We found ourselves in a whirlwind of trouble, but at least we were alive. Boyar Valencie had sent his best mercenaries to kill us for poking around in his business. Luckily, his assassins had failed and we had cajoled and threatened as much information as we could from the one who lived, thanks in part to Bellis’ forcefulness. After careful discussion, we decided that Mogrin and Bellis should keep watch over Caliss, the halfling sorceress, and the corpse of Ord, the warrior monk assassin. Meanwhile, Stirling and I would try to reach Captain Islan and convince him to help us.
Under cover of deep night, we reached Islan, who decided to help us, though he was doubtful of our story. The consequences of us being correct and no action taken was something he simply couldn’t live with. He sent guards and a cart to gather up Bellis, Mogrin, our captive, and our corpse. We all regrouped at the castle to compare information with Count Neska’s son, Albert. After a few minutes of Albert’s account of the deal to buy the Shadowpines from Sinaria, Stirling had a sharp insight which made it all fit together: Albert had made the deal with the theater troupe dressed as the highest nobles of Karcau, who had later been killed to cover up the evidence. Albert’s maid was from Karcau- she knew his story was “off,” so she had to die too.
We waited in Albert’s room until word came that Valencie was at court. Then, with Captain Islan, several guards, a damning testimony, and a fresh corpse, we entered Count Neska’s presence like a troop of avenging angels. We presented our case: Valencie set up the fake land deal with Sinaria and duped young Albert by using actors famous for portraying Karcau’s nobles, including Countess Livgrace; Valencie then had his partner, Haltross, kill the actors and hide their bodies; in addition, Valencie failed to execute the necromancer found on his lands; finally, when we came to Barstoi asking questions, Valencie sent his mercenaries to kill us in order to stop our investigations.
Thanks to Caliss’ testimony and Mogrin’s “zone of truth” spell, we discovered that much of our suspicions were true. However, Valencie had simply been greedy for land and power, and not involved in a grand conspiracy with the necromancers we originally came looking for. In fact, Boyar Talglori of Sinaria had set up the fake deal and duped Albert AND Valencie. Once he found out the truth, Valencie just tried to cover it up because Count Neska was so pleased with the acquisition and because Valencie apparently has some great grudge against the Shadowpines and the fey there.
Count Neska was satisfied that the truth had been revealed. He sentenced Valencie to help end the fey threat in the Shadowpines until he died in the effort. Caliss was given a similar sentence, but would be allowed to live if the war was won. Count Neska made us an offer: escort Valencie, Caliss, and Islan (their unhappy bondsman) to the Shadowpines, hold them to their sentence, and help Barstoi end the fey and dragon threat once and for all. We accepted only on the condition that we could abstain from fighting the elves if we could broker a peace between the two peoples.
After convincing Mogrin that the necromancers were less of a threat and less of an imminent one than war between Sinaria and Barstoi, we set out for the Shadowpines with a small contingent of guards. At the forest’s edge, we were attacked by a crafty satyr and his dire wolf hounds. With more front line warriors than usual, we formed a line of defense and prepared for the wolves’ charge. As I waited for the melee to begin, Bellis, Mogrin, and Caliss used support spells to prepare our large group. Islan and Valencie proved fierce fighters with dual short swords, while the guardsmen helped with longbows and melee weapons. The satyr was effective with a bow, downing several guardsmen and almost Captain Islan. Stirling and Bellis focused on slowing the fey’s arrows, while Mogrin and I waded into the melee, helping our allies where possible. Caliss changed the flow of the battle by entangling the satyr with nearby roots and grasses.
Just as the battle should have ended, though, the satyr’s horn drew an unexpected ally. The green dragon we had fought just a few days before came upon us in a fury. Luckily, Mogrin was able to save our less experienced allies from a likely death. I cried out for all of us to scatter so fewer would fall to the beast’s noxious cone of acidic breath. While the rest of us focused on the new threat, Valencie tirelessly focused on the fleeing satyr. We regrouped and flung our best at the dragon, but it flew just out of reach and we couldn’t mount a serious offense. I suggested that we retreat to the woods where it would be less able to maneuver and we could take advantage of the forest’s cover if we had to use ranged attacks.
The forest gave us a decisive advantage. Although the dragon used his breath again to devastating effect, Stirling was able to put several well-aimed arrows into the beast, while Bellis conjured an enduring ball of flame which the dragon was unable to dodge. Islan and I tried to draw the dragon’s attention with brutal blows while it lashed out with its hellish claws, teeth, wings, and tail. Meanwhile, our priest of the death goddess decreed that we would not meet her that day and poured out as much healing energy as he was able, saving most of our large group from the grave.
The beast finally fell to Bellis’ spell, shrieking in frustration and shaking the ground as it fell. We were lucky to be alive, had taken a big step toward making the forest safer, and had gained considerable insight toward future battles.