After some consideration, Stirling, Mogrin, Bellis, and I decided to tie up a loose end at the Hidden Abbey and finally reclaim it for Mogrin’s brothers and sisters in Pharasma’s faith. So a cleric and several lay devotees of his church accompanied us on our journey back into the Shadowpines. Once there, we checked the rooms we had cleared out last time and found no sign of intrusion. But at the bottom of the abbey, we found several bodies. The group turned out to be the theater troupe which the Countess patronized, murdered while in costume and dumped here by someone. Mogrin insisted on burying their bodies before notifying their next of kin on the slim chance that they might rise as undead, so I helped him do so. Based on other information and a recently learned spell by Stirling, we learned that the troupe had been killed by a diseased halfling from Barstoi.
We also found the corpse of the apprentice necromancer who had turned the place into an unholy bastion of the undead. Apparently he had failed the final challenge left for him by his master. Where he had failed, we would succeed. We prepared for the battle against the silent, unmoving gargoyles. As soon as Stirling let his first arrow fly, the gargoyles fell upon Mogrin, his armor negating much of their punishment. I quickly grappled one of them and had little trouble pinning him while the rest of the party went to work. However, the gargoyles focused on me and I took some serious damage from their claws, bites, and horns. Mogrin kept me hail and fighting, while Stirling rained arrows. Bellis is still working on her aim with her new fire ray, but she did what she could.
After downing the winged guards, we approached the door behind them. Stirling just barely caught the flicker of a glyph on the door- some kind of trap. The sorceress and cleric identified it as a magical fireball trap. The only idea we had was to douse the nimble ranger in water and have him trigger it. Stirling was singed, but the trap was taken care of. The door was sort of tricky, but we managed to get it open. We were surprised to find that it actually opened into a storeroom larger than should have existed. I think one of the casters called it an “extra-dimensional space.” Our efforts were well-rewarded. The storeroom contained several items which each of us were happy to make use of.
We spent the night at the abbey, healed our wounds, and bid good luck to Mogrin’s brethren who would restore the Hidden Abbey to its former use and glory. We then headed deeper into the Shadowpines, visiting the elven village we had come upon earlier. On the way, Stirling noticed something small and quick shadowing us, which I suspected was one of the “quickling” fey we had heard of. At the village, the elf we had met last time was pleased to see us, and Bellis laid on her usual charm in returning our goodwill. We told him about the conflicting reports of Barstoi acquiring the Shadowpines from Sinaria, as well as our mission to wipe out the network of necromancers we had uncovered.
The next day, we resupplied and headed out for the forest’s edge. Bellis’ keen senses (helped by the new glasses she had claimed) noticed a green dragon stalking us. She tried to negotiate with the beast, but it was determined to kill trespassers in “his” forest. The others seemed uncertain about fighting or fleeing, so I stupidly ran into melee with the creature. Not only did I neglect to use my new-found ki mastery to better dodge his blows, but my strikes failed to dent his scales. His breath weapon and several natural attacks had me near death in moments. Luckily, the elven guards had been following us and aided us in our battle. This distracted the beast while I feigned death and snuck a healing potion down my throat. Mogrin held the beast’s attention while Stirling and Bellis joined the elves in pelting the beast until it had had enough and flew off.
We returned to the elven village, where they explained to us that the dragon was the only thing keeping the Barstoi guards from reaching the village. So the elves had made an unspoken peace with the dragon until coming to our aid. The elves helped us heal up and we left the next morning. We soon saw Barstoi guards and troops at the forest’s edge doing a controlled burn. One of the guards directed us to the nearby ferry across the river, where we met Captain Islan, who had helped us clean out the Stag Lord’s fort. Islan was cordial and even gave us a letter of introduction for the high lord of Vische, where we headed.
Upon arriving in Vische, we met with this lord, whom Bellis carefully and politely milked for information. The nobleman asked about our business in Barstoi, so we told him about the necromancers we sought. He informed us that he knew who we sought because they had already been discovered and slain. He referred us to a Count Valencie, who looked unhappy to see us. It turned out that one of the necromancers had been found on his lands and this count employed a group of adventurers, one of them being the murderer halfling we were after. We kept our insights to ourselves. Before leaving, the high lord of Vische made us an offer: if we could kill the dragon laying waste to his men in the Shadowpines, he would reward us with permanent positions as wardens and keepers of the soon-to-be-settled Shadowpines. Our combat ability and good name among Sinarians would probably ease the process of convincing them to settle on Barstoi territory.
We retired for the night and I expected no trouble. Stirling slept in his armor and insisted on a watch. His paranoia may have saved our lives. On Mogrin’s watch, a warrior monk crept in the window and delivered an assassin’s blow which nearly killed our tough priest. He reached me before I could react and put me down with stunning fist attack similar to my own. The assassin must have been surprised at how hardy and quick to join battle we were. In his surprise and attempt to flee, he misjudged the distance of the jump across the street into the next building, grabbing the sill as he floundered. I made the jump and startled a halfling waiting near the window. As the assassin tried to jump away from me, I gave him a taste of his own medicine through a stunning fist between his shoulder blades. He landed face down on the street.
The halfling turned out to be a sorceress and blinded and stupefied me with the same damned spell as the barbarian shaman we encountered in the Sunken Monastery. As she tried to sneak away using an invisibility spell, Stirling and Bellis took pot-shots at the assassin’s back. Thankfully, Mogrin came to around this time, though he was quite battered. As the halfling tried to flee with her partner’s corpse, Bellis charred them both with a cone of flame that ended the battle.
Bellis interrogated the halfling sorceress (how ironic) as the rest of us intimidated her. We learned that she was taken with the halfling murderer we were after and that she, the warrior monk assassin, and the halfling we sought were all working for Count Valencie. We started discussing our options: take our attackers (one a corpse) before the authorities of Vische and use the law against Valencie or kill the sorceress and hide the bodies. I pushed for the first option, while Stirling leaned toward the second. Bellis and Mogrin seemed to prefer my suggestion, but we are still considering the likely consequences of either path.