined, stone building they were in was a former monastery—or, more specifically, nunnery—dedicated to the goddess Gyronna, whom Tad (with a Knowledge: Religion check) told her was the chaotic evil goddess of hatred, spite and revenge. The two of them deduced that it was probably Gyronna’s power that had animated the zombies on the hillside (actually the nun’s burial ground) surrounding the fort. An hour earlier, Vincze had mused about converting the fort into the group’s permanent headquarters, but after learning this, she had second thoughts! She and the others agreed with Tad when he suggested that they instead tear down the entire structure in the near future—though Khrystos expressed some trepidation over possibly angering the goddess of vengeance in the process.
Vincze also took some time to read Akiros’ diary and was surprised to learn that he was from Taldor, the same country she hails from. It turns out that he was training to be a paladin of Erastil, but his life went terribly wrong and he became a chaotic barbarian instead. That explained the holy symbol of Erastil that they’d found on Akiros’ body. “Poor Akiros,” she mourned, and the other Defenders agreed.
The group spent a blessedly uneventful night in the fort, keeping watch in succession, as per normal. The next morning, they decided to burn all the bodies of the dead; but upon Jane’s suggestion, they saved Akiros’ ashes in a sealed jar, just in case they wanted to resurrect the luckless lieutenant in the future, to give him a shot at redemption. Before the pyre was lit, the four unconscious bandits were roused in order to say their final goodbyes to their comrades. Unfortunately, they all seemed completely unmoved (and unrepentant) by the ceremony. The party then quickly packed up, taking one surviving bandit each with them on horseback, to turn over to the Brevoyian authorities at Oleg’s Trading Post. Before leaving the fort, they closed and locked the gate, after which Jane used Warp Wood to jam it shut—ensuring that no-one else could use the gate until the group returned. The party also left a vellum sign announcing “No-one is home. The Stag Lord is dead. He has power over you no longer.” (Or similar words to that effect).
After exiting the Stag Lord’s fort, the party’s first stop was the River Shrike, to fulfill their promise to Nettle and thus remove Vincze’s curse. As luck would have it, the southern-most stretch of the river was only a few miles to the east of the fort. After throwing the Stag Lord’s headless body into the rapids, Nettle rose up in all his putrid glory and grabbed it, yanking it free from the rope the group had used to tether it to shore, just in case Nettle didn’t appear. As soon as the undead monster dragged the corpse beneath the waves, Vincze’s curse was lifted: she felt better than she had in weeks! Then, suddenly, a beautiful quarterstaff washed up on the riverbank. Clearly, the group agreed, it was a gift of thanks from Nettle. Upon further inspection, it was revealed to be a magical +1 double-headed ring-staff, which the group gifted to Tad (it being the perfect weapon for a monk).
The group then traveled a few days’ to Oleg’s, where they received a warm welcome. It turns out that one of their bandit captives was wanted by Keston Garess (the captain of the guard at Oleg’s), so he took all the bandits into custody and then bestowed a reward upon the Defenders. After listening intently to the tale of their epic battle with the Stag Lord, Keston insisted that they travel to Restov and tell the Swordlords their story in-person, presenting the Stag Lord’s head as evidence. In that way, he explained, they could be celebrated as the heroes they were—and, of course, collect the generous bounty that had been placed upon the Stag Lord’s head. “What a wonderful idea!”, exclaimed Vincze, “but I don’t have a thing to wear!”, summing up everyone’s feelings on the matter: a big city would be quite a change for them, after spending so long in the untamed wilderness.
Next: To Restov!